Thank you so much to everyone who sent in a question to this week’s edition of Ask A Trainer! Got a health or fitness question that you would like a personalized answer to? Send your queries into the LifeSpan Fitness Club. Send James an email, find LifeSpan on Facebook or tweet us on Twitter.
I’m training for a marathon. Getting enough runs feels like a lot as it is. However, I want to work on my core and do some muscle exercise. What can I do to work other parts of my body without making myself too sore for my runs?
- Mitchell, Henderson NV
First things first, thank you for the photo! Marathoners never cease to amaze me. Good luck in your upcoming race!
Second, almost every single athlete, including long-distance runners, can benefit from resistance training. It’s been shown that combining resistance exercise with your running efforts can enhance your training effect versus training aerobically alone. When completed safely, resistance exercise is only positive.
If you are currently only training for your marathon by running, do yourself a favor and start supplementing your routine by adding even simple body-weight resistance exercise. With the right program you can greatly improve upon your previous records without hugely impacting your time dedication.
Your body is phenomenal at adapting to the specific demands placed upon it. Make sure that you’re training in a way that’s applicable to your unique event, such as using the exercises included below. In addition, your LifeSpan Fitness Club account contains dozens of applicable exercises that can be utilized to enhance your performance.
For all of the exercises listed below I recommend approximately 3-4 sets of 8-15 repetitions each. For core exercises I suggest holding each contraction for 25-60 seconds, or as long as you can. If you can easily exceed 60 seconds, try increasing the difficulty of the exercise (seen in the video). Almost all of these require no additional equipment and could be completed in a park at the conclusion of your runs.
The “core” is comprised of your six-pack musculature, oblique and low back muscles, and the many muscles that comprise your pelvis and hips. Core strength can’t be overstated, as it’s considered that all motion is grounded in some way to these muscles. Specifically in running, core strength is integral for postural strength and transfer of motion throughout your gait.
While resistance training the core, focus primarily on isometric exercises, or motionless muscle contractions. These exercises closely mirror the demands placed on runners throughout the course of a race and help prevent premature fatigue and postural breakdown.
Make sure to adapt each exercise found below to your capabilities and never exercise into pain. Please be careful prior to attempting any of the advanced variations that you are in a safe environment and fit enough to successfully complete the repetitions without injury.
2) Lower Body:
Most runners would sell their soles (pun intended) for additional leg stamina, especially in the later miles of a race. By increasing the strength of your lower body through resistance training you can limit your likelihood of injury, boost your resistance to late-race fatigue, and increase your speed throughout the course of a run. Using your own body weight as resistance in your exercises can be enough to increase your strength. If you have the capability and resources to externally load through weights, dumbbells or resistance bands though, more power to you.
3) Upper Body:
Upper body strength and conditioning is worth much more than the average runner believes. Try running without incorporating your arms. You’ll quickly see how required that motion is towards your success. As races wear on, posture and form break down, typically shown by a rounding of the shoulders and drooping of the arms at the elbow. This effect is likely to occur more rapidly and more dramatically without appropriate upper body strength training. The exercises below help to strengthen the chest, shoulders, arms, and upper and middle back.
Thank you again for your question and best of luck to your upcoming event! Please reconnect with us to let us know how it goes!
I’m turning seventy-seven next week and had a fall last year. My children bought me a LifeSpan treadmill to help me be more active but I’m afraid of hurting myself again. Is there anything I can do to make myself feel safer on my treadmill?
- Louise, Galena Park TX
I’m so sorry to hear about your accident, Louise. Those who don’t have experience with falls, either personally or professionally, can’t understand how awful of a circumstance they are. I hope that your injuries weren’t too severe and that you’re recovering well.
Physically speaking, falls are usually the result of reduced neural control, reduced strength, or both. When these symptoms are combined with environmental hazards or even certain side-effects of medication, fall risk can be highly elevated.
When a younger individual loses their balance and begins to fall, they are typically able to move quickly and effectively enough to regain their posture. Unfortunately this is not always within the capability of aging individuals, resulting in possibly catastrophic impacts. This issue is compounded by potential muscular and neural atrophy incurred during the healing process.
Luckily, with appropriate interventions, falls and their associated dangers can be reduced. It has been found that senior individuals can significantly improve their fall resistance by maintaining their levels of activity as they age.
Long story short, to stay safe you need to stay moving. The best way to accomplish this using your LifeSpan treadmill is to only walk at speeds where you feel safe and in control. Keep your hands firmly placed upon the treadmill and make certain that your safety key is correctly connected to your person at all times.
