Adding Strength Training Into Your Cardio Routine

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Are tight schedules and a lack of equipment keeping you from getting the benefits of strength training? If you find yourself making excuses rather than making your workouts, it’s time to develop a program that works with you and your schedule. Low equipment and no equipment forms of strength training are excellent ways to build muscle and improve your functional movements. Plus, adding in circuit-style strength training to your cardio workouts at home can keep your heart rate up so you don’t have to choose between strength training and cardio when time is short.

From burpees to tuck jumps, there are plenty of equipment-free ways to keep your heart pumping while you build muscle. If adding impact to your workouts seems a bit extreme, you can choose no-impact options such as planks and squats. Bodyweight strength training will increase your functional capacity, making you stronger for the movements you do (or should be doing) every day.

A great program might start with a warm-up on your Vision treadmill, indoor bike or elliptical, followed by five stations of exercises targeting the chest and/or back, lower body, core, arms, or entire body at once. Spend one minute at each station and repeat the entire circuit 2-3 times depending on your schedule. During the second and third rounds, you can increase the intensity on your fitness equipment to be sure that you keep your heart rate within your cardiovascular training zone. If you’re already in good shape, try to aim for intense intervals during your time on your fitness equipment, as well as during your lower and full body exercises.

For options that will suit everyone from beginners to athletes, this list of 50 Bodyweight Exercises you can do anywhere will give you plenty of choices to design your first circuit and keep it fresh for months to come. If you need help designing your first workout, here’s an example of a beginner workout using bodyweight exercises.

Whether you’re just getting started or want to seriously power up your workouts, low equipment and no equipment forms of strength training are excellent ways to build muscle and improve your functional movements.

Check out part two of this article on how to add in more free weight and resistance band workouts to boost your home cardio routine.

Exercise and Stress Levels

Behavioral Scientists and Medical Doctors seem to disagree on many issues. However, there is one subject they are in agreement over: Exercise can help reduce stress and anxiety. According to many experts, stress is one of the major contributing factors to how one ages, and ultimately one’s lifespan. The good news is that exercise can reduce stress, elevate your mood and promote a general feeling of well being, which can help us live more productive lives and age more gracefully.

According to an article published in the February 2011 issue of Harvard Men’s Health Watch, aerobic exercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, which is often associated with an increase in belly fat. The reduction of these stress hormones is known to have positive effects on your cardiovascular system, muscular system, nervous system, as well as your brain.

Aerobic exercise also stimulates production of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators. Mayo Clinic stated that physical activity serves as a form of meditation, allowing you to forget about the day’s irritations and focus only on your body’s movements. You will also get more restful sleep as a result of regular exercise.

The article goes on to say that behavioral factors also contribute to the emotional benefits of exercise. As your waistline shrinks and your strength and stamina improve, so does your self image. According to Matthew Stults-Kolehnainen, PH.D, as told to HuffPost Healthy Living, exercise promotes neurohormones like norepinephrine that are associated with improved cognitive function, elevated moods and learning. Your renewed vigor and sense of self pride will help equip you in the future to deal with stressful situations in a much more productive manner. It sort of comes full circle.

As with all exercise programs, consult your physician first. Find what form of cardio exercise works for you and begin your program. If you are just starting out remember to start slow, set realistic goals and try to change your routine as much as possible. The typical recommendation is to increase your activity level weekly by 10 percent.

Remember, positive physical and mental health are lifelong goals. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Influence how you age by reducing your stress levels through a regular exercise routine and eating a properly balanced diet.

http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Mens_Health_Watch http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/21/exercise-reduces-stress-levels-anxiety-cortisol_n_3307325.html http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/exercise-and-stress/SR00036

Fitness Nutrition: Eating Right for Your Best Workout

It’s no secret that what you eat highly affects the quality of your home workouts. Without the right fuel, you lose performance and motivation, making you sluggish. Need help planning your nutrition strategy? Here are a few common nutritional challenges and a little advice on how to make them work for you.

Challenge 1: You’re working to lose weight and battling a tight schedule with work and family. You’ll be hitting the elliptical at 5 a.m. and really don’t have the time or appetite for breakfast. Besides, you’ve heard that working out on an empty stomach can help you burn fat.

