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We know, not everyone is a morning person. (And even fewer of us are eager to wake up and hit the gym.) But getting up and moving can actually be an amazing way to start your day.
While the best time to exercise depends on your schedule and your body, the odds are in favor of morning workouts. Think about it: You won’t have to trudge to the gym after a long day of work, you may sleep better, and you’re more likely to actually get it done if you do it before other (sometimes more fun) options come up. (Who wants to say no to happy hour?!)
Sure, you may have heard the usual tips and tricks, but what hacks do people who consistently work out in the early a.m. actually use? We asked those who know best — a mix of people who train for a living, Greatist staffers, and you, our dear readers — to find out what gets them up and at ‘em at the crack of dawn.
From the Experts
“I ride a Bike to the gym to teach — even in the winter. Those single digit temperatures and bitter breeze smack me so hard in the face, I don’t even need a cup of coffee!” — Ryan Wilke, co-founder of Throwback Fitness
2. Set two alarms.
“The first one lets me know I have 15 more minutes to sleep, which makes me happy. Then, I meditate for 10 minutes, drink an almond milk cappuccino, play music (pretty loud — sorry, neighbors!), and throw on a super-bright Nike outfit. Caffeine. Clear Head. Neon. I’m out the door and ready to take on the day.” — Holly Rilinger, Nike Master Trainer, Flywheel Master Instructor, and co-creator of BeachFIT
3. Pack accordingly and get in bed early.
“Every evening I check to see what the morning workout will be and prepare my bag accordingly (not every day is a jump rope day). On weekdays I’m in bed no later than 10:30 p.m., so my 6:30 a.m. alarm doesn’t feel quite so brutal. I’m ready and out the door within 10 minutes.” — Sandee Shin, CrossFit Virtuosity athlete
4. Flip a switch.
“Blinding light as soon as the alarm goes off always makes me realize I don’t want to go back to sleep. Then, I turn on some tunes — on days I need extra help I’ll go for Drake or Nikki — and grab my first cup of coffee rather than the covers.” — Jessi Kneeland, personal trainer and creator of Remodel Fitness
5. Have a delicious breakfast ready and waiting.
“When I’m looking at another 5 a.m. wake up call, I’ll pre-order my favorite smoothie from my go-to smoothie shop to be delivered to the box early the next morning. Once I hit that send button, I know I have get up early — not just so I can eat it, but to make sure nobody else eats it (which, yes, has almost happened). I even label my alarm to say: ‘Get your damn Liquiteria.'” — Sarah Pope, assistant coach at Brick New York
6. Keep the alarm away from your bed.
“In fact, I used to have an alarm clock that would purposely vibrate off my nightstand, then shake and roll all over the floor so I had to chase it to shut it off! For me, the hardest part is that initial physical act of getting my body out of bed. It’s all downhill from there!” — Brian Gallagher, co-founder of Throwback Fitness
7. Make it a habit.
“Life is about habits, both big and small. So to get to the bigger goal of working out in the morning, I stick to small habits along the way, like placing my alarm clock in my kitchen. As I brush my teeth, I ask myself: What will I gain from staying awake instead of going back to bed? The answer is always ‘a lot,’ because a couple extra hours of uninterrupted time is enormous, whether it’s spent at a desk or in the gym.” — Adam Griffin, founder of Bodeefit
8. Prep your clothes — and a playlist.
“The more I like my outfit, the more excited I am to put it on! Also, I always have an excellent playlist. For me, music dictates the way and the intensity in which I move.” — Bree Branker, Flywheel NYC instructor
9. Wear red and grab a mint.
“Most of my workout clothes are red. The color’s known to increase excitement, energy levels and circulation, and for me it really works to get me going. I also pop in a peppermint Altoid, which I’ve done ever since my collegiate track and field days. Peppermint can create alertness, which is something I need running through Central Park in the early a.m. The only thing that I haven’t mastered is remembering my keys, which sometimes makes my workouts a bit longer than originally planned.” — Jay Cardiello, celebrity trainer and fitness editor-at-large for Shape Magazine
10. Coffee = life.
“I drink as much coffee as I can (if they made coffee IV injections I’d buy ‘em) to get my zombie-like body out the door before it knows what’s happening to it.” [Editor’s note: After all, we can have more caffeine than we thought!] — Alyx Brown, Chiropractic physician at Manhattan’s Urban Wellness Clinic
11. Splash yourself.
“I could lie in bed for hours, so the biggest struggle for me is just putting my feet on the ground. Then I immediately walk to the bathroom and wash my face with cold water — afterwards, I feel awake and ready to go.” — Locke Hughes, senior editor
12. Eliminate excuses.
“When I pack my bag the night before, I include an extra plastic bag for sweaty clothes and my second stash of toiletries so I’m never without some deodorant or quick-cleansing wipes (which I’ll use after a not-so-sweaty workout like yoga). Also, I keep hair ties on my wrist, because yes, I have used that excuse before.” — Maria Hart, senior editor
