With the temps falling into pleasant temperatures to run in, this is prime racing time. If you’ve been training hard these last few weeks to get ready for that key race don’t forget to recover from those workouts. To improve at anything, you know you have to push yourself. After finishing a challenging workout you feel pretty accomplished and good (thanks to endorphins). You may even want to treat yourself to a reward, like a movie, late or some other special treat which is fine. But unless you’re treating yourself to a massage, your muscles could probably care less about that “cheat” food or flick.
Whether it’s a long run, speed work, or lifting weights you need to take the appropriate steps to recover. Your muscles will thank you and you’ll notice that you can get back to pushing yourself harder sooner by incorporating these simple things into a recovery routine.
Loaded with anthocyanins, which help guard cells against cell mutation and have lots of souped up anti-inflammatory properties that help decrease swelling in tired muscles.
Watermelon is full of one particular amino acid, L-citrulline which does a good job of reducing muscle soreness. Amino acids are building blocks of protein, and protein is the building block of lean muscle.
Protein and Carbs
Exercising breaks down muscle proteins, so by ingesting protein post workout you can begin protein synthesis aka rebuilding muscle. Consuming about 20 grams of protein post workout is optimal for muscle repair. But don’t forget about replacing carbohydrates too! This is especially true if you’ve been running because you’ve depleted glycogen stores. And if it happens to be your resistance training day, research shows that taking in a combination of carbs and protein post workout stimulates greater increases in strength. A 3:1 ratio (carbohydrates:protein) is what's recommended. The best time to take in your post workout protein is as soon as possible, but there is a window of up to three hours if your schedule won’t allow it right away.
A few protein sources
3 eggs, 6 egg whites, or ¾ cup egg substitute
¾ cup cottage cheese
3 cups yogurt
1 ½ to 1 ⅔ cup of dried beans or lentils (also a carb source)
Studies have shown that foam rolling is effective in reducing Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). Invest in one of these handy recovery tools and your muscles will thank you.
Obvious, but often forgotten: Sleep & Hydration!
Did you know your body releases human growth hormone during sleep which stimulates healing and growth of muscle, tendon, and bone?
And when you're dehydrated exercise feels more difficult. This makes sense especially since the body is made up of around 60% water!
Run, recover and share!
Train hard and be sure to have a recovery routine that restores you for the next workout. Share these tips with all of your running friends so they know all about recovery too!
If you would like to know more about running like proper form, best exercises to support it and more don't forget to join my list! I’ve been working on researching all things running and putting it all together in an e-book that will help keep you injury free and running mile after mile for years to come.
I’ve been a slacker on blogging this summer and I am so sorry if you were looking for a June and July post. It's been summatime so I’ve been on the go and this year I found a new way to be out on the water. I picked up a SUP and am loving taking it out.
Apparently I’m not the only one because Stand up paddle boarding is working it’s way up to being the hottest way to stay fit across the country. And if you haven’t tried it yet here’s five reasons why you should grab a paddle and jump on a board.
Tips for Getting Started
Get comfortable with the fact that you might be taking a swim, but this time of year that can be a welcome time to cool off.
You can start training for the instability of water by standing up on an inverted Bosu.
Place the Bosu upside down next to something you can hold onto so you can get balanced. The easiest way to do this is find a smith machine and place the bar about chest level. Center the Bosu and place it about a couple of feet behind the bar, giving yourself enough space to grab onto the bar for support and step on the Bosu. Use the bar as you need to, but ultimately the goal here is to let go and completely balance on that Bosu.
Taking it to the Water
Start out lying prone (face down) on the board so you can get the feel of the water and waves. The fin on the bottom of the board, should be on the same side as your feet are. Position the paddle with the fin side towards your head and handle side by your feet.
When you feel ready, climb onto your hands and knees, get stable. Then crunch your knees towards your shoulders to bring your feet in and get them placed about shoulder width apart. Your hands are still on the board, almost like a downward dog. When you're feeling stable gradually begin bringing your torso up. Once you are standing, you’ll want to quickly start paddling and gain some momentum because that will help you stay balanced.