Making it work: Although working out in a fasted state forces your body to burn fat as fuel, you won’t train as hard or burn as many calories, so you’ll lose ground by the time you eat breakfast. A better bet is an easily digested carbohydrate immediately prior to or during your workout. Great morning pre-workout snacks include juice, a sports drink or a banana smoothie. You may end up taking in a few more calories ahead of time, but you’ll burn them off with better performance during your workout and improved recovery following. Within an hour post-workout, top off with breakfast, including carbs and protein, for the most effective recovery and your best use of nutrients. Eggs and toast or a smoothie containing fruit and milk are both great options. On the go, try a nutrition bar containing both carbs and protein in a 4:1 ratio.

Challenge 2: You and your treadmill are meeting up for a 75-minute distance run after work as part of your half marathon training plan. You don’t want to run out of steam, but the afternoon snack you tried before your last workout left you with a side ache for your entire run.

Making it work: Your last snack probably didn’t work for you because of the timing or the content. If your workout is more than four hours from your lunch, you’re going to need a carbohydrate-heavy snack before you run. If you are one hour out from your workout, think simple carbs like those given above. Two to three hours out, you can probably tolerate something that has a little more fiber and even some protein to give you better nutrition and staying power. Stay low fat, since fat is likely to lead to digestion issues and stomach upset during your run. You might want to start by trying some low fat yogurt and a piece of fruit or some whole grain toast and jam about three hours before your run. Since your run is more than an hour, you’ll also want to experiment with adding in some easily digested carbs, such as a watered down sports drink, during your run.

Challenge 3: Building activity into your daily life has you looking forward to a laid back ride tonight with your favorite playlist and your indoor cycle after the kids are in bed. You don’t want to skip dinner with your family, but you know that a big meal makes for an uncomfortable workout. You also know that proper refueling is important, but you don’t want to overdo it before bed.

Making it work: Since your workout is low impact, you have a little more flexibility on eating beforehand, but you’re still better off keeping your meal light and low fat. Try reducing your portions by a third to half and skip the butter on your bread and veggies (great steps for losing weight, anyway!). You’re right that post workout you’ll need a little something before bed. Once again, concentrate on getting in some carbs and protein for the best recovery, although a little fat at this point won’t hurt you and might keep you satisfied through the night. You could try some pretzels and hummus, apples and peanut butter, or toast and a boiled egg.

The keys to fueling your home workout are to use your pre-workout window to emphasize carbohydrates that are easily digested with a bit of protein and fiber if you’re at least 2 hours out from your workout. For long workouts (more than an hour), you’ll need to add in a little something during the workout to keep you going. This should be easily digested and primarily a carbohydrate, such as sports drink, energy gel, or a banana and water. Post workout, concentrate on getting a meal within the next hour or two or a snack that contains both carbs and protein to help you protect the muscle you’re building and to help your body access its fat stores for better results. Following these few basic steps will make a big difference in the results you see from your workouts.

 

The Benefits of Using Stationary Bikes

Although new exercise routines and regimens seem to appear on a daily basis, and treadmills and ellipticals continue to be the most popular cardio pieces in the gym, don’t overlook the original piece of stationary exercise equipment, the bike. The benefits of using an exercise bike are numerous and diversified. It is a great workout for beginning exercisers, elite athletes, those returning from injuries, or someone doesn’t have the space or budget for a high-end treadmill or elliptical.

Other than training your cardiovascular system and burning calories, the single most significant benefit to using a stationary bike is that it allows you to do those things without the pounding and impact of weight bearing exercises. An exercise bike allows you to train while giving your skeletal system and joints a break. So physiologically, you can see how it is useful to every type of exerciser.

Although there are dual action bikes (with upper body arms) available, most bikes in use today are lower body upright and recumbent bikes. Don’t fall into the trap believing that because you are not using your upper body, you are not getting a good workout. The largest muscles in the body are in your legs and when you put them in motion against resistance, you will get a great workout.

Stationary bikes are a great way for first time exercisers, overweight users looking to lose weight and those needing a low-impact workout to begin an exercise program. They are fixed motion pieces that require very little coordination and are relatively easy to use. You can elevate your heart rate and burn calories and fat without the stress of a weight bearing exercise.

