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Hack the Holidays

The holidays are approaching  and many will indulge, skip workouts, be stressed and gain weight during this jolly season. You don’t have to be one of them. Instead of denying yourself the fun of holiday treats, or beating yourself up for indulging in them afterward, allow yourself to splurge when it’s really worth it. Here are some strategies to hack the holidays.

Pack in the Protein

Be sure to always have some protein at a meal, especially if your splurge food is sugar or really any high carb based foods. This will help stabilize your blood sugar and keep you full for longer. Keep track of what you’ve binging on and make it up in your workout the next day. Start your day with a protein-packed shake. This will help stabilize your blood sugar, as well as getting a dose of probiotics that will aid in digestion and keep your stomach from bloating.

Plan to get some burn, baby!

Plan to get some exercise in on the morning of a big holiday, like Christmas or Boxing Day. Go for a run, take an Aerobics, Zumba or Spinning class .. just get moving!
Plan it as something you have to do, not just something you may or may not have time for.

Combat the Food Coma

Go for a walk after a big meal to speed up digestion and avoid the crash. The dishes can wait and you can PVR the rugby or cricket game. What will really help you feel better after a big meal is a nice brisk walk around the neighbourhood. Rally your family and make it fun group activity.

Preempt the Party

Make yourself a protein shake full of nutritious ingredients, before you head out to a holiday party. It is a great way to avoid hunger and overindulgence when you arrive. Watch as everyone else dives into the appetizers while you just calmly wait for the main course.

Drink Cleaner Cocktails

The amount of sugar in most store-bought mixers is a sure-fire way to spike your blood sugar and set you up for a hangover. Stick to cocktails that only use clean ingredients like freshly squeezed lemon, lime, or other citrus fruit juices and/or club soda. When choosing clean-burning alcohol, put tequila, vodka and organic wines at the top of your list. Don’t forget to put a limit on your drinks and stick to it, while including a glass of water between every drink you have.

Ask for New Workout Threads

Put some new fitness gear on your wish list for Christmas. Not only will this keep you motivated before you get them, it will be a big motivation to get to the gym before the New Year’s resolutions begin. New workout clothes, a gym bag, lifting gloves —what will motivate you most?

Meditate

The hustle and bustle of the jolly season can tire one out.
Download a meditation app and squeeze in a 10- or 20-minute meditation to help focus and relax your mind. After all, the holiday season is better for you and everyone around you if you are relaxed and gracious.

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Amino acids – What role do they play in muscle building, weight loss and fitness?

Amino Acids. What role do they play in muscle building, weight loss and fitness? Learn what Aminos are an how the effect your body.

Why do the majority of people who go to the gym to build muscle know so little of amino acids and protein, and their importance in achieving our goal of muscle building? Amino acids; everyone has heard of them, protein powders list them. So what is the importance of them? Do we really need them?

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and also muscle tissue. And they also play a major part in physiological processes relating to our energy, recovery, mood, brain function, muscle and strength gains, and also in our quest for fat loss.

There are 23 amino acids and 9 of these are classed as essential or indispensable amino acids (IAA) that must be obtained from our nutritional intake. The others are termed dispensable amino acids (DAA) or non-essential due to the body being able to synthesise them from other amino acids.

When we eat a meal we don’t pay much attention to the content and balance of amino acids but the content of the meal determines the body and health building value of the protein food or supplement. In addition the importance of the amino acids content of our meal is important to support maximum growth we also have to take another factor into account which is to what extent these amino acids are actually delivered to the tissues when they are needed which takes us to the issues of digestion, absorption and also the bioavailability.

What is Bioavailability?
Eating our protein foods such as lean meats and non-fat dairy products, or having our protein drinks are the most common ways that we get our amino acids, we also can obtain amino acids from vegetables, and legumes also have levels of most amino acids. We can also use protein drinks and amino acid supplements as a convenient means to supplement our dietary needs.

