Archive for the ‘Exercise Physiology’ Category

Harnessing Cycling Saddle Soreness

February 20, 2013

After a 5-week break from cycling, I recently resumed riding. In addition to my quads being out of cycling shape, I experienced the kind of  saddle soreness that I hadn’t had since I first started riding. While I attributed this mostly from the time off the bike, it led me to a closer investigation of saddle soreness – both in terms of causes and preventatives.  Saddle soreness is one of the biggest complaints of all levels of riders -from beginners to experienced distance cyclists. Chief causes of chafed cheeks and sensitive sits bones include:  poorly fitting shorts, improper sitting position on the bike, lack of lubrication and poor hygiene. Fortunately you don’t have to live with a battered behind. By taking a few preventative measures and investing in some fanny-friendly equipment you’ll be sitting pretty for miles to come.

One of the keys to preventing saddle soreness is choosing a good pair of cycling shorts with a chamois (a padded, synthetic insert) suited to your body shape. Because everyone’s anatomy is different, you may need to try several brands and styles to find one that’s comfortable for you. This is one reason why is crucial to “break in” your gear before a long ride or race. Women should choose a chamois with a seamless “baseball” cut preferably make of Coolmax or another synthetic that works to wick moisture away from the skin.

Whatever shorts you choose, leave your drawers at home. Bicycle shorts are designed to be worn alone without underwear. Underpants aside, however, some cyclists protect their assets by placing other things between their skin and their shorts. One rider I know wears a Speedo swimsuit under his shorts and a female rider I know survived a 300-mile bike trip through Italy by wearing feminine hygiene mini pads attached to the chamois of her shorts. With frequent changes it helped keep her dry and friction-free.

Speaking of hygiene….maintaining personal hygiene is essential for preventing saddle sores. Wash your crotch with a mild soap and dry it (a hairdryer set on a low heat works great) before and immediately after every ride. Also, don’t sit around in your dirty, sweaty cycling shorts after riding. It’s the fastest way to multiply bacteria which thrive on hot, moist areas. Wash your shorts (and yourself) thoroughly to remove sweat, bacteria and any greasy lubricants.

Speaking of lubricants, in addition to choosing proper cycling shorts, you might try a chamois lubricant such as Bag Balm, Chamois Butt-R, SportSlick, Body Glide or even good old Vaseline. Apply to your raw areas after you ride or as a preventative measure. If butt discomfort continues to plague you, examine the way you’re riding in the saddle. If you’re straining to reach your pedals, you may be repeatedly rubbing your skin and bones against the saddle nose. If so, consider lowering your seat. Furthermore, make sure your seat is level, with the saddle nose neither tilted up nor down. Also, be sure to place your “sits” bones in the widest part of the saddle and pedal with your waist and your elbow slightly bent. I’ve personally found that saddle soreness becomes less of a problem the more a person rides. This is probably due to both the fact that the stronger your legs get, the less heavy you sit in the saddle,  and the tougher your skin gets after many miles in the saddle. This is another reason to be consistent with your cycling training.

In addition to altering the position of your seat, you may want to consider investing in one of the many saddles designed to prevent saddle soreness.Finally, consider investing in a suspended road or mountain bike which buffers your butt by reducing the bounce factor on rough terrain. Even riding with suspended seatposts can help reduce saddle soreness. If, despite your best preventative efforts you’re still suffering (and laying off the saddle  for a few days isn’t an option), clean your sores and patch them with a non-stick medical pad such as Spenco’ s Second Skin. This will get you through your ride until you can take time to let your body heal. For the future, you may want to ask your doctor to prescribe a topical antibiotic to have on hand for emergencies.

Be Well,

Carolyn

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Mouth Wide Shut: Adventures in Nostril Breathing – Part 2

January 19, 2013

In my previous post I wrote about my past experience with nostril breathing during aerobic exercise and my decision to give it a go again thanks to my fiance’s positive experience with it.

