Trim the Tummy

With bathing suit season here I know I’m not the only one that wants to look half decent in my bathing suit. Yes I eat healthy and I run.  I hit the gym and cross train plus I throw in the occasional yoga class.  This helps my overall health and fitness and you have to lay the ground work.  

I found a way that works for me to focus on my abs every day.  I spend 15 minutes before bed on my ab routine.  I vary the exercises and sets but still ensure I work the top and lower abdominal muscles plus my obliques.  Since 15 minutes isn’t a huge commitment, I’ve been able to maintain consistency and 15 minutes of non-cardio exercises doesn’t get you sweaty so it really can be the last thing you do before bed.

An example workout would be:  

2 x 25 traditional crunches, 2 x 25 twists (with or without a medicine ball), 2 x 25 leg raises, and 3 x 25 second hold planks.

Frequency over Duration

I have to admit it’s been difficult keeping up with a steady post schedule. My son has entered school age and between homework, his sports schedule and my own training and race schedule I am utterly exhausted after lunches are packed and we’re ready for the next day!!! And I know I’m not alone in the daily battle to keep up and there are plenty of parents doing the same as me with more than one child.

Where you will see the difference is between those moms and dads who keep up with daily life demands and still manage to get a workout or a run in on top of everything on a regular basis. It’s hard enough to make sure you’re eating right, avoiding the drive through but to spend hours at the gym? That’s a big commitment.

What’s the trick? The answer is it depends on you and what your goals are.

I know a mom with four kids who gets up really early to hit the gym and is home by the time the kids are up. I have a friend who runs after work and goes to a weekly cross fit class. There is another ‘soccer mom’ I know that gets her running in just on Saturday mornings. You have to find something that works for you and your schedule but doesn’t hurt your family time.

So the easiest way that works for me is I have a ‘Frequency over Duration’ mantra. I can’t always go for a long Sunday morning run but if I have 15 minutes I run or ride my bike for 15 minutes. If my son is at practice I can sneak in some interval training. I can do my abs for a few minutes before I get into bed if I didn’t get to the gym that day.

Don’t ever thing that a few extra minutes isn’t enough time because a few extra minutes every day can make a big difference at the end of the week. And what would those 15 minutes add up to at the end of the month? The end of next month?

Does anyone else do this? How to you maximize your exercise time?

Flexibility in the Winter

We all know that we’re supposed to stretch. We have good intentions but maybe we’re not sure what to do or how to do it. Is it before I exercise or after? How long should I do it for? And our work out is done and over and we’re off to the next thing on the list. I know, I’m guilty of it to. But we need to remember that flexibility is a key part of our fitness health so we should make a concise effort to do it. The cold winter is especially a good time to focus on this because our muscles are colder and need a little more help warming up, plus it’s good exercise that we can easily do inside and in front of the TV.

So how do I increase my flexibility? I stretch before and after I exercise and I do it differently because they serve two different goals.

Before I exercise I prefer to do a more active stretch. The goal here is to warm your muscles in preparation for your workout. This could be jumping jax which raise your heart rate and stretches your extremities. You can do some pick ups (short sprints), or lunges.

After I exercise I do a more traditional stretch routine. The goal here is to stretch your muscles to gain flexibility because your body is already warmed up and loose. I make sure I cover the major muscle groups, especially my legs, and focus on my quads and hamstrings. In order to get the maximum benefit, I hold each stretch for AT LEAST 40 seconds and repeat the stretches on each side 2-3 times.

What do you do to increase your flexibility?

It’s freezing out there!

Although it hasn’t gotten down into bitter cold temperatures (around here anyway) it’s still cold enough to keep a good portion of us inside. While you may be comfortable in the temperature controlled gym on the treadmill that is helping you keep your pace you’re missing the brisk energizing winter air.

I know it’s not the optimal running conditions but a nice run or walk in the cold air can break up the monotony of the gym in the winter and if you can bear that initial chest pain you will find yourself invigorated.

