Thursday, May 28, 2009

Preventing Osteoporosis with Your Long Slow Cardio Event

Osteoporosis is a bone degenerating disease that leads to potentially dangerous (even deadly) bone fractures. Commonly discussed as a risk area for aging women, if you're thinking that this problem is just for the girls, think again! Recent research at the University of Wisconsin shows, that while "While a 50-year-old woman faces a lifetime risk of 50% for an osteoporotic fracture, anywhere from one in eight to one in four 50-year-old men face that risk."

Further, the complication and death rates for men are higher than for women.

But wouldn't you know it ... one of the best ways to avoid osteoporosis is to maintain a regular resistance program! If you're not regularly exercising, we can certainly help you with that. Additionally, now that we're basking in 15+ hours of daylight, your long slow cardio event can help there too!

Because if you're following our prescribed cardiovascular programming recommendations your weekly cardio efforts will include:
  1. One short duration, high intensity event (SDHI)
  2. Two moderate duration, moderate intensity events (MDMD)
  3. One long duration, low intensity event (LDLI)
Sundays, early mornings, and late evenings are perfect times to get out and complete that Long Duration, Low Intensity (LDLI) event.

But just what, exactly, is Long Duration? And Low Intensity?

Generally, you'll want the long duration, low exercise event to be measured in hours, preferably closer to 2 or 3. But it shouldn't feel exhausting.

You'll want to pick up your heart rate just a bit, but not so much that you're really challenging your circulatory or respiratory systems. The increased blood flow provides much needed nutrient rich blood to your muscles, bones, and joints.

Under the stress of more intense exercise (resistance or cardio), muscle fibers, tendons, and ligaments all get damaged a bit. This is by design, as the rebuilding/recovery that follows makes them stronger, longer, or leaner. It also increases bone density, which is why it's particularly effective in avoiding osteoporosis.

Additionally, conversion of energy sources to energy produces a toxic waste product called lactic acid during exercise. The more intense you exercise, the more lactic acid you produce. This waste product is the primary reason why you may feel sore after resistance exercise: your body doesn't like the lactic acid hanging around muscle groups. Stretching can help help eliminate lactic acid buildup, but we mostly depend on the circulatory system to flush it out.

Your LDLI then, provides an important niche role in assisting with your recovery: upside nutrition for your recovering tissues, and increased blood flow to remove lactic acid waste product.

If you have a heart rate monitor we can tell you exactly what range to be in for this exercise.

Or ...
But before you start thinking "... hey, I'll just do that daily then ..." , do recognize that this only has practical value within a comprehensive program that includes prescribed resistance training as well as more intense bouts of cardio work. It's part of the puzzle, but a lost puzzle piece by itself.

Exactly what you do for your Weekly LDLI will depend enormously on your current fitness level, but here are a few suggestions.

Walk. The lakes, the rivers, and the bridges all have excellent separation from traffic. And the intensity of a brisk walk is exactly in the right range for LDLI exercise. Again, check this handy tip from RealAge to gauge intensity.

Nordic Walk. If you want to do even than better than just walking, start nordic walking. Long popular with the skiers for summertime training, nordic walking has a leg up on just plain walking in that with the use of hiking poles you:
  • Engage your entire body in the exercise
  • Improve Core Strength and Stability (lower back and abdominals)
  • Increase Shoulder and Arm muscular endurance
  • Improve the safety and stability of your walk, especially for geriatrics
... thereby burning an additional 45% more calories than with walking alone!!!

You can stick to the urban trails, or get onto the many city and county park hiking trails (Hennepin County Parks, Ramsey County Parks). You can get your hiking poles at REI, or one of the many area cross county shops: Finn Sisu in St. Paul, or Gear West in Long Lake.

Ride your Bike. Check out my May 7th blog entry on commuting by bike to work!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Drug Dealing at your Local Supplements Store

In 1994 Congress passed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA). Unlike nearly everything else you put into your mouth, this legislation allowed supplements to be sold with no proof of effectiveness or safety, or approval from the FDA.

The burden of ensuring the safety of supplements, according to the DSHEA is not the Federal Government's responsibility. It is, instead, up to the manufacturer.

Supplements in this legislation were broadly defined as vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids and other products that don't contain approved pharmaceutical drugs and don't claim to treat disease.

So, it's really caveat emptor in this space.

And, how have the manufacturers done in ensuring the safety of their consumers? Well, while most manufacturers have done a fair job, a few of the more aggressive manufacturers, those primarily serving the more aggressive consumers, have done rather poorly, and in fact may have even killed a few people along the way!

Here are a few failures:
Suffice it to say that just because it's on the grocery or supplement store shelves, that doesn't mean it's good for you! Even today, it is still quite common to find Yohimbe and various (sometimes extremely high concentrations of) Caffeine sources in most energy drinks and diet products.

