Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Get ripped

Developing defined, cut muscles

The best way to develop more defined muscles is to increase muscle mass while decreasing body fat. According to an article on muscleprodigy.com, people who lack definition typically have a layer of fat covering their muscular structure and/or not enough muscle in general.

Muscle burns fat more efficiently, so the more muscle you have, the more fat you will burn even when your body is at rest. However, while lifting light weights is important for building muscular endurance, using heavier weights is the key to promoting muscle size and strength while increasing your metabolism.

When it comes to lifting heavier weights, many women fear becoming too bulky. This is a myth. An article insimplyshredded.com notes that testosterone is the hormone primarily responsible for the large increases in muscle mass seen when men lift weights, and women’s testosterone levels are a mere fraction of men’s testosterone levels. Put simply, women just don’t have the necessary hormones to gain muscle mass like men.

To get the best results when lifting, focus on performing 6-12 reps using a weight that is heavy enough that the last two reps are difficult to lift. Keep intensity levels high, resting for no more than one minute between sets to keep your heart rate up, and be sure to target all the major muscle groups. It’s also important to vary your workouts as variety is necessary to shock the muscles and stimulate new growth and development. I personally favor super set, which works opposing muscles in rapid succession, keeping my heart rate elevated while building both muscle strength and endurance.

In addition to creating a regular workout routine, it is important to establish healthy eating habits. Be sure to consume plenty of raw fruits and vegetables, which are high in nutrients but low in calories, and protein, which also is important for losing weight and getting cut muscles. Eggs, nuts, vegetables and lean meats are good sources of high protein.

Another key component to developing a lean and defined body is staying well-hydrated. An article onFitness@suite101.com states that the liver needs water to function correctly and process fat. Without adequate amounts of water, the liver processes fats more slowly, causing fat to accumulate in the body.

Finally, don’t forget to log at least eight hours of sleep each night. While you sleep, your body produces leptin, a hormone which helps to regulate appetite, while keeping cortisol levels in check-an overabundance of this stress hormone has been shown to increase your chances of becoming obese.

Young Woman Sleeping On Bed

Image: David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you are already following these guidelines but still can’t seem to get those six-pack abs, keep in mind that every person is genetically unique and will respond to diet and exercise in different ways. According to freedieting.com, every piece of advice you receive regarding weight loss must be applied against your knowledge of your own constitution, metabolism, and genetic makeup. So, rather than striving to duplicate the chiseled arms and ripped abs of that person pictured in a magazine, who has likely been photo-shopped and air-brushed, focus on building the most fit and healthy body that you can and that is appropriate for your specific body type.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Skirting the issue

Running skirts; women seem to either love 'em or hate 'em.

Having never tried one, I was indifferent. If a woman wants to run in a skirt, more power to her!

So, when I was at the Rock N Roll Marathon expo last week, I stumbled upon the Brooks Epiphany Running Skort:

Brooks Women's Epiphany Skort

I love Brooks' running shorts and this skort, at $10, was a steal, so I thought: why not? And so, today, I took my skirt (I hate the word "skort") out for a spin.

I like they way it looked, though I had the nagging feeling I was forgetting something . . . like a tennis racquet (blogger spell check wants me to write: racket). And the inner short instantly started to ride up as I walked my kids to the bus stop. I fussed and tugged and pulled until I finally gave up. But it didn't matter. By the time the yellow bus rounded the corner and I'd powered up my Garmin, the angry ruckus coming from my joints and legs caused me to forget all about my inner skort wedgie.

This protest took me by surprise because I thought my legs were doing okay. After the RNR Half Marathon on Saturday, my quads, hams, calves and feet ached and screamed for two days. But a massage on Monday morning expedited the healing process and by that night I was feeling much better. I didn't think twice about heading out for a 3-miler this morning. But I should have.

I winced with each step; my body tense, bracing against the impact. The rules for post-race recovery began setting off alarms in my brain: For each mile you run you should take a rest day.

Thirteen point one days of rest? Not likely.

But I did start to question the wisdom of signing up for a 10-mile run the weekend after the half marathon. At the time, I justified it as simply a continuation of my training schedule which, to date, had me running two long runs a week apart, followed by a drop back week. So, I would run 13, then 10, then drop back. No biggie.

Here's the part I overlooked: A run at race pace is far more intense than your average training run.

At least it is for me.

During my training, I ran my 12 and 13-mile runs at a comfortably challenging, yet easily doable pace and, hence, I recovered quickly.

However, at the Rock N Roll Half, I killed it. I gave it my all. My average pace was approximately 45 seconds faster per mile then I'd been running in training, which means I cut almost ten minutes off of my total time for the same distance. I was quite satisfied with the end result but the effort took it's toll; my legs were beat.

And so, a skirt was just the right attire for my "tip-toeing through the tulips" run today. As for whether I am "Team Skort" or "Team Short," I remain indifferent. I don't think I'd ever forsake my shorts to bat for the skort team, but I didn't mind the change. It was fun to try something new and different. I like a little variety. That's why I'm a triathlete.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Fight Fatigue

Is there an energy crisis in your body? Want to know what's causing it?

An article in spryliving.com identifies the top eight causes of fatigue and how to fight back.
What I find especially interesting about this article is that it's not the usual list of energy-busting suspects like: Your job, your kids, over-eating, hover-parenting, consuming nutritionally-void foods and not getting enough sleep.

So, keep reading to find out what else could be secretly sabotaging your energy because, as Vince Lombardi once said, "Fatigue makes cowards of us all."

Energy drain #1: Dehydration

This one's easy: Drink more water; at least 8-10 cups per day.

