Tag Archives: running

12 Days of Fitness 2020: Day 12 – Three Reasons Why Physical Activity Should Be a Family Routine

(This is part 12 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

The second edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans was released in late 2018. The new guidelines reiterate best practices for physical activity and shed light on new research findings related to physical activity’s impact on growth and development, sleep quality, brain health and much more. Here’s the bottom line: Physical activity improves health during all stages of life and is good for the entire family. Read on for three reasons why physical activity should be a family routine.

Family Physical Activity Models Positive Health Behaviors for Children.

Developing positive physical activity habits is like any other behavior—we learn by observing. Parents are children’s first role models and have the ability to shape attitudes about physical activity. When children adopt healthy physical-activity habits, they benefit not only in youth, but as teenagers and adults. A 21-year tracking study found that high levels of physical activity between the ages of nine and 18 predicted higher levels of physical activity in adulthood. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends that parents not only participate in physical activity with their children but also facilitate environments that encourage self-directed physical activity. For example, parents can place equipment such as balls and jump ropes near doors and play areas. Additionally, parents can help kids to form healthy habits by limiting screen time, focusing on enjoyment (rather than competition) and by working with school officials and other caregivers to ensure that active playtime is encouraged even when children are not at home.

Families That Move Together Build Stronger Social Bonds.

Social bonds describe the level of closeness we have with our family members, friends and other people we interact with every day such as coworkers and schoolmates. Our social ties impact several dimensions of our personal wellness, such as physical, emotional and mental well-being. Strong social ties not only affect the quality of our lives, they are linked to longer life expectancy as well. Healthy social bonds develop over time. Making physical activity a family affair can provide protected time for family members to share joys and frustrations about their day, which is important in building trust and a sense of closeness. Furthermore, when families complete an exercise or physical-activity goal together—whether running a 5K or simply taking a 30-minute walk around the neighborhood—they get to enjoy a shared sense of accomplishment. These shared experiences strengthen family social bonds.  

Families That Move Together are More Likely to Meet Physical-Activity Guidelines

Only 24% of children between the ages of 6 and 17 get the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity, and less than 23% of adults meet the physical-activity guidelines for aerobic exercise and muscle-strengthening activities. Social support, however, has been recognized as a determinant of physical activity for decades, and can be measured in several different ways:

  • Emotional support is the act of offering empathy, concern or encouragement. This type of social support lets other people know that they are valued and that their efforts toward becoming more physically active, whether big or small, matter.
  • Tangible support occurs when goods or services are provided for another person, such as providing free childcare services for an hour so that a friend can go to the gym.
  • Informational support is the provision of guidance, advice or some other form of useful information. A qualified health and exercise professional providing a free 30-minute fitness consultation is an example of informational support.
  • Companionship support is seen when two or more individuals participate in shared social activities.

All forms of social support are beneficial in health behavior change, but a study published in the British Journal of Health Psychology revealed that companionship and emotional support are key in encouraging exercise participation. Subjects in the study who exercised with at least one partner who could provide emotional support increased both self-efficacy for exercise and frequency of exercise sessions.

If you are at the beginning of your family health and fitness journey, here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Try to keep family fitness activities simple. Select activities that everyone will enjoy and ones that do not require advanced sport skills.
  • Get outside. Hiking, walking and biking are all great ideas.
  • Get behind a cause. Consider training for a local 5K or some other event tied to a cause important to your family.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

Best Wishes to You and Your Families for a Happy and Healthy Holiday Season and New Year!