Once you get the hang of it, work on your paddling technique by taking long steady strokes, keeping the paddle near the side of the board. It also helps if you lean your body weight in towards the side of the board that you are paddling on. I like to paddle about 3-5 times on one side before I switch sides.
Don’t get discouraged, the type of board makes all the difference in how easy or challenging stand up paddleboarding is. The board I use is 25” wide 8’ tall and almost 3” thick and weighs 15 pounds. It’s portable and gives me a great workout!
Not quite ready to stand up. Try a plank on your board!
August 3rd is National Watermelon Day
Stay hydrated with watermelons! Since there are about about 92 percent water and soaked with nutrients you can't go wrong. Each juicy bite has significant levels of vitamins A, B6 and C, lots of lycopene, antioxidants and amino acids. There's even a modest amount of potassium and watermelon also contains L-citrulline, an amino acid that can curb musle sorness after a tough workout.
Fitness trackers have been out for a few years and it seems like almost everyone is sporting a gadget on their wrist. Ok, maybe not everyone but here’s a few facts about the humans sporting these little data collectors.
I finally joined the club, and have to admit I’m sporting one of these things for fitness optimization (now you can guess my age! haha) but the other very real reason was simply because I was in the market for a new watch. With my background, I’ve always been very skeptical about how accurate these sporty little wristbands could actually be. So, naturally I declined jumping on the Fitbit wagon like most of my friends have over the years. I couldn’t wrap my head around how this thing that pretty much flops around a person's wrist was going to get a heart rate, let alone an accurate one.
I think it’s great that people are wearing them to get on track with their health, but you have to be careful because they can only tell you so much at this point. Here’s the thing, I’m a data junkie in terms of HR documentation during training and in general. Maybe that’s what going to school for Exercise Science does to a person!? So I am excited about the things any tracker can help you keep track of like heart rate during training, sleep information, and the friendly vibration on your wrist reminding you that it’s time to move! when you’ve sat on your ass too long!
Which tracker did I choose? During my exercise physiology studies at the University of Nebraska Human Performance lab we always used Polar heart rate monitors and it’s no secret that Polar is reputable for accuracy in heart rate monitoring. So naturally, I was eyeing Polar products for the right tracker and it was worth the wait. I was looking for something that also would have a few features a smartwatch so ended up getting a Polar A360 and while it’s far from perfect, I’m pleased with my investment.
What about accuracy
First of all, what a fitness tracker won’t do is keep extremely accurate records. Yes, they will urge you to get up if you’ve been sitting on your bum too long but I did notice some discrepancy of about 10 beats per minute when sporting my chest rate heart rate monitor compared to the wrist based activity tracker. But hey, not bad for a watch! And the simple thing that will solve that so I have the accurate training records for my heart rate will be upgrading my chest strap to a model that can bluetooth into my activity tracker and the Polar flow app, which is great. But for now, I’ll just sport a couple of wrist devices like this.
The image on the left is my heart rate at rest within 3 beats. The image on the right was during exercise (running) but a second after when I stepped on the rails to snap the picture (sorry for the shaky picture). The difference is 11 beats.
The lack of accuracy is also going to affect calorie counts so if you’re counting calories in versus calories out, be careful. In fact, calories should be somewhat of a secondary thing you keep track of. Yes, if you’re trying to lose weight or maintain, you don’t want to take in more energy than you expend because that will create a weight gain but more importantly you should focus on macronutrients. Making sure you are getting enough protein, carbs and fat, but not too much. The ratios of those macros will change depending on your activity for the day. Nutrition gets complicated, so let’s just stop there for now.
For a better illustration of accuracy, check this article out from The New York Times, What Your Activity Tracker Sees and Doesn’t See.
And as if it's not enough to track ourselves, what about our furry friends. There's much technology out today, it's hard keeping up on all of it but some if is really fun. I do enjoy being able to keep tabs on my slobbery hound dog and it keeps him safe.
A tracker for your dog!?
Yes, you can even get an activity tracker for your dog! I can even keep track of how active Ben is and how much sleep he gets, which happens to be a lot at 14 hours! It's interesting to look at but the real reason he has a tracker are for when he decides to let loose and hit the streets on his own. The picture on the right is a greeting card I spotted that is probably how he thinks when he gets busted and is in trouble!
