Saturday, March 28, 2015

Rest Day

You shall work six days, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during plowing time and harvest you shall rest.

Even though the quote is from Exodus 34:21, this is not going to be a devotional message on the Sabbath and keeping the Sabbath, rather it's going to be about exercise and rest days.

This past Thursday I did something unique to me, I took a total day off from all workouts. The only time this happens is if I am traveling somewhere and don't have the time. I will say I've taken mornings off, but usually I work out some time during the day, or catch up after work. But not Thursday. A total day of no exercise.

Part of it was due to the fact I did over do Wednesday and figured I had a few sore muscles that required a chance to rest. This did get me thinking about the concept of resting from exercise. I will say I'm one of those people who don't miss too many days of exercise. Part of the reason is that I like the workouts I have, another is the fact I need the points on Skimble. After all, there are a lot of people doing workouts and getting points and I don't want to lose my position overall, or even with those I follow. This is important and is a strong motivation. After all, I look at the standing as an important indicator. I believe I did mention that it leads to friendly competition. Still there are times when a rest is a good thing to have.

I'm not going to pretend to be an expert on understanding the whole human anatomy thing, I just know myself and I think I'm a good indicator. Needless to say, if I don't know, I'm going online to read what I need to know about any subject, and distill some of it and share it with the people who read this blog. I also figure if you read this, you and I probably share a few characteristics, such as a desire to keep exercising and feeling healthy. We know what it's like to not be in shape and getting sloppy with life. We also don't want to go there ever again, so we work out. I came across this one paragraph:

Whether you’re just starting a training program or have been a fitness fanatic for years, you’ve probably experienced an “exercise high,” the feeling of exhilaration a lot of people experience during or after exercise. It’s brought on by the release of hormones called endorphins that serve as natural pain relievers in the brain. It’s those same endorphins that can make exercise feel addictive, sometimes making it difficult to take a much-needed break. Read more at
The challenge then becomes how to ensure you keep the balance. Life is all about balance, work, rest, family, good times, down times, up times. Just as all things in moderation, so it must be with working out and exercise. There are some issues with not take rest times. I know from my running experience, it is important to take some time off, especially if there is an injury. The body and the muscles need the time to rest. I'm now learning it applies to everything. The muscles need the time to rest, recover and rebuild. The same article has this paragraph:
After any intense workout, the body needs time to recover. Some of the best ways to do so include taking a day or two off; doing a lighter, less intense workout, also known as active recovery; eating nutritious food that includes lean proteins, some fruit, whole grains and plenty of vegetables; and getting regular, consistent sleep during which time your body repairs muscle. Read more at

This goes under the category of 'nuff said'. I'm learning this is important. I appears that without the rest, the effects become almost negative from what is wanted.

Taking a day off from your workouts allows your body to properly recover from training stresses. Proper muscular recovery ensures that you can perform the best you can during your next workout. Failing to take regular days off between workout sessions can lead to overtraining syndrome. Overtraining brings on a variety of negative effects like sleep disturbances, depression, fatigue and potential weight loss.
The quote is from LiveStrong. Here is the link.

As for taking the rest, it felt good and I didn't feel guilty for it. With this in mind, I'm sure I'll take at least a day a week to simply relax and enjoy.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Winter Gear Money's Worth

A person I follow on DailyMile,suggested they got their money's worth on all the winter gear they had purchased. They also suggested it is now time for winter to go away.

Her extra post:

Here's the good thing about this winter: I've gotten every penny out of my investment in my expensive winter running gear. Now, I'd like to get to make use of my investment in my spring and summer gear. So, winter, it's been fun but that's enough now. Time for you to go home.

If you are on Dailymile, may I recommend following Kate? Good runner with some good comments. Has recorded some very nice runs.

It got me thinking of all the new equipment I had purchased over the winter and how I was able to use all of it.

