Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Get Started With A Fitness Program

So, maybe you made a New Year’s Resolution. Maybe you said you would exercise during Lent.

These are all good intentions, but have you kept up with your promises?

This post on http://www.sparkpeople.com/ offers some great insight on beginning effective fitness program. So check it out - http://tinyurl.com/6ou5ht.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Ease Off The Treadmill To The Outdoors

As the weather becomes more inviting, we feel the urge to get off the boring treadmill and move outdoors. This is wonderful "rite of passage", but take time transition back into the groove of the road.

You may want to ease back into outdoor running one to two times a week at first. It can still be a little cold out there, particularly in the early morning, so give your body a couple of weeks to adjust.

Check to make sure whether or not you need new shoes prior to moving back outdoors. Unless you're headed to a track, chances are your outdoor running surface will be a lot harsher than your treadmill surface. Make sure you're feet are properly equipped.

Speaking of tracks, you may want to try running on the softer surface of the track prior to venturing out on the harder surfaces.

This article on http://www.fitsugar.com/ features some other helpful tips in making this transition easier on your body. Check it out -- http://www.fitsugar.com/2921548.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Reaching Plateaus

If you have been active in fitness activities and dieting for a prolonged period of time, chances are you are wondering how you can be better. After any more than six months in a particular routine, you may start to ask yourself questions like - How can I lose more weight? How can I tone up? How can I get faster?

This is a very normal progression of development, particularly if you have just recently started your fitness and/or nutrition program. You've been disciplined, you've worked out four to five times a week, you've dieted as prescribed and you're pleased with the results. But now, you want more!

It's a natural inclination to want to build on your initial positive results, but you'll probably have to change up your routine. Once our bodies get adjusted to a certain routine and diet, you will not burn as many calories because you get too efficient at what you've been doing.

The following articles from http://www.runnersworld.com/ and http://www.sparkpeople.com/ offer some great strategies as to how you can easily change your fitness and nutrition activities for even better results! Check out this post from Leslie Goldman of Runner’s World -- http://tinyurl.com/cprt7a and this post on “plateau busters from Nicole Nichols -- http://tinyurl.com/eotoz.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Get Started With Running

Spring has sprung!

Well, at least in some places it has. Of course. I live in Central Iowa and it’s the end of March. So, that’s still pretty iffy weatherwise around here.

Enough about the weather. I will say that the approach of warmer weather always inspires interest in healthy outdoor activities. Running is certainly an easy activity to take up as the weather warms up. All you need are your feet, some running shoes, shorts and a shirt (okay, maybe a hat and sunglasses too!).

I thought the following post by Benson Yeung at http://tinyurl.com/czzf69 offered some great pointers on getting started with a running program. I can’t stress enough his first two points. Get a complete physical exam and don’t skimp on a solid, comfortable pair of running shoes.

If you’re a little further along in a running program, you may find the following post interesting by Runner’s World’s Yishane Lee through http://www.active.com/ at http://tinyurl.com/armfox. It offers “10 Rules of Running”.

Hopefully, these articles will give you a little spring in your step as the weather makes healthy outdoors activities more desirable.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Have You Thought About “Trying A Tri?” – Part III

So, I haven’t scared you away from considering a triathlon yet? If you answered “no,” that’s great. It’s a great training experience and a wonderful sense of accomplishment is gained from completing an event.

The Event

Once you’re satisfied that your swimming, biking and running skills are up to the task, you probably need 12 to 16 weeks to complete training prior to an event. Identify an event that suits your schedule and count back the weeks from the date of the event.

Finding an event that’s suitable to your schedule and skills. If it’s your first time, I recommend the “sprint” which generally consists of a 500-meter swim, a 25K bike and a 5K run.

In Iowa, the event schedule found at http://www.fitnesssports.com/ lists triathlons throughout the state and beyond.

The Plan

Developing a training plan is important.

I have found some great beginning triathlon training plans in the “triathlon training” section of http://www.runnersworld.com/. There is some great direction and plan information for beginners at http://www.sweat365.com/.

Tap Other People’s Expertise

Don’t forget to tap into the knowledge of other triathletes. Triathletes are generally happy to share information and expertise in the interest of increasing interest in their community. If you’re working with a personal fitness trainer, you might consult with them for advice on training for this event. Your trainer might also know some triathletes you can contact.

