Monday, December 22, 2008

Walking Is An Easy Way Toward Fitness


Some of you who have read this blog have undoubtedly thought, “Is this guy nuts?”

I wouldn’t blame you for that. After all, my fitness and training activities are more aggressive than most. However, I want to encourage fitness with tips about easy ways to exercise even it if it’s just a few times a week.

Taking up a walking program is one way to start the road to healthy fitness activities. Start by going for a minimum of 3 days a week, and gradually working your way up to 5 or 6 days a week. Of course, the more you walk, the more opportunity for weight loss. But as you’re starting out, rest and recovery are important – make sure to give yourself a day or two of rest.

As I have written in the past, deriving a healthy benefit from an aerobic activity for most people ranges from a minimum of 20 minutes (for simple general health), all the way up to about 60 minutes. Keep in mind that it is smart to start of easy and work your way up gradually. Don’t bite of more than you can chew at first. You may hurt yourself or disappoint yourself into not following through with your commitment to exercise.

With a comfortable pair of shoes and not too much to consider about wardrobe, anyone can walk just about anywhere! Log onto this website to learn more about the health benefits of walking and starting a walking program on your own -- http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/sparkwalking.asp.

P. S. It’s worth mentioning again that http://www.sparkpeople.com/ is a great resource of helpful information on healthy lifestyles, particularly for beginners.
I’m going to be taking time off until after the New Year – headed to celebrate Christmas with my family in Kansas City, then it’s off to Texas to root on the Missouri Tigers in the Alamo Bowl – MIZZOU – RAH!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Newsweek’s ‘Confessions Of A Fat Runner’


As a subscriber to Newsweek, I recently ran across a wonderful article “Confessions of a Fat Runner” written by Jennifer Graham, of Hopkinton, Mass. The article ran in the Dec. 8, 2008 edition in the “My Turn” section.

Graham offers a humorous and motivating look at running and training from the “plus size” perspective. With that, I’ll stop and hope you enjoy this read as much as I did! Check it out at -- http://www.newsweek.com/id/171263.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Right Holiday Gifts For The Athlete In Your Life

Is it okay to write about the same subject twice?
The answer is an obvious “yes” for two reasons. First, it is MY blog and I’m the boss! However, you (my readers) are really the boss and I thought this might be helpful.

This is about holiday gifts for athletes. If you’re like me, you spend a lot of time working ahead of time to make sure you have gifts for the important people in your life. But if you’re not like me and you’re still searching for holiday gifts, maybe I can help you if you’re looking to give a gift or gifts to the fitness and training buffs in your life.

Check out the Fitness for Mommies blog here -- http://tinyurl.com/3opxnk. Rachel has an impressive list of holiday gift ideas for athletically-inclined individuals. Here’s another source for consideration. The website http://www.sparkpeople.com/ has a link to a variety of posts from its contributors -- http://tinyurl.com/5f2c6n.

If you can’t find something through any of these lists, I don’t think I can help you any further! All kidding aside – Happy Holidays and Happy Shopping! I will be taking a break from posting through the holiday season beginning next week.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Join Your Local Running Club


“Practicing what I preach” is a motto to which I regularly subscribe.

However, I found out I wasn’t doing too great of a job on that front based on a comment I recently received from one of my readers. After writing encouraging remarks about joining our local running organization for “group” running activities, a reader commented by thanking me for the plug, but asking me why I wasn’t a member in ours.

After think about this a little, I thought this was a pretty fair comment. So, I logged onto the http://www.capitalstriders.org/ website and joined! While I’m extremely familiar with Capital Striders, I had opted not to join Capital Striders because my busy schedule often prevents me from participating in many of the activities.

That being said, I would encourage you to check out joining your local running group. The benefits are numerous beyond just events and activities. Capital Striders has numerous benefits including regular communication about upcoming events, member discounts and group training activities. The upcoming annual dinner will feature three-time Olympian Suzy Favor Hamilton.
Christine Luff also recently wrote on some of the benefits of joining a running club. Check it out -- http://running.about.com/b/2008/12/14/join-a-running-club.htm.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

More About Fitness Activities For Good


The work of one of my workout buddies reminds me of the great things we can do to help others as part of our fitness training activities.

Danielle Sharp is a West Des Moines dentist and keeps an aggressive fitness training schedule. As a mother of two, she’s always “on the run”, but she doesn’t let her busy schedule get in the way of her volunteer efforts for the group Autism Speaks. As the mother of a child with autism, Sharp serves on the local board of this organization and helps coordinate efforts for the walk events the group sponsors to raise money (click on “walk events” at http://www.autismspeaks.org/).

Maybe YOU have had a friend or relative affected by another issue and you want to help out. If you lead an active lifestyle, there are a variety of ways to put your fitness efforts to work toward helping a great cause.

The Race for the Cure is perhaps the best-known event nationally that raises funds and awareness to benefit breast cancer research. You can learn more about this event at -- http://ww5.komen.org/findanevent.aspx.

Locallly, there’s the Arthritis Walk -- http://www.arthritis.org/chapters/iowa/ -- or the Governor’s Cup race -- http://www.iagovcup.com/ -- that benefits youth scholarships.

Another helpful effort in this area is Team In Training -- http://www.teamintraining.org/. Working through Team In Training is a popular form of raising money to benefit leukemia research for endurance athletes. This organization makes it very easy to raise money through a variety of distance events throughout the country.

If you want to use your fitness activities as way to help others who are less fortunate, there are countless ways to help out.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Be Baseball-Ready With Gym Practices


It’s hard to think about baseball practice when it’s this cold and yucky out. Plus, basketball is “hot and heavy” this time of year.

However, you can keep fundamental baseball training skills sharp by squeezing a few baseball practices into the mix. This is where the gyms in your local school district can come in handy to help keep those skills polished for spring. Most indoor school gyms allow for drills in the areas of running, throwing and fielding. Many do not allow bats; however, some will allow you to use them with wiffle balls.

Contact your local school district about the availability of renting a gym for an hour or two. The cost is usually more reasonable than you think. In West Des Moines, the school district makes the process of gym reservations very easy. You can learn about gym availability by calling (515) 633-5000 or log onto the school district’s website at -- http://www.wdm.k12.ia.us/district/commed/facility/index.php.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Tracking Your Running Routes

Occasionally, I run across some fun tools and references that relate to training and fitness worth sharing (I guess I’ll let my readers be the judges of that!).

I couldn’t help but pass along this website I recently found that helps you keep track of your running routes -- http://www.favoriterun.com/.

If nothing else, it looks like it might be something fun to investigate!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Another Story About Runners Doing Good Things!


Have you ever heard of Anne Mahlum?

I didn’t you think you had. However, her story is most definitely worth noting, particularly if you’re a runner.

Sometimes I’m not sure how many folks really care about the content I post here, but when I discovered this “pull-at-your-heart”-type story, I thought I would share it and I hope motivates you the way it did me.

Anne Mahlum regularly laced up the running shoes and took to the streets of her hometown (Philadelphia) before sunrise just like many of us do every day. Where Anne’s story becomes unusual is something she started as a result of her running route.

When some homeless men at a mission began cheering her on as she passed them by every day, she thought about how helping these men get started in a running program could help them overcome the difficulties in their lives. "Running is so empowering," she said in a story published in the Philadelphia Daily News website. "I used running to get through some difficult times in my life and I thought it could help these men in the same way."

She started the “Back on My Feet” program to help homeless men start running programs. Now, the program offers morning group-runs three times a week, connections to job training, educational scholarships and housing assistance, funded through private donations and corporate sponsorship.

