03-12-2015

Why You Should Get A Gait Analysis

Recently, I talked a little about my running form and asked for your thoughts on the importance of sneakers. I’ve been doing more research and actually listened to a very interesting podcast hosted by blogger and elite runner Tina Muir. Check it out here.

But from what I’ve read, when it comes to running, there are many important factors besides pronation, which is usually what they look at in running stores. Just because you over pronate or don’t, doesn’t mean you must wear a certain type of shoe (like stability). The more important thing is to find shoes that are comfortable for you. Which I do think is true because any time I have tried wearing stability shoes it just doesn’t feel right. Here are two points discussed in the podcast:

  • If Haile Gebrselassie walked into a running store, he would likely be put in motion control shoes, but he wears neutral shoes; things are not always as they seem.
  • How heel striking does not lead to a greater risk of injury; In one study, over 90% of elite and sub-elite marathoners were found to be heel strikers!

No really, listen to it to learn more…it was interesting stuff!

So anyway, on Instagram you may have seen some of my slo-mo videos I had my mom take of my while running. I wanted to see what my running form looked like and also get feedback from Coach Marc, who offers gait analysis services.

Why You Should Get A Gait Analysis

When I looked at the videos, I thought I pronated, but then other people said I don’t…so who knows ;) I sent the video over to Marc, and he sent me back cool photos showing the angles in my running. Here are a few examples:

gait analysis

gait analysis2
Pretty cool stuff right? He also looked at my video and saw during my kick back, my feet were kind of going to the side. He said, “Think of a piston in a car – if it had the same non-linear motion as your feet when they are behind you, the car wouldn’t operate smoothly. Form drills prior to running and maintenance post-run will do wonders for your pains and your form.”

The drills he mentioned are A-skips, B-skips, high knees, butt kicks, etc. I do usually do them in my warm-up but only for probably a total of 2 minutes max. He does them with his XC team for about 15 minutes during a warm-up. Clearly I need to do more.

I do want to go to a sports therapist and get an in-person analysis done so perhaps they can really tell me my issue with my shins. But from what I now know from these videos, hip strength and working on my form might help a bit. This is why it could really benefit you to get a gait analysis! Here are some key reasons (besides to see whether you pronate or not):

  • You will be able to see how your body moves. I had no idea my legs kicked back and inwards as I ran. This could be causing issues and I had no idea about it.
  • An experienced person will be able to look at the video and instantly pick up on muscle weaknesses and imbalances, like hip drop, which I read more about this week.
  • Provides you with a “before and after” source so you can see your improvement. You can try to change your gait or strengthen weak muscles but how will you know it worked if you have nothing to compare it to?

I really liked this quote from Active regarding why gait analysis is important:

Gait analysis is about looking at your entire body as a holistic organism—a single amazing unit. It goes far beyond an untrained eye watching you jog in a pair of sneakers.

It really is so much more than just your feet and the degree to which they roll inward or outward. Often times, it could be issues like core strength that are contributing to your lower leg issues, not necessarily if you overpronate or not.

As I had mentioned, Coach Marc provides gait analysis services along with this virtual coaching. If you want someone to take a better look at your running form and give you suggestions, definitely check him out! Plus, if you need a customized training plan in general, I highly suggest you connect with him and see if his coaching would be a good fit for you.

Have you had a gait analysis done?

What do you think is the weak link in your running?

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02-26-2015

Does The Fat Burning Zone Still Exist?

Last week I was at a spin class, and the instructor had us do a steady ride for a song or two, and said we’d be burning more calories in this aerobic pace because we were in the fat burning zone. Then she said we should come to her endurance ride because it would be 90 minutes in the fat burning zone. I was thinking to myself, “Wait what? Is the fat burning zone still a thing?” I haven’t heard that terminology in forever, so I started doing some research…aka Googling :-P

Does the fat burning zone still exist? Or is HIIT better?