First of all, I got a great polar fleece jacket for doing the Resolution Run in Kitchener. Trust me it was worth running and getting that as part of the goods. I've worn that a whole lot of times over the last three months, and I can say 'three months', because I've had to wear it a few times this month.

Purchased a few new layers to wear and yes, been wearing them as part of the three or four layers I had to don when going out, nothing like putting two, three or four layers to slow down the process.

Finally got a pair of mitts to wear over my running gloves. There are times when gloves simply don't do, need the extra layer and the warmth that can be generated by two pair of gloves. Plus it's easier to move the fingers. Got it through the Mountain Warehouse store at the Niagara Falls Outlet Collection Mall. I want to suggest if you're ever in the Falls area, just make the trip on the QEW back to St. Catharines, and you will have a good time at this Mall. Stop and enjoy a David's Tea there, as well. Plus there is a Reebok store and you know how much I like Reebok equipment.

The new Toque from OneMoreMile, a great store for some of the best and funniest running shirts etc. This year, my toque had this message: "Training For The Zombie Apocalypse". A good slogan and makes you think.

So that's the list of things I've bought. You know, not one bit of it was wasted, certainly wore everything more then once.

It's now waiting for Spring to makes it's appearance I can wash all those things and put them away.

Keep working out everybody.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Finish Line Etiquette?

Every so often some small controversy stirs up in the running community. It's small but big enough to either make one shake the head or froth at the mouth. A while back it had to do with the definition of a runner vs a jogger. The premise was that unless you could run at a certain pace you were a runner, slower and you were a jogger. This causes some consternation and comments. Most agreed that if you put on runners and headed out a door, you were a runner. Of course the best definition was the one that stated "Joggers are the ones that find the dead bodies".

Okay, so probably not true at all. I mean, who wants to find dead bodies.

I digress

It seems this had been silenced by the fact that being a runner means you run. It's not determined by pace, but determined by desire. How fast do you go, as the motivation poster says "4 minute mile, or 12 minute mile, it's still a mile." It is, this is what makes running such a great community. We all experience the same joys and challenges. Yes there are those who are in the category of elite, and those we look upon with awe and wonder. Just how do they make running those distances look effortless.

Another issue that seems now to be cropping up is some sort of changes to finish line etiquette. What is coming across is that some believe you should not pass anybody as you near the finish line. I belong to a group on Facebook called "Pathetic Runners", and someone brought this forward as a comment and a question. From what I've read, the sentiment is not shared by anybody in the group. In fact the opinion is straight on 100% opposed to this belief. One person even asked who told you this, the people you smoked?

I got just a few problems with this, the first and foremost, it is a race. It may be called a run, or a fun run, but if there's a clock then there's competition. Listen, I'm not that fast and most of the times I'm the one getting passed by the faster people, but every so often, the magic happens and I catch a person going up a hill, for an example that I know I can handle. I am not going to hold back, I will keep my pace going and run.

Also, the sprint at the end can be exciting. I shared a story of my experience. This happened a number of years ago at this little fun run. A simple little 5K, fundraiser type of event; I was approaching the finish line and there was a small group of about 3-4 to pass. I must have figured I could pass them because I picked up speed, I'm not sure how far but it was fairly close. So I pass them, then one person decided he couldn't let me do that, and he picked up speed, and I picked up speed, and he picked up speed. In other words, we were racing. I can remember thinking how I wasn't sure this was that smart of a thing to do, but did I stop? Nope, we kept up with each other and it was, in my thinking intense. We both crossed the finish line neck and neck. Must have been a tie and we both were bent over trying to put our lungs back into our chests. We shook hands and congratulated each other on the run.

That's why we sprint, because we are determined and it becomes even better if the person besides us decide they can sprint as well. Also most races have a clock at the finish and that becomes motivation. I did one race, I have the photo of me at the finish line and I'm looking like a total dork. The reason for this is simple to look at the photograph, it's a sub 30 minute time. This was going to be my first sub 30 in quite a number of years. I made a turn and saw the clock. I realized I could do it and I sprinted. I don't know if I passed anybody because that was not my goal, I wanted the time. I think that's probably true in a number of cases, we don't notice anyone else because we're looking at the clock.

