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.

Strength Training Tips for Beginners

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There are many benefits to incorporating strength training into your regular workout routine. Such benefits include an increase in strength, muscle tone, and confidence! When you are physically strong and feel good in your body, your mentality will follow suit. If you’re just beginning your journey into strength training we’ve got you covered with plenty of tips on how to do it most effectively. If strength training is already a part of your schedule stick around and learn a few more things you can do to take your training up a notch!

 

Start training with your body weight

Strength training doesn’t have to mean that you lift weights. Strength training means using resistance in order to make your muscles work harder and bodyweight exercises are perfect for getting the job done. This comes in handy if you don’t have the means for a gym membership!

2 days a week is more than enough when beginning

If you aren’t already strength training, take it easy on yourself for the first few weeks. Your body has to adapt to a new workload and recovery time is essential.

Warm-up properly

If you don’t warm-up, you are increasing your risk of injury. Foam rolling and then a dynamic warm-up of the muscle groups being worked will suffice. It increases blood flow and range of motion giving you an extra edge during your workout.

Full body workouts

If you’re following the 2 days a week routine, working your entire body and firing up all muscle groups will give you the best results. Following an upper body exercise with a lower body exercise allows the upper body to recover and vice versa. For example, after completing a set of pushups, complete a set of squats.

Take a post-workout stretch

This will drastically reduce DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) over the next couple of days and something you will absolutely thank us for later. It’ll also improve your flexibility and calm your nervous system, giving you similar effects of yoga and meditation.

Strength training is fun, challenging, and obviously great for your mind and body. Keep these tips in mind when beginning and be gentle with yourself as it can get tough when getting into the swing of things. But you can handle it- good luck!

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.

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.

 

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!

The best books on physical fitness (Pt.1)

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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.

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.

Lose The Weight, Gain The Muscle Part II

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In previous blogs, I discussed glucose as your bodies preferred source of fuel, or energy for daily activity. You now know our bodies convert ingested carbohydrates into glucose, or blood sugar. Ingest too many carbohydrates and excess glucose will eventually get stored as triglycerides in your adipose fat tissue resulting in unwanted body fat.

You also know your body protects its fat stores for future energy needs against a potential starvation event. Your body will cannibalize its own muscle to use as energy before utilizing its precious energy stores which reside in your adipose fat tissue cells. You MUST use your muscles so your body will bypass this cannibalizing process and use its fat stores for it’s go to energy source.

“Resistance training”, or using your muscles does not require lifting weights. No intimidating gym visits needed here. In fact, no weights are required at all. Let’s talk about using our own body weight as the weight needed to obtain a leaner and healthier you.

In his book, “The Primal Blueprint,” Mark Sission talks about, what he calls, “Primal Essential Movements”. He recommends four body weight exercises which work all the major muscles in your body and promote functional fitness for daily life activities. At the same time, you will be teaching your body to convert and utilize its fat stores for its energy needs leading to a leaner and healthier you.

So, what are these four body resistance exercises? Push-ups, squats, planks, and pull-ups. Haven’t done these exercises since your high school or college days? Don’t worry, we can alter each exercise to suit your current physical ability and you’ll find that they are easier to do than you may think.

Let’s start with push-ups. We all think a push up is done from a starting position on the floor making them very difficult to do. Let’s go to the stairs. Facing a set of stairs, place your toes close to the bottom stair while placing your hands on the fourth stair from the bottom. Now do a push up. You’ll find these easier to do as you have transferred most of your weight to your feet relieving your shoulders from doing most of the work. Start with 5 sets of a quantity you can maintain for each of the 5 sets. Work your way up to doing 12-15 repetitions for each of the 5 sets taking a three-minute rest in between sets. Has your heart rate increased? If you answered yes, that’s great. Increase in your heart rate is important. Don’t let your heart rate elevate too much, you want to be able to hold a normal conversation while your heart rate is slightly elevated. Now, once you are able to perform 5 sets, move down one stair eventually working your way to placing your hands on the floor. Are you able to perform 5 sets of 12-15 repetitions while flat on the floor? Turn around and place your feet on the first stair from the floor and challenge yourself. Work your way up the stairs placing your feet higher. It is important that you are able to complete all 5 sets but they must be challenging. Remember, we are teaching our body it needs its muscles so it will not eat away at our muscles for its energy needs. Challenge yourself.

