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!

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.

 

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.

Ironman competitions to consider in 2018 (Pt. 1)

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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, 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 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!

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.