There is a certain number of rules of etiquette for the finish line, the most important is to keep moving, don't simply stop because no one will see you and you will get hurt. Here are some of them:

Simple and straight-forward, don't let the banana man beat you.

I guess what I'm saying is this, when I hit the finish line I'm going to be using all the energy I have left. It's nothing to do with poor energy or race management, it's the fact I want to finish strong. A run represents hours of training in all sorts of weather and conditions. It's the fruition of the dedications that was needed. I will sprint, I will run fast and if I pass you, it is nothing personal. If you pass me, which is likely to be the norm at the end, I won't mutter anything under my breath about you, because I will be too busy concentrating on finishing the race. I might simply congratulate for your good run, if I see you.

If you wonder why you should finish strong and kick it up a notch, just watch:

Monday, March 16, 2015

150 Minutes

I'm sure I've read this before, and today I read it again. I was reading an article from this month's issue of Running World magazine. By the way I just started a subscription- it was a real good deal for 1 year and I couldn't resist. After all, $12.00 for 11 issues, that's a real sweet deal. Couldn't resist. After all, I pick up a copy practically every month and the cost for an issue is about $6.00 so it was actually a no-brainer.

Anyway, the issue was the Weight-Loss Special. The article in particular had the headline of how to run your way lean. The premise of the article was that burning more calories is better then limiting calories. The title is "A Weight Loss Manifesto", the way to get slim and stay that way. It's so important right now, since we are experiencing a time when obesity is at an all time high and the cost associated with this is getting higher and higher. Some estimates put the costs at about $2 trillion per year. With health costs on the verge of getting out of control, if its not already, then th

ese are not good numbers. What the problem is, this is not a disease without a cure, it has a simple cure, to defeat obesity, you lose weight. I know there the problem now becomes how do you do this. Is it diet, is it exercise, is it a combination. Some experts in the field will states that exercise is important, but it's more important to curtail the calories. It all goes back to our present lifestyle, which is filled with high caloric food and low movement during the day. We tend to sit. I look at my job and I'm afraid it's probably typical for this age, lots of sitting in front of a computer. I have to remind myself to stand up and do some moving.

The key to this is both food and exercise. Not just a diet as in the latest book on the market, but rather one that is filled with the right type of food. A diet that is not filled with processed food is a good start. A diet that contains a lot of fresh fruit and vegetable is the way to do it and that is part of the equation. As for exercise the key seems to be 150 minutes of moderate intense aerobic exercise and in that, two sessions of muscle strengthening exercise. What is amazing, it is a universal fact. Documents from the American Heart Association, the World Health Organization and Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology , all point out that for an adult between the ages 18-64 it is 120 minutes a week. The type of exercise is varied and is open to whatever makes you feel good. Aerobic and strengthing can help. From running, walking to anything that moves the body is part of the plan, and some sort of cross-training that strengthens the muscles and bones. Over the course of 7 days, it works out to less then 20 minutes a day. One of the easiest ways to look at it is 30 minutes a day for five days. Most articles say its fine to take the weekend off, and have a relaxing time. Or, the weekend will be a good time to make up the deficit of what's lacking for the week. Of course, the concern might be if you become a 'weekend warrior', doing all the exercise in an intense period rather then spreading it over the whole seven days.

When you look at it, what's 150 minutes? It`s the equivalent to watching or not watching 5 episodes of a 30 minute show. Or the better way of looking at it, don`t watch that 30 minute episode of the show. You can always watching it another time and with this Internet things, it`s probably some place online. I`m watching the `Big Bang Theory', it is an episode I've seen about a dozen time. So you might be asking why I'm not exercising. Do you really need to ask? Okay, I did a 68 minute run this afternoon and my usual 45 minute morning work-out of strength training and some aerobic. So I can watch.