If you belong to a health club, many of them have groups formed for training exercise. Just inquire with a staff member.

This should be enough to get you started. You will need to consider some other issues as “race day” approaches. Apparel, accessories and the “transition” are just a few. We’ll tackle those in a future entry.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Have You Thought About “Trying A Tri?” – Part II

I posed this question to myself five years ago and have since participated in several sprint and Olympic distance triathlons. If you’re at a point in your training where you’re seeking to reach out into other areas of fitness, the triathlon is a great avenue to pursue.

In my mind, there are two big questions facing you when considering training for a triathlon – Can you swim and will you need a new bike? These questions are important because the answers will provide direction as to the amount of time and money you will need to dedicate to move forward to this goal.

Can’t Swim?

Not a bad answer to that first question; however, an investment of time and money will need to be made in adult swim lessons. Most health clubs with pools and swim clubs staff trainers qualified to provide swimming instruction at a variety of levels. I was lucky that I swam competitively in high school, so for me, this part provided an enjoyable refresh of previously-learned skills. Most YMCAs have adult swim programs.

Don’t Have A Bike?

Again, not an insurmountable issue. However, purchasing a bike for use in training for a triathlon will involve a significant investment of anywhere from $400 to $1,500 or more. You can spend a little to get you going or you can spend a lot if you think you’ll commit a significant amount of time to biking.

When I purchased a bike, I shopped at four of the area’s leading bike stores. I asked a lot of questions and test-rode a number of models. Ultimately, I found a bike that offered me comfort and a nice sale price because it was last year’s model. Now, I have two bikes!

You will also need to invest in a few accessories such as shoes, a helmet and a toolkit.

What About Running?

Most people can run. The “running” part of the event is probably the easiest to navigate if you’re an accomplished biker or swimmer. I’ve written in the past about training for a 5K running event. This entry offers an easy entry toward getting started on the running front.

More Later

I’ll offer more tips on getting started with triathlon training in another entry, but these two items should get you started about thinking whether or not you can seriously commit to training for this event. Check out http://www.beginnertriathlon.org/ to learn more about mounting the “tri” training experience.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Have You Thought About “Trying A Tri”? – Part I

Triathlon. Most people are intimidated by this word. You don’t have to be. Use the word “tri” for short and it’s much less daunting.

Seriously, if you’ve been engaged in a consistent program for more than a year that has involved running, spinning, swimming or other aerobic activity, this event is not as hard as you think. And now is the time to give it serious consideration.

As spring begins, it’s the perfect time to look at a 10 to 18-week program that will get you through to an event in June, July or August. Currently, I’m training for an Olympic distance triathlon – the HyVee Triathlon held here in Des Moines. It’s a fantastic event!

I’m going to write out some thoughts and ideas on this topic in my next few posts. However, if you’re serious about considering this event, the web has wonderful tools and resources to get you started. I found this post on http://www.thatsfit.com/ by Kristen Seymour to be a good place to start. Check it out -- http://tinyurl.com/c45cav.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Joe Friel Webinar

EXTRA! Triathlon expert Joe Friel is doing a webinar tomorrow night for triathletes on running your "best season ever". Check it out -- http://tinyurl.com/chrvel.

The cost is $10. Having read some of Joe's material in the past, I'm sure this will be worthwhile!

Compression Socks Gain Popularity

One my closest running partners told me this week he “loves” compression socks.

They look horribly uncomfortable and rigid to me, but apparently these types of socks are gaining popularity among runners and triathletes. These socks have been used to help treat circulatory ailments in the legs for many years. The theory for athletes is they help improve circulation; therefore improving performance and recovery.

Personally, I have not tried them. I may give these a try and offer a review, but while we’re waiting, see what these experts have to say about their use. Runner’s World’s Peter Sagar recently wrote an update about the use of compression socks -- http://tinyurl.com/b4gfw4. Triathlon expert Joe Friel also wrote about the results of two studies on the use of compression socks on his blog -- http://tinyurl.com/dkzp8e.

While I have not used these socks, they may be helpful to you. Leave your comments and let us know how they work.

I’m going to be light on the blog entry front this week with spring break. Check back toward the end of the week!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Ahh . . . Spring Is Coming!

I’m hearing 60-degree weather this week. In the immortal words of that famous super spy Austin Powers – Yeah, baby!

