Tag Archives: strength training

Half Marathon Training: week 4 recap

29 Aug

This week of training was a mental challenge (hey, aren’t they all).  What I learned over the course of the week can be summed up into one phrase “bend, don’t break.” 

A few hiccups occurred this week which caused me to edit and switch around days of my training program.  On Wednesday I noticed that my left hamstring was feeling a bit tight, and I immediately became nervous.  Pain in general is a warning, but for me left hamstring pain usually is an indicator that the chronic tendonitis in my left ankle is getting worse.  I met with my massage therapist on Thursday morning and it took her no time at all to find the big knot in my hamstring.  She gave it a quick treatment and suggested that I not run my scheduled 4.5 miles that day, and instead put heat on it & give it some rest. 

I was so disheartened.  I didn’t want to deviate from my training program [I had already done so much of that while traveling] and I was certain that this was a preview of coming attractions…. and it didn’t look good.  I took her advice, though, and it made such a difference on my next run.  I was very nervous that by the end of the 4.5 miles, I’d be even more sore and in pain but I wasn’t.  Its amazing what a day of rest and a good warmup will do!

No sooner was I back on track than Hurricane Irene reared her ugly head this past weekend.  Sunday was my day to hit the street for 7 miles, but there was no way that was gonna happen with all the rain and wind going on.  I could’ve braved it into work and done my 7 miles on the treadmill but I was stubborn and didn’t want to log that many miles inside.  I, once again, decided to “bend” with my program and pushed my long run back to Monday (today).  Again, a little extra rest and a great warmup paid off.  I also tried the Powerbar Energy Gel (vanilla flavor) when I made my brief water stop at mile 4.5.  This stuff really works- my body had the energy to finish up the run and I could’ve even gone a few more miles at the end.  It was the BEST run I’ve had yet in this training, hands DOWN!!

Yummy fuel for my workout!

Both of the hiccups this past week reminded me that I need to Bend, not break.  The training program is a guide and it can be changed, edited, switched up.  Making sure I’m running with a healthy, injury free body is my FIRST priority and as long as that happens I’m gonna have a GREAT half marathon!

Exercise burnout: what is it, and how can it be avoided?

15 Aug

Exercise burnout is a term I hear all the time amongst colleagues and clients.  I hear stories of folks who have been going to the gym; doing their routine day in and day out, over and over, and are getting quite sick and tired of it.  The workout that once brought them relief from the stress of a long day now is a looming monster.  It serves as another obstacle and another stress bomb to face before unwinding for the evening.  The pleasure and satisfaction once gleaned from pumping iron, hitting the cardio machines, and getting a good sweat has long been replaced with boredom, annoyance, resentment, and anger.  For some, the burnout goes beyond the mental exhaustion and carries over to physical exhaustion as well.  People overuse, overwork, and over train their bodies to the point of intense exhaustion, bodily fatigue, and injury.  Without time off the body has no time to rest and repair itself, leaving it always playing catch-up and never operating at 100%.  [and if you want to BE your best, you gotta BRING your best!]

Why does this happen to so many people and so often?  What causes people to reach the point of such profound burnout?  I believe it stems from the lack of understanding the importance of two concepts: diversity and rest.  The first of the two, diversity in exercise,  is crucial to practice in order to avoid burnout, boredom, and injury.  Most people get into a routine at the gym: they come in, use certain machines [because they know and feel comfortable with them] and then leave.  They do this day in and day out.  While ANY exercise/activity will initially produce change and results, eventually the body gets used to the same repetitive motion/action [our bodies are so much smarter than we give them credit for!!] and the benefits begin to diminish.  What once produced significant calorie burn and muscle hypertrophy will, over time, no longer be challenging.  Exercise is meant to be progressive, that is changing and becoming more challenging as a person’s fitness level increases.  Without progression a person’s fitness level becomes “stuck”.  The elliptical machine might still say you’re burning X number of calories every time you get on it, but the calorie counters on cardio machines are rarely accurate and do not take into account enough information to make a precise assessment of what’s going on during the workout. 

In order to maximize the benefits of exercise, you MUST change it up!!! Don’t get comfortable using that one specific machine [3rd elliptical from the left, right by the TV that always plays BRAVO], instead discover something new! Give your body and your mind a new challenge.  Hop on a machine that you’ve never used before.  Its okay, it won’t bite!  And if you don’t know how to use it, just start pedaling and something will happen!  All else fails, ask a staff member at your gym to show you how to properly use it!   If that doesn’t sound appealing, find an activity outdoors that piques your interest: rollerblading, biking, swimming, hiking, walking, running.  If you’ve never done it before, try it!! The key is to always change it up.  Instead of spinning 5 days a week, try using the stair master, treadmill or ARC trainer.   If you’re a hard-core runner, try spin on one of your cardio days!  Something else to consider is group fitness classes; many gyms offer a wide variety of classes that are different from what goes on out on the cardio/weight room floor.   This also applies to strength training; if you are simply lifting barbells and dumbbells, try a body weight circuit or a Bootcamp class.  Increase sets, reps, and try doing unilateral exercises instead of bilateral.  Throwing a change into the mix will confuse your body and produce greater results.  And not only will this keep you from getting bored, but it will prevent you from getting injured.  Because exercise diversity forces you to work different muscles in different ways, it strengthens the body from different angles and gives all body parts a chance to work.   No single muscle (or muscle group) will be overused or over trained, and no muscle will be left under trained or ignored.

