New Study on High Intensity Workouts

Dublin Marathon 2012We’ve all heard about the newest fitness phenomenon. No, I’m not talking about CrossFit, but HIIT–the acronym for high-intensity interval training. In HIIT, rather than endure long workouts to receive fitness gains, you workout in short bursts that take your body to the maximum. Although runner’s still leave in that weekly long run, HIIT can benefit runners on a time crunch and even make you in better shape in less time.

New evidence suggests high intensity workouts are even more powerful than previously thought. In a new article being published in Annals of Internal Medicine, high-intensity workouts show a clear benefit in those wishing to reduce glucose levels.

Researchers studied 300 abdominally obese adults to determine separate effects of the amount of exercise and the intensity on abdominal obesity. All participants were asked to either perform short, high intensity workouts or long, lower intensity workouts five times a week for 24 weeks. As for diet, all participants were asked to eat a healthy diet, but keep their caloric intake the same as usual.

At the end of the study, all lost the same in inches in the waist, but the high intensity exercise group reduced their two-hour glucose levels.

Dr. Ross, PhD of the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queen’s University in Ontario, said results show high intensity can reduce glucose levels and higher intensity isn’t for those in shape.

How to create your own HIIT workout:

1. Increase incline on a treadmill and speed up the pace.
2. Run 1 mile at full speed and then stop to do push ups, crunches, etc. Then run 1 mile at full speed and stop to do push ups, crunches, etc. This allows you to run faster miles and tires you out faster because of the break in between.
3. Incorporate FARTLEK into your running workouts.


What’s The Best Shoulder Exercise?

Your shoulders – or deltoids – are extremely important muscles regardless of your chosen sport or daily routine. Unfortunately, the delts are also a commonly neglected muscle group. So, what’s the best shoulder exercise?

As it turns out, that’s a pretty difficult question to answer. The deltoids are actually an extremely complex muscle group that, unlike many muscle groups, can perform flexion, extension, rotation and other movements. To accomplish this remarkable range of motion, the deltoids are actually made up of three difficult muscle groups – the anterior, medial and posterior deltoids – that work around a ball-and-socket joint. Because of this commonly unappreciated complexity, many people tend to have an unbalanced training program that usually just focuses on the anterior delts – those in the front that we see when we look in the mirror. Those are the show-delts.

To help sort through all this, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) sponsored a study that examined how a number of popular shoulder exercise activate this essential muscle group. Their results are useful, eye-opening and a little frustrating.


A Complicated Answer

Specifically, the study used 10 of the most common shoulder exercises. The list included:

  • dumbbell shoulder press
  • push-up
  • cable diagonal raise
  • dips
  • dumbbell front raise
  • battling ropes
  • barbell upright row
  • bent-arm lateral raise
  • 45-degree incline row
  • seated rear lateral raise

Each of the 16 participants in the study performed 5 reps of each exercise at 70 percent of their 1RM (except in the case of battle ropes, push-ups and dips). During the sets, the subjects wore electrodes that monitored how thoroughly each exercise activated the various parts of the deltoid group.


What They Found

Here’s where things get irritating: there’s no one exercise that effectively works all three parts of the delts. And this is a problem since – as with any muscle group – training imbalances can cause some significant problems and even injuries.

The real question, then, is which exercise works best for each deltoid portion? For the anterior delts, it seems like the dumbbell shoulder press is the best option. The 45-degree incline row was most effective for the medial group. Finally, the seated rear lateral raises were best for your posterior delts.

What we see, then, is that a complete shoulder routine cannot consist of just one exercise – which is actually pretty common. To be a solid workout, you really need to include several exercise that work your shoulders from different angles. That being said, this study did show that the medial deltoids get worked along with the anterior or posterior in several exercises.

According to these findings, a balanced shoulder routine would consist of the dumbbell shoulder press and either the 45-degree incline row or the seated rear lateral raises. While the 45-degree rows do not activate the posterior delts as well as the rear lateral raise, they have a greater effect on both the medial while still significantly working the rear delts. Also, many people find the 45-degree rows more comfortable – which is worth considering when it comes to exercise choice.

So, there you have it: There isn’t a best shoulder exercise because the shoulders aren’t just a one-directional muscle that can be totally worked with a single movement. To get the greatest benefits, while preventing injury, design your workouts to challenge all aspects of your delts.





