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!

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.

The Most Awesome Workout Ever

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It was the year 1899 when then commissioner of the U.S. Office of Patents Charles H. Duell declared, “Everything that can be invented has been invented.” From our perspective 118 years later it seems absolutely ridiculous that someone who had so much access to the world of innovation could make such a statement.

Is your fitness and nutritional knowledge similar, or on par with what Duell thought regarding innovation back in 1899?

Have you concluded, based on what you “know”, that someone your age and current physical condition simply cannot change your physique or alter your metabolism? I would like you to think again as science continues to evolve and, in recent years has only begun to think differently. It wasn’t that long ago we were all impressed watching Rocky Balboa crack five raw eggs into a glass so he could increase his protein intake but, science has since proved a cooked egg harbors far more nutritional value than a raw one! So, if you’re drinking raw eggs and think you’re making gains, the fact is you’re not. Now I don’t know of anyone who is drinking raw eggs any longer but the point is, it’s time to disregard old workout myths and nutritional knowledge and replace them with some new scientific fact.

One of the old workout myths that may be keeping you away from the weights is that you need to lift hours upon hours, every day of the week. Well, the good news is that’s just not the case. In the pursuit of healthy fitness your body has three simple requirements: Exercise, Fuel, (in the form of food), and Rest-lots of rest! The primary focus of this blog is exercise so I’ll key in on that but you need to understand, the old way of thinking of over exerting ourselves, or “stop when you drop” is quite simply not true.

Contrary to what you may believe, weight training or “resistance exercise” has much more to offer than an overall increase in muscle size. Resistance training causes an increase in your body’s metabolism AND a decrease in body fat all while increasing its lean muscle mass. As discussed in one of my previous blogs, the reduction in caloric intake without resistance training simply teaches our bodies to store fuel in the form of adipose fat tissue, (as future emergency energy stores), while eating away at its own lean muscle mass for its current energy requirements. In other words, if you don’t use your muscles, you’ll lose them! Our bodies literally cannibalize themselves in order to preserve energy in the form of fat as, when dieting, (or caloric intake reduction), we are actually training our bodies to store fat for future energy needs. So, contrary to common belief we MUST eat AND resistance exercise to lose excess body fat!

So now that we know we need to work our muscle to lose fat, let me share my personal experience how I lost 20 pounds of adipose fat tissue and gained 6 pounds of lean muscle in just 6 months.

Like you may be, I was one who came to the conclusion that I simply do not have the genetic makeup to be lean. I always considered myself athletic, I just never had an athletic look, (do I sound like Duell back in 1899???). It was time to make a change. In order to do so I began to read and study. I took what I learned and prescribed a workout formula specific to my personal need. I hung up the bike and running shoes and hit the weights. Here are some interesting facts I learned throughout my research.

Our muscles are comprised of three different types of muscle fibers, each having its own primary function. The proportions of these three muscle fibers vary within each individual person AND within each individual muscle themselves. Genetics determines muscle fiber dominance. Let’s look at all three and find out what they do.

White Fast Twitch, or type IIb muscle fiber is responsible for strength and explosiveness. It is this muscle fiber that gives us muscle size. Work this muscle fiber exclusively if an increase in muscle size is desired. Athletes who possess natural ability for explosive movements required in such sports as sprinting and weightlifting are white fast twitch muscle dominant. To increase muscle size, resistance training requires using a weight heavy enough to be moved in the 4-6 rep range to exhaustion. If you can’t move the weight 4 times, you need to lighten the weight, if you can move the weight beyond 6 times, you’ll need to increase the weight-it’s that simple.

Red Fast Twitch, or type IIa muscle fibers are responsible for sustaining loads over a relatively prolonged period of time. People who genetically have more red fast twitch muscle fibers are best suited to play sport requiring stamina such as boxing, football, or basketball. To improve stamina, work your muscles in the weight room using a weight allowing 12-15 repetitions per set.

Red Slow Twitch, or type I muscle fibers provide energy over long periods of times and are best suited for endurance events such as long distance running and cycling. Exclusively work this muscle fiber in the weight room if it is weight loss desired and improving your long-distance endurance while not increasing muscle size. Using a weight allowing repetition ranges of 20-25 times is the weight required to work these muscle fibers.

I learned each of the three muscle fiber types provide a unique purpose from its other two counterparts but when called upon they can all work in unison. For my own specific purpose, I determined I wanted to lean up AND increase muscle size and stamina. I decided I needed to work all three. Sounds like a lot of work? It’s not. The National Federation of Professional Trainers, (NFPT), suggests working all three muscle fiber types in a single workout. Holistic training was the work out prescription for me.