What can activity tracking do for our behaviour?
Well even the activity tracker Ben has doesn't stop him from running away, but it does help us find him when he does dart off. Just as a fitness tracker on your wrist will not make you fit, but it can help you identify positive and negative patterns that can be changed over time and lead to one or more positive behaviour changes.
Simply providing that extra motivation to keep moving can be very beneficial. I like how my device reminds me to get up after so long and alerts me when I have met my activity goal for the day. Hey, who doesn’t like reaching goals. No matter how small they are invigorating to reach. Usually after I reach a goal, I’m like hey if I was able to accomplish that, what about trying this? And then the next goal with an action plan is developed. It can be a good cycle!
Three things a fitness tracker, or any health tracking app (even if you have to access it via the good ‘ol desktop computer) can help with:
Fitness trackers are great, but might not be for everyone. First of all, a tracker can be a great thing if you’re curious about how active you are through the day, navigate technology easily and don’t sweat the small stuff. You have to be able to look at the bigger picture when it comes to lifestyle balance, like not counting every, single calorie and seeing the macronutrient side of nutrition and knowing the numbers your tracker gives you aren’t 100% accurate. If you can agree with most of that stuff and are in the market for a watch that can do more for you then it’s great. For example, I can get all my phone notifications on my wrist which has come in very handy at times. It’s not something I use very often, but can be a nice feature if you’re on the go. One thing I'm a little bummed about is not being able to skip songs from it during my workouts.
As for exercise training, I still have to sport my chest strap and watch to get my heart rate for now, but have no regrets about finally making the move and purchasing a fitness tracker. It’s nice to see some heart rate data and running stats side by side. The model I selected does exactly what I need it to, and with another investment (of around 50 bucks) in the bluetooth chest strap it will be keeping track of data from my workouts, which will allow me to measure running progress and adjust my training accordingly. It’s also nice to have everything in one place with data that can even be exported into an excel sheet. Yes, I know features I’m excited about might not even phase you, which is totally fine. I've always been different-lol
Do you sport an activity tracker?
I’d bet I'll probably still be sporting mine in 6 months, but I guess we’ll see. Feel free to check in with me to find out in October. It would be interesting to find out why people who get activity trackers ditch them. Have you had one and no longer wearing it? I’d like to know why, so drop a line in the comment box.
Ok, now we’ve both been sitting too long so I’ll leave you all with this: It’s time to move!
I can’t believe it’s mid February already! Time to glance back and check how those New Year’s Resolutions are going’, right? Now is not the time to panic about that if you’ve fallen off the wagon, because that’s not going to get cha anywhere. Instead, remember what did go well last month no matter how small or irrelevant it may seem. Take that, feel proud and add just one more small change for February. Do a little introspection...Were you able to stick to that fitness routine? Yes, Fantastic, keep doing what you're doing! But what if things didn’t go all that well? Don’t give up, instead try changing something. Not every exercise is enjoyable to all people. Yeah I might like running, but why the heck should you? While there’s a ton of reasons to like running and it's super healthy, but that does not mean you’ll like it. Maybe you’d rather lift a lot and train for a physique competition, swim competitively, walk, do yoga, dance...And the list goes on. So try something new and switch it up from time to time, it will help keep you psyched about your next workout.
You have to build muscle
Whatever exercise you decide on, just make sure you are doing some type of resistance or weight training also (unless, that’s what you are already doing primarily for all of your workouts). Especially if you decide that cardio is one of your favorites. There’s nothing wrong with cardio, and we all know there’s tons of health benefits to breaking a sweat. Just don’t fall into the trap of doing only one form of exercise and don’t believe that calorie burn or fat burning settings and numbers. Besides, when it's cold out why not spend more time in the weight room. I'd rather do more cardio outside when the weather is nice. Exercising outside can be very enjoyable as long as it's not too hot or cold.
The Fat Burning setting on the cardio machine has been lying to you
We burn more fat doing low intensity cardio exercise which is why cardio machine buttons have a fat burning setting and it's usually a low intensity workout, where high intensity workouts typically use more carbohydrate. Don’t get settled into a low intensity exercise routine, just because the button on the machine says you’re burning fat and it seems easy. I like to do this type of work about once a week and do higher intensity or weight training on other days. Check out my routine at the bottom of this post!
