Look, it is always important to stay healthy and active. Running is a perfect form of exercise that not only improves cardiovascular activity, builds muscles and helps burn calories, but can also provide therapeutic ability for those looking to clear their minds. That being said, we can all point out someone who sort of takes the whole jogging thing a bit too far. Whether it is suspending your lunch break to get a quick 5k dash in or missing a friend's wedding because it was on the same date as the New York City Marathon, there is such thing as runner's obsession. While an addiction to sprinting is better than a dependency to cheeseburgers, there is a difference between exercise and a fetish. Here are 10 signs that you could be obsessed with running.
Your kids are always late to school
If you are often finding yourself having to explain your child's tardiness to your teachers as a consequence of good weather and a new pair of running shoes, then you just might have a problem. Remember, education is always first and foremost.
Justifying your dessert
When it gets to a point where every slice of cake or scoop of ice cream is being carefully calculated by how many calories in each spoonful divided by the amount of miles jogged this morning, perhaps it's time for an intervention.
You are in a meeting for work, fingers constantly tapping the table while your face is dripping with sweat. But this is not because you forgot to fill out your TPS reports. Your condition is the result of not being able to conduct your morning run because you accidentally slept in. Hopefully your boss doesn't notice.
Re-examining your wardrobe
This is your third weekend of shopping in a row, except none of these trips have resulted in a new dress or an expensive suit. Instead, your possession of compression shorts, headbands and tank-tops has increased by nearly 300 percent.
You are feeling a tad fatigued
You have canceled dinner reservations at your favorite seafood restaurant, turned down free tickets to the opera and chose not to spend the weekend at your father-in-law's beach house in Connecticut. Why? Daily marathon training has completely eliminated your social life. Remember that taking a break sometimes is just as important as reaching the finish line.
Knowing the neighbors too well
If you are finding yourself becoming aware of the fact that your nextdoor neighbor Carl only mows his lawn on Tuesday mornings, Cindy down the street never bothers to pick up after her cocker spaniel or that Chris likes to put up his Christmas lights in late October, perhaps your neighborhood jog is happening a tad too often.
Frequent beard compliments
If running has become such a huge priority to your mornings that simple hygienic actions have taken the back burner, you might need to step off the treadmill and look into the mirror. Remember, beards are always better on island castaways and guitarists in cheap sunglasses, not on young professionals such as yourself.
Your dog hates you
This could either happen because you take your dog with you every time you decide to run several miles, or you don't take your dog with you every time you decide to run several miles. It really depends on whether your pet shares your enthusiasm for exercise.
Awkward water cooler conversations
You are running so much that you have absolutely no idea who won the football game, which movie won best picture or which celebrity checked back into rehab. As a result, no one wants to talk to you at the office, and your colleagues have stopped inviting you to Friday happy hour. Enlighten yourself and catch up on your pop culture.
Your spouse is suspicious
Your poor significant other is spending another morning reaching across the bed and waking up to an empty indent of where the person they love once used to keep them company. Your spouse might start to suspect something if your excuses for your constant absences are, "I went out for a jog." Rekindle that fire and at least invite them along for the run.
Winter is on its way out and it's time to start toning those arms and flattening those abs! The arrival of spring is the perfect time to kickstart yourself into shape, and with tons of outdoor activities to choose from, you shouldn't have a problem finding the right fitness motivator for you. Here are some easy and fun recreational activities that tone muscles, strengthen immune health and don't require a membership.
Harvard University professor Dr. Ralph Paffenbarger once conducted a study that analyzed more than 10,000 people over a span of 20 years who played tennis three hours a week. His primary finding from his research was that just three hours of tennis per week will cut your risk of death, from any cause, in half. Sounds like a small price to pay for doubling your chances of life longevity. The start and stop quick aerobic motions of tennis help increase your heart rate and burn calories while also working out muscles in your arms, chest and legs. The hand-eye coordination and game strategy involved will also stimulate your brain. Try getting that from the treadmill.
