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.
It seems so funny that one simple cannon ball-shaped instrument could have such awesome effects on the body. Cross-fitters everywhere are doing intense, quick workouts to tone up and build muscle, and people everywhere are catching on to kettlebell's total-body benefits. Here's a short, intense workout for men that targets all of the body's major muscle groups using only an amazing kettlebell and of course your own strength and body weight:
The 20-minute kettlebell workout
- Warm up with a swing – a basic move for beginners and a good starting point. For the swing, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and the weight in both hands straight in front of you. Then, bend your knees and squat down, swinging the kettlebell with both hands between your legs. As you rise to a stand, swing the kettlebell back up to eye level, but control its movement. Do 10 to 15 reps. Do a rep of squats with the kettlebell as well.
- After you feel sufficiently warmed up, jump right into the windmill – a more difficult move. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, the kettlebell in your right hand held straight above your head and your feet pointed 45-degrees toward the left. Then, keeping your right arm straight in the air, push your hips to the right and slide your left hand down your left leg, bending at the hip. This gives you a great core and shoulder workout. Do 10 reps and then switch sides.
- Then, work your arms with curls. Hold one weight in each hand and curl them up as if you were holding regular hand weights or a barbell. The benefits of doing curls with kettlebells is that the weight hangs lower than your grip and the uneven balance causes you to work extra hard. Do 12 to 15 reps.
- Repeat the above circuit two times, adding in a few other movements that you like.
Type 2 diabetes is a serious disease that affects people worldwide. However, if you are at risk of developing it, there are many steps you can take to prevent diabetes
What is diabetes?
In Type 2 diabetics, the body either cannot produce enough insulin or the cells do not recognize the insulin produced. The problem with this is that insulin is necessary to transport glucose – formed from the foods we eat – to the cells throughout the body. When there isn't enough insulin or the body ignores it, glucose can build up in the blood, leaving your cells energy-starved, you tired and lead to serious health problems like kidney failure or heart disease.
What are the risk factors?
Type 2 diabetes has some hereditary factors, but there are lifestyle and other issues that can make your risk higher. Here they are:
- Having high blood pressure
- Being overweight or obese
- Having low HDL (good cholesterol) and/or high triglycerides
- Not getting enough exercise
- Being 45 or older
What you can do to prevent it
Many of the risk factors leading to the development of diabetes involve lifestyle choices. Here are some things you can do to lower your risk of Type 2 diabetes:
- Get enough exercise. This is especially vital for people in sedentary jobs. Most adults need at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each day. This can help you lose weight, cut your blood sugar levels by boosting the body's sensitivity to insulin. Do a workout regimen that includes both cardio and strength-training.
- Eat healthier. Start including more fiber and complex grains in your diet. Fiber is found in whole grains, nuts, fruits, vegetables and seeds. Add more of these foods to your diet. One place to start is by eating an apple, rather than drinking the juice, because the fruit itself has soluble fiber. Another easy thing to do is substitute whole grain bread for whole wheat or white bread. Fiber and whole grains help control blood sugar, leaving you fuller longer. They also can boost your good cholesterol and lower the bad cholesterol, also known as LDL.
Cut back on the sugar, and rather than doing a fad diet, focus on making healthy food choices every day!
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.
Many of us spend a lot of time thinking about physical health in general, and we mostly talk about it in terms of "staying fit" and "losing weight." But there are other reasons to exercise consistently, such as for boosting your mental health or preventing future injuries. One very important reason to stay active and exercise in certain ways is to promote bone health and ensure that our muscles can support healthy and strong joints to prevent arthritis, osteoarthritis and other types of pain.
Knees are the joints most commonly affected as we age, but other areas commonly affected are hips, shoulders and ankles. The goal of exercising for joint health is to do strength training, which strengthens the muscles surrounding the joints and promotes stability and balance. Here are some good exercises for joint health:
- Squats strengthen the muscles around your knee and hip joints. To do one properly, stand with your feet hip-width apart. Bend at your knees, lower your hips, keep your stomach pulled in tight and your body straight. Then come back up.
- Do yoga, tai chi or Pilates to strengthen your muscles in a low-impact way.
- Strengthen your hip muscles by doing standing side leg lifts. Stand straight, holding the back of a chair if necessary. While keeping your hips and shoulders facing straight, lift your leg to the side, do 10 to 15 reps and holding each for five seconds.
- Swimming is an excellent low-impact exercise with great cardio benefits. You can boost muscle strength without hurting your joints.
