Monthly Archives: April 2013

Dealing with Soreness

Everyone has workouts they know are going to slow them down the next day.  Being sore comes with involvement in any fitness activity, and can really dampen your enthusiasm.  If you’ve taken some time off or are starting something new, it’s a good idea to plan for the stiff, sore body you’ll be stuck in for the next few days, and best way to deal with muscle soreness is to prepare for it.  Leave time in your day for stretching or schedule a massage when you know you are going to push the limits of your muscles.

The most important thing to know is that if you’re sore, it means you are getting stronger!  During your workout, you strained those aching muscles by putting tiny little tears in them.  The effort of your body to repair these small rips causes the inflammation that leads to muscle soreness.  It’s also nice to know that it won’t last forever because each activity you do will lead to less and less muscle damage as your body adjusts to the new demands you place on it.  Keeping your routine mixed up is a great way to keep muscles working and stop them from being achy and sore.

When you are achy and sore, most people head straight to the medicine cabinet.  While taking ibuprofen or aspirin might ease pain and reduce swelling, it also slows the healing process.  Your favorite pain reliever does this by impeding the ability of bones, ligaments, and tendons to heal and, if taken frequently, can also cause stomach and liver problems.  If you try taking one of these medications before a workout to prevent soreness, you’re actually hurting yourself more than helping.  The response of your body to training will lessen and, since taking these types of drugs has been shown to cause an increase in inflammation, you can end up in a more painful situation than you intended.

The best way to prevent soreness is to stretch out when you’re finished with your session.  Five minutes spent lengthening those hard working muscles can ward off a day spent stiff and sore.  After stretching, you also need to make sure your body has all the tools it needs to repair the damaged muscles, so get your protein and rehydrate within 30 minutes of working out.  You can also use heat, ice and massage as a way to ward off some post workout suffering.  Using heat will increase blood and oxygen flow to the damaged area and help clean out any chemicals stuck in there.  Massage breaks up the adhesions created during a tough session and, like heat, allows increased blood flow and nutrients to get where they need so your muscles are repaired.  Ice can ease pain and will decrease swelling, so ice for twenty minutes four times a day to aid in healing.

Have questions?  Need a stretching routine?  Ask us!

How to Use Timed Runs

There are lots of methods people use when training for a race.  Whether a 5K, 10K, half marathon or Iron Man, every runner has a different program, but the goal of each program is the same: finish in less time than I did before.  To reach this goal, every runner needs to run for time.  There are different types of timed runs out there, and each one serves a different purpose.  Short times runs, tempo runs, and distance runs can all fall into the timed run family and each one is valuable to any training program.

Short timed runs serve as benchmarks and baselines, giving you a sense of what your race pace will be by letting you know what kind of pace you can maintain over a period of time.  They are a great way to evaluate improvement in your fitness level and give you an idea of what your next goal should be.

Tempo runs are used to increase lactic acid threshold, or the point at which muscles feel fatigue.  They accomplish this by teaching to body to work when it’s already tired.  Tempo runs start with an easy pace to warm up then slowly increase to reach 10K pace for a short time in the middle, before finishing with another block of easy running.  A 30 minute tempo run would consist of 10 minutes warm up, ten minutes at a comfortably hard pace, with a peak at 10K pace around 15 minutes, then finish up with 10 minutes of easy running.

Your long timed run is there to make sure you can finish your race.  To be successful, determine how long your longest timed run should be, estimate the time it will take you to finish your race.  If you’re racing 13.1 miles and comfortably run 9 minute miles, you can guess you’ll finish in about two hours.  Your timed runs should build up so your body is ready to work for two hours.  If your body isn’t prepared to ahead of time to work for the amount of time it’s going to take you to finish, the end of your race will be tough both physically and mentally.

No matter what flavor of timed run you plan on doing, they are a great tool when you travel.  Running for time means you don’t have to measure new routes or waste time on the internet finding something, or somewhere, that’s already been measured, giving you more time to relax.  Running for a predetermined time is also perfect on days when you don’t feel 100%.  You can run for 45 minutes without caring how far you go or worrying you didn’t get a good enough workout in because you know did what you set out to do.

Have questions about running for time or training for your next race?  Contact us at!

All About Antioxidants

You have probably heard about antioxidants, the ‘super foods’ that contain them and a little bit about what they are meant to do.  The information out there can be confusing, and it’s important to know what antioxidants can do, might do, and won’t do, and what foods can provide you with the levels and types of antioxidants you need.  Below you’ll find all the basic information you need to make an educated decision about how, and how much, of each antioxidant you need every day.

An antioxidant is a molecule that slows the process of oxidation in other molecules.  Oxidation turns molecules into free radicals during the process of breaking down food, but also in response to exposure to tobacco or radiation.  Once molecules have been oxidized into free radicals, they start chain reactions which result in damage or death to cells.  Oxidation damage to cells often plays a major role in causing diseases and also in their progress.  Antioxidants, coming from the Latin meaning no oxidation, work to neutralize free radicals in our bodies.

