The best cycling destinations in the US

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The weather’s getting warmer by the day, which means different things to different people. For cycling enthusiasts, though, summer means more time spent atop the good old banana seat. Here are five of the best spots for cycling in the United States, for anyone looking for new and exciting routes to explore.

San Juan Islands, Washington

These scenic islands offer something for everyone, from the casual rider to the hard-core mountain biker. Lopez is the ideal go-to for easy pedaling, while Orcas is home to the challenging twin peaks of Mt. Constitution and Turtleback. The largest of the trio, San Juan, is the most densely populated, making it the perfect choice for those who want a more lively post-cycling scene.

Gran Fondo Route, New York

Yes, it’s true: The Big Apple is home to some of the country’s best cycling, and the Gran Fondo course easily tops the list. The route covers just over 100 miles in total, beginning at the George Washington bridge, continuing along the iconic Hudson River, and finally finishing up on Bear Mountain.

Asheville, North Carolina

This southern destination has seen a strong upsurge in recent years, and it won’t take long for cyclists to discover why. The Pisgah National Forest offers textured and challenging terrain, while the Blue Ridge Parkway invites long, leisurely rides.

Sea to Summit Route, California

The name says it all. What could be better than an invigorating ride from the majestic Pacific Ocean all the way to Mt. Tamalpais? Along the way, cyclists are treated to views of the San Francisco waterfront, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Marin headlands, and the famed California redwoods. This is a destination that should appear on every cyclist’s bucket list.

Burlington, Vermont

Here’s another spot that’s worth a visit, even for those who never get on a bicycle. The ones who do, however, will be rewarded with unique vantage points along Lake Champlain, and some of the most peaceful mountain biking conditions to be found anywhere.

For more details on these routes, as well as in-depth looks at several others, (as well as several others), check out this Gear Patrol article. Bike Radar is also a great resource for finding great destinations that might lie off the beaten path.

Exploring common cycling ailments (Pt. 2)

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Like any endurance sport, cycling can come with its fair share of overuse injuries. There are a variety of pesky ailments that commonly plague dedicated cyclists, which can quickly interrupt — or end — an otherwise fruitful training cycle.

I previously explained how to approach and manage five common cycling ailments. Here now are answers to a few more frequent injuries.

 

Broken clavicle

Crashes and impact injuries are an unfortunate, but frequent part of competitive cycling — a group of fast-traveling athletes in close proximity to one another is sure to spell disaster now and then. There are obviously numerous ways these scenarios can lead to significant injury, but a common injury area is the clavicle, or the collarbone; this is not surprising, given this bone’s vulnerable exposure and front-facing position (any head-over-handlebars situation puts it at immediate risk of taking the brunt of the fall). This particular injury requires quick medical attention, so exercise common sense in any situation where you think you may have suffered a break or fracture.

 

Back pain

Given the fact that cycling usually entails a slightly bent-forward posture, it is no surprise that many cyclists mistakenly slouch during long rides, leading to pain in several critical areas — among them, the back. Additionally, many of us also hold jobs that find us sitting and bending over for long periods of time, causing an adverse shift in our biomechanics. Chronic back pain can quickly shut down a cycling season, so make sure to correct your posture problems and engage in proper stretching and strengthening exercises while you still can.

 

Arm pain

It is also not surprising that many cyclists occasionally grapple with arm pain — after all, a cyclist’s arms are responsible for the overall steering of the bike. The easiest way to correct this ailment is to check the reach on your bike; it may be too long and therefore responsible for unnecessary pressure and straining. Furthermore, check to make sure your handlebars are not set too low. These tips can also help to correct pain associated with the neck and upper back.

 

These Mistakes Might be Hindering your Strength Training

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Lifting weights is one of the most effective ways to build a strong, healthy body from the ground up. However, many people self-sabotage and stall progress. Here are ten mistakes to avoid when hitting the gym.