Anne was recently recognized her for her efforts by the city of Philadelphia and CNN. Read more about her story here -- http://tinyurl.com/5zbdee.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Some Helpful Holiday Eating Tips


I profiled my good friend, Jennifer Veak, recently. She is a fitness instructor at my health club. She recently shared some great information from a couple of experts that were featured in an article written by Sally Wadyka in http://www.runnersworld.com/ (here’s the link -- http://tinyurl.com/5hpl3g) about avoiding some of the bad holiday eating traps we frequently encounter.

With the holidays, it's prime time for celebrations, feasts, desserts and drinks. One potluck party or buffet dinner can easily add up to thousands of calories! In the article, Greg McMillan, a kinesiologist and running coach, and Tara Gidus, a board-certified specialist in sports dietetics, tell us our everyday eating and exercise habits can pull us through a few evenings of holiday cheer. Here a few of their suggestions toward surviving excessive holiday treats from Wadyka’s article --


The Big Dinner

Gidus recommends eating a hearty breakfast following a big, holiday meal. Sounds a little silly, but her point is this -- after a huge meal, your body is busy digesting that it enters your normal nighttime "hunger phase" in the morning. The worst thing you can do is try to starve yourself to make up for overeating. Instead, she recommends a smart breakfast with 300 to 400 calories that includes high-quality carbohydrates, low-fat dairy and fruit. Her suggestions include yogurt with granola and berries; or whole-grain toast with cottage cheese and fruit.

The Perfect Time For A Long Workout

Your holiday meal was filled with carbs, so McMillan says this is the perfect time for a long, slow workout. McMillan says that with lots of muscle-fueling carbs, plus a good amount of protein your meal probably included, you're primed for a long run. You probably have the day off work, so go on a run that allows you to “enjoy the scenery.” Mcmillan says, “This is all about time on your feet, because you'll burn more calories the longer you go.” You could burn up to 800-plus calories!

Problems With Desserts

With all of the sugar and fat contained in most desserts, there’s an even worse evil associated with them. Gidus says, you often find yourself craving even more sugar the day after the big dessert because digesting loads of sugary carbs triggers a tidal wave of serotonin (the so-called feel-good hormone). She says when serotonin levels dip, your body craves more sugar to keep “the good times rolling.” Gidus suggests healthier sweet treats like fresh fruit, all-fruit jams and smoothies in order to keep “the good times rolling.”

Fast Workout

McMillan recommends intervals to burn off the bad effect of those sweets in a hurry. Do six to eight 30-second repeats at about 90 percent of your top speed with two-minute recovery jogs in between. He also suggests “bookending” this speedwork with two-mile jogs. "When you do a hard track workout, you're tapping into those carbohydrate stores at a higher rate," he says. You could burn up to about 700 calories in less than an hour.

Hopefully these suggestions from Gidus and McMillan featured in Sally Wadyka’s http://www.runnersworld.com/ article will help you conquer ill effects from holiday eating.

Thanks for sharing, Jen!

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Value Of Workout Buddies – Don’t Be Made Fun Of!


One of my good friends made fun of me the other day.

I mentioned that I had “slept in” for the morning and he quickly reminded me that he knew “I wasn’t running.” I had missed the group run that day. This can sometimes be a major sin.

While this type of banter is all in good fun, you can’t help but use it as a motivating factor in your training. Whenever you miss a run or workout, you absolutely know your peers will let you know about it. And they can be horribly creative about how they let you know “you missed.” I always hate the “group e-mail.”

Again, it’s all in good fun. But I take this feedback to heart and make sure to show up for my group fitness and training activities, particularly when you’ve made a specific date to run, bike, work out or whatever.

Make it a priority to do more training with your “workout buddies”. They won’t be shy about keeping you on track!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Have An Athlete To Buy For?

You may call us crazy, but we multi-sport athletes have something going for us – we’re easy targets for gift-giving during the holidays!

The possibilities are endless. Whether it’s a simple gift card at your local athletic store, the latest in winter running gear or a new gadget, you can’t go wrong with any of these ideas.

Personally, I like the gift card option. My wife and mother-in-law know where I like to buy my running shoes and they are always quick to punch out a Fitness Sports gift card. The gift card is such a great option because it shows you cared enough to purchase something the athlete will use, but it gives the receiver of your gift the flexibility of using it toward what they may need. My sons absolutely love gift cards from Dick’s Sporting Goods (here’s the website for Dick’s gift certificates -- http://www.dickssportinggoods.com/giftCertificates/index.jsp)
or Scheel’s -- http://tinyurl.com/66kjv5.

If you’re seeking a more extravagant gift, you can spend a lot of money on running gear. Warmups, pull-overs, reflective vests can all cost a little more; however, any athlete is regularly in need of these items. Go a little more economical and look at options for stocking caps and gloves at this time of year. UnderArmour has some great reasonably priced items in this area.

There are always interesting gadgets athletes are using. Heart monitors are always popular and the Ipod Nike+ add-on is a great gadget that measures pace and distance for runs.

Looking for even more ideas? Well, Christine Luff comes to the rescue again with some of her ideas at -- http://tinyurl.com/6hyqu7.

Here are some great gift ideas from Fitness For Mommies -- http://tinyurl.com/6kc7nj.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The 'Negative Split'

I’m often asked, “What is a ‘negative split’?”

Actually, the answer is pretty simple. Simply put, it means that you cover the second half of a race faster than the first half. As always, Christine Luff has a good article explaining this term -- http://tinyurl.com/5tyx4w.
I’ve indicated here that my goal is to help and educate people about fitness and training issues. If you have a question or issue you’d like me to address, just send me an e-mail at jghrdlicka@mchsi.com.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Running In The Cold Weather


Love the fall! The colors, the mild weather, football – it makes fall ALL GOOD for me.

However, if you’re like me and you do most of your training and running in the early morning hours, we have to make that transition to running in not only cool weather, but COLD weather. Living in Iowa, I get my share of cold weather preparation. Heck, we just got our first dose of snow this week!

Runner’s World has some great helpful tips about running in extreme elements. I’m providing a link to an article here about running in extreme weather -- http://tinyurl.com/5t26q3.

Additionally, Runner’s World has a great link that offers suggestions for attire to consider given specific weather variables -- http://tinyurl.com/35t5of.

Preparing for running in cold weather is such an individual situation. While many of the runners I regularly run with break out sweatpants in weather 45 degrees or below, I’m very comfortable in shorts well into 30-degree temperatures.

It’s important to “layer” your clothing and it’s also worth it to invest in “windproof” attire for those breezy runs. We get a lot of wind in Iowa!

Mittens or socks are effective for me toward keeping my hands warm. I use a very simple stocking cap to keep head and ears warm. Covering your head helps you retain body heat.

By dressing appropriately, I really believe you can still have many effective outdoor runs at least until the ice comes! I’ve also included a link here to an article from one of the featured coaches on Inside Nike Running as he offers some of the more pleasant insights to remember about running in the fall weather --
http://tinyurl.com/5deqdw.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Take Time To Communicate Effectively With Coaches


I thought it was time for more coaching information, so here it goes!


My son isn’t playing enough.

Why can’t my daughter pitch more often?

Don’t you think my son would make a great quarterback?

These are questions coaches regularly face. More importantly, coaches are accountable for answering these inquiries – no question. However, there are appropriate ways parents should address these types of questions with coaches.

First off – remember that most coaches are volunteers. When you’re a volunteer, you’re not so much interested in criticism. After all, if you want it done “YOUR” way, then YOU can volunteer. However, if you approach them in a professional and cordial manner, then coaches are willing to address the questions you raise.

Just after games is not the best time to approach a coach. Win or lose, he/she is generally not in the frame of mind to address questions about the game. Wait a day or two and then contact the coach about the issue in question.

