The Zen of Water Running

I didn’t really ‘learn to run’ until I was a junior at San Diego State University, running the streets around the University.  I started running with a pair of Reebok High tops, running just a block or two. Then I would walk or run when I felt like it. No one was telling me what to where, how far to run, or what pace to run; none of that. I began listening to my body, letting the stresses of a packed school and work schedule drift to the recesses of my mind, and over the spring term of 1987 I was running for hours without even thinking about it. I would be enjoying my surroundings, the architecture of the homes, the birds, landscapes, my breathing – all of it…. And no, there wasn’t any music (this was way before iPods).  I found my “zen” and I didn’t even know that term.

What happened? I spent years trying to run on someone else’s terms (my true first running experience was in junior high. I was the person who would hide in the tule fog during the mile run just to avoid running two of the four laps of a mile). When I finally took time to do the sport on my terms, I started having fun. I learned to take the training in my own direction as well, and this direction took me back to the water.

Now, I know we all look for the “next big thing” in fitness, but maybe we have been walking by it every time we go into the gym or drop the kids at the pool so you can get your land based workout.  Possibly, in this world of trying to pound out the troubles, stresses and all things life hands us, we instead need to dive in, unplug, and find zen in a whole other way.

Why Water?

Because water is a great neutralizer.  What I mean is that the training environment is more receptive to any type of athlete, from the novice to an ultra-distance athlete like me.  We can all work out at the same time together if we choose.  The reason for this is that neither can truly tell how hard each are working.  With only your head above water (bodies submerged), we cannot look at each other for some type of comparison. Effort isn’t determined by the speed of which individuals are traveling through the water, rather it is based on how hard they work against the water. In some cases, the harder you work the slower you actually travel. Therefore, only the coach (and the individual) knows how hard they are working.

Without any judgemental comparison, the activity becomes a completely internalized fitness program lending itself to a zen-like feeling. When I train in the water, I am not distracted by other people’s movements. Rather, I’m focused on my body and how I’m moving. In turn, my mind opens up for greater clarity and focus. This is where the zen comes into play.  I talk about this hyper focused attention in my book, as I see my athletes ‘lock in’ when I’m taking them through an intense workout. It is the same place athletes go on a long distance run when they get their “second wind.”

When I feel good on the trail, time elapses and great things happen. The same thing occurs in a water training session; it is my panacea. I find that running through a routine which is an hour-long can feel like I only just started. Whether I run in a group or go solo, that same zen is achieved. Currently, my regular summer routine is to hit the pool on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. I wake up excited about having an hour totally for myself.  Even when others join me, we chat for a bit, but then fall into our personal space. We enjoy the camaraderie of being there together – but we enjoy doing our own workouts as if we were running at different points on a trail.

So, rather than hitting the trails or pounding the pavement every day, consider going to your local pool (or use your backyard pool) and jump into the deep end to give water training a try.   Maybe you too will find a new opportunity to unplug from the outside and plug into YOU.

Melis Edwards has over 30 years of experience as a running and triathlon coach, personal trainer, fitness instructor and athlete, having participated in Ironman distance triathlons, and the Western States 100 mile endurance run. Ms. Edwards holds a Master’s Degree in Health Promotion, a Bachelor’s in Health Education, and several teaching and training certifications. Her newly released book, Deep End of the Pool Workouts: No-Impact Interval Training and Strength Exercises is available wherever books are sold. Check out www.hitmethodfitness.com for more info.

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6 Outdoor Exercise Ideas to Change Up Your Cardio Routine

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy. Not so much for those who have waited until the last minute to work on their beach body. Hitting the gym and sweating on a treadmill doesn’t sound too appealing and it makes you feel like a hamster on a wheel. Now that the weather is warm, you can spice up your cardio routine with various outdoor activities that will not only help you sculpt your body, but also allow you to spend some time in nature, which is extremely beneficial for your overall health. Here’s a list of outdoor exercise ideas to bust out of your fitness rut.

Trampoline workouts

Yes, we are serious. Trampolining is usually perceived as an activity suitable for kids’ playdates, but this is just a common misconception. It’s true that jumping and bouncing on a trampoline is exhilarating and it helps kids’ channel their energy while having a lot of fun, but it’s also an amazing way for adults to burn fat. A research study by NASA has shown that it’s even more effective than jogging when it comes to staying fit, so a 10-minute trampolining session makes for better cardio than 30 minutes of jogging. In other words, if you want to train hard without even realizing it, find the nearest outdoor trampoline.

Rock climbing

This one might seem too extreme, but what’s actually extreme about it is how many calories you can burn in just one hour: 800. Rock climbing will perfectly tone and shape your arms and legs, while strengthening your core in the process, too. The fitness benefits of this exercise are obvious, but what many people don’t take into consideration are its psychological and social implications. Namely, there’s no better way to face your inner fears and obstacles, learn how to overcome them, and boost your self-confidence than rock climbing. This is a team sport, which means you’ll also develop a sense of belonging and connect with your teammates on a deeper level.