The reason we use these supplements is the bioavailability of the amino acids. Bioavailability is a measure of the efficiency of delivery and how much of what is ingested is used for its intended use by the body. There are factors which determine the amino acid bioavailability. One is how much fat is contained in the protein source and the length of time it takes for the amino acids to be available for use by the body.
Cooking also can affect the amino acids; some are more or less sensitive to heat and cooking may cause decomposition of some amino acids. The physical nature of the particular food is also a factor, whether it is solid, liquid, powder, or even tablet, and to what extent it is chemically pre-digested as some amino acid supplements are, fillers and binders also can have an affect on the digestion of the amino acid. The condition of our digestive system can also have an affect on amino acid digestion, genetics, age, health, specific diseases and illnesses all have an affect on our digestion.

Amino acids and Bodybuilding
Exercise, hormones and nutrients will all cause muscle growth. As will supplementation of free form amino acids high in the branch chain amino acids (BCAA’s) Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine. The best time for us to get our amino acids is immediately after our training when the muscle is especially receptive to nutrients and also blood flow to the exercised muscles which still remains high. The solution to optimising our recovery and growth after training is a s meal composed of protein with both simple and some complex carbohydrates. This is the time when ideally we require a fast digesting protein such as whey protein.

Amino Acid Supplementation
The popularity of amino acid supplements has increased dramatically. Packaged workout and recovery drinks that contain hydrolysed (pre-digested) proteins and often some free-form amino acids can be found in most gyms. Also tubs of powdered or capsulated amino acids are being used by an increasing number of weight trainers. The good thing about these supplements is that they don’t require digestion like food does. The term free-form means that they are free of chemical bonds to other molecules and as such move quickly through the stomach, into the small intestines where they are very rapidly absorbed into the blood stream. When absorbed, amino acids are processed by the liver. The liver can only process so many at one time, so by taking a dose of 3-4g of amino acids these will be rapidly absorbed and would exceed the liver’s capacity which would result in the amino acids being directed to the tissues that would require them such as muscle that is recovering from your training.

Amino Acids and Energy
A lot of misconceptions exist about the muscle contraction and the use of energy substrates during heavy high intensity weight training. When performing your training using repetitive power workouts a substantial portion of your energy comes from non-carbohydrate sources. When your muscles contract they use stores of adenosine triphosphate (ATP, a substance vital to the energy processes of all our living cells) for the first few seconds. The compound used to immediately replenish these stores is creatine phosphate (CP). This is how the supplement creatine, became so popular to bodybuilders and strength trained athletes. Creatine is made from three amino acids: arginine, methionine and glycine.

To keep our CP and ATP levels high, these amino acids must be kept elevated in our blood stream. The amino acids in creatine supplements can be supplied by foods in our diet but the process of elevating these amino acids takes a great deal of time in digestion, and also would be accompanied by fats and carbohydrates which may or may not be desired. So the use of free form amino acids, either alone or in combination with creatine supplements can provide direct source of energy for power and strength.

Amino Acids & Fat Loss
In fat loss two major processes must occur (1) the mobilisation and circulation of stored fats in the body must be increased; and (2) Fats must be transported and converted to energy at the mitochondria (the powerhouse site of cells). Several nutrients can assist in the conversion of fat to energy including the amino acid methionine, which in sufficient amounts can help improve the transport and metabolism of fat. When attempting to keep our total calories down during dieting, amino acid supplements including BCAA’s and glutamine can also help to keep our food volume down but still provide support directly to the muscles, liver and our immune systems which are critical to optimising our body composition.

Amino Acids & Muscle Catabolism
Our body has the ability to breakdown our muscle tissue for use as an energy source during heavy exercise. This is part of a bodily process called gluconeogenesis which means producing or generating glucose from non-carbohydrate sources. The part of this reaction that is important to us as bodybuilders is known as the glucose – alanine cycle, in which the BCAA’s are stripped from the muscle tissue and parts of them being converted to the amino acid alanine, which is then transported to the liver and converted into glucose. If we consume supplemental BCAA’s the body does not have to breakdown our muscle tissue to gain extra energy. Studies have concluded that the use of BCAA’s (up to 4g) during and after training can result in a significant reduction of muscle breakdown during training. Catabolism of muscle can cause shrinkage of our muscles and muscle soreness and may also lead us to injury.

