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.

Five Simple Ways to Boost Your Heart’s Health

As we round the corner into spring, it is a great time to check-in and renew your commitment to a healthy year. A heart-healthy year. If you want to be healthy into your old age, it’s important to begin treating your heart well early on. The American Heart Association emphasizes maintaining a healthy weight, regular exercise, a healthy diet, and smoking cessation as primary steps towards preventing heart disease. Assuming you’re up to date on your most recent physical, blood work, and doctor recommendations, what are the biggest ways to impact your heart with your daily choices? Here are five simple ways to boost your heart’s health.Heart Healthy Tips

Avoid Processed Foods. Steering clear of processed foods not only limits hidden sugars, sodium, and fake ingredients that sneak into your diet, it also forces you to emphasize the foods that reduce inflammation, improve your immunity and are packed with fiber, protein and micronutrients that do everything from boost your heart health to increase your ability to recover from your last workout. Try switching your breakfast cereal to oatmeal, which can assist in lowering your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, or building your meals around five foods that benefit your heart to include more produce, lean protein and healthy fats in your diet.

Get Your Workouts Started. For overall heart health, get moving at least 150 minutes per week. That can be 30 minutes every day, 10 minutes a few times each day, or an hour a few times each week. If you are new to working out regularly, or have current heart issues, this is a good zone to stay in for a few months to build up your endurance and confidence. Once these workouts become easier to accomplish and part of your everyday routine, it’s time to start making them tougher. You can start by adding in a tough workout (see below) once or twice a week.

Toughen Up your Workouts. Including tough workouts in your program is one of the best ways to help you manage your weight, as well as challenge your heart to make it stronger. Working out hard means your workouts can be shorter, accomplishing more in less time on busy days. A hard workout also means you’re challenging your heart at a higher level, increasing your cardiovascular fitness, your post workout recovery demands (calorie burn) and building muscle. If your current workouts are bringing you into your aerobic threshold (about 60-70% of your maximum heart rate) and you’re in good physical health, you can start to bring in some interval training that increases your heart rate to between 85% and 100% of your maximum heart rate for brief periods (30 seconds to 2 minutes) during your training. You can do this by increasing either the speed or the resistance on your Vision home fitness equipment, or by using the interval setting provided on most machines.

Lift Weights. To keep improving your overall health and daily functioning, considering adding in some strength training. At a minimum, shoot for two strength training sessions each week, hitting the major muscle groups of your body. If you’re looking to start building muscle and improve your performance, slowly add in a third session to help you see results. (Just be sure to give yourself a day to recover between workouts.) To get even more out of your workout and increase the cardiovascular impact, combine movements to target multiple muscle groups at once, such as stepping into a lunge with a bicep curl or doing full body planks and push-ups to strengthen nearly everything in your body. Another idea is to including strength training as a part of a circuit approach, alternating 60-90 seconds of one exercise with the same period of time on your cardio equipment. Your body will be cashing in on the body changing benefits of a weight routine in no time.

Manage Stress. By choosing regular exercise and a healthy diet, you’ve taken some important steps towards controlling the stress in your life. You can add to those steps by including mindfulness, gratitude, meditation or yoga in your fitness routine. For more suggestions, check out the American Heart Association’s resources on understanding and managing stress. These steps can all pay you back with a happier life now – and better health in the long run.

Do you have a question about general fitness, goal setting, getting the most out of your Vision Fitness equipment, etc.? Our fitness experts would love to answer your question in an upcoming blog post on VisionFitness.com. Just leave your question in the comments below.

 

Healthy Holiday Tips That Won’t Leave You Feeling Deprived

Finding balance between your commitment to staying fit and well, reality, is tough and it only gets tougher in the holiday season. Close quarters and cold weather challenge our immune systems and unrestricted family time presents its own challenges to our mental health, not to mention the dinner table and the threat it poses to undoing our efforts to eat right and exercise. Here are six tips to stay on track this holiday season and beyond.

Have a good breakfast. While it’s tempting to skip breakfast to offset the damage of the feast to come, doing so sets up a cycle of plummeting blood sugar that leaves you likely to skip your workout, head into the festivities feeling cranky and unlikely to enjoy the party, and ready to put anything into your mouth to hold you over until dinner. Start your morning right with a protein-heavy meal that will hold you for hours to come. Including eggs in your breakfast is a great bet to support weight loss (or maintenance) and a healthy immune system. For just 70 calories per egg, you invest in a high nutrient food that is likely to leave you eating less throughout the day (as much as 400 calories less according to one study)!  You can offset the calories by including a quick workout that will rev up your metabolism and your mood for the rest of the morning.