Even more frightening is the fact that the manufacturing of supplements is completely unregulated. Check out this re posting of an article in this Month's Sports Illustrated Magazine. Are you buying supplements from or designed by a former auto body restorer with no expertise in nutrition, chemistry, or physiology?

What to do?

First, read the nutrition and ingredients label on the product before you put it into your body. Chances are that if you can't pronounce the ingredient you might not want it. Seek natural, if not organic nutrition bars, powders, and meal replacement products. Do some research on the active ingredients listed if you're unsure of it's effect. Do you really know what things like Garcinia cambogia and Gymnema sylvestre extracts are, and what they might do to you!?

Second, if you take supplements, use them in moderation. We like to suggest no more than one supplement per day. Supplements are not food.

Drink More Milk! If you've just completed a resistance training workout and are seeking a high quality, low carbohydrate protein food, look no further: a double serving of skim milk fits the bill with about 16 grams of protein.

Or, if you've just finished up on an aerobic workout, and in need of a few more carbohydrates, Chocolate Milk is one of your best options! Low in fat, and with an approximate 4:1 proportion of carbs:protein, chocolate milk has the exact proportions supplied by the most popular post endurance athlete products.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Increase Your Metabolism to Burn More Fat

It's May 15th and it's bike to work day!

It's also bike to work week, and May is Bike to work Month.

Guess I'll have to ride at least 3 times today!

But because I bike to work at least twice a week anyway, the day isn't too unique on my commuting calendar. In fact, I actually drove my car to the auto shop for some repairs this morning with my bike on top of it! And then I biked to work from there! (or, more accurately, biked to workS from there, because I work in multiple locations).

But all of that got me thinking a bit about how the internal combustion engine in your car creates motion and heat analogous to the way your body creates motion and heat. Your car's engine combines fuel and oxygen to create thousands of tiny chemical reactions that run your car's engine. The faster these (extremely quick) reactions (called explosions) occur, the faster your engine runs. The primary fuel types are octane and, to a lesser degree, ethanol, both (carbon based) organic compounds. Byproducts of this chemical reaction are heat, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and other carbon particles.

Your body similarly uses (carbon based) organic matter as fuel for motion. Carbohydrates, Fats, and Proteins ... all organic compounds... undergo chemical reactions with oxygen that contract muscle fibers. We even talk about it the same way: " ... doing some cardio to burn a few more calories." A Calorie, is in fact the amount of energy required to raise one gram of water 1 degree centigrade. So, 'burning calories' is technically, literally, and figuratively accurate. But we also call it metabolism. At the chemical level metabolism is merely the production of heat through the conversion of energy sources into body motion. Our bodies are, therefore, heat producing machines! The byproducts of metabolism is (like the internal combustion engine) heat, carbon dioxide, and other carbon particles.

How, and in what proportion these fuel sources are utilized is fully described in my Heart Rate Zone Training to Look and Feel Fantastic report. Or, check out my Fat Burning Myth blog from a few months ago for a quick tutorial. The philosophy is quite simple: the larger your metabolic engine, the more fuel you require. So, if you have more body fat fuel clinging to your bones than you'd like, making your metabolic engine a bit larger will help, quite literally, to burn off that fuel.

So, here are a few tips for boosting your metabolism, consuming more fat, and looking better than ever in your summer swim wear!

1. Increase your lean body mass. Lean body mass includes bone, blood, and muscle tissue. Increasing your lean body mass allows you to consume more energy when you exercise, but, and more importantly, increased lean mass allows you to consume more energy when you are at rest. And we are typically at rest as much as 95% of the day, so having a larger, idling engine burns more fat. Lean body mass is living, "breathing", calorie consuming tissue that continually requires fuel. And just as a large SUV V8 engine will consume a lot more fuel than a compact 4 cylinder engine, the larger your body's fuel consuming engine, the more fuel you'll consume.

2. Increase your exercise frequency. As mentioned back in December, Exercise Quickies will boost your daily metabolism: two smaller workouts per day will consume more energy on the whole than a single, longer workout. Additionally, the recovery period following those workouts also requires elevated metabolism. Maybe you really should start walking the dog each morning!

3. Just move more! Exercise yes, but also find ways to simply use your body more. While no longer available, the American Heart Association ran the Just Move campaign for years with this sole objective. Check out my Spread Office blog for ways to be more active in your sedentary office job. Bike to work instead of driving! Use the good old fashion hand masher tool to mash your potatoes instead of the mix master. Carry your groceries. Park in the most remote section of every parking lot you drive to. Etc. Here's a good collection of other ways to turn your daily chores into more active events.