Amino Acids and the Anabolic effect
Resistance training generally stimulates both protein synthesis and protein degradation in exercised muscle fibres. Muscle hypertrophy (growth) occurs when an increase in protein synthesis results in the body’s normal state of protein synthesis and degradation. The normal hormonal environment (e.g, insulin and growth hormone levels) in the period following resistance training stimulates the muscle fibres anabolic processes while blunting muscle protein degradation. Dietary modifications that increase amino acid transport into muscles raise energy availability or increase anabolic hormones should augment the training effects by increasing the rate of muscle anabolism and/or decreasing muscle catabolism. Either effect should create a positive body protein balance for improved muscular growth and strength.

References:
Amino acids. Barry Finnin, PHD. and Samual Peters .
Exercise physiology. 5th Edition, William D, McArdle. Frank I Katch, Victor L Katch.

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Getting back to Gym after the Festive Season

By Tom Holland
After the indulgences of the holidays, come the New Year Resolutions to get fit, lose weight, go to gym more, be more active …. Yet, then one is faced with actually doing all those things – and the major portion of that resolution means you have to actually go to gym.
This however, can be a daunting exercise (no pun intended) if you’ve let yourself go a bit .. or if it has been a while since you’ve actually set foot in this establishment.
Well, we understand and hope to provide you with a bit of comfort and motivation to make that leap.
Here are four tips to help boost your confidence and help you get a toe in there :

WEAR CLOTHES THAT MAKE YOU FEEL GREAT
Ever notice how many people at the gym wear the same outfit over and over again? That could be because they really like the way it makes them look. Go shopping and invest in a few outfits that you absolutely love and that you think you look great in, clothes that accentuate what you feel good about. This can help your confidence exponentially.
And, if you want to wear that baggy T-Shirt and Track pants, till you feel better about your body, then wear them! |If you want to, make that “outfit” a goal.

ASK FOR HELP
Another reason you may feel self-conscious at the gym is that you’re not sure how to do certain exercises or use certain pieces of equipment. You really want to do that ab exercise with the medicine ball, try that leg press machine, or run on that new treadmill, but you don’t want to embarrass yourself by doing anything incorrectly and drawing attention to yourself. So you might end up not doing any of them at all.
Realize that everyone was a beginner at one point and that they all had someone teach them what to do. So ask for help, whether it’s working out with a fit friend you trust or paying for a session or two with a personal trainer or making an appointment to just walk through with one of the gym staff so they can point out equipment and explain how they work.
You’ll be amazed how great you will feel by overcoming your fears and finally doing what you thought you couldn’t. You can also start seeing results from challenging your body in a whole new way.

REALIZE EVERYONE IS SELF-CONSCIOUS
I have worked with celebrities, professional athletes, politicians, models and top CEOs and can tell you one absolute, unequivocal truth – everyone is self-conscious. Everyone! No matter how perfect or confident they may seem to be, even the seemingly fit and beautiful have what they perceive to be their flaws. So if you think you’re the only one who doesn’t feel 100% confident at the gym, think again. You’re in very good company.

DO IT FOR YOU
Finally and most importantly, go to the gym for you. Make it your time to focus on yourself. Go to feel good in the moment, or maybe to help release some stress. Go to feel better about yourself in the future, making positive changes for you. Look inward by putting on your virtual blinders and blocking out everything around you that doesn’t enhance your experience. The more you focus on you and the less attention you pay to what’s going on around you, the more comfortable you will be.
The gym can and should be a positive place, somewhere you look forward to going. Take control of the experience by implementing these tips and you can make it a fun, enjoyable, life-long habit.

*Tom Holland, MS, CSCS, CISSN is an internationally-recognized exercise physiologist, certified sports nutritionist and freelance writer.

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5 Incorrect Assumptions People Make About Training for an Ironman

By Steven Moody
As a qualified coach (and spending half of my time either in Lycra or Ironman-branded gear) it invariably comes up in conversations with “normal” people about the absurdity to the type of training and races I do.
One of the more consistent responses in these conversations is somebody explaining to me how much they would love to (but could never!) do an Ironman race.I used to just nod in agreement, but as I built my coaching expertise, I found myself challenging people’s standard assumptions people made about why they personally couldn’t achieve what I’ve helped others achieve for years.

In my experience, their reasons for not being able to take on an Ironman normally fall into one of these five categories:

Reason 1: “I am too old/big/slow/tall/short to do an Ironman.”