While there's always indoor volleyball for those not near the beach, serving up shots and spiking balls on the sand is a great outdoor exercise that won't sacrifice leisure. According to researchers at Harvard Medical School, participating in just 30 minutes of beach volleyball can burn more than 350 calories for a185-pound person. Beach volleyball is also a combination of improving balance, toning muscles and enhancing your reflexes. Plus, it's not a bad way to work on that post-winter sun tan.
It's time to ditch the stationary treadmill and strap on the helmet and kneepads! Rollerblading is a great way to move around outside while getting your workout on. According to the Mayo Clinic, one hour rollerblading for an 160-pound person will burn a whopping 550 calories, which is more than jogging or swimming. Rollerblading can increase flexibility and stamina. Also, it puts less stress on your knees and other joints so you won't be as sore the next day.
This is a game that's about as carefree as you can get, but it still provides good exercise. The rules of ultimate frisbee are similar to football, except no one gets tackled and winning isn't the main objective. Just 30 minutes of running around tossing a frisbee with your friends can burn 150 calories, not to mention it's a perfect way to spend a splendid spring day outside.
When we think of superstar athletes, we normally tend to envision competitors with bulging biceps and endorsement deals. Vegetarianism is not commonly associated with jocks, but the fact of the matter is that more and more athletes are going vegan or vegetarian while seeing amazing results on the playing field. These athletic powerhouses get all the nutrition they need from tasty fruits, beans and protein powders. Here are just five great athletes who are also vegetarians:
Eighteen Grand Slam singles titles? Check. International Tennis Hall of Fame member? Check. Oh, and she is also a vocal supporter of animal rights and a vegetarian. The Czechoslovak tennis legend turned pro at the age of 19 in 1975 and dominated the field for more than 20 years. Navratilova has been very passionate about animal rights, appearing in numerous PETA advertisements throughout the years. She's been labeled by sports magazines as the greatest female tennis player of all time. All the while, Martina has been a vegetarian.
Crowned the "Olympian of the Century" by Sports Illustrated, track and field icon Carl Lewis credits his record breaking performance at the 1991 World Championships to his adoption of a vegan diet. Lewis has won ten Olympic medals, nine of them gold, which has him tied for second in all-time Olympic gold medals won by any athlete. Lewis's domination lasted for more than a decade: he conquered world records in sprinting and high jump, while being a vegan since 1990.
In 2008, NFL player Tony Gonzalez signed a new deal with the Kansas City Chiefs that made him the highest paid tight end in the entire league. He celebrated his payday by switching to an all-vegan diet, something that many men with his physique and physical demand could not fathom. The result was becoming the all-time leader in receiving yards and touchdown receptions for a tight end in the NFL. Gonzalez proudly campaigns for animal rights with PETA and he is a great example of how you don't have to be beefed up to be brawny.
While he's known for being a physical menace and tyrant in the ring, mixed martial arts fighter Jake Shields has a soft spot for animals. The wrestling and MMA champion has been a lifelong vegetarian and proudly displayed his dietary habits on a poster for PETA that stated, "I'm living proof that you can run further, train harder and pack a meaner punch without eating animals."
Triathlete Dave Scott is living proof that you don't have to eat animals to be a true iron man. Scott is tied for the record of most Ironman Triathlon gold medals with six, and animals have not been part of his regimen throughout his long career of swimming, cycling and running. If you are unaware of what exactly the Ironman Triathlon consists of, it's a brutal 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile marathon run. No animals were harmed in the making of Scott's legendary gold medal run.
Benefits of a vegetarian athlete
Ditching the red meat in favor of savory veggies can still provide the proper nutrients and minerals you need to maintain your athleticism. Veggie burgers, tofu, beans and nuts are just a few of the foods that can offer a meal packed with protein. Vegetarian foods are abundant in complex carbohydrates, which are essential for nourishing your muscles with energy after a hard workout. According to the American Diabetic Association, becoming a vegetarian will lower your risk for the following:
- Weight gain
- Poor digestion
- High blood pressure
- Bad cholesterol
- Decreased energy
These athletes are living proof that cutting out the meat in your diet doesn't mean sacrificing results. Try going vegetarian today and start living healthier.