Feel Good Running Stories

copy-cropped-cross-country_1.jpgAre you suffering from a bout of seasonal affective disorder? Is winter sticking around a little extra long even though spring began last week? If so, you can fill a few minutes with these happy stories I rounded up on running. I seen these make the rounds of social media and love any feel good story, especially those on running.


Women Gets Extra Help with 10K

Check out this story on a woman who finished a 10K with the help of America’s finest. Asia Ford lost more than 200 pounds and decided to enter a 10K as a new finest challenge. She struggled after mile 4, but a cop noticed and grabbed her hand. Together, they finished the race. Added bonus: a nice, altruistic gesture from a cop. Cops deserve some good press.



10 Year Old Breaks World Record

A 10 year old broke the half marathon world record for his age. Reinhardt Harrison began running not long after learning to walk, giving him a few years of practice before accomplishing this feat. He finished the Alexandria Running Festival Half Marathon in Virginia with a whopping time of 1:35:02, an incredible two minutes faster than the previous record. He said he wasn’t even running at top speed because his dad told him to treat it as a training run. Is this a future Olympic marathoner? We would have to assume so.

Obese Man Commits to Run 5K Every Month

derek500_0Derek Mitchell weighs 570 pounds, but that doesn’t stop him from pushing the fitness limits. He has decided he will run a 5K every month for all of 2015. He recently completed 3.1 miles at the Big 12 Run in Kansas City, Missouri. He doesn’t care what place he comes in, as long as he crosses that finish line.




Is Souping the New Juicing?

Juice cleanses and detox programs have been all the rage for several years. As it turns out, though, it seems like a new fad is on rise: souping. In fact, several companies have even gained rapid success selling either premade soups that make up a complete detox program or “soup makers” so that you can make your own healthy soups at home.

So, let’s get down to it: Is souping worth it? What are the benefits of this new fad? What do you need to now?


The Deal With Detox

The first thing that we need to address is the proposed detox benefits of both juicing and souping. In short, cleanses do not work. Or, if they do, there is no science to prove either their efficacy or necessity.

Your body has natural systems in place for removing toxins – primarily, your liver and kidneys. And these do an excellent job. It is true that some of the more dangerous chemicals are not removed by the liver and kidneys, but that’s because these substances are fat-soluble. This means that even a high-fiber cleanse wouldn’t be able to get to them since they are stored in your body fat. The only way to reliably get rid of any potential toxins, then, is to lose weight. And research backs this up, suggesting that slender people are more efficient when it comes to naturally getting rid of these chemicals.

Any weight-loss benefits attributed to these detoxes are generally because the programs are severally calorie-restricted. One of the most popular soup cleanses on the market right now, for example, provides just about 1200 calories in a single day. The standard juice cleanses would likely be even less.


Souping Vs. Juicing

All that being said, is there any benefit that souping has over juicing?

Depending on the ingredients used, many juices are extremely high in sugars and can carry a considerable glycemic load. Souping, on the other hand, tends not to have the same impact. Again, it all depends on the ingredients used.

Soups will also likely be more filling and made with heartier ingredients, so you may not encounter the same feelings of hunger that you would on a juice cleanse.


Final Word

All in all, cleanses are unnecessary – regardless of whether they include soups or juices. There is no proof that either approach can effectively help your body remove toxins, or that it even needs help.

It is worth stating, however, that following an extremely low calorie diet for an extended period can be damaging to your metabolism and encourage counter-productive yoyo dieting. In terms of weight loss and general health, it’s much more effective to simply eat a balanced diet and allow your body to do it’s job.




Should You Hire a Running Coach

imagesCA32IXH9We often come to a plateau in our fitness levels–a time when progress isn’t a word we can use. Many times you feel like speed stays the same and burn out occurs. When this happens, you may think of hiring a professional to help you reach the next level or simply take a little step off that flat road you’ve been metaphorically running.

Here are things to consider when deciding on spending your money on a running coach:

1. Does he or she ask about your goals?
A coach will want to know much more than how fast you want to go or your current 5K PR. Professionals will want to discover the time you can devout to running, what you do for a living, your family, etc. They will try to understand your lifestyle to create training plans that allow for a work/life balance and one you will stick to based upon the time you have allotted for running.

2. How often are they available?
Do you want someone who emails and/or texts with a quick response? No one is available 24/7, but it is acceptable to expect a reasonable response time. Also, what can they help with? Do they simply email running workouts? Do they meet with you at the track and can help you with form?

