Posts Tagged ‘fitness’

 Anyone who’s ever suffered from sciatic nerve pain knows it’s a real pain in the butt—literally. And If you’re dealing with a flare up, these simple moves can help by targeting one of the most common causes: Piriformis Syndrome. “This happens when the piriformis, a small muscle deep in your hips, becomes tight and compresses the sciatic nerve, often leading to burning pain and numbness on one side of your butt and down the back of your leg,” says Chicago-based physical therapist David Reavy. And it’s not just the piriformis that needs a little TLC: Tight hip flexors compound the problem by making the piriformis muscles work harder, causing it to tighten and pinch the sciatic nerve. “That’s why it’s so important to stretch, stretch, stretch the hips—once you release the piriformis muscle, you take the pressure off the nerve, which can lessen the pain and keep it from coming back. Foam rolling the hip rotator can also help to release some of that tension and minimize pain.”sciatic nerve pain

Start by doing these moves at least 3 times a week. Once you’ve gotten rid of the pain, keep doing the exercises at least once a week to keep it from coming back.Reclined Pigeon With Prep Stretch

 Lie face-down and bend your knees so your heels are right under your knees. Take your hands to the front of your thighs, slide them to the root of the leg where it meets your pelvis, and push the heel of each hand into the bottom of the leg bone. Lift your right leg up and cross over the left. With a small curve in your back, grab the back of your thighs and push your legs into your hands, away from your face. Hold for several deep breaths and then repeat on the other side.

Reclining Cow’s Face Pose

 Lie face-up and cross your left leg over your right. Raise both legs off the floor, flex both feet, and reach up for the outer ankles, hugging your legs toward your belly. Spread your toes, keep your feet flexed, and hold your legs in for several breaths. Slowly switch to the other side and repeat.

Low Lunge

Start in a runner’s lunge, right leg forward with knee over ankle and left knee on ground with top of your foot flat on the mat. Slowly lift torso and rest hands lightly on right thigh. Lean hips forward slightly, keeping right knee behind toes, and feel the stretch in the left hip flexor. Hold here, or for a deeper stretch, raise arms overhead, biceps by ears. Hold for at least 30 seconds, then repeat on opposite side.

Pigeon

Start in a runner’s lunge with right leg forward, right knee over right ankle and back leg straight. Walk right foot over toward left hand, then drop right shin and thigh to the floor, making sure to keep right knee in line with right hip. Allow left leg to rest on the floor with top of left foot facing down. Take a moment to square your hips to the front of the room. Hold here, or hinge at hips and lower torso toward floor, allowing head to rest on forearms. Hold for at least 30 seconds, then repeat on opposite side. You want to feel a moderate stretch in the outside of the right thigh, but if this pose hurts your knees or feels too uncomfortable, stick with thread the needle.

Frog Pose

If most inner-thigh openers feel too easy (and your ankles and knees are injury-free), try Frog Pose. Get down on all fours, with palms on the floor and your knees on blankets or a mat (roll your mat lengthwise, like a tortilla, and place it under your knees for more comfort). Slowly widen your knees until you feel a comfortable stretch in your inner thighs, keeping the inside of each calf and foot in contact with the floor.  Make sure to keep your ankles in line with your knees. Lower down to your forearms. Stay here for at least 30 seconds.

Foam Roll for Hip Rotator

Sit on the foam roller with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Lean your torso back and place right hand on the floor, shifting weight into right hip and crossing right ankle over left thigh. Place your left hand on your left thigh. Use your supporting foot and hand to roll from the bottom of the glutes to the pelvic bone. Continue rolling back and forth for 30 to 60 seconds.

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The Physiology of Fat Loss

by: Len Kravitz, PhD , Christine Mermier, PhD and Mike Deyhle

From the fat cell to the fat furnace, find out exactly what causes the body to burn fat.

Fat may seem like the enemy of civilized people—especially sedentary ones. Yet we cannot live without it.Fat plays a key role in the structure and flexibility of cell membranes, and it helps regulate the movement of substances through those membranes. Special types of fat, known as eicosanoids, send hormone-like signals that exert intricate control over many bodily systems, mostly those affecting inflammation or immune function.

