Category Archive: Fitness

The Power of Working Out Together

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Discover how training in a fitness community can improve your performance, keep you accountable, and help you tap into a greater sense of purpose.

It’s 6:30 on a chilly morning at Tower 26, a lifeguard station on a quiet stretch of beach between Santa Monica and Venice, Calif. The tourists are still asleep; the Ferris wheel, quiet and dark. For now, the beach belongs to the LA Tri Club. 

There are more than 40 of them, men and women of all ages, eyeing the slate-gray ocean. It looks cold, but the group is undeterred. They don swim caps and goggles, zip up wetsuits, and give one another encouraging slaps on the back. 

Then they plunge into the Pacific. 

For the next 75 minutes, they navigate surf, crest big waves, and practice staying on course to a distant buoy; they swim back and forth, over and over again. They keep an eye out for one another, cheer each other on, and talk trash now and then. It’s a tough workout, but they all get through it, finishing the session energized and alive. 

“The first time I swam in the ocean I was a bit nervous,” says club managing director Deb Carabet. “But the other members taught me not to panic. They held my hand as we went through the surf.” 

Without the group, she says, she never would have tried ocean swimming, much less her most recent adventure — a half-Ironman race this past July that included more than a mile of open-water swimming. 

For many people, fitness is a solitary pursuit: Go to the gym, notch a workout, get on with your day. Many fitness programs and gyms cater to this trend, prioritizing convenience over conviviality in their services and classes. 

But, like those in the LA Tri Club’s Ocean Swim class, many fitness-minded people — as well as the health clubs and specialty studios they frequent — are discovering the value of working out with a group of like-minded friends, acquaintances, coaches, and trainers. 

Ask what they get out of it and you’ll hear reports of camaraderie, motivation, and friendly competition, all of which lead, they say, to better performance and greater fitness —  and, perhaps most important, more enjoyment. 

Simply put, individuals who are active in fitness communities are finding they can get more done, reach goals faster, and blast through plateaus more quickly than they might on their own. 

Team Effort

Nearly a century ago, researchers discovered that people in groups tend to work harder than when they’re working alone, a dynamic known as the Köhler effect. When a team’s performance is determined by that of its weakest link — a mountain-climbing expedition in which all members are tethered together, for example — the weaker member performs significantly better compared with his or her best solo efforts. 

If you ever pick out stronger/faster/fitter students in a fitness class and try to outpace them at pushups, squats, or laps around the gym — regardless of whether they know you’ve selected them as your “rabbits” to chase — you’ll often perform better. That’s the Köhler effect at work. It happens unconsciously whenever people exercise together.

“I’ve been on teams my whole life,” says David Freeman, OPEX, CCP, NASM-PES, national manager for Life Time’s Alpha program, which focuses on Olympic lifting and strength training in a group setting. A pushup is a pushup — but when you work out in a group, he says, “it gives you a sense of greater purpose.” 

A fitness community amps up performance while infusing the practice with something that can be hard to find on your own: meaning. 

Social Animals

One of the biggest benefits of a fitness community is right there in the word community. We are social animals, and interacting with others is good for us. Whether we’re getting together with family for dinner, friends for golf, or acquaintances for a martial-arts class, research demonstrates that groups can benefit us. 

A 2010 report in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior noted that “social relationships — both quantity and quality — affect mental health, health behavior, physical health, and mortality risk.” People with more and better social ties, researchers found, demonstrated better cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure, and less susceptibility to cancer; those with fewer and lower-quality social contacts exhibited more inflammation and poorer immune function. 

For some people, fitness com­munities play a role usually filled by traditional social networks — neighbors, religious groups, extended families — which have become less integral to our time-crunched, digitally driven lives. 

“A lot of us lead a solitary existence,” says Andrea Jones, cofounder of boutique fitness clubs in Minnesota and Colorado. “More and more people work from home, or maybe at a coffee shop on a laptop, so they spend much of the day by themselves.” 

As a result, fitness communities have all the more value, she explains. “You get one hour when you can feel that people are supporting you, where you don’t have to do it all yourself.” 

Add vigorous movement to the equation, and you have a beneficial, self-reinforcing cycle. 

Play fosters empathy and promotes a sense of belonging and community,” writes National Institute for Play founder Stuart Brown in his book, Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul. 

Fitness communities thus create a virtuous circle: They support and enhance health, while health-building movement enhances the sense of community. 