4. Take advantage of our Promo! 10 sessions for a referral!? That's $800 in training! Or, try us out for a week of training for just 99 bucks!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

May is Bike Month. Minneapolis St Paul Cycle Commuting Primer

May is National Bike Month. Bike to Work Week is May 11 - May 15. And Bike to Work Day Friday, May 15th!

And wow, cycling to the office gets a day, a week, and a month!

Biking to work will save you some gas money, reduce greenhouse gases, and help get you a bit more fit all at once! Plus, you can then handle that loaded Chipotle Burrito for lunch without even thinking twice about the 945 calories therein :-)

But there are a few tricks for making it enjoyable and easy. So, here are my 6 Secrets to Successful Cyclist Commuting on your bike here in the Twin Cities:

1. The right Gear. You don't need to spend thousands on a bike or clothing, but you do need to have a well maintained bike and layered clothing. Go to your local bike shop to get set up (NOT Walmart or Sams). If you end up riding a lot (3+ days per week), you would do well to get fit for your bike - bike shop specialists match the geometry of the bike to the dimensions of your torso, arms, and legs. The basic gear will get you started, but if you do spend extra, spend it on rain gear: you will get caught in the rain at some point in your commuter lifetime, and being prepared to ride in the rain will help keep you in the saddle.

Additionally, despite the highly enviable fashion appeal of bright, multi-colored jerseys, most cyclists really are not pretending to be from the Tour de France: they're simply trying to BE SEEN and remain upright on the roadways! And you should too. As it turns out, the best materials and workmanship normally do get tattooed with logos and sponsor graffiti (which helps pay for the more expensive materials), so they are indeed popular with experienced cyclists. What's important is that you own something very brightly colored to be seen on the road. Yellow, Orange, and Red are best.

2. The right route. Planning a route is essential. And rewarding. You will discover and appreciate roads and neighborhoods cycling to work that you would otherwise never see. However, some planning is required. Your local bike shop will have local maps for commuters. First look for routes that overpass freeways where auto traffic does not interchange with the freeway, and plan the rest of your commute around those: the most dangerous part of any commute is crossing a freeway where cars and trucks are accelerating into merge lanes to jump onto the on ramps. Mornings tend to be better than evenings, but you will want to avoid freeway interchanges. Bike pathways, bike lanes, and other wide avenues are normally well marked on local bike maps, but you will sometimes find local residential street routes just as bike friendly.

Plan on trying a few different options: you'll need to experiment a bit to discover the best places to cross arterial roads, avoid traffic, avoid traffic lights, and feel separated from or safe with auto and truck traffic.

3. The Right Backup Plan. Perhaps most important of all - have a Plan B. Identify service organizations (coffee shops, convenience stores, bike shops) along or near the route that might come in handy if you have a breakdown, get caught in a storm, or need to rehydrate. Carry a cell phone so that you can always call a cab for a ride, or call 911 if you're really in trouble. Beware, however, that if you do call a taxi you will need a physical street address for a pickup ... "The Park by the river bend" will not work.

4. The right light. Lengthy Minnesota days are a true delight for cyclists. Mid summer you can start as early as 5:45AM and finish as late as 9:00 PM without the need serious lighting. For these hours, you need just two things: $25 flashing headlight and a $25 flashing tail light. Buy and use these if you're riding before 8:00AM or after 7:00PM. While you may not notice any light from them, twilight hours, shadows, and sun glare make seeing cyclists difficult for motorists when the sun is low on the horizon. You'll need a more expensive halogen system if you ride earlier or later, and as daylight diminishes towards fall.

5. A change of clothes. Plan to sweat a bit, especially in humid summer conditions. You have two choices: you can either carry a pack, or bring a change of clothes to your office the day (or days) before your ride. Supply your office with soap and sundries if you are privileged enough to work for an employer who has a shower and locker room. If not, stock your change of clothes bag with a supply of pre-moistened handy wipes. HOT TIP! Baby butt wipes do a fabulous job of cleaning the crevices and deodorizing after a ride. You'll smell a bit like baby powder for a day, but do your co-workers a huge favor!

6. The right place for your Bike. Many offices and office building have bike racks for daytime storage. It's plenty safe to leave your bike there if it is a well lit area with plenty of foot traffic. If it's secluded, however, or in a bad neighborhood, or if you're in love with your bike (which isn't too crazy - heck, mine have names!), or if you simply want everyone in your office to know that you are riding your bike to work (it is contiguous!), you may prefer to stow it in your office or someplace nearby.

In 30 years of riding to work, I've never been denied access to my office with my bike. You may get some curious looks and a few raised eyebrows, but no one will tell you that you can't bring your bike in the building. It is sometimes more convenient and less conspicuous to take the freight elevator or service entrance to avoid other workers arriving before you clean up and change. Mingling with coworkers in biker shorts can be awkward.

So there you have it! Enough to get started! Do Post a comment if you have a tip I've missed!