Have you ever watched an Ironman in person? And by in person, I specifically mean not watching on TV where the cameras zone in on the chiselled pros battling it out at the pointy end of the race. Because if you have you will have witnessed athletes of all ages, shapes and sizes racing on the exact same course as the professionals.
Ironman is a very personal journey, and people will have different race strategies and goals on the day. These can range from just finishing to qualifying for the world championship—my point is there are no physical barriers to doing an Ironman, if you are willing to really chase that goal.

I always push the fact that people should see a race in person; at a minimum you will be uplifted by the strength of human spirit and more than likely be inspired to take on a challenge of your own.

Reason 2: “Oh I would never have the time for Ironman training.”
Typically when people say this to me, I conversationally ask them what TV programs they watch or how much time they spend on social media. When we go through the list—it can add up to around 10 hours a week! That huge chunk of wasted time is where I tell them I “find” the time for myself and my athletes. It was actually there all along.
So essentially it is a question of priorities—we can find time if we want to—it is up to you if you choose it to be on the couch watching Game of Thrones or out on in the fresh air preparing yourself for an epic challenge.
(it’s worth noting I am a massive Game of Thrones fan—but I tend to watch it on my turbo!)

Reason 3: “I would not know where to start.”
When I hear this, I ask what the person does for a living. The breadth of answers always fascinates me. Firemen, teachers, bankers etc. Digging a little deeper, I ask if they have ever faced a scenario at work where they needed to reach out to experts, and without fail, the response is always yes.
I ask them why is this different to approaching an Ironman challenge. I tell them that they should look for someone who has completed an Ironman and ask them how they went about it and start their research there.
Better still, if they seem really serious, they should seek out a plan or a qualified coach to help guide them on their journey.

WARNING: Asking a recent first time finisher can turn into quite the monologue as they eagerly share every detail of their journey including weight loss stats, epic cycles and inevitably the feeling of accomplishment as they turned onto the finishing chute.

Reason 4: “I would love to if only I could swim!”
When was the last time you were in a pool? When I ask people that, their minds typically drift back to the last holiday where they splashed around in the sunshine. So having established that they can actually swim, I ask whether they have ever had their stroke analysed or taken swim lessons.

For novice swimmers, simply fixing a few key elements from stroke analysis and/or lessons can make huge leaps forward in their swimming ability.

As a coach swimming is one of my favourite disciplines to teach/monitor as there are always lots of low hanging fruit that will help the athletes’ confidence and ability soar to the point that they are chomping at the bit to tackle that 3.8km swim!

Reason 5: “I have never even run a marathon.”
When people ask this I usually respond by asking them if they’ve ever swam 3.8km or ridden 180km. Typically, their answer is “never.”

People fixate too much on the marathon element of the Ironman, I believe this is mainly as it a more tangible event that they can get their head around!

However, in the Ironman world, as I tell my first timers, it is just a long run at the end of a long day.
It is not necessary to have completed a marathon before an Ironman. It can help —but not as much as people think.
Even in my training plans, I typically do not let my athletes exceed 26km in the longest runs they will do. The body can only take so much mileage. It is all about training smart and building slowly.

If you train and prepare properly, you will be amazed at what your body can do on the day boosted by adrenaline and thousands of cheering spectators!

No more excuses!
In conclusion, unless someone explicitly says they have either no interest in taking on such a challenge that is a half or full Ironman, I can easily dismantle the barriers they are putting in front of themselves.
So if you have ever watched an Ironman race or jealously viewed a club mates finisher medal, I would urge you to challenge your own limitations.

Steven is Ironman University and Triathlon Ireland certified and specializes in helping time crunched athletes realize their goals.

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The Best Recovery Practices for Endurance Athletes

You know that sensation, when you have bottomless power, breathing is deep, and pushing hard feels so good? When you are strong, motivated, and invincible. These are the days when you slay your training and smash your race goals.
The secret to these training days and hitting race day in peak form is nailing your recovery.  Two recovery practices are foundational and must-not be missed:

Nutrition
Sleep
While there are many more accessory recovery techniques that can be used to complement nutrition and sleep, if you are not getting in the right nutrition and enough sleep, the accessory recovery techniques will have minimal advantage. You should focus your efforts on getting those two recovery habits perfected to get the most bang for your buck.