The benefits were not immediately apparent. On the contrary, I actually found myself slowing down in my runs – especially on hills and inclines. But my patience (this time) eventually paid off and after about two weeks I noticed I was able to run longer with less effort and – best of all – with far less joint pain or muscle fatigue at longer distances. I really cannot explain the fact that in the past month I’ve managed to run a 45 mile week, a 50 mile week and a 60 mile week, the last of which included a 2 hour 5 minute run! This mileage is almost double what I’ve been able to run the past 3 years due to injury. Training wise I’ve done nothing differently in the past month except nostril breathe during my runs (and my bike rides and spinning workouts) about 85% of the time. Furthermore, I’m running the same routes 3-4 minutes faster than I was a few weeks ago without making a conscious effort to do so.

Warming up takes a little longer in the unusually cold weather we’ve been having lately – the first mile or so I tend to run slower and my nose runs a bit as it warms up, but the pace gradually increases to where I’m running faster and longer. Another unexpected side effect of nostril breathing is that my mouth doesn’t get as stiff when I’m running in cold weather. I guess keeping it closed keeps it warmer.

Switching to nose breathing throughout the day has allowed me to maintain a state of relaxed alertness even in stressful situations as long as I remember to switch to breathing through my nose. I find my energy levels much more even throughout the day, my muscles less sore, my sleep more sound. It’s also made me more in-tune with my body – perhaps I’m listening to my body more now that I’m not talking as much.

I finally succumbed to a head cold this week after everyone around me had been sick. Nevertheless, I’ve been able to maintain my training while reducing the duration and intensity of my workouts. Nostril breathing with a stuffed up nose is more challenging, but I’ve found that it also helps clear out the sinuses.

As I look back 18 years ago:  between 1995 and 1996 I ran 5 marathons trying to qualify to the 1996 Olympic Marathon Trials. Each race was slower than the last and each race took more out of me. Perhaps if I’d had more patience in applying Douillard’s advice back then I would’ve run faster races with less effort. I did eventually qualify in for the Trials 2000, but it might have happened sooner if I’d kept my mouth shut!

Anyway, if you want to see if nose breathing can help you achieve peak performance – or you want to feel better when you’re exercising, or you’re just curious, – I encourage you to give it a try. But be patient…..the benefits are worth the wait.

Be Well,

-Carolyn

Mouth Wide Shut: Adventures in Nostril Breathing – Part I

January 11, 2013

Eighteen years ago when I was a competitive marathoner and a graduate student in exercise physiology, I picked up a rather unorthodox new book called Body, Mind and Sport, by John Douillard. One of the book’s chief doctrines was that of employing nostril breathing (also known as diaphragmatic breathing) instead of mouth breathing during aerobic exercise. The author believes that nostril breathing is beneficial not only for yoga, but also aerobic activities such as running or cycling. The book contains several testimonials of professional and amateur athletes who made great gains in their fitness and performance after switching to nostril breathing.

Douillard believes it’s possible for anyone who trains using nostril breathing to achieve the effortless “Zone” of peak performance. Indeed there’s some evidence that breathing through the nose during aerobic exercise is beneficial. Apparently it increases CO2 saturation in the blood which allows the body to maximize its ability to absorb oxygen from inhaled air. Nostril breathing can also help warm the air entering the lungs (great for the cold weather workouts this winter). Douillard also asserts that the nose provides a better filtration system, resulting in cleaner air and fewer allergens being absorbed by the lungs. Perhaps most importantly, Douillard asserts that nose breathing has a calming, stress-reducing effect on the body, which, over time, translates into a lower state of perceived exertion during high intensity levels of exercise.

At the time I picked up Douillard’s book back in 1994,  I was a young, somewhat impatient, impetuous athlete focused on racing marathons and qualifying for the 1996 Olympic Marathon Trials. As intrigued as I was by Douillard’s premise, I didn’t stick with the concept after the novelty wore off. Furthermore, I just didn’t see how it was going to translate into a faster marathon for me. As much as I felt good doing it during my training runs, I wasn’t convinced that nose breathing would work during a race and I didn’t want to risk experimenting with it during competition.

