Archive for Get Moving!

Triathlon? Biking

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The latest in a series of posts about the writer trying to go from couch potato to triathlete. Check out previous posts here.

So I took nine weeks (the length of the Couch to 5K program) and learned to run, and kept at it for several more months. At this point it was summer, I was dropping weight and loving the warm weather. For the most part, it took me just 30 minutes a day, a few days a week, and the only cost was $90 for a pair of shoes and $13 for compression shorts (also very, very much worth it.)

With such a small time commitment to maintain my run, I decided it was time to move to the next athletic feat (going in reverse order of most triathlons): cycling. I’ve done well at catching up on certain activities of my youth: I’m good at video games, pretty good at dancing, and I still remember all the lyrics to “Bust a Move.” You know how the saying goes, “it’s like riding a bike.” I’d find out, because I hadn’t been on one in 15 years, at least.

Due to those 15 years, I was terrified of reacquainting myself with a bike. Especially in a place like Salt Lake City, where half the population seems to own a $1000 rig and one of those fancy racks on their cars. They dart in and out of traffic and plow through massive hills.

I had my wife’s 15 year-old sparkly purple bike with cracked tires, and the bed of my small pickup to tote it around in. I found a local park with long, straight paved paths, and to my surprise, the old saying is true. After a few awkward moments, and no shortage of glances at my sparkles, I got the hang of riding again and started to pick up speed.

If you have a bike, and can ride comfortably on it for an hour or so at a time, then it’ll work for your triathlon. I knew my wife’s bike wouldn’t suffice, but it did give me confidence that I could indeed ride one again.

As if you couldn’t tell by my trick for shoe buying, I’m cheap. In my mind, if you can acquire something of value for a lesser price, you go for it. You can purchase a good, light road bike for $1000 dollars, but you can also find good deals on used bikes. I checked secondhand sporting goods shops, online auction sites, and others until I found one on a local classifieds site. For $500, I bought a high-quality racing bike that was a few years old but well maintained. New it probably ran about $1700.

After riding it once, I also bought a bib with padding in the sensitive region. It’s $45 or more, but so, so worth it. You don’t want to mess with the monkey butt.

I rode a couple times a week, for about half an hour. Then one Friday afternoon or Saturday morning a month, I would go for an hour. This allowed me to cover 12 miles - conveniently the distance in a sprint triathlon.

Another word of warning: get a helmet. Never get on your bike without it. I know - one saved my life.

Racing tires are thin, and you have to be very careful for cracks and uneven portions in the pavement. My tire got wedged in such a crack, and before I could get my feet out of the stirrups to bail out, I tumbled. I don’t remember hitting the street, just waking up and dragging my gear out of the road I was riding on. I had been concussed, but my helmet absorbed most of the fall and  was nearly snapped in half. Without that helmet, I could’ve had serious damage to my brain.

I took a couple weeks off, bought a new helmet, and haven’t had any problems since. Spend the $17 on that helmet. It’s worth it.

So there I was, still fat but getting thinner, with two aspects of a triathlon mastered, with rarely more than 30 minutes a day invested. With my confidence higher than Snoop Dogg in Jamaica, I started to look for a race to run, and considered how to approach my old nemesis the swim.

Triathlon? Running

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In my last post, I wrote about how my life was breaking down as I approached 30. I was woefully out of shape and getting bigger and more depressed in equal proportions. A chance dinner with a 40something triathlete friend, and a reflective period back to my fitter days led me to settle on the goal of running a triathlon.

Hear me now: deciding to do something and getting amped for it is one thing. Actually getting off your rear (which is a great thing to do, as we’ve posted before on this blog) and putting in the work is something else altogether.

I wanted to find a sustainable way of getting in shape. I had seen a lot of friends enjoy great success with Crossfit and P90X, but once they got out of those programs their weight came back. I get into habits far too easily, so I sought ways to make fitness a habit I could sustain for years and years to come. And that’s the beauty of the triathlon: running, biking, and swimming are all things I can do for years and years to come.

Before I did anything, I actually did what the commercials suggest and met with my doctor. He reaffirmed my decision to go the triathlon route, as well as a need for me to drop 20 or so pounds.