From what I remembered, the fat burning zone was maintain your heart rate at a certain rate in order to burn the most fat/calories. So why is this the case, supposedly? Here’s a great explanation from Active:

The fat-burning zone is a concept that the body burns a greater amount of fat at lower-intensity aerobic exercise than it does at higher intensities. Actually, the body burns a greater percentage of fat at lower intensities than at higher intensities. At lower intensities the body may burn 50 percent of the calories from fat, while at higher intensities it may only burn 35 percent. But at higher intensities you burn way more total calories—and more fat calories overall—than you do at lower intensities.

Very interesting. And that’s what I was thinking in the class. We did a lot of hill rides and sprints and in my mind, that probably burns more calories overall than a steady pace. Furthermore, us runners know that the more you do something at a certain pace/rate, the more your body adapts. If you’re in the aerobic zone for every workout for months, eventually you will plateau. Speaking of plateau, I wrote about a few ways to beat that pesky plateau a while ago.

Let’s also talk about the afterburn effect. You may have read in plenty of fitness magazines that the reason HIIT (high intensity interval training) is so beneficial is because of the afterburn. For hours after you’re done exercising, your body continues to burn calories, whereas after aerobic exercises, there isn’t much of an afterburn. In a study done by the University of Maine, “A low intensity exercise group cycled at a steady rate of 3.5 minutes. The higher intensity exercise group required three 15 second sprints as fast as the subjects could run.”

What were the results?

The cycling group burned 29 calories vs. 4 calories for the sprinting group during the exercise. But when you take into account the calories burned after exercise, or the afterburn effect, the numbers look much different – 39 calories burned for the cycling group vs. 65 calories burned for the sprinting group. A surprising 95% of the total calorie burn occurred after the sprinting exercise!2 Keep in mind the cycling group exercised for almost 5x longer than the sprint group (3.5 minutes vs. 45 seconds).

I’ll admit, sometimes when I do a quick hill sprint session on the treadmill and I’m done in 15-20 minutes, I feel like I should keep exercising. But it’s clear that HIIT training really does have more “bang for your buck.” Why slog along on a treadmill for hours (okay maybe that’s an exaggeration) when you could do circuit training or HIIT and be done in 20-30 minutes (and reap the same benefits if not better)?

Obviously, this all doesn’t relate to those of us who are training for a long distance race. That is always the conundrum I have. I want to burn more fat and get leaner, but I’m be training for a half marathon or a marathon, so long, steady state cardio is my life at the moment, other than track workout or tempo days. Though I have started doing circuit training for strength workouts that are high intensity and last 30 minutes. I’ve loved it so far, and it’s a good change of pace from my usual lifting routine. Here’s an example of a workout I do.

Have you heard the term “fat burning zone” used recently?

What do you think of it vs. HIIT?

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02-24-2015

The Importance Of Proper Exercise Form

Today I want to talk about proper exercise form. A friend of mine just joined Crossfit and was telling me about an incident. Now before I start, I’m not bashing Crossfit. But I am bashing personal trainers who don’t teach proper form and who don’t modify exercises for beginners.

The Importance Of Proper Exercise Form

My friend is someone who is new to lifting…I personally don’t think she should be thrown into a barbell deadlift right away, but she was. The next day she was telling me how her back was killing her and she couldn’t even stand up straight because she was so sore. I asked her how much weight she did. She said she asked one trainer who said, “Ummm…just do 95 lbs,” which she knew would be too heavy, so she asked another trainer who said 70 or 75 lbs, I can’t remember.

There are some major problems here. One being, why is she doing a barbell deadlift as a beginner as opposed to learning proper form with lighter weights first? Two, what are those weights??? And why are these trainers just throwing around random numbers?? She sucked it up and did it, and then couldn’t walk up-right for a few days because her lower back was killing her, which usually means proper form was not used during the deadlift.

This actually happened to me once too. I went to a group bootcamp class and one of the exercises was a barbell deadlift. The trainer made it heavy enough for the strongest person in the class but it was way too heavy for me, which I expressed. But he told me to try it anyway. So I did (and couldn’t go down far enough either but he kept telling me to go all the way down), and I couldn’t walk for a few days because my back was killing me.

I’ve written about proper form cues for deadlifts before, but I want to talk about it again. Yes, the deadlift does recruit lower back muscles, but your lower back shouldn’t be that sore afterwards. You should mainly feel it in your hamstrings and glutes.