3. What is their track record? Excuse the pun.
Running coaches with experience will cost more, but might be worth it if they’ve helped others successfully reach their goals. You might be able to save money with newer coaches who could be as good and have more time for you. Check out their credentials and if they’ve received accreditation from any organizations in the industry. I highly suggest using professionals with a few letters behind their name.

4. Do they run?
What is their background in the sport? Some running coaches really are not runners, but fitness professionals. I do not suggest this. You really want a runner, even if they do not actively run now.

Good luck!



Does Crossfit Work?

Crossfit began humbly. But since it’s creation in 2000, the intense workout has spread from just one founding gym (or “box”) to several thousand worldwide, with many more thousand loyal adherents and coaches. And, when you look at the anecdotal results of Crossfit, it’s popularity really isn’t that surprising: It seems to work and work well.

But there is a surprising lack of research surrounding Crossfit. That, combined with the somewhat frightening intensity of the workouts, naturally leads to the question: Does Crossfit work? Beyond that, is there anything else you need to know about the routine before you decide to dive in?




Very often, Crossfitters point to any number of studies touting the undeniable benefits of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) as a way to support their particular style of workout. This does make sense – technically – since Crossfit could be classified as a form of HIIT. But the studies cited are generally performed using cycling, running or some other workout that is pretty far removed from anything you’re likely to see in a box.

In an effort to specifically test the effectiveness of Crossfit, the American Council on Exercise commissioned John Porcari, Ph.D., head of the University of Wisconsin’s Clinical Exercise Physiology program to lead a study that would answer this question. The study involved 16 healthy, trained volunteers (both male and female) and asked them to perform two different Crossfit Workouts of the Day (WODs). The WODs chosen were called Donkey Kong and Fran, and have both been featured on the Crossfit website to be performed by boxes and individuals.

Before, during and after each of the workouts heart rate, calorie expenditure, blood lactate production, ratings of perceived exertion (RPE) and VO2max were all monitored.

Not all that surprisingly, both WODs were extremely effective by all measurements. The male subjects burned an average of 20.5 calories/minute and the women burned about 12.3 calories/minute – both very impressive for fit subjects who would typically require fewer calories. Both heart rate and VO2 skyrocketed, agreeing with the RPE that these workouts were very challenging for all of the subjects.

So, there you have it: Crossfit workouts. But, that’s not really the end of the discussion.


Things to Consider

Remember that all of the subjects involved were already in fairly good – or even excellent – shape. And these WODs were still very difficult for them to complete. The point is that Crossfit is not for beginners.

In fact, the danger of Crossfit has been widely accepted and even embraced by both it’s creator and his disciples. Cartoon clowns called Pukey and Uncle Rhabdo (short for the potentially fatal condition, rhabdomyolysis) can be found on posters and shirts throughout the Crossfit landscape. Glassman even told the New York Times in 2005 “It can kill you… I’ve always been completely honest about that.”

A big part of the problem is that Crossfit places a powerful emphasis on speed, even at the cost of proper form. This can be an extremely dangerous trade when you’re dealing with Olympic lifts and handstand pushups.

If you do decide to give Crossfit a try, then, know that there is a high risk if you aren’t already in excellent shape. Even then, avoid giving into the pressure to sacrifice your form for speed.





Breakfast for Runners

 Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap/

Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap/

We all know “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” You’ve heard the cliche since childhood. However, loads of websites lately are posting new information about  your first meal of the day.

I’ve rounded up some breakfast rules for runners to follow. You’ll need your energy to fuel your early-morning workouts.

Eat when you first wake up. You should try to eat within 30-60 minutes of first waking to keep your metabolism boosted, especially because your body’s starved all night. If you are someone who finds taking in heavier foods in the morning difficult, try smoothies. I prefer green smoothies that are sweeter in flavor. Try the following and mix to your liking:

2 C spinach or kale
2 C fruit, such as bananas, sliced apples or watermelon (or a mixture of the above)
1 C water or coconut water
1 T protein powder

Add in the liquid first into a blender, then add the fruit, then greens and protein to make it blend more easily.

Bananas are a runner’s best food. Potassium is key to runners and bananas are chock full of them. Plus, they are easy on the stomach, so it’s no surprise you find these at the finish line of races and sometimes even at aid stations. They are best at breakfast, providing you your necessary potassium and resistant starch.