For elite athletes, the bike provides a great complementary cross training workout, while reducing the risk of developing overuse injuries. You can get off your feet and give your joints a break from impact activities, yet you can continue to train your cardiovascular system. Each activity you do works your muscles differently. The bike can also add variety to you workout routines.

Finally, if you are recovering from an injury or joint replacement, the bike can be an integral part of your recovery and help get you back on your feet doing what you love to do.

Finally, cost and space. These are two of the biggest factors or hurdles people encounter when trying to decide on a piece of fitness equipment for the home. If you can’t commit to at least $1,500 for a quality treadmill or a $1,000 for a quality elliptical, a stationary bike may be the better option for you. There are many quality choices for under a $1,000. Or, if you are tight on space, the bikes take up less room and are portable. Just wheel it out in front of the TV and you are on your way to a healthier future.

Summary of Benefits

  • Trains cardiovascular system
  • Burns calories
  • Low impact
  • Easy to use
  • Low risk of injury
  • Helps develop leg strength
  • Excellent form of cross training
  • Can add variety to weight bearing exercise routines
  • Bikes take up less space
  • Are typically more affordable
  • Are portable

So if you’re in the market for a new piece of cardio equipment, consider an exercise bike for a great low impact workout that you can easily fit in your home.

Why Running is Good for Your Health

The jury still seems to be out on whether running is really good for you, but I’m here to make the case that it is. With a well-balanced workout plan, running can provide tremendous health and emotional benefits for years (and years) to come.Vision Fitness running lifestyle image

Improve Cardio Health

Running is a fantastic way to improve your heart strength. As you run, your need for oxygen and blood flow increases, therefore making your heart pump harder and more frequently to supply the muscles with the energy they need to keep you moving. As you continue a running program, your heart, much like your other muscles, get stronger and more efficient. Also, running improves your immunity, which means less sick days.

Improve Muscle Tone

It’s a misconception among non-runners and beginners that running only works your legs and your heart. In reality, a proper running form engages a variety of muscles, helping you create tone and definition. Endurance running is great for achieving a lean look overall, but if you want to focus on different areas, you should try different workouts. Shorter intervals and sprint workouts can really help target more fast-twitch muscles, which are different from the slow-twitch muscles used in slow and steady long runs. Incorporating hill sprints will also target additional muscles you might otherwise miss. By its very nature, running also helps engage your core – how else would you stay upright? Pumping your arms triggers your back and shoulder muscles. So, focus on using everything you’ve got with every stride you take.

Lose Weight and Increase Bone Mass

Common sense tells you that in order to lose weight your calorie intake has to be less than your calories burned. If you naturally burn 2,000 calories per day, you have a lot more leeway than someone who only burns 1,200. Running is a powerhouse when it comes to calorie expenditure, even when walking the same distance.

“When you walk, you keep your legs mostly straight, and your center of gravity rides along fairly smoothly on top of your legs. In running, we actually jump from one foot to the other. Each jump raises our center of gravity when we take off, and lowers it when we land, since we bend the knee to absorb the shock. This continual rise and fall of our weight requires a tremendous amount of Newtonian force (fighting gravity) on both takeoff and landing,” says Runner’s World Editor Amby Burfoot.

It’s also worth mentioning that running, a weight bearing activity, is also great for increasing bone density, helping to decrease your risk of osteoporosis. As you run, your muscles pull on your bones to withstand the stress of the activity, thereby also making your bones stronger.

Improve Your Emotional Health                                                         

Being part of a social group may help decrease risk for depression. There is an enormous community centered on those who enjoy running. You may benefit from seeking out a run buddy, but even if you choose to run solo, you can be active socially with online and in-person running groups. Share your triumphs and tribulations with those who can relate.

Another positive aspect of running is the fund-raising sector. Train for and run in a community race that raises money for a cause you support. Running for a charitable event is a great way to feel a sense of worth and accomplishment. Plus, you may meet some new friends.

Running is also great for helping you sleep better at night, therefore giving you more energy during the day. It also increases endorphins, which are what prompts the runner’s high you may have heard of.

How to Prevent Injury

Running is an incredibly healthy sport, but as with all activities, there is always a risk for injury. Mitigate that risk with a few quick tips.

