Stevia Experience

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Thinking that Stevia was a good alternative sweetener since it’s natural, I made the switch. I’m no scientist and this isn’t an official experiment or anything, but these are the events that occurred.

I’d been doing a rigorous “lean muscle workout” from Men’s Fitness magazine. (It’s a pretty good one – short rests, supersets, every muscle group – check it out.) Near the end of the program, I went crazy with the hyperextensions (kind of like a reverse sit-up, holding weights for extra resistance) and felt like I strained my back. It was about this time that I was making the switch from Splenda to Stevia.

I was switching to the StrongLifts 5×5 program (read about it here), and I noticed that my lower back was in pretty serious pain. Luckily, the program starts out with very light weights so I wasn’t too worried. My back continued to hurt but I figured it was recovering and would soon be better.

Several more weeks of StrongLifts and my back was only healing slowly and even seemed to stop at a certain level of discomfort. Also, I failed and stalled in the program at much lower weights than I would have expected. Failing is part of it, but I was really having trouble in many of the exercises.

My wife shared some articles with me on Stevia about the potential effects – including muscle pain, weakness, and some other nasty stuff. Also, I was gaining weight. Ok, so I might have been lax about tracking my food and indulging a bit (ok, a lot) in some higher fat/sugar stuff. But I was doing fairly well with exercise – more weightlifting than cardio so maybe there was a touch of muscle weight gain, but I don’t rationalize like that, I’m getting fatter. Not all the way fatter, but still.

So I quit the Stevia.

Maybe this is a coincidence, but given the research it seems a little less coincidental: my back pain all but vanished. I went from needing a heating pad on my back most of the day to pretty much zero pain. Also, I went from failing at squats of 110 lbs (I’d still do 5 sets, but only hit 5 reps on 2 or 3 of them) to moving easily through 115, 120 and 125.

Whatever happened, I couldn’t be happier to have the back pain gone and feel stronger. I’m going to get back to tracking my food and try to pick up some more cardio workouts (training for a cool triathlon at Kennedy Space Center), so hopefully I can get my weight under control and back into a more acceptable range.

Now, I just need to find a good sweetener. I’m trying honey in my iced espresso, but it doesn’t always mix so well. I’ll keep trying it out, maybe even switch back to Splenda now and then (it did me well on my weight loss journey).

The moral of the story: even though something’s natural doesn’t guarantee your body knows how to process it efficiently or effectively. And it may work for some people and not for others. But if you notice something persistent, try removing any potential factors one at a time and see what happens.

Thanks for reading!

Reboot: Strength Training with StrongLifts 5×5

Reboot: Strength Training with StrongLifts 5×5

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I needed a reboot of my exercise routine. For cardio, I’ve been practicing the Galloway Method (see my take on it here), but I also want to build some muscle – ideally: lean muscle. I was bulking up on a Muscle & Fitness program, but it seemed a little much. So I took a look at a program called StrongLifts 5×5. It seems to fit.

Here’s the basics:

The core exercise of StrongLifts is the barbell squat. As Medhi, the program’s founder, says, the squat builds all your muscles, especially your biggest and usually most-ignored group of muscles – quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes (legs). There are four other exercises that make up the routines (bench press, deadlift, overhead military press, bent-over row). It’s a pretty simplistic structure, but offers great progress and results. You work out 3x/week, taking a day in between workouts. Each workout you start with squats, then you do two of the other exercises. You start each exercise with just the bar (45 lbs) and add 5 lbs each subsequent day. The 5×5 is because you do 5 sets, 5 reps each set.

The brass ring of the StrongLifts program: you start with just the bar, but by the end of 12 weeks you’ll be squatting 5 sets, 5 reps of 225 lbs. Not a bad goal to strive toward.

If  you want to see the whole program (there are a few other nuances, and a pretty cool app for the iPhone (or Android)), go to www.stronglifts.com and order the report. (It’s a good report, and all you have to do is sign up for Medhi’s mailing list – a daily email that always has good supporting info.)

How’s it working? Well, I’m liking it a lot. I felt a little silly just lifting the bar or very light weights around all the “Captain Upperbodies” who bench 185 or more and the guys who “half-squat” 225+, but knowing what I’m doing and where I’m heading, I got over that quickly.

I’ve lost about 6 lbs since I started the program, and have been able to keep increasing the amount of weight in each exercise – with one exception that I’ll explain. I can increasingly see more definition in my muscles and I definitely feel stronger.