Fast forward 18 years and today my main goal is to run for pleasure and without pain – and to keep up with fiance,” Chris”, on our weekend runs together. So several weeks ago when he asked me what I knew about nostril breathing I said I remembered reading a book about the subject. Miraculously I was able to find Douillard’s book on my shelf. Chris became very enthused as he read the book and even more excited about nostril breathing as he began applying it during his runs and bicycle rides. I was surprised by his quick assimilation of it and as during our runs together I consequently became more aware of the sound of his breathing and his lack of dialogue (hey it’s hard to nostril breathe and carry on a conversation simultaneously).

Despite my skepticism, in the “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” spirit I decided to give “aerobic nostril breathing” another try.

In my next post, I’ll tell you what happened this time. In the meantime…

Be Well,

Carolyn

Get Fit by Fifty for a Longer, Better Life

November 24, 2012

I’ve always told my older clients that it’s never too late to begin exercising to reap the rewards. According to recently published research, however, it may benefit you more to get fit by fifty. The study found that those who are fit in mid-life not only live longer, they live better in that they avoid chronic diseases longer than those who are sedentary in middle age.

Back in the 1970s researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and the Cooper Institute in Dallas assessed the aerobic fitness level of healthy men and women in their late 40s. Later, between 1999 and 2009, when subjects reached their 70s and 80s, researchers assessed their Medicare claims reports to determine their health status. Those who had been fit and healthy in their late 40s remained healthier, (i.e. free from chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s and diabetes) later in their lives than those who were healthy but unfit in the mid-life assessment.

On a personal note, my Dad just turned 80 – only the second person in his family to reach that milestone. Despite a family health history of heart disease and cancer, my Dad is disease-free, looks at least 10 years younger than his age and even has all of his teeth and most of his hair. Interestingly, while he runs, swims and rides his stationary bike daily, he didn’t start exercising seriously until his mid 40s – an age when his own father had his first heart attack. But since that time he’s been a dedicated runner and swimmer, adding the stationary cycling when he stopped riding his bike to work about 10 years ago.

Unlike my Dad, I’ve been very physically active all of my life. Yet in some ways I feel more fit at 45 than I did at 25 because now I participate in a wide variety of physical activities rather than focusing on just one or two. It also keeps it interesting and challenging for me to try to maintain a sufficient level of fitness in multiple activities. I believe cross-training is essential for middle-aged adults. Doing multiple physical activities prevents injuries by avoiding overusing any one muscle group.

For some men and women, training for and maintaining fitness in mid-life is just part of their lifestyle. They take being fit in their 40s and 50s to another level. These competitive athletes know it’s never too late to pursue and achieve their athletic dreams. Let their stories inspire you to get moving.

Be Well,

Carolyn

Tandem Adventures Part I: Bend, OR

October 26, 2012

Anyone who reads my blog regularly may wonder why I haven’t written in awhile. Well….I was a little busy in September – away much of the month. The adventures began with a week-long visit to Bend, OR to compete in the  National Masters Cycling Championships  – and what a week it was! My fiance, Chris, and I have been riding tandems together for 2+ years and since January have been more competitively-minded with our training after purchasing a road tandem. But, we had never actually raced together when we showed up for the National Championships. Fortunately there were no qualification standards, but needless to say, I was a bit nervous about our lack of experience. We arrived in Bend the week after Labor Day. After picking up our race packets and  submitting our bike for inspection, we were ready for our first event the following day – the 24-mile time trial. Despite some technical issues (our front wheel kept breaking spokes) we arrived ready to race.