Recreational sports teams and clubs have been around for decades, but the boom in fitness communities within gyms has its roots in group fitness. Organized exercise classes showed gym-goers that the health club could be their so-called third place, after home and work. 

Increasingly, they’re seeking a more personalized, community feel to their training, programs in which they’re not just clients but real people with names and lives and interests and feelings. Health clubs have taken up the challenge of catering to this growing, social clientele. 

Group fitness classes and training programs, such as Life Time’s Alpha and GTX, are increasingly popular. In addition to getting fit, people use these sessions to build friendships and to network. Social-media connections help support in-person relationships, says Freeman. And races, weightlifting competitions, coffee gatherings, potlucks, and other real-life outings naturally arise as a result. 

Suddenly, a gym becomes more than just a gym. It’s a place you can turn to for improving your physical fitness as well as cultivating a sense of connection and belonging.

Group-Mind Motivation 

Solitary workouts can be effective and enjoyable. But coaches, trainers, and other experts have found that some people have better experiences and achieve better outcomes when they don’t walk the path to fitness alone. 

Scientists have attempted to quantify and qualify these successes, but study results have been mixed and dependent on the size of the group and behavior being tested. (And if you’ve participated in or even observed the burgeoning group fitness trend at your own gym or health club, you’ve likely noticed that the types of classes offered, the goals being pursued, and the sizes of the groups are highly variable.)

But gyms and gym-goers don’t seem to need convincing that working out as part of a group is worthwhile. Anecdotally, say Freeman and other trainers, people seem to perform better when someone is watching them: Coaching, cueing, and spotting provide practical, often personalized, feedback. 

Moreover, there’s an apparent benefit to feeling accountable to a larger group. This is illustrated, in part, by colloquial language that describes fitness communities as families and teams in which people find encouragement, physically and emotionally.     

By virtue of their size and diversity, fitness communities can offer a wide variety of feedback and support — something you can’t always get when working solo, or even with a single trainer or workout buddy. 

“Sometimes you need a motivator,” says Freeman, a drill-sergeant type who refuses to take no for an answer. 

“Other times you need a nurturer,” an encouraging, helpful teammate or coach who talks you through rough patches. “As a single coach, I can’t be everything to everybody,” he admits. “That’s where the community takes over.” 

In a group, inspiration can come from almost anywhere. Many mentors — peers, advanced students, teachers, and team leaders — are available to provide the right coaching cues to help you master an exercise; the right phrase to help you persevere though a difficult workout; or the right strategy to get you on track to your next goal. 

“Practically from birth, we’re looking for role models,” says Freeman. “In middle school, you look up to the high schoolers; in high school, you look up to the college kids. Whenever you’re at a pivot point — trying to get better or make a change — there’s nothing more motivating than having someone around who says, ‘I’ll go with you.’” 

True  Competition

Competition is strong medicine: It can discourage or motivate, beat you down or lift you up. 

Some groups embrace fitness as a contest. Online or at the gym, there are often prominent lists showing who lifts the most, runs the fastest, and jumps the highest. 

“In some communities it’s all about the leaderboard,” says Jones. If you’re not on it, you want to be, and if you are, you want to climb to the top. 

 This emphasis on the fitness hierarchy in a group may fire some people up — but it can drive others away. 

Still, healthy competition might be the special sauce that lends flavor to a fitness community. And it doesn’t have to take the form of a whiteboard listing everybody’s top lifts. Simply exercising alongside others can be enough to light a competitive fire. 

“Part of the reason I love weekly rides with the tri club is that I can keep an eye on the other athletes,” says Joey Doran, 36, an LA Tri Club member and frequent podium finisher. 

By trying their best in group workouts with closely matched people of similar fitness levels, Doran and his fellow athletes push one another to greater fitness and performance; no accolade, external recognition, or even explicit acknowledgment of their rivalry is required. 

Such enjoyable-but-high-stakes workouts are a prime example of what David Light Shields, PhD, a sports psychologist and professor of behavioral science specializing in athletics at St. Louis Community College, calls “true competition.” This involves mutually respectful individuals striving to overcome their opponents and bring out the best in one another, says Shields, author of True Competition. Focus and playfulness are balanced. Positive emotions prevail. 

Competition isn’t always so rosy, of course (see “3 Solutions for Overcoming Group Pitfalls,” below), but in a supportive fitness community, it can become the rule rather than the exception. 

“A competitive environment puts people into an aspirational mindset,” says University of Pennsylvania sociologist Damon Centola, PhD, author of How Behavior Spreads. 