Fitocracy-LogoIn addition to StrongLifts, I’ve also been tracking my workouts on a fitness community called Fitocracy. A real bonus of Fitocracy is the StrongLifts group – particularly the welcoming of “form checks” by the group’s members. You take a video of yourself lifting, post it, and others give you their critique and advice on your form. While I was able to lift the heavier weights, my squat form was getting sloppy (if not risky) – I was leaning forward, rounding my back, doing other things that were counter-productive. The advice and encouragement I received really helped. I de-loaded (reduced the amount I was squatting) and am working on my form before starting again.

So, if you’re looking for an easy to follow weight-lifting program that helps you build strength slowly but surely, give StrongLifts a try. Read the report, get the app or print out/write out the workout plan and get going. And stop by Fitocracy (www.fitocracy.com). Whether you just track your workouts there or get into the groups, it’s a great community for anyone interested in getting and staying fit.

Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions. Thanks for reading!

Reboot: Running with The Galloway Method

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After a few years of running and some weight “fluctuations” (i.e., minor gains), I decided to reboot my cardio and weight training. For weight training, I selected Stronglifts 5×5. I’ll talk about that in a different post. This post is about cardio, specifically, running using the Galloway Method.

Photo break on a training run in front of the Acosta Bridge in Jacksonville.
Photo break on a training run in front of the Acosta Bridge in Jacksonville.

The Galloway Method is the method used by seasoned runner/walker trainer Jeff Galloway. I first heard of this method via 26.2 with Donna (the marathon to Finish Breast Cancer), a cause in which I’ve participated over the past few years.

Galloway’s theory is that running/walking or running at a steady, what might seem like slower-than-normal pace, one can not only reduce the incidence of injury, but also run long distances strongly. Furthermore, Galloway has shown that it is possible to run/walk and perform better than you would if you continually ran the same distance (the recovery from walking helps you run stronger in the run intervals).

The basic elements of the method are this (I urge you to look at Galloway’s site and/or read his books before diving in – this is greatly abbreviated): time your fastest mile (your “Magic Mile” (MM)). Multiply your MM by a factor for your target race distance; that’s your “race pace”. Add 2 minutes; now you have your “training pace”. My most recent MM is 9:12. I’m training for a 1/2 marathon, so multiply my MM by 1.2 and that gives me a race pace of 11:02 and a training pace of 13:02.

I’ve never been super speedy, but 13 minute miles feel very sloooooow. And yet, finishing a 10K (6.2 mile) run breathing normally and feeling like you could go another few miles is pretty neat. I’ve never been able to picture running a whole marathon, but now it seems completely probable.

I’m looking forward to using this method to finish the 15K (9.3mi) Gate River Run for the 2nd time this year. While it may be a little slower (last year I was in the 9:15min/mi range), it’ll be cool to see how I feel at the finish line and throughout the race with this new pace and conditioning.

I highly recommend anyone give the Galloway Method a try, and stick with it even though it might feel like you’re moving slowly. It’s low risk, high defense against injury and high reward, especially for long-distance running.

Thanks for reading!

Next: Rebooting weight training with Stronglifts 5×5.

Fast Forward 90 Days

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It’s been a while since I’ve written, but luckily it’s not because I was trying to avoid accountability or anything. In fact, a bunch of really cool things have happened in the last 90 days!

  1. I’ve completed a 2nd triathlon (well, it was really a duathlon – run/bike/run – because the risk of rip currents was too high)
  2. I got a great job working at a credit union (if you don’t know what credit unions are, exactly, they’re a totally awesome financial institution – way better than banks b/c they are a cooperative.  Banks are owned by shareholders so to make money for them they tack on fees and find other ways of extracting money from customers to be more profitable.  Credit unions are member-owned, so there’s no profits going to anyone but the members.  Rates are better, fees are extremely low and service is tons better.)
  3. My wife and I have our beehives and are learning a lot and having a great time as beekeepers
  4. I’ve now lost a total of more than 100 lbs!  (2 lbs away from my lifetime goal)

Now I’m training for an Olympic-distance triathlon (0.9 mi swim, 25 mi bike, 6.2 mi run, or if you are in a country that actually adopted the more easily manageable metric system: 1500 meter swim, 40K bike ride, 10K run) and I have a few ‘adventure’ races on the calendar, culminating with Tough Mudder December 1 in Tampa.

One thing I’ve tried with my training and competition is adding energy gels/supplements.  I’ve tried several, and here’s my quick and dirty review of each.