(Don’t worry – I always wear a helmet while riding – this was just for photo ops)

Basically this consisted of pedaling as fast as possible in an out-and-back mostly flat course with a few rolling hills. Each tandem team started the race alone with the clock and then the next team started exactly 30 seconds later. For an hour and seven minutes I felt like a hamster on a wheel pedaling my legs off with my head down, my helmut jutting into Chris’ back, my only view the white line of the road. Fortunately, we had ridden part of the course the day before (before having to turn around after breaking yet another spoke) so I’d seen enough to know that the bucolic countryside was lovely, which made keeping my head down a little easier. Despite the fact that we averaged 23 mph – faster than we’d ever ridden before, we found ourselves being passed by most of the tandem teams who started behind us. I must admit that as competitive athletes not used to being beaten so badly – it was a bit demoralizing for us. Our egos were somewhat assuaged by the fact that after the race we had a chance to mingle with some of the other teams only to discover that their tandem bikes weighed about half of what ours did and most of the teams consisted of  veteran racers.  I must admit, too, that we hadn’t trained for a time trial per se. The training we had done included more endurance riding with a lot of climbing. We had only recently began “sprinting” during some of our rides. Had we the chance to do it over again, I would train for the time trial more specifically. Still, we vowed we would make a comeback two days later in the 52-mile road race at Mt. Bachelor.

As we arrived at the Mt. Bachelor Resort parking lot we had just under 30 minutes to get ourselves and our bike prepared for an arduous 52-mile tandem road race. The race official announced that the opening 3.9 miles would be a neutral zone and the pace car would then green light the field signaling that racing could begin. This is typical of many road races to ensure a smooth, safe start. This was extra reassuring for me (as the “stoker” positioned in the back of the bike) in that the opening 14 miles featured a high- speed descent where we topped out at 50 mph (yikes!).

With 8 other tandems in this race making up a fairly intimate peloton of high- level teams made up of Category 1 and Category 2 riders, we knew the pace would be swift. Such was the case after the terrain flattened out and then rose to the first climbs. As we rounded the first turn Chris leaned back and said to me “be ready for this turn and the quick break away”. Sure enough as the pitch of the road increased so did the pace. The leading tandems began an early attack which revved up the pace of the entire field to a level that felt unsustainable. Thus some spreading out followed. It was like “now you see em, now you don’t”!

Despite our frustration over being dropped, as endurance athletes we knew the race was far from over. We eventually lost sight of the entire group except one tandem that had a half-mile gap. If we could just catch them we knew it would not only put us back in the race, we would have a shot at not finishing last. So we stepped up the intensity and mounted an attack. We noticed them looking back periodically and sensed their counter attack. We didn’t seem to be gaining much ground, but after ten minutes or so we had closed in enough to where we recognized them from Wednesday’s time trial, in which they had beaten us by about 4 minutes. So we rode together, sharing small talk and swapping the lead position. Eventually we dropped them and continued on our mission to catch anyone we could that had likely fatigued trying to keep pace with the leaders.

By the time we reached the final 10 k ascent there were two more tandems in view. They were from different heats: one that started before us, younger and both males. This was no time let up! We dug deep. Painfully deep, caught and passed them like they were standing still. We crossed the finish line at a respectable pace. Our average speed for the entire course, with 52 miles and 3000′ of elevation gain, was 19.9 mph. The competition out there pushed us to a new level, and that really felt good. We mixed it up some of the nation’s most experienced tandem teams… And hung in there!…Wait til next year – we’ll be back.

Next up – a few hair-raising tandem adventures in Paris….stay tuned.

Be Well,

Carolyn

Exercise for a Healthy Heart: More Than Just Cardio

August 20, 2012

When most people think of exercising for a healthier heart, cardiovascular exercise  is typically what comes to mind. Indeed,  when cardiologists advise patients to exercise to prevent or manage heart disease, they typically prescribe some type of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, a minimum of 20-30 minutes three times per week. This is a shame because your heart would benefit as much if not more from higher-intensity, aerobic interval training combined with strength training 2-3 times per week as well as a daily stretching regimen.

Strength training, while it is anaerobic for the most part, can lower blood pressure. Unlike in the past, more recently cardiovascular researchers are recommending resistance training for patients after  heart attack, recognizing the importance of strength to heart health. The main caution with strength training is to avoid holding one’s breath when lifting a weight, which can raise blood pressure.