Having unclear goals

Without a goal in mind, you won’t stick with your plan. Do you want to be more powerful, look good naked, or improve your health? Knowing what you want will keep you motivated and help you design your routine.

High reps with low weights

To get the best results, you need to do low reps with the maximum weight you can lift. This is called “lifting to failure.” Otherwise, it’s an aerobic exercise and you won’t build muscle or burn fat.

Not resting between sets

Resting between sets allows muscles to recover so you can lift your max weight in the next set. Rushing through your workout may get you home faster, but it will also slow progress.

Isolating muscle groups

Compound lifts like deadlifts and squats are more efficient and build strength evenly because they activate multiple muscle groups.

Having poor form

Lifting with proper form will ensure you are activating the right muscle groups while also reducing the likelihood of injury. A personal trainer can help correct errors in form.

Choosing the wrong footwear

The best shoes for lifting provide a flat, firm surface to maximize stability. Professional lifting shoes have wooden soles, but other options are available.

Not pushing yourself

Working hard keeps your heart rate up and maximizes the value of your gym time. You can chat with your buddies later over a protein shake.

Avoiding your weak spots

Failure to train your body evenly can lead to lopsided muscle gain, making you uncomfortable and potentially increasing the risk of injury. Don’t avoid challenging lifts if overall strength is your goal.

Neglecting rest days

When you exercise, you create microscopic tears in your muscles that take 48 to 96 hours to heal. Rest is a vital part of becoming stronger.

Avoiding the gym due to insecurity

The worst mistake to make is not lifting at all. Everybody has a “day one” of hitting the gym–get out there and make today your day.

 

Five Essential TED Talks On Physical Fitness

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Nothing is more important than keeping fit and healthy. Exercise has been shown to counteract stress levels, but there are other areas of a human physical health that can greatly benefit from it as well. Here is a list of 5 of the most important physical fitness TED talks to watch.

 

Why Some People Find Exercise Harder Than Others

Social psychologist Emily Balcetis explains how having a weak or a strong motivation to exercise can determine how far or close a person feels they are to meeting their fitness goals. She underscores the value of “keeping your eyes on the prize” when it comes to getting fit. To watch the video, click here.

 

The Brain Changing Benefits of Exercise

Neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki recently did a talk on how exercise changes not only the physical body, but the brain and mind as well. The prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain which controls things such as attention span and personality.

She accidentally discovered the correlation when she decided to work her way through a mild depression funk by going to the gym. After a period of time, she noticed her mind seemed to be getting sharper, and the idea for the study was born. To watch the video, click here.

 

Why Dieting Doesn’t Usually Work

Sandra Aamodt explains why diets so rarely ever have a permanent positive effect, and how a person’s weight range is largely determined by the hypothalamus. She also speaks on eating mindfully with special attention to one’s particular body’s needs as a solution to excessive weight gain. To watch the video, click here.

 

Physical Therapy is Boring — Play a Game Instead

When 70 percent of patients are failing to do their prescribed home exercises, it’s been clear that a solution needed to be found to encourage them to take better care of themselves. Self proclaimed “software geek” Cosmin Mihaiu and his friends created a P.C. software platform called MIRA to turn the dull chore of physical therapy into a time for engagement and fun. To watch the video, click here.

 

High-intensity Physical Exercise Will Boost Your Health

Cardiac health researcher Øivind Rognmo explores how exercise changes the heart system, and how to use the body’s own mechanisms for maximizing that impact. To watch the video, click here.

Exploring Common Cycling Ailments (Pt. 1)

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Like any endurance sport, cycling can come with its fair share of overuse injuries. There are a variety of pesky ailments that can plague dedicated cyclists and quickly interrupt — or end — an otherwise fruitful training cycle.

Here is how to approach and manage five of the most frequent cycling ailments.