His study of online health networks found that members who interacted within competitive social settings exercised more to keep up with the highest performers; members who interacted in supportive social settings were influenced by the poor performers and went to the gym less often. 

Centola’s research suggests that, compared with other exercise incentives — such as peer support or
monetary incentives — friendly competition is by far the most effective way to motivate healthy behavior change.

Two years ago, Deb Cabaret’s father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. When word got out to members of the LA Tri Club, she says, “40 people came out to do a race benefitting cancer research. They rallied around him.” 

Over the years, she says, club members have been injured and sick,  and members consistently showed up to support them. Members have dated, married, and had kids. 

“It’s a real community,” says Carabet. “And it’s lovely.”

This originally appeared as “Fit Together” in the December 2018 print issue of Experience Life.

 

 , CSCS, is an Experience Life contributing editor.

Original Article provided by Experience Life Magazine

The Hill-Run Workout

This high-intensity workout takes hill repeats to the next level.

If you’re searching for a simple way to amp up your cardio training, look no further than the nearest hill.

Incline workouts improve endurance, increase cardiovascular capacity, burn fat, and build leg strength, says Rebekah Mayer, RRCA, national training manager of Life Time Run.

“When programmed into interval training, hills allow you to push into a higher heart-rate zone,” she explains. Without having to sprint, you burn more fat than you would while running on a flat surface. Running uphill also works your quads, glutes, and calves.

The Sisyphus workout is named after the Greek king who paid for his crimes by rolling a boulder up a hill — only to see it roll back to the bottom before he reached the top, forcing him to start over, again and again.

The protocol trains you to not only push beyond your comfort zone, but to also adequately recover.

Runners can practice hill intervals in the off-season to build strength for flat races in the 5K to 10K range. Marathoners might incorporate the Sisyphus workout into midseason training to prepare for hilly courses.

Those who aren’t training for a specific race but want to build general fitness can perform this workout two or three times a month — yes, per month, because it really is that intense.

Sisyphus Workout

Warm-up: Start with a 10- to 20-minute easy-paced run, followed by a five- to 10-minute dynamic warm-up.

Workout: Locate a hill with a moderately steep incline that is long enough to allow for a two-minute run — a quarter-mile is plenty for most people. Then, perform four hill repeats as noted below.

The Pace

Uphill: Aim for an intensity that is challenging but sustainable for the full uphill interval. It should be a pace at which it is “difficult to carry on a conversation,” says Mayer. If you know your 5K pace, use it as a guideline.

Downhill: Recover with a slow jog or walk. Catch  your breath and shake out your arms.

The Form

Uphill: Lean forward from your ankles and gaze slightly uphill. Focus on landing on your toes, lifting your knees, and pumping your arms. Keep your steps quick and light; avoid long strides or lunging.

Downhill: Shorten and soften your stride. Walk as needed.

The Repeats

Repeat 1: Run uphill for 30 seconds, then jog or walk back to the bottom.

Repeat 2: Run uphill for 60 seconds, then jog or walk back to the bottom.

Repeat 3: Run uphill for 90 seconds, then jog or walk back to the bottom.

Repeat 4: Run uphill for two minutes, then jog or walk back to the bottom.

One set of all four repeats equals about five minutes of uphill running. New runners and beginning exercisers should start with one set. Advanced exercisers and experienced runners can complete two or three sets.

This originally appeared as “Hill Runs” in the May 2018 print issue of Experience Life.

 is a writer and personal trainer in River Forest, Ill. She blogs at www.mamasgottamove.com.

Expert Answers: Non-Running Exercises to Increase Your Speed

Our expert has tips to get you moving faster and more efficiently.

Q | I’m a runner, and I’m curious if there are any exercises I can do beyond running to get faster?

A | Because we run on one leg at a time, unilateral power movements are especially effective at building speed.

“Training modalities that have the individual on one leg have a great carryover to running performance,” says Andrew Long-Middleton, a personal trainer at Life Time in St. Louis Park, Minn. Practicing unilateral power movements “will translate into a more efficient, faster runner,” he explains.

Long-Middleton recommends exercises like the Single-Leg Bound (below) for building speed. Perform five to 10 sets no more than twice per week after a warm-up.

It’s important to remember that single-leg power moves increase the force affecting your lower legs. With running and jumping, some people may experience shin pain. Take care to land softly when jumping, and periodically check in with your body by running your thumb down your shin. If you feel pain, it may be helpful to increase the recovery time between sessions and make sure your whole-foods diet is well balanced (calcium; vitamins D, K, C, and E; phosphorus; and magnesium all play vital roles in bone health). If the pain continues, see your healthcare professional.

