Keep it simple

I went to a boot camp exercise class this past weekend with a friend of mine and it made me reminisce of the classes that I used to teach while I was employed as a personal trainer. The instructor was very good. He used a circuit approach and the exercises were pretty basic, but you could vary your effort based on your level of fitness and comfort with the particular exercise so it was really for all types of people. Most of the exercises were done individually but a small few were done with a partner which kept it motivating.

This class reminded me of how simple it is to exercise and get in shape! Please don’t confuse simple with easy though because they really are different concepts. The exercises didn’t require and equipment other than your own body, although you could add weights if you wanted the extra boost. The group class was great and certainly helps those of us who need a little extra help in holding ourselves accountable or those who prefer the camaraderie. However, all of these exercises you could do at home your own motivation and a little bit of space so you don’t hit anything.

The exercises are timed and you did each more for one full minute (pacing yourself!) and you rested a minute before you went on to the next one. This gets your heart rate up just a little and works your large muscle groups. I would suggest you alternate between upper and lower body moves so you can finish the workout…alternatively you could do all the same body area if you are a glutton for punishment.

Simple ideas include: lunges, planks, sit ups, push ups, 6 inches, bicycles, jump squats, jumping jacks

I’m sure you can think of more…

Happy Training!

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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!

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!

Don’t forget to stretch!

As my mileage is steadily increasing in preparation for the marathon I need to remember to practice what I preach – that is to stretch.

I’m running more days of the week and I’m out there longer. I’ve also added interval training back into the routine to maximize my muscle capacity. What I realized that I need to pay more attention is my flexibility and more specifically, my hamstrings. I didn’t come up with this on my own – my body told me and it decided to tell me halfway through my Tuesday night run. You’re body has this amazing ability to get your attention and if you ignore it, it will only scream louder until you listen. So, my hamstrings are pretty sore and my calves are a little tight too now that I think about it.

The best way to gain the most from your stretching is actually after your workout when your muscles are already warmed up. Yes, I know – you need to stretch before you workout but that’s more of a warm up and doesn’t do much for your overall flexibility.

You need to focus on your major muscle groups for the most part. Your quadriceps, calves, and hamstrings are all importing but don’t forget about your back – those are core muscles there too! Most of know the basic stretches: lean against a wall with your feet flat give you a pretty good calf stretch, touching your toes is good for hamstrings, and holding your ankle behind you really gets the front of your thigh (Quad). However, to get the maximum benefit, make sure you’re holding the stretch for at least 30-40 seconds and two times each alternating sides. Anything less than that is not going to give you the flexibility needed to keep injury and soreness at bay.

Happy Training!

External Motivation

Need a little push actually committing to your exercise goals? If you’re struggling to find the drive from inside then try looking around you for motivation. Is your family a source of motivation? Can your spouse or children create a sense of drive in you or maybe even a cause that you feel strongly about or a charity that you believe in? What about a favorite picture of you…

The point is that we all loose drive at one point or another and we need a little push from the outside that we can’t seem to muster in our own minds and hearts. And it doesn’t all have to come from one place! In reality it’s probably more of a mixture of internal drive and external forces that push us to get up off the couch and go to the gym or go for a walk or run a marathon.

A perfect example that I can relate to happened to me this past weekend. I was about to begin the first leg of a triathlon and was really nervous because I hadn’t trained as much as I wanted to because my vacation was a little over a week prior. I was not prepared. I knew it but it hadn’t really sunk in until they called for my age group to enter the water. My motivation…I was there for myself for many reasons but only I have to answer to me. Easy to excuse myself, right? I was also there as part of a charity team called Ryan’s Quest (www.ryansquest.org) – a wonderful organization dedicated to fighting Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Not so easy to excuse yourself now because you’re there for a higher purpose.

So make your next run count for more than just great health. You’ll reap more than the physical benefits and have a greater positive impact.

Buddy Power

I think we’ve all heard somewhere along the way that working out with a partner increases the chance that you will stick with workout on days when you’re not feeling up the challenge. The is 100% true! When you have someone or a group that you regularly run, workout, bike, or walk with, you are less likely to miss a sweat session. They don’t even have to be with you during your workout…they can be a virtual buddy or someone to ‘check in’ with.

I mentioned before that I have a running group and we will do a few miles after work once a week just about every week. We only miss for extenuating circumstances because we know not only do we get a good workout in for ourselves, we motivate each other to keep going. On the weekends or other evenings when we’re not running together, we always check in with each other to see how we’re progressing. One person is in training for a Marathon, another is working toward 5K’s, and another is just there to keep in shape. Regardless of our individual goals, the group mentality is extremely positive and motivating.

I think…wait – I know there would have been a few nights or early Saturday mornings that I would have never made it out to the park had it not been for a running buddy. There is power in numbers and the buddy system is a powerful tool to keep me and the rest of my group motivated.

Do you use the buddy system? How does it motivate you?

In Search of Shoes (part 2)

OK I know it’s been a little while since my last post…but the weather has been gorgeous and I’ve been in training for the Broad Street run in a few weeks!

The last time we talked about running shoes and the proper fit for different types of feet, etc.

The next thing to consider besides proper fit is the type of exercise you plan on doing. There are different shoes for different activities and you should purchase the shoe that matches your activity. For instance, there are shoes for running, walking, cross training, hiking and toning and they all are designed to accomplish very different things. And if you purchase shoes any place besides a running store, they are usually side by side and may or may not be displayed in the same location on the shelf (example – cross trainers mixed in with running shoes).

Walking shoes are usually a slightly heavier with minimal support – this is because you don’t have the same pounding type action on the surface as you would with running. You can get through an entire season with the same pair of walking shoes.

Cross Training shoes are the most versatile if you like to do a variety of activities. They offer more support than a walking shoe and are comfortable for most activities. Also good if you don’t want to buy shoes for multiple activities. Just be careful when making a purchase because they most resemble running shoes but they are not. Cross Trainers shouldn’t be used if you plan on putting in some miles because they don’t have the same level of support and flexibility as a running shoe.

Toning shoes are the funny looking ones with the really thick & curvy sole. They force you to walk a little differently therefore using your leg muscles differently. There are claims that they boost your fitness level & make your butt look better when compared to regular athletic shoes but there just as many claims that say otherwise. Basically, they are not for running but you can use them for walking. If you want to attempt to get your gams in great shape you can give these a try but they are not a substitute for regular exercise πŸ™‚

Those of us committed to exercising regularly tend to go through shoes faster the trendy clothing of the season – guys are included in this!