Aside from exercising, you can maintain joint health by eating well, keeping a healthy weight, stretching and avoiding too many sedentary activities. You can also try a supplement for joint health like Naturade FlexAid Advanced Joint Formula, which contains natural ingredients for flexibility, mobility and joint comfort, including vitamin D3, glucosamine and collagen. It also contains Univestin®, which has Cutch Tree and Chinese Skullcap extracts.
On November 7, the FDA announced that partially hydrogenated oils, which are responsible for trans fats, are not safe as a food product. After a 60-day comment period, it seems likely that makers of processed foods will be required to eliminate the use of all trans fats by a certain date.
The danger of these artificial products, which are often used to make processed foods last longer, is that not only do they raise your LDL levels – or bad cholesterol – but they also lower the HDL – the body's good cholesterol. Researchers have found that aside from having absolutely no nutritional value, trans fats – due to their effects on cholesterol – can cause the build up of plaque in the arteries, leading to coronary heart disease, blood clots, heart attack and other very serious cardiovascular issues.
Thankfully, trans fats have become minimized in American diets over the years as awareness of their dangers has grown. Trans fats information was required in 2006 to be on all food labels. The FDA reports that the average American's consumption of trans fats per day has decreased from 4.6 grams in 2003 to 1 gram in 2012.
Still, food producers often switch from trans fats to saturated fats, like palm kernel, palm and coconut oils, which are not considered healthy but rather a lesser evil than saturated fats. On the other hand, monounsaturated fats, which are found in peanut, olive and canola oils, are healthier options.
It's important to read the nutrition label on any foods that you buy. Here are the processed foods in which you will often find trans fats – at least for the time being:
- Frozen pizzas
- Microwave popcorn
- Processed desserts
- Coffee creamer
You've probably never heard of bromelain before – most people haven't. But bromelain might do some pretty cool things, so you'll likely want to learn more.
Bromelain is an enzyme extracted from the stem and in the juice of a pineapple, though it is found in all parts of that juicy tropical fruit. Pineapple has been used in Central and South America for hundreds of years as a treatment for indigestion and inflammation. One of the biggest insights that researchers have gathered about bromelain is that it might reduce inflammation in the body due to infection.
Here are some of the other things that bromelain might be good for:
- Treating swelling in the sinuses and nose, ear and throat after surgery or trauma to those areas.
- Potentially removing dead tissue from very serious burns.
- Soothing coughs and reducing nasal mucus and inflammation in the sinuses due to hay fever.
- Treating arthritis and osteoarthritis when used in combination with rutin and trypsin.
- Possibly killing some viruses and bacteria, though more research is needed.
- Curbing effects of ulcerative colitis and other inflammatory bowel issues.
Bromelain might also be effective in preventing muscle soreness immediately after exercise. If you're interested in trying it, you can find bromelain in Naturade 100% Whey protein booster.
Hemp is a plant with many uses,and it is found in products such as diapers, canvas, biodegradable plastics, socks, fiberboard, soap and cosmetics. The seeds from the hemp plant – called cannabis sativa – are very nutritious. In fact, hemp seeds have one of the highest amount of proteins of any food – only soy has more.
Hemp is a complete protein, meaning it contains all eight essential amino acids that are sufficient to meet our bodies' protein needs. Additionally, hemp is easy to digest because it has the globular proteins albumin and edestin that dissolve easily. As if these reasons weren't enough to include hempseed proteins into your diet, they also are high in omega-3 and 6 fatty acids – fats that are important for heart and brain health. While red meat and dairy products are good sources of protein as well, they can be too high in saturated fat. In contrast, hemp has very low levels of saturated fat and is a great option for vegetarians and vegans to get sufficient protein and other nutrients in their diets.
Finally, hemp protein is sustainable. It grows easily in many environments, and it grows tall very quickly, choking out weeds. Thus, there is no need to use pesticides on hemp products. Compared to other sources of protein like animals, soy and other crops, hemp protein is less environmentally damaging and more cost-friendly.
If you're considering trying out hemp seed as a sustainable and highly nutritious protein source, one good way to start is buy trying Naturade's VeganSmart All-In-One Nutritional Shake, which contains hemp seed as just one non-GMO plant-based protein in its complete protein blend. VeganSmart is gluten-, cholesterol-, trans fat- and dairy-free and it contains probiotics and digestive enzymes for gastrointestinal health.
