Strength Training for the Endurance Athlete

Runners run, cyclists cycle and swimmers swim. For the most part that’s just how it is: endurance athletes sticking close to their sport of choice, with very few venturing into the forbidden realm of strength training. In fact, if you talk to many athletes and avid exercisers, the two forms of training appear to be totally mutually exclusive.

New scientific findings, however, paint a very different picture. Many experts even point to strength training as a reliable way for endurance athletes, especially runners, to greatly reduce their risk of injury.

The Arguments For

Of course, your musculoskeletal system is deeply involved in everything you do, even when you hardly notice it.

A quick look at the human knee, for example, shows a complicated system of muscles used, not only to move your leg, but also to support the movement. If any of those muscles are weak, it places more stress of the others to compensate.

This effect grows when you widen your lens and look at the body as whole. There are muscles that act as shock-absorbers, muscles that keep you steady and, obviously, those that move you forward. All of these need to be strong enough to meet the demands of your sport and keep you injury-free.

While you could make the argument that running builds the muscles needed for running, that’s only true to a point. Any endurance activity builds endurance. In order to build a more solid support system, strength needs to be developed.

Designing Your Program

To be most effective, your strength training program needs to be tailored to your sport. Although balance training would be vitally important to a runner, it doesn’t mean as much to a swimmer or even a cyclist. Swimmers would likely also want to put more emphasis on their upper-body than runners or cyclists would.

Consider the unique challenges of your sport, then, when deciding on which exercises to include in your program.

Since the goal here is to reduce the risk of injury rather than to cause injury, it’s best to start light on the resistance and work your way up. Body weight training is a perfect modality for endurance athletes since it isolates certain muscle groups, requiring them to bear nothing but the weight you use doing your endurance training. Eventually, additional weight could be added to increase the difficulty of a given exercise.

To keep your progress steady, without interfering with your endurance training, dedicate one day to your strength training each week. If you really have to scratch the cardio itch, you can still do a light cardio cool-down for 10 minutes at the end of your workout.

An example workout, aimed toward a runner, might look something like this:

  1. One-legged Squats – 3 sets of 15 on each leg
  2. Back Lunges – 3 sets of 15 on each leg
  3. Push Up on an uneven surface – 3 sets of 10
    • Place your hands on a pillow or balance plate
    • Modify the movement to make it easier, if you need to, by kneeling
  4. Plank – 30 seconds

Rest for 90 seconds after each set before moving on to the next.


Have They Found the Perfect Interval Formula?

In the fitness world, buzzwords come and go almost monthly. One that seems to have some real staying power, though, is high intensity interval training, or HIIT. Although it’s not really a new idea, HIIT has really gained ground in the past few years with the rise of standardized forms like Crossfit, Tabata and the Little method. Even with these programs, though, a universal formula for an effective HIIT workout has been sorely lacking.

A group of Danish researchers set out in 2012 to define the perfect formula for HIIT and their work produced some intriguing results worth considering.

The 10-20-30 Study

At the beginning of their research, the team, led by Dr. Thomas Gunnarsson experimented with different ratios that are already at use in other HIIT methods.

Starting with 30-second sprinting bouts, which is a common approach, they found that, although this produced powerful results in their subjects, it’s also a very demanding. Eventually, through trial-and-error, the team fell on 10-second intervals.

It’s not really surprising that the 10-second sprints produced benefits but the exact depth of those improvements has caught many experts off-guard.

Over the course of the 7-week study, veteran 5K runners cut a full minute off their time and 1500-meter runners reduced their time by an average of 23-seconds. And these reductions all happened while slicing their weekly mileage by half. As an added selling-point, these highly effective workouts only took about 20 to 30 minutes.

Workout Details

At its core, the 10-20-30 program is modeled after the Fartlek approach by involving short bursts of running with the speed adjusted by how you’re feeling.

A typical workout following this new protocol would look like this:

  1. A 10-minute warmup. The runners in the original study ran just 3/4 of a mile for their warmup, with no regard to time.
  2. Jog for 30 seconds, run for 20 and then sprint for 10. Repeat this same pattern four more times, follow this routine for five straight minutes.
  3. Walk or jog for 2 minutes as an active rest.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3. Cycle through these intervals two or three times. Runners in the study eventually worked their way up to four of these sets.

The original study didn’t list any sort of cool-down but a 10-minute walk is generally recommended to wrap-up your workout.

