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Category Archive: Health/Wellness

Workday Workouts

Squeeze in activity throughout the day with these creative body-strengthening mini-workouts.

BY ALISA BOWMAN | MARCH 2019

There’s no doubt that many of us pull crazy hours at work and home, with workdays that start early, end late, and call for packing in family time and other priorities around the edges. And workouts often get short shrift. But getting and staying fit requires a lot less time than most people think. Do you have 20 minutes? Ten minutes? Two minutes? If so, you can make strides in your fitness.

“It’s so important to keep moving throughout the day because our bodies are meant to move,” says David Freeman, NASM-PES, OPEX CCP, national manager of Alpha Training at Life Time in Chanhassen, Minn. “When we were kids, movement was life. As adults, we can set up times for ‘recess’ and play, just like we had in school.”

Over the course of a single month, nudging even a few five- to 15-minute sessions into each day can make a huge difference in your energy, mood, and fitness. The secret lies in using every opportunity to move, stretch, and strengthen.

What follows is an entire day of movement, starting from the moment you hit the alarm until the time you hit the sack. Pick and choose among the suggestions to create a plan that works for you.

First Thing in the Morning

Mornings may be the best time for you to fit in a heart-pumping, body-strengthening workout. Many people initially resist the idea of exercising at this time of day, but “if you are able to get your workout in at 5 a.m. or 6 a.m.,” says Freeman, “you will be ahead of the game.”

Start with a few moments of deep breathing or meditation to prepare your body for action. Next, focus on multijoint strength-training movements like those below to engage your entire body and raise your heart rate in under 10 minutes. Start with slow, controlled reps, gradually building to a quicker pace. For maximum effect in minimum time, complete your last few reps by holding each exercise at its most difficult point for 15 to 20 seconds, or until you simply can’t hold it any longer.

“Your workouts don’t need to be lengthy to see, and feel, results,” says Jennifer Blake, NASM-CPT, RKC-II, a personal trainer and powerlifting coach at Life Time in Minneapolis.

The Moves

Lunge: Step forward with your right foot, bending both knees until they’re at 90-degree angles. Push off your front foot to return to the start position. Repeat for one minute, alternating the lunging foot.

Pushup: Get on the floor in a plank position, with your knees either on the floor (easier) or off (harder). Lower your chest until it’s about 4 inches from the floor, then press back up. Do as many as you can in one minute with good form.

Yoga boat pose: Sitting on the floor, balance your body weight on your sit bones as you lift your feet off the floor. Keep knees bent with shins parallel to the floor. Extend your arms parallel to your shins. Hold for up to one minute.

Triceps dip: Sit on the edge of a chair. Place your palms on the chair with hands partially underneath your thighs and fingers pointing toward your knees. Lift your butt off the chair, then shift it forward, supporting your weight with your hands. Extend your feet away from you to make this move harder; keep them closer to your body to make it easier. Lower your butt toward the floor by bending your elbows until they reach a 90-degree angle. Press back up until the arms are fully extended. Repeat for one minute.

Plank and side plank: Get on the floor in a plank position on your forearms, with elbows directly under shoulders and legs extended. Hold one minute. Then move directly into a side plank. Rotate your body sideways, balancing on your forearm and the edge of your bottom foot. Raise your opposite hand toward the ceiling. Move back into a regular plank, then transition into a side plank on the other side. Continue alternating between these positions for one minute.

Wall sit: Stand with your back against a wall. Walk your feet forward and slide your back down the wall, bending your knees up to 90 degrees. Hold for one minute and then move on to the next exercise.

Reverse plank: Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you and palms on the floor just behind your buttocks. Press into your hands as you lift your hips so your body is straight, and squeeze your glutes together. Lower and repeat for one minute.

At the Office

The longer your workdays, the more crucial it becomes that you squeeze in breaks for movement. The value of little movements adds up fast: You can build fitness while keeping your energy high, your mood positive, and your focus strong.

Not sure how to make those breaks happen? Start by avoiding the elevator whenever possible. Don’t sit when you can stand or pace, and don’t call or email when you can walk to a colleague’s office.

Additionally, consider adopting an intermittent strength-training routine that you can perform over the course of the day, turning out a series of distinct body-weight exercises whenever you have a one- or two-minute break. Or, schedule two 10-minute activity breaks into your day, taking advantage of those low-energy moments when you tend to get distracted and lose steam (or feel tempted to hit the vending machines).