Planks. Lay on the ground, elbows on the ground shoulder width apart hands extended out in front of you, palms flat on the floor. Legs behind you spaced comfortably apart, toes pointed down. Now, raise up on your toes and elbows in a stiff body position. Work your way to being able to hold this position for 30 seconds. Take a 3-minute break in between sets and work our way up to 5 sets at 30 seconds each set. Once you have been able to perform 5 sets at 30 seconds, work your way up to 45 seconds, then 1 minute. Your goal is to master the plank for 2 minutes. You will feel your core tighten up, your back and glutes will be challenged working your large muscle groups. Are you sweating? Good!

Squats. Standing with your feet shoulder width apart, extend your arms straight in front of you, palms facing down. Hold this position while lowering your butt as low as you can go. Try to get your thighs parallel with the ground before standing back up. It’s ok to put a chair or a stool behind you until you become comfortable with the movement and gain confidence in your ability. Work your way up to 5 sets of 25 repetitions. You’ll feel a burn in your quads which is exactly what you want.

Pull-ups. Pull ups require the most strength of these four exercises but don’t worry, there are ways around everything. Search “resistance bands” on the internet and purchase a set. The kind with integrated handles work best. Loop over a hook or an overhead beam in your basement. From a seated position pull the bands toward you in a fashion that mimics a pull up. Increase tension as you gain strength. Assisted pull ups are easy too by hooking your foot in a resistance band on one end and looped around a traditional pull up bar on the other end. The assistance the band provides is greater than you may think making you look like a pro at performing this exercise. Pull ups work several muscle groups including your lats, biceps, abs and core.  

Alternate these four exercises every other day doing push-ups and squats on day 1, 3, and 5, pull-ups and planks on days 2,4, and 6. Challenge yourself, over time increase the amount of reps within each set as you gain strength and confidence.

In my next blog I will discuss the three different muscle fiber types and the benefits to working each individual one. Whether you are looking to increase muscle strength, muscle endurance, or increase lean muscle weight, we will determine the work out resistance training regimen to suit your goal.

So go get started. In a very short period of time you will be impressed how quickly you will be able to see results. But remember, “If you want it, you’ve got to go get it.”

Why Resistance Training is Critical to Weight Loss

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If you read my previous post you should have a better understanding how our bodies convert ingested carbohydrates into glucose which you now know glucose is our bodies preferred source of energy. Too many ingested carbohydrates, which exceed our current energy needs, eventually convert into triglycerides which reside inside our adipose fat tissue cells and are saved for future energy needs.

So, based on what we now know, conventional wisdom would suggest if one stops eating, one’s body would use the over abundant triglycerides stored in our bodies adipose fat tissue cells for its energy needs, right? Wrong! Believe it or not, before your body resorts to using all that available energy found around your midsection or in your thighs, your body will actually eat away its own muscle, or cannibalize itself before tapping into those stored triglycerides. Our bodies will literally eat themselves away until there is little muscle left to perform nothing but our most basic functions such as walking, sitting, and breathing. Diet, and don’t use your muscles, you’ll lose them. Think of a sailor lost at sea in his tiny life raft with no food for weeks before being found.  After weeks of surviving on little to no rations, he is rescued, his arms and legs are the size of toothpicks as his body used its own muscle as a fuel source before it used the very stored energy, (found inside our adipose fat tissue cells), we all so desperately want to lose. So, when we “diet”, or starve ourselves, we are actually training our bodies to store more energy in the form of “fat”, for future energy needs, which is contrary to our goal.

So…how do we lose weight and maintain, or gain, our lean muscle mass?,…USE THEM! You need to teach your body that it needs muscle to survive. Once your body recognizes you are dependent upon muscle function it will bypass your muscles as an energy source and will then begin to utilize those triglycerides, stored in its adipose fat tissue cells, as its new energy source. Make sense???

Weight training, or resistance training, is a key component to successfully shedding unwanted pounds. By doing so we trick our bodies into bypassing our muscle stores for energy and to go directly to our triglycerides stored in our adipose fat tissue cells for its energy needs. No gym needed here. You can easily do this at home and save yourself the time and expense to join a gym. I’ll even give you an option and show you how you can do this by spending little to no money on expensive home gym equipment.