Here are a few key things to remember:

  • As you lower the weight, keep your core tight, which will keep you from only using your lower back.
  • As you lift the weight back up, focus on squeezing your glutes.
  • Keep your back flat throughout the exercise.
  • Keep your neck neutral, don’t look up and crane your neck. Look a few inches ahead of you or down – whatever keeps your neck in line with your spine.

There’s nothing wrong with starting with a lighter weight or modifying exercises. And that’s what personal trainers are for!! That’s what this rant is about. The trainers in the experiences above should have realized that the weight was too heavy, and also been there to provide form cues for my friend so that this didn’t happen. It makes me nervous that as someone who is a total beginner to lifting (she’s only really done exercise DVDs) she’s thrown into barbell exercises and Olympic exercises.

Here are a few glute/hamstring exercises that you can do as you build up to a full deadlift:

  • Glute/hip raises –> make it more challenging by adding a plate or barbell onto your hips
  • Romanian dumbbell deadlifts –> progress it by increasing dumbbell weight until you feel comfortable with this exercise
  • Romanian barbell deadlifts could be the next step from the above exercise.
  • Trap bar deadlifts are a good way to take some load off the lower back.

I’d say my favorite would be Romanian dumbbell deadlifts. Easy to progress and you’ll really feel it building strength in your hamstrings.

If you don’t have a trainer, just do some research on how to progress. Trainers I follow with great tips are Tony Gentilcore and Bret Contreras (“The Glute Guy”).

If you do have a trainer, make sure you hold them accountable. Speak up if you’re afraid something is too heavy or too challenging for you. There is no shame in that! Better to be safe than injured. Ask them questions about the exercise. What muscles should it recruit? Where should you feel it? What’s the point of doing it? What are some modifications?

Okay, rant over ;)

If you’re a Crossfitter, how does your gym help those who are totally new to lifting?

Have you had a bad personal trainer experience?

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02-18-2015

My WeightWatchers Review

For the past month or so, I’ve been trying to follow WeightWatchers in order to improve my eating and see some results from the gym. Nutrition has always been the hardest part for me when it comes to being healthy. I mean, for the most part I eat healthy. My main meals always include good sources of protein, fat and healthy carbs. It’s the afternoon and evening sweet cravings that get me! I never, ever get cravings for anything salty, like chips, but my sweet tooth is ridiculous. I’ve been trying to rein that in.

I really like WeightWatchers because you’re not restricted as to what you can or can’t eat. I had tried paleo and Whole30 in the past but it was just too restrictive for me. I would do it for a month but just couldn’t wait to get back to including things like oatmeal or rice in my diet. It just wasn’t for me.

WeightWatchers Review
I’m not saying WeightWatchers lets you eat anything you want…there is accountability. Basically, you get a certain number of “points” you can eat per day, which you need to calculate (I use this website). I haven’t officially joined WW yet, so I have to use websites to figure out my points (as opposed to their own website and app, which you need to pay for). I will probably sign up in the near future, just because it will make things much easier.

Anyway, you get your points value, and that’s what you can eat. So you can go ahead and eat that slice of pizza, but just know it will cost you 7 points. Vegetables and fruits have 0 points. You also get activity points (extra points if you workout that day, which you can choose whether or not to use) and a weekly allowance of 49 extra points (if you think you might splurge, like I did this past weekend at a wedding). You don’t need to use those 49 points at all if you don’t want to.

So far, I’ve lost 5 lbs in about a month, and that’s without following it 100% (weekends I’m a bit more flexible with myself). I had written up a review last year about the 21 Day Fix nutrition plan, and I’d say this is kind of comparable. You can eat what you want, as long as you track it when it comes to your points (or containers for 21 Day fix). I do plan on posting results once I finish my workout plan I’m testing out for my ebook, and continue to follow WW.

