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How To Prepare For A Race - The Right Way

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How To Prepare For A Race - The Right Way

Whether you’re a recreational runner, weekend warrior, or aspiring runner, it’s vital that you take the proper measures when preparing for an upcoming race. By properly preparing for your race, you can improve your race time as well as prevent injury. Here are a few insights to consider before you gear up on race day.

Avoid overtraining and focus on your heart rate and maximum steady state

Overtraining syndrome is characterized by diminished physical performance, accelerated fatiguability, stress, irritability, and lack of sleep. One of the best ways to limit your likelihood of overtraining is by monitoring your heart rate using a device like a polar H-10. During high-intensity training, running, or strength-related workouts, your rest periods can be tracked using a heart rate monitoring device. This will allow you to gauge how quickly your heart rate stabilizes before it increases again during the next workout interval.

How to know if you are overtraining? If you’re having a hard time decreasing your heart rate by at least 50 percent, you may be overtraining or overreaching (at the brink of overtraining). To find out for sure, you should consider a VO2 test, which analyzes the body’s volume of oxygen consumption. Through a VO2 test, you’ll learn specific data that will help you to meet your race day goals. You can get a VO2 at Perform For Life’s newly established Run Lab. Our test can determine the following:

  1. Your body’s maximum ability to consume, distribute, and utilize oxygen

  2. What substrates (carbohydrates or fats) your body is relying on to fuel your workouts

  3. What you can expect for your max race pace or max steady state, the highest intensity (speed) that your body can maintain for the duration of your race

The risks associated with overtraining: When overdone, aerobic training can be detrimental to the body’s ability to cope with stress. When your exercise intensity is highly defined by an increase in heart rate or physical demands on the body, the amount of time spent on the exercise should be decreased. Simply put: for optimal recovery, you should have a longer rest period between days of high-intensity training.

Prevent injury by strengthening your muscular imbalances

Injury: If you’ve been a runner for a while, you may know that the greatest risk factor for a future injury is a previous injury. The truth of the matter is that running is one of the leading causes of overuse injuries. An overuse injury occurs as a result of repeated stress on the body due to poor posture and muscle function - causing areas of the body to break down over time, resulting in small to large-scale injuries.

What is a gait analysis and how can it can help? In addition to VO2 testing at our Run Lab, Perform For Life is also offering gait analyses. A gait analysis is a precise assessment of how the body moves during the gait cycle, and a gait cycle is the sequence of movements in which your foot contacts the ground during walking or running. When you run, you spend 40 percent of the time on one leg which means, during a gait cycle, the forces you put into the ground can be up to 7x your bodyweight. For example: if you weigh 150lbs, you can potentially put up to 1,000lbs of force into the ground on one foot. And, depending on how your foot interacts with the ground, that force can dictate both the amount of stress your body absorbs and how it absorbs it.

Through a gait analysis, you can determine muscular imbalances such as those that lead to foot pronation and eversion, which occurs when the foot collapses inward and turns outward. This in turn causes the knee to collapse inward and the hip to shift to the side. These faulty mechanics lead to foot, knee, and hip injuries such as plantar fasciitis, ligament issues, hamstring strains, IT band syndrome, knee pain, and hip pain...just to name a few.  

With the help of a strength and conditioning coach, physical therapist, or athletic trainer, you can  identify any imbalances that you may have and figure out how to improve them and treat them before the day of your race.   

Breakdown of what you need:

  1. A proper workout regimen that allows for rest days between high-intensity workouts

  2. A consistent way of tracking your heart rate

  3. VO2 testing to analyze oxygen intake, substrate consumption and max race pace aka max steady state

  4. A routine to care for previous injuries so that you can avoid new ones

  5. Gait analysis testing to increase efficiency and identify any muscular imbalances that can cause harm before, during, or after your race

Follow the link to book your VO2 test and gait analysis today.

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How Often Should I Lift?

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How Often Should I Lift?

An extremely common goal of people that exercise seriously and consistently is to increase their muscle size and strength. There’s a number of factors that help determine how well someone may be able to achieve this, including genetics, intensity of exercise, training status, testosterone levels, and nutritional supplementation. All of these factors play a part in muscular adaptation, but one of the most important variables is the frequency of the stimulus - that is, how often you exercise a muscle group.

Generally, our muscles adapt to the stimulus that is imposed during the workout. The graph below demonstrates the General Adaptation Syndrome and provides a visual of how our muscles adapt to exercise.