(For more on unilateral training, check out “Taking Sides: The One-Sided Strength Workout“. Learn more about speed training at “Speed Workouts X 3“.)

Single-Leg Bound

Single Leg Bound

  • Standing on your right leg, swing your arms back slightly, and gently bend your standing knee to assume a single-leg athletic stance.
  • Swing your arms forward for momentum and jump off your standing foot. Drive the left knee up for additional power.
  • Land softly on your right foot, slightly bending your knee, while allowing your arms to swing behind you once again. The distance of the bound will vary from person to person, but aim to keep each repetition about the same length.
  • Repeat the movement on the same leg without stopping until the distance between bounds shortens — or no longer than 20 seconds.

Illustrations by Colin Hayes

A version of this article first appeared in the July/August 2016 issue of Experience Life magazine. Click here to subscribe

WEB EXTRA!

Modifying and Progressing the Single-Leg Bound

Make It Easier: Double-Leg Bound

Newer exercisers can begin with a two-legged bound to get their bodies accustomed to the stress of power movements. Perform the above move while jumping with both legs. Once you build up your comfort with the bilateral version, try the exercise on one leg.

Make It Harder: Triple-Tuck Jump

  • Perform three single-leg bounds on one leg, then jump to bring that knee to your chest.
  • Land softly, and immediately perform the next series of three bounds on the same leg.
  • Stop when height or distance shortens, or no longer than 20 seconds. Repeat on the other leg.

Lauren Bedosky is a Minnesota-based health and fitness writer.

Congratulations to our Chicagoland Run Club Challenge Winners!

The Chicagoland Run Club Challenge is a club incentive program created with the goal of building more meaningful relationships with the local run community. This program rewards club participation through special marketing opportunities, coaching outreach, complimentary race weekend amenities and prize purses.

 

Congratulations to our 2017 Winners!

 

For a full roster of results, please see the PDF.

Cruisin’ in the USA

I remember it like it was yesterday. I had never experienced such a sense of pure, ecstatic joy up until my 12th year of life when I received what would be a life changing gift: my first bike. As my hands shook, I did my best to delicately remove the red ribbon my mother had attached to the handlebars. I could barely see what I was doing through the tears welling up in my eyes. Having asked for nothing else for three whole Christmases, birthdays and heck, even national holidays (Labor Day sales always had the best selection), this light pink Schwinn Talula cruiser before me was the stuff of dreams.

Complete with a basket and bell, I could not wait to take it out and ride it into the sunset. Or, how it turns out, ride it around the block a couple of times before I had to change for church. Your first bike is a rite of passage. The possibilities and freedom that it allotted you as a young adolescent to explore the neighborhood and meet new friends; the independence it bestowed as you rode it to school. These are still the same sensations and attributes that cycling continues to provide even as adults.

Pedalin’ Prowess

In recent times, there has been a steady boom in the integration of cycling back into our daily lives. The boom is largely responsible for the new onslaught of bike sharing programs, commuting options and the reemergence certain sports, such as triathlon, to keep cycling in the mainstream. It is the flexibility and accessibility of these features, coupled with its environmentally friendly consumption and health benefits to its users that it continues to claim and revolutionize our cities today. In just Chicago alone, there are “200-plus miles of bike lanes and 13,000 bike racks…(With a plan to have) a total of 645 miles of lanes by 2020.” Below we look at some of the newcomers to the bike scene, the benefits to cycling and the importance of sharing the road.

Goin’ Green and Fightin’ Fit

The health benefits to cycling are numerous. The calorie burning from just an hour of riding a bike can be anywhere from 500 – 650 calories. It is great cross training for new swimmers as the intensity and range helps build your lounges and air intake. Riding a bike works on multiple muscle groups from your quadriceps to your calf muscles; helping to keep you on point, in one swift pedal, with leg day. The beauty of biking comes from your environment. We often get lost in our heads when running or lifting weights but biking keeps you present and keeps you energized as it allows you to take on challenges as they come: hills, crowded pathways, the open road. As we mentioned earlier, it helps with cross training from other sports such as swimming and running as it eases up the exertion placed on your arms and feet.