Try this 10-minute routine that builds strength without producing too much sweat. Some of the moves require a resistance band, which is a relatively inexpensive and portable piece of equipment for the office.

The Moves

Chair pose: Stand with your feet 6 inches apart. Bend your knees slightly and push your rear backward, as if you were sitting back into a chair. Lift your arms as high as possible. Keep your body weight over your heels. Hold for 30 seconds.

Bridge: Lying on your back, place your arms at your sides next to your torso, palms down. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor, hip width apart. Lift your hips as high as possible. Hold for 15 seconds. Release and repeat four times.

Plank: Lie on your stomach. Place your elbows under your shoulders with your forearms on the floor. Lift your body off the ground so you are balanced on the balls of your feet and forearms. Hold 30 seconds. Lower and repeat one time.

Back extension: Lie on your stomach with your arms by your sides. Squeeze your legs together as you lift your head, upper back, and arms. Keep your feet on the floor. Lower and repeat 15 times, holding the last repetition for 15 seconds.

High lunge: Stand and step forward into a lunge, sinking down until your forward thigh is parallel to the floor. Raise your arms overhead. Reach back through your rear heel and forward through your front knee. Hold 30 seconds.

Negative pushup: Starting from a high plank position with hands directly under your shoulders, slowly lower your body toward the floor. Try to take 15 seconds to reach the floor.

Squat: Stand on a resistance band, holding one end in each hand. Bend your elbows and lift your hands to shoulder height while squatting until knees are bent 90 degrees. Rise and repeat.

Chest press: Lie on your back on a resistance band and bend your knees. Get a good grip on the band with each hand. Starting with your elbows bent, press your hands upward until your arms are extended. Lower and repeat several times.

Seated row: Sit on a chair with your legs extended and heels on the floor. Place a resistance band under your feet, holding an end in each hand. Pull your elbows back as if you were rowing a boat, and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Release and repeat several times.

Lateral raise: Stand with your feet on the middle of a resistance band. Grasp an end of the band in each hand, placing your arms at your sides. Raise your arms outward to shoulder height. Slowly lower and repeat several times.

Triceps extension: Hold one end of a resistance band with your right hand and raise that arm overhead. With your left hand, grab the other end of the band behind your back, near your waist. Extend your right arm, then lower. Repeat several times with each arm.

Overhead press: Stand with your feet on a resistance band and grasp a handle in each hand. With hands at shoulder height, press your arms upward, extending them overhead. Slowly lower and repeat.

In-Between Moments

Granted, some days are too hectic to find even five minutes to spare. Take advantage of the busyness and make the most of in-between moments at the office with these ideas.

The Moves

While on the phone:

  • Use a hands-free headset so you can stand and move around as you talk.
  • Step up and down on a stair or step stool.
  • Do a wall sit.
  • Stretch in your office doorway. Place your hands on the frame at shoulder height. Lean through the doorway to stretch the front of your shoulders. Hold 20 seconds. This stretches your chest and shoulders, both of which tend to tighten up from lots of sitting.

At the copier:

  • Do shoulder-blade pulls. These will strengthen your upper back and combat the forward slump that comes from working at a desk. Straighten your back with your head up, inhale, and pull your shoulder blades together, holding for a count of five.
  • Release and exhale, and repeat 12 times. Do three or four sets.
  • Practice optimal posture. Stand as straight as you can, lift your head, drop your shoulders downward, and pull your bellybutton in toward your spine.
  • Breathing deeply, maintain this at-attention posture until your copy job is complete.
  • Do single-leg calf raises. Place your hands on the copier for balance. Lift one foot off the floor. Rise onto the ball of your standing foot. Hold for a count of five. Lower and repeat 15 times. Then switch legs.

During a meeting:

  • While seated, focus on drawing in the deep abdominals as if you were zipping into tight pants. This strengthens the transverse abdominis, an important muscle that helps support your back and reduces your vulnerability to backaches.
  • Stretch your forearms. This helps counteract the tightness that comes from typing and moving a mouse. Hold your right arm in front of you, your hand flexed upright. Use your left hand to gently pull back on your fingertips. Hold for 30 seconds. Release and repeat, this time with your fingers facing down to stretch the top of your forearm. Then repeat with the other arm.