Of course, the best-known function of fat is as an energy reserve. Fat has more than twice the energy-storage capacity of carbohydrate (9 calories per gram vs. 4 calories per gram). It has been estimated that lean adult men store about 131,000 calories in fat (Horowitz & Klein 2000), enough energy to keep the average person alive for about 65 days.

For fitness professionals, the prime concern arises when the body’s fat-storage function works too well, hoarding unwanted fat that makes people unhealthy and self-conscious about their appearance. Understanding how fat travels through the body can help personal trainers work with clients to reduce excess body fat and improve athletic performance.

The Journey of a Fatty Acid to Muscle

THE ADIPOCYTE

p38 ImageFat resides primarily in designated fat-storage cells called adipocytes. Most adipocytes are just under the skin (subcutaneous fat) and in regions surrounding (and protecting) vital organs (visceral fat). Nearly all fat in adipocytes exists in the form of triacylglycerols (TAGs or triglycerides). Each TAG consists of a backbone (glycerol) with three fatty-acid tails (see Figure 1).

Depending on energy supply and demand, adipocytes can either store fat from the blood or release fat back to the blood. After we eat, when the energy supply is high, the hormone insulin keeps fatty acids inside the adipocytes (Duncan et al. 2007). After a few hours of fasting or (especially) during exercise, insulin levels tend to drop (see Figure 2), while levels of other hormones—such as epinephrine (adrenaline)—increase.

When epinephrine binds to adipocytes, TAG stores go through a process called lipolysis (Duncan et al. 2007), which separates fatty acids from their glycerol backbone. After lipolysis, fatty acids and glycerol can leave the adipocytes and enter the blood.

p39 ImageFatty Acids in the Blood

Because fat does not easily dissolve in water, it needs a carrier protein to keep it evenly suspended in the water-based environment of the blood. The primary protein carrier for fat in the blood is albumin (Holloway et. al. 2008). One albumin protein can carry multiple fatty acids through the blood to muscle cells (Horowitz & Klein 2000). In the very small blood vessels (capillaries) surrounding the muscle, fatty acids can be removed from albumin and taken into the muscle (Holloway et al. 2008).

Fatty Acids Going From the Blood Into Muscle

Fatty acids must cross two barriers to get from the blood into the muscle. The first is the cell lining of the capillary (called the endothelium), and the second is the muscle-cell membrane (known as the sarcolemma). Fatty-acid movement across these barriers was once thought to be extremely rapid and unregulated (Holloway et al. 2008). More recent research has shown that this process is not nearly as fast as once thought and that the presence of special binding proteins is required at the endothelium and sarcolemma for fatty acids to pass through (Holloway et al. 2008). Two proteins that are important for fatty-acid transport into the muscle cells are FAT/CD36 and FABPpm.

Two Fates of Fat Inside Muscle

Once fat is inside the muscle, a molecule called coenzyme A (CoA) is added to the fatty acids (Holloway et al. 2008). CoA is a transport protein that maintains the inward flow of fatty acids entering the muscle and prepares the fatty acid for one of two fates:

  • oxidation (in which electrons are removed from a molecule) to produce energy or
  • storage within the muscle (Holloway et al. 2008; Shaw, Clark & Wagenmakers 2010)

The majority (80%) of fatty acids entering the muscle during exercise are oxidized for energy, while most fatty acids entering the muscle after a meal are repackaged into TAGs and stored in the muscle in lipid droplets (Shaw, Clark & Wagenmakers, 2010). Fatty acids stored in muscle are called intramyocellular triacylglycerols (IMTAGs) or intramuscular fat.

There are two to three times more IMTAGs stored in slow twitch muscle fibers (the slow oxidative fibers) than there are in fast-twitch muscle fibers (Shaw, Clark & Wagenmakers 2010). Shaw and colleagues note that even though this IMTAG supply makes up only a fraction (1%–2%) of the total fat stores within the body, it is of great interest to exercise physiologists because it is a metabolically active fatty-acid substrate especially used during periods of increased energy expenditure, such as endurance exercise.

