Getting over the Plateau

How’s everyone doing on your goals? Hopefully, you are still progressing. Sometimes (approx 6wks) things get a little boring and may feel a bit stagnant. If you’re in that camp it may be time to change it up. You can do this in a variety of ways. What we want is to become inefficient again. Our bodies are smart and adapt to overload (i.e. exercise) fairly quick. So challenge yourself to do something different this week. Here’s a list of ideas to challenge you.

You can …

1)      Increase your intensity – make the movements bigger, faster, stronger by adding power (speed and strength together).

2)      Decrease your intensity – you might need a recovery week. To do this spend the majority of your workouts in the bottom range of your THRZ – don’t do this if you have been working at the lower intensity thus far – see #1 instead.

3)      Add new movement patterns – try a more complicated step or trail. You can also begin to add in more arm movements – this keeps your body more confused, not to mention your brain, and you’ll work harder because you have to think more. You can also re-arrange the way you do your movements so the muscles have to recruit in a different order.

4)      Add intervals or tabbata to your workout – intervals are something like 30sec on, 45 sec recovery (you can play with the times). The “on” set is all out. Tabata is 8 rounds of 20sec on 10 sec off (total of 4mins). Both are very effective at increasing metabolic rate and training the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems. Tabata a bit more so – if you try them both you’ll see why.

5)      Take a new class or learn a new exercise. You can check out strength training options at SuperiorWorkout.com on my video blog or YouTube. I go over a variety of options for major muscle groups. Or YouTube, ask a friend, look up Synergy Fitness, Inc http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NXD69lc1OTY (this is one YouTube Video) or Alien Training http://www.alientraining.com/  – I like this dude (I get no profit from my recommendation. He’s got good stuff). Go to http://tabatatraining.org/ Great workouts, free, and more explanation on the method.

Fitness on Your Vacation

How do you stay fit on vacation? Strict plans or throw it all out the window? Here’s ideas when far away or nearby spots are calling.

When most of us think of vacation we think about throwing routine out

the window. This is important work. We need to break from routine to begin the process of letting go and rejuvenating. It is also important to have some form of structure in out day, even if minimal. If you are reading this blog I assume you find physical activity to be important in your daily life, even if you don’t know how to make that a regular occurrence. So here’s a guideline to help find exercise balance on your vacation.

First, it’s important to consider your long term goals. Are you currently training to lose weight, gain muscle, compete in an event? If you are scaling back a regular workout using alternative options, such as a shorter run or different terrain may be all that’s needed. If your goals are more around lifestyle and health you may want to consider how sleep, food, and social activities will contribute to your health on vacation.
Second, do a little research. Does your location have a fitness center, classes, a pool, a safe place to run/walk in the area. Many hotels can provide you with a running/walking loop nearby, just ask. Then consider how the options available stack up to your goals. I’ve been in many a hotel fitness center that offered me two cardio options and a lot of cable channels. I have found that having a couple of good fitness apps helps. I like Nike Training Club for easy on the go workouts I don’t have to think about putting together and can use body weight and speed to complete. I also enjoy Nike’s running app to help me track distance, time, and intensity for those places that do not have a pre-outlined route for me to follow.
If you are heading somewhere outside or more primitive consider the lay of the land. Will you be able to paddle, swim, climb, run on sand, hike mountains, work harder just to live outside? These activities all count, however it may feel different to use daily activities as your workouts and you may need to do some pre-trip training to be ready for the physical challenges all day activities may require.
Third, decide on a plan AND it’s ok if you don’t follow it to a T. On a recent trip to the coast of Mexico I created this plan to balance out my all day reading in the sunshine and evenings lounging with friends and family:
Friday – day we left, ran before work since I knew I’d be in the car for a long time.
Sat – off, traveling and relaxing.
Sunday – Beach run – a great way to see the locale and get a feel for the place I was planning to spend most of my time. Ocean swimming and SUP time – leisurely. Building activities into your daily thought process, even if you don’t know when you are going to do them is a great way to stay active on vacation.
Monday – Strength training – in my condo. Using items like door-frames (pull ups/lat work) and a full gallon jug of water (approx 9lbs) I was able to mimic my regular strength set. Adding in balance (1 foot, Russian lunges, bear crawls, and super slow sets) allows for functional training that challenges the core and exhausts muscle without heavier weights/overload. Adding in plyometrics (speed) allows for explosive movement that will also exhausts a muscle under less overload, plus adds a cardio element if you are looking for a quicker way to your goal.
Tues – active rest day – day on the open water fishing excursion. Did some swimming and snorkeling. Not to mention the functional training of standing upright on a rocking boat.
Wed – Yoga – These sessions are gems. I love looking for and finding a local yoga class. It’s always fun to check out a new studio and hope I get enough of the language to figure out what poses come next. Whether I do or not, the end result is still bliss. Plus this balances out my sitting (aka as reading whole novels) and over use of movement patterns like paddling, climbing, hiking if those are a main part of my trip.
Thurs – Strength training – see above. Plus adding in the family activity of playing in the sand, paddling SUPs, and swimming in the surf.
Friday – Beach run – as the vacation comes to a close this allows me to say goodbye and observe from a new set of eyes, not beginner excited ones, but the ones who’ve been looking and are ready to see what’s below the surface. A great skill in life, too.
Sat – off / 1st travel day – if possible on the first leg of the trip, I may attempt to get a short run, yoga session, or paddle in depending on departure time. This allows balance to the sitting of a long drive.
Sun – active rest as I unpack all my memories and practical items like laundry followed by rest night and vacation integration.
Enjoy!