While working at your desk:

  • Place a medium-size ball (roughly the size of a kid’s soccer ball) between your knees and squeeze. Hold five to seven seconds, release slightly (without dropping the ball), and repeat until your inner-thigh muscles are fatigued.
  • Sit tall, bringing your bellybutton toward your spine. This will strengthen your abdominal muscles, which will help you sit with proper posture. Try to sit this way all day long.
  • Pull your shoulders back and down. This will strengthen your upper back, counteracting that forward slump — and resulting headache and neck tension — that’s so common when working at a computer. Hold for a count of five, release, and repeat 10 times.
  • Grab one knee, pull it to your chest, and hold for 20 seconds. Repeat with the other knee. This will help release tension in your lower back.
  • Stretch your neck, which can get tight if you allow it to jut forward as you work at your computer. Bring your right ear toward your right shoulder. Hold for 20 seconds, then repeat on the left. Rotate side to side, too. Finish by resting your head on the back of your office chair for 20 seconds to stretch the front of your neck.
  • Explore the benefits of yoga while at your desk with these three seated poses.

End of the Day

As soon as you get home, drop your briefcase or bag by the door and get active. Head out for a quick walk with the dog, either on your own or with your roommate, your partner, or a friend. Put on some music and dance while you do housework or prepare dinner. Go for a relaxing bike ride around your neighborhood or play a game of catch with your kid.

Or drop to the floor and stretch to send the stress of the workday packing. Here are two suggestions.

The Moves

Cat-cow: On all fours, inhale, and on your exhale round your back upward, reaching your midback toward the ceiling for cat pose. On your next inhale, slowly arch your spine, lowering your belly and lifting your tailbone, shoulders, and head. Look up slightly, creating a stretch in your neck for cow pose. Repeat, synchronizing breath with movement.

Seated hip stretch: Sit cross-legged, your right shin in front of your left. Bend forward from the hips until you feel a stretch in your right buttocks. Hold for a count of 20. Release, switch legs, and repeat.

While we may feel stretched for time and distracted by the busyness of work and everyday living, working movement into our daily routines can actually help us feel more grounded,” says Blake.

Don’t worry about what your coworkers will think, and don’t buy into the idea that you’re too busy: Finding ways to work fitness in around the edges is as beneficial for your productivity as it is for your well-being. On the days you can manage to hit the gym, you may not need all these bite-size fitness breaks. But when making space for a full-size serving of fitness is all but impossible, these mini workouts are your body’s best defense and your schedule’s best friend.

“The trick is to create habits that you would hate saying no to, so you don’t,” says Blake. “And then a year later, when you look back on how far you’ve come, and hopefully how much fun you’ve had, you can’t imagine life any other way.”

Alisa Bowman is a journalist and author who covers health, relationships, psychology, and parenting.

Full article can be found on Experience Life!

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.

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.

 

Become a Hurricane Relief Runner!

We are honored to announce that the 2017 Chicago Half Marathon and 5K will be partnering with Hand in Hand Hurricane Relief Fund to help raise funds and spirits, and help to rebuild Texas, Florida, and other areas suffering from the devastation from recent hurricanes.

The Hand in Hand Hurricane Relief Fund will direct donations and grants to support charities helping in the relief and recovery efforts in the areas affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma — both here in the US, including Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean. The Fund is focused on providing help to those in need, where they need it the most.

With events spread out across the United States and Caribbean, including Texas, Florida and now Puerto Rico, our hearts go out to all our athletes, their friends and family and the local communities affected. 
We, in turn, ask our running community to come together to give back to those fellow runners and their communities by becoming a Hurricane Relief Runner!
 

Hurricane Relief Runner Shirt

How can we donate?

You can donate in one of two ways:

  • Click here to visit our Hurricane Relief Runner page
    • Click “Join Team” to join the Chicago Half Marathon Hurricane Relief Team, create your personal page, and begin fundraising by sharing your personal page within your personal social network
    • Or opt to make a one-time donation by selecting “Donate Now”.
  • Visit the Hurricane Relief Runner booth at the Expo this weekend.

Participants who raise, or donate a minimum of $25 will be able to show their support with an exclusive ‘Hurricane Relief Runner” race shirt. Please visit our booth to collect your shirt*. Cash & check donations will be accepted at the Expo. *Limited size/quantity available.

 

Can I donate toiletries / school items?

Unfortunately, we will not be collecting items at the Expo. Monetary donations are best in these situations as they are more efficiently distributed to those in need.

 

How can I share this on my Facebook page?

Simply visit the website and click on the share button for either Facebook or Twitter. Please spread the word and share with your friends and family.

