Intervals improve cardiovascular health equal with aerobic training

spinningI am sure most realize the benefits of regular exercise. Despite the literature suggesting the importance of an exercise program for preventing diseases and other health related issues, the facts are as a society we are getting further and further out of shape and becoming even more sedentary.

One reason I hear from many people is a lack of time. I can relate to that with two daughters who have so many activities, I also find it hard to make time. One mode of exercise I suggest to clients I have trained in person, 1-1 and in my women’s group class is to incorporate intervals, and actually High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).

HIIT has been shown to burn more fat while preserving muscle mass, decrease blood pressure, among many other numerous benefits. Well now it also has another added benefit, improving Cardiometabolic Health.  A study recently released looked to see if the same cardiovascular benefits could be derived from a short but intense bout of HIIT.

The study put two groups of previously sedentary men into a training program. Each group performed 3x per week cycling sessions.  One group did three sessions of 3 sets of 20 seconds of “all out” cycling sprints, with a two minute recovery. While the other group performed three sessions 45 minutes of steady cycling. At the end of the twelve week study the interval cycling group improved their Cardiometabolic Health equal to that of the steady cycling group without the time commitment.

I know a lot of my blog posts are about running. I am currently training for a specific race, actually races, so my training needs to be specific, thus my larger time commitment to various types of training runs. If your goal is overall health the case is made for intervals yet again. They key thing to remember here is the interval period needs to be at an intense level with the training session being shorter to get the true benefit.

Try incorporating intervals into your own training on a bike, elliptical, or running. Just get moving! It does not need to be a huge time commitment to take care of your health. 

Workout Wednesday April 27

NikeApp1Well the 2016 Master’s Games are getting ever closer. I continue to trust in my training and feel I am ready to run even better than I did last year.

The weather was perfect though there was that ever prevailing breeze in my face that has been present all Spring. Despite the headwind the weather was about 54 degrees which is about where I like to run.

The local high school is in session so I had to stick to the dirt track, which always slows me down a bit. I do not mind though, as I think of it as some added resistance. I mentioned this in a blog or two back, and find it helps me run faster when I move to the high school track or the road for runs. Now for the workout.

Workout Wednesday

Barefoot warmup at the house (then a two minute drive to the track)

Dynamic stretches X10 of each one, on each side.

21 minute easy pace warmup.

1x 600 meters. I allow myself to run just on the lip of the grass for even more added resistance. 600 meter jog recovery.

2x 400 meters with 400 meter jog recovery. *

4x 200 meters with jog recovery. *

Finished off the training session with a 10 minute easy pace and then static stretching.

I find that focusing on more speed work, intervals, threshold runs, etc. is leaving me feeling really good after. Right now I am not following a weekly schedule but more like an 8-10 day cycle that has one long run coming every 8-10 days. We will see how it translates, but so far I have been running faster time this spring including my personal best in the 5k back in early April.

  • As always I switch the direction I am running on the track so one leg in not always on the inside for muscle balance.




Knee Pain? Try Strengthening your Hips

Copenhagen Exercise for Knee Pain

Many people experience some type of knee pain.  In fact it accounts for a third of doctor’s visits for issues related to muscle and bone pain. Over half of all athletes will suffer from knee pain every year. “Runner’s knee” is one of the most common complaints, and somewhere between 16-25% of runners will deal with it. It is typified by stiffness in the knee joint, a dull achy pain, pain or tenderness when climbing or descending stairs, or when sitting in a certain position for a long time.

While there are many possible contributing factors that could lead to knee pain, and particularly Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS), we are going to focus on hip strength and strengthening the adductors, and internal rotators, since they play a role in PFPS. Whether you have experienced knee pain or not you can still benefit from keeping your hip adductors strong .

The focus of the exercises I will be showing you over the next couple of days will focus on hip adduction, the working leg moving toward the body’s midline, as opposed to hip abduction where the leg moves away from the body’s midline. It is also important to note these are strengthening exercises and not part of any specific rehab protocol, and also does not replace seeing your doctor regarding knee pain, but is rather a sampling of exercises that can be added into an existing well rounded strength training program.