Spring sports are upon us. Take the children out and throw the baseball around or kick the soccer ball. What about a little “old school” hope using the bucket at your favorite neighborhood park?

My sons and I are movie buffs, so we’ll have a hard time tomorrow afternoon choosing between one of our two favorite activities – catching a flick or hitting balls at Holiday Park. (I know what my vote is, but the boys have had a LOT of practice already this week indoors). Perhaps we’ll do both.

What weather for a bike ride! Take the kids out on the trail or clip up and head out for 20 miles or so.

What about a run? It was 30 degrees this morning, but it felt like a spring thaw on our eight-mile run this morning. Running with three of my friends, we had a GREAT rush! Certainly you can find a training activity for outdoors this week.

Whatever you do, just make time to spend some time with friends and family outdoors this week. It could become habit-forming!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Running for Mortals

If you’re looking for some inspiration in keeping the running program you recently started, look no further. Runner’s World recently started promotion of “Running For Mortals” by John Bingham and his wife Jenny Hadfield. You can take a peek at http://tinyurl.com/7u5oma.

Affectionately known as “The Penguin” in running circles based on his signature words of encouragement, “waddle on, friends”, Bingham is the “everyman’s runner”. He speaks volumes of motivation through common-sense, easy-to-understand copy. Perhaps most important about Bingham is that he is not in the least intimidating.

While you’re on http://www.runnersworld.com/, check out all the valuable running tools this site offers. Whether it’s a running plan for a certain event, getting fitted for a shoe or learning a new healthy and tasty recipe; this site has it all. Check it out.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

My New Trick – Yoga

So, you might think yoga is “only for women”, “just not for me” or you might think a lot of things about it.

I promised myself to try it and I’ve been averaging one class a week here for the last few weeks. Let me be the first to tell you that it is really great for a variety of reasons.

First, it’s different than anything else you do fitnesswise. Pilates are probably the closest thing to it. I don’t know how to describe it other than to say you’re working hard, but you’re not sweating or breathing uncomfortably. You’re working hard, yet you’re relaxed. The exercises are quite “out of the box”. Any time you can do something different to change up your routine, it’s a good thing!

Second, yoga is low in impact. The impact involved in yoga is so minimal that it’s a great form of exercise for those who are getting a little older.

Third, the exercises involve a lot of stretching. This is GREAT relief for runners and cyclists.

Yoga classes are available at many health clubs. If you’re not a “health club” person, try a video or the WiiFit.

Read about the 31-Day Yoga challenge at http://carrotsncake.com/31-days-of-yoga.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Try This “Catch The Rabbit” Drill For Fun In Your Run

Living in Central Iowa has its upside. But it has its downside too.

For example, if you’re a runner, you never know when you’ll be able to safely run outside during the winter months. A group of my running friends have been foiled the last three Saturdays by a snowstorm, blistering cold wind and most recently a horrible thunderstorm. However, misery breeds creativity!

We developed a fun drill that can be done indoors if your health club features a small track. Each of us ran approximately a mile (everybody runs when the first runner completes a mile or you can set it up so that you run when the last runner reaches a mile) on the treadmill, then you hit the track for a mile. The faster runners move ahead in an effort to “lap” or catch the slower runners.

I know what you’re thinking – you’re thinking this is pretty easy on one of those small, health club tracks. Not so fast. If your slower running friends have any dignity at all, they will make it difficult for the faster runners to catch them. Thus, the drill results in a challenge for both slower and faster runners.

Return to the treadmill for a mile after you finish the “catch the rabbit” drill on the track. Repeat the drill as often as desired to fit your training needs. This exercise builds so much fun and competition, as many as six miles are behind you in no time!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Check Out The Results Of This Weight-Loss Study

The results of this weight loss study were interesting.

Detailed results of a very extensive study on weight loss were recently released in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The results basically confirm the age-old theory that you can eat what you want, when you want; but that you have to monitor so that you know more is going out than going in.

See what you think. You can check it out here -- http://tinyurl.com/ddov65.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Some Healthy Food Alternatives

I fully admit that I’m not a dietician.

I won’t even pretend to be one because I too often take the attitude “with the training I do, I should be able to eat whatever I want.” However, I’m over 40 now and I take medication for high cholesterol and I have to watch my blood sugar. Additionally, I have a history of heart issues in my family. So while I have my share of splurges, I try to keep as healthy as possible for the most part.