By neutralizing some of the effects of free radicals in our bodies, antioxidants can boost our immune systems by helping prevent colds and flu.  Scientific evidence has also shown that antioxidants may play a part in preventing or controlling cancer symptoms, but to this point the conclusions have been inconsistent.  This doesn’t mean, however, you can skip out of the vitamins and minerals that make up the class of antioxidants.

Antioxidants come from lots of foods that are part of a healthy diet, including some of those antioxidant ‘super foods’ you may have heard of.  Types of antioxidants include beta-carotene, lycopene, and Vitamins A, C and E.  On the long list of foods rich in these antioxidants are blue berries, carrots, squash, spinach, tomatoes, apricots, sweet potatoes, almonds and broccoli.  Other antioxidants that might help boost your immune system include vitamins zinc and selenium.  These vitamins can be found in oysters, dairy products, whole grains and seafood.

As you can imagine from the short list above, it’s easy to get all the antioxidants you need from a regular, healthy, diet.  If you choose to take an antioxidant or mineral supplement such as a multivitamin containing them, be aware that too much of either Vitamin A or E (or  both) can be toxic. Want to know if you’re getting what you need from your diet?  Ask us!  Email at

The Importance of Functional Strength Training

Walking into a gym can be very intimidating.  You might see big confusing machines, a rack of free weights, or nothing more than pull-up bars and weight plates, and have no idea what you just walked in on.  While each of these environments can be help you reach your fitness goals, your best bet is to steer clear of those machines and focus on functional training, or functional exercises.

The benefits of functional fitness include better joint mobility, balance, endurance, flexibility and body composition.  When you do functional exercises correctly, you are increasing the range of motion in your joints, making them more stable and more efficient.  Functional exercises also allow your joints, bones and muscles to move in more than one plane, while machines lock you in one position and only allow for motion in one direction.  Moving in only one plane is very unrealistic and something we don’t frequently do in our daily lives.

Since we are almost always moving in more than one plane, there’s not a whole lot of reason to practice it.  Functional exercises mirror things we do every day, and those big machines don’t even come close.  While you can push, pull, and lift on a machine, you are working only one muscle group at a time, one plane.  Different types of functional movement and exercises are based on regular activities, like twisting, jogging, lifting, pushing, pulling, climbing, and jumping.  If you are sitting in a chair with a bar over your legs, only your biceps are going to work to curl the weights up, but if you’re standing with a pair of dumbbells in your hands, your legs are working to keep you standing, your core is working to maintain your balance and your shoulders are stabilizing your arms in the proper position so you can focus on the bicep curl you want to do.  This makes is easy to see how practicing these movements in the gym will not only make your targeted muscle group stronger and more powerful, but will improve coordination between your muscles and nervous system.

The best types of functional training include the use of free weights, like barbells, dumbbells and kettle bells, as well as cable systems, resistance bands, sand bags, balance disks and medicine balls.  Using any of these fitness tools, you can use functional strength training to improve your overall fitness as well as use it to help improve your sport specific skills.

Want a functional training routine?  Have questions about the equipment in the gym you use?  Ask us, we’re here to help you reach all of your fitness goals!

Sports Drinks 101

As the warm, or just plain hot, summer months approach, many fitness enthusiasts worry about hydration. Especially as the weather becomes friendlier, people want to exercise outdoors. Opting for something with flavor, like a sports drink, rather than just plain water, will not only make you more likely to drink it, but can have other post-workout benefits as well.

For most people, the food we eat today has enough salt in it to keep us from facing a deficiency. If you are training for a marathon or exercising very hard for several hours a day, you burn through more salt through sweat than the average person and will need to make a point to replenish the fluids in your body. When we work out for extended periods of time, the important nutrients we lose are called electrolytes. Types of electrolytes include potassium and sodium, which are essential for proper hydration, maintaining fluid balance and preventing muscle cramps. That’s why, as an athlete, it’s so important to replace them after we sweat them out.

Plain old water isn’t loaded with electrolytes, so the best place to get them quickly is by drinking a sports drink. While all good sports drinks contain at least 15mg of sodium, there are also sports drinks that offer various amounts of both carbohydrates and protein in addition to sodium and potassium. These drink choices are absorbed and maintain fluid balance faster than plain water, getting your body the fluids it needs right away. Carbohydrate-protein sports drinks have been tested and are shown to possibly hydrate better than regular, no protein, sports drinks by aiding with fluid retention. The calories from carbohydrates in sports drinks have also been shown to improve endurance, increase energy, promote faster recovery and limit any immune system suppression that can happen after a tough workout.

When a workout leaves you wiped out, stick with your sports drink. Energy drinks might quench your thirst and give you a big boost of energy after a tough session, but they’ll also dehydrate you while leading you to an energy crash no one enjoys. Make sure you’re maintaining hydration all day; don’t worry about it only after you’ve worked out. Don’t worry about getting your eight glasses of water a day, instead, drink to match your thirst and use your urine as a gauge for maintaining proper hydration.