Fatty Acids Burned for Energy

Fatty acids burned for energy (oxidized) in the muscle can come either directly from the blood or from IMTAG stores. For fatty acids to be oxidized, they must be transported into the cells’ mitochondria (see Figure 3). A mitochondrion is an organelle that functions like a cellular power plant; it processes fatty acids (and other fuels) to create a readily usable energy currency (ATP) in order to meet the energy needs of a muscle cell.

Most fatty acids are transported into the mitochondria via the carnitine shuttle (Holloway et al. 2008), which uses two enzymes and carnitine (an amino acid-like molecule) to do the transporting. One of these enzymes is called carnitine palmitoyltransferase I (CPT1). CPT1 may work with one of the same proteins (FAT/CD36) used to bring fatty acids into the muscle cells from the blood (Holloway et al. 2008). Once inside the mitochondria, fatty acids are broken down through several enzymatic pathways—including beta-oxidation, the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle and the electron transport chain—to produce ATP.

Fatty-Acid Oxidation During a Single Bout of Exercise

At the start of exercise, more blood flows to adipose tissue and muscle (Horowitz & Klein 2000), releasing more fatty acids from adipose tissue and delivering more fatty acids to the muscle.

Exercise intensity has a great impact on fat oxidation.We burn the most fat when exercising at low to moderate intensity—that is, when oxygen consumption is between 25% and 60% of maximum (Horowitz & Klein 2000). At very low exercise intensities (25% VO2max), most of the fatty acids used during exercise come from the blood (Achten & Jeukendrup 2004). As exercise increases to moderate intensity (around 60% of VO2max), most of the fatty acids oxidized appear to come from IMTAG stores (Horowitz & Klein 2000).

p39 ImageAt higher exercise intensities (>70% VO2max), total fat oxidation falls below the levels observed at moderate intensity (Horowitz & Klein 2000). This reduction in fatty-acid oxidation is coupled with an increase in carbohydrate breakdown to meet the energy demands of the exercise (Horowitz & Klein 2000).

We often overemphasize the fatty-acid contribution to calories burned during a bout of exercise. It’s also important to consider recovery from a bout of exercise, as well as training adaptations to repeated bouts, if you’re helping clients meet their fat-loss goals.

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ACE – ProSource: October 2014 – Build Strong Glutes and a Pain-free Lower Back.

By Justin Price

There are two things many of our clients have in common: They want to have nice-looking buns and, at some point in their lives, they will experience lower-back pain. The good news is that developing strong, shapely glutes can contribute to a pain-free lower back. In this article, you’ll learn why deconditioned and/or dysfunctional gluteal muscles and lower-back pain often go hand-in-hand. You’ll also learn which exercises build strong glutes and can help keep lower-back pain at bay.

What Causes Back Pain

Many people mistakenly believe that lower-back pain is caused by a problem with their lower back. This is understandable given that movements of daily life, sports and most weight-bearing exercise modalities require the spine to move forward, backward, side to side and in rotation (McGill, 2002). When you lean forward, for example, the spine rounds/flexes. When walking and running, it moves from side to side as you transfer weight from one foot to the other. When performing sporting movements like golf, tennis and baseball, the spine must rotate to achieve the desired motion (Chasan, 2002).

However, all these movements of the spine require other parts of the body to work as well. When bending forward to pick a weight up from the ground, for example, the ankles, knees and hips should also bend to help lower the torso. Similarly, as the spine moves from side to side during walking, the legs and hips should also move from side to side (i.e., adduct and abduct) to help provide a good base of support for the spine as it moves. Rotational movements of the spine should be accompanied by rotational movements in the legs and hips so the tremendous force created by swinging a tennis racket or golf club, for example, is dissipated throughout the entire body. When actions of the spine are not accompanied by correct movement in the rest of the body, the spine and its surrounding muscles (e.g., the lower back) have to take up the slack and may become overworked and injured.