I know the issue is time, well, then why waste those 30 watching the same program over and over again? It is a matter of priority. The key is to get those muscles moving and loosen up. It is important to exercise what you have. One muscle that needs a good workout has to be the heart muscle, in fact you need to get it in shape. It works better when it's worked hard. The last muscle you want to have a cramp in, is the heart, because a cramp there is called, umm, a heart attack.

Keep fit. Find that time. it's a matter of what becomes important in your life. We can always watch the Big Bang at the different time, of course you might have to give up another show. Seriously, it's important to your life. I know I've been accused of being some sort of exercise fanatic but after spending a couple of weeks in intensive care, it wakes you up to the importance of a fit life.

I have to say, the Canadian poster reminds us to run, walk, wheel and embrace life. Embracing life makes it important to have the least amount of limitations to embrace and enjoy. Also it adds one of the best ways to exercise is enjoy the family through outing. Again it all about getting moving and doing something that changes your life for the better. Go for it.

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Plank

If you do a search on the term "Plank Exercise", you will get 11,900,000 results. By that account, it has to be agreed that the Plank may be a very popular form of exercise.

I know I made mention of the plank in a previous post, in that it helps to strengthen the core and help with the climbing of hills in the run. A strong core helps with all aspects of the run, and certainly any demands such as hill climbing.

What about the Plank. if you read the Wikipedia entry, you have this:

The plank (also called a front hold, hover, or abdominal bridge) is an isometric core strength exercise that involves maintaining a difficult position for extended periods of time. The most common plank is the front plank which is held in a push-up position with the body's weight borne on forearms, elbows, and toes. Many variations exist such as the side plank and the reverse plank.[1][2] The plank is commonly practiced in pilates and yoga, and by those training for boxing and other sports.[3][4][5][6] The plank strengthens the abdominals, back, and shoulders. Muscles involved in the front plank include: Primary muscles: erector spinae, rectus abdominis (abs), and transverse abdominus.[citation needed] Secondary muscles (synergists/segmental stabilizers): trapezius (traps), rhomboids, rotator cuff, the anterior, medial, and posterior deltoid muscles (delts), pectorals (pecs), serratus anterior, gluteus maximus (glutes), quadriceps (quads), and gastrocnemius

About 5 years ago, I decided to start doing Plank exercises as part of my weekly workout. I went for a 2 minute elbow plank, of course I realized it wasn't going to be that difficult. After all, I do push ups and chest press, my upper body is in good shape, so these would be fairly straight-forward to do, or should I say easy to do. That was my feeling and so with a certain level of confidence, and perhaps a bit of arrogance, I pushed "play" and started out. It was simple and straight-forward, It was easy and I felt I had this, then I reached the 30 second point of the exercise. Yeah I didn't even last 60 seconds for the first time. I was hitting the pause button for an extended rest. Then the ugly truth hit me, this is not an easy exercise. If I was planning to do planks, I had to realize this was not something to toy with, and if I ever did, I would pay for it with exhaustion. It took a couple of weeks but eventually I managed to go a full 45 seconds without hitting pause, and then a full minute. While I regularly do a minute or so with various planks, I can up it to at least 2 minutes wihtout any problems. I should say and point out the world record for a plank is over 4 hours. I'm not sure what type of plank was held for the total, but that's a long time in one position.

That's the important part of the Plank, unlike a lot of other exercises where you work the muscles, this is keeping still. As the definition states, it is an isometric exercise, meaning that the muscles are kept still. It is a static exercise, which can give strength rather then tone the muscles. Some have pointed out this makes sense since the core needs to be kept still for it to be strong. You are not contracting and expanding muscles, you are using the core as the support for all the upper and lower muscle groups. This is why, as a point, it is an important exercise for running. When running, the core is the centre and holds the muscles to work together to propel. It is where the extra strength for the body to move forward during the challenging parts of a run, such as hills.