Spring Into Fitness

Spring is around the corner. Are you ready to take your workouts to the next level? Burning calories isn’t just about how long you work it’s about how hard you work. Intervals are a great way to increase your workout calorie burn without increasing the amount of time you spend working out. Here’s how to use intervals in your program.

Begin with a warm up. Move through the movement patterns your are going to do during the intervals at a slower pace. Stretch anything that feels tight or like it needs some attention. Then begin at a moderate pace (formula below) for 2min. Take your pace to a vigorous pace for 1 min. Return to a moderate pace for 2. This is your recovery time. Repeat this pattern until your workout is complete.

To make it more difficult shorten your recovery times and increase your vigorous work phases.

To figure out your intensity levels you can use a heart rate formula to find your target heart rate training zones. This is the Karvonen Formula a popular one used by personal trainers. You’ll need to take your resting heart rate (RHR) by finding your pulse (radial artery on your wrist) and counting for 30 seconds and multiply by 2 for a 60 sec reading.

220 – Your Age = Maximum Heart Rate (MHR)

MHR – RHR = your Hear Rate Reserve (HRR)

HRR X .40 = training % range

HRR X . 85 = training % range

training % range + RHR = your target training zone

training % range + RHR = your target training zone

40-65% = moderate workouts

65-85% = vigorous exercise.

You can recalculate according to the zone you want to workout in. Use a heart rate monitor for easy reference or divide your target training zones by 6 for a 10 second count.

Honor Our Troops With A BootCamp Workout

For those who’ve been in the military you know that not only are soldiers brave but they are tough! Part of their job is physically pushing their bodies to the limit. Here’s some ideas on how you can mimic boot camp in your workouts. Many military fitness moves are based on body weight. So try push-ups, pull ups, and squats for full body work with your body weight. All these exercises have many variations and can be overloaded with external weight (dumbbells, bars, rubber tubing) if needed.

Add intensity to your moves. We call this work plyometrics. Plyometrics are moves designed to increase power and speed. Take your basic squat and add a jump. As you reach the bottom of the movement you spring back up and off the floor, landing only to begin again. Adding power can be done to most movements. All it takes is adding explosive movements to your routine. Sprints, jumps, hops, etc will all add intensity to your workout.

Think about compound movements – soldiers have to do a lot of moving. They overload with external weight which doesn’t come off (think packs, belts, boots) when they have to run, jump, climb, squat, etc. Moving isn’t all straightforward work. Many of our regular activities require us to twist, bend, and move laterally (side to side) as well as up, down, reaching and more. Try adding some compound movements into your workout. Compound movements are those that may combine two or three different movements – a squat with a kick and rotation, a lunge with balance work included, or pushups with a squat jump (daisy pickers) included.

Here’s a link to a boot camp workout from about.com
Here’s a link to freeworkoutsguide.com
Disclaimer – I didn’t check out all these listings but they have quite a variety to choose from.

Running: A Beginner’s Guide

Are you secretly harboring a desire to run? Maybe you are a long time runner and looking to improve your time or distance. Maybe you have gotten complacent and need a form refresher. Today is all about running.

For many running congers up type A personality visions or hamsters. Some might use the word crazy and others secretly want to be runners. Almost anyone can run if they start at their level, get good shoes, and take it slow. If you have chronic ankle, knee, hip, or back issues running may not be for you, on the other hand it may be something you can do if you start at your level. As with any exercise program get clearance with your health care person before beginning.