Post-Exercise Recovery Nutrition
For weekend warrior athletes training two to three times per week, following a normal daily nutrition plan with no special additions is sufficient for optimal recovery before the next training session.
For athletes training once per day or more often, refuelling for the next workout as quickly as possible is crucial. Refuelling accurately and consistently after workouts will restore muscle and liver glycogen stores, replace fluid and electrolytes lost in sweat, promote muscle repair and bolster the immune system.
Athletes who optimize post-exercise nutrition will perform better in their next training session and accumulate more high quality sessions than athletes skipping post-exercise recovery fuelling.
There are two post-exercise recovery fuelling windows. The first is within 30 minutes of a hard or long training session. The second is in the two to three hours post-exercise.
Short easy training sessions do not require special recovery nutrition. Athletes are best sticking to their daily nutrition plan with a normal whole foods meal after easy training sessions.

30 Minute Post-Exercise
Fluid, electrolytes, carbohydrates and protein are the foundation of proper recovery nutrition. Immediately on finishing a workout, start replacing fluid and electrolyte losses with a sodium containing drink or water plus sodium containing food.
Estimate fluid losses by weighing yourself before and after training and drinking 500 to 700 ml of fluid for every ½ Kg lost.
To restore muscle glycogen and promote protein synthesis, consume 0.8g per kg of body weight of carbohydrate and 0.2g per kg of body weight of protein within 30 minutes of finishing exercise. For a 70kg athlete this would be 56g of carbohydrate and 14g of protein.
Fluid, electrolytes, carbohydrates, and protein can be replaced with a commercial recovery drink, a homemade smoothie or with real food plus water.
Additionally, antioxidants such as vitamin C and vitamin A, probiotics, medium chain triglycerides and L-Glutamine can shorten recovery duration and are good additions to a recovery drink or snack.

Two To Three Hours Post-Exercise
Continue your recovery nutrition two to three hours post-exercise by eating a whole foods meal. It is okay to eat earlier than this if you are hungry but do not delay this post-exercise meal more than three hours.
This meal should contain a combination of carbohydrate, about 20g of protein and some fat. Dividing daily protein intake into four or more 20g meals has been shown to have a greater stimulus on protein synthesis than two big meals with 40g protein per meal or 8 smaller meals with 10g per meal.
A 20g helping of protein is the sweet spot to maximally stimulate muscle protein synthesis.
After a training session on a hot day, immediately cool your body down if your core temperature feels hot by drinking cool fluids, sitting in cool water or air conditioning and pouring iced water over your head. Cooling off will halt continued dehydration and increase your appetite.

The Benefits of Good Sleep
Studies have shown increasing duration asleep leads to increased performance and mental well-being in athletes. We also know chronic sleep debt impairs performance and reduces motivation to excel.
Foundation sleep recommendations for adult athletes are 8 to 10 hours per night plus a 30 minute nap between 2 to 4 PM. I know that is a tough call for most athletes to achieve along with all the other responsibilities of life.
Junior athletes need even more sleep with 9 hours per night plus a 30 minute nap in the afternoon.

Increasing Your Sleep Quality and Duration
Along with sleep duration, sleep quality and sleep phase also affect the regenerative qualities of sleep. Sleep quality can be improved by reducing disturbances by wearing earplugs and sleeping in a cool, dark room.
Following a pre-sleep routine of relaxing activities, avoiding light exposure from screens in the hour before bed, avoiding stimulants such as caffeine after noon and alcohol in the evening may increase your sleep quality and duration.
Restless leg syndrome can occur in athletes with low serum iron levels and disrupt normal sleep patterns.
Exercising late in the day can make sleep elusive for some athletes. Summertime evening group training or local races make sleep especially hard to come by. Following up an intense evening session with inadequate sleep is a poor combination. Athletes losing sleep after these evening sessions are advised to switch their intense training sessions to the morning and put their evening hours towards lower intensity activities such as yoga, stretching, and massage.

Measuring Your Sleep
If you can measure it, you can improve it!
Use a sleep tracking app to measure your sleep duration and quality then identify factors that improve it. I was able to identify that red wine helps me fall asleep more quickly but it reduces my sleep quality and duration. I confirmed much to my dismay that avoiding screens e.g. laptops, TV, phones etc. in the hour before bed dramatically improves both my sleep quality and duration.
It is easier to sleep in the spring, fall and winter than mid-summer due to long days. Cover your bedroom windows with foil or install light blocking curtains to darken your bedroom and help extend your sleep time.

