Cardiovascular Health

My Half Marathon Lessons in Miami

My Half Marathon Training Lessons in Miami

From the World Spinning and Conditioning Conference in Miami Florida

Written by Jamie Cocco
UESCA Certified Running Coach

Life is Full

In Miami, life is full of moisture in the form of humidity, which I know all too well because I am sweating while sitting in the shade writing this on a lounge chair.  Miami is full of fun, nightlife, got my salsa dancing on, amazing food (Fratelli Milano, best Italian food ever!!), and this weekend knowledge at the World Spinning and Conditioning Conference.  Here are the lessons I learned about running and training for a Half Marathon while I was there.

Enjoy that fullness

All of the amazing master instructors from the Running, Spinning, Yoga, and Conditioning worlds have several things in common, but the one that stuck out the most is to enjoy life to the fullest.  What does that mean?  We are on a journey, whether that journey leads us to that Half Marathon we are training for in October, (hint: Happy Valley Half Marathon) a laugh filled easy run with friends, or that run to the store before it closes for the pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, because it is a Chunky Monkey kind of day.  Enjoy the process!!  You may ask me, “Jamie, what is the process?”  That process is the small steps you take today for race day.  Each run you take, the moment after you have completed your run, foam rolling session (Scott Samford from Peak Pilates) to recover, and game planning session for the next run. Take a moment to explore, to laugh, and to be in the moment.

Training for a Half Marathon is a Marathon

Improve gradually was one of the biggest tips I received from Jason Karp the founder of Revo2lution Running and author of 8 books, including the Running a Marathon for Dummies, and articles and interviews featured in Runners World, Runners Connect, and so many more.  His advice is to only increase by 1 miles/day/week max.  He goes further by explaining that every 3-4 weeks should include a recover week, where you decrease your total mileage by 1/3.

Comfort in Training

In my training, I want to push the pace every time.  We want to get the most out of every workout, right?  Most of your training should be in a comfortable zone with interchangeable levels of intensity sprinkled in.  If a person pushes the pace every time, they increase their chance of burnout and injury risk.  Jason suggests that we train in the 70-75% of our max range a majority of the time, so we build up our aerobic base.

Increase Distance or Intensity?

You can do both, but not at the same time.  Jason explains that we need to give our body one or the other variable to adapt to, because too much change at once can cause more harm then help.  If you had to choose one of the two, which should you do?  He tells us to focus on increasing distance, because half marathons and marathons are about distance, and setting yourself up for race day is essential.  This does not mean you don’t focus on intensity at all, because a good training program incorporates both to fuel the best adaptation, just not at the same time.  Hill sprints once a month or every other month is a great way to include higher intensity training to your routine.

No surprises

The purpose of training is to eliminate or lessen the opportunity for surprises that can derail your grove and get you away from your Zone, where everything flows.  Throughout your training, simulate race day.  Know what you are going to do to fuel ahead of time, how many water stations there are, what gels you are going to use, and practice.  Tip for gels:  Jason suggests that you don’t use gels too often ahead of time, because you want your body to adapt optimally without them, before using them.

What it all means

Training for a half marathon is a marathon, metaphorically.  You improve gradually with distance and integrate intensity changes all the way until taper.  Don’t worry, we will talk about the taper in a following article.  You prepare yourself mentally and physically for race day throughout your training by simulating the environment.  You fill your training predominantly with easy runs and all of your runs are part of the process to race day.  Take a moment throughout the process to be in the moment, right now, yes, this moment, and during each run.  Because, in the end it is all about enjoying the work you put in today, and the journey of getting to where you want to be.   Some days it is also about the Chunky Monkey Ice Cream.

If you would like running coaching with our team or Certified Health and Fitness specialists, register for a one on one consultation below

My Four Lessons of Running 

My Four Lessons of Running

Written by Jamie Cocco

The birds are chirping, the sun is beaming through the trees, and you pass by a cow who stares at you right before you have to convince yourself for the tenth time that there is light at the end of this running tunnel.  Running is not easy!  Whether you are a seasoned runner, have a couple half marathons under your water bottle belt, or have written down on a piece of paper somewhere, you can’t remember where, but are pretty sure it is in the kitchen, that you are going to complete your first 5K this year.  So where do you start, where should you be, or where are you going?