Here’s my word of advice – DO NOT USE E-MAIL TO ADDRESS A SERIOUS QUESTION WITH A COACH. In this age of 24/7, we rely far too often on convenient forms of communication. For quick and easy communication about times, schedules and announcements; e-mail is great! But if you have a question about your son or daughter’s participation in a team sport, face-to-face or phone conversation is much more effective than e-mail exchanges that often lead to more misunderstanding.

Please introduce yourself and communicate with coaches. Coaches like to know parents’ names and faces so that they can appropriately address any issues directly with the parents. From my experience, I know I enjoy being able to identify parents without having to look up their names in my files.

Take time to communicate with your childrens’ coaches. You’ll be glad you did!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Running In The Rain


Runners – those crazy people. Running around in traffic, in wind, in cold and even rain and snow! I feel the heat of the stares from people in cars whenever I’m running in foul weather.

Beyond wind, rain is probably my least favorite weather condition to be running or training in. If I wanted to get wet, I’d be in the pool! Anyway, that doesn’t mean I don’t run when it rains and you can take some steps to perform better in rainy weather.

Check out this post from Anne Valente to learn some tips for running in the rain -- http://walking-running-training.suite101.com/article.cfm/running_in_the_rain.

Her first suggestion is the same that I would offer – layer your clothing. As it gets colder and it rains, it just gets colder. Wet and cold – generally not a good outdoors combination.

Invest in a good rain-resistant running jacket. Any good sporting goods store can suggest a jacket that will do the trick.

My other suggestion for running in the rain would be to throw extra clothes in your gym bag. If I run from my health club, I’ll need dry clothing to change into for either a weight workout or moving on to the rest of my day’s activities.

Soon, we won’t be talking much about rain where I live. It’s better to be writing about rain over snow any day!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Lady Ironman


If you have the privilege of knowing my good friend Jennifer Veak, you know her energy is very infectious.

Jen has a knack for getting people to reach out in fitness endeavors in ways that folks never thought they could (For example, I competed in my first triathlon with Jen). It wasn’t until this year that she opted to put herself to a physical ultimatum – the Half-Ironman event.


After testing the waters in a variety of sprint and Olympic distance events, Jen decided it was time to do a Half-Ironman. She opted for the Pigman Half-Ironman in Palo, Iowa. She and her friend Heather Myer-Davis began training early this year for the Aug. 17 race. I see Jen probably four days a week, so she is not lying when she tells you that she’s up at 4 a.m. most days preparing and training.

She and her support team traveled the day before the race to Cedar Rapids. Loaded with bikes, goggles, wetsuits, shoes, gels and other gear, Jen and Heather watched the Olympics as they waited in anticipation for the race. “I was still a bundle of nerves when I woke up that day. I had to tell myself, ‘Settle down, Jen. This is what you’ve trained for.’” Jen’s husband Ed had given her a wetsuit for her birthday, so she was excited to reach the race site and find the water temperature at 77 degrees – just enough to allow the suits for use in the race!

Even though she stood with 700 people at the start of the race, she felt lonely. The threat of the swim in a triathlon can be described as “waiting in fear” because of the mob scene that ensues in open water. But with a “time trial” start, every person started singly every 10 seconds as opposed to a group start. “I could actually breathe during the first 10 minutes of a triathlon event and this made me feel calm and comfortable with long, lean and smooth strokes,” she said. The best thing about a triathlon is exiting the water, but you have to consider that 56 miles on a bike and 13.1 miles on foot still await you. But Jen was up to the task. “The bike went well, but I wanted to get off at mile 36. After eating a peanut butter sandwich and a gel, I felt better, but I was dreading the run,” she said. “You should try eating a peanut butter sandwich on a bike sometime!”

It was warm by the time the run approached and fatigue eventually set in, but Jen is not one to give up and she forged onward. “The sun was beating down. There were hills and I had to walk some,” she said. But there were little details that helped push her along. She stopped at each aid station for water and gel. She stuffed ice down her sports bra and listened as the cubes “clinked” together. It’s the little things that keep you moving forward in a grueling event like this. “When I heard the announcer at the finish, I thought, ‘I’m almost done; just get done,’” Jen said. “So I did.”

After six hours and 15 minutes, Jen completed the race. She was thrilled. Believe it or not (I do because I saw Jen very shortly after the event), she was back to her normal self right away. “After two hours, I was back to myself again.”

When she finished, she thought, “never again.” But “never again” is not permitted in Jennifer Veak’s psyche. Now, you just need to ask her, “When again?” “I’m ready to start training for the 2009 race now,” she will answer.

I’ll be taking the next few days off for the holiday. If you think of any other individual inspiring stories you’d like to share, send me an e-mail at jghrdlicka@mchsi.com and I’ll write about it.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Is A 10-Minute Workout Going To Net Results?


Although I’m not a health expert and I did not sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night, my thought is that a 10-minute workout every day is not enough to produce significant results.

This was an interesting issue posed in a recent article written by Megan K. Scott of the Associated Press published in a variety of venues (here’s a version published on the http://www.wtopnews.com/ website) -- http://www.wtop.com/?sid=1480888&nid=773

Jillian Michaels, a trainer on the NBC hit television show, “The Biggest Loser,” said in the article, “Ten minutes? Forget it. What are you going to burn?”

I tend to agree with Michaels. In my experience, 25 to 30 minutes of vigorous cardio exercise at least four times per week is probably more where you need to look, depending on your goals. When I first decided to commit to regular exercise back in 1997, my goal was to lose weight. I ran 25 to 35 minutes four to five days per week. After six months of this activity, I had lost 25 pounds. By gradually increasing my activities to include training for running and triathlon events, I have lost an additional 15 pounds.

Most people are seeking significant weight loss by taking on exercise activities. The American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association recommend 30 minutes of moderately intense cardio activity per day, five days a week or 20 minutes of vigorous activity (i.e. running) three days a week, while strength training should be done twice a week. http://tinyurl.com/36dyon. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that regular 60 to 90-minute daily workouts may be necessary to realize goals --http://tinyurl.com/46es3y


Everyone is different, but let’s be realistic. 10-minutes daily per week is most likely not going to bring desired results of a new personal best time or significant weight loss. While it surely represents the start of a transition to a better lifestyle, you should consult with your physician to identify health activities that are best suited for your health situation. Your doctor will sometimes recommend trainers with whom you can work with to get started on the right path with your new health plan!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Ottumwa’s “Marathon Maniac”

I know someone who did two marathons in two days. Yes, you read that correctly – TWO MARATHONS IN TWO DAYS!
My friend, Kriss Uehling, from Ottumwa was training for the Siouxland Lewis & Clark Marathon and became inspired through Dean Karnazes’s book “Secrets I Learned Running 50 Marathons in 50 Days-and How You Can Achieve Super Endurance”. It made her curious to see if she could finish two marathons in two days. She was familiar with the Des Moines Marathon course that followed the day after the Siouxland race. So, she decided to make her Boston-qualifying time at Siouxland, then enjoy the Des Moines race at an easy pace to finish off the goal. Following an extra nudge from her biggest cheerleader and husband, David, the plan was set!

Kriss finished a personal best at Siouxland in 3:56:17 to qualify for Boston. Following a celebration, a plaque (and $50!) for taking third in the master’s women’s division and an ice bath, it was off to Des Moines. Strolling to the packet pickup prior to the Des Moines race, I ran into David and learned of Kriss’ amazing plan.

Marathon Maniacs is a group dedicated to runners who run multiple marathon events over varying periods of time. Kriss sought inspiration from this group and met several “maniacs” along the Des Moines course. Her conversations with a Seattle woman who was one of the original members of the group and a 67-year-old gentleman who was finishing his third marathon in 14 days carried her through the race. Despite some fatigue, Kriss finished Des Moines with a respectable 4:39:39 time. Kriss cried with joy and pain with her family at the finish as David had secretly primed the race announcer to make an announcement about her two-day trek as she crossed the finish line. She’s an inspiration to all athletes in Iowa. “Things like this remind me to stay open to my dreams. I'm not sure who said this, but I like it ‘People don't grow old. When they stop growing, they become old,’” Kriss says.