The trick to working each muscle fiber within the same workout is to exhaust one muscle fiber before moving along to the next one. One must start with the biggest muscle fiber and work your way down the ladder. If muscle fibers are worked in the reverse order it would be easy to exhaust your red slow twitch muscle fibers recruiting your red fast twitch muscle fibers to take over the load. This is exactly what you must avoid.

So, let’s use a chest press as our example workout. Perform two warm up sets using a weight approximately 60% of the weight you plan on using for your heavy set. I perform 10-12 repetitions using slow and deliberate form. After your warm up, load up the bar to a weight you will be able to move 4-6 times before exhaustion. Always use a workout partner as a spotter to ensure your safety. Perform the first set to exhaustion. If you were able to do more than 6 reps, add weight to the bar, couldn’t do 4 reps, remove weight from the bar. This is an absolutely critical component of this work out. Now, rest three minutes and perform the set one more time.

During your next 3-minute rest, remove enough weight from the bar so you’ll be able to perform 12-15 reps for your next two sets. Remember, always take a three-minute rest to flush out your muscles making certain to drink water. Now that you have successfully exhausted your white fast twitch muscle fibers it is only your red fast twitch which can be recruited to move the new, lighter weight. Complete two sets here, lighten the bar one final time to a weight that you’ll be able to complete two final sets at 20-25 reps. The last set sounds easy but you’ll find these last two sets are the hardest. Your muscles will be filled with lactic acid which will not be allowed to be flushed out of your muscles until you put the weight down. You will feel a burn like you haven’t felt in years!

I work 5 different muscle groups for each work out. I am able to perform all repetitions as described in just 75 minutes. Stay focused and the time flies.

Day 1 and day 3 I work this exact set as described. Day 1 is chest and shoulders, Day 3 is back and legs. On days 5 and 6 I work the same muscle groups but instead of the holistic work out as described above I work my red slow twitch muscle fibers exclusively as weight loss is my primary goal. 5 sets of each muscle group done in reps of 20-25 is a fun and demanding workout. Obviously, diet plays a role in order to achieve desired results but we will discuss that in a future blog.

After years of running and performing long distance athletics I have finally achieved the physique I had always hoped for. My current body fat percentage is at 9 percent, pretty good for a 57-year-old!

Five mental benefits of cycling

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Like many fitness-based hobbies and endeavors, cycling can provide a fair amount of both physical benefits, ranging from improved cardiovascular health to increases in leg muscle. However, cycling also holds a lot of potential in terms of its mental benefits. These benefits range from mood enhancements to a spike in general sharpness during the day.

Here are a few of the biggest mental benefits of cycling.

 

Better memory

We all forget now and then, but a cycling lifestyle can keep you above average in terms of remembrance. Cycling, and most aerobic exercise in general, acts as a natural stimulant for the brain, increasing blood flow and supplying oxygen and nutrients. A quick bike ride may be exactly what you need to clear your mind and bring forgotten matters back into the foreground.

 

Better self-confidence

The feeling of accomplishment attached to most sports and fitness hobbies is reason enough to get up off the couch. Cycling, however, holds a unique strand of this positive emotion; it provides the rare chance to push yourself to your aerobic threshold for miles on end, reflecting on the journey later on. This process can maximize your confidence — if anything, take pride in the fact that you are doing something not many other people do, on average.

 

Better all-around mood

Perhaps the most important mental benefit of cycling is that it can positively influence your mood. A little exercise on a regular basis can go a long way in terms of keeping you generally happy and, as mentioned in the previous section, confident in yourself as a physically fit human being. Aerobic exercise has also been linked to improvements in anxiety and depression, making it a powerful natural remedy for potentially crippling mood swings.

 

Better challenge management

Cycling is not always intended to be a highly painful, grueling affair, but it can greatly increase your threshold for pain and physical challenge in general — regardless of the intensity at which you ride. Building physical endurance can translate well into mental endurance by fostering an ability to compartmentalize a pressing or tiring situation (for example, you may take a long ride a mile at a time rather than focusing on the entire intended distance from the start). Building this type of mental muscle memory is a great practice for improving your overall quality of life.

 

Better connectivity

Research has shown that continued practice of the same motor skill can improve connectivity within the brain’s various regions, and what is cycling but a continuous motion over an extended period of time? By pedaling on a regular basis, you can increase the amount of your brain’s white matter, or the parts of the brain that facilitate smooth communication between regions — this will keep you thinking smoothly and clearly.

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!”

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.