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day #1 – 7 Ways to Stop Overeating Forever
Day #2Sleep Facts That May Surprise You
Day #3 – Why Losing Weight Through Exercise is Hard
Day #4 – You Are Never Too Old to Exercise
Day #5 – 6 Ways to Adopting a New Habit
Day #6 – The Real Science Behind Fascia
Day #7 – 5 Ways to Improve Eating Habits Without Counting Calories

Day #8 – How Age Affects Workout Recovery
Day #9 – Fitness and Nutrition Tips From the Healthiest Countries
Day #10 – 5 Bodyweight Exercises That You Can Do Right Now
Day #11 – How Exercise May Fight Aging

12 Days of Fitness 2015: Day 4 – Side Stitches: Causes and Treatments

(This is Part 4 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful blurbs and tips to keep your fitness in focus over the holiday season)

SideStitchThere are some pains you can easily identify like a sore butt from a squat workout or a burning sensation from a strained muscle. But some irritants are not always easily traced back to a cause and none can be more annoying than the vaunted side stitch. If you’ve ever run or played a sport, chances are you’ve had the experience of at least once with a side stitch – that crampy, tight feeling in the about mid/lateral abdomen area that either slows down or halts your activity. For years there were myths about what they are and what you can do about them. I’m here now to provide some insight.

Possible Causes

Although they typically occur most in runners, a side stitch is non-life threatening nuisance that occurs in the midst of sustained physical activity. They classically manifest themselves as an aching, stabbing, or sharp pain in the abdomen, just below the ribs and are usually localized to one side. Traditionally, it was thought that side stitches were the result of eating or drinking too close to a physical activity. This gave merit to the theory of diaphragmatic ischemia (a decrease in blood flow to the diaphragm muscle that allows you to breathe) since increased blood flow to the stomach to help digest/process food and liquid would restrict blood flow to the diaphragm. Research has proved that to not be the case. Another possible explanation is the irritation or “tugging” of the ligaments that support the muscles and structures in that area of the torso. The theory says that impact during activity pulls the organs in the abdomen downwards, tugging on the ligaments in the upper abdomen and eventually creating irritation.  This could also  explain why consuming a meal (regardless of its contents) too soon before an activity can bring on a side stitch, and it explains why side stitches are common in running but are rare in cycling.  Unfortunately, there is little research to support that theory. A final theory to side stitches is that they are the result of irritation of the spinal column; a direct result of poor posture. A few studies have looked at the effects of kyphosis or “round back” on certain participants and saw that those that had a more pronounced curve in their spine then others were more likely to not only endure more side stitches, but the pain often times radiated to the shoulder on the same side as the side stitch. However, not all people with poor posture endure side stitches so again we are left with a poorly supported theory.

Prevention and Treatments

Unfortunately, the cause (or causes) of side stitches have yet to be completely determined. Like many things in fitness, the roots of side stitches are likely more complex than one single factor.  On the bright side, we can glean some useful information from the science available. If you have a history of side stitches, take note of what you eat and drink before you start your workout. Giving yourself more time after eating might stave off a side stitch. Stretching the muscles of the abdomen/torso, deep breathing, and contracting the abdominal muscles while bending forward can all help alleviate a side stitch. If you have chronic side stitches, it may be worth having a doctor or physical therapist examine your spine to see if dysfunction there could be exacerbating your side stitches. As more research on side stitches is done, we should move closer to fully understanding how the diaphragm, the ligaments and membranes of the abdomen, and the spinal column all affect side stitches. Until then, you’ll have to experiment with some of the techniques listed above to help you get over your side stitches.

 

See you tomorrow for Day 5 of the 12 Days of Fitness

 

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

Day 1 – Chew Your Food
Day 2 – Fitness for the Road
Day 3 – The Many Names of Sugar

 

Carbo Loading: Fact or Fiction

carbsmainSeems spring has finally arrived here in southeast PA and after the winter we had it couldn’t have come soon enough! Grass in green again, flowers are blooming, and the trees are budding back to life. Other than the obvious indicators of spring returning one of the not so obvious signs to some is the return of outdoor athletic events that take a small hiatus over the winter, such as charity walks, 5Ks, half marathons, marathons, triathlons, etc. For some, these types of events were perhaps the goals of their training over the winter; or maybe they represent a chance to improve upon last year’s time; or maybe they’re just something fun to do for the physical activity. Whatever the reason and like most topics surrounding exercise type events, there are usually some circulating tales and myths of how to prepare and train properly. None of which could be any bigger than the concept of carbo loading.