 

Achilles tendonitis

Tendonitis of any body part is never fun, as the inflammation can be incredibly painful and stubborn with movement, but the achilles tendon is arguably one of the worst spots to develop the injury — especially in cycling. Each pedaling motion and dorsal flex is contingent on a healthy achilles, and pain in this area can quickly take a cyclist out of commission. Like most forms of tendonitis, achilles tendonitis can be avoided by preventing overtraining, stretching the area properly, and taking time off at the onset of any noteworthy pain. If the injury has already developed, the R.I.C.E method is your best bet (in other words, Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation). Additionally, give yourself ample recovery time to allow all the inflammation to fade.

 

Neck pain

The neck may not be a first consideration when listing areas of potential cycling injuries, but the reality is that neck pain plagues countless riders on a regular basis. Typically, this issue stems from poor head position and even poorer riding posture. The best rule of thumb is to keep your chin tucked, make a 90 degree angle between your shoulders and upper arms, and engage the muscles in your neck while looking up. Maintain this position and you should be able to solve your neck problems moving forward.

 

Groin pain

Cycling-related groin pain is not exactly surprising, for obvious reasons, but it is also fairly easy to fix. In almost all cases, the pain is likely coming from a poorly shaped or positioned saddle. It is important that you find a saddle that fits your body type perfectly, all while making sure it is properly installed onto your bike. Even a well-fitted saddle will create problems if it is not positioned correctly.

 

Knee pain

Given the basic biomechanics of cycling, it is also not surprising that many cyclists deal with nagging knee pain. The issue is arguably the most prominent in the sport, but it can be avoided with proper footwear, foot positioning, and proper foresight in terms of overuse and overtraining. If you are already experiencing knee pain, in addition to mending the aforementioned factors, take a few days to let your patellas recovery; they are potentially delicate parts of your body that will need to be strengthened and properly healed to avoid long-term problems.

 

Training Tips for your First Ironman Competition

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Completing an Ironman is no minor feat. Neither is training for one. Training for Ironman is a journey that lasts several months, if not all year long. These four tips will help you make the most of your first Ironman experience.

 

Find a partner or group to keep you accountable

If you can, train with a partner or a group. Training will be a lot less monotonous with other athletes around you. You may even train more effectively and focus harder if you’re surrounded by people who are visibly pushing their limits. At the very least, communicate regularly with someone else who is training for the Ironman. You’ll stay more focused and accountable if you have someone to report your progress to. If you’re new to triathlons and don’t have any triathlete buddies, look into your local tri group or find a virtual partner on social media.

 

Make sure you’re getting enough to eat

During training, you’re burning off many more calories than you normally would be. You need to replenish your body’s fuel supply – never train on an empty stomach and always eat when you’re hungry. Try to create an Ironman nutrition plan if you can. Be sure to read up on calorie replacement for endurance athletes if this is your first long-distance event. Liquid nutrition sources, like gels, can be your best friend during extensive training sessions.

 

Be patient and consistent with your training

As you build your endurance and speed, try not to overdo it. Build up the time you spend training incrementally – don’t try to add an hour at a time. If you overextend yourself, you risk injuring yourself. Injuries can render you unable to take part in the Ironman or set you back in your training progress. Understand that you won’t see overnight results. Especially if you are a newer athlete, set realistic expectations for yourself. You will improve with consistent training.

 

Keep a record of your training

The Ironman is unlike most races because you have three different types of training to endure. Even if you think you can keep track of your progress in your head, use some kind of record-keeping system to log your training sessions. You can find several apps that might work for you, or you can use good old pen and paper to the same effect. Log your mileage, hours, and how you feel each day. Having a record of this data will likely improve your confidence and motivation because you’ll be able to look back on your progress when you feel discouraged.

 

The best books on physical fitness (Pt. 2)

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Whether you plan to lose weight, improve your cardiovascular health, or simply put on more muscle, physical fitness is a great lifestyle habit to adopt. Countless studies have highlighted the immense benefits gained from regular physical activity, and there are a variety of ways to get yourself in better shape.