As a certified running coach who is also on a running journey, here are four lessons that I have learned so far:

Meet yourself where you are but push a little further each time.  Stop comparing your beginning to someone else’s middle or your middle to someone else’s 15-year journey.  We get stuck in the rut of seeing someone who inspires us or a friend who has been doing it for a while and try to match them.  I catch myself trying to push too far too fast to keep up with more experienced runners.  Running is a marathon, literally and metaphorically.  Some days you just have to drag yourself out of the house and do your best.  When you get to the place where your body pushes back, push a little bit further, and you will get so much out of it.

Gradually increase your distance and speed.  In the past as a runner, I have pushed myself to injury because I am too competitive with myself and progress.  If you are a beginner, go down the street to the nearest stop sign, farm, crossing, 10thmailbox, ding dong truck, or something close enough to be achievable, don’t stop, walking counts, and head back home.  The next time go 10-20% further.  Then the next time go 10-20% further.  That means if you go out for 10 minutes today, then go for 11 minutes on your next run.  It is the small steps in the right direction over a long period of time that make the difference.

Make every third week a recovery week, where you don’t increase distance or speed.  It took me awhile to understand that shifting my focus from always gaining on my run to flexibility, balance, and strength can improve my running.  Our muscles adapt faster then our connective tissue and injuries can occur when we don’t adequate recovery time.  So give your muscle a short vacation, not to Fiji with those fruity drinks and colorful umbrellas in them, more like a relaxed binge watching session of Stranger Things, where you maintain your distance and speed, focus on flexibility through stretching, one of the other focal points to holistic health, and do some myofascial work (foam rolling).

Before, sometimes during, and after running, hydrate.  I have been caught on both ends of the spectrum with dry mouth, wondering if the water station ahead is a mirage or not, and standing in line for a porta potty when I could be running.  It is important to drink a lot of fluids the night before a big run, the day of your every day run, during a long run, and always after a run.  Drink about 16 ounces of water in the 1-2 hour before you run and start to slow down your water consumption to 8 ounces during the final 30 minutes before your run, to avoid bathroom breaks.  Drinking 5-15 ounces for every 15-20 minutes of running is recommended by Runner’s World.  Click here to read more about hydrating from Runner’s World.  More likely than not, if you do a road race, there is going to be a beer waiting for you at the end.  Don’t worry.  I am not telling you to not drink the beer, just drink water slowly first.

Remember, you can do it!  Running is hard, so use these lessons I have larned to make it a little easier for you today.  Please comment and let us know what worked for you.  Thank you for reading my lessons and stories!

Jamie Cocco
UESCA Certified Running Coach (United Endurance Sports Coaching Academy)

How does cardio affect your body?

How does cardio affect your body?

Written by Personal Training Director, Jay McWilliams

Step and Core Cardio Class on Mondays

Cardio month continues at 50/50 Fitness Nutrition, and I thought this would be a good time to get down to the nitty gritty of how cardiovascular exercise changes our bodies on a physiological level. I promise, it is actually really cool! We throw around the term cardio all the time: “spinning is great cardio!”, but what does this type of exercise actually do to are cardiovascular system, namely our heart and blood vessels? As we are all well aware, when we exercise our heart rate increases. The body is pumping more blood to our hard-working muscles, and this results in a greater volume of blood returning to our heart per minute. Over time, our heart adapts by enlarging the left ventricle to more efficiently pump this larger volume of blood back to our tissues. These adaptations make our heart more efficient, both while exercising and at rest. One of the results of these changes is a lower resting heart rate. Athletes can have resting heart rates 20-40 beats per minute slower than the average person.

Another cool adaptation of the cardiovascular system to exercise is the creation of new blood vessels. Yes, your body, in some cases, can develop new blood vessels in response to your fitness habits. This is one reason your blood pressure can be reduced by exercise. Along with these changes to your heart and blood vessels, your lungs respond by delivering up to 15 times more oxygen to your tissues during exercise. Just like your heart, over time your respiratory tract adapts to become more efficient. One measure of the efficiency of your lungs is VO2 max. As your fitness level increases, so will your VO2 max. This week, while you are rocking it out in spin class, hiking with your dog up a local mountain, or busting your butt in Tabata, I want you to take a moment to think about all these changes going on in your body. Doing cardio is so much more than burning calories, you are becoming a more efficient pumper of blood and breather of air. Way to go!