If you're new to trail running or running in general, you should know that the sometimes rough and uneven nature of the terrain requires specific footwear that will stand up to the unpredictability of trail running and protect your ankles in the process – road-running shoes just won't do the trick. As spring is just around the corner, here are some helpful tips for purchasing your perfect pair of trail-running kicks:
Trail-running shoes are great for muddy conditions and wild paths that are covered with potential tripping hazards. The outsoles on trail shoes are stiffer than road shoes, and they also have deeper lugs – the raised rubber parts on the bottom of your shoes. Additionally, the tread is made of a stickier material that adds an extra layer of traction. The most important thing to know about trail shoes and their traction elements is that you should not use them on pavement for long periods of time because the lugs and entire tread will wear down very quickly.
Shoes for trail running typically have a stiffer sole as well as protective toe counters at the very front of the shoe to protect you from toe injuries, so keep an eye out for this element, which is easy to overlook. Good trail shoes do not have a mesh toe, which can be easily punctured.
Of course, it's very important that your trail-running shoes are comfortable and have some cushioning. However, it's a good idea to look for a shoe that has a thinner midsole than what you might expect. Yes, cushioning for support and comfort is important, but too much could keep you from sensing irregularities in the trail, which could actually cause your ankle to wobble and experience less stability. By having some sense of the brush, twigs, rocks and uneven trail surface underfoot, you'll be more able to adapt.
In general, people prefer lighter shoes. You might expect trail shoes to be a bit heavier due to the added structure necessary for protection and support. But do your best to find a shoe that is just light enough while still having the necessary toe protection, traction and other elements to be stable and supported on the trail. This is because the heavier a shoe is, the more energy you expend running.
There's a new trend in all types of running shoes known as minimalism. The point is to allow your foot to move in a more natural way, as if you were barefoot. These shoes are typically almost feather-light, and many people suggest this is better for your body because the sneakers are very flexible. However, regarding running on trails, minimalist shoes – even if marketed for rugged terrain – really are not ideal as they have less stability, ankle support, foot protection and durability than standard trail-running footwear.
If you'll be trail running in hot or dry climates, go for a breathable mesh upper portion of the shoe to reduce the likelihood of blisters. But try to find a weatherproof upper with a tight weave, which will keep out debris when you're running in environments with loose rocks, sticks and brush. A waterproof upper is good if you're running in very wet climates so as to avoid blisters caused by the rubbing of wet socks against shoes.
Mid-foot, trail shoes should be pretty snug. However, toward the front of the shoe, you want a space about the width of your thumb. And, when your foot lies flat, there should be no pinching along the sides. This is very important because during long runs, our feet usually swell. It's good to have al little room for that or you will be very uncomfortable. Also, pick trail shoes that fit well in the heel so your foot doesn't slide around.
Curling has long been a sport of obscurity for most of the world. For some reason, the sight of burly men buffing sheets of ice to slide 42 pound stones at rings never gained widespread appeal. But over the last few decades of Winter Olympic games, curling has climbed out from the ranks of anonymity and captured the curiosity of viewers worldwide. With more recognition came more responsibility for the curlers, and there eventually came a time for the pioneers of the sport to put down the pale ales and cut down on sausage in exchange for protein powders and vitamins.
Curling takes muscle
While curling has long been referred to as "chess on ice," the sport has transformed into more of a finesse game than just a mental exercise. For starters, it takes a lot of muscle to swiftly maneuver the brooms back and forth across the curling sheet to create a smooth path for the stone- or the rock, to glide towards the house – or the goal. Have you ever felt a little sore after shoveling the driveway or mopping the floor? Well those sweeping motions are constantly being used by curlers. Curlers attribute their sweeping stamina to plenty of push-ups and bench presses during training.
Another favorite exercise for curlers are lunges. It's hard to remember that at the end of the day, everything that curlers do depends on their ability to maintain balance on the ice. This means they need to have stability in their legs, which can easily be provided through lunging exercises. Lunges target your legs, quads and glutes. A simple exercise is to stand with one foot flat on the ground in front of you, while you stand on the ball of your other foot on the ground behind you. Slowly drop to one knee, bringing it as close to the ground as possible, then walk forward, rotating each leg until you've reached a wall. This exercise is the most essential for any curler.