What Does It Mean To Carbo Load?

When talking about nutrition as it pertains to weight loss, one can get swept up easily into the poor common fad diet recommendations such as fats are bad, carbs are bad, etc. However, when talking about physical performance, nutrition is all about fueling; fueling to provide enough energy for the physical work ahead. Is there really a difference between fueling to live versus fueling for performance? Yes, but it’s a lot simpler than you may think. At the cellular level, the body’s primary fuel source is glucose. It can get that by ingesting it (i.e. sugar); it can get it by breaking down stored glucose, otherwise known as glycogen; or it can get it through the costly negative effect of breaking down protein. In an athletic event such as a run or bike ride, the body’s primary fuel source remains glucose. Problem is, what do you do when it runs out? Hence the theory of carbo loading was born. In 1969, Ron Hill won the European Championship marathon having employed a technique termed carbohydrate loading which involved complete depletion of stored carbohydrate (training with little to no carbohydrate ingestion taking place) before entering a “loading” phase days prior to event to rebuild or “supercompensate” (eating primarily carbohydrates above normal rates) the body’s ability to store carbohydrate. Science has come a long way since then but the carb loading theory still exists. So is it a myth or does it have merit?

Pasta, Bread, Rice and Bagels, Oh My!

Carbo loading is not a myth but like most things nutritionally it can be taken to extremes. Research has shown there is little evidence to support carbohydrate loading for any event less than 60-90 minutes. In a well-structured training plan that has included sensible nutrition allowing for adequate carbohydrate AND fat and protein consumption, there’s no need to bolster carbohydrate intake. To be more specific, you wouldn’t get the most out of your physical training plan if you weren’t ingesting adequate carbohydrate during that time. Participating in an event that you poorly prepared for isn’t going to be magically rescued by “carbing” up days or the day before the event. Furthermore, the night before pasta dinners or bread fests that usually accompany these types of events have little to no effect physically and often times can cause more gastric distress issues. For events longer than 90 minutes, properly planned carb loading goes something a little more like this. About 3 – 4 days out from the event as the physical training should begin to diminish, carbohydrate intake should be increased a little bit more than what you would normally consume, approximately anywhere from 300 – 600 calories extra daily. That can easily be accomplished by adding a bowl of cereal at breakfast, or snacking on bagel during the day, an extra portion of pasta or rice with lunch or dinner. It isn’t necessary to overload your body with carbohydrate. All that matters is that you “top off” with what you might normally consume and make it a point to replenish carbs if and when possible during the event with portable fuel sources, such as fruit, gels, bars, or drinks. Understand that with increased carbohydrate intake comes increased water retention and that can certainly slow things down a bit.

Whether you participate in one of the mentioned events or not, the important message to understand is that food is fuel, whether just living or playing, and when taken to extremes can be detrimental to both arenas. If mentally you believe what you do works for you, then keep doing it. Just know that there is another level to reach, another minute to shave off, and another goal that can be achieved. Be smart and treat your body like the amazing machine it deserves to be treated.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

 

Is The Treadmill All It’s Really Cracked Up To Be?

imagesWithout a doubt that if you were to walk into a gym or health club today (possibly even yours), the number one piece of exercise equipment in both number and popularity is the treadmill. What I like to refer to as the human hamster wheel, the treadmill is an easy, user friendly exercise device that requires little ability (you walked into the gym, didn’t you?), is generally a cinch to operate (push start to go), and doesn’t require any major instruction in technique. (Again, you can walk, you’re good.) But just like any type of exercise, just because it’s popular doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s good for you. In fact, it could downright be the wrong exercise of choice for you depending on what your goal is leaving you like the hamster, aimlessly moving your legs to nowhere.