Because this approach allows you to adjust the speed of each interval, whether it be jogging, running or sprinting, and the number of times you repeat the pattern, it’s easily adapted to your fitness level.

Expert Reception

In general, most experts who reviewed the research found no problems with the study methodology or the program that the study produced. A few authorities have questioned the effectiveness of this type of workout for elite-level athletes.

Others have expressed doubts regarding the trustworthiness of the touted benefits since the subjects used were all experienced runners. These detractors feel that those benefits are to be expected by runners who suddenly shift to an easier training method.

Overall, however, both anecdotal and expert reports have supported the use of 10-20-30 intervals.

Have you been able to incorporate 10-20-30 into your workouts? Please share your experience in the comments.


Workout While You Work: Treadmill Desk Basics

Chances are you multitask plenty on the job. Do you check emails and update spreadsheets while on a conference call? If so, you’re in good company. However, there’s a group of office workers taking multitasking on the job to a whole new level: they’re working out while they work.

No, these people aren’t Phys Ed teachers, personal trainers or professional athletes. They’re everyday people who work in an office sitting at a desk. Except they’re not sitting down while they type. They’re walking… on a treadmill… at their desks.

Not your average gym treadmill

These special treadmill desks were created so employees who were often sedentary throughout the work day could get physical activity on the job.

Treadmill desks, also called “walking desks” or “treadmill workstations,” consist of a treadmill with a desktop securely balanced on top of the treadmill’s console. An employee’s workstation equipment – including a computer, keyboard, phone and more – sits at a comfortable height so the employee can work and walk simultaneously. Users should walk at an extremely slow pace – only 1-2 miles per hour. This speed is intentionally slower than a normal walking pace so that employees can carry out routine work activities without breaking a sweat.

The perks of walking while you work

The past few years, study after study has revealed just how harmful sitting for long periods of time is for our health. Sitting over four hours per day (as most office workers do) has been linked with type 2 diabetes, heart disease and a shorter life expectancy.

With that said, there’s also an obesity epidemic going on. Not getting enough exercise is partly to blame for our nation’s expanding waistline. In fact, 80 percent of adults don’t get the recommended amount of physical activity. Using a treadmill desk seems like a great solution for these problems.

Dr. James Levine, an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic, would likely agree. Dr. Levine is credited for creating the first treadmill desk back in 2005. He wanted to find a way to help himself and others get in extra activity throughout the day to help meet weight loss goals. Dr. Levine estimates that the average work-walker burns 100-130 calories per hour. So, if an employee uses a treadmill desk for 8 hours a day every workday, he or she could shed up to one to two pounds per week.

Treadmill desk enthusiasts cite more benefits beyond weight loss. Users claim that treadmill desks can help ease back pain and leg neuropathy and improve circulation.

Where to find a treadmill desk

People are using treadmill desks in corporate settings and in their home offices. Several fitness equipment companies make different models, with prices ranging from approximately $500 to a few thousand dollars.

Note that these treadmills differ from traditional treadmills – they don’t have an incline, have a lower range of speed, and are quieter. They’re designed for walking only. However, if you’re crafty and into DIY projects, it’s possible to repurpose a regular treadmill and turn it into a walking desk.

Have you ever tried a treadmill desk?


Image suggestion:

this photo isn’t ideal, but I doubt Livestrong wants to highlight a competitor’s treadmill

How Exercise Adds Up

You’ve probably heard the American Heart Association’s recommendations countless times: Maintain a moderate intensity for 30 minutes, 5 days per week. For years, this has been the standard amount of exercise promised to help keep your heart healthy and your weight down. And at first, 30 minutes every day of the week may sound easy to pull off, even a little laughable. In reality, when you find yourself trying to find those 30 minutes between work, your family and whatever else your daily life throws at you, it can quickly become daunting to stick to that schedule.

Fortunately, a new study has produced some encouraging findings regarding how much exercise you really need. More interestingly, the study provides some insight on how you can better fit it into a schedule.

What They Found

The study, published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, was designed to determine whether or not the frequency of your workouts has a bearing on the benefits. Remember that the AHA recommends a total of 150 minutes of exercise per week, so the question at the heart of this study was: Does it really matter if those 150 minutes are broken up in to 5 bouts of 30 minutes?