Sometimes, however, it can be difficult or confusing to start or hone a physical endeavor. Times like these may warrant outside advice, motivation, and other forms of intervention focused on improving your experience henceforth. In terms of literature, there are many exercise-based stories and guides worth checking out.

I previously explored some of the best books on physical fitness. Here now are several more notable texts worth checking out.

 

“Becoming a Supple Leopard: The Ultimate Guide to Resolving Pain, Preventing Injury, and Optimizing Athletic Performance” by Kelly Starrett

There are many interpretations of what drives the human body to push its physical boundaries, and according to Kelly Starrett, this process involves one waking his or her “human animal.” However, dysfunctional movement and technique can quickly disrupt this vision, leaving one on the brink of injury and underachievement in their physical endeavors. Starrett sets out to eliminate this threat by providing a comprehensive examination of biomechanics, injury management, and preemptive measures to ensure optimal performance.

 

“You Are Your Own Gym: The Bible Of Bodyweight Exercises For Men And Women” by Mark Lauren

Looking at yourself as the gym itself is another great way to envision success in the weight room, and Mark Lauren fully embraces this notion in the aptly titled “You Are Your Own Gym.” Lauren’s insights fit a workout mold aimed at fitting your “schedule and wallet,” exploring simple yet effective ways to complete regular workouts without sacrificing the quality of the work performed. This is a great resource for those struggling to fit working out into their weekly routine.

 

Body by Science: A Research-Based Program for Strength Training, Body Building, and Complete Fitness in 12 Minutes a Week” by John Little

Maintaining a strong balance of external drive and internal knowledge is ideal in not only reaching your physical potential, but also in remaining healthy during the process. “Body by Science” is a great resource in this regard, as it features a proven formula to maximize muscle development in just 12 weeks, implementing scientific rationale to give readers full insight to the purpose of their efforts. John Little utilizes extensive research to form the text’s high-intensity program.

More ironman competitions to consider in 2018

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The Ironman triathlon is held in exceptionally high regard in competitive aerobic sports. The event essentially takes the components of a basic triathlon and pushes them to the extreme, challenging participants to complete a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a marathon (aka, a 26.2-mile run) without a break. Understandably, these competitions are fierce and intense, and only the physically and mentally fit will stand a chance at completing all three tasks in succession.

However, as harrowing as Ironman races are, they can also be incredibly addictive; they present the ultimate challenge, and the sense of achievement gained through finishing can quickly morph into a full-fledged obsession.

If you have caught the Ironman itch be sure to check out my first blog on competitions to enter this year. However, if you are still looking for more options, here a few other competitions to consider, as listed on the official Ironman website.

 

Ironman Chattanooga

Those hoping to compete on a scenic course will not be disappointed with Ironman Chattanooga. The course is quite a mixture of different racing experiences, taking competitors across the Tennessee River, through mountainous northern Georgia, and finally around the city itself as the finish line looms at the end of a beautiful final stretch through the Riverfront Parkway.

 

Ironman Texas

Ironman Texas encapsulates some of the most captivating parts of the Woodlands. Beginning with a rolling start, the swim takes competitors from North Shore Park to the canal at Town Green Park before entering northern Harris County via bike. The running portion of the competition takes place entirely in the Woodlands and, like Chattanooga, it provides a spectacular and unforgettable finish (in its case, across Waterway Avenue).

 

Ironman Hawaii

As you can probably imagine, Ironman Hawaii is arguably the most scenic course in the competition’s wide range of chapters. However, sights and terrain aside, the course itself is also incredibly unique in its construction, with a swimming portion taking competitors in an “elongated rectangle” paralleling the shoreline, a seemingly never ending ascent of a bike trek, and finally, a two-loop running course taking competitors through various resorts and residential areas. Just be sure to keep yourself exceptionally hydrated!