Lastly with these exercises we will be focusing in on the eccentric (lowering or deceleration) portion of the movements, by slowing down the tempo of the exercises.  For example with a bench press the eccentric portion of the movement is where the barbell is lowered to the chest.

Copenhagen Exercise

Other References:

Knee Pain Causes

Hip Muscle Weakness

Niemuth, P. E.; Johnson, R. J.; Myers, M. J.; Thieman, T. J., Hip Muscle Weakness and Overuse Injuries in Recreational Runners. Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine 2005,  (15), 14-21.

Music for an “Epic” Run/Workout

Music for an EPIC runI have been logging more miles than ever this Spring in my training. I am no different than anyone else in that I have to find different ways to stay motivated. I find music plays a large role in helping me focus. I will run to music on my long runs, and on some of my grueling speed work days at the local high school track.

I decided recently to put together an “Epic” playlist where my playlist was like a soundtrack. I specifically chose music with no lyrics. There was a really cool effect that it had on my running. I found that I felt so recharged and more full of energy the whole time. I really did feel like I was in my own movie.

So without further ado here is my “Epic Playlist” in no particular order as I had it on shuffle.

Epic Running Playlist

1)      Unashamed (From the Unbroken Trailer) Starlight Film Orchestra

2)      O Fortuna- Carl Off

3)      Fanfare For the Common Man- Aaron Copeland

4)      To the Stars (Dragonheart Theme) –Randy Edelman

5)      War/Fanfare from Rocky- Vince DiCola

6)      March of the Resistance (Star Wars the Force Awakens) –John Wiliams

7)      The Battle (Chronicles of Narnia-The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe Soundtrack) –Harry Gregson

8)      Jurassic Park Theme Song- John Williams

9)      Classic Battle-Sam Spence (NFL Films)

10)   A New Game-Sam Spence (NFL Films)

11)   Round Up-Sam Spence (NFL Films)

12)   The Raiders March (Indiana Jones Soundtrack)-John Williams

13)   Kylo Ren Arrives at the Battle (Star Wars the Force Awakens) –John Williams

14)   Overture and a Prisoner of the Crusades (Robin Hood Soundtrack)- Michael Kamen

15)   Chariots Of Fire Theme- Vangelis

16)   Duel of the Fates (Star Wars Episode 1 Soundtrack)-John Williams

17)   Treason of Isengard-Lord of the Rings Soundtrack 1

18)   Imperial March (Star Wars the Empire Strikes Back Soundtrack) –John Williams

19)   A Knife in the Dark- Lord of the Rings Soundtrack 1

Try making a soundtrack of your own. See if it helps motivate you in new ways. Music has proven to be a great ergogenic aid. Feel free to suggest any additions you think you should be added. For further reading on how about the music and exercise connection check out the study linked here.

Part 1   Part 2 

I’m back!!!

Hi all. I know I have not posted in a little while. Things were a bit crazy here when my youngest daughter got sick for almost 5 days.

It was hard enough to find time to train, train clients, that I had no time to blog. But never fear I am back and have a blog post I am putting out tomorrow about hip training and knee pain. I did a lot of research and reading for the post, and it even has a video of an exercise you can use to strengthen your hips. I am really excited to post it so please be sure to stop by tomorrow. In the meantime I hope you enjoy my blog post later this morning about how you can use music to have an “Epic” run or workout.

Italian Style Portobello Mushrooms

Italian Portabella MushroomsThis is one of my family’s favorite dishes that I make when we have a meatless night. It can also be used as a side dish, though it is filling. It is an easy dish that comes together quickly without a lot mess and ingredients.

Mushrooms and Portobello’s specifically are very good for you. They are low in saturated fat, and contain a lot of fiber. They also supply copper, which helps your body produce it’s red blood cells. They are also very high in B-Complex vitamins, riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid. Portobello mushrooms also contain 630 mg of potassium, more than a banana which has 422 mg.