Let’s outline some Pros and Cons, in case you’re thinking about WeightWatchers:

Pros

  • Flexible eating – nothing is off limits (like grains in the paleo diet)
  • Pretty easy to calculate points. You pretty much eat the same things day in and day out (at least I do), so you’ll quickly memorize point values.
  • Easy to follow without the paid version, and even easier with paid. The paid app gives you point values for restaurants, and allows you to scan items, search for foods/dishes, etc.
  • I like the 49 weekly points you get in case you do want to splurge. I am all about moderation. If I want a cookie, I’ll have it. If I go to an event or outing, I don’t want to feel deprived.
  • Activity points are great too because the more you’re active, the more points you get per day (if you want to use them). I get 26 points, but each day I workout I get an extra 4-6 points.
  • Paid version = weekly meetings. My friend loved going to meetings and talking about issues relating to losing weight and food with others. Also a great way to meet some like-minded people.
  • Provides a different way to look at food, at least for me. I now think twice before getting a pastry from Starbucks (a small caramel square is 11 points!) and eat more vegetables and fruits because they’re 0 points and are a great way to curb hunger.

Cons

  • If you do it on your own, like me, calculating points can be a pain. Not necessarily the simple stuff (like a granola bar), but restaurant meals (how many points are in a Chipotle chicken bowl??)
  • Can also be a pain to know points for things you make. I made eggplant parm with tomato sauce and mozzarella, but didn’t measure out that stuff, so no clue how many extra points that had. I usually just guesstimate.
  • At first, you will probably feel hungry a lot like I did. I was used to eating whatever, whenever. Even though I was eating healthy snacks throughout the day, I was snacking whenever I wanted to. Following WW meant I had to have times to eat and snack, so that I didn’t use up all my points by noon. It does take some getting used to, but if you go over, no worries, that’s what your 49 points are for.

I really like this plan, and it’s probably a nutrition plan I’ve followed for the longest time. I wanted to share with you in case you’re interested or are looking for a way to hold yourself accountable with food. I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’d tried WeightWatchers too!

Do you have any WeightWatchers recipes you could share?

Have you/do you follow a nutrition plan, or do you just go with the flow each day?

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02-05-2015

Day 1 of Morning Exercise

And probably the only day this week…maybe I’ll do it again next week ;)

But yeah, I woke up at 6:30 today to run before work…probably not a big deal to most of you but I’m SO not a morning person and never workout in the AM because I feel like a zombie. 6:30 probably isn’t even that early to some of you (I know some people are up at 4:30 am to workout) but it’s early for me. My usual wake up time before work is 7:30 AM and even then I snooze for 10 minutes before dragging myself out of bed.

Today I made myself just get up and go. I had my stuff packed already for the day so I just had to pack my oatmeal and snacks for the day. I thought, I can go and run for 30 minutes, that’s all I need to do.

So what motivated this change? A great article I read yesterday, The Brutally Honest 6 Reasons You’re Still Overfat, which I quoted on my Instagram (pardon the language):

 

A photo posted by pattyrivas13 (@pattyrivas13) on


It’s a longer read but worth it, especially if you need a kick in the butt. He talks about people making excuses (well, my coworkers brought in donuts so I ate a few) as opposed to owning it (I chose to eat donuts). While I know it’s my own fault my nutrition isn’t as good as it should be, I know that I’ve been guilty of making excuses before, especially the likes of “Well, I worked out for an hour so I can eat this cookie.”

He also talks about sacrifice…and if you really want something, you’ll suck it up and make a sacrifice to get there. My sacrifice today was that extra hour of sleep. I want to lose a few of the extra pounds that I have gained, and I need to take charge and do it as opposed to bi*ching and moaning about getting up early, or being too tired to run, etc. I’m soooo guilty of making excuses when I’m tired…just yesterday I skipped the gym because I was tired after a bad night’s sleep. Then I got home and read this post and was like, ugh…should have just gone to the gym!

Here are a few other points I liked from the article:

  • “This applies not just to fat loss but also to the rest of your health and fitness goals. If you blame yourself – success. If you blame everything else – no success. Period.”
  • “Life isn’t fair. Life is hard. You will get out of it what you put into it. And when you decide to make real changes, when you make a commitment to yourself to make a difference, YOU HAD BETTER STICK TO IT.”