Follow a diet filled with lean protein and complex carbohydrates. Of course running is a great way to lose weight, but incorporating a healthy diet can also help get you to a manageable weight, reducing strain on your back, knees, hips and ankles.

Stay relaxed. While you run, try to focus on any tense areas, in your shoulders for example, and work on letting it go. Drop your shoulders, unclench your hands and relax your facial muscles.

Strengthen your running muscles. If you find you have achy knees, it may be an issue of hip strength. Try squeezing in a few sets of walking lunges, wall sits and planks into your non-running days. Increase foot stability and strength by spending some time barefoot and including some balance work. Also, try cross-training, like biking, which is a fantastic way to get stronger and faster.

Stretch and recover. What you do after and in between runs is just as important as your running and strength workouts. Warm up for a run with a fast walk, not by stretching cold muscles. You increase your risk for injury. Instead, save your static and dynamic stretching for after your run, when you’re warm and your muscles have loosened.

Also, use a foam roller – every day if you can – it will help you recover faster by getting at those really tight spots and reducing inflammation. Make no mistake; it will be painful – at first. But if you continue rolling every day, you’ll find the trouble areas will begin to melt a bit, and you will start to look forward to self-myofascial release.

If you feel a nagging pain, take time off from your workout. As always, prior to starting a new training program, check with your health care professional to make sure you are in good enough health.

So there you have it. If you have always wanted to try running, but have been afraid of the hype, fear not. Follow these tips for a healthy, happy running habit.

Sources:

http://www.womenshealthmag.com/fitness/health-benefits-of-running

http://www.runnersworld.com/weight-loss/how-many-calories-are-you-really-burning?page=single

http://www.livestrong.com/article/368647-running-your-bone-density/

http://www.sportsinjuryclinic.net/rehabilitation-exercises/lower-leg-ankle-exercises/strengthening-exercises-foot

http://beta.active.com/running/articles/10-selfmyofascial-release-exercises-for-runners

Overtraining Symptoms, Causes and Recovery

Have you ever set a goal, created what seemed like a great plan and then proceeded not only to follow that plan but to do even more? Chances are you were highly motivated and wanted to cross the finish line in the least amount of time possible. Suddenly, you hit a road block, you burned out, you got tired, you lost motivation or maybe you even started to lose some of your early results though you continued working hard. If all of this sounds familiar, you may have experienced overtraining.

Although the “more is better” approach may work for a short period of time, it will often lead to unwanted consequences and setbacks. Below is information that will help you identify whether your burnout may actually be the result of overtraining, the causes and what you need to do in order to recover from overtraining.

10 Symptoms of Overtraining

  1. Fatigue or lack of energy
  2. Loss of strength
  3. Poor sleep
  4. Irritability and moodiness
  5. Loss of enthusiasm
  6. Elevated heart rate while resting
  7. Decreased immunity or getting sick more frequently than normal
  8. Decrease in performance
  9. Unwanted weight loss
  10. Persistent soreness in joints and muscles

What Leads to Overtraining?

Lack of rest and sleep will lead to fatigue, irritability and decreases in performance and increased resting heart rates. The harder your work, or the more intense your routine, the more rest you will require.

Poor nutrition – Not eating enough or eating foods lacking in nutrients that fuel your body’s recovery from the stresses of intense exercise. Without the right nutrients and calories, your body can not repair the damage done. The ultimate goal is to give your body enough good food to overcompensate for the increased loads of stress you are applying to it, and thereby becoming more fit.

Lack of variety in your training methods or regimen can lead to overtraining of specific muscles or joints resulting in soreness that does not go away with regular rest between workouts.

Recovering from Overtraining

Take time off. How long you should take off will depend on how long you have been overtraining. Three to five days off may be enough for most people, but if you have been overtraining for an extended period of time, you may need more time off.

Eat a healthy-balanced diet including lean protein, which is used to rebuild muscles. Carbohydrates are essential for replenishing your energy stores. Healthy fats are needed for energy and joint protection and the absorption of some vitamins and minerals.

Stay active but stay out of the gym. Great active recovery options include walking or recreational swimming. Movement increases blood flow, which is important for supplying nutrients throughout your body.

Get plenty of sleep. There’s a reason research continues to show six to eight hours of sleep is best.