She hasn’t worn her new Marathon Maniacs singlet yet, but Kriss isn’t one to turn away from a challenge. The self-proclaimed “marathon maniac” says she plans to run Boston in April for a second time in her career. “The Boston Marathon is such a special event. I was always pinching myself to make sure it was real, then tearing up when I realized it,” she said.

More than anything, Kriss just wants to inspire other runners to reach for their dreams. This “maniac” is doing one heck of a job of setting an example!

You can learn more about the Marathon Maniacs group at http://www.marathonmaniacs.com/. Finally, I’ll be taking the next few days off. Look for my next post when I return from traveling next Monday. I’ll put some posts up before Thanksgiving, then I’ll take a few days off at that time as well.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Need Coaching Topics!

I haven’t written much about any coaching topics and that bothers me.

Of course, this is my “off season” time of year. But that doesn’t mean I’m not thinking ahead to baseball season.

If you have any coaching topics you would like me to address, please leave a comment and I’ll do my best to write about it. You may also e-mail me at jghrdlicka@mchsi.com. I will be writing about volunteering again as Holiday Park Baseball Club will be running ads in the Des Moines Register to recruit coaches and volunteers in December. We will be offering a discount for “early-bird” registration through Jan. 1, 2009. Check it out at http://www.wdmbaseball.com/.

This is a perfect time of year to think about volunteering for a spring or summer youth athletic program. Check with your local youth baseball or softball league organization. This is also a perfect time to consider volunteering for youth basketball or soccer. Many local YMCA programs conduct spring soccer and basketball programs. This is a perfect way for you and your child to become involved in organized youth sports’ activities.

Youth athletic programs as SO much in need of quality volunteers. Consider becoming a part of this rewarding experience.

I will get back to writing about winter fitness, but I'll break things up with some other topics as well. Additionally, I'll be taking some time off this weekend due to a trip and later the following week for Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Winter Exercise Routines – Part II


You don’t have to move too far from home for great winter fitness ideas. Take a cue from “Jack The Dog” on his treadmill --http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWVxw5AChSM.

This was too cute to pass up, but all kidding aside. You may choose to invest in fitness equipment for your home, but “invest” is a good word here. Quality equipment is not inexpensive. It is not uncommon to spend thousands of dollars for a quality treadmill. My advice to you would be to do some extensive research and shopping before settling in toward a purchase in this area.

Some other ideas that might be less expensive than investing in home fitness equipment –

The Wii Fit -- http://tinyurl.com/58ou8z is fast becoming a popular indoor fitness activity among adults.

What about some video workouts? Jane Fonda and Richard Simmons made fortunes with these workouts and many of them are worthwhile. Here’s a link to a library of workout videos available for purchase online -- http://tinyurl.com/6xrmmu. Heck, even Angelina is working out with video, check it out -- http://tinyurl.com/5mlkpe.

If you don’t want to invest in videos, consider FitTV -- http://fittv.discovery.com/ -- if it’s available through your cable or satellite provider. I found an early-morning program on FitTV to be useful for me in a training program I was pursuing two years ago.

Don’t despair – even though it’s cold outside, you can still stay in shape inside. I have some other thoughts that I will share on staying in shape for the winter as we move forward into the season.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Winter Exercise Routines – Part I


It’s getting cold outside – sometimes really cold!!!

Particularly if you live in Iowa. And if it’s cold outside, most of us don’t like to take our training and fitness activities outside to the cold.

Don’t despair. Treat this as an opportunity to add some variety to your fitness routine.

I must admit before writing further that my inspiration for this entry came from http://www.sparkpeople.com/. This is a GREAT online community for learning about new fitness ideas. Just log on and it will become addicting if you like to discuss fitness. It’s truly a great reference.

So, looking for a new way to keep in shape while it’s cold? Have you joined a health club? January is the best time to join one because they are all offering discounts to entice those looking to meet their “New Year’s resolutions.” Joining a health club will offer you a wide variety of cardio and weight training activities.

What about hiring a personal trainer for a few sessions? Personal trainers are great for bringing new training exercises to your routine. Most health clubs have good personal trainers on staff available. Check out this eHow article about how to start the process of hiring a personal trainer -- http://tinyurl.com/6rmvq3.

Have you ever done a group fitness class? After you join your new fitness club, ask about what group fitness activities might be right for you.

These are just a few ideas to consider if you’re more comfortable leaving home to work out. In my next entry, I’ll discuss fitness activities you can do if you prefer not to leave your home.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Start Your Own Running Group

If you're like me and you enjoy running, why not share the experience with others? (Trust me, it makes the time go faster!)

I just teamed up with one of the fitness instructors at my health club to start a group with two running days -- Friday and Saturday. A short, e-mail poll of a number of our members revealed that some runners prefer a long Friday run and others prefer a long Saturday run. Some nasty weather has challenged us, but last Friday found four of us eagerly enjoying some very windy Iowa weather for a nice six-mile run. Even though I'm the "Friday guy", I joined the Saturday group this past week for a 12-mile run.

I've written a lot about the benefits of hooking up with "workout buddies" and starting a running group supports this argument. Provocative conversation about children, family, work and -- yes, even politics -- makes the experience that much more enjoyable and fulfilling. You find anticipating these runs more often because you're sharing time with like-minded individuals.

If you’re looking for a bigger group to make connections, check out the Capital Striders in Des Moines at http://www.capitalstriders.org/group_runs.asp. This is a very active organization that hosts a wariety of group running events.

Take the first step and contact a group of your running friends about starting a group today. Make this a priority -- all it takes is an e-mail to get started!

Monday, November 10, 2008

More On Injury Prevention


Nobody I know who is involved in fitness or training likes to be laid up with an injury. In fact, most active people I know get pretty frustrated when an injury occurs.

A few weeks back, I wrote about what to do in the case of injury. But what steps can you take to avoid injury on the front end? Well, I think I may have some helpful information. I stumbled upon an article about a book written by an accomplished British distance runner, Sam Murphy, that discusses proactive injury preventing in-depth. The book, "Running Well", appears to be very informative. Check out – http://www.runnersweb.com/ at http://tinyurl.com/6flfuc.

Additionally, Dagny Scott Barrios, a regular contributor to Runner's World, published a book titled "The Runner’s World Guide To Injury Prevention". I have this book at home and it is loaded with helpful injury prevention information. If you don't think you have time to read Scott Barrios' book, then check out her article "Safe and Sound" at http://tinyurl.com/67hkwh.

These may be additional helpful references in the constant pursuit to avoid the "injury bug".

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A Tip For Relieving Knee Problems


I’ve written a lot about addressing injuries as this is consistently an issue for active people.


This tip seemed to make sense – run backwards as a means of recovering from a knee injury.
Martha Edwards wrote about this practice on the http://www.thatsfit.com/ site --
http://www.thatsfit.com/2008/10/24/the-cure-for-knee-pain-running-backwards/.


When running backwards, you want to make sure you have a wide area free from obstructions. Lean forward and keep your nose over your toes. Use your arms to help keep your balance.


Try this training exercise – it might just do the trick for those wobbly knees.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Avoiding Raceday Mistakes – Part II

You can literally find a distance race in some prominent destination on every weekend of the year and then some. With the power of the Internet, it’s fairly easy to find race suitable to your goals in a destination that’s manageable to reach.

So, if you’ve found that “dream race” you want to do, let’s first make sure we don’t stumble before the starter fires the gun.

Have you done any training homework? If you’re thinking about doing a marathon, I highly recommend you read Hal Higdon’s Marathon – The Ultimate Training Guide before making any expensive registrations or travel plans. This book is the most complete reference for learning all of the issues attached to competing in distance races. Log on to http://www.halhigdon.com/ to learn more.