Accessory Recovery Techniques
After you have taken care of the big two, nutrition and sleep, there are many accessory recovery techniques to add to your routine; stress reduction, massage, compression, active recovery, stretching, foam rolling, yoga, meditation, acupuncture, rolfing, cupping, cryotherapy, hydrotherapy, sauna, dry needling, supplements such as tart cherry juice, and more.
Stress reduction is one of the more important accessory recovery techniques. Trying to add too many accessory recovery techniques on top of an already busy schedule may add stress and be counterproductive. Pick a few accessory recovery techniques you enjoy and have easy access to, rather than trying to fit every single one of them into your schedule. For example, dipping your nightly sleep time below 8 hours to log 30 minutes in the sauna is not a good trade off.

Take Rest and Recovery Seriously
We are all busy. A common mistake many athletes make is to use their rest days to run endless errands and their recovery weeks to tackle bigger projects. One of my athletes built a deck behind his house in a recovery week! He ended the week sore and exhausted and we had to follow that week up with another recovery week in order for any quality training to get done.
On your rest days and recovery weeks, plan massages and lots of downtime, put your feet up and really unload fatigue. Recover as hard as you train.

Example of a Post-exercise Recovery Routine

  • Finish race or hard training bout and grab a recovery drink to sip during your cool down
  • Take a 10 minute ice-bath or cold river soak
  • Clean up and shower
  • 10 minute stretch
  • 20 minute compression legs such as Elevated Legs
  • 30 minute nap
  • Meal with 20g protein and a combination of carbohydrate and fat
  • Go to bed with enough time to get 8 hours of sleep

Eat well, sleep well and recover fast because your competitors probably are doing it!

References :
 Nutrition to Support Recovery from Endurance Exercise: Optimal Carbohydrate and Protein Replacement. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26166054
Post-exercise carbohydrate-protein supplementation improves subsequent exercise performance and intracellular signalling for protein synthesis. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21522069
Nutritional strategies to promote post-exercise recovery http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21116024
Sleep as a recovery tool for athletes  http://blogs.bmj.com/bjsm/2014/11/17/6066/
Sleep, recovery and human performance http://canadiansportforlife.ca/sites/default/files/resources/Sleep_Recovery_Jan2013_EN_web.pdf
The Effects of Sleep Extension on the Athletic Performance of Collegiate Basketball Players http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3119836/
Influence of tart cherry juice on indices of recovery following marathon running http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19883392
 

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How to Make the Jump from Marathons to Ultras

Andrew Simmons – Lifelong Endurance

With more and more people signing up for ultra-marathons—are you starting to get the itch too? These guidelines will show you how to make the jump from marathons to ultras and give you some key tips for having the best race possible.

It All Starts With a Plan

Longer distances will require more time in many aspects. Make sure you have the time to commit to training. Starting with a good training plan or a coach and an idea of how many hours you can train each week is key. Take some time to find the right plan and the right coach to suit your needs and your training availability.

Know Your Time Frame

If you’re currently in good shape you can prepare for a 50Km in roughly 12 weeks. However, if you’re starting from scratch give yourself plenty of time, up to 24 weeks to prepare for your event. Add an additional eight to 10 weeks of training for events that are between 50Km and 100 miles in length.

5 Tips for Your Best Race

Run Where You Race – Or As Close As You Can

It can be hard to find trail access in urban areas, however it’s a pretty safe bet most ultras will take you off road and onto a trail. For some, finding a trail or technical section can require some creativity, but it is worth the extra effort and possible drive time.

Getting onto a trail and off the roads can beneficial in multiple ways; it helps break up training by taking you out of your comfort zone, gets you into new training situations and will require you to think on your feet. Thinking on your feet and even getting a little lost is a crucial part of long-distance run training and developing a strong sense of direction and the ability to cope in the event of a mistake is a necessary skill.

Take to trails in small doses if you’re not a regular trail runner. If you’re totally lost, remember that trail running offers the bonus of less impact on you and your body. Less impact and more time on feet will help increase your durability both mentally and physically. It won’t always be easy!

