Sunday, September 6, 2015

About Face

One of the best aerobic activities that provides minimal impact to the joints is swimming. While running is hard on the body and cycling is not as physically demanding as running, swimming is an ideal activity that people can use to stay in shape late into their golden years.

Ironically, swimming is one activity that many people avoid for many reasons including a fear of the water. What I have found to be one of the main reasons people avoid swimming is their inability to swim correctly. Poor form is horribly inefficient and can easily tire out the athlete. 

When swimming form is everything.  A good efficient swimmer can move through the water with easy and feel refreshed after swimming 1800 yards. An inefficient swimmer can cover that same distance and feel like they have expended the energy running a marathon.

One of the main forms of inefficiency in the water is the inability of a new swimmer to put their face in the water.  When your face is not in the water and your head is raised to breath, your swim stroke is choppy and your feet and legs will sink.  This horrible swim position is anything but streamlined and causes more friction against the water. Instead of working with a streamlined approach, you end up fighting the water more than necessary.

When I was learning to swim I too struggled with having to keep my face in the water. While it didn’t bother me to have the feeling of water on my face, the struggle for me, and for many new swimmers, is the ability to exhale under water.  This one element, if learned, will allow you to work on improving other aspects of your swim stroke.

So how do you overcome the discomfort from or inability to put your face in the water? What sounds easy enough to do can be a daunting task for even the most determined new swimmers.  Here are some easy drills to help you improve your swim stroke and become comfortable having your face in the water.

First, get in the shallow end of the pool and submerse yourself to get your body wet.  This will help you get comfortable with experiencing water over your entire body.

Next, simply bend over and slowly pace your face in the water. You want to have the water to just cover your face.  Doing this for 10 seconds at a time will get your comfortable with the sensation of having water on your face.

Now we will add breathing.  Exhaling under water is critical to swim success and this drill helped me overcome my inability to exhale.  Get your face close to the water and turn it to the left.  Not take a deep breath and begin to exhale out of your mouth and nose and you slowly rotate your face to the right, easing your face into the water, ending your rotation to the right.

This easy to do drill will help you gain comfort with having your face in the water while helping your work on your breathing at the same time.

HERE’S TO BEING FIT FOR LIFE! Chris is a Certified Personal Trainer, USA Triathlon Level 1 Coach, Group Exercise Instructor, exercise and endurance enthusiast.  He competes yearly in numerous running races, marathons, ultra-marathons, triathlons and other endurance events.  He is a member of the 2015 QT2 Systems Advanced Team.


By far the most popular endurance activity is running.  If you are new to exercise or a competitive athlete, the ease of access to running somewhat makes it a default exercise medium to numbers and popularity.  All you need is some simple clothing, a great pair of shoes and an open road.  Sounds easy enough but like most other things, there is always something that has to make the process difficult. In the case of running, it’s the shoes!

While running has been around since man first stood on two feet, shoes are a relatively new “advancement” in the evolution of the human race. While one would not think there could be a lot of difference in a pair of shoes,  logging on to Zappos and search for “Running Shoes” will produce more results than one can comprehend.

Shoes are much like cars and other clothing.  You develop brand preferences and what works for one person, will not work for another. And much like cars and clothing what often happens is you get attached to a particular model, size or fit and then, whammo, the manufacture completely changes the product and you are left having to find a new favorite.

I recently found myself in this predicament. I have been a faithful Saucony Kinvara wearer.  All was well until the Kinvara 5’s came out this spring.  With much anticipation I could not wait to get my new Kinvara 5’s!  Once they arrived I could not wait to send them back. Saucony completely changed the model to something that did not work for me.

Enter the Newton Gravity.  Searching for shoes can be as taxing as well, preparing your taxes. I was on a tear to find a new shoe so I decided to give the Newton Gravity a try. I have always known about Newton and their unique technology peaked my curiosity so I decided to give them a try. describes Newton running shoes as unique in that they are designed specifically for midfoot/forefoot runners. They accomplish this by reducing the height of the heel and increasing the cushion in the forefoot such that the overall offset or difference in thickness between heel and forefoot is minimized. In other words, Newton shoes have a flatter sole than most typical running shoes, and this makes it less likely that a runner will heel strike in them.

In addition to the minimal heel-toe differential, Newton shoes also have a unique system of “actuator lugs” under the forefoot that are designed to absorb shock upon impact and then release it on toe off. Newton calls this Action/Reaction Technology™. The idea is that the lugs get compressed under pressure when the forefoot contacts the ground, and then they spring back, releasing energy during toe-off.

While on the pricy side, the New Gravity (and entire Newton line with models for all distances and pronation) is performance oriented and delivers a great running experience. While providing cushioning and still allowing you to feel the road, ease into Newton’s the “actuator lugs” do take some getting used to.

While an apple may not fall on head, the Newton Gravity’s will give you a great run and you can save that apple for a post race snack!

HERE’S TO BEING FIT FOR LIFE! Chris is a Certified Personal Trainer, USA Triathlon Level 1 Coach, Group Exercise Instructor, exercise and endurance enthusiast.  He competes yearly in numerous running races, marathons, ultra-marathons, triathlons and other endurance events.  He is a member of the 2015 QT2 Systems Advanced Team.

Improving Your Fuel

Endurance training and racing nutrition for athletes can be a difficult obstacle in their path to fitness and body composition goals. In all honesty, many people over think nutrition and it really is very simple.  When I signed up to train and race with QT2 Systems, one of the first things they did was get me on their Core Diet program. It’s easy to follow and it works. Below I’ve outlined QT2 Systems Core Diet 10-point plan to improve your performance, body composition, and overall health.