Have you identified a training plan? There are so many plans available via the Internet, take advantage of the experience and expertise available from the world community of distance running. Most of it is FREE!

Have you trained yourself to go to the bathroom? This may sound silly, but you don’t want to be hampered by this issue while you’re competing in a half marathon or marathon. Train yourself to go to the bathroom at favorable times through your training.

Have you considered how you’re going to hydrate and feed yourself during the race? Many beginners don’t realize your body needs to replenish some vital elements during the course of a distance run. You’ll need to hydrate during the course of the race and you may need some instant carbohydrates. Jelly beans and gels are easy to transport and digest during the race. Various brands are available at your favorite fitness store. Try them out before the big day.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Avoiding Race Day Mistakes – Part I

We’re in the thick of distance race season. Whether you’ve considered a fall marathon in the Midwest or a half marathon in a warmer weather destination, learn from others and avoid some common race day mistakes.

For starters, check out Christine Luff’s recent post on http://www.about.com/ on some very common problems to avoid in preparation for your raceday -- http://running.about.com/od/racetraining/ss/racingmistakes.htm.

Going out too quickly too early, wearing gear or shoes you’ve never worn on race day, starting in the wrong position, not properly warming up and not eating properly are just a few of the mistakes that can be made for race day. Don’t let these simple issues that can be easily addressed ruin your hard work preparing for a big race. In my next entry, I’ll offer some other tips for big race training and preparation.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Maybe It’s Time To Try One Of Those Fitness Classes


While we may be “fitness warriors”, the extreme elements of winter in the Midwest often make us “fitness wimps” and force us inside for our training activities.

Moving your training activities inside offers a great opportunity to vary your routine with some fitness classes. Most health clubs offer a tremendous variety of fitness classes from spinning to yoga to pilates. There are numerous aerobics classes with varying levels of activities along with lower impact “water aerobic” programs if your facility has a pool.

Jennifer Veak is a fitness instructor at Prairie Life Health and Fitness in West Des Moines. She promotes the value of participating in group fitness. “It’s a great opportunity to train muscles in your body that may not be receiving as much attention from your regular fitness activities,” Veak says.

Veak also sees the value of meeting new like-minded fitness gurus through participation in classes. “So many of my students have gone on to train and socialize together that group fitness really can be rewarding and a lot of fun,” she said.

Next time you’re at your health club, ask for information about its group fitness program offerings.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

“Running Up The Score” Not Sportsmanlike


No matter what the level, “running up the score” is just plain unsportsmanlike.

I used to cringe at quotes from the legendary Ohio State football coach, Woody Hayes. In a 1968 game, already up 42-14, Ohio State scored another touchdown. Hayes called for a two-point conversion and they converted. When asked why he did it, Coach Hayes said, "Because the rules won't let you go for three.” http://buckeyefansonly.com/woody/

So, let’s say Ohio State clobbers Michigan 63-3. Coach, if you think somewhere down the road when they have the opportunity to embarrass you, you can be rest assured they will.

In youth sports, “running up the score,” is particularly unnerving. In the pre-high school and high school sports’ levels, “mercy rules” have their place. These rules ensure a quick finish to games that accomplish nothing, but to demoralize those teams on the receiving end of a drubbing. There can often be such great disparity among teams at this level, a “mercy rule” really makes sense. http://bleacherreport.com/articles/60637-running-up-the-score-does-nothing-for-your-team

While there is really no place for “mercy rules” at the collegiate and professional levels, it doesn’t mean you need to show a lack of class by running up the score on your opponent. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like to see their team win big. However, paybacks can be tough and all sports fans remember class when they see it.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Become A “Runner”


I recently wrote about how easy it is to gear up for a running program.

Nancy Howard’s article on http://www.dailyspark.com/
http://www.dailyspark.com/blog.asp?post=so_you_want_to_be_a_runner supported many of the comments I made.

It’s easy to run, but it’s important not to bite off more than you can chew. Nancy also mentions the possibility of participating in a 5K event. If you’ve been disciplined about starting a running routine, preparing yourself to do a 5K event is not out of the question.

Consider training for that first 5K event today!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Speed. Speed. Speed!


Everyone wants to get faster. But you can't teach speed!

As you reach an older age, it gets tougher to increase your speed. However, there are ways to overcome this burden. Consider the following options –

Incorporate intervals into your training. Regularly running intervals at accelerated paces will definitely make you faster. If you’re training for a specific event, look for intermediate and advanced race plans that incorporate the use of intervals at varying distances and speeds.

Tempo runs and fartleks. Build these runs into your training. It’s easy to determine a period of time where you can make the early and later part o f the run easier, but harder during the middle with the tempo run. Fartleks help you make parts of the run faster and faster – simply speed up your pace for a predetermined amount of time at varying points of your run.

Use a treadmill. Running outside can’t duplicate the treadmill. But use the treadmill to “keep you honest” on intervals and tempo runs when appropriate. Here’s an article I found from Christine Luft that offers helpful tips for running on a treadmill -- http://running.about.com/od/treadmillrunning/tp/treadmillrunningtips.htm

Run with someone who is fast. Consider training with someone who will “push” you faster. I recently did some training runs and an ensuing race with some of my health club friends who I knew would help push me. The result was a personal best in a half marathon event!

Hopefully, these quick tips will get you pointed in the right direction on getting faster!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Are Your Practices Organized And Productive? (Part III)


Why do a “word of the day”? Why have a “cheer drill”?

I’m sure these were questions you may have had after reading my last entry about organizing practices. Let me explain the “method to the madness.”

For starters, I highly recommend spending some time on Coach Hugh Wyatt’s website -- http://www.coachwyatt.com/. Wyatt is a football coach who is an expert on the “double wing offense”. We have run this offense primarily on my 12-year-old’s football team for the past five years, so the coaches have become disciples of his philosophy. Perhaps more valuable than his expertise on the double wing, is the insight Wyatt provides toward conducting productive practices and successfully motivating youth players.

This website is a little cumbersome, but there’s some valuable information here and we’ve found some of his videos and publications to be useful. He is also VERY prompt in answering any questions you want to e-mail to him as long as you identify yourself (that’s his big rule!).

The “word of the day” provides some direction for the theme of the practice. We’ve found words like “focus”, “commitment”, “drive”, “hustle” and others to be general starting points. The beauty of this little exercise is that it is only limited by your own (and your assistant coaches’) creativity. Use this tool to set a tone and direction for the practice. You’ll be amazed when you start to hear the players actually referring back to the word during the course of practice!

If you’ve read my blog in the past, you know I firmly believe in the importance of warm up preparation at practice. No one can dispute the value of warming up as a means of conditioning and injury prevention.


The “cheer drill” helps build camaraderie among team members by forcing players to cite something positive about another player at the conclusion of the practice. As the players get to know one another better, you’ll find they are more eager to make positive use of this exercise.

I also like to use tools to recognize individual effort in the practices that follow games. There are a variety of ways to achieve this through “game balls,” “shirts” or simple verbal recognition. “Mr. Hustle”, “The Big Stick”, “Bonecrusher” and “Web Gem” are examples of creative ways to recognize individual effort. You will be amazed at how players will compete for this type of recognition.


Hopefully, I’ve provided some helpful direction in these last few entries toward running successful practices.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Are Your Practices Organized And Productive? (Part II)

Don’t you love the e-mails you receive from parents?

Perhaps a recent communication went a little something like this – “Coach, really appreciate the time and energy you put into the team. But I was wondering what the point was to that last drill you did yesterday at practice? It seemed a little disorganized. Maybe giving the kids more explanation as to the goal of the drill would help. Just thought I’d throw that out. Thanks again for all you do!”

