Trail Running Adventure
It’s time to take that same old routine run around the neighborhood and turn it into a wildlife adventure. Wherever you live, there is a good likelihood that accessible trails are nearby. Trail running allows you to enjoy the beautiful scenery nature has to offer while simultaneously getting an excellent workout. The following information will help you transition your roadside or treadmill run to the great outdoors.
Types of Trails
- Rails to trails—All over the United States, unused railway lines have been converted into multiuse trails. These trails are flat and well-marked, which is perfect for somebody making the transition from road running. Surfaces are typically dirt, gravel or paved. Find a rail trail near you at www.railtrail.org.
- Groomed trails—Many local outdoor sites such as rivers, creeks and parks have packed-dirt paths. These smooth, soft surfaces are a great way to reduce impact without the added hazards of rocks and roots.
- Hiking trails—The most difficult of the three, hiking trails typically have obstacles such as rocks, roots and uneven surfaces that challenge your balance and running mechanics. These trails make for a great workout, but be cautious and start with a hike run. Run the flat sections; walk the hills and tricky terrain.
One of the biggest reasons why people aren’t utilizing these breathtaking trails is that they don’t know where to find them. Don’t let this simple problem interfere with your adventurous side. If you have Internet access, just search for trails in your area and you will be amazed by how many have been hiding from you. Always select trails that have been tested and recommended by others.
Not only is running on a trail more entertaining than the road, it can also deliver a more intense workout. It typically provides a greater challenge to your balance centers and stabilization muscles as you work to climb the trails and control your descents. Furthermore, running on a straight road does little for your senses, while trail running tends to keep you focused on the obstacles, keeping your body and mind guessing.
The correct equipment will be the difference between a good experience and a potentially unsafe experience. Given the type of terrain you are running on, a good pair of trail running shoes is paramount. They offer better lateral and heel support than standard running shoes and usually have a heavier tread pattern for traction on the trails.
Trail running may involve water, possibly soaking your socks and shoes. Traditional cotton socks increase the likelihood for blistering. Select socks made from synthetic fibers or the newer breathable socks that help keep your feet cool and help prevent blisters.
When running trails at altitude, sudden temperature changes are possible, so layer your clothing. Wear clothing that allows your body to cool, yet wicks away moisture from sweat. Wet clothing against your skin may shuttle necessary heat out of your body, especially at higher, cooler altitudes.
Taking a pole or stick with you is always a good idea. Not only can it help stabilize your body over tricky terrain, but it can also come in handy when fending off any unexpected wildlife.
Safety and Running Tips
- Hike a trail for the first time to become familiar with it, then progress to a run. Never run alone, especially when running on trails far off the beaten path.
- Carry various forms of communication devices with you. Examples include a whistle, satellite-GPS device or cell phone in case reception is available.
- Carry some basic first-aid supplies. Examples include bandages, some athletic tape, a knife and anti-bacterial ointment.
- Distribute the weight of items evenly around your body. Try to carry most of the weight at the hips.
- Bend your knees during descents to prevent possible knee injuries from hyperextension. Also avoid leaning back excessively on descents to prevent your feet from slipping out from under you on loose surfaces.
- Keep your head up to enhance forward momentum and drive with your arms from the shoulders, not the elbows.
- Use shorter strides on steeper terrain for energy efficiency and increased power.
Gathering Support for Your Active Lifestyle
Staying active and fit in a largely sedentary culture takes effort and, at times, may feel like more than you can handle. Even the most dedicated fitness enthusiasts and athletes go through times when they just don’t feel like exercising. Set yourself up for success by creating a personalized support system to help you stay on track.
First, pinpoint the obstacles that sometimes keep you from being active. Examples include long working hours, home responsibilities, procrastination, lack of energy and bad weather. Next, think about the kind of support that would make a difference in getting you up and out the door when hitches happen.
Could your supervisor lighten your workload, so you can leave on time? Could your spouse or partner cook dinner 2-3 times a week, so you can squeeze in a workout? Could you purchase some rainproof outerwear? Sometimes, all it takes is some planning, preparation, and problem-solving to get the job done.
Identify friends, family members, neighbors or co-workers who share your enthusiasm and interest in staying active. Talk about your fitness goals, and ask about theirs. Invite others to join you for a group fitness class, a brisk walk, or a fun run. Exercising with a friend offers both accountability and social fun. And hanging out with an active crowd increases your odds of sticking with your exercise program.
In fact, one study found that people tend to imitate the positive or negative behaviors of others around them. Subjects had a greater level of self-control when surrounded by others with strong self-control and exhibited poor self-control when surrounded by subjects who behaved badly. The effect of role modeling was so strong that even when subjects simply thought about someone with strong or weak self-control, they behaved similarly. Researchers concluded that self- control, or lack thereof, is contagious. If you’re serious about leading a fitness-focused lifestyle, foster friendships with people who will reinforce your healthy habits.