Fitness isn't just a fad for these curlers. Veteran curler and Canadian Olympic medalist John Morris is the author of "Fit to Curl", a book that focuses on his intense workout plan to maintain his elite athletic status. In his book, Morris attributed the change in curlers' attitudes toward exercise to that of golfers:
"Tiger Woods credits his fitness levels for some of his extraordinary success, and most professional golfers are no longer strangers to the weight room," Morris said. "I believe that fit curlers can enjoy an even bigger edge over less fit players than golfers do."
You can get a good look at how these curlers' training impacts their 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics performance beginning Friday, February 7th.
Two beloved winter activities of all snow-dwellers and even people from warm locales are skiing and snowboarding. In fact, for many people, hitting the slopes is the one bright spot of a very long winter. Whether you’re an avid boarder or a beginning skier, here’s what to know about each winter sport as it pertains to burning calories, working the muscles and being prepared:
Different muscles are used during skiing and snowboarding. For example, while snowboarding, you use your quadriceps and hamstrings to get the board moving, and your calves, hamstrings and quadriceps are all used to make turns and guide the board. However, balance is also a huge part of snowboarding, so you engage your core muscles and those in the feet and ankles to stay upright and maintain the often delicate balance required.
Skiing also engages the core muscles for balance and stability, as well as those in the ankles, feet and calves for eversion – or turning the sole of your foot outward to put your skis on their edges. Additionally, the hamstrings and quadriceps are engaged while bending your knees, which helps stabilize the knee joints to prevent ACL tears. But skiing also uses the gluteal complex muscles – in fact, they’re vital for skiing. The stabilize other muscles, assist in flexion and help external leg rotation, which is important for steering your skis. Finally, skiing also engages arm muscles, especially when using poles to drag yourself along on flat surfaces at the bottom of the runs.
In general, even just one hour of downhill skiing or boarding burns an enormous amount of calories. However, there are many variables determining just how many calories one burns, including the intensity of the slopes, the quality of snow, one’s weight and height, the level of effort exerted and the speed you reach.
On average, an adult that weights between 110 and 200 pounds will burn between 250 and 630 calories per hour while snowboarding or skiing, depending on all of the above factors.
Pre-snow sport workout
If you don’t stretch and work the muscles you use for these downhill sports, you’re likely to feel quite sore for at least a few days after. At least a week before heading out on a ski or boarding trip, here are some things you should know, consider and do to be at your peak fitness level for winter sports:
Strong muscles will make it easier to last longer on the slopes. Skiing can quickly tire the quadriceps, and the same is true of the calves for snowboarding. You can do weight training for hamstrings, thighs and arm muscles as well as core conditioning exercises. It’s also good to bike to prepare the leg muscles.
Having flexible joints will help reduce your chance of injury. If you don’t feel particularly flexible, start stretching a few weeks in advance of your trip so as not to damage a tendon or a ligament.
Skiing and boarding are very aerobically demanding, specially for people who live at lower altitude levels but travel up into the mountains to ski. Before going on your trip, do cardio like swimming, stair training, step aerobics or running – all aerobic activities that will help you deal with the lower oxygen levels.
Exercising and stretching
Here are some good stretches and exercises to help you get prepared for your day in the snow:
- Side-to-side jumps to help your hip, lower leg and thigh muscles
- Forward lunges with weights for thighs and core
- Squats for thighs and core
- Single weight exercises with weights to hone your balance
Maybe you're an avid runner or biker but you live in a snowy region that makes these activities very difficult or impossible to do for several months out of the year. Or perhaps you're looking for a new outdoor activity that is both enjoyable and a great workout. If so, now is the time to try your hand – or foot, rather – at snowshoeing!
Why snowshoeing rocks
Snowshoeing actually started thousands of years ago among people who lived in and near the mountains as a way to get around more easily without sinking into the snow. Today, snowshoes aren't a necessity, but people enjoy using them for recreation. Here's why:
- Snowshoeing is easy – if you can walk, you're good to go. It doesn't involve too much balance or complicated technique as do skiing or snowboarding, though there are some tips that could help you get the hang of it even more quickly.