Best breakfast to try:
1 C steel cut oats
1 C banana slices
1 t honey

The oats and banana provide resistant starch and burn fat for fuel.

Add in protein. If you run first thing in the morning, sometimes protein sits heavy on your stomach. I recommend trying synthetic protein such as powder into a smoothie to make it easier to digest. If you don’t run in the morning, try out egg whites mixed with spinach for your breakfast. It’ll make you feel fuller longer.


According to the National Weight Control Registry, 78% of those who keep weight off eat a morning meal every day. Your diet makes a difference.


Common Food Additive Contributing To Obesisty

In the past several years there’s been in a shift in the way that people view food. For many people, long lists of mysterious ingredients is a strong motivator to walk away. And, as we learn more and more about these additives, the more this approach makes sense. A few years ago, many parents started crusading against certain dyes and preservatives, asserting that these caused ADD and other conditions in their children. Just recently, a group of researchers reported that caramel color – found in a staggering array of foods and beverages – can also expose you to a potent carcinogen. And these are just a few examples.

A new study, though, shows that another common group of additives called emulsifiers could be contributing to colitis, obesity, metabolic syndrome and a host of related conditions. Let’s take a closer look at that study.


Messed Up Bugs

While it’s often a strange thought for many people, you are an ecosystem. Dwelling both on your skin and throughout the inner workings of your body, there are myriads of bacteria. Of special importance are those that inhabit your digestive tract, working along with your body to make sure that your food gets properly absorbed and even producing nutrients that are vital for life.

Clearly, these microorganism are extremely important and do plenty of good for your body. But, is it possible that things could work the other way? Could they have a negative influence on your system?

According to a new study published in the journal Nature, yes. Fortunately, though, the study also gives us clues as to how to keep the bugs happy and healthy – thereby doing the same for us.

Before beginning their research, the team noticed that the trend of obesity, diabetes and digestive problems steadily began an upturn when emulsifiers where introduced to many processed foods. These substances thicken food and can also act as preservatives, making them extremely useful and widespread.

Specifically, the team decided to see what two of the most common emulsifiers – polysorbate 80 and carboxymethylcellulsose – did to the gut bacteria of mice. Interestingly, a diet which included these two chemicals cause the bacteria to change in such a way that it was able to bypass your body’s natural defenses, systems designed to keep it in specific areas. This migration caused high levels of inflammation which, in turn, caused colitis and other digestive disorders. The mice also tended to eat more and were therefore more likely to be obese and develop metabolic syndrome.

It’s also very interesting to note that when the emulsifiers were given to mice that had no gut bugs, they experienced none of the adverse symptoms. When some of the altered bacteria from emulsifier-fed mice was transplanted to the bug-free mice, though, they also developed systems. These additional findings make it fairly plain that it is not the emulsifiers themselves, nor the bacteria, that are the problems. Instead, the issue is when the two are mixed together.

So what does this mean for you? Human studies, and research into other types of emulsifiers are pending. In the meantime, this just drives home the value of sticking to whole, natural foods.





The Dirty Dozen

 Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap/

Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap/

One of my goals for 2015 is to eat healthier. Although this sounds simple, it’s easy to fall back into a routine of pre-made food because of my busy schedule.

Eating healthy requires work, time and grocery shopping. But it’s worth it because your body will run much more efficiently when well oiled. Here’s a bit of recentfood news to help you along that healthy path.

The new Environmental Working Group’s 2015 Dirty Dozen was recently released containing all the foods you should buy organic and scary findings when it comes to pesticides in our produce:

Make-you-gag findings:

One single grape sample and a sweet bell pepper sample contained 15 pesticides.

Single samples of cherry tomatoes, nectarines, peaches, imported snap peas and strawberries showed 13 different pesticides apiece.

Potatoes contain more pesticides than any other produce tested. I know loads of runners that snack on sweet potatoes for good carbs, even some that eat them during ultramarathons.

Happy findings:

Avocados (a great food for runners!) were the cleanest with only one percent showing any pesticides.

Approximately 89 percent of pineapples, 82 percent of kiwi, 80 percent of papayas, 88 percent of mango and 61 percent of cantaloupe had no residues.

Full list:

Dirty Dozen–Buy organic!

Sweet bell peppers
Cherry tomatoes
Snap peas (imported)
Hot peppers
Kale and collard greens

Clean Fifteen–Safe!

Sweet corn
Sweet peas (frozen)
Sweet potatoes


Happy healthy eating!