I knew if I wanted to tri that I would need to conquer my biggest beast, running, so I selected it as a starting point. I threw on a pair of shorts and my sneakers, and immediately sprinted a solid five mile run!

No, it didn’t really happen like that at all.

I made it about a block before my legs began to wobble and my lungs burned. You see, me and running have a long history. Like many American kids, I grew up playing sports that required sprinting. Football, baseball, basketball all require brief, intense periods of sprinting followed by periods of resting.

A coworker heard my plight and turned me on to a program that changed everything: Couch to 5K.C25K is a free, nine week program designed to take you from no running to being able to comfortably cover three miles in 30 minutes. It's only three runs a week, most of which are around 20 minutes. Which is perfect for a pre-work or lunchtime exercise. You can print out their schedule from their website, or if you have a smartphone, download any number of apps that will verbally talk you through the program.

Here's the basic gist: in the beginning, the program has you walk quite a bit, and run a little, over the course of 20 minutes. Over the next few weeks your walk periods increase, as do your runs. Then, as you hit the second half of the course, your walks begin to decline as your runs continue to increase.

I didn’t realize it, but this program was training me to breathe normally during exertion, while gaining confidence with each distance. I remember being intimidated before five-minute runs, then shocked at how easy they seemed.

I recommend using an app that will allow you to listen to music while you receive the verbal cues. There are plenty of free apps, but I recommend shelling out $2.99 for the Ease into 5K app.

One great thing about Couch to 5K is most triathlons offer a “sprint” distance, which is great for first-timers. In a sprint, the run distance is a 5k, which means you'll be right on target with this program.

C25K introduced me to the art of distance running, and now I can run for hours at a time. Running has become therapeutic for me, even. I can listen to music I'm into or sometimes an informative podcast, break a sweat, watch the world pass by, and let the troubles of the daily grind disappear for a bit.

I found out pretty quickly that a decent pair of shoes was worth investing in. I’ve got old football knees and an ankle that I sprained 15 times in one season. I needed good shoes, but I didn’t want to fork out $150 for them. I went into a running store and tried on dozens of pairs. They even watched me on the treadmill and told me what kind I needed based on how I ran.

Once I found THE pair for me, I took note of the model and went home to search for them online.

I found a better price being offered online, and took that price into the store, who was happy to match it. With just an hour of work, I had saved $30 off a pair of $120 shoes.

I ran for a solid six months before picking up the other aspects of the triathlon, because I wanted my lungs to be in great shape for the swim and bike. This also gave me the chance to pick up a few running mates, who like me, were once large-gutted mouth breathers as I had been.

I dropped 15 pounds and felt my energy shoot up. Just three miles gave me a buzz for the rest of the day.

Thanks to C25K, I had my running conquered in just 30 minutes or so a day, and was already feeling great. Would it keep up with swimming and biking? Keep reading to find out!

Treadmill Desk: Making It Happen

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I literally sat down in the dressing room and cried. How could this not button? It had been my size just a month ago!

Before I was a Rag-Tag Research Geek, I had a job where I was on my feet all day, and was in the best shape of my life. Coming here, I began working from home and sitting at the computer all day. And my waistline was showing it.

Now I was heading out to Los Angeles to give away products during Oscar Week... and had never felt worse about how I looked.

After that trip I knew I had to get serious about my health. I knew all the research about sitting all day and how bad for you it can be. I decided my solution was a treadmill desk. Read more

Triathlon? Are You Kidding Me?

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Approximately ten years ago I was fresh out of college, and fresh out of whatever physique I had developed during four years of multiple sports in high school. After getting married, settling down into a desk job and two kids, I saw my weight balloon to over 220 pounds. I lost my breath walking up small flights of stairs and couldn't keep up with my precocious children. I noticed changes in my attitude (depressed), motivation (non-existent), and libido (also depressed.)

I joined a gym and worked out often, but usually just wound up doing easy exercises before retiring to the steam room. More than I care to admit, I would stop at the fast food joint across the street on my way home. I was a pretty sad guy, to say the least. 

One night, my wife and I visited a friend, a woman in her mid-40s who, despite having birthed four kids (including triplets), was in great physical condition. She talked about her motivation to stay fit and setting reachable goals, focusing on a triathlon as the pinnacle.