Do you have enough balance in your life? From cardio to strength to flexibility, nutrition, and everything in between – we’ve got you covered at 50/50. Come on in and speak to a specialist, to get your health and wellness back on track!  Click the image below to schedule your FREE health and wellness today!

Creating a Training Plan to Increase Cardiovascular Fitness

Just as with strength training, cardio training requires proper progression, variation, specificity, and overload for beneficial adaptations to occur.  When looking at how to design an effective cardio training program, consider the following variables:

  1. Mode: The following activities can be used for cardio training: swimming, rope skipping, jogging, cycling, cross country skiing, stair climbing, elliptical trainer, dancing, rowing, and many other activities. When choosing your activity, consider the activities you enjoy, your skill level, and your joint health.
  2. Frequency: Frequency is the number of cardio training sessions performed per day or per week. This will be dependent on training status and intensity. 2 to 5 sessions per week will suffice.  Weekly accumulation of 150 minutes for general fitness, and 250-300 minutes for weight loss.
  3. Duration:  Duration is the length of the cardio training session. This is directly related to the exercise intensity. Strive for 15 to 60 minutes of continuous cardio training.  Most of the 50/50 Fitness and Nutrition classes are 45 minutes in length.
  4. Intensity:  Intensity of the cardio training can be monitored via heart rate response. The most practical method is measuring heart rate using a heart rate monitor or a simple pulse count. To attain optimal cardiovascular fitness, exercise between 60-90% of maximal heart rate -or- 50-85% of heart rate reserve.

Remember that heart rate increases in a linear fashion as workload increases during cardio training. The maximal level that can be attained is dependent on fitness level, age, climate, gender, medications, etc.  Below is a good method for finding the Maximum Heart Rate, the Karvonen Method:

220 – age = Maximum Heart Rate

Maximum Heart Rate – Resting Heart Rate = Heart Rate Reserve

(Heart Rate Reserve x Training %) + Resting Heart Rate

A few thoughts to keep in mind as you develop a weekly workout plan based on your fitness goals.

Cardiovascular exercise is vital to our health and increasing our overall performance. With regular cardio training, one can expect numerous metabolic changes and positive health benefits.  Cardio training can be helpful for achieving optimal body composition because of the high caloric expenditures. It does help to lower the overall percentage of body fat, but has little effect on increasing muscle mass.  In some cases, intense cardio training could elicit a greater cortisol response than traditional strength training. Higher levels of cortisol is associated with protein loss from muscle, which could lead to a reduction in muscle mass and strength. If you’re training for increase strength, consider keeping your cardio sessions relatively brief and less frequent.

5 Tips for New Runners

Grant Ritter, Running Coach

Invest in good running gear

A properly fitted pair of running shoes will keep your feet comfortable while helping to prevent injuries. Avoid cotton running gear, as it tends to absorb sweat and cause uncomfortable things like chafing. Technical running clothes will go a long way toward helping you stay comfortable and fashionable on your runs! Your local running store is a great place to get fitted for everything that you need to get out there and run.

Set a goal

Think about what you want running to accomplish. This could be a race, a certain distance, weight loss or anything else. Write your goal down and put it next to your bed and couch. This way that goal will be there as a reminder   when you are tempted to watch one more show on Netflix or hit the snooze on the alarm instead of going out for your run.

Build up slowly and listen to your body

Slowly add miles and running days to build your aerobic base and to give your body time to adapt to the stress of running. This is one of the best ways to prevent injury.  Following we well-designed training plan is a good way to ensure you don’t go too far too fast.

Warm up before you head out

Do some dynamic stretches like high knees or leg swings before heading out on your run. This will help the body loosen up and will help elevate the heart rate so you can hit the ground running. Save the static stretches for after the run.

Rest and Recover 

Resting is the most important part of your running program. This is when your body adapts and becomes stronger. Make sure to take rest days between your runs as you build up. Rest doesn’t always mean sitting on the couch though.  Be sure to hit the foam roller or take on some cross training such as strength training or a Spinning class. These things will help you recover and become a stronger runner.