Stretching is perhaps the most  neglected component of a well-rounded fitness program yet flexibility of muscles, ligaments and tendons have been linked to flexibility of arteries. In fact a 2009 study found a correlation between trunk flexibility (as measured by a sit and reach test) and the flexibility of  subjects’ arteries, especially in subjects 40 years and older. Apparently, stiffer arteries require the heart to work harder to pump the blood through them which can raise blood pressure. While only a small study found that a regular stretching program can increase arterial flexibility, a stiff body may be a predictor of heart disease at least in middle-aged individuals. So for all of you guys (yes, it’s mostly men) who leave at the end of my spinning class without stretching, you may not be doing your heart any favors.

If you have heart disease in your family history, have other risk factors for heart disease – or just want to prevent it -by all means exercise. But in addition to moderate-intensity cardio, be sure to add some high-intensity aerobic interval training, strength training and flexibility training. All can help strengthen your cardiovascular system in different, but important ways. Furthermore, a well-rounded fitness program also prevents boredom and burnout.

Be Well,

Carolyn

Core Training Made Simple

April 2, 2012

Strong abdominals not only give a slim, fit appearance, they are also your spine’s main support system and are vital to good posture.  When contracted, the abdominal muscles unload pressure from the spine. But strong abdominals are only part of the equation – a strong torso also includes strong back and gluteal (buttocks) muscles. The concept of “core exercise” involves the functional training of all of the torso muscles through their full range of motion. The emphasis is on developing trunk stabilization rather than “washboard abs”.

As you age, the loss of muscle tone, hormonal changes and overindulgence can lead to an accumulation of fat around your midsection. Despite what the infomercials claim, abdominal exercises alone won’t reduce excess abdominal fat – no matter how many you do. In fact, if you have a lot of abdominal fat, building your stomach muscles without losing the fat on top will only make your belly appear bigger! Your best bet is combining aerobic exercise (minimum of 20 to 30 minutes, three times per week), strength training for the entire body and a balanced, , low-glycemic, nutritious meal plan. Furthermore, skimping on sleep raises your level of cortisol – a stress hormone that increases insulin levels and signals your body to store excess calories as fat.

Suggested Exercises:  Start with 10 repetitions of 2 or more of the following exercises. In addition, pull your abdominals in whenever you think of it – “zipping up” the abdominals as though zipping a snug pair of pants.

Reverse Crunch

Lie flat on the floor (on a mat or in bed) with your lower back pressed downward, arms by your side. Cross your ankles and lift your legs keeping your knees bent. Slowly lift your hips one to two inches off the mat. Hold and squeeze your ab muscles, keeping your shoulders and head on the mat. Lower your hips with a controlled motion.

Clamshell

Lie flat on the floor (on a mat or in bed) with your lower back pressed downward, hands behind your head.  Cross your ankles and lift your legs keeping your knees bent. Slowly lift your hips one to two inches off the mat and at the same time lift your head, neck and shoulders off the mat, making a “clamshell” shape with your body. Hold for a moment as your squeeze your abdominal muscles and then lower your body to the floor.

Bicycles

Lie flat on the floor (on a mat or in bed) with your lower back pressed downward, hands behind your head. Bring your knees up to a 45-degree angle. Slowly go through a bicycle pedal motion (bending and straightening the legs) as you alternate touching your left elbow to your right knee and your right elbow to your left knee.

Standing Bicycles

Stand with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, hands clasped behind your head and elbows pointed out to your sides. Straighten left leg as you lift right leg, knee bent, and thigh parallel to floor.  Keeping knee lifted and steady, twist torso toward the right. Return to the start and repeat on other side then alternate back and forth.

Standing Side-Winder

Stand with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, hands clasped behind your head and elbows pointed out to the sides. Lift your right leg to the side, with your knee bent, your thigh parallel to the floor.  Keeping your knee lifted, bend your torso to the right side, bringing your elbow and knee toward each other.  Keep alternating sides.

In a future post I will discuss core training with an exercise ball  – in my opinion one of the best ways to work the trunk muscles safely and effectively.

