As the days get shorter and the temps get cooler, our activity levels drop, and we tend to eat more. A lot more. In fact, the average American gains 2+ lbs over the six weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years. And it’s not just the holidays that lead to weight gain. The CDC estimates that over 40% of Americans are overweight or obese. That statistic is alarming, but what is downright frightening is that the CDC also states that obesity is linked to our Nation’s top killers: diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and even some types of cancer. So, what do we do to avoid succumbing to statistics like this? If we need to lose weight, how do we do so successfully? (Hint: it DOESN’T involve trendy diets or repeatedly starving ourselves of calories.)
Over many years I’ve worked with countless clients on some aspect or another relating to weight loss- whether that be a primary goal, or a secondary one. During that time, I’ve found there are a handful of changes people make who are successful at losing weight and keeping it off. Here are my top six:
As endurance athletes, we spend hundreds (if not thousands) of hours preparing physically for a specific event, or series of events. We work tirelessly to improve our speed, endurance, strength, and technique for our respective discipline (or disciplines in the case of triathletes). Many resort to spending thousands of dollars on gear, coaching, recovery tools, performance nutrition, and a host of other expenditures in hopes to improve performance just a little bit. However, there is one glaring gap that many athletes - or even weekend warriors - neglect: the mental side of performance.
I have had CPR training of sorts for more than 30 years, going back to the time I was a Boy Scout, and culminating with a refresher course I took last year, yet I never thought I would really ever need it. In fact, I’ve asked instructors at times if they had ever used their CPR training and only a handful have, ( former EMTs or those currently in the medical field.) Yet I, along with two other training camp attendees, were thrust into this situation several weeks ago when we happened upon a cyclist, who had just crashed and was unresponsive.
Springtime means warmer temps and longer days- which means longer outdoor workouts, bike rides, and of course, outside runs. It’s a great time to hit the track, the trails, or the roads, and see how the legs feel unencumbered by layers of warm-weather clothing. However, with solo outdoor running - or any activity done outdoors- there are safety concerns. Yes, we risk dehydration, injury, getting lost and a host of other possible maladies. However what I’m referring to are threats to our safety that come from others.
Whether we run in an urban or a rural setting, we can be lulled into a false sense of security- either because there are supposedly lots of other people around who can help if we have a problem, or because we are isolated and feel like the fact that we are alone means no one else would be there either. Either way, we lulled into feeling ‘safe’, even if we aren’t. However there are precautions we can take to help maximize your safety and minimize yourself as a target. Here's 6 suggestions to help keep us safe on outdoor run:
Anyone who's ever made a New Year’s resolution to get in shape knows, developing and maintaining a sustainable fitness regimen is much easier said than done. And the key to doing so is to develop the habit of fitness. When a habit is ingrained, we are more likely to throw a leg over the bike, get out and run, drive to the pool, go to the gym, or unroll that yoga mat in the living room, regardless of the circumstance in which we find ourselves. But again, we all have the best of intentions, but the grand majority of us tend to fall short. However, there are that small percentage of people that seem to never miss a workout or skip leg day- they are constantly eating healthy, and always look fit!
So what makes those weekend warriors able to develop a sustainable fitness regimen? How come they never seem to lack motivation, are able to navigate hectic work commitments, the kid’s carpool schedule, and still keep those abs looking good and the run times dropping?
I’ve written many posts over the years on nutrition and one of main questions I get is regarding breakfast. I am asked about once a week, ‘What, if anything, should I eat for breakfast when I workout early in the morning?” Well, the answer isn't as simple as it may seem as it really depends on lots of factors, including workout type, intensity, duration, and food tolerability. There are many approaches to how we ‘break (our) fast’, with all ends of the spectrum represented when it comes to this question. Some swear by fasted workouts, others absolutely have to eat a solid breakfast before getting into it, others just grab what they can. Most of us fall somewhere in between these extremes.
So let's address what actually happens when we sleep, when we eat, and when we exercise.
Keeping up with the Changing Seasons: How to Keep on Track when the Clock Rolls Back (or Falls Forward)
With the change of the seasons, many of us find it challenging to maintain our fitness routine. Whether it be the shorter days, the colder weather, or the inevitable hiatus from athletic competition we can fall into the trap of struggling to keep our exercise regimen going strong into the Fall and Winter months. Combine that with the Holiday season and its onslaught of office parties, family gatherings, and the food temptations that come along with them, it can be a recipe for health and fitness backsliding of epic proportions. In fact, most Americans gain 10 lbs. over the winter months.
However, bulging waistlines and failed fitness goals don’t have to be the norm when the seasons change. Here are 6 tips to help keep up our momentum as the seasons change:
On a recent trip to visit family in Utah, I went on an early morning recovery run and wound up in the ER. After a long day of travel and a poor night’s sleep, I arose early to run and found myself struggling to maintain an 11:00/mi pace (for me, that’s very, very easy under normal conditions). Initially, I rationalized that I was probably dehydrated from the flight, and that I was now running at 5,000 ft elevation when I live and train at sea level, and that I was tired from not sleeping well. All of those factors were valid reasons as to why I’d struggle, so I pushed on, trying to shake off the extreme fatigue. However, I only made it around the block before deciding to stop and walk back. During that 5 minute run, my heart rate had skyrocketed and I had to sit down on the curb 3 different times just to catch my breath.
Something wasn’t right. And I knew it.
With the heat and humidity of summer quickly approaching, and the race season well under way, I’ve had some athletes and clients ask me why their heart rate tends to climb, even when their perceived effort remains the same. This is commonly known as ‘Cardiac Drift’ or the slightly more technical name, ‘Aerobic Decoupling’. Whether you are a seasoned athlete or an ‘average Joe or Jill’ looking to get outside and enjoy some exercise, it’s helpful to know what this sensation means and how we can avoid it.
It's hard to stress enough how important fueling is for endurance events. This includes every day nutrition, training days, and race day. Many times it’s tempting to go out and run poorly fueled, rationalizing that “it’s only a 2 hour bike ride'' or “I don’t need to eat anything for a long run as I’m going slow”. I also see variations of these two poorly informed thought processes: “I’m not trying to win the race, just finish, so I don’t need to pay attention to all that nutrition stuff”, or the worst of the bunch, “I’m trying to lose a few pounds so I’m not going to eat prior or during my workout”.
All of these are wrong- for all sorts of reasons.