The next time you begin to experience these symptoms as a result of your overzealous workouts, remember to incorporate some active rest and review your rest and nutrition needs. It will help prevent overtraining and help lead you to increased results in the long run.

References and Links to more information:

http://www.livestrong.com/search/?mode=standard&search=overtraining

http://www.acefitness.org/blog/493/what-does-overtraining-mean/

http://www.rice.edu/~jenky/sports/overtraining.html

http://www.livestrong.com/article/350412-signs-symptoms-of-overtraining/

http://www.livestrong.com/article/504336-how-to-combat-overtraining/

 

Interval Training on Elegant and Touch Treadmill Consoles

Looking to improve your race times, increase your running speeds, burn more calories in less time or simply break up the monotony of your regular or steady pace treadmill workouts? Try the Interval program on a Vision Fitness treadmill equipped with the Elegant or Touch console. The treadmill Interval program included on these consoles is a speed-based program.

Don’t Get Too Comfortable

When training for your next 5K, 10K or 1-mile race against yourself, it is important that you break through your comfort zone in a way that challenges your body’s desire to achieve homeostasis. Homeostasis is your body’s natural need to achieve balance, to stay the same and to only expend as much energy as is needed to accomplish what it is asked to accomplish. Quite simply, if you don’t force or trick your body into trying something it isn’t used to doing, you will never know if you are even capable.

We humans are programmed to seek out comfort, which is why so many people hop on the treadmill, press go, select their favorite speed and incline and do the same workout they have done any number of times before. This bad habit will not make you more fit – It will not make you faster, decrease your run time or burn any more calories than it did last time. In order to accomplish any of these things, you need to get past your comfort zone. Enter – the Interval program.

What is the Interval Program

This program will give you segments of alternating speeds (adjusted in length according to the total workout time you have selected). The speeds will vary from a “challenge” speed to an “active recovery” speed. As you progress through the program and get warmed up, the “challenge” speeds will increase until the final two segments, which are where the program has already pushed you past your comfort zone and gets you ready to cool down.

A few common questions come up, which left unanswered seem to become excuses for individuals to not try a new program. So, to help you gather up the courage to try something a little more challenging, here are some answers to a few of those questions:

Q: How long should I go for?

A: One option is to base your exercise time on how much time you have available, some exercise is better than none. If you don’t have a lot of time, this is a perfect program because it is higher in intensity than your regular steady workout. Plus, there are a multitude of studies that show a short higher intensity workout is as effective, and sometimes more effective, than a longer workout at a lower intensity. Or base your workout time on how quickly you would like to be able to complete your next race.

Q: What level should I use/how fast should I go?

A: Look up the program chart in the owner’s manual and choose a level where the “challenge” speeds are 1 mph faster than you would choose to go if you were just doing a steady or “comfortable” time-based workout. Or, figure out how fast you need to go to achieve your next race time and pick a level that “challenges” you at a speed just higher than that. Remember, the “challenge” speed is always followed by an “active recovery” speed.

Q: How far should I go?

A: You don’t really need to go any further than the distance you are training for and will even benefit with shorter training sessions. One of the reasons to participate in speed intervals is to get your body used to moving faster and taking longer strides. These adaptations will carry over to your race distances.

There you go! Don’t you feel better already? Next time you’re looking to throw yourself a fitness curveball and take your workout to a new level of intensity, start an Interval program.

Sources

http://www.livestrong.com/article/386878-the-best-treadmill-interval-workout/

http://runners-resource.com/training/intervals/

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/interval-training/SM00110

 

Use Goal Programs to Spice Up Your Workouts

Want to add a little variety to a stale workout routine? Maybe you need a little extra motivation?  Try a Goal Program! Having a fitness goal can increase accountability and make workouts more fun. By using a goal program, you’ll finish your workout and reach those fitness aspirations more quickly. Thankfully, there are four different Goal Programs available on the Vision Elegant and Touch consoles for you to try.

5K and 10K Goal programs are distance-based workouts with 10 available levels of intensity.