A food allergy is when the body's immune system is triggered to produce an abnormal response upon the ingestion of certain foods. These responses can range from the annoying, like an itchy mouth or hives, to the more troubling and sometimes life-threatening, like vomiting, diarrhea, trouble breathing and tightening in the throat, and drop in blood pressure.
About 5 percent of the U.S. population has food allergies, and 90 percent of all food allergies are due to these eight foods:
- tree nuts
While children often grow out of their milk and egg allergies, these and other allergies can persist into adulthood. For adults engaged in fitness who require a lot of protein for muscle-building, this can be difficult to do with allergies to animal proteins like milk, eggs, shellfish and fish. For example, people with milk allergies cannot enjoy traditional protein shakes made with whey and casein, which are two proteins from milk. Soy is another very common cause of allergies that can make things difficult because soy is in so many of our foods today.
However, if you are allergic to one or more animal products or soy, this doesn't mean you can't enjoy a protein shake. Instead of whey or soy protein powders, choose one made of other vegetable proteins. Naturade offers two excellent dairy- and soy-free options, including VeganSmart All-In-One Nutritional Shake and Naturade Pea Protein.
VeganSmart is all-natural and gluten-free. It contains 20 grams of non-GMO protein, 6 grams of dietary fiber, probiotics, heart-healthy omega-3s and 22 vitamins and minerals.
Naturade's Pea Protein gets its protein boost from yellow split peas, which are also an excellent source of fiber. It is gluten-, cholesterol- and GMO-free and contains nothing artificial.
Whether it's the sign of a still-struggling economy, an increased appreciation for physical fitness or concern over environmental destruction, people in cities across the U.S. are increasingly turning to biking for more than just recreation. According to data from The League of American Cyclists, between 2000 and 2011, bicycle commuting rose by 47 percent!
And it turns out the city governments are getting on board too. Both Chicago and New York City recently implemented bike-sharing programs that have seen pretty solid success with only a few setbacks.
Of course, some cities are more bike-friendly than others, which includes measures like the number of protected bike lines, trails and bike-only streets as well as the availability of bike shops, racks and service stations. In no particular order, here are some of the cities both large and small that have been consistently named as some of the country's most bike-friendly cities:
- Portland, Ore.: Portland's bike culture – which was established long before that of other cities due to some excellent infrastructure – is alive and well. An impressive 8 percent of citizens use bikes as their primary form of public transport, while 10 percent use it as a secondary form. Portland also hosts various biking events and races each year. It has 65 miles of bike paths, 175 miles of bike lanes and almost 30 miles of low-traffic biking boulevards.
- Minneapolis: Minneapolis really pampers its cyclists with indoor bike parking and on- and off-street bike facilities to make sure that residents continue to enjoy the city's 120 miles of biking facilities both on-street and off. The cities flat terrain is likely a boon for bicycling enthusiasts.
- San Francisco: Since 1973, the City by the Bay has had one of the highest percentages of commuters on bike. On its 2011 Bike to Work Day, a whopping 75 percent of traffic on the busy Market Street thoroughfare downtown consisted of cyclists. San Francisco also has commuting incentives for those who take the Caltrain from the suburbs with their bikes in tow and then hop on their bikes upon getting off the train to cycle the rest of the way to work.
- Chicago: In total, the city of Chicago has more than 300 miles of bikeways, which include on-street bike and shared lanes. Plus, the city has a lakefront trail that stretches 18.5 miles along Lake Michigan. You can bike from nearly the north end of the city to the south without having to share space with automobile traffic.
- Washington, D.C.: The District was the first big city to implement a bike sharing program, which has more than 1,200 bicycles at 140 stations around the city and nearby Arlington. The biking community isn't as strong here as in other major cities, but all types of people bike here. The city has 11 miles of bicycle lanes and 10 miles of signed bike routes.
- Madison, Wis.: This college town, home to the University of Wisconsin, is one of the most bike-friendly around. At one point, the city recorded nearly 11,000 bike trips through the downtown area per day during peak biking season.
- New York City: With its brand new bike-sharing program, NYC has become a much more bike-friendly city. NYC has a great network of car-free trails and paths, including one that runs several miles along the length of Manhattan and the Hudson River. Also, massive Central Park is bicycle-friendly and car-free!
- Boulder, Colo.: Beautiful Boulder is surrounded by 120 miles of trails, and a whopping 95 percent of its main streets are bike-friendly. This must be at least part of the reason that 10.5 percent of Boulder's residents bike to work.