 

Thank you for your continued support of the Chicago Half Marathon and 5K and best of luck to all of our runners this weekend!

Trust in the Taper

We are officially one week and five days away from the main event at the 2017 Chicago Half Marathon and 5K and with training days waning down to the main event, it is time to talk about: the taper run. Sure, for most of us, we look forward to that week with a sigh of relief as it means that the miles start getting shorter but for others, there seems to be an uncertainty about it.

“I feel so good after my long runs; why should I cut back now?”

“If I start cutting back now, I’ll lose all the progress I’ve made.”

Don’t worry, you are not alone with this. It is not uncommon for athletes to feel this way but allowing your body to properly heal and recuperate after long runs is just as important. The last thing you want to do is push yourself too far and end up completely unmotivated on race day or worst case scenario – end up injured.

What to Expect When Tapering

Two Weeks Out

  • Reduce your total weekly mileage by 20 – 25%
    • Restock your body’s depleted glycogen supplies
    • Repair tissue damage
    • Refocus and mentally recharge
  • Perform runs at an easy pace
    • You should be able to hold a conversation while running
    • Targeting a goal pace? Segment 3-5 miles minimum at goal pace
  • Cross Train
    • Throw swimming. yoga, etc in the mix to keep you active without too much pressure on legs & feet
  • REST
    • Seriously, rest.

One Week Out (Race Week)

  • Reduce your running to just 4 days this week
    • Light, race pace workout early in the week
    • Reduces the stress/anxiety from tapering
  • Stay OFF your feet for the rest of it
    • Injuries are most prevalent one race week. Take a breather and rest.
    • Focus on mental stability and nutrition. It’s all about balance.

For some, tapering could be like a roller coaster. At first you are ecstatic about the short runs but then can run into anxiety or nervousness as you start to feel restless. There are ways of battling this anxiety as well. One of the main concerns will stem from the excess time you now have that you are not dedicated to training.

Battle Taper Anxiety

Rest

The week leading up to the event should have you recovering and rejuvenating. Going to bed early and sleeping in will fortify your mental stability and overall emotional strength. The time off your feet will give your muscles a chance to repair. Don’t forget to stretch and include minimal exertion such as a 15-20 minute walk to keep those muscles active.

Positive Thoughts, Positive Outcome 

Training for an event is just as much a group as at it is an individual goal. This is the best time to surround yourself with your loved ones who have supported you along the way to the Finish line. Maintain run club meets if you have been training with others if only to keep everyone in check.

Be Realistic for Race Day

Set up a strategy for race day. With only a handful of days between you and the Finish line, now is the best time to set realistic goals for race day. You know how far you can push your body. Be cognizant of weather, overall health and training.

While everyones training regime is different, the tapering process remains consistent. You do not want to sabotage your month of hard work, trust in the taper.

Works Cited:
 “Tapering.” http://www.livestrong.com/article/413190-the-effects-of-exercises-on-the-circulatory-systemhttps://www.runnersworld.com/taperin

Managing Burnout

We’re hitting that point in training where burn out becomes a real thing. This happens to everyone. We start to tire physically and mentally, our runs may feel harder, we may struggle with motivation or our schedules just seem to be jam packed and overwhelming. If this is happening to you, the biggest thing to remember is to not fret.  You aren’t alone.

Keep in mind that summer training brings heat and humidity, which only compounds how draining endurance training can be. Even the most elite of athletes slow down under such conditions. Here are a few brief points to consider, although physical burnout and mental burnout are not necessarily mutually exclusive either!

PHYSICAL BURNOUT

Some signs of physical burnout are:

  • Sluggishness
  • Soreness
  • Weakness
  • Putting on Weight
  • Insatiable Hunger
  • Insomnia
  • Lethargic

 
Do not fret! These can all be handled. The important factor is to recognize the root of the problem. As a beginner, training for this long or with this amount of exertion may be new to your body and it is simply your body giving you a red flag. For those who are used to training, we often push ourselves harder and further since we know what our bodies are capable. This too could be detrimental. Take a step back and look back at the past week. Things to pay attention to:

  • Pay  more attention to diet. Things like anemia wreck havoc on your energy.  Make sure you are getting a wide variety of nutrients or maybe even take some daily supplements.
  • Try breaking up your meals into multiple smaller meals through the day. Aim to be eating something 6 times a day.
  • Pay attention to hydration. Especially with the warmer temperatures, increased focus on hydration should be continual;  not just right before a run.
  • Over-training is also a huge culprit. Endurance athletes tend to be that “Type A” personality and forget the importance of rest. This becomes more and more essential as we increase mileage;  you MUST let your body recover in order to rebuild stronger.
  • Pay attention to the heat and the weather as you should SLOW DOWN given some of the temperatures we’ve been experiencing.