The Obvious Advantages

First and foremost, the treadmill is a weight bearing activity. That is, you’re standing upright on two legs while supporting your entire bodyweight. Just from the vantage of being a weight bearing activity, the muscles work harder, thus burning more calories, thus capable of doing more work in a shorter period of time. But I’ll come back to that one in a shortly. As stated previously, it’s easy to use and there aren’t many people from the novice to the professional athlete who can’t use it – physical incapacities aside. The decks (belt surface) are generally more forgiving than the outdoors and provide less impact to the joints. The treadmills of today are like high performance sports cars with all of the bells and whistles you could possibly want and the comfort as if walking on air. Its best feature however is that it can provide a workout indoors that is very similar to one that can be completed outdoors, especially during the winter months or stormy weather. The treadmill becomes a solution when there’s simply no excuse to get a workout. (Again, you can walk, you can use a treadmill). And if you have a home gym, a treadmill provides the greatest return on investment since you and the whole family can use it. Home models never see the volume of use that a commercial health club sees either. But if a treadmill has such obvious positives, how could there be any negatives other than of course falling off?

The Not Always Apparent Disadvantages

To the novice exerciser, a treadmill (or dreadmill as I have heard a neighbor call it) can be inviting and intimidating at the same time. Sure it’s easy to get started but there’s always the inherent danger of falling off while the treadmill is running or worse, getting a loose shoe lace tangled in the belt. (I’ve seen it…and pants too but that’s another story). No one wants to look like a fool, especially on one of the most popular pieces of exercise equipment that in some gyms require a sign-up sheet. To the seasoned exerciser, using the treadmill may just be another day working out thinking that the treadmill is the best way to lose weight (more still to come on that). And to the running enthusiast, the treadmill is an essential part of their training, especially when weather conditions and/or daylight become factors. Aside from the novice fears of having technical difficulties, the major disadvantages of the treadmill fall in between the realm of false belief and potentially more harm than good.

A False Belief

If weight loss, more specifically fat loss is the goal, the treadmill is not the best choice. It is a choice but it’s not the best. Why? Because no one piece of exercise equipment is the best when it comes to fat loss. The method or choice of exercise you choose has little to do with your success. It’s the intensity (how hard you work) you use on the treadmill that matters most. Going back previously where I stated that the benefit to the treadmill is the fact that it’s a weight bearing activity, it’s easier to work harder when you’re supporting all of your bodyweight as opposed to a sitting (non-weight bearing) position, such as with a bike or rower. But, I challenge you to find an out of shape, overweight, or deconditioned cyclist or rower because after all, they’re sitting down for their selected exercise. The point here is that when it comes down to exercise selection, the intensity of the work is more important than the mode in which it is done. Can you have great success using a treadmill to reach your goals? Absolutely, but give credit to the work you do and not to the treadmill.

 

Potential Harm

A running purist scoffs at the idea of running on the treadmill for exercise. No matter the weather or terrain, they make no excuse about it and they’re outside running in the elements. But not everyone needs or wants to be the extreme so the treadmill provides an outlet when some other things just don’t line up in the universe.  There is a slight problem here though and it involves the mechanics of the body, your running gait, and the treadmill as a machine. Because a machine powers the treadmill belt, the mechanics of your running stride differ from when you run outside. When running on the treadmill, you use your quads to push off. But, unlike outdoor running, where you would typically rely on your hamstrings to finish the stride cycle and lift your leg behind you, the propulsion of the belt does much of that work for you. This means your hamstrings aren’t firing as much and don’t get worked running inside as they would outside. The extra effort demanded of your quads is also a factor to keep in mind. While not always initially obvious, this phenomenon can be blamed for affecting your gait and foot strike patterns which can ultimately lead to a host of knee, ankle, and Achilles injuries.

Furthermore, when running on a treadmill, it’s easy to just lock into a target pace. (i.e. 6 mph). Unfortunately, this doesn’t teach you how to properly find and maintain pace on your own. As a consequence, you stunt the development of your internal effort and pacing instincts. Overall, research is inconclusive when it comes to determining whether or not treadmills are better for your joints than track running. However, if you plan to run outdoor races and your primary mode of training is the treadmill, you’re not achieving optimal development and potential.