To answer the question, the researchers monitored the physical activity of 2,324 adults over the course of one week and then calculated their risk of developing certain health condition associated with inactivity. The umbrella term for the condition they were testing for is metabolic syndrome, which includes everything from increased blood pressure, high blood sugar levels, excess body fat and high cholesterol.

At the end of the study the findings clearly showed that it didn’t matter how those 150 minutes were accumulated through out the week. For example, if someone was unable to workout at all on Monday through Friday but crammed their 150 minutes, or 2.5 hours, on the weekend, they could except the same benefits as if they had followed the AHA recommendations to the letter.

Why It Matters

These findings open up a large amount of freedom for you in designing your workout schedule. You’re goal should be simply to be able to plug in at least 150 minutes each week, regardless of how that time is spread out over the days.

You should also be able to give yourself more flexibility with this in mind. Things come up during the week and your plans change. An emergency may throw off your schedule to workout on a planned day. But, in light of this study, you can make up for that lost time later in the week just by tacking those 30 minutes onto another day.

A Few Considerations

Remember, though, that these recommendations are the minimum needed to prevent metabolic syndrome. These 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise won’t necessarily help you reach your goals if you’re working towards building endurance or muscle strength but the principle is the same.

Although you can change your workout time to match your goals, it’s now evident that you can be adaptable and spread it out through the week in the way that is most convenient for you.

How have you met the challenge of fitting your workouts into your schedule? Please share your thoughts in the comments.


Posted by Jonathan Thompson | Posted in Fitness

Track and Field for Adults

For people who grew up playing soccer, baseball, or basketball there are usually plenty of opportunities to continue these sports through adulthood. Think intramural or office soccer clubs, church softball leagues, and neighborhood pickup basketball games.

If you were a hurdler or other track and field athlete in high school, though, you may assume that your days of competing ended with graduation. Sure, you can do 5k races and marathons but that’s a huge distance leap if you were a sprinter – and not at all related to your sport if you were a javelin thrower or pole vaulter. So it’s not surprising that many track and field athletes never compete in their sport again.

But that doesn’t have to be the case if you’re over age 30. Masters track and field gives you the chance to relive your glory days.Running track

Masters track and field: 101

Masters track and field involves the same events you remember from high school or watch during the Olympic Games. The only difference is masters track and field is for men and women from age 30 – 95+, and consists of beginners and seasoned athletes alike.

If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, the USA track and field masters organization says joining a master’s track and field club may be for you:

·         Are you looking for a way to get fit or lose weight?

·         Do you enjoy watching track and field events on television?

·         Did you participate in track and field as a child and miss it?

·         Do you want to renew your competitive spirit?

The events

To participate in masters track and field, you need to join a local club. Through the club membership, you’ll gain access to group training and coaching, facilities, and track meets. During meets, you’ll compete against other athletes your age – just like you did in high school. Every year, the best athletes from all masters track and field clubs in the U.S. go on to compete in the USA Masters Track & Field Championships.

There are a host of events to choose from — some are only offered during indoor or outdoor track season, while others are offered during both seasons. Many athletes compete in more than one of the following events:

·         Sprints: 60m, 100m, 200m, and 400m dashes

·         Middle-distance: 800m and 1500m

·         Long-distance: 5000m and 10,000m

·         Hurdles: 60m, 100m, 110m, and 400m hurdles and 3000m steeplechase

·         Relays: 4x100m and 4x400m relays

·         Jumps: Long jump, high jump, triple jump, and pole vault

·         Throws: Shot put, discus throw, javelin throw, and hammer throw

·         Combined events:

     – Pentathlon: 800m, 60m hurdles, long jump, high jump, and shot put.

     – Heptathlon: 60m, 1000m, 60m hurdles, long jump, high jump, pole vault, and shot put.

     – Decathlon: 100m, 400m, 1500m, 110m hurdles, long jump, high jump, pole vault, shot put, discus throw, and javelin throw.

How to get involved

There are local masters track and field clubs all around the country. To find one in your area, check out the USA Track & Field’s (USATF) website.

Try not to feel intimidated if you’ve never done track and field before or if it’s been a few decades since you last competed. Many masters track and field athletes are first timers looking to participate in a fun hobby, just like you. If you’re still on the fence about joining a club, spectate a meet in person. It may be just the motivation you need to dust off your old track spikes!