In my mind a triathlon wasn't anything reachable at all. I remembered watching YouTube videos of people finishing races, crawling across the finish line, some with soiled underoos. I had crawled out of Chinese buffets that way, but that's something else entirely. 

No, triathlons were for the elites, just like marathons, Ironman races, and anything else that appeared difficult. Good for them, but not for me. I'll watch them on TV.

With what little exercise I had, and what muscle was left over from high school, I thought I was still in decent shape. Then I saw a photo of my wife and I, from our senior year of high school when we first started dating. She still looked as good as she had back then. I looked like I had eaten 18 year old me. 

It triggered a lot of soul searching. I thought a lot about my kids, and how I wanted to be around to see them grow up. No cheeseburger was worth missing out on that.

Kids always imagine they'll grow up to be professional athletes, or sexy celebrities, even firemen. No one daydreams about passing out on the recliner while still balancing a beer on their gut. 

Damnit, I was going to do something while I was still young and capable. I had been aiming low for years, so it was time to aim high. I resolved to not just do a triathlon, but I wanted to do it in a way that would change my life. I wanted to develop habits I could sustain for 50 years. 

Join me over my next few posts, and I'll take you through my story, which I think you might find useful for yourself.

Taxi Exercises

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Lillian had just eaten one of those meals. You know, those massive plates of food served up at hundreds of chain restaurants, with heaping mounds of mashed potatoes, huge chunks of meat, bread smeared with butter. So delicious, yet it always leaves the diner with some serious regret.

And Lillian was feeling it on the way home. She needed to do something to make herself feel a little less bloated, a little more active. But, alas, she was stuck in a cab.

Little did she know, she could’ve been working off some of that guilt with a little backseat workout. No, not that. We mean literal exercise in the backseat of a taxi. Or any car, for that matter.

The fact is you can exercise some part of your body at any given point in the day. Excessive idleness can have long term drawbacks, including cutting years off your life. Every little piece of fitness you can give yourself helps fend off the ill effects of being stuck on your rear.

Here are three ideas for exercises you can do while stuck in the middle of that commute:

  • Neck stretches - drop your chin down to your chest, then slowly roll your chin over to look over your shoulder. Take the opposite arm from the direction you’re looking, and extend it (along with your hand) diagonally in the opposite direction. Hold for 10 seconds, then repeat the move on the other side.

  • Leg lifts - simply straighten your back and lift one leg at a time, keeping the knee bent (you won’t have a choice, most likely.) Hold it in place for 60 seconds or more, then switch legs.

  • Counter-resistance - repeat the previous move, but this time, use your hands to push against your legs in your quad area. Fight upward with your leg, creating enough tension to get your arms shaking a bit. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat the move on each leg. The move is only as beneficial as you’re willing to make it, so push yourself (and be prepared for the curious looks from your driver.)

For more ideas, check out our previous post on exercises you can do at your desk. Some of those exercises can be replicated in cars, though you should expect a little less leg room.

The next time Lillian (or yourself) goes out, she’ll remember not to eat so much. But if she slips, she can still do something to get her metabolism rolling and push the guilt away, and it can happen before she ever gets home.

Former “The Biggest Loser” champion Ali Vincent has a series of videos online illustrating her taxi exercises. Check them out, and let us know in the comments how you’re able to sneak in little healthy habits throughout the day.

 

Desk Workouts: 5 You Can Do Right Now

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Remember that post recently about how sitting so long each day could take years  off your life? You may not be able to avoid sitting, but you can make it more productive for the rest of your body. Check this out:

Like you, Jill puts in 40 hours a week. Her role as software QA analyst  means she’s spending most of those 40 hours in her seat,staring at her  monitor. Breaks were few and far between, and mornings/evenings were  reserved for her family. Kind of a losing situation, right? Not if  you’re creative and willing to endure curious glances from coworkers.  Here are five workouts Jill began to do daily that helped keep her in  shape until she could get to the weekend and commit more time to  exercise:

Leg Extensions - while you’re seated, lift a leg and extend it. Hold it in  place for a few seconds, then draw an imaginary oval with it for a few  more. Do the same with your other leg. Repeat this move five or more  times a day for a good quad and core workout.

