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 --

P. S. It’s worth mentioning again that 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 --

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 -- Rachel has an impressive list of holiday gift ideas for athletically-inclined individuals. Here’s another source for consideration. The website has a link to a variety of posts from its contributors --

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 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 --

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

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 --

Locallly, there’s the Arthritis Walk -- -- or the Governor’s Cup race -- -- that benefits youth scholarships.

Another helpful effort in this area is Team In Training -- 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 --

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 --

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 --

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 (here’s the link -- 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 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 --
or Scheel’s --

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 --

Here are some great gift ideas from Fitness For Mommies --

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 --
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

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 --

Additionally, Runner’s World has a great link that offers suggestions for attire to consider given specific weather variables --

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 --

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!