The treadmill can be a great training tool and like everything in life, should be used in moderation. As with any training program, have a plan and know the reason why you’re using it. If it’s fat loss you desire, understand it’s all about the intensity. If you want to run, use it sparingly and take your runs outside. And if you’re just looking for the health benefits, well, get on the wheel and spin. Just know and appreciate that you have lots of other options.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

 

My Journey to 26.2 and The Lessons Learned

I generally share fitness, nutrition, and various other health topics in my posts but today I wanted to share with you a personal story, although the messages still ring loud and clear as it pertains to the usual subject matter. So if you’d like to read on and hear about my journey to running the Shamrock Marathon in  Virginia Beach and the lessons to be learned from it, I’d be delighted to it share with you.  And even if you don’t, that’s ok too but I think there’s a lot of this story that relates to everyone, whether you want to run a marathon or not.

Years In The Making

Some refer to it as a bucket list item, but running a marathon was just a personal goal I had for myself. It was something I wanted to do to see what I could do, how far could I push myself out of my comfort zone, and just have a goal that was realistic, attainable, and measureable – the three solid qualities of a goal. I consider myself to be a disciplined, very fit individual and from working with many clients over the years, I know of the tremendous commitment running a marathon requires and I became intrigued. I should confess to those who don’t know me that I’m not a runner.  In fact, I’m probably more of a non-runner, having a mesomorph type frame and a predominance of Type II muscle fibers. As an athlete back in school, I despised running except for chasing down the ball or an opponent. I never ran for fitness.  My cardiovascular exercise of choice is the bike. I support and train those who love running, but it was never my thing. Then one day I was just inspired to run.

I was working with a client who no more than three years previous had a tremendously difficult time running one mile on the treadmill. Fast forward three years and she’s now running 5Ks, 10 milers, multiple half marathons, and participating in sprint triathlons. Some would say, “Hey, that’s great! Good for her! I’m not doing that.” And that’s ok as everyone is entitled to their opinions (more on that later). To someone like me though, my response was more along the lines of “What’s stopping you?” So it was about this time last year when I decided that when I turn 40, I want to be able to say I ran a marathon. It was always sort of in the back of my brain, but here it was, my 39th year, and I hadn’t done a thing to even remotely prepare myself. It was time to start practicing a little more of what I preach.

The First Steps

I am a fitness training professional and strength coach so it is in my experience that there is no better way to do something than the right way. I’ve heard and read all the “guru” and “expert” ideas/plans on how best to prepare for a marathon and the only common denominator I discovered is that there is no perfect way to prepare – only what’s best for you. I began to strategize and in essence work my way up, or more specifically, progress in a reasonable, timely manner to get me to the goal without injury.  I had run several 5Ks, participated in the Broad Street 10 Miler in May of 2012 and then the Philadelphia Half Marathon in November 2012. The next step was the full marathon and while logic will make you think that a marathon is only two half marathons put together, it’s a lot more complicated than that.

16 Weeks To Go

There really is only one way to train for a marathon and that is to run. Remember how I didn’t like running? Yeah, well there’s a lot of it to be done. Each week is a set of little runs and progressively increasing longer runs on the weekends. It changes your daily and weekly routines; it alters your social commitments; it really puts the onus of responsibility of sticking to your plan, both in regards to training and your nutrition. If you plan to do the marathon and you want to at a minimum finish it, you better stick to the plan. And if all of that wasn’t hard enough, finding a nice day to run December through March in Southeast PA is not an easy task. I had trained in it all – wind, rain, snow, sleet, ice covered trails, darkness – you name it.  Least let’s not forgot the emergency bathroom stops along trails with no bathrooms.

But a strange thing started to happen to me.  Running and I started to begin to develop a better relationship.  I didn’t love it necessarily but I didn’t hate it either.  There were days when I actually really looked forward to the runs (nothing provided more mental calmness and clarity than a long run did) and there were days when despite my complaining about it, I would forget all about it once I began the run.  In the end, it became bittersweet knowing that the long hard work was done and all that was left was to run the big one itself.  I was starting to miss the misery. I found myself ready to do it three weeks in advance of the actual date and couldn’t wait to cross that finish line.  There was a light at the end of this tunnel and I was starting to see it.