But don’t forget that cardio completely, you just have to mix and match. Kinda like piecing together a great outfit!
Strength training is where it's at
Even if it’s not your favorite thing to do, it’s a must if you are looking to tone up and see muscle definition. Trust me ladies, you aren’t going to turn into some macho looking bulky muscled beast. Which might be why you’re afraid to lift too heavy. I worked out with that mentality for years. I was a cardio addict, wait I actually still am but I also spend anywhere from two to four days a week pushing weights, depending on where I’m at on my periodization calendar. As I get closer to a race, I'll back off to two days of weight training and logging more miles. Just to give you an example, if you read my last blog, you’ll remember I’m training for a ½ in October. And since our weather here in Nebraska is usually rough in the winter, hey we just got 12 inches of snow dumped on us on Groundhog Day! Basically, running outside just kinda sucks this time of year, you take advantage of the good days when they come but can’t count on them being consistent. So, it’s a perfect reason to work on building muscle and by the time the weather gets nicer, I’ll be ready to trade some of those days out for more miles on the track.
Burn more calories after exercise
Pumpkin spice time is here and I’m excited, even if some decide to label me as a basic b*tch- haha!
When October hits, it's all about pumpkin spice. This doesn't mean I go to Starbucks every morning for a Pumpkin Spice Latte. In fact, going to Starbucks to get one makes it way too easy to go overboard and order the full flavor version with whip. Check out what a difference that makes on your calorie totals for the day here. But I totally picked up a pack of these Pumpkin Spice Latte single serve on the go packets for my splurge days. And I don’t even have to wait in line and I know I’ll only be getting 140 calories worth of sweet goodness.
You can also Add a pumpkin to your workout
- Pumpkin bicep curls
- Lunge with overhead press
- Single leg hip bridge (hold pumkin above chest or belly for resistance on arms or glutes, respectively)
- Triceps push up
Take your workouts outside Parks make an awesome outdoor gym and some of them actually are! But that’s OK if you’re not lucky enough to live in one of those communities, you can still use the swings and benches as equipment. Check out these park friendly total body moves.
Push up into pike-Begin by placing the top of your feet on a swing, walk your hands out if needed so that your body is fully extended into a plank position. Lower down into a push up by bending the arms, and pushing back up. Then fire the core muscles and bring your feet towards your torso into a pike. Repeat. This move is pretty advanced, so you may need to break it up by starting with the plank and work your way up.
Single leg squat with leg elevated on bench or swing – Place the top of one foot into the swing, then step out far enough to give you enough room to come down into a squat while keeping the knee over the foot and not letting it go past the toes, all while balancing. You’ll notice in the video I struggle with, the gravel makes it more challenging. A squat where both feet are grounded, and you move as if you were going to sit in a chair, then come up is a great place to start for this move.
Bench step up – Step up onto the bench with your right foot. As you step up tap the left foot on the bench and step down (landing on the left foot). Go for thirty seconds, then switch sides. If you’re feeling energetic, raise your arms as you do this move.
Side Plank – Lie on your right side, with knees straight. Prop yourself up on your right elbow and hold. Raise your body is into a straight line by raising the hips and hold for 30 seconds.
There's a video at the bottom showing you these moves, please don't be to harsh on the comments. Filming myself exercising is something I'm new at and really puts me out of my comfort zone. But hey, that's what we need to do to grow so cheers to this and always striving to do better.
For cardio, you can run, do jumping jacks, walk or grab a bike and go for a ride. Endless possibilities outdoors!
Make it easier to stay hydrated by naturally flavoring your water. Throw cucumber slices, mint, strawberries, watermelon or any other fruit in for the perfect hint of flavor.
Break out the grill- Grilling the right foods can be healthy and flavorful. Opt for grilling veggies for sides and your favorite lean protein.
Summertime means smoothie time. What better time of year to dish up an icy cold smoothie for breakfast. Add frozen fruit for texture, temperature and flavor! For even more nutrition and flavor check out Vega’s products. They are so healthy and perfect for getting nutrition on the go, I don’t leave home without taking my Vega!