First, the business stuff. Find the right spot for you. Is it a trail, a road, hills, no hills, and consider length. Next, think about safety. Is the spot safe for you to run? Will you be with a buddy, alone, a group, or a trainer? Also, its a good idea to have water, a small first aid kit handy, and Goo or hard candy (energy and help with low blood sugar) depending on the length of your run.. Do you need to drive and park? Consider the clothing you will need. Layer up and get good shoes. Shoes can make the difference in running. Find a salesperson you like, trust, and who knows how to fit your feet for any concerns you face when planting your feet.

It is a good idea to cross train other exercises with running. This allows a break and helps keep overuse injuries at bay by creating more balance in the body. Other activities could be swimming, rowing, biking, etc and strength training should also be included in your fitness routine.

Running is a practical way to maximize time and caloric expenditure, however we want the energy expended to go toward running, not be wasted in other non-essential movements. In other words, pay attention to your form. Core stability plays an important role in all sports activities and running is no different. Abdominal and low back muscles are involved in walking, running, and holding us upright. The quadriceps and hamstrings also work across the hip to help stand, walk, and run. It is important to think about mechanics of movement when considering running form.

Begin in good alignment, knees over ankles, hips over knees, shoulders over hips, and the ears centered over the shoulders with the crown (top, not forehead) of the head moving up toward the ceiling or sky. Begin walking slowly and notice how your body moves. Do not try to change anything at this point just notice. How do your feet hit the ground? Do you bend at the hip? Is the core strong enough to stabilize you while you swing the arms or do you feel rotation? Where are you holding tension – do you clench the hands, tongue, teeth, toes? Speed up your pace and notice if things change? These observations will be important to help you understand where you may be weak, have muscle imbalance, or are likely to waste energy while running.

Once you understand your own form concerns you will be able work on undoing them. According to Julie Sieben in “Run Like a Pro”, you should be upright and relaxed with your gaze resting about 10 feet in front of you. She suggests acting like a string is pulling the sternum to the sky so the chest is lifted and the shoulders and back and down. Running gait is individual, however you should not try to over or under stride. The foot should land directly under the body and your center of gravity. Aim to keep the leg slightly bent at the end of the push-off phase keeping the body closer to the ground. Through out the run pay attention to breathing. Make sure to breath deeply, all the way to your belly. Beginners tend to breath shallow because the body is requiring more oxygen than they are used to. They are then forced to stop because they cannot catch their breath.

Remember, begin any training program slowly. Keep focused on form, areas where you may be wasting energy, and your breathing. Once you get into running vary your times, terrain, intervals, and distance to keep you challenged and motivated. Most important, believe in yourself – you can be a runner!

Sample Workout 6 Week Training Schedule

Walk Interval Run Interval Total Time Times Per Week
Week 1 5min 5min 20min* 3
Week 2 4min 7min 33min* 4
Week 3 2min 12min 28min* 4
Week 4 2min 15min 34min* 4
Week 5 2min 25min 27min* 4
Week 6 30min 30min 4

*Alternate Walking & Running

By Julie Sieben, Run Like A Pro, American Fitness Magazine Sept/Oct 2006, p.58-61

Sieben, J.(2006). Run like a pro. American Fitness Magazine. p. 58-61, American Fitness Magazine, September/October
2006

Its Time to Get Back on The Fitness Wagon!

I don’t know about you but I’ve been slackin’ in my fitness routines. I’ve been loving the summer weather, traveling, and playing but none of it with really direction toward fitness. I can’t say I’ve grown any rounder but I do feel I’m lacking some feel good energy I get from a solid fitness routine. As the calendar turns toward September I am motivated to start again. Here’s what I’m going to do.

First, I’m going to begin with cardio. I don’t know why but this always seems to get me motivated again. And its going to be a hard cardio session. Not a killer one but one I know I did some work in when I am done. Next, I’m going to get going on weight training. Back to lifting a full body routine 2-3 times a week for the first couple of weeks maybe even the first month. After I have my cardio (which isn’t always a high intensity workout) back to 4-5 days a week for around 30 minutes and my strength training at 2-3 days a week I’m going to start breaking into more interval work. I’ll add intervals into my cardio and super sets into my strength training to get an extra blast of cardio in without compromising my time. I’m big into yoga so I’ll keep my daily practice going and I eat pretty good now but I can definitely add some more fresh veggies in while we harvest our small garden and stock up from the farmers market for our winter preserving.