Be Well,

Carolyn

The Three Keys of Fitness: Part III: Intensity

March 14, 2012

This is the third and final installment in my series on the three keys to optimal training. After incorporating the training principles we covered in parts one and two, hopefully you’ve now been exercising consistently and you’ve added variety to your program. You’re now ready to push the envelope by raising the intensity in some of your cardio and strength workouts.

Training at high intensities increases aerobic capacity and raises your anaerobic threshold, your body’s ability to dissipate lactic acid at higher levels of exercise. High intensity aerobic interval training also burns more calories per minute compared with moderate-intensity, continuous aerobic exercise. Think of your body as a car. Low-to-moderate intensity, sustained aerobic exercise is analogous to freeway driving at 55 mph in “cruise control”. Interval training, by comparison, is akin to” around-town driving” where you speed up and slow down, going up and down hills — which requires more energy (i.e. calories). Recent research also suggests that higher intensity training also elevates the metabolism longer after exercise compared with continuous, moderate-intensity aerobic exercise. By substituting one or two higher intensity interval sessions per week for your longer, moderate-intensity aerobic workouts, you’ll take your fitness and your training to a higher level.

Interval training provides one of the most effective and efficient means of increasing your aerobic conditioning. Originally evolving from sports conditioning, interval training is defined as performing repeated bouts of high intensity exercise interspersed with intervals of relatively light exercise. Contrary to popular belief, the “interval” is actually the intervening active rest period in between the bursts of speed or other increases in intensity. The faster, more intense segments are called repetitions or “reps”. The intervals and the reps should be approximately the same duration. Principles of aerobic interval training can be applied to any form of cardiorespiratory exercise, from cycling, to swimming, to inline skating.

If you don’t have access to a heart rate monitor, use the “talk test” to gauge your intensity level when interval training. During the repeats (the hard efforts), and breathing should be somewhat labored and speaking difficult. During the recovery intervals you should remain aerobic but your breathing should return to a more comfortable level and you should be able to talk (though not sing).

Raising your intensity level in the weight room is also critical to increasing your power, and your performance, particularly if your sport is more anaerobic and strength-oriented. This is usually managed in one of two ways (or ideally both): by increasing the amount of weight you lift to failure while decreasing the number of times you lift it and/or add new and increasingly challenging strength exercises every three to six weeks. Using a combination of free weights and machines and then constantly mixing that combination is another effective technique.

Another benefit of adding high intensity training is in maintaining your conditioning as you age. Exercise physiologists used to believe that aerobic capacity automatically declines about one percent per year after age 35. But research suggests that this declines results from reduced activity and especially reduced exercise intensity level. Furthermore, some of the most dramatic gains have been shown in older populations. A few final words of caution:   pushing yourself in your workouts is an important means of challenging and increasing your fitness level. Be sure, however, that you have been performing consistent, quality aerobic and strength workouts before pushing yourself to the next level.

Be Well,

Carolyn

The Three Keys To Fitness: Part II: Variety

February 29, 2012

This is the second installment in a series on the three keys to optimal training. In the first installment I spoke of the importance of consistency, but once you’re exercising on a regular basis, you need to mix things up –  for variety isn’t just the spice of life, it’s the key to a challenging, well-rounded training program. It’s important to train your entire body, not just the muscles specific to your main sport. By incorporating a variety of fitness activities into your schedule, you’ll keep your body and your mind fresh and healthy.

Remember when you learned to swim? After 10 minutes you were completely exhausted. Then, after much practice you could comfortably do lap after lap without stopping because the physical demands of swimming diminished the more skilled and fit you became. In general, the more your body gets used to the same physical activity, the less energy (i.e. calories) you require to perform that activity. Likewise, in learning something new, you demand more of your neuromuscular system. As kids we were constantly learning new skills, but as adults we tend to stick with what we’re comfortable with, moving the same way every day. We need to bring back some of that excitement and challenge into our lives by regularly taking on new physical challenges.