The key of the Plank is to remain still, at least the core, there are a lot of different planks which bring about movement to some part of the body, such as the legs, the hips or the arms. But the middle, the core stays still. It is recognized as an exercise that has a positive impact for both men and women. In the search, there are articles for men and articles for women. Of course you might notice the difference in the title, for men, it's strong abs, for women its sexy abs. I suppose the opposite could be said for men, it will develop the sexy abs and for women, strong abs. But we have this sexist issue don't we.

The great aspect regarding planks, is that you will never get bored, because you don't have to do just one style. The first style is probably the elbow plank, which is the most simple and has the less impact on the arms. After that, there is the full plank, which is a push up without moving. You hold at the top of the push up and just stay there for one minute, two minutes and so on and so forth. It's a matter of how long you want to hold the plank. After these two, there is the side planks. Instead of two arms, you move the body to one side, balancing on the one arm and leg and hold the position. There is the elbow, or half side plank, or the full or arm plank. There is variations to those as well. . If you want to get some movement to part of the body, there is threading the needle, while the first two side mean you have an arm that doesn't do anything, and the usual suggestion is to point it up in the air, this one means you put the arm underneath the body and bring it out, like you're threading a needle.

Those are just a few of the many, the key to all of them, is to form a straight line from the heel to the neck. Don't sag or over-compensate, but try to keep it straight, this is where the strength and exercise is the best. This is where the isometric exercise kicks in and brings about the development of the core. We can add the reverse plank, the various one armed planks, the elevated, the declined. One can bring the Bosu Ball into the mix and have even a greater variation. This will add the aspect of constant compensation, but in small doses, so it remains isometric, with just a little added kick.

If you decide to start doing the plank, you have to understand what will happen. What are the benefits to the Plank? One article suggests there are at least five benefits. I suggest you follow the link and read them for yourself. While reading them, I wonder if the most important may be the "Reduced Back Pain", with our sedatary lifestyle, we are open to having back problems. Couple this bad sitting posture with the fact we probably lift with a horrible pose, we are asking for back aches and chronic problems back there. To compensate we do an exercise which develops and strengthens the core, it has to be a positive experience and so we are saving our back by developing our core muscles.

Another question needs to be, how long should I hold a plank. Most believe the best for most people is to reach 2 minutes. This is a good time and it will give a lot of strength. If you get going with the plank as exercise, then you'll probably want to push the limit. A number of sites present a 30 Day challenge. The challenge and goal is to reach 5 minutes for the plank. If you can be still for that length of time, you have done something. Of course, other sites will question the length of time, most point out that 2 minutes may be the best time and anything after that will not bring any impact to the overall fitness.

Of course, like everything, for the many who are positive, there are always a few detractors. This is not a negative statement, but a word of warning, with everybody saying how great the plank is, there is nothing wrong with reading opinion on the other side. One auther suggests that planks are overrated. He doesn't throw it out totally, his suggestion is to change the plank into a push up. This exercise he believes is the best, because it uses more muscles. This is a good question, is the plank overrated. I would suggest is if the only thing you do is a plank, it can be a problem, you're missing a whole lot of other great exercises. Should always at variety to the mix. It keeps it interesting and doesn't develop the entire problem of hitting a plateau and not moving beyond.

I do use the plank as part of the exercise, usually for the core or the abs. I don't overdo the plank, of the 40-45 minutes, I probably do about 4-6 minutes worth of plank. There is one plank I really enjoy doing. I usually try to encourage people to try it out because it is a whole lot of fun. To me, one of the best planks, and I've done a fair number of the variations, is the Wall Plank. This is a great exercise and really develops the core and also shoulders as well as arms. There are a lot of variations to this plank, and to me the best one is the one presented in Skimble. Legs up the wall and not just a few feet off the ground, but way up there. It's a great feeling and if you can do this for a minute, you've done something good.