This type of training is also sometimes called Tabata training, because back in the 90’s the researcher who’s name happens to be Tabata did a study on cyclists using extremely intense intervals. They were exercising at around 170% VO2max (yes, it really says 170% that’s not a typo!) for 20 seconds and the results indicated this training improved performance in both energy systems, aerobic and anaerobic.
Today people have even started to name these ass kicking routines after the researcher. Even though Tabata’s study was like 20 years ago, the findings are still current and more research has been done with comparable outcomes. Living in a fast paced world means more responsibilities and less free time than ever, so HIIT is definitely a hit!
Physiology of HIIT? How this works in the body? Let’s take a look:
It really just comes down to Newton’s First Law of Motion that says: An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. This also applies to Humans, which just explains why the people that love to exercise, generally do- and often. That can also make it hard for people to begin an exercise program. Kudos to everyone who is adding exercise as a New Year’s resolution this year, cheers! Stay with it, and one day you too will be one of those people that enjoy it!
Back to the physiology of how we humans work, muscles need blood to move, so as your movement increases your heart needs to pump more blood. As a result of increased oxygen demand, your heartrate goes up. Since the heart is a muscle it responds like one, the more your heart gets worked the larger it gets. This study showed that HIIT can cause those adaptations.
Oxygen Demands and Exercise
As your body works harder, it demands more oxygen. How much oxygen you are actually able to inhale and use is called VO2 Max. Obviously that’s important, since oxygen is definitely one of the body’s main fuel sources, in a sense. My fiancé works on classic cars that move fast so I think the concept is definitely related to those classic muscle cars, they move but at a cost (gasoline!) Generally the more fuel, oxygen you can take in the faster you can move. You guessed it…HIIT can help! Everyone can definitely benefit from having a higher VO2 Max.
At the cellular level, mitochondria are the little long oval shaped things that are the main energy source of a cell. They use oxygen to make ATP, which then gives the cell energy when you’re working out. HIIT has been shown to increase mitochondria, in a shorter time than traditional endurance training.
And a side note…
HIIT and steady state cardio obviously both also get to the metabolic step of activating muscle, but just take different roads to get there.
HIIT torches fat
In this research after 6 weeks of HIIT training, fat burning increased and carbohydrate burning decreased. Findings showed that fat oxidation, or fat burning, was significantly higher and carbohydrate oxidation (burning) significantly lower after 6 weeks of interval training. HIIT also increases EPOC (Excess Post Oxygen Consumption), so you end up burning more calories even when you’re all done with the exercise. Awesome!
HIIT or stick with steady state cardio? Do Both!
HIIT is a great way to save some time and increase cardio performance, but at the same time since it is so intense it is a good idea to mix it up with some ol school steady state cardio as well. This will help stave off physical and mental burn out and keep you happily exercising as you reach those goals.
While HIIT exercise can be challenging, don’t let that deter you from a HIIT workout. Any HIIT exercise can be modified to meet your needs, no matter what level you are at. Give the workout below a try. Give it your all and do the best that you can with it! Those endorphins will kick in and you will feel amazing after it’s over! J
Try this 30 minute routine on an elliptical, treadmill or bike.
Warm up for 5-10 minutes
- Go High Intensity for 4 minutes. If you’re new to exercise, be working at a pace that increases the intensity so breathing and speaking can become difficult. If you are an advanced exerciser reach an almost no talk limit.
- Slow down and recover for 2 minutes
- Repeat 4 times
Need an extra challenge…
Top off the workout with 10 burpees!
How to do a burpee
- From a standing position, bend your knees and put your hands on the floor.
- Kick your feet back so you are now in a plank position.
- Do a push up
- Jump your feet in towards your chest.
- Transition into a standing position
- Jump up with your arms up.
This all happens in one smooth, well kinda smooth motion!
Have fun HIITin’
Do you HIIT, like or dislike. Let me know in the comments section!
Exercise physiologist aka: fitness Geek, 1/2 marathon & sprint tri finisher. music and veggie fanatic
Nancy Flock is a wellness enthusiast that's crazy about running, veggies, animals and living life to the fullest.