  • “‘Treats’ are something out of the ordinary. If it happens more than once a month it is no longer out of the ordinary. Stop saying treat. You aren’t having a treat.”
  • It is awesome to have targets and goals. In fact it is imperative to have targets and goals. But those are simply markers, stepping stones, to the ultimate goals, which should be health and fitness until the day you die.”
  • It is either a workout you have to do or a celebration of the amazing gift your healthy body is.”

Some people don’t like this kind of in your face motivation but I love it. Sometimes I just need that kick in the butt and reminder that I’m lucky to be healthy and even able to exercise…so why complain about doing it?

Now, I can’t promise I will be regularly waking up at 6:30 am to run, but I’m going to try at least ONCE next week to do it again. I feel great right now sitting at work, and more energized than I ever feel in the mornings when I get here. Will I be more tired later though? I guess I’ll find out :)

Do you exercise in the mornings? What tips do you have for me for dragging myself out from under my warm covers?

What kind of stuff motivates you? Do you like the aggressive, in your face approach?

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01-29-2015

How To Squat Deeper

I’ve written about proper squat and deadlift form, but today we’ll talk about how to work your way into a deeper squat. (I’ve also written about how it’s not necessary to squat all the way down – in fact, it can lead to injury if you’re not ready for that).

However, it’s important to work on mobility if you want to perfect your squat form and get a bit deeper each time. When I first started lifting, I’d have a bench under me and I couldn’t even squat to the bench! Usually, not being able to get low enough has to do with lack of flexibility – probably in your ankles or hips. PS – if you want to work on ankle flexibility and dorsiflexion, try this exercise. My PT had me do this for my shin splints during half marathon training and it really helped. For me, a tight Achilles and lack of dorsiflexion is/was causing tight calves which leads to shin pain.

Anyway, let’s get into a few things you can do to work on your squats. Let’s start with the warm-up:

How To Squat Deeper

Warm up your hips and glutes.

This seems like a no-brainer, but I’ve seen people show up to the gym and just start squatting. Yikes. Take 10 minutes to warm up before you hit the squat rack. First do some cardio to get your heart rate up, then start doing dynamic stretches for your hips, like lunges (where your knee is on the floor and you move forward to stretch the hip, but then come back up, then go back into it, etc. so it’s dynamic, not just you holding a stretch). Do side lunges as well to hit it from a different angle. Do a few static standing lunges to warm up your quads and glutes –  nice and slow.

Roll out your calves.

In order to get your calves ready, do the drill above, and foam roll your calves. If you have a partner, take a wooden stick/pole (some gyms have them some don’t, if not just use the foam roller) and ask them to roll it over your lower calf, closer to your Achilles. They’ll be able to apply pressure in different areas you may not be able to if you foam roll yourself. You want to get the blood flowing in these areas and get them loose, especially if dorsiflexion is what is causing you issues with squatting.

Okay let’s move to the actual squatting:

Set a bench or box behind you.

You won’t be doing box squats (which is a specific technique different than regular squats), but you’ll just be squatting down and trying to tap the bench with your butt. If you can’t get down that low, then you know you’ve got some work to do. This also gives you a starting point. Once you ARE able to tap the bench, you know that you’ve been improving and are getting better at squatting.

Put plates under your heels.

I had clients who would start with 25 lb. plates (thicker) and work their way down to just a 5 lb plate (very thin). Putting plates under your heels helps with the dorsiflexion issue, since now your heels are elevated and will give you a bit more range of motion. As I was reading a forum about this, I saw some opinions about this being impractical because “you’re supposed to be squatting with heels planted and driving through the heels.” Yes, that is true, but if you don’t have the range of motion how will you do this? As with anything else, this tip is a way to help you to progress to that level, similar to how using an assisted pull-up machine helps you progress to a pull-up.

Anyway, got side tracked, use a certain plate for 2 weeks, then try to use one that’s thinner, and work your way down. Obviously, you need to be working on mobility during this time as well. Simply using plates won’t improve your dorisflexion. Make sure you’re actively foam rolling your calves and Achilles and doing drills like the one I linked to above. Here are more drills from trainer Tony Gentilcore (scroll down a bit). My PT had recommended doing that drill whenever possible throughout the day, but a minimum of 2-3 times a day.

Do front squats.