Also, you can supplement your treadmill activity by working specifically on your balance. When done safely, this can be a wonderful supplement to your efforts. Make sure that while gently pushing your capabilities, you maintain complete control of your balance through a spotter or railing.
Lastly, make sure that any medications that you’re taking don’t enhance your risk of falling. Talk to your prescribing physician about any possible side-effects that might be increasing your likelihood of falling again. It’s also imperative that you wear properly fitting, sturdy shoes with nonskid soles.
Best of luck to you, Louise!
Hi James, short of plastic surgery, is there a way to firm up my triceps areas? At age 61, having been up and down with my weight over the years, exercising less than I should, I now have those awful “old lady’s arms.” No more short sleeves for me! Any ideas? Thank you for your weekly notes. I have learned a lot.
- Kim, Boston, MA
Thank you for your kind words! Most importantly, never let your past dictate your future. “You’re never too old, never too bad, never too late and never too sick to start from scratch once again.”? Bikram Choudhury. Your age and history weight loss doesn’t preclude you from success in the future!
Also, you’re far from alone, Kim. It seems like the large majority of the female clients I’ve worked with throughout my career, regardless of age, have similar areas of focus. “Arms, butt and stomach” comprised about 90% of every goals conversation. I’m certain that with proper dedication and application of effort that you can still see the progress that you’re hoping for.
In order to achieve the results that you hope to see, two primary things can be done.
1) Reduce your body fat percentage to decrease the level of unwanted fat and
2) Increase the amount of muscle mass in your upper body and triceps.
- The first step towards reducing your body far percentage is to take control of your nutrition. This topic was covered at length in the most recent post, “Busting Your Fat Loss Plateaus”. Once you feel confident in your diet, you can begin to focus on exercise that will help to reduce your body fat.It’s been found that higher intensity, shorter duration exercises completed 4-5 times per week are highly effective at promoting fat loss. This basically means that instead of working at low intensity for a long period of time, such as constant walking or jogging, that you work at a higher intensity for a shorter period of time. Imagine that on a scale from 1-10, an intensity of 4 is a light, sustainable pace, while a 7, 8 or 9 is a more difficult, harder to maintain degree of exertion. This scale of intensity is called a perceived exertion scale.
If you’re currently using your treadmill for exercise, try changing up your exercise program to include high intensity workouts and your own defined personal exertion scale. This can be as simple as splitting your workout into segments of alternating high and moderate intensity sets, alternating from a 4 or 5 to a 7, 8 or 9.
For example, pretend you spend 30 minutes in a single bout.
- Walk/jog at a personal intensity of 4 for five minutes.
- Increase your speed or incline to reach an intensity of 6 for four minutes.
- Return to an intensity of 4 for five minutes.
- Increase your speed or incline to an intensity of 7 for three minutes.
- Return to an intensity of 4 for five minutes.
- Increase your speed or incline to an intensity of 8 for two minutes.
- Return to an intensity of 4 for five minutes
- Increase your speed or incline to an intensity of 9 for one minute.
- Return to an intensity of 4 until you have sufficiently cooled down from your previous interval.
A workout such as this is highly personal while still promoting the kind of exertion that is highly effective at burning fat. It’s also highly efficient, only taking a short period of time to complete.
2.Once you complete your interval workout, dedicate a period of time to building strength in your upper body. This will help to give your arms a firmer, more toned look. Please keep in mind that it can take in excess of 8 weeks to see any difference in musculature due to strength training, so don’t give up if your results aren’t immediate. The time will continue to pass, regardless of whether or not you’re putting forth the effort, so don’t give up!
I recommend doing compound (multiple joints in motion) exercises in addition to triceps-exclusive training, and completing roughly 3-5 sets of each exercise with approximately 10-15 repetitions per set. These exercises can be completed with dumbbells, bands, or even anything found at home that creates resistance. My grandmother used to exercise using cans of soup as resistance when more formal equipment wasn’t available to her. Don’t be afraid to get creative!
Good luck to you moving forward, Kim! Please let us know how you progress and if there’s anything additional that we can do for you.
I wear out my shoes so fast because I over pronate. Is there a way to correct that?
- Mike, Little Suamico, WI
Pronation, or eversion, is when the foot rolls inward during running or walking, flattening the foot’s arch. The cause is typically either congenital, a habit developed from improper mechanics, or caused by muscular compensations elsewhere in the body. The illustration below shows a pronated right foot, relative to an unaffected left foot.
Over pronation is something that a large number of people deal with, with as much as 60% of adults pronating to some extent. Being common, however, doesn’t imply that it isn’t something that should be tolerated. The prevailing belief is that over pronation can eventually lead to overuse injuries in the ankles and knees, but also possibly in the hips and low back. Think about it, if your shoes are wearing out prematurely, odds are that there’s a negative effect happening on your body as well.