Gu Energy Gel – Tastes good (my favorite so far is the Strawberry Banana), give a good, long-lasting energy boost (i dont’ use caffeinated ones – don’t see the point since caffeine works much more slowly than sugar)

Powerbar Energy Gel – Tastes ok, a little liquidy (by design, I know, but still not my preference).  Decent energy boost (takes maybe a touch longer to get going), but the biggest problem to me is that I seem to get nauseated after about an hour or so into my cardio training.

Quest Bars – I’ve got an assortment of these and have only tried one so far but I really liked it (wild berry was the flavor I tried).   The selling point of Quest bars is that they have very few “active carbs” (i.e., alcohol sugars) and a good dose of protein.  Feel hard as a rock in the wrapper, but actually have a pretty good texture when you’re eating them.  Non-chocolate flavors are a little better than the chocolate flavors, IMO.

CLIF SHOT BLOKS – I like these a lot – little gel blocks.  3 = 1 energy gel pack.  Seem like there’s more moisture in these so you don’t need to wash them down with so much water.  Plus you can take fewer than the whole energy gel pack more easily.

Honey Stinger – Pretty neat product, tasty little wafer endorsed by Lance Armstrong.  Can’t recall how well I felt it worked, but have another one on deck to try!

I think it’s a coincidence, but on some of the weeks where I’ve not lost as much weight or *gulp* gained a bit have been weeks when I’ve consumed a few energy booster products.  I’d like to find the balance between over-carbo-loading and ‘bonking’ (just learned that term – know what it is? It’s the term marathon runners use to describe what happens when they go beyond the point where their bodies are using sugars for energy and dip into their protein (muscle) stores for energy.  Now you know what it is, too!).  I’ll keep experimenting.  If anyone has any suggestions, please let me know!

So, that’s the skinny.  I’ll try to share some more about all of that a little more frequently.  Look forward to hearing any comments or suggestions.  Thanks so much for listening!

81.4 Ways [Not] to Fail at Losing Weight

81.4 Ways [Not] to Fail at Losing Weight

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Before and afterSo I guess it’s a good time for me to write about my experience with weight loss.  Over the past year I’ve lost 81.4 lbs.  The pic of me is a before and almost after (that’s about 10 or 15 lbs ago).  The after pic is at the finish line of a sprint-distance triathlon.

It’s been a long journey and it’s not over.  In fact, it’ll never be over.  (Well, I don’t mean that I’m going to keep losing weight until I disappear or anything, just that even when I hit my goal, I’ll be working to maintain a healthy weight from there on out.)  I’ve learned so much from this experience (and plan on learning a lot more).  Mostly, I’ve learned how all the bad habits I (and you, c’mon, let’s face it) have had in the past were recipes for failure when it came to weight loss.

Rather than list all 81.4 ways (though I bet I could), here are 4 that have made the most difference to me.

(1) Recipe for Failure: Restrict yourself from things

One of the questions I am most frequently asked is “What diet did you do?”  Answer: none.  I joined Weight Watchers.  The rest of this is going to sound like the result of the brainwashing equal to that of our finest insane religious cults, but it’s all true.  Weight Watchers is not a diet.  “Diets” are restrictive, usually short-term because of the intensity of the restrictions, and typically provide short-term results.  Weight Watchers is a lifestyle plan.  The tent poles are journaling, education, healthy lifestyle habits and mutual support.

I can – and do – eat anything I want.  Anything.  An-y-thing.  Last night we had barbecue, sweet potato pie and chocolate cake.  A week or so ago we went to a concert and I had a soft pretzel and beer.  The fact of the matter is this: if you restrict yourself, you’ll fail.  Eventually you’ll give in to your cravings and slowly but surely break your good habits because you feel restricted.

So, I didn’t do a diet.  And you don’t have to either.  You don’t even have to join Weight Watchers…

(2) Recipe for Failure: Out of sight, out of mind

Usually, when we eat something once it’s gone, we don’t think about it anymore.  The damage is done.  Or even if it’s something healthy, we don’t think much about it because we focus all our energy on the delicious garbage that we love to hate.

That’s where the journaling helps sooooooo much.  A study in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine found that people who journaled their food six days a week lost twice as much as those who only journaled one day or less a week.

This is why I’m saying that you don’t necessarily need to join Weight Watchers to lose weight.  If you journal your food, you’ll lose.  Journaling makes you accountable for what you eat to the one person it matters to: yourself.  It also helps you control the volume of food you eat (you’re more likely to pay attention to serving sizes when you write things down), and helps you develop and maintains healthy eating habits.