Credit: http://pexels.com

Rowing

Why spend your time at the stuffy gym on a rowing machine when you can have the real McCoy? Rowing is a perfect cardio workout and it engages 9 major muscle groups. An hour of moderate-effort rowing or canoeing can burn up to 400 calories. What’s also great about this low-impact activity is that although it practically melts fat, you can stay injure-free as there’s no pressure on your joints and knees. It’s equally effective for upper and lower body muscles, as well as for strengthening the core. Last but not least, rowing is a fun, exciting, and invigorating way of shaping up.

Longboarding

Longboarding has become increasingly popular over the past few years and for good reason. This isn’t your traditional sport but, believe it or not, it can be even more beneficial than running, even though it’s significantly less physically demanding. With 3.5 to 7 calories burned within a minute, longboarding qualifies as effective cardio training. A list of its positive effects is long, and it’s topped by the fact that your balance will be greatly improved. Even when you’re too busy to fully dedicate your time to exercising, you can use your longboard as a means of transportation. Of course, it can’t be denied that proper equipment is crucial if you want to stay safe when you hit the road, but luckily, finding a well-stocked, specialized skate shop in the US isn’t a problem.

Credit: http://pexels.com

A stair-climbing workout

Regular stair-climbing workouts can do wonders for all those who aren’t exactly adrenaline junkies, and who like to keep it simple. If you’re strapped for time, but still want to do something for your body and health, all you have to do is put on your sneakers and go to a nearby tall building. It’s effective, affordable, and it only takes half an hour or so. When it comes to caloric expenditure, an average 140-lb person can burn more than 80 calories by running up seven flights of stairs in 5 minutes. The effect is even better if you carry a heavier object.

Trail running

No workout list is complete without running, but it would be a good idea to change your urban scenery for a more beautiful natural setting and enjoy some fresh air. Many people find track running boring and monotonous, and trail running can provide them with much-needed excitement. Due to the uneven terrain, you’ll have to adjust your pace and put even more effort into covering steep slopes. All this will result in a 10% increase in your calorie burn, not to mention that this kind of cardio puts less strain on your bones and joints than running on the sidewalk.

As you can see, there are many interesting cardio workouts that will not only help you stay fit, but also improve your mental health, and overall well-being.

3 Activities Offering Great Results in as Little as 10-Minutes

There are literally hundreds of different exercises and unique movement patterns you can do to improve your cardiovascular fitness level. The best one, however, is the one you end up sticking with.

Researchers led by Martin Gibala, PhD, at McMaster University in Canada, developed a protocol of high-intensity interval training that involves just one-minute of strenuous effort, at about 90 percent of a person’s maximum heart rate, followed by one-minute of easy recovery. They reported that the process repeated ten times, meaning a total exercise times of 20-minutes, should be carried out just twice a week and it gets significant results in just a few weeks. You can use this same format but complete five rounds instead of ten used by the research group and you have a great 10-minute workout.

A 2013 study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found 10-minute “bursts” of exercise added to your daily quota of exercise, will you results.  It concluded that ‘some exercise is better than nothing’ and that by adding small bouts of exercise you can have big impact.

Here are three of my personal favorites to do over the course of a typical training week. They should be used on your off days, in addition to your strength training sessions. Build up, slowly, performing each activity for 10-minutes and focus on quality rather than quantity before looking to progress. When it comes to high intensity interval training it’s about one word, intensity! Use a heart rate monitor to see how hard you’re initially working.

  1. Jumping Rope – Try to maintain a minimum of 120 revolutions or “toe-taps” per minute. Build up to 10-minutes. Work on different movement patterns using both double and single leg routines when jumping. Progress to a weighted jump rope when the time is right. At times I use this high-tech jump rope that actually keeps track or counts the number of jumps.
  1. Rowing – A great full body workout but when performed correctly, 75 percent of your effort should be coming from the waist down. Here are two great protocols to try for 10 minutes using different variations like single foot, double, cross-country skiing and side-to-side movements.
indoor-rowers
source: http://sykes.com.au
  • 30-20-10 protocol – row easy for 5:00 to warm-up. Then row 30-seconds at a low intensity, followed by 20-seconds using a moderate intensity and finally, row all out, high intensity, for 10-seconds. Repeat x 5 and cool-down. Progress for doing this x 10 rounds.
  • 500 meter splits – warm-up then row 500 meters at a good stroke per minute pace, followed by 2:00 of recovery and repeat for 5 rounds. If you’re new to rowing decrease the work time (rowing) and increase the recovery to 3:00. Record each round and compare how consistent your times are for each 2:00 round.
  1. Tabata Protocol – This is a great template because it can be done anywhere, including in the pool, running, hill work, on an elliptical or treadmill, using specific body weight exercises, on a bike, etc. Warm-up for 4:00 then use maximum effort for 20-seconds of work and 10-seconds of recovery and repeat for 8 rounds and then cool-down. Download a free Tabata app for your smartphone to help you follow along.