How Strong Glutes Can Help Prevent Back Pain

The gluteal complex of muscles (i.e., gluteus maximus, medius and minimus) plays a key role in helping take stress off the spine during multiplanar movements. That’s because these muscles help control movements of the torso, pelvis, hips and legs. When you bend forward or squat, for example, your hips should bend backward to counterbalance the forward motion of your upper body to help you stay upright (Figure 1). The gluteus maximus works to decelerate flexion of your hips to help counteract the downward pull of gravity and prevent your lumbar spine from over-rounding forward (Price and Bratcher, 2010). If your glutes are not strong enough to fully engage when your hips bend backward, your spine must round forward excessively to lower your arms to the ground (Figure 2).

Similarly, much of the rotational movement stress experienced by the spine during sporting activities is moderated by the gluteus maximus muscle. When the spine rotates over the leg on one side of the body (e.g., when taking a backswing or follow through in golf, tennis or baseball), the hip and leg should also rotate to take stress off the lower back (Figure 3). Because the gluteus maximus muscle attaches to the structures of spine and pelvis and to the leg, rotation of the hip and leg should engage and lengthen this muscle, thus helping to decelerate rotation of the torso (Golding and Golding, 2003). If the gluteus maximus muscle is not working properly, stress from rotational movements is instead transferred to the lumbar spine and may manifest as pain in the lower back.

Side-to-side movement stress to the spine is moderated by the smaller muscles of the gluteal complex—the gluteus medius and minimus (Dimon and Qualter, 2008). As the spine moves from left to right as a person takes alternating steps when walking and running, the pelvis should also move from side to side (Figure 4). This shifting motion of the pelvis with the torso is decelerated by the gluteus medius and minimus because of their attachments from the pelvis to the side of the hip and leg. When they are healthy and functional they act as a brake for the lumbar spine, protecting it from excessive movement and stress. If they are not working correctly, pain may manifest in the hips and lower back.

How to Build Strong Glutes and a Pain-free Lower Back

As you have seen, correct functioning of the gluteal complex of muscles can help protect the structures of the lumbar spine as it moves during multiple planes of motion. However, before you begin overloading these muscles in an attempt to build strong glutes and a pain-free back, it is extremely important to adequately prepare them so as not to injure your lower back (Price and Bratcher, 2010). The following “warm up and wake up” series of self-myofascial release exercises and neuromuscular activation techniques will help ensure your gluteal muscles are working correctly and can protect your lower back as you move through various ranges of motion in the glute-strengthening program that follows.

Warm-up Exercises

For gluteal muscles to be flexible enough to lengthen effectively and decelerate movements of the pelvis, hips and spine, have your clients perform some self-myofascial release techniques on the muscles of the glutes and lower back prior to exercising. This will ensure the tissues are warm and mobile and can move in all three planes of motion.

Tennis Ball on the Butt

Massaging the gluteal complex of muscles before working out can help promote better movement of the pelvis, hips and legs, and ensure you get the most out of the strengthening exercises that follow.

Have your client to lie on his or her back with the knees bent. Place a tennis ball under the right side of the butt and scoot the body up and down and from side to side to move the ball to any sore spots, from the base of the spine all the way out to the side of the leg. You can progress this exercise by coaching your client to place the right ankle on the left knee. Place a rolled-up towel under the left hip to help keep the pelvis level. Roll out each buttock for one to two minutes. While a tennis ball is the easiest piece of equipment to purchase and use, a foam roller can also be used to massage the gluteal complex.

Tennis Ball on Lower Back

The gluteus maximus muscle ties into the fascia of the lower back (i.e., thoracolumbar fascia). Therefore, massaging the muscles on either side of the lumbar spine is important before performing glute-strengthening exercises.

Instruct your client to lie on his or her back with the knees bent. Place a tennis ball under the right side of the lower back (away from the spine itself) and scoot the body to move the ball to any sore spots between the bottom of the rib cage and the top of the hip. (Note: Do not place the tennis ball directly under the bottom two ribs. These are “floating ribs,” which do not attach to the sternum at the front of the rib cage.) Massage the area on each side of the spine for one to two minutes.

Foam Roller on Side of Thigh

The iliotibial band on the side of the thigh attaches the gluteus maximus muscle to the lower leg. Increasing blood supply to this structure will encourage correct movement of the hip and leg.