Triathletes are arguably the fittest athletes in the world because they truly are balanced when it comes to their training program. Their sport demands that their bodies be fit for three very different activities that challenge a variety of muscle groups. As a result, their entire bodies are fit and adaptable. If they held a “Survivor” competition among athletes of different sports, I believe triathletes would win hands down. Probably because of the variety in their training, triathletes are also able to enjoy fairly long careers without mental burnout or serious injuries. But you don’t have to be a triathlete to benefit from cross training – and here are a few more reasons why you should vary your training program:

1. You can prevent injury and enhance post-workout and/or post-race recovery by working different muscle groups. Cross training is particularly useful the first few days after competition. Performing a different activity can help loosen sore, stiff muscles without taxing them further.

2.You can avoid mental burnout. No matter how much you enjoy it, training hour after hour for your sport grows tedious if that’s all you do. By incorporating a variety of activities into your training program, you’ll stay fresher both mentally and physically.

3. You can achieve a higher level of overall fitness by working neglected muscles while giving overused muscles/joints and ligaments a break. For example, swimming does little for your quadriceps muscles, so combining it with some spinning classes, which focus on the leg muscles, makes a great combination.

4. You can avoid overtraining. With a varied program you’re less likely to overtrain; however, it is possible to over- cross train as well, so beware of over-exercising in general.

Most of us would be bored if we ate the same meals every day, so why do we allow ourselves to train the same way day after day? Why not bring your sense of adventure to your training by trying a new skill or activity every six months. You’ll be surprised at how much fun you’re having; you won’t even know you’re working out! Now in my mid-forties I really enjoy the challenge of maintaining a level of fitness in a variety of activities so that I’m able to go for a run, practice yoga, take a long bike ride or a dance class, swim laps or lift weighs without feeling beat up the next day. It keeps my mind stimulated as well.

Now once you’re become comfortable and efficient in your sport and you’ve incorporated cross training into your fitness program,  the next step is to raise the intensity in some of your workouts. We’ll tackle that important subject in the final installment of this three-part series.

Be Well,

Carolyn

The Three Keys to Fitness: Part I: CONSISTENCY

February 17, 2012

This is the first in a three-part series of posts focusing on the three key components of optimal training for fitness and competition: Consistency, Variety and Intensity. In this first part the focus is on consistency, which is the key to maintaining your conditioning and preventing injury.

Consistency is all about balance. It doesn’t mean an all-out effort seven days a week, nor does it mean getting away with a “weekend warrior” fitness program. The biggest threat to consistent training is injury, which is usually the result of either overtraining or inconsistent, under-training. In fact, you’re better off exercising just three days a week, week after week, than seven days one week followed by a week of no or little training. Inconsistency also decreases motivation, for sporadic training doesn’t produce desired results, giving you little incentive to continue.

The older you are, the more important it is to exercise consistently. Indeed, we don’t typically find the “weekend warrior” syndrome among young people. Instead, it strikes those who work at a desk all week then hit the court or the field for an all-out match on the weekend, expecting their bodies to respond like they did in their younger years. As a result, they end up hurting ourselves, sometimes seriously.

One of the best ways to ensure you maintain regularity in your training is to enlist a reliable partner. You’re more likely to show up for a workout when you feel responsible for someone else’s fitness as well as your own. Whether training with a partner motivates you out of a sense of obligation or camaraderie, a number of research studies have shown that exercise adherence significantly increases when exercisers pair up rather than train solo. Furthermore, having someone to pace yourself with can really bring out the best in your training. Often you’ll find that your partner is tired when you’re energized and when you’re dragging, your partner helps pull you through. A little friendly competition can lead to a lot of quality workouts.

Consistency is integral to achieving goals in all aspects of life. Most of us wouldn’t dream of treating our work in the haphazard way we maintain our fitness, or we wouldn’t stay in business. Approach your training in the same business-like manner you do your job. Write your workouts down in your daytimer and keep a log of your goals and your progress. Exercising should be about as habitual as going to work. Moreover, the more consistent you are with your training, the less it will feel like a job. Don’t let your fitness routine become routine, however. In my next post I’ll focus on the importance of incorporating variety into your program. Stay tuned and stay consistent.

Be Well,

Carolyn