I’m just an average woman that started running to get in shape, and after a while of toughing out the first miles, my “torture” became something I looked forward to. There's more to the finish than just knowing you knocked out some miles, there's also a feeling of elation that you get from your own body’s natural feel-good, pain-reducing meds like epinephrine and norepinephrine or adrenaline (1). That’s the rush you feel when you cross a finish line or even stop your watch when you're out on your own.
1. University of Montreal. "Why does running make us happy?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 September 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/08/150831085456.htm>.
2. Heijnen, Saskia et al. “Neuromodulation of Aerobic Exercise-A Review.” Frontiers in psychology vol. 6 1890. 7 Jan. 2016, doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01890
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.
May is National Runners Month
Running is one of those things like guacamole people either love it or hate it. Since May is National Runners month, this month's post is dedicated to running and why I think can be one of the best ways to get on a fitness journey. I've spent the last 11 or years doing some form of running and let me tell ya what a long strange trip it’s been. It's amazing to think of how far my two feet have taken me on this journey, because becoming a runner can help you be fierce and overcome a lot of shit in this crazy world.
So let's rewind a little, growing up I was never into fitness. Surprising, huh! I hated running and when given the option to skip PE a couple of days a week, if I learned how to play an instrument that’s what I chose to do. Looking back, today if I was given that option even though I love music I know I’d pick PE class and I blame a running habit for making me the fitness enthusiast I am today. Although, in a perfect world kids should get a healthy dose of both music & the arts with lots of physical activity.
10 Reasons Running is Badass
1. It makes you feel truly free. You feel the breeze across your forehead, see the world move below your feet with each step and look out farther into an endless horizon. In a world with constant deadlines, notifications, and meetings running can be a nice liberating change of pace.
2. It can be enjoyed in solitude or among company, quiet or loud indoors or outdoors. It can be a sport for lots of different moods. Somedays I feel like cranking the tunes and zoning out or other days I like to head out with a friend. Nothing beats catching up and burning some calories at the same time. I'm also a deep thinker, so running gives me a place to do that without standing still.
Of course running outside is better, but if weather takes you indoors the treadmill doesn’t have to be the dreadmill with the right program! Hill climbs, intervals or sprints can be a recipe for a great treadmill workout that won’t leave you watching the clock.
3. Endorphins are involved in natural reward circuits, aid in pain management and possess morphine like effects. Scientists are still trying to find out exactly why the body produces them. What they have found is that they are produced in response to prolonged, continuous exercise. Let’s just be thankful the body does this, cause I’m sure this mechanism has helped all of us push through some pain and cross that finish line!
4. Endocannabinoids are what’s getting you that sweet runners high. Shown to be responsible for improvements in mood after moderate intensity aerobic exercise. In mice it has been shown that blocking the endocannabinoid receptors (but not endorphin receptors) inhibits the anti-pain and anti-anxiety/stress relief effect of running. Scientists also think that this is what signals endorphins to be released. That’s dope!
5. Cardiovascular benefits Keeps your heart healthy and strong. Also helps you keep fit so you can make it to the top of the stairs without getting winded or keep up with you kids that are running around with all this energy you wish you had. Start running and you’ll soon discover that energy boost I’m talking about!
6. Stronger Bones & Muscles We lose muscle mass and bone density as we age. Running can be a good way to counteract that. But it's not an excuse to completely ditch strength training!
7. Increase your longevity Running and exercise in general can be the fountain of youth at the cellular level by protecting telomere length. At the cellular level, telomeres are the part of cells related to aging. Our cells are constantly dividing to produce new cells that replace old worn ones. In this process, chromosomes carry all the information needed to generate new cells and telomeres protect that information. And as telomeres get too short to do their job, cells age and stop working right which is basically what aging is all about.
8. Helps you sleep How many times have you struggled to fall asleep? Running can help with that.
9. Race Swag/Post race parties Nothing is better than feeling great after a race, having some race swag to take home and a good excuse to enjoy a cold one before noon! Best Post-Race Bash: Bolderboulder
10. Finding common ground with many cause we’re in good company. In 2014 a whopping 18,750,000 runners crossed the finish line with 57% of that number being Women!
Ready to get started?
So there you have it, some reasons I love running! Ready to get started running? That’s great! But let’s do this safely because it’s kind of like the Sun it must be treated with respect and the last thing you want to happen is the terrible too’s: Too much, too soon usually leads to injury and then running won’t be so great and you may never want to do it again.