Journaling makes you more accountable to yourself, and that’s great.  But what happens when you start cheating yourself?  Well…

(3) Recipe for Failure: You don’t need anyone’s help

Sheer tyranny of will can be a very powerful thing.  Unfortunately, most of us (unless you’re Mohandas Gandhi or Lance Armstrong or someone like that) don’t have it.

Having others’ support while you try to reach a goal or overcome an obstacle is another key to success, in my experience.  I’ve taken advantage of others’ support in at least two ways: (1) I attend Weight Watchers meetings where others are going through the same thing I am, including our awesome meeting leader, Anita, who is also a member and fights the good fight every day, and (2) I share my successes, trials and tribulations with others through social media channels, where I get a great deal of advice and encouragement.

The encouragement and inspiration are definitely an important component of getting others’ support.  But the real power of sharing with the community for me is the accountability.  I built a habit of sharing my successes AND stumbles with my social circles regularly.  On my weekly weigh-in days, I share the results, good, bad or indifferent.  And as I go through my week I share things like my activity completions and unique or unusual places/things I eat.

Am I just trying to get people to stroke my ego?  No.  (Well, not JUST doing that.)  I’m making myself accountable by creating passive peer pressure for me to do the right thing.  I’ve had people message me when I haven’t posted activities for a while asking what’s going on; I’ve had people offer great support and encouragement even on those weeks when I gain a bit of weight; I have had people challenge my eating choices when they appear to be taking me off track.  3rd party perspective can be very powerful.

So what about those times when the needle on the scale moves clockwise or you eat a big slab of Zoe’s chocolate sheet cake (oh my God, is it worth it…)?  Well, it’s not all about the scale…

(4) Recipe for failure: Be a slave to the scale

Sure, I’ve lost quite a chunk of lbs.  And it’s awesome, in aggregate.  But look at this picture, it’s a chart showing my progress in terms of weight.  It’s not one continuous, smooth, decline, is it?  Not even a smooth, modest decline.  Nope, it’s riddled with jagged edges that slope up and down every week for the last umpteen weeks (too lazy to count them now, and how often do you get to write the word ‘umpteen’ (which doesn’t set off spelling alarms, by the way… weird.)).  Seeing the scale change is great, but it is not what it’s all about.

Even when my net weight goes up a touch or stays the same, there are so many other indicators of progress that I can – and do – celebrate.  Clothes fitting better might be at the top of the list.  Yesterday for the first time since maybe college or a little after, I was trying on jeans and pants with a 38 waist.  Might sound big to you, but to me that’s pretty awesome.  I’ve been wearing 44-46 for years now.  And some of the 38s: too big!  Clothes tell the tale.  I’ve donated piles of my larger clothing to veterans via www.clothingdonations.org (free pickup! and they take other stuff, too!) and plan on donating more.

My fitness level is also a great indicator of success.  I ran a triathlon.  A TRIATHLON!  How cool is that?  Well, to me, it’s very cool.  And not only that, I kicked a bit of ass in the swimming leg and biking leg (still working on my running).  But it took time, patience and persistence to get to that point.  I went from failing at running (my knees couldn’t take it) to walking to swimming to biking to adding back running.

So even on those weeks when I gain a pound or two, I still revel in the fact that I can fit into my clothes, run without dropping, swim 1000 yards non-stop (on my way to being able to swim a non-stop mile), bike 20 miles and feel good when I’m finished… And there’s also sitting comfortably in airplane or theater seats, walking up and down stairs without giving it a thought, walking between tables in a restaurant without turning sideways and shuffling through…  All great.

 

I’ve got a lot more habits I’m thankful I’ve learned and lots more changes to my lifestyle and attitude that keep me going, but that’s a pretty good summary of some of the top things that have helped me get to where I am now.  So, whether you are trying to lose weight, get fit, work smarter, finish a tough project or achieve a goal, I think all of those things can help.

  • Don’t set yourself up for failure by restricting yourself from things that make life awesome.  Good food, drink and fun are all important to keep you motivated and happy.
  • Track and journal things to remain aware of what you’re doing that’s good, bad and indifferent.
  • Share your experiences with others and let them help you, whether they realize they are helping or not.
  • And don’t be a slave to the scale, whatever weight or measure you’re tracking against – look for success and progress in non-tangible or differently measurable ways.  The motivation you seek doesn’t all have to come from one source.

What do you think?  Anything else help you achieve a goal or overcome an obstacle?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Thanks for taking the time to read this.  Look forward to hearing from you all!