Front squats require you to have the barbell on the front/meaty part of your shoulders. If you don’t have access to a barbell, you can do goblet squats instead. You’ll find that with front squats you will probably be able to get a bit deeper than with back squats. This is because of the angle of your hips and back during the squatting. 

squat-torso-positionPhoto Source

Throw these into your routine and focus on your depth. As always, make sure you’re keeping your core tight and “chest up, shoulders back.”

Start light.

Don’t be embarrassed if you’re only squatting the barbell to start. I started there too. It’s better to use light weights as you fix your mobility than try to do 100 lbs. and have awful form that will lead to injury. Use light weight and really focus on the exercise. Feel yourself bracing your core and going through the motions. Go nice and slow to determine how low you can get and get a tiny bit lower each week. Throughout the weeks, you’ll not only gain flexibility but you’ll also be able to start increasing your weight load bit by bit.

Are you able to do squats no problem or did you have to work your way up to them? They’re a great exercise when done properly!

How do you warm up before a lifting session?

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01-20-2015

Trying Something New

I haven’t been happy with where I’m at with my body…I know I have weight to lose, but it’s hard!! Why is it so easy to gain 10 lbs. and so hard to lose it? I’ve written about this before, and nothing has really changed since then. Part of the issue has been my long distance training.

Jess, of Blonde Ponytail, recently discussed this on her blog. She decided to mainly focus on strength training workouts as opposed to running because of the effect it had on fat loss. I know that if I want to lose fat and get lean, focusing more on strength is key. But at the same time, I love running and every time I’ve decided to focus on lifting, I end up missing running and training for a race. I like pushing myself and seeing if I can get better in the half and full marathon.

This is the catch 22. Run, or lift and lose fat. Some people are able to do both and stay lean, but I know I can’t, and have figured that out throughout the past few years.

So right now I am just switching my routine all around. I always did heavier lifting – a set number of reps and sets. But I’ve been trying circuit training for time since last week and man is it killer! I was sore for days after a leg circuit. I am hoping this 1) helps me lose body fat and 2) the plyo movements will help me get faster with running. I’m currently not really running that much, just a few times a week. I don’t know if I’m doing a spring half yet so I haven’t been as diligent.

I just want to lose around 15 lbs by the summer time. I have a wedding to go to in February, so any small change before that would be nice, and I’ll be going on vacation in July. I know that to many I’m not “overweight” but for me, I’m at the heaviest I’ve ever been. My bodyfat % in relation to my height and weight is high. I need to change that. 

Which leads me to my next change…

I’m going to try eating meatless meals a few times a week. I’m not going full blown vegetarian or anything (don’t think I could ever do that), but I know I could benefit from focusing on increasing my vegetable intake. Some nights when I’m too lazy to cook, dinner is mainly meat, sauce and pasta or rice. Another thing I need to change as well! So I found a bunch of recipes I want to try, which I’ll share with you below as well. 

I don’t think going meatless is the means to weightloss, but I know that it will encourage me to eat healthier and it does impact our environment as well. Plus, it won’t hurt to cut out hormone-laden chicken and meat from my diet (because I don’t buy grass fed or organic chicken, but do plan on going Trader Joe’s more often to do so).

Okay, here are some recipes I want to try!

I really need some recipes to try out…preferably one a meat eater would love too since Dan is kind of a picky eater :) So please leave a comment below with a recipe if you have one you’d like to share!

When you’ve felt unhappy with yourself, what kind of changes did you make?

How did you motivate yourself to keep going despite it taking time to get back to where you want to be? 

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01-07-2015

Running Tips: What I Learned From My XC Team

My cross-country season ended in October, and somehow I haven’t written a post about it yet…well here it is!

As some of you may know, this year was my first season coaching the XC team at the community college I work at. I loved it and am so excited for next season to start. I had a group of hard working students who really showed me what it means to be passionate about running. I learned a few things from them that I wanted to share with you. Perhaps it will inspire you as well!