Desk dips - standing with your back to your desk and your hands resting on  the edge, slowly squat, keeping the workout on your triceps. Repeat  10-15 times, several times a day. For a bonus core workout, extend one  leg at a time while dipping.

Armrest Pushups - place your hands on your armrests, and slowly raise your  entire body, but without standing, then slowly lower yourself. Another  good tricep and core workout. For bonus points, fold your legs together, Indian style.

Chair Squats - lower your seat as far down as it will go,then stand in front  of it. Very slowly, begin to sit down, but keep your back straight and  your arms extended. Just as you’re about to sit, stand back up and  repeat the move. Do it 15 times, and stick your arms in the air for  slightly higher difficulty.

Desk Crunches - sit back in your chair a bit, keep your back straight, cross your arms over your chest just as if you were doing ground crunches,  then slowly contract your body forward. Focus the motion on your abs,  and do 3-5 sets of ten.

Really, if you can get out of your seat for 30 seconds, you can do just about  any exercise, including situps, pushups, or even jumping jacks. These  vigorous workouts may draw the attention of your coworkers more than the manager would care, so proceed with caution.

They’re not necessarily an “exercise,” but stretches are an important part of  any workout routine. Roll your neck from side to side, slowly. Turn your hands upside down and gently roll your wrists. Extend your arms  forward, bend your torso toward your desk and extend your legs. All of  these are helpful and perfectly acceptable ways to release the bodily  tension that naturally builds up from sitting and staring at a computer  all day.

Bonus tip: As we mentioned in the post about sitting, many workplaces will  accomodate requests for standing desks, stability balls, or even  treadmill desks. Asking your boss or HR rep can’t hurt.

Any other tips or suggestions? How do you stay fit despite your desk job?  Let us know in the comments!

Why Sitting All Day Is Killing You

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Is the American dream worth two years of your life?

Consider Robert. He sat in his classes for sixteen years, so he could sit in a nice plush office. Every day he sat in his luxury SUV on his way to and from home, which featured a comfy recliner that housed his  hind end for several hours each evening. 

Robert lived the American dream, mostly on his rear. And he died a little early for it. 

That's a bit dramatic, we know. But there's a real danger you need to know about. A 2012 study by Louisiana State University's Pennington Biomedical Research Center stated that people who spent more than three hours on their kiesters each day were expected to live two years less than their more upright counterparts. Even if your lifestyle is otherwise active, sitting will still take a hefty toll.

Don't worry though, you can still avoid an early exit by making some changes in your lifestyle and workplace. Try these five changes to get your rear in gear and avoid winding up like Robert:

  • Stand at Your Desk – A new trend in offices worldwide, standing desks place your monitor at standing eye level, with your mouse near your waist. This helps with circulation, energy and overall better health. Being on your feet all day can take its own toll on your body, so be sure to keep a stool nearby for brief resting periods.
  • Run at Your Desk- even better  than simply standing is putting yourself in motion. Many workplaces now feature a handful of treadmill desks, which provide the opportunity to stroll or even jog while getting your work done.
  • Get Personal – instead of exchanging emails or phone calls with your fellow employees, hop out of your seat and have an old fashioned face-to-face chat with them. You'll get off your tail for a while, and enjoy the benefit of better relationships with your co-workers.
  • Take Walk Breaks – Carve out ten minutes of each hour to walk around, stretch your legs, and get some fresh air. Schedule it within your calendar so that others won't be tempted to schedule over this time, and it'll be essentially guaranteed.
  • Schedule Couch Time – Just as blocking out time for walks can help shape your behavior, so can scheduling limited couch sitting sessions. By setting aside an hour or so each day, you'll be less tempted to plop down early because you know that time has been set aside. Enjoy it...but not too much!

State and federal laws require varying levels of accomodation for employee heath requests. Don't be afraid to ask your boss or HR department if they'd be willing to arrange a standing desk, regular walking breaks, or anything else that you feel will promote better personal health. Within reason, of course. 

 How do you avoid the siren call of the seat? Let us know in the comments!