All this coming together sounds like a lot of time but really I’m looking at about 5 hours/week. That’s nothing when it comes to good health – I think I can find that to keep my quality of life high — no problem the trade offs just aren’t worth not doing it!

Workout While You Walk!

Ok, now that we’ve covered basics of walking over the last few blog posts – lets look at adding adventure to our jaunt because lets face it, walking is, well, sometimes it can be boring. You can also add this workout to running, which can be great fun! First,

Take very large steps. Try keeping your speed as you begin taking extra long strides. Do this for ten steps and begin walking as fast asyou can for thirty steps. Repeat 3 times.

· During the third round change the extra long strides into lunges. Keep the knee over the ankle as you move forward, as it will want to shoot out over your toe, which can be too much stress on the joint. Center your weight as you come into the lunge and lower the body over the hips. Do ten lunges on each leg, and begin walking as fast as possible again. Repeat this sequencence.

· Next, add knee raises. As you move forward raise the knee to waist height with each step, do ten then walk as fast as possible for thirty steps. Follow this sequence with an extended kick as you raise the knee. Raise the knee to waist height and then extend the leg from the knee out front. Feel the quadriceps as you extend placing the foot down as far in front as you can. Repeat for ten steps and recover for thirty.

· The next set works the hamstrings. As you walk bring your heels up to the glutes. Knees stay close together as stride decreases working the back of the thigh to raise the feet. Repeat for ten steps recover for thirty.

· Finally, as you walk forward raise the leg out to the side and place the foot down across the mid-line of your body, working the outer and inner thigh respectively. Imagine your body has been cut in half, right vs left, and you need to place your step in the opposite half. So each step will involve bringing the leg out to the side (outer thigh work) and then stepping across the mid-line (inner thigh work).

· Repeat the entire sequence throughout your walk and make sure you are moving fast enough to keep the heart rate up if this counts as your cardio workout.

Sure you’ll look funky, but it will put some spark in your daily walk and add spice to your routine, plus will help add emphasis to the lower body as you move.

An Endurance Workout

climbing the stairs

Check out the last blog post to review what endurance is then add it to your routines. To add endurance into your regular fitness routine begin by increasing distance, time, or intensity. Each can be added into your cardio routine.

A sample cardio program may look like this:

3-5 min warm-up

1 min walk

2 min run

1 min walk

2 min run

1 min walk

2.5 min run

1 min walk

2.5 min run

1 min walk

2 min run

1 min walk

2 min walk

1 min run

3-5 min warm-up

Continue to add 1:2 min intervals as you add time to your workout

Or

Make the run portion longer in each interval

Eventually, you‘ll increase the run time and decrease the recovery time until the entire workout is a run. Then begin to add walking intervals at the end to bring the total workout time closer to 45min.

Over time you’ll find that you can go longer and faster. Maybe you want to walk on your own from the car to the building, or you’d like to chase your children through the park, maybe you want to swim, walk, or run, maybe you just want to enjoy this beautiful thing we call life. Endurance will get you there.

As always – don’t forget to talk with your health care professional before beginning any workout program.

Good Cardio Exercise

 

Many people are strapped for time. Adding a workout in may be more stressful on the short term so what is the health conscious person to do when they want to workout but circumstances are preventing it?

It’s not often I let the words “circumstances are preventing” but lets face it – life happens. We all have situations that pop up unexpectedly and throw off our best laid plans. One way to deal with life is to have a plan to deal with unexpected situations. Think through your goals, your routines, and possible obstacles. Think about how you will work around those twists in your fitness routines. If after the best planning you are still thrown for a loop try using METS.

METS stands for metabolic equivalents. These are units of energy used to measure how much “work” our body is doing. Work can be anything from vacuuming to sleeping to running a 5k. Each activity is assigned a MET. This MET value lets you know approximently how hard you are working. By tracking your METS you may find you are able to add cardiovascular work into your daily life activities without adding more time to your day.

Here’s a link to a MET activity chart and explanation of how a MET is calculated.
http://healthfullife.umdnj.edu/archives/METsTbl.htm

*NOTE: METS are based on a VO2MAX value for most people. Because it is a value for most people it is an estimate of work for you. Also, if you have specific goals in mind METS may not be the right way to accomplish them. See a personal trainer or your health care person for more information on what is right for you.

 

Products to Support Your Health Journey:

Try tracking your movement and exercise to make sure you are on track to meet your goals.Fitbit