Throw Away Your Ego

The first thing you’ll notice is that kilometre splits and hitting very specific times go out of the window at first. If you think you’re going to run a consistent pace front to back in an ultra, you will come to a harsh realization at your first hill or technical section.

Ultra-marathons require a “manage it as it happens” approach. While a road marathon requires supreme fitness, an ultra requires similar fitness with the added challenge of solving problems as you run. Running down a steep technical hill with rocks and roots and then quickly back up a wet culvert requires good fitness and the ability to control yourself so you can get to the finish line in one piece.

Time on Your Feet Is King

This doesn’t mean you can’t use fitness markers to your advantage in a race. A majority of ultra-marathon plans are based on heart rate (HR) and require you to find a comfortable zone that you can run in and then endure for four to seven hours to complete the course.

Keeping yourself in an aerobic zone allows you to utilize onboard energy more efficiently and will keep you feeling fresh longer. Tip over your HR threshold a few too many times and you may find your race a lot tougher during those last 10 miles.

Mileage is not always the best marker when going off road; time on your feet matters more than the weekly mileage totals. You’ll find that if a majority of your work is truly aerobic, you’ll be running slower than you may have been in previous training build ups. This will require you to reframe what’s important in your ultra training. Looking at your total weekly hours and building up to more consecutive hours will be key to building yourself into an ultra-marathon runner.

Pressure Test The System

Ultra-marathon training on the surface simply requires you to run longer, pushing you out of your comfort zone mentally and physically. One of the biggest roadblocks for a successful first ultra is not having tested yourself at your race effort. You may find that you need to adjust for electrolytes after two to three hours, that you do better with solid food the first half of a race, or that you need to change shoes because your feet swell in warm temperatures. These small nuances can have a huge impact on your race—especially once you start looking at 50km and above races

Hydration and fuelling strategies should be tested on your long runs and you should start to note what it feels like when you’re dehydrated or low on fuel. Your long runs are your chance to try out new fuels. Learning how to work through a bad stretch in a long run is a vital learning experience in many ways!

A key component to your success is getting in the training but also replicating what you’re going to expect to see on race day; think about the terrain, major elements like long hills, extended descents or race day conditions like extreme heat or cold.

You’re Stronger and More Capable than You Think

It’s hard to imagine what running 50kms or more will feel like and I can’t even tell you what you will personally experience. To some that extra five miles is an eternity and to others it’s a natural and more comfortable progression.  Pacing yourself and taking the race aid station to aid station is going to help you break the race into manageable chunks. Give yourself a boost at each aid station as a reward, or imbibe in an aid station treat (believe me they have some amazing things at these trail races!).

An ultra requires mental persistence, self-affirmation and a belief that you can complete it. Many professionals utilize mantras to keep them focused and “in the zone.” Others like to use music, podcasts or other tactics to push the little monster out from inside their head. Using a motivational tool or pacer can be a huge help  toward ensuring your success on race day.

Recovery

First and foremost, ultras are longer than you’ve ever gone before. In both training and racing, you’ll be pushing your body into new territories.  This can come with its own aches and pains; post-race you’ll want to give yourself an extra seven to 10 days of low mileage on top of your normal marathon recovery protocol.

Following your first ultra you should allow yourself five days of low impact activity directly following and roughly 10 to 14 days before you return to your normal training or start to focus on your next event. Remember, the first one always takes the longest to recover from! In rare cases there can be minimal soreness; don’t let this fool you. Long distance racing takes a larger and more impactful metabolic, mental and physiological toll that can put you down for longer than you think.

Take this time to enjoy activities you missed out on during peak training and maybe sleep in a little and slowly introduce yourself back to training. After all, recovery is the second best part after the race itself!

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Top 5 Fitness Myths

top5FitnessMyths
 
There are a handful of fitness myths that have been around forever, regardless of how much scientific research there is to refute them. I believe that human nature is partly to blame – people tend to believe that which supports their own personal biases. The unfortunate downside to subscribing to these myths is that they can prevent you from being the getting the most from your fitness routine. Here are five of the top offenders:
 
Myth 1: People Who Exercise Frequently Can Eat Whatever They Want
Oh, if this were only true. One need to simply take a look around the gym to realize this is not the case. Fitness clubs are filled with people who exercise almost every day, yet they just can’t seem to lose weight. It comes down to simple math: It can be easier to keep 500 calories out of your mouth than it is to burn it off. Sure, exercise is a big part of the equation, but it is by no means a license to eat whatever you want.
 