Running Tips
Commit. 100%. No brainer right? Well, I know that I haven’t committed 100% to my running. I know I have more to give, especially if I want better results. My students showed up to practice every day and worked hard. They pushed their limits and committed to the team. Even though we didn’t have a full team, and couldn’t compete as a team, they were all there each day and pushed each other. Despite having school work, exams, jobs, being tired, etc. they showed up and put in the work. I can certainly take that lesson and apply it to my own life.

Even if you’re a beginner, don’t doubt yourself. I have a couple of runners who had never ran competitively before. One who had never really ran period! And you know what, they were just as committed as those who ran throughout high school. They hung in with the other runners and worked just as hard. Don’t doubt yourself as a runner just because “you just started.” We’re all runners no matter what level. We can all relate to the pain, the daily grind, the muscle fatigue. These students weren’t afraid to ask the others questions about how to get stronger and faster (harder, better, faster, stronger? lol). If you’re just starting out, learn from other runners – don’t be afraid to ask questions! We’re a friendly bunch who love to talk about running…amiright? :)

Strength train. You know what my team loved (and wanted) to do that other teams didn’t? Lift. Other coaches were shocked when I told them my team would ASK me to go to the weight room after practice to lift. You should be doing this too! I know that lifting can fall to the wayside when you’re training for an event…it’s happened to me plenty of times (and I’m paying for it today because I’m SO SORE from Monday’s workout still). You’re passionate about running and getting faster; be just as passionate about strength training to get you even faster.

Don’t be afraid of the rain. Like me :) My runners had no issue running in the rain…some even liked it! As Coach Marc would always say…it’s just water. I just hate my shoes getting wet! But when you have to get the miles in, you gotta do what you gotta do. They ran rain or shine, and we only postponed practice once due to weather because it was lightning out. I’m going to take my own advice and do more running outside this month/winter…yes it’s cold but I need to buck up (and layer up) and just do it!

Know when to stop. One of my runners had a knee and hip issue that would crop up every once in a while. I remember specifically one day we were doing a track workout. He loved “Track Tuesdays” and would always push himself. But after the first rep, his hip got really tight and he could barely walk. I knew that he wanted to continue, but he said, “Coach I’m going to sit out a few reps and stretch.” How many times have you wanted to keep going despite your body saying no? There is a fine line between a little muscle fatigue and injury. If something is bothering you, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Stop the run or workout, stretch, foam roll, and if it doesn’t go away call it a day. Would you rather miss a few miles or a whole season?

My team was awesome…such a great group of students to kick off my inaugural season. I can only hope to continue it next season!

Do you run outside no matter what? How do you motivate yourself to do that?

Did you run XC in middle school/high school/college?

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12-09-2014

Gym Etiquette

I just joined a new gym and so far I love it. It’s big and has probably 30 treadmills, which means I’ll never have to wait again! (knock on wood)

But with a new gym comes new questions. I wanted to get your input on a few things, and then talk about general gym etiquette for those who may just be starting to go or plan on getting a membership for the new year.

Proper Gym Etiquette

Questions:

Okay here are my questions for you gym folks…

  • At my other gym, when you wanted to use the squat rack, you waited behind the person squatting (kind of a line I guess) and when they were finished you stepped in. Is this normal practice? If I wait behind someone at my new gym will they think I’m a creep?
  • Do you bring your dumbbells to other places in the gym? We had a room where people took equipment to do circuit type workouts. At my new gym, the way the treadmills are set up, it’d be perfect to bring dumbbells or kettlebells over to do running and strength circuits. Thoughts?

Okay so I though I had more questions but that’s basically it haha. I’d love to hear your input!

General Gym Etiquette

If you plan on getting a gym membership this upcoming year and aren’t sure where to start, here are a few “rules” people tend to follow at the gym. I mean, basically just be courteous and no one will give you the stink eye ;)

Wipe stuff down. Don’t leave your treadmill, bike, mat, bench, etc. without wiping it down. 1) Who wants to touch your sweat and 2) Think of all the bacteria that can be passed around that way. Let’s all try to avoid getting sick so we don’t have to skip days at the gym :)

Don’t hoard equipment. I know I asked above if I can take dumbbells to a room or the treadmill, but some people take dumbbells, kettlebells, a bench, a box, a jump rope, etc. etc. to their little corner and then the rest of the gym doesn’t have access for a while. If you’re doing circuits, just take what you need for the first circuit, then go exchange it for other stuff as your workout progresses (especially if it’s during peak hours).