  • The elevation/resistance adjusts automatically throughout the workout. The height of each hill is based on the level of intensity you choose. Speed is controlled by      you, the user.
  • The Touch console offers you a Stage Meter, which helps you monitor your progress through the different elevation/resistance changes in the program. This can mentally prepare you for the elevation changes ahead. The Stage Meter has a percentage completed number that changes as you progress through the stage as well as a meter visual. vision touch console stage meterWhen the meter is almost full and your percentage completed hits 95 percent you know it won’t be long before your hill is over. The Elegant console offers a more traditional profile view which will fill in as you move through the program.
  • Did you choose a level that was too hard? Don’t worry, the level of intensity can be adjusted during the workout to make sure you don’t have to stop and restart. Press the “Workout” tab at the top of the screen and use the arrows to change your goal.
  • Another motivating feature of the 5K and 10K programs is the Time Remaining feedback window. This window will constantly readjust based on how fast you      are moving. Want to finish in 30 minutes? The Time Remaining window will tell you exactly how long each workout will take you. Vision touch console time remaining window

Calorie Goal is a program that allows you to select a desired number of calories you would like to burn.

  • Set your calorie goal and the console will estimate your total time based on the starting speed, elevation and user weight prior to the workout.
  • During the workout, the Time Remaining feedback window will constantly readjust based on your intensity level. Want to burn those 300 calories in 20 minutes? The Time Remaining window shows you if you are on track. Going faster or increasing your intensity level allows you to reduce the remaining time of the workout.
  • Feeling good and not ready to stop? You can readjust your calorie goal right on the fly. No need to start over. Simply press the “Workout” tab at the top of the screen and use the arrows to change your goal.Vision touch console change calorie goal

Distance Goal is a program allows you to set your goal based on distance and not time.

  • The Time Remaining feedback window constantly adjusts based on your speed. That way you don’t need to wonder how long those 5 miles are going to take you.
  • Feeling strong today or maybe you bit off a little more than you can handle? You can add or subtract distance mid workout.

Try one or all of these Goal Programs available on Vision Fitness Elegant and Touch consoles and take your workouts to a whole new level.

Sign Up for a Race for More Workout Motivation

Are you in a fitness rut? Telling yourself you’ll get back on the workout wagon next week? You’re not alone. Even those of us that work in the fitness industry have lapses in workout motivation.

For years I followed the roller coaster that is typical of many people. I’d get in a workout groove and follow my plan religiously for a few weeks and sometimes for months until something popped up that made it inconvenient. A few missed days turned into weeks and then I’d end up losing all the gains and starting over months later. Sound familiar?

Have you been slobbering along through your workouts or just given up on them entirely? Register for a race or even a fundraising ride or run. You’ll be amazed what a little competition will do to get you off the couch. Having that goal to strive towards will make you workout longer, more intensely and more consistently than you can imagine. These days there are more options than ever. Consider 5K runs, Duathalons, Triathlons, Road races, Off-road MTB and Trail running races. A popular trend lately is obstacle course challenges such as a Warrior dash or Tough Mudder. Many of these types of events can also be done with a partner or as a team.

Here are six tips to get you heading in the right direction to completing your event and regaining your workout motivation.

  1. Go online and search for an event in an activity of your choosing, whether it is running, biking, swimming or otherwise. A good source for many events across the country is Active.com.
  2. Register. Sometimes forking over the money in advance is all the motivation you need to train and prepare for the event.
  3. Search for a training plan. Some websites will offer free training plans for 5K’s, sprint triathlons, marathons etc. Coach Jenny has a bunch of free running training plans for a variety of distances (http://www.jennyhadfield.com/training-plans/).
  4. Find a training partner. Accountability can be a great motivator to get out of the house and complete your workouts. You can motivate one another and maybe even have a friendly little competition. If you’re training solo, share your goals and plans with a social community. Friends and family online can also be very encouraging.
  5. Have a plan for bumps in the road. What will you do if you get to the gym and forget shoes? Pack the night before? Make a checklist? Prepare for potential missed workouts by scheduling them in advance, putting them on your calendar and sticking to them. Or, have an alternative time available. You won’t miss out on a training day if you plan for the worst.
  6. Mentally prepare for race day. Begin visualizing the race as soon as you sign up for it. When you go to bed at night, imagine waking up on race day and go through your motions – what will you eat, what will you wear, how will you warm up? Visualizations can help you feel more ready physically because it will be as if you had completed the race already. If possible, complete the race route at least once in one of your training sessions prior to the event.