Before you make drastic changes to correct the problem, do your best to make sure that you’re actually experiencing pronation and not something else. Orthopedic doctors and sports rehabilitation professionals are the best go-to resources to make sure that you’re actually experiencing pronation and not possibly something else entirely.
Once diagnosed, leading research shows that there are multiple ways to attempt to correct pronation and improve your running pattern. Some suggestions are simple and others a little more involved, with three different options listed below. Start simple before getting more involved.
1) Shoe Lacing Patterns: Altering the way that you lace your shoes can possibly improve your pronation. According to a study, when the highest number of eyelets in the shoe is used for lacing and the shoes are tied as tight as possible, pronation can be significantly decreased. Higher and Tighter!
2) Orthotics: Shoe inserts aren’t necessarily the coolest remedy, but they are possibly a highly effective one. Research has supported the idea that by including a special insert into your shoes you can reduce your pronation by a “significant” margin. Check out some of these options to improve your circumstance.
3) Proper Stretching: An incredibly cost-effective and successful remedy is to improve the flexibility of your calves. This involves stretching the calf muscles through exercises such as the one illustrated below. Make sure that you never stretch into pain and that your foot is properly aligned throughout the stretch, not turned to the inside or outside of your shin.
If you want a really clinical explanation of this technique please check out this highly informative video of exactly how to safely and effectively stretch your calves.
Best of luck in your efforts, Mike! If you ever need any additional insight don’t hesitate to write in again.
I’ve been working a lot so getting 10-14 miles a day in on my treadmill desk. Are there stretches before or after you’d recommend and do you recommend breaks?
- Glen, Toronto
With that kind of mileage you are likely to feel some tension build up throughout your legs, hips and back. Motion is great, as it promotes whole-body health in multiple ways. Continual motion such as you’re describing, however, can cause undesirable tightness in the muscles that are repetitively working.
For most people, this tension is felt in the glutes, hamstrings, calves, and the hip flexors. Applying gentle stretches to these muscles before and after activity can release tension and provide relief from your otherwise beneficial exertion. Myofascial release, or foam rolling, is another amazing way to provide manual relaxation to these tissues.
Below are links to some great stretches for each muscle. For stretches to be effective for most people, they must be held for roughly of 30-45 seconds. Never stretch into pain and make sure to never bounce while completing stretches. Should you have any questions about whether or not you’re performing a stretch correctly, consult a health and fitness professional.
I bought Lifespan treadmill in Aug 2013 and from then on have been striving for weight loss. Though I lost 6-8 pounds initially, I have not been able to reduce further and have gained back a few of the pounds I lost. I’m not sure if something is going wrong with my diet. Can you help?
- Banupriya – Bangalore, India
Weight loss, specifically sustained weight loss, can be incredibly difficult. Please keep in mind that your previous disappointments don’t define your current attempts, and that your aspirations are always possible with the right application of efforts.
Weight loss can be split into two unequal parts. Exercise and proper nutrition. My mantra, regardless of the unique goal, is that at least 80% of all ambitions live or die in the kitchen. Exercise is integral to goal completion, but the food you consume plays a role that cannot be overstated.
I’ve found throughout my career, and research has supported, that people typically tend to understate their food intake. One way to accurately measure the amount of nutrient that you’re currently ingesting is to begin a private food diary. Don’t alter your habits for a week and record all that you consume, from meals to snacks beverages. Feel free to use the confidential journal found in your LifeSpan Fitness Club account, or great apps such as My Fitness Pal. Being completely transparent with your intake will help illustrate where your specific trouble areas are and can get immediate ideas for simple changes.
Remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Once you do have an idea of where your nutrition stands, start a gentle, maintainable shift towards healthier eating. I highly recommend reducing your sugar consumption, increasing your intake of nutrient-dense fruits and veggies, lean proteins and healthy fats, and drinking enough water. Similar advice can be found through the Mayo Clinic, a trusted resource for all things related to your health.
Lastly, feel free to check out a recent CNN article that lists 10 great nutrition apps. While I can’t attest to all of them personally, they are highly suggested by the author, a nutritionist named Cynthia Sass. As far as the exercise component is concerned, please revisit a recent addition of Ask-A-Trainer titled “Health and Fitness Q & A”. The question submitted by Madison from Baltimore ties very well into your inquiry.
Best of luck in your ambitions! If you need any help along the way please don’t hesitate to reach out!
Keep on pressing forward!
Your LifeSpan Fitness Club Coach,
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