The second factor I believe contributes to exercise burnout is lack of rest.  When people get serious about working out and get into a groove, they rarely give themselves time to rest and repair.   They are so caught up with and focused on their goal [losing weight, gaining muscle, training for an event, transforming their bodies and minds, etc] that they may start to believe a day of rest will put them behind schedule and a day further away from reaching their goal.  Let me say: REST IS A MUST!!!  Exercise puts the body through the wringer: muscle fibers rip and tear apart during strength training, and we take a beating moving around during cardio exercise.  The work does not happen when we are in the gym, on the court, track or street.  The work- the lean muscle repair and growth, and fat loss- happen when we are asleep and otherwise at rest.  One day of FULL rest from exercise per week is recommended for people working out at a moderate intensity on a regular basis.  I personally believe that of the 7 days in a week, one day should be full rest and another should be an “Active Recovery” day.  Active Recovery can be anything that is LOW impact, does not raise the heart rate to its maximal levels, and is considered fun!  For my active rest, I enjoy going for a walk, taking a yoga class, or doing the elliptical for 15-20 minutes on a low setting.  Other folks enjoy doing Zumba or other dance classes for active recovery.  The remaining 5 days can be devoted to training well and training hard. 

Exercise burnout can cause people to abandon their workout routine all together.   This can lead to further deviation from a healthy lifestyle- becoming inactive, abandoning healthy eating habits, and allowing the mental muscle to weaken considerably.  In extreme cases, focus and determination become lost to apathy and self-loathing.  Don’t let yourself get to that point!!  If you feel yourself getting there, stop and check the nature of your routine.  Are you bored? Do you need to diversify your workout? Go ahead, try something new TODAY!  Are you letting yourself rest? Or have you been exercising hard every day for the past 2+ weeks?? Take a day of rest; it will do you a world of good! 

Have you ever experienced exercise burnout? What caused it? And how did you combat it?

just cuz it hurts doesn’t mean it works!

9 Aug

On an average day of work at Beacon Hill Athletic Clubs I see a handful of people doing exercises with improper form.  Sometimes they just need a small tweak or two in the way they execute the exercise and sometime their form is so grossly off that I wonder what they are trying to accomplish.  I absolutely understand that not everyone knows the proper mechanics and it is this very fact that often deters people [especially women] from doing any strength/resistance training.  It is only normal to start out as a novice and then, with the tutelage of a certified professional, become more knowledgeable.  Eventually you can make your way around the weight room with an understanding of which exercises work which muscles, and the proper form for lifting.  I commend and respect those folks who take the time and make the effort to learn to train properly.  It makes a world of difference: results come quicker and last longer, injury is avoided, and with it all comes the satisfaction of knowing things are being done properly! 

But what drives me nuts more than anything else is when people exercise with improper form and then say “wow I’m so sore today, that was a GREAT workout yesterday!” At the risk of sounding crass and a little harsh, here’s a little newsflash: just because it hurts doesn’t mean it works!!!! Yes it is absolutely true that the day(or two) following resistance/strength training, the muscles worked will feel sore [and should have at least a day of rest before they are used in this capacity again].  This is due to muscle hypertrophy, or the growth and increase in size of the muscle cells.  This is a good, healthy thing and is indicative of gains in strength.  However, there are PLENTY of other reasons why muscles may be sore the day after a workout.  Lifting weights in a way that makes your muscles hurt/ache/feel sore during the exercise itself or after does NOT necessarily mean you’re doing things the right way.  Bones, ligaments, tendons,  nerves, and other important parts of the body can be severely injured doing exercises improperly. 

Don’t put yourself at risk for injury, don’t be an inefficient exerciser, and don’t be your body’s own greatest risk.  Take the time and make the effort to work with a trainer and learn how to do things properly.  Your body will thank you!

Ready to do it to it?!?! Email me and lets WORK IT OUTTT!!!!!  lucky13fitness@gmail.com

Run like the wind!!!!

26 Jul

I have been talking with people recently about running; more specifically about running races.  It seems that everywhere I go I find someone who is training for a race of some sort, from 5k all the way up to a full marathon.   This week I joined those in training and signed myself up for the  Smuttynose Half Marathonon October 2nd.  (This will be my last race in my 20’s, yikes!!!)  People have been asking me the same questions and I thought I’d respond via blog for everyone to view… I also would love other people’s input, and hear other training strategies/regimens.