- It offers an awesome workout! Depending on the terrain and how quickly you move, you can burn between 400 and 1,000 calories in just one hour of snowshoeing. Here's a calculator to help you determine how many calories were burned during your workout.
- It's low-impact. This wintry sport doesn't put too much stress on your knees, hips and other joints, but it still is a great form of cardio exercise.
- It's a versatile sport. People of all ages and abilities can enjoy it, and you can traverse terrain that you wouldn't be able to on skis due to low-snow and closely spaced trees.
- It extends your running or hiking season. Many runners turn to snowshoeing because it can maintain their high level of aerobic activity and build strength. The unstable, snowy surface plus "weights" on your feet – snowshoes – give you a heavy-duty workout.
- Unlike beginning many other new sports, it's inexpensive. All you need is snowshoes, poles (if you want them) and, of course, the proper clothing, like water-proof, insulated boots, coats and thick socks, though it's likely if you're an avid outdoorsperson that you already have many of these items.
The snowshoes: There are three types of snowshoes, depending on the terrain you will be traveling:
- Aerobic or running: These are good for families and beginners and are meant to be used on flat terrain.
- Recreational: Recreational snowshoes are larger and a bit heavier. You can use them on moderate walks on rolling hills, or on terrain that is a bit rougher.
- Mountaineering shoes: These are meant for very serious hill-climbing, long-distance travel on rough terrains, including for those who want to walk on steep, icy and backcountry areas.
Its been said that toning your arms gives your body a whole new look, making you appear fitter than you are. Toned arms can build confidence about your body, and if you're looking to get fit, the arms are a great place to start because the muscles shape up pretty quickly! Even just a month of a quick, 10-minute routine three or four days a week can show fabulous results.
Here are some exercises to try in whatever combination you choose:
Standing arm circles are a great way to warm-up and they also give your biceps, triceps and shoulders a workout. With your feet flat on the ground and your arms stretched out to your sides, start, moving them in fast circles forward. Do this until you get tired before reversing the direction. Make sure to pull your bellybutton in, strengthening and elongating your core. When you get tired, take a break before doing the arm circles two more times, both forward and backward.
This is a great workout that just requires a yoga mat and hand weights between 3 to 5 pounds, depending on your current strength. To start, lie on the mat with your knees bent and feet flat in a sit-up position. Extend your arms straight up with one dumbbell in each hand. Do a sit-up, contracting your abs and slowly curling up. At the same time, bring your arms forward toward your knees, holding them for a second just above the knees, before slowly reversing to your starting position. To make the move more difficult, add in a chest press. When you're in the curl position with your arms stretched out and the weights above your knees, pull them dumbbells in toward your chest and then straighten your arms again before moving back to the starting position.
You'll only need a mat and a pillow for this move, which works several muscles: the triceps, shoulders, abs, back, butt, thighs, chest and calves!
Place your pillow at one end of the mat on the floor and your hands on the pillow. Walk your feet into a plank position, making sure to keep your back straight. Extend one arm out to the side, then lift it, holding for three to five seconds before returning to the starting position. Stay in the plank position and extend the same arm straight in front of you, holding for a few seconds before returning to start again. After 10 reps, switch arms.
Runners, especially beginners, often wonder what surface is the best for distance running. While some surfaces are obviously superior to others, the answer to this question can differ depending on your physical abilities, goals, and other needs. Here are the pros and cons of various popular running surfaces:
Tracks today are typically made of synthetic materials like recycled tires. The pros of running on track are that the surface is squishy and forgiving, meaning the softer surface somewhat lessens the impact on your knees and other joints when running. Tracks are excellent for speedwork because they have essentially no barriers, as opposed to running on earthy trails. Also, you can accurately measure your run and time yourself as most tracks are exactly 400 meters per loop.
However, tracks aren't the best for everyone or every type of running. If you're running distance – two miles or more – being on a track can be tedious. A lot of people like a change of scenery for their long runs. Additionally, the long curves on each lap are rough on the ankles, hips and knees, putting undue stress on those joints.