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After an intense workout, there’s first an alarm phase, which happens one to two hours after the exercise. In this phase, the muscle decreases in performance because of fatigue and the muscular damage caused by a workout. The alarm stage is followed by the resistance phase and the subsequent supercompensation. This supercompensation - an increase in muscular performance from baseline - occurs given adequate rest and nutrition (yet another reason to eat healthy and get enough sleep). The last phase of the cycle is the exhaustion phase, in which performance begins to drop due to a lack of further stimulation. So, the key to building muscle and maintaining this increased muscle mass is to stimulate the muscle group again (via working out) after the supercompensation phase, but before the drop-off of the exhaustion phase. If this is done consistently, the performance of the muscle will increase, resulting in the muscle becoming stronger and larger. If we fail to stimulate a specific muscle group quickly enough, though, after the supercompensation phase, we’ll miss out on the performance improvements.

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Above is a graph that shows subsequent stimuli after supercompensation phases. Before the decrease in performance during the exhaustion phase, another stimulus is provided, followed by another supercompensation phase. Keeping this cycle consistent will lead to an increase in performance, strength, and size of a muscle.

So, how often should we exercise a specific muscle group? The research says that we should have around 48-72 hours between stimuli. This time period allows for recovery, but not too much recovery to the point of performance decreasing. A good strategy, and perhaps one of the most attainable for the busy professional, is to do full-body workouts three times per week. During these workouts, a squat pattern, a lower-body hinge pattern (deadlift), a push pattern, and a pull (a row or pulldown) should be done with the proper intensity, rest intervals, and amount of repetitions - and don’t forget to finish off with a core exercise!

Remember, performance (and a continued increase in performance) is the key indicator to looking better, maintaining good health through exercise, and to continued improvement and progress both in and outside of the gym.

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Set The Tone With Your Music Playlist

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Set The Tone With Your Music Playlist

Whether you’re in your favorite restaurant or in the elevator at the office, music always sets the tone. Today we can access millions of songs from our electronic devices. Songs are so easily accessible that I don’t believe we put enough thought into how the type of music that we listen to can affect our mindset. With this in mind, I want to speak on the important factors to consider before choosing the playlist you’ll need to kill your workout.

The Optimal Functioning Theory states that different people perform best with differing levels of arousal. When applying this to music and working out, we’ve got to figure out the beats per minute (bpm) we need to hear during a workout, as our bodies synchronously adjust to tempo. If your day’s been dull and you’ve been going through the motions, almost robotically, I’d recommend an uptempo playlist with every song north of 150 bpm. Conversely, if your day’s been stressful and you’re one email away from losing your mind, leave the office for the day and put on a more mellow playlist to soothe your nerves and adjust your focus (I recommend acoustics or any instrumental beats).

How can we self-motivate to lift heavier and run faster? You may be able to trick yourself into making a difficult task much more tolerable, and the answer may be in the music. On a scale of 1-10, lower your hardest workout from a perceived score of 9-10 to a 7-8 simply by allowing the music to set the tone. Embrace the hard work - doing so will improve your body in multiple facets. Adaptations in the body are specific to the intensity of the training session. Higher exercise intensity will increase skeletal muscle adaptations, cardiovascular function, and improve respiratory function, which will optimize oxygen delivery to working muscles.

Now that you’ve optimized your arousal and reduced your perceived exertion level, it’s time to create your own music playlist. Don’t choose songs that’ll get you through the workout; select the songs that will help you break your personal record. Choose a song, genre, or sound you believe resonates best with you. Studies have shown that when listening to music, your brain releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain linked to reward and motivation. Try choosing the songs that are more relevant to your upbringing, culture, or current state of mind. If rhythm and beats aren’t enough, lyrics can act as a catalyst, as well. Get lost in your favorite wordsmith’s rap lyrics or emotionally connect with the words of your favorite singer... it’s really all up to you.

Leave with this: take a little more time to think about the music you choose to listen to, and make a soundtrack for workouts and for life.  Don’t let my playlist rant be an end all, be all scenario - just have fun with it and find out what works best for you. Try adding a new song to the playlist before every workout and count how many songs you’ve added throughout the year.

#Pro-tip: The people you surround yourself with will more than likely have similar views and life experiences. For this reason, tell your trainer, friends, coworkers, and associates to share their playlists and steal their music. Thank me later.



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The Principles of Training - and Why Consistency Is Key

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The Principles of Training - and Why Consistency Is Key

Our bodies, as with all organisms, adapt specifically to the demands which we impose. Within all forms of training, we cannot expect to see results without proper stimulus. A training stimulus to the body is perceived as stress, and how we adapt to that stress will define our capacity to improve and become more physically fit. It is critical for all of us to understand the governing principles of training so that we can optimize our sessions and reach our fitness goals.  Here are the fundamental principles to be considered:

Individuality

Each and every one of us will respond differently to training. Some of us will adapt better to higher volumes of training, whereas others may respond better to higher intensities. This is based mostly on physiological characteristics, including genetic ability, predominance of muscle fiber types, and stress.