The #1 question I have heard is “How can I make my pace faster and my mile time better?”  My answer to this is INTERVALS.  I have found interval training to be beneficial in many ways and has helped me shave time off my mile, improve my endurance, and made me a better runner in general.  Often times when training for races, people fail to incorporate speed and/or hill workouts.  This is, to use a buzzword, an epic fail.  Sure, standard training programs that gradually increase mileage are effective, but they do not best prepare you for race day.  Incorporating speed and hill intervals into your training will boost your overall performance and ability to perform at your BEST on race day.

Speed intervals can be done on a track or a treadmill.  There are several different ways to approach speed intervals, but start off basic.  Start out by doing a 5 minute warmup… Then jog at a steady state pace (5 out of 10) for a minute, and then crank it out to a full out sprint for 30 seconds.  After 30 seconds, bring it back down to the steady state pace for another minute, and then- yep you guessed it- sprint again for 30 seconds.   Do this 2:1 ratio for a total of 20 minutes. 

Once you’ve mastered the basic interval, you can change it up by doing 1:1 intervals, or speed workouts of varying lengths.  I found a GREAT article that gives several examples of speed workouts for runners of all levels.

Hill intervals can be done on a treadmill or on your neighborhood hill of choice (pick a tough one!)  Start out by doing a 5 minute warmup, and then attack the hill.  My favorite hill workout is the following “pyramid” which has 8 sprints of varying length.  Remember- always sprint 100% up the hill, and slowly jog back down for recovery:

1) sprint up 1/4 hill (3.0 incline on treadmill)

2) sprint up 1/2 hill (6.0 incline on treadmill)

3) sprint up 3/4 hill (9.0 incline on treadmill)

4) sprint to the top of the hill (12.o incline on treadmill)

5) sprint to the top of the hill (12.0 incline on treadmill)

6) sprint 3/4 hill (9.0 incline on treadmill)

7) sprint 1/2 hill (6.0 incline on treadmill)

8) sprint 1/4 hill (3.0 incline on treadmill)

Do a 5 min jog cooldown and call it a day!

Other questions I’ve been asked have to do with shoe type and pre/post run eating.  To answer the first question, I suggest that the first step in race training should be a trip to Marathon Sports, City Sports, or a similar store.  Find a sales associate who KNOWS footwear and who can help you analyze your foot pronation type (if you don’t know it already) and fit you with the appropriate shoe.  It is also helpful to inform the sales associate that you are training for a race so that they may take into account how many miles you’ll be logging/week. 

In regards to pre/post run eating, check out my blog that outlines just that!!

Training for an event of any type is a GREAT way to keep on track with exercising regularly, and sticking to a program in order to achieve a goal.  Get a friend to commit with you and sign up for a race/event and then use each other as motivation to train regularly.  Races of all types and distances can be found at Runners World

Lace up those sneakers and hit the pavement!!!

components of fitness: do you treat them equally?

14 Jul

There are several key components to fitness- cardiovascular exercise, strength/resistance training, flexibility- and everyone naturally gravitates to their favorite.  Some people love to do cardio; they want to run, bike, or swim for every workout and have little or no desire to do much else.  Others would gladly spend every day in the weight room, and consider a workout filled with lifting heavy to be a success.  Still others can be found in the group fitness rooms and private studios practicing Yoga and taking Pilates (and other similar) classes.  Personally, my poison is running.  For me, nothing compares to logging mile after mile and ending it soaked with sweat, enveloped by a Runner’s High.

 No matter which component we like best, most of the time we pay so much attention to one area that we end up neglecting other components of fitness.   You know what I’m talking about.  You could do your exercise of choice all day long, but it might take a friend and a large sum of money for you to consider doing the other things you don’t find to be “fun”.  We are all guilty of it. And we dont always realize how detrimental this is to our overall fitness level, and ability to perform at our best.

One of my favorite quotes that I write/say/think about often is “That which we resist persists.”  I apply it to so many situations in life, and this one is no exception.  The components of fitness which we ignore, put off, and neglect are those which will persistently find their way back into our lives.  Don’t like resistance training?  You won’t get that nice firm, toned look you’re going for….toning muscle means you need to HAVE some in the first place.   And that means lifting weights.  Loathe cardio workouts?  No matter how heavy you lift, nothing can replace the myriad benefits of raising your heart rate.  Don’t be surprised when you can’t make it up a few flights of stairs without huffing and puffing.   Can’t be bothered with stretching/flexibility?  Your range of motion, ability to move, and lift properly is going to be severely compromised.   When we ignore ANY component of fitness we are allowing ourselves to work in an inefficient manner, and ultimately are putting ourselves at risk for injury.   As if that’s not reason enough to start diversifying, giving attention to the less “fun” parts of fitness will make you better at what you love to do.   When I started incorporating more flexibility work into my routine, I was amazed to find that my running stride improved and I was even able to take some time off my mile. 

Bottom line: the core components of fitness are each important in their own right.  Each serve a unique purpose and all complement one another.  We may prefer one over the others but we owe it to our body to be creative and find a way to incorporate them ALL.  Sign up for a class, get a gym buddy, buy a pass to a Yoga studio, etc.    Give yourself a new challenge!

What component of fitness is your least favorite?  How do/will you incorporate it into your routine?