In cities like Miami, where public transportation is more of a hassle than a benefit, new bike lanes in the downtown area and public parks have allowed for a cleaner, more affordable option to get around. According to the National Household Travel Survey, “Americans older than 25 accounted for most of the increase in cycling…” Millennials seem to be the driving force behind the sustainability and fitness efforts behind the recent surge.”We are more aware of the pollution crisis and the affect our negligence will have on future generations. We are living through stronger storms and more volatile weather all due to global warming. If there is anything to be done, it needs to start now.” states Chelsea Walsh of Biscayne Bay. In an effort to combat our ever increasing air pollutants, many jobs have offered stipends or perks to those employees who commute to work. In addition, these new lanes and special parks are being built in once abandoned and derelict areas of the city that will be transformed with beautification projects that include gardens and compost areas.

Learning to Share the Road

While there has been a reemergence in the pastime, there are still dangers to contend with when out on the road. When bike sharing first emerged, there was a major outcry against programs such as Divvy and Citi bikes as many stated that it would flood the already brimming crowds of bustling cities.. Having to be aware of tourist pedestrian traffic while in your vehicle is one thing, but adding speed and inertia has led to countless accidents and hospitalizations. Whether the error lies on the cyclist or the vehicle varies in each situation but for the most part the fault is two-fold. Ride sharing benefits the city as an extension of tourism but riders are novices to the layout and without proper protection. They are more focused on finding where they’re going than to their immediate surroundings. At the same time, there are more experienced bikers who neglect the rules of the road and will swirl past traffic and stop lights to beat traffic.

Many vehicle drivers forget to share the road and will make lane changes or turns without being cognizant of our bikers. I know I’ve been the recipient of foul and imaginative slew of words when cutting off a fellow cyclist. Bike lane improvements have been proposed in many cities to add items such as buffers, plants and cement partitions to further protect both entities on the road. The latest study, published as a research letter Sept. 1 in JAMA, documents “a rise in cycling-related injuries and hospitalizations among adults from 1998 to 2013. Adjusted for age, reported injuries rose 28 percent, and resulting hospitalizations increased 120 percent. There was also an increase, to 56 percent from 40 percent, of accidents that occurred on streets.”

Safety First

Education plays a vital role if we want to make any progress in fully and efficiently integrating cycling into our daily lives. While the idea of buying a car without seat belts is bizarre, slow progress has been made in properly educating newcomers to keeping safe. Yasamin Sabeti, a local Chicago resident brings up a good point: “One of the things that scares me the most is seeing so many cyclists without helmets. It is the only protection you have between outside negligence and your brain. Not sure why this is still an option and not a requirement.” There are many gadgets out there today to keep you protected and safe; ranging from lights to side mirrors to reflective clothing. The industry is growing with the popularity rise, with many local bike stores seeing a surge in both attendance and sales.

The surge of sports such as triathlon and cycling have also helped to educate the populace by bringing the importance of safety to the forefront. Many events are certified by upper governing bodies such as USA Triathlon, who adhere to strict guidelines when competing in one of their events. Kids will see their favorite celebrities in protective gear and will follow suit. Many schools are hoping to implement videos and programs into their curriculum in an effort to bring light to the severity of negligence in the same manner that drunk driving videos have done to first time drivers.

In essence, there is much innovation coming forth from the cycling world and it is interesting to see how cities and their populace continue to integrate and grow with the surge. Whether you’re an active commuter or a novice unwrapping their first bike with shaking hands, there is no denying the many strides that have been made for our favorite pastime.

See below for links to amazing biking programs in a city near you!

Miami, FL

Chicago, IL

New York City, NY

Denver, CO

San Diego, CA

 

Works Cited
Brody, Jane. “Cycling 1o1 Needn’t Be Collision Course.” 21 Sept. 2015 https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/09/21/cycling-101-neednt-be-collision-course/

Tips for a Successful Race Day

As runners, we have to be ready for almost every kind of weather situation. As this year’s 2017 Chicago Half Marathon & 5K is approaching, we are keeping our fingers crossed for ideal running conditions. However, the forecasts are predicting otherwise. With the predicted warm weather, our coaches at Life Time Run have provided you with some tips on what you should be doing to prepare for race day!


Days Before the Race

  • Make sure you are properly hydrated. Start hydrating days before the race, looking to have urine be of light yellow. Hydrating the day  of will not prepare your body properly for the potential loss of fluids.
  • Choose water to be your beverage at meal times.
  • Prepare your mind for the possibility of adjusting your goals and outcome expectations for race day.
  • If you are a heavy sweater, look at taking in some extra sodium the day before. The increased sodium in your blood will have you feeling like you need to drink more in order to balance it out. This will aid in hydrating you better.
  • Start thinking about what to wear on race day. With the warm weather approaching, choosing our apparel is very important. Choose loose fitting, vented moisture-wicking apparel. Look at wearing a Sun Visor or a hat, sun glasses, and sweat-proof Sun Screen.