Instruct your client to place a foam roller beneath and perpendicular to the right leg, which is extended, and to balance the body on the right elbow and the left foot. Roll the leg up and down over the roller and pause on any sore spots. If your client has shoulder problems, or finds it difficult to balance, instruct him or her to lie on the ground with the head supported by a pillow, and place a tennis ball under the outside of the thigh. Perform this exercise for one to two minutes on each side.

Wake-up Exercises

People with lower-back problems typically have difficulty activating their glutes correctly. The following isometric and/or single-joint neuromuscular-activation exercises for the gluteus maximus, minimus and medius ensure these muscles are receiving correct input from the nervous system before you load them up with dynamic, multiplanar strengthening exercises.

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Food Mistakes

By Cynthia Sass

Whether you earn your living working up a sweat, or squeeze in workouts when you can, it’s easy to fall prey to eating errors that unintentionally hold you back from getting the most out of your workouts. Here are five common missteps I see, and how to correct them to reap the rewards of your hard work.

Eating Too Little Fat Despite my recommendations to include good fats at every meal, like avocado, nuts, seeds and coconut oil, some of my clients remain fat phobic, and will scale back, fearing that fat is “fattening.” But the truth is, getting enough fat is a smart strategy for both sports nutrition and weight control, because fat: delays stomach emptying, so you feel fuller longer; increases satiety, to shut off hunger hormones; boosts antioxidant absorption, which in emerging research is related to leanness; and ups metabolic rate, to help you burn more calories. In fact, fat is one of the most vital nutrients in your diet, because it’s a structural part of your cells, which means you can’t heal a cell or construct a new one without enough fat to perform these important jobs. Cutting back too much can result in fatigue, chronic hunger, or a lack of satiety, irritability, depression, a weaker immune system and an increased injury risk. So even if you’re trying to reduce your body fat percentage, don’t be afraid to add almond butter to a smoothie, top your salad with avocado, and sauté your veggies in extra virgin olive oil. Filling the fat gap can be the key to finally seeing results.

Using A Sports Drink When You Really Don’t Need One If you sweat heavily, work out for more than 90 minutes, or exercise in hot, humid conditions, reaching for a sports drink rather than plain water is a smart way to keep hydrated, stay fueled and replace the electrolytes lost in sweat. But if you’re exercising for less than an hour and a half, in a climate-controlled gym, plain water should be fine. The carbs in sports drinks are designed to keep you going when you can’t stop to eat, but if your muscles don’t need the fuel, just one 20 ounce bottle means consuming a surplus 35 grams of sugar, the amount in about 20 gummy bears. And while unsweetened coconut water is a little lower, an 11-ounce jug still contains 15 grams of potentially unneeded carbs.

Not Eating After A Workout Because You’re Afraid To “Eat Back” What You’ve Burned While it’s true that overcompensating for a workout by eating too much can prevent you from shrinking your fat cells, striking the right balance is key. Working out takes a toll on your body, and having the right raw materials to heal and repair the wear and tear is important for seeing results. In other words, it’s not just the training itself, but the healing from the training, that mends muscles, boosts metabolism and makes you more toned and fit. So while a good hard workout isn’t a license to sit down to a big plate of pasta, or eat dessert every night, you should be eating something afterwards, with a goal of delivering the nutrients your body needs to properly recover.

Only Eating Protein Post Workout While protein is a key recovery nutrient, it’s only one piece of the puzzle. In addition to a lean protein source, like a smart phone-sized portion of fish or chicken or a scoop of lentils, you should aim for plenty of produce (to replenish nutrients and supply antioxidants), a healthy fat source (which also helps muscles heal and optimizes circulation), a small serving of a whole grain, like wild rice or quinoa (to replete glycogen, the carbohydrate stored in muscle tissue, which serves as a primary fuel source during exercise) and of course fluid, preferably good old H2O (to rehydrate). If you exercise after work, a great post-workout recovery dinner would be a stir-fry made with chicken, shrimp or organic tofu, along with a variety of colorful veggies, over a small portion of whole grain rice, topped with sliced almonds or black sesame seeds. For a simple aromatic stir-fry sauce, that’s not loaded with sugar, whisk together a few tablespoons of brown rice vinegar, with a splash of fresh squeezed citrus juice (like tangerine or blood orange), and a dash each of fresh grated ginger, minced garlic and crushed red pepper.