More on Outdoor Fit Camp

Director of Strength & Conditioning, Jay McWilliams

We are so excited about the new facility, we have developed a whole new program to fit the space! Outdoor Fit Camp incorporates the best of Metabolic Bootcamp, and builds on it with a focus on strength and an all-inclusive design for all fitness levels. We have a huge new space, and we plan to make the most of it! I have already designed and built some permanent fitness stations so we can all develop our skills on push-ups, pull-ups, and triceps dips. The new stations allow progression for all levels, so even if you are far away from doing an unassisted pull-up or a full push-up we can get you there safely!
Outdoor Fit Camp differentiates itself from Spin and Strength, Tabata, and Cardio-Sport by being more focused on strength training, while still reaping metabolic benefits from interval training, agility drills, sled pulls, and our new favorite, medicine ball wall-slams! These are incorporated with dumbbell and body-weight moves to create a full body work-out that is guaranteed to engage your muscles. The great part about this kind of training is you also benefit from a killer after-burn effect, and your metabolic rate stays amped for the next 24 hours. Outdoor Fit Camp is a great way to begin to incorporate strength training into your workout routine in a fun group exercise environment!
For our members who are looking for a highly effective, structured program to safely build strength and improve lean muscle mass, Targeted Strength and Conditioning is a great fit! In this small group format you will work your way through structured strength progressions. There is a greater emphasis on form and more individualized coaching that allows you to progress to much heavier weights for greater benefit. Some of our female members are regularly deadlifting over 150 pounds now! Also, many of our Targeted participants can now complete unassisted chin-ups. The progress made in this program is so much fun to watch and be a part of! If you can commit to two sessions a week, you will get stronger and fitter!

Happy Valley Half Marathon Running Clinics

Sign up for the free Happy Valley Half Marathon Running Clinics!
You might already know that we are bringing you the Happy Valley Half Marathon on October 23. Did you know we are hosting FREE weekly running clinics to help you get ready? 
Our Free Half Marathon clinic schedule is now live! Follow the link below and register for our first clinic, scheduled for Thursday, August 4th at 6PM. The group will meet at 226 Russell Street, in Hadley, MA. 
Each clinic will feature a group run led by running coach Grant Ritter. Along the way we will talk about the type of runs, training plans and gear that you need to know about. Are you in? Sign up now!
Wait you didn’t sign up for the Happy Valley Half Marathon or 5K yet? Register now and use coupon code RUNLOCAL to save $5.

70 Classes?!

With 70 group exercise classes on the schedule, and 9 amazing health and fitness specialists, we have everything you need to reach your true potential. Need some added attention, accountability, and a structured plan inside the gym and out? Give personal training or small group training a try! With so many options, so many avenues, and decisions to make each and every day – why not set up a complimentary consultation? Katie, Jay, Jamie, and Justin are available to meet and mentor you on all of those little decisions you’re forced to come by. They do matter and we’re here to help!

So take advantage and sign-up for your consultation today!

Click to schedule

9 Fun Ways to Burn 100 Calories

Shedding a few extra calories doesn’t have to be hard work! In the gym, we talk a lot about lifestyle change. Effective lifestyle change starts with manageable, meaningful improvements in the decision making process. But, everything in life doesn’t have to be so complicated. It’s the perfect time of year to get out, get active, and enjoy the company of others.

#1 Burn: Two-Wheel ItRemember when you were young and rode your bike everywhere you wanted to go? One of the most fun modes of transportation, biking lets you feel the wind and experience the world around you in ways that are impossible when driving a car or sitting on a bus. Hop on your beloved two-wheeler for 15 minutes or more, keep the pedals moving and you’ll cut 100 calories, just like that!

#2 Burn: Grab a Club

Walking an entire 18-hole golf course is a great way to burn a lot of calories. Not interested in hunting down your lost ball in the woods? No problem. A round of miniature golf may not seem intense, but it’s enough to get rid of 100 calories. Act goofy the whole time to embarrass your kids and you’ll burn even more!

#3 Burn: Climb On

Feeling particularly adventurous or ready to try something new? Slip on some climbing shoes and hit your local climbing wall. And don’t worry—you don’t have to climb hundreds of feet to drop 100 calories. You’ll get rid of that many calories in less than 10 minutes. Just be careful: climbing is a great workout that is highly addictive.

#4 Burn: Stand Tall (and Get Wet)

Want to stay cool while you burn 100 calories? Hop in the boat for an afternoon of water skiing. You’ll leave 100 calories in your wake after just 15 minutes of skiing and every minute after gets rid of even more—all while you don’t break a sweat.

