Add Something Extra to Your Workouts

I want to love running again

I want to love running again

It’s now June and hard to believe the year has almost reached the halfway point. How are you doing with your New Year’s resolutions? Now is the time I like to do a self-check and figure out where I stand in terms of my goals and what I need to accomplish in the back half of the year. Are you close to a PR? Did you cross the finish line to a marathon already? If you still have far to go, here are a few 2014 fitness trends to try and get you to checking off those resolutions:

HIIT–This acronym stands for High Intensity Interval Training and can be used for runners wanting to achieve faster speeds. Adding in videos such as P90X, joining a CrossFit gym, or just heading to the track and shaking up your workout with plyometrics and speed work will help you achieve a quicker cadence in your 1600 meters or perhaps a fall 5K. This can be dangerous, so always be cautious of this type of exercise.

Group training–With the high cost of personal trainers and professional coaches, you can join a running group often at a nominal fee. Try or a local running store to find one. You will also meet like-minded people and not have to be out training on your own or with someone your paying top-dollar for at the gym. Even if you’re on a school running team, outside camaraderie could be welcomed and give you a refreshing outlook on your sport.

Functional fitness-If you’ve been injured this year, the best way to recover is to train your muscles to do what you need them to do in daily life. If you have children, for instance, it’s best to train your body to be able to pick up your children–doing strength training that mirror this movement. It’s about creating strength for how you live daily.

If you’ve already reached your 2014 goals, it’s now time to raise the bar, so to speak. Set new goals and now you have a new six months to get training.


Lactic Training Basics

Last week, we covered a little bit about the lactic threshold and what it means to you as an athlete. We also talked about how you can find your own lactic threshold (the point at which your body produces lactate more quickly than it can use it) with an easy at-home test. For this installment, though, we’re going to focus on how you can improve your lactic threshold.


What’s The Point?

Just by means of review, let’s take a look at what a low lactic threshold means. Lactic acid is produced by your muscles all day, every day. Usually, though, it appears in small enough quantities that your body can get it away from your muscles and convert it back into fuel. During short bouts of high intensity exercise, though, like a sprint, lactic acid is produced at much higher rates. At this point, it can’t be shuttled away fast enough and your muscles become acidic. This is where that burning, cramping exhaustion comes in.

Now that you know what too much lactic acid does to you, and it’s probably a feeling you know all-too-well, let’s consider what you can do to improve the situation.


Lactic Threshold Training

Before you can start working to improve your lactic threshold, you have to know what it is. Refer back to last week’s post to read about the self-administered test. For lactic acid training, a heart rate monitor would be extremely useful. Or, if you don’t have one, you can use a 1-10 scale where 1 is very easy and 10 is your absolutely maximum effort.

There are several different approaches to lactic acid training but, the theory behind them remains the same: Flood your muscles with lactic acid for extended periods and force them to adapt.

  1. Interval Training – This includes the ever-popular High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and requires you to rotate between periods of high intensity with low intensity active rest. Since your lactic threshold is highly individual and cannot easily be measured without specialized equipment, fartlek training is a great way to improve your lactic threshold. The basic idea is to gradually increase the amount of time you’re about to spend at or just above your lactic threshold, at about a 7 or 8 out of 10. Start slow, with sprints of just one minute and work your way up.
  2. Tempo Runs – More clinically called “maximal steady-state exercise,” this approach has you run at your lactic threshold for the entire workout. Because of the inherently challenging nature of these runs, experts recommend that they should account for no more than 10% of your weekly total workout time. So, if you run for 200 minutes each week, your tempo run would only be 20 minutes long.
  3. Volume Training – This approach takes a longer view and involves gradually increasing your total workout time for the week. To do so safely, lengthen your runs by 10-20% each week and keep the intensity at about a 5 or 6 out of 10.

Ideally, all of these techniques should be used together to complement each other. For example, start out by increasing your volume. Then, add in a tempo run. Commit one day per week to be your interval training day and use it to work on your sprints.

What techniques for increasing your lactic threshold have you tried? Please share your experiences in the comments.





Does Tabata Training Live Up to the Hype?

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is all the rage in the fitness world these days, and for good reason. This challenging workout approach has been shown in study after study to give you the maximum amount of benefits in he least amount of time, improving speed and endurance while preserving muscle mass. At it’s most basic level, HIIT involves workouts that are composed of intense bouts of activity, broken up by periods of lower-intensity exercise. For example, you might jog for a minute and then sprint for 30 seconds, repeated this pattern for the length of your workout. Confusingly, however, fitness experts have managed to take that simple, effective approach and remix it to form all sorts of different HIIT formulas. Of these, Tabata training is one of the most prevalent. Since Tabata training has been getting so much attention, the American Council on Exercise recently enlisted several researchers and asked them to evaluate the effectiveness of this particular HIIT style.


What is Tabata Training?

As mentioned, Tabata training is one of the many styles of HIIT, originally created by Japanese Olympic speed-skating coach Irisawa Koichi. After using the workout for a while, Koichi asked one of his coaches, named Izumi Tabata, to analyze the technique. According to Tabata’s initial study, published in 1996, the formula produced remarkable improvements in the athletes after just 6 weeks of training.

Now that you understand the history, what exactly is Tabata training? To pull off this grueling workout, you’re going to need a timer or stopwatch that you can see clearly while going through the exercises. Your best option would be to have a training partner or coach watching the clock for you. During Tabata training, you’re going to workout at high-intensity for 20 seconds and rest for 10 seconds. Repeat this pattern eight times, so that the round lasted for 4 minutes total. Take a minute to catch your breath between rounds. You’re going to need it.

Keep this pattern up for 20 minutes.

Part of the beauty of Tabata, versus some other HIIT approaches, is that it can be applied to virtually any workout. If you plan on using the Tabata rhythm in strength training, just try to complete as many reps are you can within those 20-second activity windows.


Research Results

Even on paper, Tabata looks like a tough workout. So, it’s not really surprising that the ACE sponsored study found that the subjects averaged about 86% of their maximum heart rate and 74% of their VO2max during the workout. Both of these measures either meet or exceed the industry-recognized guidelines for improving fitness levels and body composition.

You might also be interested to know that the workouts, made up of a variety of bodyweight exercises and plyometrics, burned an average of 15 calories per minute.

The researchers did have a word of caution, which has been echoed by many fitness experts: Tabata is not a beginner’s workout. Remember, this style was created by an Olympic coach for Olympic athletes, not the casual exerciser. If you’re already in good shape, though, Tabata is a great way to mix up your workouts. Like other HIIT styles, Tabata training can help you make same major strides in a short time period.