 

Doubling Up On Recovery Meals For my pro athlete clients, I highly recommend eating something like an all natural bar or shake within 30 minutes of the end of a game or a tough training session whenever possible, because starting the recovery process within a half hour has been shown to help maximize healing. But employing this strategy if you’re not a pro can wind up working against you. For example, if you munch on a bar or grab a smoothie on the way out of the gym, then go home and eat dinner, you may be in recovery overkill. While it might not register as a meal, a bar with 30 grams of carbohydrate, 5 grams of fat, and 10 grams of protein is like eating a small turkey sandwich with mayo. And a smoothie can be the equivalent of three to four handfuls of fruit, plus a container of yogurt. Downing these “snacks” just an hour or so before eating a regular dinner, can mean giving your body far more than it needs for recovery, which results in feeding your fat cells, rather than shrinking them. If you’re going to be eating a meal with an hour of leaving the gym, skip the bar and shake. And if it’s going to be a little longer, munch on something like almonds, which supply some protein, good fat and nutrients, to tie you over.

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Burpee Equivalents:  Understanding Junk Food in terms of Your Favorite Exercise

by Dr. Jeff Godin, Ph.D., CSCS, & Spartan Coach

Occasionally we slip up with our diets and sneak in some junk calories. When we do, we have to pay the price…In Burpees!  At Spartan Coaching HQ we have been conducting research to quantify energy expenditure during the Burpee exercise.  Here is what we found:

Burpee

 

Calories (kcals)

burpees for 130lb individual

burpees for 180lb individual

1 large French Fries

500

524

349

1 IPA beer

195

204

136

1 Slice of Dominos Peperoni Pizza

260

272

182

1 8 ounce Ted’s Bison Cheesburger

730

765

510

1 scoop of Ben Jerry’s Cookie Dough ice cream

270

283

189

1 12” Roast beef sub from Subway

970

1016

677

1 Cola soft drink

200

210

140

1 Fried Calamari Appetizer

700

733

489

1 Plain Bagel

320

335

223

1 Slice of Cheescake

1000

1048

698

1 Egg McMuffin Sandwich

300

314

210

1 Cadbury Creme Egg

59

62

41

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by Coach Al Lyman, CSCS, FMS, HKC

      Image      Recently, there has been debate in triathlon circles about the benefit of brick runs. A new school of thought has swept in claiming that running off the bike in training serves no purpose and is of little use. After years of thought on this topic as a coach, and much personal experimentation as an athlete and movement specialist here in our gait analysis lab, here is my perspective on the debate.

In brief, I believe brick runs have great value, but not necessarily for the reasons most people think. In my opinion, the issue of running off the bike should not be presented as a training dilemma or time-saving problem to be solved. Brick runs, in fact, present the opportunity to solve a very important physical MOVEMENT issue for triathletes.

What I know from my work in our gait analysis lab, and confirmed from my own experience, is that it is VERY challenging to get the posterior chain-the glutes, in particular-working properly to be able to run well after cycling. I have personally spent a lot of time practicing and experimenting with ways to trigger better glute activation and involvement before a brick run. I have worked on correct hip flexor stretching, and various dynamic stretching of the entire anterior hip region in order to better activate the posterior chain. I can tell you with certainty that it is very difficult to get the back side of our body going after being on a bike for any length of time. And, to be clear, to run to your potential your posterior chain-including the glutes-has to not only be firing, but must be strong.

But why do the glutes stubbornly refuse to activate off the bike? It is due to a real physiologic phenomenon known as reciprocal inhibition. Reciprocal inhibition causes the muscles on one side of a joint to relax to accommodate contraction on the other side of that joint. The posture of cycling involves sustained hip flexion, making the hip flexors short and tight. Reciprocal inhibition then causes the hip extensors, especially the gluteus maximus, to shut down markedly. As we discuss further, you will see how brick runs work effectively to counter this phenomenon.