The Plank is an exercise worth adding to your overall fitness plan. Like so many exercises there are a number of programs which will help you to develop your own plank and your length of time to do the Plank.

The Plank is one exercise worth doing.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

March 1st

While preparing to leave Ottawa and return home, we all got into a discussion about weather. We are Canadians, what else do we talk about? The topic was, what are we going to expect as far as the weather is concerned. My brother-in-law made an interesting comment, he said that while Spring doesn't officially begin until the 20th or 21st of March, to many people, today, the First is the beginning of Spring.

If you think about it, the comment makes sense. I believe it makes good sense as far as the three groups in the running community are concerned. Here's what I think:

To seasonal runners, those individuals who run in the Spring, Summer and Fall, this is the time to get out the running gear, see if you need anything in the way of replacement and get ready to start running. This group usually spends the winter months in Cross-Training or involved in Cross-Fit. They have been spending the winter month doing other forms of exercise, that doesn't take them outside, or perhaps they concentrate on winter activity, such as skiing and cross-country skiing. When one season ends, they simply jump over to the fitness forms of the new season without skipping a beat.

Runners who went inside. This is the group that looks at the conditions and decides the cardio can take place inside. These are the brave individuals that put all sorts of time and miles on the treadmill. They rarely missed anything on their running schedule, because they've simply used the equipment that's available to them. While one may wonder why they would bother going outside, they probably have been itching to do just that, they would rather run outside, but conditions- weather or personal preference has meant they've been doing a lot of work on the machines. They truly are looking forward to the change of scenery and getting back outside.

Winter runners. Rejoice you brave and mad souls, the winter of your discontent will soon fade into a bad dream. You've been outside in all sorts of conditions and running. You've endured the early darkness, the dropping temperatures and generally horrible conditions and can now think that it will soon be over. As one of those crazy people, I think I can express a few words: we've made it. We have run through two of the worst months of the year. We have faced cold temperatures, strong winds and wind chill that can't be explained. We've put on multiple layers of clothing, endured road and sidewalk conditions that go from fun to furious and downright dangerous. Now we can start to think about losing a few layers of clothing. As for temperatures, don't care which side of the +/- it is, as long as it's in single digits ( all temperatures in Celsius). Also, looking forward to a wind chill that doesn't add the numbers "2" or "3" to the front of each temperature. Imagine only one pair of gloves on the hand, or perhaps, dare we think, wearing shorts? Look we know this won't happen overnight, we'll still face challenges of snow and ice, and then the melting time will happen, but there is the belief that the worst is over and the best is yet to come. We can now look forward to finding the see the first tulip or crocus showing it's flower above the snow and debris.

It's the start of the Second Season of Running, it's also the time to start going over the race calendar and checking on possible involvement. A lot of races take place in the Spring and it's time to get looking for some in your area.

Even though it has been the coldest February in recorded history, I've had a good month of running. Last month I got out and ran 8 times, double 2014 for 42.73 miles, which again is better then the 26.61 miles. I also managed to run in three different locations, Niagara Falls Ontario, Veradero Cuba region and Ottawa Ontario. That made for some interesting running, and I still have to say, running in Cuba was wonderful, even though it made the first few runs back in Canada even more horrible. To be fair, I think it was actually more horrible.

On the return from Ottawa, we drove past the town of Brighton. This place will always have a warm place in my heart since this is where my inspiration to start running commenced. When in a sporting good store, I saw a notice for the Brighton Applefest Fun Run. It was for a 5K race and I thought this might be fun to do. I started doing some runs and 'training', if you wish. When I signed up, I got a free tee shirt and a coupon for a free bag of apples. The run is part road, part farmer's field, with a nasty little climb at about 3Km in. When I first did it, I made as many rookie mistakes as a person could make, finished with a time of 33'31" and figured I could do better the next. In all, I ran in three different fun runs, even got a metal for finishing second in my age catagory. I was hooked. I'm glad to see it's still happening and still following the same route. perhaps one day, I can do it again.