And your knee-jerk response went something like “Well, you can certainly volunteer and carry a clipboard while I step out the way.”

As much as this communication can be annoying because you’re the guy who stepped up to be the coach, parents have a point in their expectation for a productive practice.

When we left off the discussion of the importance of organizing your practices for productivity, I said I would provide an example. It’s really not hard to do. If you’ve identified the areas of focus for the practice with your assistants, your job is almost done!

I type each practice schedule out and distribute it by e-mail to the other coaches on the day of practice. Here’s an example of a schedule I used recently for a 10-year-old baseball practice –

Practice Schedule – Athletics 10U – May 15, 2008

5:30 – 5:35 Opening comments/questions – word of the day - “DEDICATION”
COMMITMENT TO ACHIEVE A GOAL
Working on mostly fielding and baserunning again today.

5:35 – 5:45 Run field
Stretching
Agilities

5:45 -- 6:20 Fielding/Baserunning/Pitching Full group
Coaches Roche/Irlmeier go through situations verbally on fielding. Line up everyone in positions, talk through situations, then go live with fielding. Add base runners after 10 minutes. As we add baserunners, we can talk about signs and “holding” runners. Stress sliding – practice you’re “down” and you’re “up” commands.

Coach Hrd works with pitchers – Mason, Colin, Noah, Alec, Danny, Will and Michael.

6:20 – 6:45 Fly ball drill – two lines where one calls, the other backs up.
End with a game of “500” for fun.

6:45 – 6:55 Pick off moves

Parting comments -- Next practice – batting practice at Holiday Park Saturday before game – one hour before start time.
Word of the day – “DEDICATION”
Cheer drill (everyone says something positive about someone else)
Break Group

Everyone is then committed to knowing the direction of the practice, hopefully making productive use of your time as well that of the players, parents and other coaches. I ran across an article written by Coach Randy Brown that supported this philosophy along with some other great ideas for conducting practices -- http://ezinearticles.com/?Organizing-Your-Practice-Time---25-Time-Proven-Ideas&id=379920.

Next time, I’ll provide some rational behind each of the regular activities I include in a practice.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Are Your Practices Organized And Productive? (Part I)


There is nothing more frustrating than finishing up a practice where you feel you’ve accomplished little or next to nothing with your players.

Okay, okay. I get it. I remember that in most cases, if you’re reading this blog, you’re getting paid as much as I have for volunteering to coach – zero, zip, nada! That doesn’t mean you won’t be frustrated about having a less than productive practice. Furthermore, despite the fact that you’re volunteering your valuable time, most players and parents are expecting you to conduct a practice that is at the least “organized”.

A wise football coach with whom I have had the pleasure of serving, Tait Hines, taught me the value of scheduling out each and every activity of a practice. While that exercise may sound daunting, it’s actually very easy – and rewarding!

In preparing for practice, first hold a brief conversation among the coaches following each game and each practice to identify areas that require attention. Further discuss with your coaches activities and drills that will be conducted to address the identified areas of priority. A five-minute conversation should easily help you come up with the major components of your next practice. Add in your warm-ups, the time allotted for each activity, some time for “team talk” and there’s your practice.

In my next couple of entries, I’ll provide a sample practice schedule and review the methodology behind each practice activity.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Tapering Important To Success In Race Events


One of the early mistakes I made when I first started running in competitive races was neglecting the value of the “taper”.

Before running my first half marathon, I ran the longest run of my training cycle about 10 days prior to the event. While I finished just fine, a veteran runner quickly alerted me to the need to “taper” prior to running this type of event.

Tapering is taking time at the end of the training cycle to lessen the intensity of workouts in order to give your muscles the ability recover and achieve maximum performance on the anticipated race day event. There are varying theories on how long a tapering period should be, but the period of time generally increases with the distance of the event involved.

If you do your homework and consult training programs for a specific event authored by a recognized expert, you will generally find appropriate tapering built into the program.

This entry from Matt Fitzgerald’s blog Blog.FasterTomorrow.com definitively explains the value of tapering -- http://blog.fastertomorrow.com/blog/marathon-training/0/0/the-perfect-taper in your training activities.

Monday, October 20, 2008

How To Buy A New Pair Of Running Shoes


Well, just how exciting can it be to buy a new pair of shoes?

Call me one of the weirdos who loves to purchase new running shoes. I’m like Imelda Marcos when it comes to buying new running shoes. I LOVE to buy them!

All kidding aside, a good pair of running shoes is one of the most important keys to taking up a successful, injury-free running program. One estimate says each of your feet may hit the ground 800 times during the course of running a mile http://www.coolrunning.com/engine/2/2_5/191.shtml. That’s a lot of pounding, making the process of buying running shoes more critical.

First, you need to identify whether or not you suffer from overpronation. Check out this information on Wikipedia and you can test yourself to find out -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foot_type. When you visit the store, you will want to be prepared to inform the associate as to whether or not you suffer from overpronation or any other conditions that might affect your shoe purchase.

Where do you go? I prefer the local fitness store that features knowledgeable, helpful staff. Nothing against the “big box” stores, but the local stores tend to have more experienced staff and are more “in-tune” to the local running community. In the Des Moines area, without exception, this store is Fitness Sports -- http://www.fitnesssports.com/. The staff at Fitness Sports will take the time to show and fit a wide variety of shoes until you are satisfied.

Taking time choose a new pair running shoes wisely will pay off in the long run. Be prepared to spend $100 or more on a quality pair of shoes. If you’d like to be more educated about shoes currently available before you visit the store, check out Runner’s World’s product reviews by clicking the “shoes and gear” link at http://www.runnersworld.com/. There’s more information about purchasing the right pair of shoes for you, including a “shoe finder” tool.

Finally, literally by coincidence, Christine Luff just posted an entry about the purchase of running shoes on her blog. It has some very helpful information about this issue, particularly addressing the question of how to purchase the best shoes for certain conditions runners may have. Check it out -- http://running.about.com/b/2008/10/17/running-shoe-faqs.htm.
Now go forth and buy new pair of shoes!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

End Of An Era As West Des Moines Packers Finish With Win


What memories I will now have as I assisted in coaching my son Jay’s last youth league football game!

A bit bittersweet, yet extremely satisfying was our win over the Ames Bears 20-0. Jay scored his last touchdown and an extra point. Hopefully, next year Jay will go on to success playing in his junior high school football program.

It’s extremely gratifying to have had the opportunity to be at “ground level” watching your oldest child move through development in youth football. Perhaps even more satisfying is knowing you’ve played a role in the growth of several other young men as well. I have great anticipation for the academic and athletic success of the players we’ve coached on our West Des Moines Packers’ team.

I’m sure I’ll find another endeavor to fill the void of time left without three weekly practices along with games next fall, but I know I will miss the experience.


I certainly encourage others to volunteer for this experience. You won't be sorry you did!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Take Advantage Of Programs At Big Race Events


Imagine having the opportunity to give a big presentation or speech as part of your city’s big marathon expo. What an honor! But come time for the big gig, only four people show up.

I felt terribly bad for a recent presenter at the Des Moines Marathon’s expo where this happened. I won’t mention the name of the presenter, but from personal experience, I know this person is extremely knowledgeable and had tremendous insight to share.

We runners sometimes overlook the valuable opportunities big race event expos provide. We get so caught up in training and “race day” itself, we forget about the educational opportunities available through local and national experts scheduled to make presentations at these events.

Using the Des Moines Marathon as an example, race director Chris Burch has done an outstanding job of bringing provocative content to this race expo. To Burch’s credit, the Des Moines Marathon was essentially defunct when he took over the reigns a few years back. This year, the marathon expo featured programs with Marianne McGinnis, Prevention magazine's west coast editor; Jon Dunham, director of the popular film “Spirit of the Marathon” and some great local speakers http://www.desmoinesmarathon.com/Schedule/Speaker_Series.htm.

