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.

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.

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.”

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!”

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.