1) Only eat grains (which include white potatoes) and man-made sugars within one hour prior to workouts, during workouts, or after the workout within a window as long as the duration of the workout.

2) Eat lean meats, fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, legumes, and lean dairy all other periods of the day (organic is best). If possible, include red meat once a week (grass fed is best). Juicing is also a great way to supplement your core food intake (not replace!).

3) Use the “Core Ratio” formula to give non-core foods a glycemic “score” before eating them. Look at the label on the food and note the values for the carbs, sugar, fiber, fat and protein, and plug them into this equation: (carbs+sugar-fiber)/(fat+protein). Anything that scores less than two is okay to eat during the day during Core periods provided it has less than five grams of saturated fat and “healthy” ingredient list. This includes dark chocolate with cacao greater than 85 percent.

4) Do not drink coffee unless it’s within one hour prior to key workouts. As an alternative to coffee, you may use caffeinated fueling products during key workouts….choose one! All other periods of the day your caffeine source should be green tea as needed.  As a practical limit, keep caffeine intake below 200mg per day, and 1000mg per week.

5) Focus on consuming omega-3 rich foods such as canola oil, walnuts and salmon for 2 grams of EPA/DHA per day minimum.

6) Workouts should always be well fueled with at least 0.6 grams of carbohydrate per hour, per pound on the bike (and use half of that for running). Sodium content in these fuels should be at least 8 mg per gram of carbohydrate. Fat and protein content should be minimal.

7) Post-workout food should always include a sugar-based recovery drink with protein in a 3-1 or 4-1 ratio of carbs to protein. This drink should contain almost no fat. If a recovery drink is not available, choose foods that are high glycemic, and contain minimal fat or fiber.  Endurox is an excellent choice.

8) Aim to consume fluids on a daily basis using this equation: Take your body weight (number of pounds), and divide it in half. That is the number of ounces you should be drinking each day, in addition to the extra fluid you lose during workouts.

9) Have one cheat meal each week. Ideally this meal should be grain-based and be the night before your week’s longest most demanding workouts. Eat until very satisfied…not stuffed.

10) Reduce fasting periods by eating very frequently—close to rising, and close to retiring for the night. Every one to three hours is best, while sticking to the serving sizes that are suggested on packages. For non-packaged core foods (i.e., apple, banana, sweet potato, etc.) eat one to two items in a sitting.

This summarized version of the Core Diet will keep you feeling on top of your game by providing key nutrient density, while keeping blood sugar stable throughout the day. Nothing replaces working with a dietitian to establish specific macronutrient goals relative to your needs, but this plan will get you started in the right direction. Embrace the power of nature’s foods, while understanding that the extraordinary feats that we ask of our bodies during training also require extraordinary man-made fuels.

HERE’S TO BEING FIT FOR LIFE! Chris is a Certified Personal Trainer, USA Triathlon Level 1 Coach, Group Exercise Instructor, exercise and endurance enthusiast.  He competes yearly in numerous running races, marathons, ultra-marathons, triathlons and other endurance events.  He is a member of the 2015 QT2 Systems Advanced Team.

Energy Crisis

It is a beautiful day and you are excited to exercise. You feel ready to go and are sure it’s going to be a great experience.  Then less than halfway through your workout you start to hit the wall. Your arms and legs become heavy, you energy drops and what looked to be a promising exercise session has crashed into a ball of flames.

We have all been there when we experienced the dreaded “bonk,” that feeling you get when you run out of energy and putting one foot in front of the other one seems like an insurmountable task. So what happened?  The body is much like a car that uses fuel to operate. When the car runs out of gas, the motor stops running. This is very similar to what happens in the body.  When the body runs out of fuel, coupled with other factors, it continues to operate but not at the level you desire.

Do you find yourself losing energy halfway through your workouts? Find out what the culprits might be--and how to give yourself a much-needed boost. Here are eight energy zappers that can rob your body of energy needed for optimal athletic performance.

Don’t forget to eat complex carbohydrates. Carbs provide the glucose muscles need to operate. When the sugar is gone, you experience the dreaded “bonk.”

Get plenty of rest. Whether you're skimping on sleep or you're exercising too much, a lack of rest and recovery can zap your energy levels and hurt your progress, too. Most people need 7-8 hours of sleep each night, so reorganize your day and your time so that you can get as much shut-eye as possible each night.

Plan your exercise and get into a habit. 

Variety is the spice of life.  Whether you take your indoor workouts outside or try a new fitness class, variety will keep boredom at bay and help you get better results

Make sure your iron supply is sufficient. Iron is a trace mineral that helps blood carry oxygen to the muscles throughout the body, keeping them powered up during a workout. In general, an iron deficiency can also lead to sagging energy levels. Women are more likely to experience low iron levels, but if you suspect your body is low on iron, talk to your doctor. A simple blood test can determine if iron is an issue, and your doctor can help you get back on track. You'll find iron in lean red meat, fortified cereals, and leafy greens, but steer clear of supplements (unless recommended by your doctor) because too much iron can be toxic.

Eat for energy. Proper planning of your meals and snacks will give your body steady fuel. On days that you plan a heavy workout, you might need to eat even more before you head to the gym.

Deal with stress.  . Instead of letting your stress prevent you from hitting the gym, think of your workout as a much-needed break. Use this small window of "me" time to mentally sort through any issues you've been dealing with lately.

Stay hydrated.  When not exercising, be sure you get 80+ ounces a water a day.

HERE’S TO BEING FIT FOR LIFE! Chris is a Certified Personal Trainer, USA Triathlon Level 1 Coach, Group Exercise Instructor, exercise and endurance enthusiast.  He competes yearly in numerous running races, marathons, ultra-marathons, triathlons and other endurance events.  He is a member of the 2015 QT2 Systems Advanced Team.