Read my next blog on how to create a workout regimen you can easily conduct at home or on the road while you’re away from home, even from the confines of your hotel room. And remember…”If you want it you’ve got to go get it!”

Tips for beginning cyclists

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Millions of Americans, myself included, ride bikes.  And that number is growing all the time.  If you’re thinking of joining the growing number of people joining the cycling movement, here are some tips for beginner cyclists, taken from a great post I read on the site active.com:

 

Protect your skull

Every year, head injuries are responsible for nearly 60% of cycling deaths in the US, and many of these could be avoided by wearing a helmet.  Many states have bike helmet laws, but law or no law, you should always wear one.  And if you’re cycling with your kids, make sure they do too.  

 

Use your gears

When climbing hills, shift into a gear that will keep your cadence in the right range of rpm’s, so that you can make it without putting undue stress on your knees.  

 

…and avoid pedaling in high gear for too long

A good rule of thumb is to try and keep your cadence between 70 and 90 rpm’s.  When you pedal in a high gear, then it puts added strain on your knees.

 

Get the right saddle

The right saddle makes a huge difference when you’re riding.  The thickest padding won’t necessarily give you the most comfortable ride.  Generally the best type of saddle is a longer seat with a cutout.  

 

Change position while riding

If you keep your hands, arms, or rear in the same position for too long, then they risk getting numb.  To avoid this, make sure you mix things up.  Move your hands around on the bars, and move your rear end around on the saddle.  

 

Don’t ride with your headphones on

A lot of people enjoy listening to music or podcasts while they’re working out.  But that’s not something you want to do when you’re riding a bike.  If you can’t hear an emergency vehicle or other commotions behind you or off to the side because your music is playing too loud, then that can be extremely dangerous.  If you do want music, try for a small clip-on radio with a speaker that you can attach to your jersey.  

 

Know the rules

Ride with traffic and obey all road signs.  They’re meant for bikes just as much as cars!  Keep a close eye on all cars in front of you so that you can try and anticipate what they’re going to do.  

 

Keep your head up

Keep your helmeted head up in front far enough so that you’ll be able to react to any obstacles in the road, or on the shoulder in front of you.  You want to be aware of what’s coming ahead; something like a storm drain grate is very bad for skinny road bike tires.  

Three ways to bring yourself out of a fitness lull

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There is an old adage that is commonly applied to the process of getting and staying in shape: “the best way to get in shape is to never fall out of it.”

This observation is simple enough, but as any seasoned fitness addict can likely attest, it can be a hard one to constantly apply to your daily workout routine. Every fitness-based schedule, whether it is rooted in weight training, cycling, running, or yoga, is bound to come with its lulls, or periods of time where you feel drained, out of it, or less motivated. These moments are natural, but they can be daunting depending on their severity.

If you are currently stuck in a fitness lull, here are a few quick tips to bring yourself out of it.

 

Shorten your workout

There are many potential contributing factors to a fitness lull, but one of the biggest culprits is overtraining. If you are a runner or a cyclist, for instance, you may have added too many miles too quickly and are now paying for it as your aerobic endurance fights to catch up. In situations like this, a great remedy is to simply shorten your workouts for a few days (or even a few weeks, depending on your exhaustion levels). Cut back a few miles, a few reps, or a few minutes, or simply take a day or two off completely. Then, slowly add intensity and duration to naturally and healthily get back to where you had been prior to your lull. In most cases, you should return to form feeling refreshed.

 

Change your scenery

Whatever your fitness endeavor may be, there is an accompanying environment in which you likely pursue it on a regular basis (weight lifting in a specific gym, doing yoga or cross training in a specific room of the house). If you find yourself lagging with the same old routine in the same old location, revamp the latter by completing your workout with different scenery. This approach is almost entirely mental, but it can potentially perk you up and give your workout a new appeal. You will be surprised how much difference a slight change in surroundings will make.

 

Find a partner

The benefits of a workout partner are almost too obvious to list, yet many people still prefer to do all their workouts alone. Though there is nothing wrong with an occasional solo effort, a partner-based workout system is scientifically proven to jumpstart your motivation. Your partner will be completing the same physical challenges as you, and this comradery alone is motivating as the two of you push each other to the same endpoint. Furthermore, keeping a steady conversation can be asset to making otherwise tedious runs and rides pass by quickly.