 


 

Race Day

  • Hydrate with water and sport drinks that have electrolytes hours prior to race.
  • Use what has worked best on your training runs throughout your weeks of preparation. Over hydrating on race day can result in a sloshy stomach, which is not pleasant during a race. If you have properly hydrated over the past days (using light colored urine as your guide) you should be able to follow what you have used during your training runs.
  • Choose drinks with electrolytes.
  • Look at eating a cold breakfast to assist in cooling your core such as chilled grapes or some other form of  fresh fruit you have used prior to your training runs. Ice cold smoothies and crushed ice drinks work well too.
  • Take a cold shower or tub prior to the event and focus on dropping your core temperature.
  • Apply Sunscreen that is Sweat-proof of 30 SPF or higher.
  • We need to focus on keeping our core cool, skin breathable and maintaining pale colored urine.
  • Think about eliminating caffeinated drinks that will potentially further dehydrate you. Look at maybe cutting down the amount of caffeine if you feel it necessary to perform or if this has been a practice of yours during your training runs.
  • For your warm-up, minimize activities that will raise your core temperature and do only what you feel is necessary to safely perform and prevent injury.

 


 

During the Race

  • Start slower than planned and focus on having a strong finish and use perceived efforts to guide you through out your race.
  • Use the Water/Aid Stations.
  • Grab either the electrolyte and the water for drinking and a water to dump on your head if needed at all Aid/Water Stations.
  • Utilize your pre-adjusted goals to how you feel currently and race day conditions. If needed, slow your pace and walk when needed. Perhaps slowing, walking and utilizing the water/aid stations to rehydrate with electrolytes, water and dump water will be good enough for you. Be sure to pay attention to how you are feeling, and pay attention to how much you are sweating.

 


 

Keep an Eye Out For

  • If you are having abdominal cramping or larger muscle cramps this possible and indicator of an electrolyte imbalance.
  • If you are starting to feel confused, dizzy or sick get help! This is not one of those “I’ll though it through” moments. We have several Aid stations and people who are there if you need help.  Get the help when symptoms are first noticed. This could be life threatening.
  • Over hydrating can become a serious issue as well resulting in a dangerous condition called Hyponatremia. Noticing that your fingers are swelling would be early signs of Hyponatremia.
 


 

Emergency Alert System (EAS)

This race will utilize the EAS system, encompassing a color-coded system to reveal current event conditions. Participants will notice flags posted throughout the Race Venue, at the Finish Line and at each Aid Station on Race Day. EAS updates will be communicated through PA announcements, social media, web posts and/or dedicated emails.

 

Less is More

When it comes to building muscle and weightlifting, there is an all too familiar notion that the heavier the weights you lift are, the more muscle you attain. However, a recent study may have just proven that to not always be the case.


THE STUDY

A recent study conducted by researchers at Ontario’s McMaster University studied the effects and differences between two groups of young men randomly divided into two separate groups. Group number 1 used weights 75-90% of their one rep max (8-12 reps) over a timespan of 12 weeks. Group number 2, however, used weights 30-50% of their rep max (20-25 reps). Throughout the 12-week time period, researchers measured the 49 participants muscle strength and size, along with the hormone levels of each of each of the young men.


THE RESULTS

After examining the young men’s muscles and hormone levels, the results were nearly identical! The men who used 75-90% of their rep max did not have any significant difference when compared to the men who did not use their max. Both the muscle strength and size of the participants seemed to mirror one another, supporting the idea that completing fewer reps with heavier weights does not necessarily make you stronger as compared to if you were to complete more reps with lighter weights.

When it comes to lifting heavier weights, the case can be made that your body exerts more energy to complete fewer reps (as little as 1-5 at times). However, by completing more reps with fewer weights, your body is trained in the art of muscular endurance. The two different approaches to weight lifting will train your muscles in different ways to ultimately give you the same final result.


MOVING FORWARD

At some point in anyone’s weightlifting or workout career, however, athletes reach the dreaded plateau. Your body adapts to your workout routine and seeks a change in order to continue seeing improvements. However, the idea that more reps with lights weights can warrant the same results as fewer reps with heavier weights could be a perfect solution. If you have reached the point in your workout where you simply cannot incorporate any more weight into your routine, it might be time to change it up! Confuse your muscles with a smaller weight amount and complete more repetitions. This will train your muscles in a new and effective way in order to ensure you are still improving upon and training the strength and size of your muscles.