The discoveries I have made in my own training, as well as what I see in the athletes I coach, prove to me that the following elements are absolutely crucial to one’s ability to optimize the run portion of a triathlon:

– You must first understand how important the glutes are in running. And its NOT enough that your glutes are strong (although they MUST be STRONG), they must also be able to act as the PRIMARY extendor of the hip, which is their role. Sometimes the hamstring or low back, due to compensation, tries to over take the role of the glute. First order of business for you is to eliminate compensation wherever possible so that the glutes are doing their job, and then via a platform of functional strength training, get them strong.

– You must understand that the glutes work to create hip extension when running to power you down the road. When coming off the bike, the glutes are not doing that job well at all due to reciprocal inhibition. The longer the ride, the greater the inhibition. Therefore…

– It is imperative to PRACTICE running off the bike frequently to develop a precise, in-tune FEEL of what it takes to get the glutes working effectively. How can you do that?

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 Do You Want to Lose Weight?

Break away from bad eating habits and find new ways to shed pounds for good. By Nicole Falcone Image by Ann E. Cutting Published 11/29/2010

Q: How can I benefit from a session with a regular dietitian, and how do I find a good one? A: A registered dietitian (R.D.) can help you whether you need a few nutritional pointers or you want a complete diet overhaul. To be an R.D. one must have a college degree in dietetics, as well as clinical experience, and must be certified by the American Dietetic Association. Many R.D.s are well versed in sports nutrition, but they often also specialize in such areas as diabetes, weight loss, or heart health.
In one or more sessions with an R.D., you should be provided with eating plans and specific food guidelines tailored to your dietary needs. Some dietitians may even join you in the grocery store to teach you how to shop for optimal health.
To find a dietitian in your area, go to eatright.org. Call a few dietitians and discuss their rates (which can range from $75 to $250 per hour), as well as their views on eating, foods, and supplements. I suggest you avoid dietitians who push supplements over food. Also be wary of “food cops” who exclude food groups or pit good foods against bad foods.

Q: Neither my weight nor my diet nor my running habits have changed for 20 years—but my waist measurement has steadily grown. What gives? A: Even runners who stay in top shape as they age may see their waistlines expand due to declining levels of “youth” hormones, such as growth hormone, which alter where body fat is stored as well as declining muscle mass. While your diet may not have changed much, certain foods can have a bigger impact on weight gain as you age. Keep your belt buckle in the same hole with these strategies:
Pack in produce. Studies show that people who eat ample fruits and vegetables have smaller waists than those who skimp on produce. Researchers theorize a diet rich in fruits and veggies helps curb blood-sugar swings, which can influence the hormones that make fat.
Keep it whole. Eating whole-grain over refined-grain products keeps waistlines trim. Research reveals refined-grain eaters have larger waists, which may be related to a lower fiber intake and its impact on controlling body fat.
Easy on the alcohol. Studies show heavy alcohol consumption leads to fat accumulation around the middle. Women should drink no more than one drink daily, and men should limit themselves to two drinks per day.
Stay fit. Studies show people lose specifically from their waist when exercise is part of their weight-loss program. Upping your mileage or occasionally adding other cross-training workouts may help shave off inches.

Q: What’s the best race distance to train for to lose weight? A: Many runners assume marathon training is the fastest way to lose weight, because all those extra miles add up to lots of burned calories. But the additional miles will also increase appetite, leading some runners to eat too many calories to lose weight.
So rather than running longer, I suggest concentrating on pace. Specifically, try speeding up on one to three of your runs per week (alternating your faster days with easy days). Running faster burns more calories and helps you lose weight in three ways.
(1) You burn about 100 calories for every mile you run. But as intensity increases, so does calorie burning—up to 10 calories per minute per mile. That may sound like a small difference, but it adds up. (2) After a run, you burn additional calories as your body recovers. The harder you run, the more energy you’ll expend post-exercise. One study showed that a high-effort exercise session boosted the “afterburn” by more than double compared with a low-effort session. (3) High-intensity running puts a damper on your appetite. After a longer, slower jog you may well be hungry, while after a hard run, you usually don’t feel like eating. Researchers theorize that a high-intensity effort heats up the body more, which affects temperature-sensitive appetite controls in the central nervous system.
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