Make sure you have all the proper cold weather gear and don’t forget reflective clothing if your workouts have out there in the dark. Make sure you’re in a safe place and run against traffic so you can see what’s coming at you. Cover your ears and your hands to keep warm too!

Even a quick mile run or walk will make a difference. Try it!

Happy Training!

New Year

I can’t believe it’s been 3 months since I’ve posted last and what a crazy 3 months it’s been. I’ve run my second marathon since then and enjoyed my holiday season to the fullest without feeling the least bit guilty. I feel I’ve earned it!

But the difference between this year and the last few is that I continued to run over the holiday season. In previous years I told myself that i can take 3 months off after you run such a big race. While that may be true…3 months usually turns into 6 and by March I could feel the pain and burn as I tried to get back into in with a 5K.

This year…this year I continued to run. I certainly wasn’t putting in 15 mile long runs – far from it! But I squeezed in 1 mile here, 3 miles there, some strength training, and a round or two on my heavy bag. I did anything to keep moving and I feel great! Yes I put on just a little bit of holiday / post-marathon weight but it’s very little and I don’t feel out of shape. Spring running season will be that much easier when the weather gets warmer. Plus the beach body is built in the winter.

So this is what the “off-season” feels like. It’s very different from a total veg season! My point of recapping my holiday season running is that you just need to get out there and move. Do something. Your New Year’s resolutions are great, but start small. You can always build as you go. The more incremental progress you make the more rewarding the experience will be and the more likely you are to stick with your new healthy habits.

Happy Training!

The Right Gear for Fall

The cold weather is coming. We can already feel it. It’s not at the point that it stings our chest yet, but it’s difficult to know what to wear if we’re exercising outside of the controlled confines of the gym. Dressing appropriately during this fall season can be challenging because you just don’t know what Mother Nature will throw at you, but with the right gear we can make our workouts more comfortable and maybe make it easier to get in that extra mile.

There are all kinds of material out there now – heat gear, cold gear, etc. So what do you choose? Pick what’s appropriate for the weather but know that you’ll get warmer when you start exercising. This is the reason I dress in layers. If it’s a short run, I may just go with long sleeves because I know I won’t be out there too long. If I’m going to do more than 5 miles, I wear a short and a long sleeve top. This way when I warm up I can take the top laver off and then put it back on when I’m finished so you don’t get the chills as you start to cool down. For bottoms, you can’t really do the layering trick. So if you’re undecided, go with capris. They keep your larger leg muscles warm but still give you some breathing room.

What about rain? This one is tough because the air may not be as cold but it’s damp. I will put a hat on to keep the rain off my face for starters. You also want to have layers on here too, but don’t overdress just because it’s raining. Dress for the air temperature and make sure your top layer is wet resistant but not suffocating. You can always take it off and tie it around your waist.

Do you have any ideas or suggestions for fall exercise gear? If so please share them! Happy Training!

Stay healthy!

Cold, flu, and allergies – oh my! It’s that time of year and you can see it around you already. People are sniffling, coughing, sneezing all over. Being healthy and exercising is supposed to make you less likely to contract all these ills, right? Well, not necessarily.

Exercising regularly definitely makes us healthier individuals overall and therefore gives us more protection against diseases and other common sicknesses. Then why do many of us in training always get sick this time of year? I found the answer surprising but it made perfect sense.

Runner’s World published and article last year (about 2 weeks late in my circumstance) that hit the nail on the head. It stated that long distance runners – and other endurance athletes – were more susceptible to getting the cold or the flu after a long run. The reason was because the longer runs depleted the body of nutrients and made it more vulnerable to germs in the few days immediately following the run. The body was tired and less capable of fighting off infection and therefore these runners got sick.

My plan? With 8 weeks to go until my marathon and my ever-increasing distance training I’ve been more diligent about what I touch around me and washing my hands more. I’m taking my multivitamin and also started Echinacea which is said to support immune health. I’m also going to bed earlier, especially the few days after a long run.