CK

Works Cited:
https://greatist.com/move/strength-training-lift-heavier-weights-or-do-more-reps
https://experiencelife.com/article/strength-in-repetition/

 

Keep Your Goals High and Your Squats Low!

Squatting is a workout technique that strengthens and tones our glutes as well as various leg muscles including our quads, hamstrings, and calves. Squatting is great because of the versatility of the exercise! It can be performed almost anywhere at any time with no equipment or weights! Another added benefit to squatting is that, due to the increased muscle you are gaining in your legs, you are able to burn more fat as well! More muscle = more fat burned. By engaging the core muscles in the body, squatting helps to improve and strengthen the core as well. Because squats help to improve upon this, you are able to build and maintain a better sense of mobility and balance as well. Along with these benefits, strengthening your muscles will also help to decrease the risk of injury. Adding weights to your squats can help to incorporate your upper body as well, leading to a full-body workout all in one!


 

According to an article on Experience Life by Heidi Wachter, the following list contains tips and cues to keep in mind in order to ensure you are performing the movement accurately in order to get all of the benefits out of the squat.

 

  • Begin the squat by hinging at the hips and pushing your butt back.
  • Keep your feet flat on the floor, balancing your weight evenly.
  • Keep your chest up, shoulders pulled back, and spine neutral.
  • Engage your core by bracing it throughout the movement.
  • As your knees bend, keep pushing your hips back so your weight stays balanced in the middle of your feet

 


By perfecting your squat during your workout, you will actually be benefitting your everyday routine as well! This is because “squat exercises are a motion that your body uses often in real life. Whenever you bend down to pick something up, you’ll be thankful that, because of your squat exercise routine, you’ll have the strength and flexibility to get the job done” (Fitday).

CK

 

Works Cited:
Fitday. “The Benefits of Squat Exercises.” http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/fitness/exercises/the-benefits-of-squat-exercises.html
Peak Fitness. “Squats: 8 Reasons to Do This Misunderstood Exercise.” http://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2012/05/25/darin-steen-demonstrates-the-perfect-squat.aspx
Wachter, Heidi. Experience Life. “5 Tips to a Better Squat.” https://experiencelife.com/article/5-tips-to-a-better-squat/

Just Keep Swimming

Swimming is often recommended to runners as a great cross training cardio workout. Did you know that there are many great benefits to this aqueous pastime?

*Fun Fact: Breaststroke is both the oldest and slowest stroke at the Olympics

HIGH WATER, LOW IMPACT

Swimming is a full body exercise that works all of your muscles. Even more, it’s a workout that is no-impact and won’t beat up and tear down your body in the process! Oftentimes when training, we beat up a lot of our lower extremities such as our knees due to the harsh impact during our run and bike trials. According to swim coach Steven Tarpinian, “swimming allows the body to stretch out and elongate, whereas in other sports, we’re shortening the muscles and collapsing the skeletal system.” This makes sense due to our swimming posture and the stretch-grasp-pull technique of our strokes. Our legs should also mimic this motion and you should feel your legs elongate in a gentle yet firm kick as you glide your legs in and out of the water.

He also explains that when it comes to the recovery process for athletes, swimming is a key factor that should be worked into the routine. While swimming, the water pressure in the body of water forces the blood deeper into the muscles, which then in turn allows them to begin recovering. Swimming, being an aerobic exercise, relies heavily on lung and breathing control. This influx of air filters into your muscles which makes stretching after a swim an important facet.

*Fun Fact: Kangaroos are excellent swimmers

TECHNIQUE IS MAJOR KEY

When it comes to swimming, however, it is important for athletes to practice in the correct way in order to get the most out of their workout. Remember that speed, while important, is no match to precision. Swimmers with clunky strokes that pummel instead of cutting the water are exerting more energy and minimizing their speed. The same goes for swimmers who do not keep a parallel angel to the water and allow their kicks to remain submerged. Dedicate a couple of swim days to perfecting your technique and you will see the difference it can make.