There you have it, three great activities, that all burn maximal calories in minimal time. Each one will help build not only work capacity, but also increase strength and boost energy levels.

The Top 5 Exercises that Burn the Most Calories

calorie-burnSo many people would love to lose body fat. Whether the goal is to burn fat to allow muscles to shine through or you are looking to lose pounds, the key to doing so is cardiovascular exercise. Cardio gets your heart rate up and burns calories unlike any other type of exercise. Although there are many calorie burning exercises out there, you want to do the ones that yield the best results. Here are the top five exercises that burn the most calories.

Cycling

Cycling is a huge calorie burner. It is basically the ultimate cardiovascular workout. Something as simple as an hour bike ride can burn an impressive 850 calories for women and 900 calories for men. In order to make the most out of this workout try your best to remain at a maximum intensity.

Aerobics

Aerobics is not only an effective way to tone and tighten the body but it is a huge calorie burner. When you are just starting out learning the moves is a bit challenging but the challenging the better. When you get the hang of it you will not only be working your muscles but burning as much as 700 calories. Do not hesitate, sign up for a class at a nearby gym and see your body transform.

Zumba

If you like to dance and want to burn fat Zumba is perfect. The classes are so fun and are very high energy. After you learn a few moves you will have such a good time that you will forget that you are working out. An hour of Zumba can burn anywhere from 400 to 750 calories.

Swimming

Swimming is a wonderful exercise to integrate into your routine. If you have a pool you are set. For those who do not, get a membership at a gym that does. Aside from being able to burn an ample amount of calories, about 840 for men and 720 for women, swimming is truly enjoyable. Another advantage of swimming is that you get to remain cool and sweat free during the duration of your workout.

Jumping Rope

Jumping rope can burn an astounding 750 to 850 calories. This calorie burning exercise is a great option for those with kids. You can spend time playing outside with your children while becoming more fit at the same time. Jumping rope will help you drop the pounds and achieve the body you want.

This article was authored by Sergeant Michael Volkin, inventor of Strength Stack 52 fitness cards. Now available in Australia.

How to Customize Your Cardio Workout

Are you tired of spending those minutes on a treadmill or simply walking down the street? These are the most common forms of workouts that people usually get used to. Most of them also consider this to be a part of the cardio exercises that they need to perform before performing the actual workout routine. But repeating the same things everyday can be a bit boring. Performing the same kinds of workouts everyday also makes the body get used to it and thus you may not be able to see the expected results. Once the body gets used to a routine, you will see less results and this will be a reason for you to feel discouraged and there are chances that you will lose interest in working out. Another reason that most of the people give for skipping cardio is that they are tired.

summer-running-300x289You cannot blame your trainer or the exercise for this loss of interest. It is you who can be your greatest motivator and competitor. You need to make up your mind to get used to things and routines that will help you maintain the interest in working out and also a method that will help you get better results. A few modifications in the cardio will help you perform it happily without feeling bored of doing it. Let us take a look at the ways in which you can customize your cardio workouts to make them more interesting. These are the forms that are performed by many known athletes and sportsperson during their regular workout routine.

  1. Using a Step Mill differently: A step mill is commonly used to perform cardio exercises. The use of the equipment can also be modified according to one’s ability and interest. This will make the workouts on a step mill more fun and exciting. One can perform sprints, miss a step or even move towards the right and left while working out on this.
  2. Farmer’s Walk: This is called the farmer’s walk since you would have to walk a few miles carrying dumb bells in both your hands. You just need to pick dumb bells in both your hands, keeping your arms straight downwards; you can walk for about a 100 feet. This can be repeated for about 10 to 15 rounds with intervals.
  3. Change in Location: The place where you are working out plays an important role to keep you motivated. You can select a place where you like being the most. This can be your home, the gym or even the park. The most important thing that you need to consider while working out is comfort. The more you are comfortable and motivated to exercise, the more will you be able to push yourself to work harder.
  4. Food and Supplement: Cardio is usually considered to be a warming up exercise that should be performed before any strong workouts. One would need enough energy to perform them too. Thus, there are a variety of protein rich foods or a number of workout and pre workout supplements that will help in building metabolism and also strengthen you to perform better.
  5. Keep Altering your workouts: As mentioned earlier, a common workout routine including the cardio will make you body get used to it without showing proper results. This will also make you lose interest in working out. An excitement to do something new every day will help you stay active and ready to perform better.

Customizing a cardio does not only mean performing something really difficult or something that is completely new to you. You can simply think of anything that will help you warm up your muscles and prepare them well for the further exercises. The intensity of the cardio should be decided according to the intensity of the workout that you would be performing and also the physical acceptance that one’s body might offer.

This guest post was from, James Hundson, a well known fitness trainer who has been training people who want to lose weight, build muscles and increase their strength. He has studied various fitness techniques that are suitable for people with different body composition. His blogs have been revealing various exercising techniques and diet plans that contribute well in a successful fitness regime.

A Workout Session with Coldplay