Squeeze in a morning workout. You’ve already taken a big step towards making your daily workouts convenient and accessible through investing in your home fitness equipment. On days that you’re pressed for time, use your treadmill, elliptical or recumbent bike for a quality workout that packs a big impact in a short period of time. A High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) session is approachable for all fitness levels and will rev up your metabolism and improve your blood sugar in as little as ten minutes (though if you can go for 20 that’s even better). Start out with a short warm-up of 2-5 minutes, then alternate between period of maximum effort (45-90 seconds) and recovery (1-2 minutes). The shorter the recovery period and the longer the intervals, the tougher your training session, so base your approach on your fitness level.  Finish your workout with 2-5 minutes of recovery and enjoy the bragging rights that workout gives you at the day’s festivities.

Practice gratitude. From lowering your blood pressure to improving your mental health, the benefits of gratitude go far beyond lip service. As you head into potentially stressful days, take the time to really recognize the abundance that exists in your daily life. If you have the time, you can even complete this gratitude exercise and see the difference that bringing appreciation into your morning creates throughout the day.

Make plans. Even though family events and a full house can bring their share of stress, they might also be good for you in the long run. Research shows that strong social connections lead to happier, longer lives. Steer clear of those you know set you off and take the opportunity to really connect with someone you care about, whether that’s in person or taking the time to call or send a card. Including the right people in your life can also be a great opportunity to boost your commitment to a healthy lifestyle through supporting your diet and exercise plans.

Get outside. While you’re enjoying your social connections, why not grab your favorite cousin or sibling and head outside? Not only does this give you the chance to create some memories, you can also ditch family members who might be less than supportive of your healthy lifestyle. It’s no secret that spending time outdoors is good for you.  You’ll also receive benefits ranging from strengthened immunity, a healthy dose of Vitamin D (harder to come by at this dark time of year) and improved concentration (just the thing for cleaning up at the post-feast card game).

Enjoy your meal. Sure, the holiday table spread is loaded with caloric nightmares that start with butter and end with whipped cream, however, there are some seriously nutrient-dense choices that grace every traditional table as well. Enjoy your turkey, even the dark meat. Loaded with protein and iron, it’s filled with the stuff you need to build muscle and recover from your tough workouts. Whether you take them baked, in a casserole, or in pie form, enjoy your sweet potatoes and squash. They’re packed with beta carotene that can strengthen your resistance to the cold someone inevitably brought to the party, and maybe even help you to fight off cancer in the long run.

Wishing you a healthy holiday season!

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.

 

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/

 

Why Drinking Water is Essential to Your Health

Consuming enough water is essential to maintaining good health whether exercising or sitting still, yet many Americans do not consume enough water, which can lead to dehydration.  Why is water so important? How much do you really need?

What does water do?

Water is a powerhouse when it comes to keeping your body working as it should. It assists with digestion, circulation, absorption and transportation of vital nutrients, saliva creation and body temperature regulation. H2O is responsible for keeping the kidneys healthy woman drinking waterso they can eliminate toxins from your body through urine.

Staying hydrated also prevents and treats constipation. “Adequate fluid and fiber is the perfect combination, because the fluid pumps up the fiber and acts like a broom to keep your bowel functioning properly,” says Joan Koelemay, RD, dietitian for the Beverage Institute, an industry group.

Water can also aid in weight loss by helping you feel full, as well as serving as a replacement for higher calorie beverages. Water-rich foods are always a great option since they are absorbed more slowly. In addition to keeping your weight in check, drinking enough fluids energizes your muscles so you can perform everyday functions, as well as push it really hard during those tough workouts. Muscle fatigue can be caused by an imbalance of fluids and electrolytes.

Likewise, water moisturizes skin from the inside out. Dehydration can make skin appear dry and wrinkly, but proper hydration will help “smooth” everything out. However, over hydration will not eliminate wrinkles since the body will just excrete the excess water through urine.

How much water do you really need?

Our bodies are comprised of 60 percent water, but everyone’s needs differ based on health, activity level and geographic location. That means although the advice has typically been to drink eight glasses of water a day, it will vary. Since water is lost through breath, perspiration and going to the bathroom, fluid levels must be kept up through consumption of food and beverages containing water.