4-6 Portobello mushrooms (one or two per person depending on the mushroom size)

Black pepper

Garlic powder

½ Cup Part Skim Mozzarella

¼ cup Parmesan

Salt I do not cook with salt so feel free to add it.

1 cup low sodium marinara sauce

3 table spoons extra-virgin olive oil


1) Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

2) Remove the stem from the mushrooms.

3) Place the mushroom on a baking sheet with the top down.

4) Lightly brush the mushroom with the olive oil.

5) Sprinkle the mushroom with pepper, and garlic powder, and salt if you are using it.

6) Sprinkle the mozzarella over the mushrooms.

7) Sprinkle the parmesan over the mushroom.

8) Bake for 15 minutes or until the cheese just starts to brown a bit.


Benefits of Compression Gear

Compression GearLast week I focused on some ways to reduce ground impact forces when running. This is also applicable to walking, or rucking (walking with weights in a backpack). These ground reaction forces can put a lot of stress on the body (particularly the lower extremities). Impact forces are 1-1.5 times your bodyweight when walking, and 3-4 times your bodyweight when running.  It is no wonder that 70-80% of runners will experience some type of running injury. Some of these injuries might be plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, shin splints, Iliotibial band issues, etc.

Last week I attended a webinar (online seminar) where Dr. Emily Splichal, DPM, MS, CES of the Evidence Based Fitness Academy, spoke at length about the need to help our bodies handle, absorb, cushionm and react to these forces. In addition to strengthening exercises some people turn to compression gear. These could be in the form of leggings, or compression socks and sleeves.

Personally I have used compression gear off and on, and was never quite sure if they truly worked. Dr. Emily Splichal was kind enough to email me a link to a study that shows that yes in fact compression gear is beneficial.

The compression study shows that when you are not wearing compression gear your muscles actually fire harder. One might think this would be good, but in fact the harder your muscles fire, the more quickly you begin to feel fatigue. Also with the compression gear, EMG (Electromyography) tests on muscle activity showed that the muscles fire milliseconds faster with compression gear, which prepares the lower leg muscles to create more “fascial tensioning” or intra-muscular pressure. In layman’s terms it makes your lower leg more solid.

Will wearing compression gear make you an elite runner? No. It can however help you to delay the onset of fatigue, which a runner at any level can appreciate. It can also help your body better reduce and handle those ground reaction forces and help reduce your risk of running.

Happy running!

2016 NHS Bear Breakaway 5K – Personal Best!

NHS Bear Breakaway 5KSaturday I ran my first 5K and also my first race of the 2016 season. The 3rd Annual Bear Breakaway 5K. This is my review of all things related to the race.

First of all, I chose the race by seeing where the money raised will be going to. The race benefitted the Norwalk High School Track and Field team.  Coach Moffett runs a free middle school track and field camp, which my daughter is attending, so I wanted to give back so to speak.

The drive to the school was easy it is less than five minutes away from my home. This is in stark contrast to how far I have driven to reach some of my races. There was plenty of parking and no walking to the race packet pickup or starting area.

Packet pickup was a breeze. Norwalk High School has a snack building that was open where they quickly gave us our shirts, and bibs. There was literally no wait at all.

The race began on the track which is pretty cool and allows for a fast start. Despite the many runners it was not as crowded and tight as I would have expected. The course stayed on the track for about 300 meters then moved through the parking lot and down a short hill to the street. I had to take it easy here as my left knee had been bothering me a touch, and was a bit sore on the descent. So I was about 10 seconds behind the lead group. Once we hit the street I must been warmed up well enough as I felt great as I turned and started running out through the local neighborhood. The course had some hills but certainly did not dominate the course. The course was well marked by volunteers, who were quick to provide words of encouragement as well as directions for any turns coming up.