Marathon Training With Hormonal Imbalances

Ask Coach Jenny

Q: I just finished my fifth marathon last Sunday and my time was horrible.  I’m a 41-year old female with a career and two beautiful active boys. I had breast cancer almost fifteen years ago and had chemotherapy and a mastectomy.  I am very active competing in triathlons and running events. I decided to have the Cancer Gene Test two years ago and unfortunately it came back positive with the BARCA 2  gene. I did prophylactic surgery and had my ovaries removed.  I went on a really light dose of hormone therapy.  I ran Chicago Marathon last October, it wasn’t my best time compared to my two LA marathons and Long Beach Marathon before the surgery. I was encouraged by my Oncologist and other doctors to get off the hormonal replacement, I did right after the Chicago Marathon and it threw me into surgical menopause.  I trained so hard for this marathon, not only running hills, but cross training, squats, weights, box jumps, and spinning. I’m trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon.  Up until mile fifteen I felt fine.  By mile 17 and 19, I felt like I was going to faint and was extremely sore, but I pushed through to complete the marathon. Do you think having no estrogen has an effect on marathon performance?  Thank you -

 A: Hi, Holly. I’m glad you wrote and thank you for sharing your story. You’re an inspiration. Although there are a lot of things that are out of your control, there are just as many strategies you can employ to get back on track. As women progress in life, they lose their estrogen. Therefore, a shift in how we eat, exercise and live needs to happen to re-balance our energy and hormones. Yours was less shifting and more buttons activated, but nonetheless these actions will help you perform at your best. 

 The symptoms you’re experiencing are likely due to the loss of both estrogen and progesterone from the bilateral oophorectomy and loss of your ovaries. It is important to understand that although your normal training program won’t be effective anymore as it is causing these symptoms due to the stress on the body, there is a new strategy you can employ in this next chapter of your running life. 

 ·         Include three to four quality running workouts per week. Include one easy run done at a conversational effort for 40-50 minutes, one to two shorter, but harder, runs (intervals/tempo) and one endurance run. Any more than that can increase your risk for overtraining and reduce the efficiency of your recovery post workout. It’s more important to get in the quality than the quantity at this phase in your life. This will allow you to get in what you need to improve performance and reach your goals and recover post run to progress throughout the season. Plus, you’ll feel much stronger which boosts confidence, mood and motivation. If you continue to push hard day to day and push lots of miles, it will translate to decreased performance, fatigue and burnout. This is the case for most athletes over the age of 40 as well. 

 ·         Train by your body and by effort rather than pace. The body knows effort. It doesn’t know pace. It can be tempting to train by a pace, but doing so can both over or under train you for qualifying for the Boston Marathon. The key is to optimize every workout and you do that by training by how the body is feeling on every given day. For instance, your long runs should be done at a conversational, easy effort. If you go in thinking you’re going to run it at your usual or calculated 9:30 pace, but the temperature and humidity is high and running at that pace now puts you into the red or hard zone. The result is you struggle through to finish your long run and it takes five days for your body to recover, affecting all the following workouts. 

 You can dig yourself into a big hole when training by numbers. It appeases your mind, but isn’t effective for the body. Tune in, listen to your breath and be patient enough to train in the right zone for the workout. Your long run pace may end up being 10:30 on that hot day, but you get in the miles, stay in your easy effort and recover efficiently so you can run your interval workout a few days later. 

 ·         Run long every other week. Instead of hammering out progressive long runs week after week which can drain you, alternate a long building run with a shorter long run at a different intensity. Here is one example of a long run schedule that includes a variety of long easy runs with shorter moderate intensity runs to prepare for race pacing (this is geared towards advanced marathoners that have a base of mileage and have raced the marathon distance).

Week 1: 8 miles easy effort

Week 2: 9 miles easy effort

Week 3: 10 miles easy effort

Week 4: 8 miles easy effort

Week 5: 11 miles easy effort

Week 6: 8 miles race simulation (4 miles easy, 3 miles moderate, 1 mile hard)

Week 7: 12 miles easy effort

Week 8: 8 miles easy effort

Week 9: 14 miles easy effort

Week 10:  8 miles race simulation (4 miles easy, 3 miles moderate, 1 mile hard)

Week 11: 16 miles easy effort

Week 12:  10 miles easy effort

Week 13:  18 miles easy effort

Week 14:  10 miles race simulation (5 miles easy, 4 miles moderate, 1 mile hard)