Myth 2: If I Stop Working Out, My Muscle Will Turn to Fat
This myth, often the result of people witnessing professional athletes lose their physiques and gain weight after retiring from their respective sports, is easily refuted by basic physiology. A fat cell is a fat cell and a muscle cell is a muscle cell. One cannot turn into the other. The reason these athletes gain weight is the same as for everyone else: decreased activity and increased caloric intake
This is what it takes a 68 Kg person to burn approximately 100 calories :
Workouts:
Biking: 23 minutes of casual cycling
Cardio dance class: 15 minutes
Elliptical: 8 minutes
Jumping rope: 9 minutes at a moderate intensity
Lifting weights, vigorously: 15 minutes
Pilates: 24 minutes
Rowing machine: 13 minutes
Running stairs: 6 minutes
Running: 9 minutes of running at a 6 mph pace
Swimming: 15 minutes moderate intensity
Walking stairs: 11 minutes
Walking: 20 minutes of walking at a 3 mph pace
Water aerobics: 23 minutes
Yoga: 20 minutes
Zumba: 11 minutes
 
Sports and Leisure Activities:
Basketball, shooting hoops: 20 minutes
Bowling: 30 minutes
Dancing around living room: 20 minutes
Darts: 35 minutes
Golfing, carrying clubs: 15 minutes
Ice skating, moderate: 18 minutes
Kickball: 13 minutes
Mini golf or driving range: 30 minutes
Playing catch with a football: 35 minutes
Playing Frisbee: 30 minutes
Playing soccer, casual: 13 minutes
Skiing,downhill: 10 minutes
Softball or baseball: 18 minutes
Tennis (doubles): 21 minutes
Tennis (singles): 15 minutes
Treading water, moderate effort: 23 minutes
Volleyball, recreational: 26 minutes
Water skiing: 15 minutes
 
Yard Work:
Mowing the lawn: 20 minutes
Painting house: 18 minutes
Raking leaves: 23 minutes
Shovelling snow: 15 minutes
Washing the car: 20 minutes
Weeding the garden: 18 minutes
Everyday Activities:
Carrying an infant: 24 minutes
Cleaning, moderate effort: 26 minutes
Cooking: 34 minutes
Doing dishes: 40 minutes
Mopping the floor: 20 minutes
Playing with children: 23 minutes
Pushing a stroller: 35 minutes
Rearranging furniture: 14 minutes
Shopping: 38 minutes
Sweeping: 23 minutes
Walking the dog, 26 minutes
 
Myth 3: To See Results You Must Exercise Continuously For an Hour
Out of these 5 myths, this one is probably the most detrimental to the masses. The number one reason people cite for failing to exercise is lack of time. Many believe that, if you don’t allocate thirty to sixty minutes to work out, then it’s not worth doing at all.  Research suggests that three ten-minute bouts of exercise have the same benefits as one thirty-minute session. There is even some new research into the value of “micro-workouts,” bouts of exercise as short as sixty seconds, may help to support cardiovascular health.
 
Myth 4: Lifting Weights Will Make You Too Bulky
Many athletes avoided strength training for decades, believing that increased muscle size would inhibit movement and lead to decreased performance. The conventional wisdom was that lifting weights would be detrimental and building muscle was to be avoided. Many people still believe this to be the case. Today professional athletes in many different sports engage in some form of strength training to both support performance as well as help decrease the chance of injury. Many also add stretching into their routines to help maintain flexibility.
 
Myth 5: Women Should Lift Light Weights to Avoid Getting “Bulky”
It has been my experience that the fear of building “bulk” is one of the primary reasons far too many women either avoid lifting weights completely, or, if they do strength train, choose weights that are too light. Both need to change. The “overload principle” of strength training posits that to “change” a muscle you must adequately challenge it. Thus, choosing weights that are too light will not elicit meaningful adaptations. Lifting appropriately challenging weights, however, may confer a number of benefits including increased bone density, increased functional strength and an increase in muscle.
 
So, seek out information from reputable sources, ones who support their positions with peer-reviewed scientific studies.