Be quick. No one is saying to rush your workout, but don’t take a 5 minute break in between sets either. I hate when I’m waiting for a bench or the squat rack and the person on it is texting during their break, walking around talking to friends and just taking forever in general. When I know people are waiting, I take a short break, and then get right back into it. Plus, that’s a better way to keep your heart rate up anyway!

Ask someone to spot you. Don’t be afraid to do this! Personal trainers and gym staff are there for a reason. If you’re just starting out and unsure of the weight you’re lifting, definitely ask someone to give you a spot. You’ll stay safe and perhaps learn some cues and tips from the trainer who helps you.

Put your stuff away. Nothing peeves me more than when I go to the squat rack and someone left the bar on the rack with multiple weights on it. Why??? You couldn’t take the time to take the weights off?? Be courteous and put things back where you got them…isn’t that something we learned in Kindergarten? ;)

Let people work in with you. If you know you need to do 5 sets on a machine, let the person waiting work in with you. They’ll ask “Can I work in?” and then you just switch on and off. You can also ask people if you can work in. I mean, I know people who find this annoying, but it doesn’t bother me at all. What are your thoughts on this?

I want to hear your thoughts on gym etiquette…what would you add to this list? Or any general tips you’d give beginners?

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12-04-2014

How and Why You Should Nap

Who loves naps? I would take a nap everyday if I could. The nice thing about working from home some days is that I CAN take a nap, but usually I don’t because I just think of everything else I could be doing with that time. But some days, desperate times call for desperate measures ;)

If you nap, you’ve likely experienced that nap where you pass out, wake up 2 hours later, and still feel tired and groggy. Those are the worst. Dan never naps because he always wants to take long naps – I try to tell him 20-30 minutes is the perfect amount but he says that’s too short. 

So with that being said…let’s talk about some nap tips!

Napping Tips

Napping boosts productivity

Taking a short nap gives your  mind some rest and helps you wake up refreshed and ready to get back to work. In a study done by UC Berkeley, they found that a test group who took a 90-minute nap did much better on tests and were actually able to learn and retain more information than those who did not nap during the day. 

It’s as though the e-mail inbox in your hippocampus is full and, until you sleep and clear out those fact e-mails, you’re not going to receive any more mail. It’s just going to bounce until you sleep and move it into another folder.”

Now obviously we can’t all be taking 90 minute naps, but it goes to show that taking a short, power nap on your lunch break could make you more productive for your afternoon work shift.

Short naps are key

According to the Mayo Clinic, 10-30 minute naps are the perfect length. You will wake up refreshed as opposed to groggy. Taking shorter naps will also decrease the chances of it interfering with your sleep at night. The Mayo Clinic also suggests taking naps between 2-3 p.m. I always get the afternoon slump around this time! If you do want to take a longer nap, then go for 90 minutes. This will equal an entire sleep cycle, so you’ll wake up with no grogginess. This graphic from Lifehacker is very helpful!

How Long Should I Nap
Drink coffee before a nap

My roommate actually told me this in college. If you drink coffee before a nap, it takes about 20-30 minutes for the caffeine to kick in, so you’ll wake up from the caffeine, and wake up energized and ready to get back to work.

I visited Google headquarters in NYC a few years ago, and they had this awesome nap pod for their employees. I mean how cool is this?

Google

I’ve seen WeWork coworking spaces with nap areas as well. Companies are starting to see that napping can really boost productivity, as opposed to slogging along with your work half asleep. I remember when I had an internship in college that was about an hour commute. I would go to my car and take a 20 minute nap during my lunch break. I seriously love naps.

In Paraguay, their lunch break is two sometimes three hours, to allow people to go home for lunch and take a “siesta.” Though, their workday ends at 7. Not sure which I would prefer, 9-5(ish) with a one hour lunch, or 8-7 with a 2 hour break in the middle. Probably 9-5 because staying longer would interfere with my gym time ;)

Do you take naps? If you had a nap pod at work, would you use it?

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