Week 15:  20 miles easy effort

Week 16:  10 miles race simulation (5 miles easy, 4 miles moderate, 1 mile hard)

Week 17:  20 miles easy effort

Week 18:  10 miles easy effort

Week 19:  7 miles race simulation (4 mile easy, 2 miles moderate, one mile hard)

Week 20:  Marathon

 ·         Include total body strengthening exercises twice per week. This will help build and maintain active muscle tissue, which is vital for menopausal women to maintain weight, strength and bone density. Strengthening exercises like lunges, planks and push ups are also a great complement to developing and maintaining efficient running form. Optimal core strength will stabilize your core and reduce the risk of injuries from the demands of a high impact activity like running. If you’re in season training for a marathon or other races, avoid high intensity strength workouts as the demands of these sessions will throw off the balance of your training regimen. If you want to perform these high intensity workouts, trade a hard run for a hard run – avoid adding it into the mix as it will affect the efficiency of your recovery. In the off season when you’re not in training and running longer miles, modify your strength workouts to three times per week.

 ·         Train no more than six days per week, sleep and go Zen. Rest is the number one way we adapt after workouts and if we’re lacking in rest, our performance suffers as you continue to train in a fatigued state. When training for your marathon, invest in at least one complete rest day. We live in cycles of sleep and awake time every day. Research supports most people need at least eight hours of quality sleep to function at an optimal rate. When we burn the candle at both ends, our hormones shift out of balance and cause havoc with our health. Olympic Marathoner Deena Kastor once told me she sleeps 10-12 hours while in season training. Put sleep at the top of your list of training strategies as it can greatly impact how you train, adapt and perform in the race. Include one calming activity day where you’re focusing on restorative yoga, easy walking or light spinning. This counter-balances the harder and longer workouts and allows your body to heal and restore mobility and focus. 

 ·         Eat well and modify carbohydrates. Runners are well known for high carbohydrate diets. However, when we shift into menopause, the lack of estrogen reduces the insulin buffering actions, resulting in weight and fat gain. The same amount of carbohydrates we ate at a younger age will induce fat at menopause. A diet lower in starches and fruits but higher in vegetables, fiber and clean protein sources will fuel your training efforts and reduce the stress on your metabolic pathways. This may seem unfair, however once you shift to eating a clean food diet, you’ll feel more energetic, recover more efficiently and perform better. 

 As we navigate through life’s ups and downs, it is important to continue to ebb and flow with what your body is telling you along the way. You’ve done a great job of tuning in and being aware of your performance decline, now it is time to make a few adjustments in your training and life regimen to run your best at this new phase in your life. Take your time in making these adjustments as trying to change everything all at once can be overwhelming. Ease into each change and journal about how it affects your training and energy along the way. You’ll soon find your new training recipe and it will help you reach your goals to run Boston.

Do you have a question for Coach Jenny? Submit your question here.

Color, Muddy, Obstacle and More: The Themed Race Trend

Running a race used to be a straightforward endeavor. You trained, set a goal, showed up to the event, put on your running shoes, and ran as fast as you could to reach the finish line to meet your goal.

But nowadays a new crop of races is taking the running industry by storm: themed races.

These events aren’t about running fast and meeting goals – heck, some of them aren’t even timed. Rather they’re about the journey. And, it’s a fun journey at that. One where you can be chased by zombies, doused with colored powders, glowing in the dark, or crawling through mud.

Themed races are drawing a whole new group of people to the sport – most participants are beginner runners and racing novices. Since themed races are usually short distances (most are around 5 kilometers or 5k) and meant to be “fun runs”, they take the intimidation factor out of running. They appeal to average Joes. Someone who may never have considered running may see an ad for a themed race, be intrigued, get off the couch and start training for the event.

That’s exactly what’s happening all across the country. The Color Run, a 5k race in which runners are sprayed with non-toxic, colored powder – held its inaugural event in January 2012. Within its first year, it spread to 50 U.S. cities and had 600,000 participants. This year, the Color Run will hold events in 120 U.S. cities and 30 countries and surpass the 1 million mark in participants.

Here’s the scoop on some of the most popular themed race series:

·         The Color Run. If starting a race in a plain white outfit and finishing  looking like a rainbow appeals to you, check out the Color Run. Race directors say, “the Color Run is a five-kilometer, un-timed race in which thousands of participants are doused from head to toe in different colors at each kilometer.”