First, check your foot type and make sure you’ve got the right shoes for running! Here’s a link to a great guide to do that from Runner’s World
Now that you’ve handled that very important first step you may proceed. Please don’t skip this, trust me it will save you miles of misery in the long run.
Follow the guidelines below, aim to work on running every other day. You can still exercise in between those running days but stick to lower impact movements like biking, swimming or yoga.
You have to walk well before you can run
We have to get good at walking before we attempt to take it up a notch into running. So begin by working up to being able to walk briskly for 30 continuous minutes. Once you’ve established that base, you can begin adding bursts of jogging into your routine for the next couple of weeks or so. Start by adding 30 seconds of of running and walk briskly for the other 4 minutes and complete that up to 6 times.
Gradually increase running time and decrease walking time as your body adjusts. Aim for reaching a 1:1 ratio, so 1 minute running, 1 minute walking. From here, try adding to the running time. So the next step up would be 1 minute 30 seconds of running, then when that becomes easier move up to 2 minutes and so on. Try to keep your “resting” at one minute or below. Work towards eventually reaching 20 minutes of steady running/jogging. If you're struggling to maintain 20 minutes try a slower pace. Think being able to say a complete sentence during your run, if you're struggling to get words out you're hitting your lactate threshold and your body is going to say STOP before you reach your goal.
Try a 5K Race
Now you’re ready to complete your first 5K race. Warning: These can be addictive! You can enter another race, but give yourself enough time to recover. I can’t stress enough how you don’t want to overdo it. I know that you're all thinking I’m nuts! Like why on earth will you want to actually keep running if and when you’re completely exhausted or in pain. I can’t explain it other than it has to do with reasons 1, 3, 4 and possibly 9.
You’ll notice I didn’t give a timeframe to achieve these goal in and here’s my reasoning behind that. Everyone is different and will adjust to the impacts of running differently. The main point is to gradually build up the strength in your body to sustain this high impact activity. This may take one person four weeks, and another person 6-8 weeks and that’s ok!
Listen to your body
The one thing I can’t stress enough to do through this process is to listen to your body! At the end of the workouts you should feel tired but not completely spent, so you could do more if you wanted to. If you find yourself completely exhausted or a constant pain somewhere, back off and spend more time walking until you adapt.
If the pain doesn't get better in time, it may be a good idea to see a sports doc. Some people just have different mechanical structures and need to make a few adjustments before they can hit the road running. Once it's figured out nothing can stop them from becoming excellent runners! Sometimes it's as simple as doing a few extra exercises for muscle imbalances other times an shoe orthotic helps.
Learning to listen to your body and knowing when to stop is a very important for injury prevention in the long haul. Once you get into running and finish a race or two, you might catch the race bug, then be ready to add more and more distance which is great! But if you don’t know how to back off and keep pushing through, you run the risk of hurting yourself and having take some major time off from running. Something, that anyone who loves running (including myself) fears the most! To date, I’ve never sustained any form of major running injuries. I credit this to resistance training, good nutrition, the right shoes (and not wearing them too long), cross training from time to time and backing off as needed.
If you’ve thought about running I hope this helps you get started off on the right foot!
Sharma, Archana, and Deepali Verma. "ENDORPHINS: ENDOGENOUS OPIOID IN HUMAN CELLS." (2014).
Raichlen, David A., et al. "Exercise-induced endocannabinoid signaling is modulated by intensity." European journal of applied physiology 113.4 (2013): 869-875.
Prabakaran, Sudhakaran. "Endocannabinoids mediate runner’s high." Sci. Signal. 8.401 (2015): ec322-ec322.
Heijnen, Saskia, et al. "Neuromodulation of Aerobic Exercise—A Review."Frontiers in psychology 6 (2015).
Ludlow, Andrew T., and Stephen M. Roth. "Physical activity and telomere biology: exploring the link with aging-related disease prevention." Journal of aging research 2011 (2011).
2015 State of the Sport-U.S. Race Trends http://www.runningusa.org/2015-state-of-sport-us-trends
Shammas, Masood A. "Telomeres, lifestyle, cancer, and aging." Current opinion in clinical nutrition and metabolic care 14.1 (2011): 28.
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!
HIIT or High intensity Interval training is nothing new, but has become widespread in the fitness world. It’s really picking up momentum with all types of exercisers, because current research has found it to increase fitness in less time. Yippee, finally a workout we all have time for!
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
Need an extra challenge…
Top off the workout with 10 burpees!
How to do a burpee
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!