Tell It Like It Is
One of the most important ways to get support for staying active is simple. Just ask for it! The key is to be specific. Your spouse may believe that nagging you to get up early to go for a run is supportive, but you may feel differently. The people in your life aren’t mind-readers. Chances are, they’d be glad to offer support, if they knew what would be most helpful.
You might not even know what you want. So, give it some thought before you recruit support partners. Write down exactly what you’d like to say and then say it. Review these examples, and jot down a few of your own:
* Would you like to meet me for a 30-minute walk, twice a week?
* If you could watch the kids after work on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I could visit the gym for a workout on the way home.
* It would really help me to check in with someone about my exercise progress once a week. Would you be willing to do that?
Tap Into Everyday Resources
Gather reliable fitness news updates via magazines, books, podcasts, and online portals. Staying up-to-date with fitness research, trends and training tips supports your active lifestyle, helping you cultivate a fitness mindset and keeps your exercise program fresh.
Smartphone apps, online programs and even auto-alerts can help you remember to exercise and track your progress. Your employer may offer discounted gym memberships or personalized health coaching as part of your health benefits package.
Getting fit and staying active can be work at times, but offers priceless rewards. You are not alone. Check around to see what’s available and take advantage of every opportunity to build support for physical activity into your daily life.
What You Need to Know About Group Indoor Cycling
Some call it torturous, others exhilarating. But there’s no denying the popularity of group indoor cycling. What sets these classes apart from the usual boredom of stationary cycling is the visual imagery provided by instructors. Participants are led on a “virtual” outdoor road race, complete with hills, valleys, straight-aways and finish lines. But before you reserve your spot (many classes are so popular that reservations are a must) and start composing your victory speech, there are few questions to ask yourself, as well as a few precautions to take, to make your first ride a smooth and enjoyable one.
What kind of shape am I in?
This question is crucial. Despite its heavy promotion as a workout for even the most uncoordinated participant, indoor cycling is by no means for everyone.
The intensity levels of many classes are far beyond what most novices or part-time exercisers can achieve and maintain, particularly for 40 minutes or more.
It’s easy to get caught up in an instructor’s chant of “Faster RPMs!” and “Don’t sit down!” even if your body is telling you otherwise. And because not all fitness facilities are able to offer classes tailored for beginning exercisers, it’s important that participants either be in very good cardiovascular condition or have the ability to monitor, and adhere to, their body’s cries for moderation.
Get in Cycling Shape
Just because you may not be ready for a cycling class now doesn’t mean you can’t be in the very near future. Consider doing some cycling-specific training before you take your first indoor cycling class. Spend some time on a stationary bike, but make it interesting by creating your own virtual experience by “traveling” some of your favorite road trips in your mind as you listen to music. You can increase your endurance by interspersing periods of higher-intensity cycling (faster speed, greater tension) with more leisurely pedaling. In just a few short weeks you’ll be ready to sign up for your first indoor cycling class.
Indoor Cycling Essentials
The following helpful tips can make your first cycling experience a positive one:
- Don’t make the dreaded mistake of showing up in running shorts or heavy sweats; there’s no better way to make your ride unbearable. Opt instead for bike shorts, preferably padded ones like most outdoor cyclists wear. While this won’t eliminate the possibility of chaffing and discomfort altogether, it helps a lot.
- Your second most important item is a full water bottle. Get ready to consume plenty of fluids before, during and immediately following your workout.
- Adjust the seat to the appropriate height. If the seat is too low, you won’t be able to get enough leg extension on the downstroke and your legs will tire out faster. If it’s too high, you’ll be straining to reach and might injure yourself. Here’s a good rule to follow: Your upstroke knee should never exceed hip level, while your downstroke knee should be about 85% straight. And don’t grip the handlebars too tightly, as this will increase the tension in your neck and shoulders.
- Ask your instructor about his or her training. In addition to cycling knowledge, an instructor should have experience teaching group exercise and have earned a primary certification such as the only NCCA-accredited Group Fitness Instructor certification, which is offered by the American Council on Exercise (ACE). Look for an instructor who encourages perceived exertion measures and/or heart-rate monitoring and is willing to get off his or her own bike to coach beginners.
- Above all, concentrate on exercising at your own pace. Don’t be intimidated by the high speeds and furious intensity of your cycling mates. Listen to your body and adjust the tension and speed accordingly, and don’t be afraid to slow down or take a break when necessary.
What a Workout!
In terms of heart rate, oxygen uptake and energy expenditure, group cycling compares favorably to other aerobic-type workouts. The caloric output associated with a standard 45-minute group cycling class can range from 350 to 600+ calories depending on the size of the participant and the intensity level of the class. Clearly, group indoor cycling classes provide a challenging, high-intensity workout.