·         The Zombie Run. Do you only run when being chased? If so, check out the Zombie Run. In this race, zombies literally jump out, scare you and hunt you down. The race organizers say, “Zombie Run is a 5K obstacle fun run for the end of times. But you’re not just running against the clock, you are running from flesh-eating, virus-spreading, bloody zombies.” Yikes!

·         The Rave Run. This race is held in the dark, but runners literally glow – because they deck themselves out in glow necklaces and bracelets. The race creators say, “The Rave Run is a night time 2.5-3.1 mile fun run where runners, artists and insomniacs unite. Experience a journey through a nocturnal wonderland with stunning lights and music.”

·         Spartan Race. If you crave physical obstacles during your race, the Spartan Race series is for you. Spartan is the ultimate obstacle racing challenge. You can choose from a 3-, 8-, or 12-mile race course, each chockfull of crazy obstacles like fire, mud, barbed wire and “Hell on Earth.” From the Spartan Race directors, “we’re here to rip you from your comfort zone. If you need a road map for each step of the way, then maybe this race isn’t for you.”

Have you ever run a themed race? Are you interested in participating in one?


Running vs. Cycling, Does One Offer Greater Benefits?

Ask Coach Jenny

Q: Does riding my stationary bike for one hour at a medium level have the same cardio benefits as jogging for four miles at 12-minute miles?  ~ Natalie

 A: Yes and no.  Cycling offers the same benefits as running in that it improves your cardiovascular system. More specifically, your heart strengthens and is able to pump more blood at a lower heart rate as it gets stronger with exercise.

Along with that, as your fitness improves, your body is able to deliver larger quantities of oxygen to the muscles. This is the case for all forms of cardiovascular exercise, which is great because you can mix up your modes and keep things fresh and motivating. If you were looking at the standpoint of overall cardiovascular fitness, both are excellent choices.

Where they differ is in the movement. Cycling is a great form of exercise because it is low impact and isolates your lower body, which makes it an effective activity for those that are starting an exercise routine or suffer from muscle or joint pain. On the other hand, running uses every muscle in your body, making it a total body exercise, which can mean burning more calories per session.

It gets a little tricky when you start comparing paces on both activities. For instance, a 12-minute pace on a “feel good” day could be in the easy to moderate zone of effort, while another day it could be at a hard effort. Pace isn’t the best way to compare the two activities, but your effort level is.

When comparing the two, it’s easier to do so by the effort level versus comparing your running pace (12 minute miles) against your cycling effort (moderate). Instead, compare a moderate running effort to a moderate cycling effort.

The general rule of thumb is there is a 1:3 run-to-bike ratio, meaning one mile of running at a moderate effort equals three miles of cycling at that same effort level.  Cycling 12 miles is the equivalent of running four miles, with both effort levels being the same in a very general sense for cardiovascular fitness.

In the end, cycling miles are cycling miles and running miles are running miles.  They both offer great benefits and each offers unique benefits for fitness and well being.

Do you have a question for Coach Jenny? Submit your question here.

The Perks of Workout Buddies

couple running at duskIt wasn’t until she was 60 that Ginny Hlavenka, of Holmdel, NJ, got in shape. “I never thought exercise was for me. I found it boring and could never stick with it for more than a few weeks at a time.”

Until her friend invited her to tag along at a water aerobics class. “The class was hard, but it was also enjoyable. My friend and I were laughing throughout the hour. I got exercise and had fun at the same time, something I thought was impossible.”

Ginny returned to the class with her friend the next week. And the next one, and the one after that. In fact, Ginny and her group of friends have been attending the same water aerobics class for the past five years.

Friends and benefits

Ginny’s experience is hardly unique. Many studies show that workout buddies are good for health and fitness. Exercising with a friend can:

·         Hold you accountable. Ginny says,“I’m not sure I’d enjoy water aerobics if I took it at another gym. My friends and the instructor are what really make it for me. After a long day at work, I often consider skipping, but I know everyone is counting on me to show up, so I go.” People who work out with friends are more likely to stick with their fitness regimens because someone is counting on them. This can help you lose weight or meet other goals faster.

·         Add years to your life. Exercise, in general, is good for your health, but getting fit with others may be even better. Two recent studies looked at the health effects of social interaction. Results from one study showed that people who are physically active with others were more likely to report that they were in good to excellent health. The other study found that socially isolated individuals were more likely to die at younger ages.