Achieving The Goal

As I expected, running the marathon itself was the easiest part of the journey.  Not that the marathon was easy per se, but all of the training had come to this point and I knew I had prepared the best that I could.  It was never without crazy thoughts running through my head either like “Why am I doing this again?”, or “Can I stop now?”, or “Really? Does the wind really have to blow any harder?” It’s still surreal to me, but I did it. I saw it all the way through and crossed the line. I received my medal. I left nothing behind and had no regrets.  All the weeks of training, all the preparation, and all the sacrifices came to a glorious finish. To make the moment even sweeter, the same client in the previous story completed her first marathon as well as my wife.  We all did it, standing, smiling, and truly proud.  Will I run another one? I won’t say never but I am pleased to enjoy this one forever. It was personally special and taught me a lot about myself that I didn’t know which I will share with you next.

Lessons Learned From 26.2

So many times we tend to focus on what’s unimportant versus what’s truly important.  With running, everyone worries about their time. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that.  For some, it’s a hard factual way of measuring themselves against others or how much they’ve improved since their last attempt. It wasn’t about any of that for me. It was the culmination of months of training and preparation towards a specific goal.  It was the goal of doing a marathon itself. I have no delusions of trying to compete with the likes of the professional runners. To share the same exact course with them was honorable enough. Anyone who does a marathon no matter how long it takes them is a winner in my eyes. They have seen the goal all the way through to the end and when you’re not competing professionally, the time really does not matter. How many times have you beat yourself up because you only lost 5 pounds instead of 10? Isn’t the weight loss still an accomplishment itself? Or you attempted a personal best in a lift only to fall just a few inches short of completing the lift. Is not the attempt at the newer, heavier weight a step up from the previous personal best?

It’s not about settling or becoming complacent.  It’s about getting better, not perfect.  It’s about committing to something greater than just numbers on a scale or pounds on a lift.  It’s about stepping out of your comfort zone and achieving something that you never thought you could. It’s not about what you can and can not do; it’s about what you will and will not do.  Do I advocate that everyone run a marathon? Absolutely not! But using a marathon as a metaphor towards striving to reach and achieve goals is a powerful comparison. I never would have imagined 10 years ago that I would have run a marathon. I always feel, as I do every year, that I’m I better shape than the year before.  I can’t tell you the number of times I hear, “You just wait and see” when I say that I feel great. My response now more than ever is, “If that’s how you feel, that’s your choice. If you don’t feel better, what are you going to do about it?”

You don’t have to run a marathon or compete in any one of the numerous events that are available to us today. If you have a goal that you truly want to achieve and it’s realistic, attainable, and measureable, prepare yourself to do something you’ve never done; prepare to make the necessary sacrifices; prepare to endure the social pressures; prepare to change the way you currently do things.  If what you’ve wanted to achieve still eludes you, you haven’t embraced all that it will entail. Come to terms with that, and I guarantee you will be successful.  And believe me, the reward of the achievement is all its worth and more. May your goals become reality.

 

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

 

Live For Now

imagesLet me just first say that this isn’t one of those “apocalyptic” spiels about December 21, 2012 and the end of the world according to the Mayan calendar.  Regardless if that is true or not, this is about doing the things now that you want to do in this life.  Not wait until next year or until you plan to retire – living the life you want here and now.  In her book, “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying” Bronnie Ware writes of the recurring themes of the regrets that those on their death bed had. The “what if’s”, the “should have’s”, the wish I could have’s”, etc that were a bit too little too late. While our lives may not always end as planned, what’s important to appreciate is that we all get the same shot; what you do with yours is all your own

The Top Five Regrets of The Dying (excerpted from the book)

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Of course, since I can always relate what I write to fitness, the same holds true in that regard. So without further ado, here are my….