I know I need to do a better job of taking advantage of these opportunities myself, but I thought this reminder would serve as inspiration to others as well.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Here’s How To Volunteer To Help Your Child’s Athletic Endeavors


If you’re looking for ways to help improve your child’s athletic organization, trust me when I say plenty of opportunities exist.

Most youth sports leagues are struggling to identify enough help to meet the needs of the children enrolled in the programs. I know the baseball, football and basketball leagues in which my sons are involved are consistently looking for “fresh blood”. Here’s are some tips about how to get involved.

Just volunteer to coach! Coaching doesn’t require a deep knowledge of the sport for which you are volunteering. If you’re organized and you’re equipped to communicate effectively with children and their parents, you are pretty well-qualified. All leagues are generally in need of head coaches and assistant coaches.

If you’re uncomfortable coaching alone or you don’t feel you have enough knowledge of the sport, identify the parent of a friend of one of your children to work with you. Chances are these types of parents may have older children for whom they have coached in the past. I learned a great deal from a parent of one of my son’s friends during my first two years of baseball coaching. He had an older son he had coached in years past and was a tremendous mentor to me.

So, if coaching doesn’t appeal to you, contact the head coach of your child’s team and ask how you might be able to help in other ways. Every team of children enjoys treats after the game – why not volunteer to organize the other parents to bring treats following each practice and/or game? Ask the coach if he needs help preparing the field prior to a game. This is very common in baseball and in football, volunteers are always needed to “run the chains.” You could also ask the coach if he would like to have a video from the game. Coaches like to use video from games as a method of instruction. Or what about keeping stats? Coaches love parents who volunteer to keep stats as a means of measuring progress. There are countless ways to help your child’s team – just raise your hand and volunteer!

If your child’s league has a governing board, volunteer to serve on it. These leagues are always looking for help from volunteer board members; particularly in professional areas like accounting or law. Inquire with the president of the board as to how you can get involved.

Here are the website addresses for some of the more popular youth sports organizations in the West Des Moines area – the Holiday Park Baseball Club, West Des Moines Little Pro Youth Football League and West Des Moines Soccer Club – http://www.wdmbaseball.com/, http://www.wdmlpyfl.com/ and http://www.wdmsoccerclub.org/.

By getting more involved in your child’s sports league, you’ll learn more about how the organization operates and be in a better position to help your child make the most of the experience!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Unhappy With Youth Sports? Volunteer To Help!


Tired of poor practices? Not happy with some of the policies of your child’s sports organization?

Trust me, complaining doesn’t remedy the situation much.

As one board member of our local baseball league challenged me recently, “Joe, put your money where your mouth is.” After expressing my dissatisfaction over some issues, he challenged me to join the board of the league. “You’ve been around awhile, Joe. You can help us improve things,” he said.

I hope he’s right because I attended my first board meeting of the Holiday Park Baseball Club last week. I’m excited about the prospect of contributing to this organization. There are certainly challenges, but nothing that can’t be overcome. I’d like to think some of my life experiences will help address a number of the issues the league faces.

Youth athletic organizations are so much in need of the time and expertise of parents. If you see it fit to express your dissatisfaction with the operations of a league, think about all of the volunteer time that goes into making things work. These leagues are in great need of volunteers at a variety of levels. Whether it’s coaches, team parents, board members; volunteer to step up and help out! The league will gladly accept your support and probably be more receptive to your input.

In my next entry, I’ll talk about some suggestions for volunteering.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Make Sure To Warm Your Players Up At The Beginning of Practice


In my last entry, I referenced the importance of stretching and warm up. This applies to young athletes you’re coaching in any sport.

While young children are not as prone to injury as us old folks, a good warm up not only reduces the chances for injury, but it helps put the players in the appropriate frame of mind for a safe and productive practice. This article from kidshealth.org offers some guidelines on fitness activities for children -- http://kidshealth.org/parent/nutrition_fit/fitness/exercise.html

Here is a routine to try in warming up your players prior to a practice –

Roll neck both directions
Stretch both arms across chest (holding the wrist)
Stretch both arms behind head (gently pushing down on elbow)
Touch toes
Heel-to-butt (hold the front of foot)
Knee to chest (hold shin to keep knee in position)
Three way stretch – touch right/left foot and ground

Then move to these exercises/agilities --

Push ups – 20
Sit ups – 25
Leg Lifts – 10

Each of the following can be done within a 10-yard stretch (remember, this is just warm-up!)
Easy Jog
High Knees
Butt kicks
Carioca
Lunges
Standing long jumps
Hops – right foot then left

These are all very easy stretches and exercises I’ve used with children from the ages of eight through 12 in a variety of athletic applications. All of the stretches go on the command, “Ready, begin.” The kids count to 10 then end with a clap. On the exercises, we establish even lines of three to five players to run through a 10-yard stretch. On the exercises, I use the command, “Ready, hit.”

After performing this routine a few times, you should be able to complete it in 15 to 20 minutes. At that point, your players should be properly warmed up and ready for a successful practice!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Stretching, Warmups Important To Beating Injuries



Nobody I know who regularly works out enjoys stretching or warming up.

But we’ve been talking about “beating” injury and this is one way to do it.

Stretching and warming up is a “necessary evil” in the world of fitness and training. Stretching prior to and after vigorous exercise is vital to injury prevention. Stretching helps prepare the muscles for vigorous activity and helps them recover from the stress caused by a workout.

We’re all more prone to injury as we get older. I’m a prime example, as I never sustained a serious injury until I hurt my shoulder lifting weights when I was 37 years old. My suspicion is that a lack of stretching prior that workout back in 2003 may have had something to do with that injury. Effects of that injury still linger, but a variety of stretching exercises I learned from a physical therapist have helped me beat them.

I sustained knee injuries at age 39 and 42. Again, stretching exercises I learned from a physical therapist have played a critical role in my recovery from these injuries. Every day when I wake up, whether I have a workout planned for the early morning or not, I do a 20-minute stretching routine.

If you’re looking for encouragement to support the importance of stretching and warming up, you need to look no further than the American College of Sports Medicine. A recent release published on its website highlights the importance of stretching and warm-up -- http://tinyurl.com/4l3y5n. A recent article published in the Herald Extra in Utah highlights the importance of stretching, particularly for active seniors -- http://www.heraldextra.com/content/view/281578/149/.

So, now that I’ve made you a believer about improving your stretching and warm-up habits, you’re wondering where to go to find the proper exercises. Typing in “stretching exercises” or “stretching and warming up” on a Google search will provide a number of results with proper resources toward proper stretching and warm-up exercises. YouTube is also a great resource for learning new exercises. The best part about YouTube is you can watch experts perform the exercises.

Check out Dave Scott, six-time world Ironman champion, and his video that outlines six key stretching exercises. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BaDXNjFjjnU. When you go to this site, you’ll see several other video bits on additional stretching and warm-up routines.

Now, take time to do a better job of preparing your body for the fitness activities of your choosing.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

So You're Injured . . . What Now?


If you’re injured from training activities – join the club. The injury scorpion at some point in their careers stings most athletes who have engaged in a steady dose of fitness activity.

RICE

Rest. Ice. Compression. Elevation.

It’s important to REST following an injury. This is hard for active people, but take it from one who doesn’t like to rest, but has had his share of injuries. Listen to your body – if you’re experiencing abnormal, acute pain along with swelling; it’s probably time to rest. We’re talking most often about where we have joints and ligaments – the ankles, knees, wrists, etc.

Apply ice to reduce the swelling. Check out http://sportsmedicine.about.com/cs/rehab/a/rice.htm for advice on proper application of the RICE principles including how to ice and compress an injury.