Energy drain #2: Skipping Breakfast

If you've heard this once, you've heard it a million times: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Step away from the bagel and cream cheese and honor your body by refueling in the morning with whole grains, protein and fruit for breakfast.

Energy drain #3: Boredom

Interesting. I don't know about you, but I'm never bored. In fact, I view boredom as a luxury. I only wish I had enough time on my hands to be bored.

But, for those of you out there who manage to squeeze a little boredom into your day, just quit it already. Find ways to entertain yourself, challenge yourself and nurture your natural curiosity. In other words, carpe diem! Make plans, right now, to try something new and banish the boredom that's weighing you down.

Energy drain #4: Toxic relationships

Put some distance between you and that person who emanates negative energy. If you must have toxins in your life to feel complete, get them from other sources, say, beer, wine, or liquor. You're guaranteed to have more fun and you won't be bored. (See energy drain #3)

Energy drain #5: Unfinished projects

A-ha! Maybe the last time I felt worn down and tired I'd just walked past the the overflowing basket(s) of laundry in the hall or risked my life climbing over the pile of long-discarded toddler toys in our unfinished basement to find the wrapping paper. Or it could have been spying the dirty dishes in the sink or ignoring the clean ones in the dishwasher waiting to be put away.

Put simply, I don't start new projects because there are countless, mindless little ongoing projects that weigh me down daily.

My survival strategy is to ignore the on-going projects for as long as possible and to simply avoid starting any new projects. Which is why my garden is still not planted and my house is still 70% unpainted. If I get tempted to dive into a new, time-consuming project all I have to do is look at my "organized mess" of an office or the pile of recipes I've clipped and still haven't put into a binder or my children's baby books that are only half finished (my youngest has really gotten gyped!)

Energy drain #6: Gadget overload

Being constantly plugged in is exhausting and creates a false sense of urgency.

No worries for me on this one. For the most part, I hate gadgets. I still have my old flip-top, non-texting cell phone from eons ago. I read real books made of paper. I have only basic television reception with no fancy DVR or on-demand capabilities. Until just a few years ago, I even toted my bright yellow Walkman (yes, walkman!) with cassettes (remember those?) with me while I ran until, one day, I walked into a gym and someone told me it looked like I was carrying a bomb! My husband took mercy on my poor anti-techie soul and bought me an iPod shuffle for Christmas (which, by now, is probably also way outdated but I don't care; my shuffle is one the few gadget I do love, along with my Garmin GPS watch). For the rest of you gadget-geeks out there, for goodness sakes, unplug once in a while. The earth will keep turning.

Energy drain #7: Decision-making

According to Dr. John R. Sharp, a Harvard Medical School psychiatrist, "Decisions are mental exercises that literally burn calories; you expend energy to make them."

To lessen the mental drain, Sharp recommends making decisions in the morning when energy levels are highest, and to rely on intuition.

"Rational analysis takes the most energy, but intuition takes little," Sharp explains, going on to recommend finding a quiet spot in which to tune into your inner guide and let go of the noise in your rational mind through meditation , yoga or prayer.

Om, I'm totally on-board with this one. Decision-making hasn't always been my strong suit, but it's one I have worked on and believe I've achieved some measure of success. The key was in realizing that the consequences of a "wrong" decision were rarely as dire as I'd feared. Sometimes there is no right or wrong decision, just, simply, a choice and, no matter what you decide, things usually have a way of working themselves out. So, just roll with it. Go with the flow and stop agonizing. Everything will be okay. Really.

Energy drain #8: Living in the past

Supposedly ruminating on the past takes away your ideas about moving forward.

I agree this is true if one is lamenting about negative past events, feelings or experiences.

Otherwise, I believe that reminiscing about good things and happy times can be an uplifting and positive pursuit. We can learn from the past and apply it towards future endeavors. Plus, it never hurts to look back and see how far you've come. Your past is what makes you who you are today and who you will become in the future.

So, go ahead; look back and laugh every now and again. I believe it is good for the soul.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

It's all downhill from here

In life, in general, when you say "it's all downhill;" that's not a good thing.

However, when training for a race, that phrase takes on an entirely different connotation; it's a good thing.

When you hit that point in your training when "it's all downhill;" you've got it made. You're on easy street. The hard work is done and there's nothing left to do but cruise on to the main event.

I hit that point today and it feels oh so good!

With 13 miles looming, I met my running partner and we started on our way. For the first three miles my legs felt heavy, my body resisted the effort. Then the course started going uphill and my partner began pulling away, handing me a big piece of humble pie.

When we hit the high point of the course, I sucked down an Espresso Hammer Gel (first time I've ever used a caffeinated gel!) and began to gain some ground. With the wind at our backs and running a flat section of the course with breathtaking views, we switched to negative split mode.

With three miles to go before the nastiest hill on the route, my partner suggested we run at race pace. Ugh. She is one tough cookie, but she pushes me, and that's a good thing. She helps me to be a better runner.

We finished strong and, still having some gas in the tank, sprinted the last leg of the run until we were sucking wind and feeling light-headed and tingly. Gotta love those anaerobic moments.

But we did it and now it's taper time. Race day is two weeks from today; the day that all the training and hard work pays off. I managed my fluids and fuel much better today and felt stronger than I have during the entire past two months of training. It's exactly the feeling you want to have going into race day. I Walked Like an Egyptian over to Cabo Wabo and then Walked on Sunshine down to Panama where I Shocked the Monkey with my negative split, leaving me feeling pretty Crafty when all was said and done.

So, I'm feeling optimistic. I may not set any records on race day or achieve a new PR, but I'm pretty sure I am in a good place to run a race I can feel good about and be proud of.

DC Rock N Roll Half Marathon--Bring it ON!