After embarrassing myself in a partner-based triathlon event I vowed the next year to do better. The event motivated me to work out harder and more consistently than I had since being forced to as an athlete in school. Since that time, I’ve used that event as motivation every year. Over the years I’ve begun adding additional events to further spur the motivation…1/2 marathon, Turkey Trot, Mountain bike races. Although there is no chance that I will ever win any of these races, the motivation to do better each year, or in some cases even to finish the race, drives me to put in the extra time or intensity leading up to race day.

Find an event and get a friend to sign up with you. Come race day, you’ll be healthier and in better shape than you have been in years. Good luck!

“Have to” or “Choose to” – Revitalizing your New Year’s resolutions

girl running bleachers

This year is already 25 percent gone. Your New Year’s resolutions – may have suffered a similar fate. It’s true that most people fail in achieving their stated New Year’s resolutions. In fact, 50 percent will have given up at this point. Why do health and fitness resolutions often fall by the wayside? Maybe it’s the doubt setting in, or you’ve set too lofty of a goal and have just burnt out. Whatever the reason is, changing your frame of mind can make an enormous difference and get you back on track for the last three quarters of the year.

Making Choices

The thing about changing from an unhealthy lifestyle to a healthy lifestyle is that it won’t always be fun. Yes, it is way more exciting to sit around with your friends eating pizza (or chocolates), drinking beer (or wine) and polishing off a dozen wings (or cookies) while watching the game or hanging out than it is to count calories, exercise and drink water. However, here is some food for thought – once you take away the mentality of “I HAVE to eat healthy, I HAVE to exercise” and replace it with, “I’m CHOOSING to make healthy food choices and CHOOSING to exercise,” you take away the concept of feeling like a victim and empower yourself to accomplish great things.

Something else to consider, trying on clothes, wearing a bathing suit or running a race might be things that aren’t “fun” now either, but by sticking to your resolutions, by following a plan that’s sustainable and having the courage to change you can make those things fun, too!

Remember, it’s all about choices. The people who “have to” lose weight on those TV shows do it begrudgingly and then typically end up gaining a bunch of it back. However, good sustainable choices will yield long-term positive results.

Choosing to Work Out

At first going to the gym may seem scary. You don’t want to be teased or ridiculed. If you’re not ready for the gym, you don’t have to go. Instead, choose to go for a walk instead of watching that TV rerun. Walk stairs in your house. Do some simple body weight exercise during commercials. Once you have gained a bit of confidence, “choose to” go to the gym. Chances are people will want to commend you for the effort you’re making to better yourself, not belittle you for it.

Choosing to Eat for You

Making healthy meals may seem like a daunting task. However, all of that sugary, salty, greasy food is addictive, people. Once you let your body have it, it craves it. Nicotine and alcohol are no different. So when you take those foods away, you might find you get cranky or irritable. That’s because you’re detoxing. You’re freeing your body of junk it doesn’t need, junk that only packs on the pounds, increases your cholesterol and blood pressure and prevents you from running around with your kids, grand kids or friends.

Start with small changes to help your body adjust in a healthy way and help you stick with it. Eat Greek yogurt for dessert instead of ice cream. Eat air-popped popcorn as a snack instead of a candy bar. Try swapping soda with sparkling water.

Let Go of Preconceived Notions

If there’s something mentally holding you back from going all out this year, figure out what it is and then reframe your thinking. If you can’t do it alone, find a workout buddy to help you. Stop telling yourself you “have to” stay away from pizza – you can have it! Choose your favorite slice and eat it with a healthy side and move on. “Choose to” make up for it with an extra workout this week. Not only will you burn off those calories, but you’ll gain strength and endurance.

Stop saying you “have to” work out. You don’t. Yet, if you “choose to” – you’ll eventually reap all of the benefits including better strength and endurance, and just looking and feeling better, to name a few. Yes, it’s hard. This is new for you. You’re not used to pushing your body. And that’s OK. The more you stick with it, the better your workouts will get. You’ll be amazed at how much you can accomplish in the remaining months.

So review your goals for this year and revamp your plan of action to achieve them. Get back on track and share your successes and failures (small or big) with friends and family who can support you. Remember, you don’t “have to” do it, “choose to” do it.

How will you renew your resolve to reach your resolutions? Share with us in the comments.