 

EPILOGUE:  Tonight was my weekly Weight Watchers meeting.  I weighed in 1.2 lbs higher than last week (current wt loss 80.2 lbs).  But no worries.  Likely contributing factors include normal daily fluctuations (your weight can vary up to +/- 2 lbs in a given 24 hour period), balance between last week’s big 5 lb loss, and a possible adjustment to losing a Weight Watchers daily point because I passed another weight threshold.  One week and one number won’t make or break me.  Looking forward to plowing ahead! – CB)

 

If you want to see some other things I’ve written about fitness, you can read them here. (http://chrisboivinknows.com/category/triathlon)

3 Things My First Triathlon Taught Me

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Well, I did it.  Finished my first triathlon – a sprint-distance tri: 500yd swim, 14.2mi bike, 3.1mi (5K) run.  Felt pretty good throughout.  My results (i.e., my Personal Best):

8th (of 9) in age group
Overall 48th (of 63)
Swim: 4th in age group Time – 10:07
Transition 1 – 3:37
Bike: 7th in age group Time – 53:07
Transition 2 – 1:33
Run: 9th in age group Time – 35:28

Here’s a few things I learned from the experience.  Hope they help you with your first triathlon or next triathlon or anything else you might be able to apply them to!

(1) It’s better to be tapped on the foot

The triathlon I did had the swim leg in a pool.  The course snaked back and forth from one end of the pool to the other, and each swimmer started about 5 seconds apart.  I positioned myself at the back of the line to the pool, thinking that I might be slower and I didn’t want to be holding anyone up.

I shouldn’t have underestimated myself.  Many people in triathlons apparently do not do much, if any swim training.  I’d kept my training fairly balanced, and done well swimming.  So, by underestimating myself, I did what another competitor told me: “I’d rather be tapped on the foot than kicked in the head.”

Lesson I learned:  Be it swimming or other aspects of your life, don’t undersell yourself.  If you’ve worked hard and you know that you are in a certain class, don’t let self-doubt get to you.  Take your rightful place in line and let others tap you on the foot and politely pass by if they must.  You don’t deserve to get kicked in the face.

(2) Pacing works

As I was about 1/3 of the way through the 14-mile bike leg of the triathlon, somebody passed me.  It’s not a big deal because most competitors are really competing against the clock, and I passed people, myself; that’s just the way it works.  But something about this person’s style bothered me.

In cycling, cadence is the name of the game (read my article about it here).  Pedaling at 90-100RPM (i.e., the number of times your pedals make a revolution during a minute – that might be self-evident, sorry) does so much for you in terms of efficiency and endurance.  I’ve worked hard to build myself up to keep a cadence in that range and was doing very well with it during the race.  This person who passed me, though, was clearly chunking along using more pure force than cadence to move ahead.  They were pushing their pedals much more slowly and because of basic brute strength, they pulled past me and away.

But I thought “I’ll see him later!”  And sure enough, about another 1/3 of the way through the course, there he was.  Tired out, still pushing those pedals, and beaten down by the brutal headwinds we faced that day.

Lesson I learned:  Slow and steady really does win the race.  Not only have I experienced this in athletic performance, but I’ve also lost more than 70 lbs in the last 10 months on Weight Watchers and it came off at about 1-2lbs per week.  No radical diets or shortcuts, just persistence and dedication.  It’s truly so hard to keep going when you see others burst past you by taking a shortcut, exploiting some apparent advantage or bullsh*tting their way through life.  But take solace in the fact that if you’ve done your research and listen to those who know the truth, you’ll be the one with the reserve power and extra gears under your feet when it’s time to make your move.

(3) Know where the finish line is

The last leg of the triathlon was the 5K run – my weakest link.  Running isn’t my favorite thing to do, and while I’ve improved as I’ve trained more and lost the weight, I haven’t conquered it.  Yet.

So, aside from the fact that I didn’t take my heavy, wet biking jacket off, I slogged my way through the run. (Bonus lesson learned: I didn’t take the biking jacket off b/c my race number was on it and I didn’t want to take the time to repin it.  Next time, I’m definitely going to have a race belt like this one so I can easily move my number around without having to worry about pins.)

The course was half cross country (grass) and half rough road, so the softness of the surface was very different from my road training.  Still, even after I got my legs to adjust from the cycling, I lightly bounced along the path at a very slow pace.  Sure, I was tired from the other events, but I acted almost like I was saving energy up for something.