 
MENTAL BURNOUT

Some signs of mental burnout:

  • Lack of motivation
  •  Zero enjoyment
  • Difficulty in seeing the ‘end goal’
  • Anxiety
  • Doubt
  • Uncertainty

 
Mental stability actually plays a huge role when training. We are all pushing for our personal best, pushing past our boundaries. We as humans thrive on being challenged; on being pushed outside of our comfort zone. Ways to combat that small voice of doubt that sometimes pokes its head out:

  • Shake it up. Use the different drills we post to lessen the monotony.
  • Have a friend to rely on? Be accountable to someone to meet for your runs.
  • Even if it means driving to a new location, try different running routes.
  • Don’t be afraid to take mental reprieves.  Maybe focus on some other cross training instead. Things like yoga, biking, swimming, pilates, and strength training are all great cross training events!
  • Buy some new gear!  Whether it be a new gadget, a nice new running shirt, etc.  Sometimes when we have something fun to distract ourselves, it helps!
  • Play a game with yourself when you run. Whether it be to say “hi” to everyone you pass on your run, or pulling out trivia questions or riddles every mile, changing your pace based on your playlist (or maybe even create an entirely new playlist!), something different can go a long way.
  • Use functional running.  Need to drop your car off for an oil change? Go for a run while you wait? Or run home from the auto shop! Run home from work instead of driving (Yes, this may require some advanced planning). Run to drop off your rent check. Whatever the errand, so if you can incorporate running to make it happen!

 
You have made it this far in your training. These are just small obstacles on your way to greatness. Do not give up!

Is Alcohol Ruining Your Workout?

Sometimes, a nice, cold drink after a long, hard day is necessary. But, have you ever wondered how the alcohol may affect your body and your physical performance during your workout? According to some studies, alcohol has the ability to interfere with your muscle growth as well as cause your post-workout recovery process to slow down. So, how can you enjoy a stiff drink without ruining your workout and your physical performance?


Let’s hear some facts first…

According to Women’s Health, when you consume alcohol, your body prioritizes metabolizing the alcohol as opposed to other fats and carbs. Levels of cortisol, a stress hormone found in the body, also begin to rise in the presence of alcohol. In turn, this increases fat storage in different parts of your body. Along with a disruption in your muscle growth, recovery and metabolizing processes, alcohol also causes a disruption in your sleep patterns and nutritional intake. Because alcohol is not a nutrient, it cannot be stored as energy into the muscles. Therefore, it is stored into the body as a fat. According to an article posted by Laura Schwecherl on Greatist, “alcohol’s effect on the liver can also cause a shortage of oxygen, which interferes with the production of adenosine triphosphate synthesis (ATP) — a direct energy source for muscles.” Alcohol also goes hand in hand with dehydration. Alcohol dehydrates you and, as a result, slows down your muscle recovery process and can inhibit your workout performance.


On the other hand…

While too much alcohol consumption puts you at risk for greater health problems, it is not all together bad. In fact, studies have shown that alcohol (consumed in moderation) can actually provide some health benefits for you as well! According to an article posted by Mayo Clinic, alcohol could possibly offer you benefits including reducing risk of heart disease, ischemic stroke, and diabetes. However, they also state that “the evidence about the health benefits of alcohol isn’t certain, and alcohol may not benefit everyone who drinks.”

So, while alcohol has been proven to hinder athletic performance and cause some unideal conditions for the body, it is not something you need to totally steer clear from. In moderation, alcohol can be okay for both men and women. While we do not recommend throwing a few back before your big race day, a post-race celebratory beer is something athletes (21+ of course) can enjoy without negatively affecting your body!

 

 

Works Cited:
N/A. Mayo Clinic. “Alcohol: If you drink, keep it moderate.” http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/alcohol/art-20044551
Schwecherl, Laura. Greatist. “Why Alcohol and Exercise Don’t Mix.” https://greatist.com/fitness/why-alcohol-and-exercise-dont-mix
Yeager, Selene. Women’s Health Magazine. “Drinking and Exercise: How Alcohol Affects Your Body.” http://www.womenshealthmag.com/health/drinking-and-exercise

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/