From time to time, I enjoy hearing about what people use as healthy alternatives in their food habits. Well, here are just a few that I try to use regularly –

Cottage cheese-two percent (instead of bread or other starchy side item). The two percent still has good flavor and the protein benefits fill you up!

Hummus or salsa (instead of French onion dip). I dare you to challenge your pallet with the variety of flavors now available with these two products.

Beef jerky or cup of yogurt (instead of some junk-laden snack). Again, a variety of flavor options available with these healthy, high-protein snacks.

“Jazzed” Popcorn – 100-calorie bag of popcorn flavored with half teaspoon of cumin, half teaspoon of garlic powder and half teaspoon of chili powder – (instead of buttered popcorn). You can’t beat “blast o’ butter” popcorn, but this is a tasty and much healthier option.

Black beans (instead of rice, potatoes or other starchy side). If you haven’t tried black beans, you owe it to yourself to see if you enjoy the flavor. You may not even want to experiment with seasoning.

Celery sticks with light blue cheese and drizzled hot sauce (instead of chicken wings). Well, maybe this one is a stretch because no one likes hot wings, ranch and a cold beer more than me! However, maybe give this a try once in a while.

These last two came from a “Weekly Spark” on www.sparkpeople.com at http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/slideshow.asp?show=22. Lots more healthy eating tips where these came from.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Stability Ball Is A Great Exercise Tool

One of the great exercise tools available – that you may not be currently using – is a stability ball.

You may have heard them called all type of different names – Swiss ball, exercise ball, ab ball and others. When you see one, you know what it is. They are inexpensive and extremely versatile for a variety of exercises, particularly in the upper body and core areas.

Two reasons I really like using a stability ball – first, you can use it anywhere. You don’t have to be at a gym to use one. Second, working out with a stability ball is yet another low-impact method of varying up your routine in a positive way. Remember that whenever we’re working muscles that don’t always see attention or when we’re forcing our bodies to burn calories in ways we’re not used to, the results are all good!

I found a couple of helpful references to get you started with stability ball workouts. The first is a video presentation by a fitness instructor Nicole Nichols through http://www.sparkpeople.com/ -- http://tinyurl.com/6yyzps. Here’s an article by Paige Waehner on http://www.about.com/ that spells out how to choose a stability ball and exercises you can do -- http://tinyurl.com/2y4afe.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Swimming Vs. Running?

What’s better for you – swimming or running?

While I’m often asked this question, both activities are GREAT for pursuing better health. Both activities are heavy on cardiovascular and both compliment one another from a “breathing” perspective.

Check out this post from the “My angle on weight loss” site (http://run4change.wordpress.com/) -- http://tinyurl.com/c823cj (you’ll have to scroll upward once you reach the site). This post offers some helpful information as to which activity offers more potential calorie and weight loss.

From my personal experience, swimming offers very similar results to running. I have had situations where I’ve supplemented my running workouts with swimming and have been able to maintain similar fitness results.

Give both swimming and running activities the opportunity to help you lose weight. And when you’re needing a break from the impact of running, swimming is a great cross-training activity.

If you’re new to swimming, you might consider adult swim lessons. Work to build up to 500 yards consecutively – that’s 20 lengths of the pool. It will be difficult at first because swimming is very exhausting from a cardiovascular perspective. However, if you stick with it, you will reap the benefits!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Swimming – GREAT Cross Training!

A few years ago, I thought it might be fun to try swimming once or twice a week. As a knee injury and the approach of big “4-0” came along, swimming seemed to be a logical cross-training option.

I had been a competitive swimmer in high school, so it easily came back to me. The cardiovascular benefits quickly benefited my running and biking activities as well.

As I train for a triathlon this year, I find myself truly working to better myself in this area of the event. Some personal training with a coach really helped. I’ve also helped a few of my regular “workout buddies” make the leap into swimming with great results. As we’ve committed to training for the Hy-Vee Triathlon this summer, they’re progress in just several short weeks has been inspiring!

I guess my point here is that swimming is a GREAT cross-training activity if you’re seeking one. It exercises so many muscles in the body and is low in impact. The cardiovascular challenges of swimming compliment literally any other form of fitness activity.

Bev Sklar recently posted a great article about getting into swing of swimming on http://www.thatsfit.com/. You can check it out at http://tinyurl.com/cs9xsn.