At this point I felt really good. I honestly felt great. The lead pack now was further out of reach but considering my cautious descent of the first hill I was ok with that. I kept pushing myself and at this point was now pretty much by myself. Just after the second mile I got passed by the third place winner of the 19-39 age group. I will still content with where I was as there was a huge gap between myself and whoever I thought was behind me. I finally hit the final corner and there was one final little uphill as we reentered the parking lot. I saw the finish line ahead and if I really kicked I knew I would beat my personal best in the 5k I set last August. I took one last glance at my watch and pushed right through the chute. There were plenty of high school volunteers and others at the finish line to provide a last minute boost to our resolve and heavy legs. There was even someone with a cowbell!

The official timing was quick and we got the results quickly. The only negative with the race was that the overall winner took the trophy and there was none for the age group winner of the Master’s group. To me this is not an issue for me and I will run it again next year.  

The race is convenient, well organized, and the money raised goes to support the local high school track and field team. That is a tough combination to beat. It will definitely be on my race calendar next year.

On a personal note I was extremely happy. I set a new personal best in the 5K by 30 seconds. I came in 5th place overall and 1st in my age group. Though the overall winner actually was in my age group. I truly felt all  aspects of my training come together. From my strength training to my higher intensity running, and recovery, it all just came together at the right time. I am really looking forward to another month of training and then my May races, including my track and field event.


Sunday Soccer Simple to Complex

SoccerWe have had so much rain here in Connecticut the last couple weeks. Even the local soccer fields have been closed. So we decided to get my daughter’s travel soccer team together and squeeze in a practice. The head coach could not make it, so I and a couple other dads stepped in.

We started practice off with a couple groups of girls passing, and then moved into some simple bodyweight lower body exercises. The girls performed squats, then various lunges in various planes of movement, forward (sagittal), lateral (frontal), and reverse (transverse).

We then moved into a finishing drill, where the girls worked on the steps of bringing a ball up the field, and then using a crossing pass to connect with their attacking teammates to converge on the goal. They started slowly but as they got a better understanding of the drill the drill began to be more at game speed.

As a trainer I like to approach things the same way as I approached today’s practice. I did not want to add a ton of new stuff that the girls would not be ready for or understand. The same with my clients, whether strength training or clients training for running I choose to focus on the foundation then build up. You do not need anything fancy as long as the fundamentals are there. I do not need to choose exercises that are shiny and fancy, or write up overly complicated running workouts, until that foundation is solid.

Simple to complex. A philosophy you can apply to all your training, running, and even aspects of life.

Running Injury Prevention-Reducing Force Impact

injury preventionIt seems my next few posts are going to be about injury prevention when running. One of the best ways to avoid injury is by reducing the Rate of Force Impact, or Ground Reaction Forces.

If you followed my Workout Wednesday post from this past week you would have seen that I did some 50-60 meter sprints on the beach. While it certainly has not been beach weather here in the Northeast to start off April, I am still lucky I live within running distance to the beach. I chose the beach sprints for a few reasons.  

1)      The shorter sprints use your fast-twitch muscle fibers which are not used in endurance running, but are used in sprinting.

2)      The shorter sprints help you to avoid over- striding and as with running hills, can help to straighten out running form.

3)      There is a carryover to doing High Intensity Intervals like sprinting which are anaerobic, to your aerobic system, and sprinting has also been shown to improve 5k time.

4)      The physical demand of sprinting on the soft sand makes the sprints more demanding and thus provides a higher energy output.

5)      This goes along with #4, the sand sprinting also produces less impact shocks without having to make you run at full speed which can lead to tissue failure and a higher risk of injury.

6)      Sand sprinting also helps the muscles not have to fully stretch, which is another mechanism for injury.

As you can see there are many benefits to moving your running on softer ground. If you do not have a beach available you could always try switching to another soft surface like trails, or grass.

On a final note, it does take some work to run on sand. Like anything else you should build up the difficulty by running closer to the water’s edge where the sand is harder and packed down. Then progress to the softer sand.

Happy running!