A lot of people enjoy running on the treadmill. One pro is that it doesn't require any special gear to stay warm or cool, outside what you'd normally wear, since you're indoors. Also, treadmills allow you to measure precise distance, calories burned, heart rate and other things that runners often like to know to gage their progress and performance. You have a lot of control when you're running on a treadmill, and the smooth surface is pretty easy on the knees, legs and back, which can prevent injuries.
However, there are some cons to treadmill running that are especially potent for distance and performance runners. For starters, because of the support you get from the moving belt during treadmill running, your hamstrings don't have to work as hard as they would otherwise. Also, treadmills are consistent. This can be a good thing, but if you're gearing up for a 10k or a half marathon, the terrain will surely not be as predictable as the treadmill surface. It might instead be good to train on less smooth terrain, at least occasionally. Another con is that treadmills do not provide a breeze. This means that there is no wind resistance to push against – which can give you an even better workout – and you'll also probably sweat profusely because air isn't rushing past to cool you.
The positives to running on concrete are few, but the surface is flat and if that means you're running on a sidewalk, you're likely to be pretty safe from traffic. Many city-dwellers spend much of their time outside running on concrete. The cons of concrete is that it's an incredibly hard surface – it's made of crushed cement, after all, and is said to be 10 times harder than asphalt. Concrete gives your knees, ankles and legs the most shock and should be avoided if at all possible.
If you have to run on the street or sidewalk, hit the pavement or asphalt instead. It's easier on the joints and is typically flat (save for a few potholes) so it will put less strain on the Achilles' heel than some even softer surface that are uneven.
Trails, grass and earth
The ground and woodland trails are your best bet for distance running outdoors. A golf course-type surface is ideal, in fact, though it's unlikely most people have access to that. Still, running trails in the woods are good because they have enough give for your knees. However, if you're working on speed, stay away from these surfaces because it can be difficult to measure your distance and you could get tripped up (literally) by roots and other debris on the messy trails.
Running a marathon – the famed 26.2 – is a huge deal. Not everyone can do it, and it takes a lot of perseverance, hard work and a vision. If you're a casual runner considering taking on your first marathon, here are some tips for you to get started and ready to rock it:
Believe it or not, there's actually a lot to do before you begin marathon training. Here are some of the steps that will see you on your way to marathon completion:
- Check with your doctor to get the green light for the vigorous training that running a marathon requires.
- Get fitted for good running shoes. A specialist at a fitness store can watch you walk and run, and by examining your gait, he or she will be able to help you decide which pair of shoes is right for you. Bring in your old running shoes as well – some experts like to examine the wear patterns.
- Get your other gear. Talk to fitness experts at a specialty running store, or ask around with friends who are hardcore runners. They can recommend the best socks, shorts or tights and other products and materials that eliminate chafing and will keep you cool (or warm) during your runs.
- Schedule your runs. Being consistent is important in marathon training, so before you begin, make sure you have a set time each day for running, lifting, stretching and everything that marathon prep entails.
- Learn about proper nutrition and hydration, and begin practicing it right away. You can find plenty of information online or consult with other runners to see what they do. Consider adding sports drinks, complex carbs and protein meal replacements – like Naturade Total Soy – to give your performance diet a boost.
Realize that you need to follow a training plan that is quite regimented, but that it's important to deviate from the plan if you have an injury or are not feeling 100 percent. Here are some basic training tips:
- Keep a training log and record your distance, times and how you feel each day you run. You should also monitor your heart rate each morning before running and keep it in your training log. You'll have a baseline and will know that if your heart rate spikes, it might be time to relax the workout a bit.
- Run three or four days per week. One day should be focused on distance, two should be focused on speed and one should be a recovery day where you take it easy.
- Consider adding two days of strength training per week, which can include yoga, Pilates, weight-training or something similar.
- You should increase your distance by no more than 10 percent each week. The gradual increase is important to prevent injury. On each third or fourth week, cut back on your miles for that week.
- Give yourself at least one day per week to do no running.
- Add cross-training like cycling, rowing or swimming to your routine. You should do these activities for only 45 minutes up to two times per week.