·         Boost athletic performance. For over 100 years, research has shown thatathletes perform better with a group or in front of a group. Sports psychologists say that you’re more focused and less distracted by pain when you train with others. Getting fit with a training buddy and having some friendly competition can push you to be your best.

Find a fitness partner

These tips can help you find a fitness mate:

·         Chat up people in group fitness classes. If you attend the same exercise classes regularly, chances are you’ll make a few friends like Ginny did. Invite them to take other classes with you, too.

·         Join an intramural or athletic club. Most cities have club soccer, kickball, or softball teams. If you join a team, you’ll have organized practices and games. Or search for local running or triathlon clubs or ask a running specialty store. These groups often host regular training runs.

·         Encourage your loved ones to get active with you. Catch up with your girlfriends on the elliptical trainer instead of over a glass of wine. Ask your coworkers to join you on walk instead of going out to lunch.

Do you exercise with friends? I love running with others – they really help the miles fly by!


How to Sneak Exercise into your Everyday Routine

Instead of hitting the snooze button, many disciplined people wake up early every morning to hit the gym before work. Some manage to carve out time during the day or get in their reps or a run before bed. But for others, it’s hard to find the time to squeeze exercise into their busy days.

Maybe that’s because they think they need a solid hour to exercise, never mind the time to get to the gym and back again, shower, dress, etc. But what if you just did a little bit here and there? Everyone is out and about doing other things all day long so let’s look at some ways to keep moving even when you don’t have time for your regular routine.

After all, something is much better than nothing. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that “one continuous session and multiple shorter sessions (of at least 10 minutes) are both acceptable to accumulate desired amount of daily exercise.” So there you have it!

“Some people are scared of the gym or not in the mood to do formal exercise, and that’s fine,” says Ivy Larson, an American College of Sports Medicine certified Health Fitness Specialist from Jupiter, FL.  “There are ways to be active that seem more like play than work.”

And the benefits are the same, says Larson, co-author of “The Gold Coast Cure: The 5-Week Health and Body Makeover” (Health Communications Inc., 2005).  Being physically active for at least 30 minutes, five or more days each week not only helps you look and feel better, it can reduce your risk of heart disease, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, and prevent and even reverse type 2 diabetes.

Remember, she says, you’re not only doing it for yourself.  “Being an active role model for your children will teach them the joys and importance of exercise for a lifetime lesson.”  So make exercise a daily habit.  It’s never too late to start.

Here are some ways to fit fitness in beyond the gym:

1. Be a kid again:  Let loose and join your kids by kicking a soccer ball, tossing a Frisbee, or swinging a hula-hoop.  They’ll love your involvement and you’ll not only have fun, but get fit, at the same time. Remember: play can be exercise just as much as a treadmill and weights.

2. Get in the groove:  Dance to wake up each morning, before bed, or during commercials.  Put on some oldies and teach your kids the swim, the twist, or even the hustle.  Then let them show you today’s moves.  Rock out to the latest Katy Perry hit while you wait for the pasta water to boil.

Vigorous dancing gets your heart rate up and can burn 150 calories in a half-hour – the equivalent of an ice cream cone.  And if you boogie with baby in your arms, you’ll tone your muscles just like lifting weights.

3. Move more:  Help your digestion, catch up with your kids’ lives and end your day on an up note by taking a brisk walk around the neighborhood with the family after dinner. It will enable you to bond and burn all at once.

4. Don’t just sit there:  Instead of just parking your body on a bench while your kids have all the fun, get moving yourself.  Larson does a 30-minute circuit of laps, crunches, lunges, push-ups, and curls with small weights while her son builds sandcastles at the beach or climbs the jungle gym at the playground.  When your older kids are playing in the tub and you are just there to supervise, put down that magazine and do some crunches. (But always monitor young children at all times.) I even do some leg lifts when I’m waiting for an elevator or a bus, not wanting to waste a minute when I could be slipping exercise in.

5. Make yourself walk: Park at the furthest parking spot at the mall so you’ll get a good walk in. Take the stairs when you can instead of an escalator. Get off a stop early when you ride the subway to work. Do a few laps around the office when you’re feeling the mid-afternoon slump instead of reaching for a snack.

Have you found some great ways to sneak in your exercise?  Let us know.


·         ACSM Recommendations:

·         The Gold Coast Cure: The 5-Week Health and Body Makeover (Health Communications Inc.)