On a typical day, strive to drink enough water so you’re urine is light in color and odorless, typically about a liter. Here is a chart that may be useful in helping you determine whether or not you’re approaching dehydration: http://flowingdata.com/2012/02/17/urine-color-chart/.  Try drinking a glass of water with and between each meal. Keep a reusable water bottle with you, so you can fill up wherever you go. You can also get water through food, like watermelon, broccoli and tomatoes.

If you’re actively exercising, you need to consume additional water to compensate for the loss of fluid through sweat. Drink two glasses within two hours of exercise and continue to drink while exercising. However, endurance athletes working out for one or more hours may need to supplement with a sports drink to also replace sodium lost through sweat.

Hot or humid weather can also make you perspire, therefore quickening the onset of dehydration. Whether you’re indoors or out, pay attention to how much you’re sweating and boost your fluid intake. This is also important for high elevation areas, as you may find yourself breathing heavier than usual. The simple way to make sure you consume enough water is to always have it with you, so it’s easily accessible when you want it.

Keep your fluid intake up to reap all of the benefits water has to offer your body. Remember, “If you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.”

Sources:

http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/6-reasons-to-drink-water

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/water/NU00283

 

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!

Is Functional Training Right for You?

Functional training is a very popular term in the fitness community and with the general public these days. Although fitness professionals and enthusiasts are teaching and using the concepts, many in the mainstream population are not that familiar with the potential benefits and actual improvements these training methods could bring to their daily lives.

What is Functional Training?

Functional training has its origins in rehabilitation. Physical therapists developed exercises that mimicked what patients did at home or work in order to return them to their lives or jobs after an injury or surgery. I have come across many definitions of functional training, both in strict literal terms and loose interpretations. As you do your research, I suspect you’ll encounter the same.

Functional training has actually evolved from, and now seems to encompass, some of the terms and benefits of core training. I like the following definition of functional training: A range of total body activities that build strength, balance and coordination for general fitness, and also improves your ability to easily perform day-to-day movements or activities. 

What Are the Benefits of Functional Training?

As with most fitness programs, functional training may be performed using various levels of difficulty and intensity. Although the average person can use it as a tool to help with every day activities, elite athletes and their trainers are using it to gain a competitive edge on the field of play.

To begin to understand functional training and its benefits, we must take a look at how it differs from traditional training methods we have used in the past.

  1. Functional training engages large groups of muscles and multiple joints; not just a single muscle or small group of closely related muscles.
  2. Functional training involves unrestricted, user-defined motion against resistance, which activates the neuromuscular system in ways that increase your balance and coordination.
  3. Finally, many of the exercises involve the core muscles of the body, which when trained properly, provide the strong foundation you need to live a healthy active life, perform activities you enjoy, or compete in your favorite sport.

In functional training, it is as critical to train the specific movement as it is to train the muscles involved in the movement. The brain, which controls the muscular movement, thinks in terms of whole motions, not individual muscles. Exercises that isolate joints and muscles are training muscles, not movements, which results in less functional improvement.

For example, a “non-functional,” single-joint exercise can play a critical role in helping to strengthen a weak link (weaker muscle) that a person may have, in order to restore proper muscle balance. Doing such an exercise can allow an individual to more effectively participate in functional training activities, while also reducing the risk of injury. For strength exercises to effectively translate to other daily movements (example, getting up from a chair), several components of the training movement need to be similar to the actual performance movement. This includes coordination, types of muscle contractions, speed of movement and range of motion.

There is also the “multiple planes of motion” theory many experts adhere to. Although this subject can get complicated in a hurry, it is quite simple in its premise. As we stated above, functional training is a user-defined movement which is not restricted by a predetermined path set by a machine. Therefore, the person working out determines the angles and planes on which to perform that movement. Moving forward and backward is one plane while side to side is another. Experts feel that a person gets maximum advantage through exercises that involve multiple planes of motion.

Is Functional Training for You?

We have all seen the warnings “to consult your physician before undertaking an exercise routine,” or something similar, posted in owner’s manuals of exercise equipment purchased. That’s always sound advice, but I would also advise you to consult a fitness professional if and when you decide to try functional training. User-defined and multiple plane training can open the door to injury if performed without some basic knowledge and direction.

In final analysis, it must be remembered that functional training, when properly applied, can provide exercise variety and additional training benefits that more directly transfer to improvements in real life activities. However, in my opinion, functional training should serve as a supplement to traditional strength training, not as a replacement.

Have you had success with functional training? Share your experience with us in the comments below.

Sources

  • Functional Training For Sports, Michael Boyle, Copyright 2004
  • Wikipedia
  • www.acefitness.org