But saving for what?!  I was only a few miles from the finish line of a very long race and after that, I would be done!  Even if I took it easy for a mile or so, I could have recovered a little and engaged my legs to finish a little stronger.  I might have felt some burn, but as long as I didn’t go to the point of knowingly injuring myself, I might have found enough reserve energy to keep up a steady and strong pace.

Lesson I learned:  When you know where the finish line is, don’t waste that knowledge and just go for it.  I knew that I was in the home stretch and still ran very conservatively.  Knowing the distance, direction and steps to get to the finish line is such a powerful bit of information – again whether it’s an actual finish line of a race or a deadline or goal in your life or work – and you are killing yourself for no good reason by squandering that knowledge.  Finish strong.  You’ll have time to take a well deserved and well-earned rest after.

Those are three things I learned among many other great things I took away from my first triathlon experience (including:  triathlon competitors are really friendly, nice people who are happy to share information and encouragement at every turn – even during the ‘race’).  I’m planning on doing more tris, and on challenging myself in other ways to have fun and keep progressing in fitness and health (next event: Warrior Dash, March 31).  Next time, I’ll be setting myself up for success in swimming, staying the course on the bike and keeping in mind that while the running comes after the other events, it’s just that last thing between me and the finish line.

 

Hope this was useful for you if you’re running, swimming, cycling, doing all three, or just looking to get ahead in your career or your life.  Let me know what you think!

 

Thanks for listening!

3 Ways You’re Wasting Your Workouts (And What To Do About It)

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I’ve been training for a triathlon for several weeks.  My mantra has been “faster, longer, harder” (that’s what she said) – I’ve kept pushing to cover more distance, ride/swim/run for a longer amount of time, and work to get more power out of myself to incrementally improve.  And it’s worked pretty well so far, I think.  I’ve increased my net speed in each activity, have more endurance, am losing weight at a good pace, and vitals test in the healthy range whenever I have them taken.

But I couldn’t help but wonder if I could do a little better.  And you know what?  I think I can.  And I bet you can too.  Here’s how you and I may be wasting our workouts and how we can turn that around and do much better.

Don't Waste Your Miles

(1) “I just want to exercise, I don’t want to race”

I’ve fallen into this a lot.  You think that you are just exercising to be healthier – and that’s definitely a positive thing – but you do it without a goal or plan.  But think about that – if you want to be healthy, you probably have some measurements in mind that will let you know if you’re achieving or maintaining what you believe to be “healthy”.  Whether it’s weight, waist, biceps, cholesterol, or something subjective but meaningful, somehow you will know or have a sense that you’ve met your goals.

But if you don’t set a goal, you might just plod along, languish and give up.  Why continue if you don’t really have any destination or milestone?

So, set a goal and keep yourself focused; create a track that you can stay on.  You don’t have to qualify for the Olympics, but why not plan to run (or walk) a 5K?  Or if you don’t want to register and participate in a 5K, just do a 5K program (Runner’s World has an excellent 8-week 5K program).  If you swim, try the zero-to-1650 workout plan and swim a straight swimmer’s mile.  You could even do some good by entering a charity 5K or bike ride and have a goal and some extra supporters…  But why not consider something to make your exercise program a little more motivating and measurable than “just for the sake of exercise”?

(2) Start.  Finish.  Repeat.

In the beginning triathlon app that I’m using (First Time Triathlete), they build in drills to most workouts.  The one I finally did the other day was for cycling.  “Hill repeats.”  You find a hill along your path that takes 1-2 minutes to climb, climb it 10 times, spinning easily on the way back down.  I avoided injecting this into my workouts, but the other day I just made up my mind and did it.  Wow.  By the end of the repeats, I was climbing the hill at or above my flat road cadence and speed, and I was able to maintain my target cadence range (88-95) at a speed of 18.5-19.5 MPH for the remainder of my ride (I previously was spinning in that range, but only getting about 16-17MPH from the gear I was in).As I mentioned above, I had done my workouts mostly just straight through.  Get on the bike, ride, get off the bike.  Run, finish.  Swim lap after lap.  It worked well, but I was skipping something very important.  Drills.

So, don’t neglect the little drills.  I know that I won’t be.  And bonus: not only is it valuable for your training, it’s kind of fun to have more than a “finish the workout” challenge ahead of you.  Give it a try!  Make the miles count!

(3) Don’t stop.

Rest is vital to maintaining and improving performance.  Whether it’s taking a day off from working out or taking a short break (possibly even as short as 10 seconds) while exercising, the incremental improvements can be tremendous.  Yesterday was  a swim workout.  In addition to a warm-up and cool-down and a few drills, I had an 800-yard (32-lap) segment to swim.  Well, actually this was the prep for Sunday’s 800-yard segment.  It was laid out as 4×200 yard segments with 10 seconds in between each.  Each tiny break helps me to keep my form up, and stringing them together so closely lets me get the feel of doing the whole 800-yard segment (and knowing I can handle it just fine).