Hopefully these preventive measures I’m taking now will prevent a repeat of the 3 week chest cold that I had trouble shaking from last year. Happy & Healthy Training!

Journey to Philly – 9 weeks to go

I’m now in real marathon training mode. Not that I wasn’t before because I registered back in April and I’ve been running and competing all spring and summer and it all counts for something. At least that what I’ve been telling myself but now its fall and it’s time to get serious.

Training for a marathon is very different from training for any other competition. Now, every step toward your goal – whether it’s to run a 5K or a half marathon or any other fitness accomplishment – takes committment, time, patience, and guts. But what I’ve found is that the marathon takes all those but to the next level. I never imagined in my entire life I would be able to say that I ran a marathon. Yes, I ran 26.2 miles and it took me 4 hours and 45 minutes to do it. And in a little less than 9 weeks I’m going to do it again.

Preparation is the take home point for training for a marathon. You need to be prepared to run that far and for that long. But each competition requires some preparation and it depends on your experience and personal choices as to what you will need.

The two most importing things you need for competition and for general fitness:
– You need to be properly hydrated. It really hurts when you haven’t taken in enough fluids and you start to cramp. the key is to drink before you are thirsty and then keep drinking. water is best prior to running…save the low cal sports drink until you’re done.
– Proper footwear that is supportive. you’re sneaks from last spring probably don’t have the support you really need if you’re running. My knees will tell me if I need new shoes!

After you’re satisfied those two items the rest is easy! Comfy clothes and a good playlist (if you’re a music person) will keep you going for whatever distance you set out for.

Happy Training!

A re-committment to goals

OK, so if you’re anything like me you probably slacked off a little bit on your fitness goals during the summer. It was hot, it was humid, vacation got in the way, we had parties to go to, etc. But we had fun, enjoyed ourselves, and experienced summer!

Now that summer has unofficially ended and we’re getting back into the routine of school and work, the weather will be cooling off so it’s the perfect time to recommit to our fitness goals.

Don’t beat yourself up if you’ve been less that loyal to yourself – just restate what you want. Write it down if you have to, tell a buddy and hold yourself accountable. During the next few weeks work toward that goal a little bit at a time and you’ll get there!

My personal goal is to run my 2nd marathon this year and I have about 10 weeks left to accomplish it. I’ve been running, but my mileage is not where it needs to be and I’ve been “treating” myself to boardwalk food. BUT I will begin adding miles each week to build up to where I need to be so I’m prepared for the big 26.2 in November…a little bit at a time. Starting now.

What’s your goal? How will you accomplish it?

Counting calories when you’re training…or when you’re not!

Counting calories is something almost all of us have done at one point in our lives. Some of us ball park the number of calories we take in and have “cheat days”. Some of us count and document everything that goes in our mouths. Well, almost. Regardless of how far you take your calorie counting, don’t forget to deduct for what you’re burning during exercising!

All of us have a standard calorie intake to maintain our body weight and fuel our activities. The 2000 calorie diet is an average – not necessarily what your own body needs. When we eat more than what we burn, we’ll gain weight. Input=output. Period.

There is a cute little chef that I like – Candice Kumai (http://www.candicekumai.com/). She describes the best way to determine your calorie intake is to figure out what your ideal body weight should be, add a 0 on the end of that number, and that’s how many net calories you should be taking in daily. Very simple formula…and good for you easy recipes too!

But don’t forget about the calories you burn while running, walking, biking, swimming, or whatever you’re doing. Runner’s World has a quick and easy formula:
-running: multiply .75 times your weight and that’s how many calories you burned for each mile
-walking: multiply .53 times you weight for each mile

So, if someone where to have an ideal weight of 125 pounds, the daily caloric intake would be 1,250. If they were to maintain that body weight and ran 2 miles they burned an extra 188 calories.

I know it requires a little bit of effort on our part – counting the calories, reading the labels on food we eat, and a little bit of math – but after a week of so we get the idea and can guesstimate these things on our way to a healthier body.