Specificity

Improving your capacity for strength or overall fitness can become very specific. For example, if an athlete wants to improve sprint speed, they must sprint about 98% of their maximum to eventually enhance speed. Furthermore, if your fitness goal is to improve strength, at least 85% of your maximum capacity must be lifted to recruit the muscle fibers responsible for strength gains.

Progression / Overload

In order to facilitate progression, an athlete must continuously overload the body to impose greater demands than before. To increase strength or endurance, an increase in intensity or volume is necessary to maintain muscular adaptations.

Reversibility

The worst principle of them all…if you don’t use it, you lose it. When we take vacations or breaks from training, we are unfortunately subjected to this principle.  On a good note, strength can be maintained for 7-9 days with 1 intense training session.

The principles of specificity, overload, adaptation, and reversibility are why training frequently and consistently are critical to reach your fitness goals - missed sessions are lost opportunities for improvement. Based on these principles and the human body’s ability to adapt to exercise (general adaptation syndrome), reaching your goals is product of consistency. Understanding the principles of training will allow you to optimize your training, along with giving a better understanding of how to achieve success. Life is all about progress, and progress is made through consistency. Day by day, let’s all strive to get better, until the day comes that our goals have been achieved.

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Why Everyone Should Have A Trainer...Even Trainers

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Why Everyone Should Have A Trainer...Even Trainers

Whether you’re new to fitness, a gym fanatic, or an elite athlete, a personal trainer is essential to achieving your goals. Let’s be honest - when we go to the gym ourselves, we tend to get distracted. Sometimes we’re not feeling good, not feeling motivated, sometimes we bump into one of our buddies and we start talking for an hour, etc. There are lots of things that can come up that may prevent us from getting a quality workout in, or even from getting to the gym at all. This is where the value of a personal trainer comes in. Here are the top five reasons why I think that everyone needs a personal trainer:

1.     Accountability

How many times have you gone to bed and said to yourself, “Tomorrow I’m going to wake up early and go to the gym before I head to work” and, rather than doing so, decide to sleep in for an extra hour? Well, I have. This is where having a personal trainer is critical because a personal trainer will keep you accountable. You’re less likely to cancel a paid session than a solo visit to the gym. Trainers will make it clear that consistency is key, and missing a workout is a step backwards on the path to your goals. Training is also expensive, and you’re going to want to work hard to get your money’s worth.

2.     We Help Perfect Form/Technique

Form and technique are everything. Without it, you’re at a significantly increased risk of injury. We exercise because we want to live a better life, not a restricted life.

3.     Education

Exercise is science. Personal trainers are trained in teaching others how to exercise effectively. You must understand why you’re doing certain exercises and how they’ll help you improve. If you don’t know which exercises are most effective for reaching your goals, then you’ll never achieve those goals, plain and simple. For example, if my goal is to do a pull up, I wouldn’t spend all my time on a squat rack. Education is key.

4.     You’ll See Results And Reach Goals

Personal trainers understand the mechanics of fitness and we’re the perfect tool to help you achieve a specific goal. Whether your goal is to lose weight for a wedding or to run a marathon, we can provide a systematic and progressive training and exercise program to ensure that you reach your goals.

5.     We Help Challenge And Motivate You

Let’s be real: no one wants to be stuck doing the same exercises all the time. On the other hand, would you do burpees or ball slams on your own if someone didn’t tell you to? It seems unlikely. This is where a personal trainer can be useful - we get you out of your comfort zone and we push you to do things that you wouldn’t do on your own.

Now, for the real question: why do personal trainers need personal training? I hear this a lot when I tell my friends or clients that I have a personal trainer, even though I’m a certified personal trainer myself. Truth is, personal trainers are human, too. There are days that we don’t want to work out and there are days that we lack motivation. Trainers have crazy schedules, and can be working anytime from 6am to 9pm. Honestly, if I didn’t have an appointment set up with a trainer on days such as these, I’d be more inclined to take a nap than to get a workout in. When I work out by myself, I also never push myself to the limit that I know I can. Most of us trainers would probably appreciate a professional butt-kicking from time to time, too.

In order to talk the talk, you have to walk the walk. The best way to learn how to be a great trainer is to learn how to be a client, and putting yourself in their shoes is the best way to do so. The best way to prescribe exercise is to do it first. Plus, it’s a great way to learn from others and get a workout in at the same time. That being said, I love what I do and I never intend to stop learning.




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