*Fun Fact: In the 1300’s the first swimming goggles were made from tortoise shells

4 TIPS FOR SWIMMING

  • Practice good technique- make sure you have a technique that will be beneficial to your cardio goals as well as your recovery needs.
  • Reduce drag- elongate your stroke and keep your body aligned while you are in the water
  • Breathe better- make sure you are completely exhaling in the water before you come up to the surface for another breath
  • Work with a coach- perfect for improving your technique and overall swim performance—they could see something you aren’t noticing!
*Fun Fact: Benjamin Franklin invented swimming fins

MICHAEL PHELPS-ING IT

Aside from being a great workout that builds upon the strength of your muscles in a low-impact way, swimming is also a great way to build up your endurance. Interval training while swimming will help you decrease your lap times. It allows people to keep their heart rates up without the added impact of stress on the muscles and on the body. Stroke technique will come into play here as you level out your endurance. Learn to breathe on both sides in order to truly capsize your stroke counts which will come into play as your train your body to push and hold longer with each training session. Swimming can also help to improve your flexibility due to your body stretching out and elongating during your swim.

*Fun Fact: The first cruise ship with a swimming pool was the Titanic

MENTAL WOOSAH

Lastly, whether it’s floating down a river or chilling in your beach floaty, there is no denying the serenity that comes from being in the water. Swimming alleviates and reduces stress levels, allows you to exercise in a peaceful and relaxing way, and is a therapeutic way for your injuries to heal in a low-impact environment.

Whether you are a recreational or competitive swimmer, swimming has both physical and mental benefits that will be sure to improve your overall well-being.

CK & AT

Works Cited
Kelchner, Heidi. Experience Life. “The Benefits of Cross-Training in the Pool.”  https://experiencelife.com/article/cross-training-in-the-pool/
Better Health Channel. “Swimming- health benefits.” https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/swimming-health-benefits
Photo Credit: History Channel

Running in the Rain

As runners, we have to be ready for almost every kind of weather situation.  This year, we have experienced almost every type of change in weather imaginable. Even though we keep our fingers crossed that we will have a dry and sunny run when we step outside, it doesn’t always work out that way. So, we wanted to remind you about a few things you can do to prep for a rainy run outside. Expect the unexpected, plan for the worst, and hope for the best! As they say in show business… The run must go on!

Tips for Running in the Rain:

  1. Wear the best ‘rain’ ready clothes – you have and say ‘NO’ to cotton. When shopping for running gear, make sure you purchase some items that are cotton free. Cotton tends to soak up water, and it will weigh you down when you begin running in the rain. Dress light! The clothes you use should be a bit tight or at least well-fitted because loose clothes in the rain and wind will become a bit uncomfortable as you get wetter. This will also reduce your chaffing. For your feet, treat them to the thinnest socks you have, no matter what your feet will get wet if it’s raining. If you have moisture-wicking socks, wear ‘em!
  2. Dress in layers if it’s cold, but be sure not to overdress. It’s important that you wear SMART layers. Wear enough to keep you comfortable throughout your run, but make sure you don’t get too hot as the run goes on. Wearing a wind shell made of a waterproof material as your top layer can be a great way to keep your core temperature up and hold in your body heat. This tip will be HUGE to consider if it’s raining or cold outside.
  3. Make yourself visible. Those “extra” neon clothes that you have been dying to wear might just come in handy after all. When it rains, it gets darker, making it harder for others to see you. Making sure you are always visible to cars and pedestrians is essential to ensure your safety during your run. Plus, when else are you going to get to wear those neon leggings?
  4. Reduce your chances of chafing excessively. Use bodyglide or petroleum jelly when you’re dry. Think about where you may have body parts rub against fabric or even against itself. If you decide to go with shorts, it might be a smart idea to throw on some compression shorts underneath to prevent the chaffing! Some places to consider: above the heel, toes, under arms, between thighs… we think you get the picture.
  5. Cover that head. One of the most annoying and distracting things is water dripping across your face while you are running. Keeping the water out of your eyes using a light runner’s cap or a visor will help you focus on the ground and the course ahead of you so you don’t stumble on anything or anyone.
  6. Get a grip! If the bottom of your shoes has a smooth, flat surface, you risk the chance of slipping while running. Having grooves in the soles of your shoes is a huge factor that can help you run faster, better, and safer. This will allow you to get a better overall grip on the road or sidewalk you are running.
  7. Glasses might not help you see. If you wear glasses, be sure to bring your windshield wipers. Just kidding, but be ready for them to fog up because of the rain. So, either wear your contacts or have something dry in your shorts (maybe inside of a plastic bag) to dry your glasses from time to time.
  8. Protect those electronics! Don’t forget to put that phone in a waterproof case or a Ziploc bag to make sure you don’t get water on your phone as you are running. After all, a damaged smart phone can make for a long rest of your run.