Ironman competitions to consider in 2018 (Pt. 1)

mark-dziuban-ironman-2018

The Ironman triathlon is held in exceptionally high regard in competitive aerobic sports. The event essentially takes the components of a basic triathlon and pushes them to the extreme, challenging participants to complete a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a marathon (aka, a 26.2-mile run) without a break. Understandably, these competitions are fierce and intense, and only the physically and mentally fit will stand a chance at completing all three tasks in succession.

However, as harrowing as Ironman races are, they can also be incredibly addictive; they present the ultimate challenge, and the sense of achievement gained through finishing can quickly morph into a full-fledged obsession.

If you have caught the Ironman itch, here are several competitions to consider during 2018, as listed on the official Ironman website.

 

Ironman Boulder

Located in mountainous Colorado, Boulder’s Ironman competition is both challenging and scenic. On one hand, participants will be able to take in breathtaking alpine sights, as majestic rocky mountain peaks stand on most of the course’s turns. On the other hand, this terrain makes for an unpredictable and quick-changing race experience, with flats and hills equally dispersed throughout the competition’s road segments. Those with a sense of adventure are particularly inclined to give this race a try.

 

Ironman Santa Rosa

Though less rugged than Boulder’s course, Santa Rosa’s Ironman event provides equally beautiful landscapes nestled in one of the country’s premiere wine regions. The race’s swim takes competitors across the coastal foothills of Sonoma County, while its marathon ventures through the Santa Rosa Creek Trail, a flat and shaded course proven to facilitate fast times. The course is a great one to achieve a personal best time.

 

Ironman Canada

If you are looking to venture outside the country for your next Ironman challenge, look no further than Ironman Canada. This storied competition combines the beautiful mountain landscapes of Western Canada with a rustic, woodsy aesthetic complete with cabin communities and pristine forests. Along the way, participants will get to visit Alta Lake at Rainbow Park, Valley Trail, Whistler Village, Lost Lake, and Green Lake. The race’s finish area, located adjacent to the Whistler Olympic Plaza, proves the perfect spot to indulge in your achievements and celebrate victory.

 

The best books on physical fitness (Pt.1)

mark-dziuban-books

Whether you plan to lose weight, improve your cardiovascular health, or simply put on more muscle, physical fitness is a great lifestyle habit to adopt. Countless studies have highlighted the immense benefits gained from regular physical activity, and there are a variety of ways to get yourself in better shape.

Sometimes, however, it can be difficult or confusing to start or hone a physical endeavor. Times like these may warrant outside advice, motivation, and other forms of intervention focused on improving your experience henceforth. In terms of literature, there are many exercise-based stories and guides worth checking out.

Here are several notable books on physical fitness.

 

“Born to Run” by Ryan McDougal

A highly regarded text in distance running literature, Ryan McDougal’s “Born to Run” tells a story of “a hidden tribe, superathletes, and the greatest race the world has ever seen.” Interested readers will have to explore the book to find out what that description entails, but in short, McDougal provides a firsthand account of his journey to solve a nagging foot injury that stunted his running performance. His ventures led him to the Tarahumara Indians, an isolated Mexican tribe with ancient running practices that have made them seemingly impervious to injury. This book is not only great motivation for readers’ own running lives, it is an interesting look at an alternate running ideology.

 

“Starting Strength” by Mark Rippetoe

“Starting Strength,” written by renowned strength training coach Mark Rippetoe, is highly detailed guide to strength training for beginners. Rippetoe employs his own knowledge of strength training, alongside the input of other experienced coaches and sports scientists, to provide readers a step-by-step guide that is as thorough as it is accessible. This text is a must-read for anyone even vaguely interested in taking up lifting.

 

Strength Training Anatomy” by Frederic Delavier

With over 1 million copies sold, Frederic Delavier’s “Strength Training Anatomy” is another must-have for strength training junkies — both established and new. The text is the ultimate resource for in-depth strength training’s anatomical side, as it explores over 600 muscle illustrations detailing the importance of specific lifts, stretches, and muscle building cycles. This collection provides a full-fledged approach to strength training from both an internal and external perspective.