#5 Burn: Hit the Mits

Have you ever wanted to give boxing a shot? Mix it up with a partner and practice a little stress relief. You’ll break a sweat in minutes and be well on your way to a fun, incredibly effective workout. Did you know Health & Fitness Specialist Lamar Moore specializes in mixed martial arts? Let us know if you’d like to set up a consultation or one-on-one workout!

#6 Burn: Get Down in the Dirt

You want to eat better and get fit at the same time. Well, here’s the good news: you can do both by planting your own garden. Did you hear that, Barb?! Within the first 25 minutes of digging and planting, 100 calories will go out the window, and when your veggies peek out of the ground, your diet will take a giant step in the right direction.

#7 Burn: Follow Evie’s lead and just Dance!

Even people who hate dancing in public smile while dancing at home with a loved one. Act like a loony for few songs in a row and you can have peace of mind knowing you just shook 100 calories from your shrinking frame. Now that’s something to dance about! Move your body and have some fun doing it.

#8 Burn: Fly High

Trampolines aren’t just for kids. They’re for anyone who wants to burn 100 calories in just half an hour, while pumping nutrients through your joints, and strengthening the spinal column. The next time you see the kids bouncing around, jump in!

#9 Burn: Head to the Mall

Your friends won’t believe you, but the next time you go the mall, tell them you’re going so you can burn some calories. Even if you’re there for just a little while, keeping up a steady shopping pace for 40 minutes is enough to get rid of 100 calories, or more (especially if you shop like Katie)

If you want to really expedite your results then consider working with us on a fitness plan that will transform your life! Remember, every little bit counts along the way!

Want more results?

The key is to maximize your workouts. To do this, you will need to push yourself to the point that your body is working as hard as possible, without putting yourself at risk for injury. How can you do this? With a simple heart rate monitor.
Read on to see how you can make use of a heart rate monitor, and take heart because better, more efficient workouts are on the way!Why It Works
Your heart plays an essential part in your health, well-being, and ability to stay alive (of course). When your heart is pumping at an ideal tempo, you’re able to maximize your calorie expenditure while still feeling and performing your best. Having a hard time figuring out just how hard and fast to push yourself during a routine? A heart monitor is your new best friend!

How to Use It
Once you’ve got a heart rate monitor, all you have to do is strap it on your wrist, start working out, and it does the rest. When you’re pushing yourself in the gym or on a run and are feeling good, check the monitor and take note. That is likely where you want your heart rate to fall in the future. It’s your heart’s sweet spot (for now).

Actually, it’s a good idea to toss on your heart rate monitor when you’re not working out. Wear it while you’re going through your daily routine—working, eating, going to the store. This gives you a baseline to see how hard your heart works normally. So when you start exercising, you should see a size-able change in your heart’s rhythm.

With the heart rate monitor on, you can quickly find your lactate threshold (or red-line). This is when your body switches from using mostly oxygen to using mostly glycogen during high-intensity exertion. You could go to an exercise physiologist and pay for a special test to find this out, but generally that’s not really necessary. Simply note at what point in your workout you’re unable to talk without breaking up the sentence. At this point your breathing rate suddenly increases, your pace is comfortably hard and the benefit is long lasting. Look at your heart rate. Keep that in mind for the next time you work out. The more awareness you work to create, the more advantageous the monitor is.

Watch It Change
As you know, the goal of regular exercise is to beat your body up a little bit. You know, put it to the test. When you do this consistently, your heart does something funny. It actually beats slower. With a heart rate monitor, it’s easy to monitor your overall fitness progress by watching your beats per minute drop. The change will take time and may never be dramatic, but as your body grows more accustomed to being pushed, it responds by becoming more efficient. Your heart is a muscle as well. As you condition it, the volume of blood that it can pump increases and as a result, it doesn’t need to pump as fast.

Take It to Heart
Information is only useful if you use it. Once you learn your ideal heart rate, pay attention to how fast your heart is working during your routine. Then do whatever it takes to get your heart there and stay pumping at that pace until your trainer says to call it a day. Are there certain exercises that spike the heart rate more than others? How about your recovery time–how is that changing?

Create the awareness and the results will quickly follow suit.