Rest also helps you navigate change.  After donating blood, I stupidly did some exercise the next morning – a 40-minute run.  After about 20-25 minutes, I couldn’t keep jogging.  I listened to my body, took plenty of walk breaks and finished the walk/run in decent time.  Knowing that my recovery would take a little longer, I moved my usual Friday rest day to the day after the run, and now I’m back on pace.

So if you’ve been getting bored with your workouts or not seeing/feeling much improvement from one to the next, Give these things a try.

  • Sign up for an event to work toward a  measurable goal (if you’re in Northeast Florida, check out 1st Place Sports for dozens of running events, or find events anywhere in the U.S. at Active.com),
  • do some drills (sprints, repeats, etc. – find them at Runner’s World, RTK’s Swim Workouts (one of the BEST sites for swimming workouts including the 0-to-1650 plan I mentioned above), and Active.com has a bunch of drills, too), and
  • rest (pre-emptively and in response to your body’s signals).

Do you have anything to add?  What do you do when your workouts get stale?  Or how do you mix it up to keep getting results?

Look forward to hearing your suggestions and comments!  Thanks for listening!

4 Things That Will Enhance Your Running Experience

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… or at least they enhance my running experience and I think they’d be good for you, too!

I’m still a novice runner; I actually don’t even truly “run”, I am still doing jogging/walking intervals.  Today I ran a 5K route with a jog 6 minutes/walk 1 minute interval.  And I have to say, I enjoyed it more than I ever have!  Here are the things that I’ve done or added recently that made this the best run to date:

1. Professional Shoe Fitting at Jacksonville Running Company

You know how everybody is like an a**hole because they all have opinions and advice (or something like that)?  Well, the one piece of advice that I finally took was to get a professional shoe fitting.  I’d been using some old cross trainers and while they basically protected my feet from the elements I did find it a little taxing to run in them.

So I went to Jacksonville Running Company and Bobby, the Training/Events Manager, took the time to learn about my running experience and plans, measured my feet, do a couple of computer/video analyses and let me try on and try out (actually jog with) several pairs of shoes until I had one that was just right.  Not only did he walk through all the analysis, he explained everything along the way without making me feel ignorant as a new runner or overwhelmed by information.

I love my shoes I (a great pair of Brooks shoes which are highly rated for heavier men)!  Wide enough for my feet but not too loose, good support for my high arches and very stable.  As I was at the store there were two other customers who each received the same personal attention as I.  This is a great store, great staff, and an extremely valuable service.  Highly recommended!  While there I also picked up…

2. Yurbuds Sport Earphones

These ingenious “twist-lock” earbuds are designed to stay in your ear and pipe the music right where it should go without letting sweat or moisture in.

Not only are Yurbuds fantastic earphones out of the box, the little twist lock earbud covers easily slip off and slip on to other earbuds.  I love that feature because I like to use my iPhone’s earbuds with the mic and remote (great to be able to adjust volume, use Siri or take/end a call while on the bike or on the run).  I slip the twist-lock piece on and I get the same benefits as the native Yurbuds headset.

Since I’m hell-bent on using my iPhone, might as well use a great app to track and time my runs…

3. Track with the iMapMyFitness App

The iMapMyFitness app is one of the best apps I’ve found to log and record workouts.  I used to use the one by the company with the swoosh logo but it had a couple of shortcomings (only for running, voice feedback is buggy, poor GPS responsiveness).  The app is great at recording workouts using GPS tracking (includes linear and elevation measurements), and it works for cycling or running.  You can also log swimming workouts, gym workouts, adventure workouts, and so on.

This goes to the App Store, but also available for Android

Another great feature is the “stats” view.  While you’re running or riding you can view your workout map or you can switch to view a screen of 4 stats (time, speed,  and a host of others that you can set, including ones that interact with other devices like ANT+ heart rate monitors).

