Friday, June 27, 2014

Mixing Up Cardio

Ugh.  Did I just say the “c” word?  Let’s face it, cardio is a necessary evil.  But stay with me here, this won’t be a horrible post.  Cardiovascular activity is important for many reasons: it works your heart, many activities are weight bearing (which helps to build stronger bones) and it helps to reduce body fat when done consistently along with reasonable eating.

Cardio can get sooooo boring, especially if you do the same thing over and over again.  That’s one reason in itself to mix it up.  The change in your cardio routine keeps your body guessing what’s next, and therefore out of a rut, which can result in a plateau.  Now, how does one go about that?  Well, I’m glad you asked.  I have a few tips.  Read on!

Recently, I’ve been out riding my bike.  Now, I haven’t ridden a bike for the better part of my adult life (it’s a long story), so it’s taken some getting used to.  I started out with once a week, and now I’m at twice a week.  One of those rides is more interval training with hills.  The other is geared more towards endurance and increased duration.  This is one way to change your cardio routine, to do something different on the same exercise.  Whether it’s gym equipment or outdoor activities, feel free to change something from the last time you did it.

Another way to alter your cardio routine is the type of exercise you do for cardio.  Let’s say your plan is to get your heart rate up three to four times a week.  One might be a long bike ride, another could be a group exercise class or DVD at home, then an interval session on the treadmill and the bonus workout of running the stairs at Red Rocks or participating in a recreational softball game.  The next week might be different, but that’s okay.  Variety will keep the boredom away.  Extreme weather (hot, cold, windy, snowy) might call for all indoor workouts, and that’s okay too.  If you work in a multi-story building, take the stairs for at least 10 stories, there’s your stairmill for that day.

In order to keep cardio workouts effective and keep you motivated to get them done, change up your routine every once in awhile.  Ask your friends what they do for their cardio, and maybe join them to see if you like it too.  When was the last time you changed your routine?  Time to get moving!

See you at the gym!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Lessons Learned From The Incline

Summer is here and in full swing!  Being outside and active is probably one of my favorite parts of this time of year, before it gets too hot.  This past weekend, a friend organized a group to climb what’s known as “The Incline.”  The hiking trail people rate it as extreme and that’s not an exaggeration.  It’s a physical and mental test, followed by an awesome sense of accomplishment once you reach the top.

First, a little background about The Incline.  Located in Manitou Springs on Pikes Peak, it’s a retired stretch of cog railway.  There are railroad ties that guide you the distance of approximately one mile, with an elevation gain of approximately 2,000 feet.  The steps are uneven and it gets steep in places.  It’s known to challenge people of all fitness levels.  You don’t have to climb down the same way; there’s a trail nearby that you can take and wind your way down (useful if you have questionable knees).

Our group had a wide range of fitness levels, and each of us completed the full hike (there’s a bail out point just past halfway).  The fact we all made it to the top reminded me of the power of a group.  We all supported each other, and cheered as each one climbed that last step.  Even though we all went at different paces, we reunited at the top.

The Incline reminds you to pace yourself.  If you happen to get going faster than your mind AND body is willing to allow, it’s okay to stop and catch your breath, allowing your leg muscles to recover for a moment.  This hike is a one foot in front of the other type of hike…stick with it and you’ll reach your destination.

It’s a natural thing to find yourself outside of your comfort zone on The Incline.  Maybe that’s why the feeling of accomplishment feels so awesome at the finish.  Looking at it, you might wonder what you were thinking showing up and if you can finish it.  Good news is that you probably can, if you just set your mind to it.  Some Olympians master the climb in less than 20 minutes, others might take more than two hours, but they all have the finish in common.

As I plan my workouts this week, I keep in mind these points, more than normal.  A group can support you in a challenge, pick a pace that is challenging yet achievable and, most important, keep going!  Here’s a few pictures for you to check out.

See you at the gym (or maybe on a trail?)!!