Friday, April 18, 2014

The Heat is On!

Old man winter was especially ornery this year and not only did he overstay his welcome; he didn’t let spring show up early and surprise us with comfortably nice weather.  Now that winter has finally taken the red eye back to wonderland, I am afraid spring will be short lived which only means one thing, an early, hot and humid summer!
I can hear the collective groans now, “Hey, that’s not fair!  Winter was cold and I am now just getting back to running or riding my bike and I’m not ready to stop my outdoor exercise before the heat of summer invades us like an army of ants on a dripping ice cream cone!”
That’s a fair question but the warm and humid temperatures of summer don’t have to spell the end of your outdoor exercise and activities. In fact, summer workouts can help you build a very strong base that places you in great position to really drive aerobic benefits from your fall and winter workouts and races.
Some of the advantages to running or cycling workouts in the summer include building a strong base for the fall upon which you can add speed work, improving your ability to work under stress and helping to increase your metabolism.
While cycling or running in particular in the heat of a South Carolina summer can be demanding and akin to running through pea soup covered in a drenched wool blanket, you can enjoy the benefits of a good aerobic workout by following these strategies.
Look to run during the coolest part of the day. I have found that the temperatures are the coolest just prior to sunrise. It’s often calm and cool and you get to enjoy one of nature’s often overlooked wonders in a beautiful sunrise.
If getting five miles in before the rooster crows is not for you, you can run during the day. First be sure to be well hydrated before you head out to run or bike and be sure to take plenty of water with you and start drinking every ten minutes. I recommend a hydration pack you wear on your back as these are easier to manage. If you will be gone longer than an hour and sweat profusely, add in some diluted sports drink as well.
Always be sure to wear a cap to keep the sun off your head and sun cooling sleeves (like basketball players use only designed to keep you cool) can keep your arms cool and out of direct sun light.
While this may be the toughest for most people, running and cycling in the heat is taxing to your bodily systems.  I strongly recommend you slow your pace and enjoy your activity. This will ease the stress on your heart and cooling system and will allow you to add more miles and longer durations. A good sports watch with a heart rate monitor can help you keep your heart rate and pace at comfortable levels.
For those that run longer than an hour and sweat profusely, salt stix (salt capsules) can help prevent cramping.

The heat of summer does not have to spell the end of your outdoor training, you just need to plan and be strategic and safe in your endeavors. 
Chris is a Certified Personal Trainer and exercise and endurance enthusiast.  He competes yearly in numerous running races, marathons, ultra marathons, triathlons and other endurance events. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Creative Workout Solutions

One of the challenges to getting in a workout or getting into shape is the pace of life in today’s world.  Between kids, work schedules and other commitments, it can be overwhelming to find time or the energy to schedule and actually complete a quality and enjoyable workout routine. 
Ironically, with as busy as we are, we spend a lot of time simply sitting at our desk on conference calls or plopped down in front of the television in an idle state.  If you really take a look at how your time is spent, there are ample opportunities to look for creative ways to incorporate a workout routine into your already jammed packed schedule.
While you won’t be able to get in a high intensity cardio workout while at work, there are some things you can do that will provide you some workout relief, namely strength training and stretching in addition to light cardio.  Here are some ideas and activities you can use to help you improve your fitness during those long conference calls or when you need a break from spreadsheets or mental fatigue.
Like everything else in your life, go ahead and plan your workout.  Look for times you have an opportunity for some quick exercises and place them on your calendar.  Look at doing some form of exercise every hour as it helps break up your day and will help improve your energy, especially in the afternoon. 
Instead of going out for lunch which usually results in less than healthy food choices, make a plan to pack your lunch.  You can enjoy a quick bite to eat then use the rest of the time to either take a walk or partake in other exercise activities that I have outlined below.
Now that you have identified some time to add physical activity to your day at work or while watching television, here are some easy exercise and workout ideas to help you improve your fitness and productivity.
Exercise resistance bands are an excellent way to add strength training to your day and can be used almost anywhere.  They are affordable, take up little space, come in various tensions and easily fit in a back pack or suitcase.  These bands allow you to work all major muscle groups for both the upper and lower body and you can add bands as you get stronger.
For those with offices, kettle bells also provide a great way to build strength in targeted muscles while improving core strength. They come in a variety of weights and don’t take up much space.

Pushups and ab crunches can be done anywhere and provide an excellent way to build strength in a few minutes a day.
One element that most people tend to overlook or shortchange is stretching.  Stretching can be done anywhere and not only improves flexibility; it can aid in stress relief and provide an energy boost when needed most.

Chris is a Certified Personal Trainer and exercise and endurance enthusiast.  He competes yearly in numerous running races, marathons, ultra marathons, triathlons and other endurance events. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

OH What A Relief It Is

We have all experienced it after a hard work out or a difficult race.  You push yourself to max effort and the next morning simple tasks like getting out of bed or walking down the stairs can be a painful and labor some experience.  Your muscles are on fire and downright hurt, leaving you wondering if you will ever be able to work out again.
Rest assured that muscle soreness is not all bad. In fact, muscle soreness is often a good thing.  According to Allan Goldfarb, Ph.D. a professor of exercise physiology at UNC Greensboro featured in Runner’s World Magazine states muscle soreness is proof your body is adapting and growing fitter.  You are reprogramming your muscle structure and making weaker muscles stronger. This is where growth comes from.

As you exercise you need to be aware of how you feel and gage your soreness level.  Like an engine, there is a fine line between running at peak performance and redlining that likely will cause damage. You need to understand what normal soreness from increased work load is and what overuse which can lead to injury is. Being in tune with your body is extremely important.
Sometimes the physical stress of exercise manifests itself as soreness while you are still working out.  You can minimize mid run soreness by making sure  you are in good shoes that have less than 400-500 miles on them and you can also run on softer surfaces. For cycling, stay away from hills after a hard workout and spin in a smaller gear. If lifting weights, you can lower the weight and increase reps for some active recover.
You may feel fine during and immediately after a hard run or workout, only to experience soreness a day or two later. This soreness is called delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS that can last 5-7 days. DOMS usually results from an increased effort in training or racing that pushes your body past what you are trained to do. You can do an easy workout while you are dealing with DOMS but you need to refrain from another intense workout for a few days to allow your body time to repair and grown stronger.
While gaging your activity level pre and post hard workouts is important to managing muscle soreness, there are other activities you can do to help bring some relief to soreness.
Sitting in an ice bath for 10-20 minutes following a hard workout is a great way to reduce inflammation.
While ice is good immediately following a hard workout, after 24 hours heat therapy increases blood flow that bring nutrient-rich blood to the muscles to aid in the repair process.
Twenty to thirty minutes of low-impact exercise increases blood flow to muscles that helps reduce trauma and speed up recovery. If you run, try easy spinning or swimming. Cross training is a great way to engage muscles in a different capacity.
Who doesn’t love a good massage? Massage also increases blood flow to the damaged muscles and can reduce soreness by as much as 30 percent. Foam rollers are excellent for self-massage.

Chris is a Certified Personal Trainer and exercise and endurance enthusiast.  He competes yearly in numerous running races, marathons, ultra marathons, triathlons and other endurance events.