You can also pre-map routes on the website for the app.  And you can connect w/ friends who use the app, and then see them while they’re on their workouts.  And… you can post your runs to Facebook and twitter, including a link to the map of your run/ride…  So many great features and the app is free! (There’s an advanced, ad-free $1.99 version of the app that I’m going to upgrade to, but the free version is really fantastic and the ads are very unobtrusive. )

Listening to music while on the run or ride is great, but you do need to be aware of what’s going on around you. While the Yurbuds still allow ambient noise, you never know who or what might trip you up on a run, so just in case…

4. Get a Road ID (www.roadid.com)

Road ID is a nice little piece of insurance.  For less than $30 you can get a wristband (or dog tag, like I have) that has your name, emergency contact info and even a code that First Responders can use to look up a full personal profile in the event that something happens to you on the trail or road or ocean.   RoadID is one of the most professional, engaging, quality service organizations I’ve encountered.  They are amazing communicators and really know how to anticipate your questions and make sure that when you buy your ID it’s an effortless and satisfying process.

Go to www.roadID.com today and get one for you and/or a runner, cyclist, swimmer or outdoorsy type that you love.  It’s the best money you can spend for a little peace of mind while braving the great outdoors.

So there are 4 things that I think can make your running (or cycling or outdoor activity) a little more comfortable, enjoyable, productive and safe.  They’re definitely doing the trick for me so far.  If you have any experiences with any of the above to share, my readers and I would love to hear them!

Thanks for listening!

 

You’d Think Cycling, Swimming and Running Would Be Enough Triathlon Training…

You’d Think Cycling, Swimming and Running Would Be Enough Triathlon Training…

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… but I’m finding that strength training is equally important.  Yesterday I raked the lawn for a few hours and I woke up very sore today.  I was still able to do my swim workout ok, but am pretty sure that I’m going to be hurting tomorrow and I have a 20 mile bike ride ahead.

It’s easy to think that you’re getting all you need when you’re practicing the three events in the triathlon, even when most triathlon training sites and articles say that you should add some strength training (here’s a good one about off-season training that includes the strength training recommendation: http://www.markallenonline.com/maoArticles.aspx?AID=12).

I could certainly understand that strength training would help because you do need to use many muscles in each event.  Abdominal muscles are used to maintain good form in biking, running and swimming.  When biking, your arm muscles are needed to support you on your handlebars and absorb shock from rougher terrain.

But perhaps more importantly, being in better physical condition overall helps you perform in and recover from other types of activities.  Like raking, mowing the lawn, taking out garbage, walking with your wife, playing with the dogs, moving furniture…  It’s better to do everything you can to fit other activities into your life and not limit yourself to just doing the minimal amount of training (even when it feels like an insane amount of training).

I’m going to try to add in some strength training – weights, calisthenics (does anyone remember what those are?), yoga, Wii fitness games – and build muscle wherever possible so I can stay in the best condition possible for the Tri Jax Challenge!

Love to hear your questions, comments, suggestions!  Thanks so much for listening!

 

– Chris

 

 

Ok, now I see that cycling cadence is important

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So, yesterday on my bike ride I tried something different.  I’d been reading about cycling cadence – sort of equivalent to the amount of “spin” at which you are pedaling – and how maintaining a higher cadence is ideal because you burn fat (rather than muscle energy), fatigue slower and recover quickly.

Resistance Builds Strength, Doesn’t It?

The thing is, it doesn’t feel natural.  Everything your body learns about exercise is that the greater the resistance you feel the better workout you’re getting.  When lifting weights the larger the weight, the larger the resistance, the more you feel like you’re building muscle.  And when it comes to propulsion exercise like running, the harder your push against the resistance of gravity and wind, the faster you travel.

Higher Cadence Gives You More Gears

Then again, I suppose that proper cadence is closer to the “light weights/high reps” type of workout.  If you really want to learn more about the finer points of cadence, this is the article I read (and the site www.beginnertriathlete.com is full of great info for swimmers, cyclists and runners).

80RPM Down, 8-15RPM to Go!

So, using my CycleOps PowerTap (hey, you never know, maybe I’ll get a kickback if I mention the little computer by name), I watched my cadence and kept it to a minimum of 80RPM.  It felt like I was pedaling way too fast for a mile or so but then I started to get into it and realize how much gear I had left to go.  Before I was pedaling harder and slower, and while I could get my speed up in short bursts I ran out of places to go.  This time I was able to sustain speeds of 21mph or more for a while and it really wasn’t very difficult.  I went further faster, got a great workout and felt better than ever after I finished.

I’m looking forward to my next ride and trying to get the cadence up a little more.  The article I referenced above says that a cadence of 88-95RPM is ideal.  It might take a few rides to get in that range consistently, but I know I can get there.

Six weeks to go until the Tri-Jax Challenge!  Hope my documentation of my training will help you out or at least make for some interesting reading.  Thanks for listening!