Top Five Regrets of The Person Who Struggles With Exercising

  1. I wish I could find the time to exercise as opposed to finding a reason not to exercise.
  2. I wish I could stop making excuses for why I don’t achieve my goals.
  3. I wish I had made the time to learn proper and safe exercise as opposed to what may have been unrealistic for me.
  4. I wish that I had the courage to understand that fitness is a journey, not a destination
  5. I wish that I had appreciated that it’s never too late to get moving.

From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it. Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, and choose honestly. Choose happiness.

My Personal Journey To Living

This weekend marks the beginning of a physical journey for me. Sunday, May 6th, I’m running in my first Broad Street Run, a 10 mile race in Philadelphia.  Next on the agenda is the Philly Half Marathon, Sunday, November 18th.  And the final destination on the journey – the Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach, March 17, 2013 (apocalypse not withstanding).  Why? Why not, I say.  But more specifically, to challenge myself.  Without challenge, there is no change. I’ll be turning 40 in January (no, it’s not a midlife crisis thing).  I have no delusions of running record races, beating times, trying to keep up with those who enjoy running more than I do (I no longer hate running, but the bike is always going to win out). I just want to be able to say I did it.  And that’s all that matters to me. As “The Great One”, Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

My 2012 Fitness Challenge personal update – 12,300 push ups done as of publishing time.

 

 

12 Days of Fitness Truth 2010: Tis Better to Walk or Run? – Day 11

downloadYou can debate on just about anything regarding fitness.  Sometimes it is based on the research; other times, popular opinion or just real world experience.  Whatever stance you take, the plus in all fitness debates is that we’re talking about something positive – physical movement, not wars, politics, or religions. In general, it doesn’t really matter how you get your exercise but that you’re getting it. So as we approach colder weather and many will find their exercise to be taking place on a treadmill (ugh!), why not talk about whether it’s better to walk or run?

What’s the Goal?

This has to be and should be the question asked before beginning any exercise program.  Be specific. Lose weight? By how much and when? Run a race? When and what distance? The point is, one should not assume that while walking is great exercise, it has to support the goal.  Likewise, if you’re going to run, does it match the intended goal and have you weighed all the risks and rewards? Simply doing an exercise because you think it’s what you’re supposed to do rather than what should be done are vastly different.

What Does the Science Tell Us?

For many, many years it was believed that the only way to truly burn bodyfat was by doing low intensity, long duration exercise. The infamous and irrelevant “fat burning zone” showcased on cardio equipment even still today tries to promote that theory.  That theory is wrong.  The body burns more calories the harder it works. Period. If the fat burning zone theory was true, you would burn more fat calories just by sitting on the couch.  I don’t think science is necessary to understand how flawed that line of thinking is. If you walk a mile and then run a mile, you will burn more total calories, no question.

Risk vs. Reward

Walking is easy and doable by a larger percentage of the population. For those of us born with two legs, walking is as easy as stepping up and moving.  It’s simple to do, doesn’t cost anything, and with the exception of speed walking, presents very low to no impact on the joints of the body.  It does burn calories, yes, but for those looking to shed 20 or more pounds, walking for 30-60 minutes at a leisurely or slightly labored pace isn’t going to cut it.  For walking to be most effective for weight loss, it has to be done at a higher than leisurely pace; must be for longer durations; has to be done more consistently than 3 times per week.  For the beginner, walking presents the best option.  But eventually, the pace and/or time will need to be picked up.  And by the way, walking 4 miles on the boardwalk in the summer as you eat your way down results in more of a calorie surplus than deficit.

Running is also great exercise. It’s like walking times ten.  More muscles are used, thus more oxygen is needed, thus more blood flow is created, thus more energy expended. The negative to running however is the impact on the joints of the body.  The human body, while designed to ambulate and run away from a stress, was optimally designed to move in quick, short bursts, not the prolonged effects of running for 3 plus miles. At the end of the day, neither exercise is bad.  It’s just a matter of what you like and what the goal is.  As long as you’re moving, that is the ultimate goal of any exercise program.

See you tomorrow for Day 12 of the 12 Days of Fitness Truth.