Compress the injured area by wrapping it with an ACE bandage.

You can easily elevate your injury with a stack of pillows.

If an injury involves swelling and pain for more than 48 hours, it’s probably time to consult with your family physician. Your family physician can provide the proper guidance as to whether or not you need to be seen by a specialist or perhaps be treated with physical therapy. Sometimes therapy provided through the guidance of a licensed physical therapist yields healing through stretching and the appropriate rehabilitative exercises. Fortunately, I was able recover from a recent knee injury with the assistance of a physical therapist.

The most critical key to recovering from an injury is to not let it get you down. If you have a particularly serious injury, consult with your physician and/or physical therapist about activities you may safely pursue which will keep you in shape and help take your mind off the injury while you’re in the process of recovery and rehabilitation.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Are You Injured . . . Or Not?


Many serious runners are preparing to depart for marathons as many of the major events occur throughout the next couple of months. Or maybe you’re preparing for your first 10K race when IT happens. You feel a pain in your ankle, your calf, your knee or hamstring.

It’s inevitable that as you become more serious about your fitness activities, the risk for injury increases. But many people will ask themselves, “Can I just work my way through it?”

Well, in some cases, that is perhaps true with some rest, ice, compression and elevation (We’ll discuss more about RICE in my next blog entry). However, if you’re feeling acute pain in a targeted area for 48 hours straight or more, it’s probably time to get it checked out with your physician.

I’ll discuss more strategies for dealing with injuries in my next entry. I’m also going to write about some strategies to use that will help reduce the risk of injury in future entries.

What I’d like to be the takeaway for this entry is the following – don’t let an injury overtake your focus on long-term goals. Certainly an injury preventing you from participating in a planned event is not a good situation. But don’t allow your focus on your short-term goals to overtake your attention to long-term goals by being careless about treatment for an injury. If you’re really hurt, you need to give the injury the proper care in order to heal up and be ready for the long-term.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Training In Out-Of-Town Venues Offers A Break


Sometimes when we travel, merging our busy travel and training agendas can be stressful.

The trip is generally inevitable, so you need to make the most of your time to keep up with training activities, particularly if you’re working toward an event in the near future. My approach toward this is to take some extra time to plan out how I can work training exercises into my travel schedule. Additionally, working out in whatever venue you’re traveling to may offer a scenic and welcome break.

I had this experience recently on a trip to Philadelphia. With very little research, I was able to identify a three-mile-plus run that took me from my downtown hotel to the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art made famous the by the “Rocky” movies. It was a very enjoyable run.

I’ve run in numerous venues where my travels regularly tend to take me – Colorado, Chicago, Florida, St. Louis and Kansas City. There is nothing like running or biking in the mountains of Colorado. You also get the bonus of higher altitude air that can help you upon your return home if you’re there for an extended period of time. I’ve found the same effect from working out in the heat and humidity of the summer in Florida.

Tampa and Miami have some wonderful waterfront biking and running areas. There’s nothing like biking or running along the lakefront against the cityscape of Chicago at Lake Michigan. St. Louis and Kansas City also have numerous scenic trail venues. I recently rode my bike along the Katy Trail in Missouri and it was wonderful.

Just about anywhere you travel, you can find great places to break out and experience new training venues that can be a welcome change to your routine. Check out this feature on the Runner’s World website that helps you identify running routes in various locations -- http://www.runnersworld.com/topic/0,7122,s6-239-281-0-0,00.html.

Additionally, you can generally find hotels in metropolitan areas that will cater to your fitness needs through the research of a phone call or the web. Some even have partnerships with local health clubs that will cost you nothing or just a little extra. If you’re unable to bring the bike along for a ride, there are often places to rent bikes in trail-heavy areas.

Don’t let a trip stand in the way of experiencing some wonderful fitness activities in parts of the world that many times offer a motivating break from your routine.

Friday, October 3, 2008

What Is The Right Decision For The Financial Markets?


I’m really torn on this question as to what the government’s role should be in easing the stress that currently exists within our financial markets. If you are keeping score, the media would have you believe a depression is just around the corner.

I’m not sure that’s the case. History shows that the U.S. financial markets are strong enough to weather many temporary obstacles. I just don’t think we’re sure whether this is a “temporary recession” or merely a blip in economic history. Either is possible. http://tinyurl.com/5xwv9c

Who is at fault and who needs to fix the problem? Interesting question in my mind. While public opinion seems to lean toward “the greedy executives who got us into this mess should get us out,” we can’t ignore the fact that many a politician ignored the signs of this situation coming until now. http://tinyurl.com/4jeo3h

You may like it or you may not. You may think the actions being taken by Congress and the president make sense. Either way, the bipartisan spirit exhibited over the past week toward a solution is admirable.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I'll Miss Coaching My Son In Football


I’m not usually a SAD person, but I am this year.

This is the last year I will coach my oldest son, Jay, in football. I’m BUMMED! I will have a terrible time getting over this.

For the past five years, I’ve spent four to five days a week in the fall helping to coach my son’s football team. It’s been a great experience. Our head coach, Tait Hines, has been an absolutely phenomenal individual to serve.

We’re 42 days into this year’s practices, and our prospects are geared toward another successful season. But I’m really worried about how I will react to next year’s absence of the whistle around my neck or the clipboard at my side. I’m sure I’ll end up heading over to the field at Stilwell Junior High to see how the practices match up to the ones we’ve put together over the past five years.

I have great faith in our varsity football program at Valley High School. I hope the quality of the coaching my son will receive in the interim will match the passion he has received with the Packers’ coaches over the past five years.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Staying Motivated And On Track With Your Fitness Goals - Part II


Once I started thinking about this topic, it was easy to come up with more ideas!

This can be a tough situation to beat. I serve as a primary example. Case in point – no sooner then when I posted my last entry, I slept through the Bosu aerobics class that I was very excited to attend the other day.

So, here are few more hints on overcoming this problem –

Got an Ipod Yet?

When I was given my Ipod last year for my birthday, it offered a whole new lease on fitness activities. Having the ability to easily program your own music that inspires you really helps your motivation. It almost serves as a new and fun activity to build the next playlist of songs. I highly recommend the purchase of an Ipod if you don’t have one already. Invest in the attachment that logs your runs – it’s about $30. Trust me; you will be glad you did.

Crosstrain

Take a look at other physical fitness activities. There’s running, biking, swimming, weightlifting, aerobics . . . the list goes on and on. I added weights to my routine about six years ago when I joined a health club. After I joined the club, I was inspired by other members that I befriended to try swimming, biking and aerobics classes. Next thing I knew, I was signing up to participate in triathlon events.

As we age, it’s important to vary our physical activities – particularly if you’re a runner. If you’re like me and many other 40-somethings, we just can’t put in the miles we used to.

Read

I like to gloss over the Internet and other material that I find to give me new ideas about training. There’s a wealth of information throughout the web – just type in a topic on Google and off you go! There are also plenty of health-related magazines offering suggestions for alternate forms of training. Personally, I never miss an issue of Runner’s World. While this magazine focuses more on running, it provides a never-ending source of ideas for personal motivation, new training strategies and crosstraining ideas. Runnersworld.com is an excellent resource as well. Plus, if you’re looking for easy-to-follow training plans for any running race you desire to complete, it’s all available at halhigdon.com. I recently stumbled upon a blog written by Christina Luff -- http://running.about.com/mbiopage.htm. Visit her site and you’ll find she has some great training plans along with some valuable advice about crosstraining.


Try a Change in Scenery
Try a new running or biking route. Here again, it’s all too easy to fall into the rut of consistently doing the same routes over and over again. If you’re swimming, have you tried an “open water” swim at a local recreational area? We fortunately have one near my workplace and a quick, half-hour swim in this scenic venue is great stress relief on a hot, sunny workday.