13. Schedule brunch.
“I’m completely motivated by rewards, preferably food. So now I plan brunch with my friends on the weekends in the late morning. Nothing makes me run harder or faster (and even sometimes longer) than knowing a mimosa and some French toast are waiting for me.” — Jeff Cattel, associate editor
14. Think about how you’ll feel afterward.
“For me, it’s knowing how great I’ll feel once it’s over. Once I’m done I know I have the entire day and night to do whatever I want!” — Amanda Delaney, director of office operations
“I like to have an insanely delicious (and healthy) pre-gym snack so I’m motivated to wake up and go. I love making energy bites loaded with almond butter and oats and having a strong cup of coffee on my commute to the gym. By the time I’m there, I have tons of energy and am ready to work.” — Tara Fuller, director of brand strategy
With the exception of people named Bruce Banner, muscles need a certain amount of rest in order to strengthen and grow. But while some sources suggest muscles need 48 hours or more to recover from exercise, there might not be a one-size-fits-all timeline.
Whether they’re in it for health, happiness, or an upcoming vacation, many gym-goers want to look and feel a certain way—and fast. But in the process of strengthening the legs, chest, or any other muscle group, rest is just as important as reps. And for many individuals, not taking an occasional rest day could lead to overtraining, which can mean decreased performance, elevated blood pressure, decreased immunity, disturbed sleep, and more.
Physical exercise, from lifting weights to running intervals, damages muscle fibers, and can create a feeling of soreness (and dread at the sight of stairs). But during rest periods, muscles have time to reconstruct (or recover) in stronger formations and increase in size. Yep, turns out that strength and muscle gains actually occur outside the gym, during periods of rest, not inside the weight room.
Some research suggests that because muscle soreness can peak two days post-exercise, a minimum of 48 hours of rest is optimal to allow recovery and prevent injury—at least among the competitive athletes who were studied. Other experts suggest resting up to 72 hours between workouts if you’re an exercise newbie, while some say eight hours of good sleep is enough for your body to recover.
Finally, one meta-analysis determined that for optimal strength development, one to two rest days between sessions is ideal for beginners training three days per week and experienced exercisers training two days per week.
Still, there are other factors to consider when it comes to determining adequate rest. Those who are older, for instance, may experienceslowed muscle recovery and growth. Other factors include how intensely you work out, how often you work out, what you eat, and the duration of exercise. With so many mixed messages out there, one thing’s for sure: Some amount of rest in your exercise routine is crucial to enhance muscle growth, and to keep symptoms of overtraining at bay.
Still, your muscles may not need to take a total break from movement in order to fully recover. One study found low-intensity post-workout exercise—such as swimming laps or taking a walk—can increase muscle relaxation, which benefits recovery. Other research suggests muscles can work to full capacity even while in the recovery stage. And keep in mind that “recovery” doesn’t necessarily mean sitting on your couch all day either: Yoga, Pilates, light jogging, or swimming can be considered “rest day” activities, depending on your fitness level.
You can also look to more mellow treatments to speed recovery, including icing, heating, static stretching, and massage therapy.(Don’t forget about the trusty foam roller!) Another way to speed recovery: Pay attention to proper post-workout nutrition, including adequate amounts of protein.
The bottom line: There’s no magic formula for optimal days of rest. Take your fitness level, intensity, frequency, and duration of activity into account, and look for signs that the body needs a break, like chronic muscle or joint soreness and impaired physical performance. Be sure to recognize the difference between pain and soreness, and most of all, don’t be afraid to take some time off.
Do a quick Internet search for “proper running form” and you’ll get lost in scientific jargon: swing phase, stance time, loading rate, stretch reflex. But if you’re like me, you don’t need (or want) to know the nitty gritty science behind good form. You just want to know how to do it!
Instead of focusing on the overwhelming (not to mention boring) technicalities, stick to these simple, easy-to-implement, and actionable running tricks. Not only will improving form dramatically cut your risk of overuse injuries so you can run consistently, but you’ll also enjoy it more and likely get even faster! The best part? You can do each of these things right now.
One important disclaimer: If you’ve been running for years and don’t have problems with injury or recurring aches and pains, you probably don’t need to alter how you run. Experienced runners who make significant changes to their form often become less efficient. That’s right—their form actually gets worse.
Many new runners tend to over-stride and reach out with their foot to take a longer stride. This creates a heel-smashing, aggressive foot strike that should be avoided because it sends far too much impact shock through the leg.
But heel-striking isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The truth is that it doesn’t really matter where on your foot you land with each step; there are enormously successful runners who are fore-, mid-, and heel-strikers! The most important aspect is actually where your foot lands in relation to the rest of your body, rather than what part of your foot touches the ground first.
Ideally your foot should make contact with the ground directly underneath your body, rather than far out in front of it. A helpful way to think about this is “putting your foot down underneath your hips.” When there’s a straight line from your hips to where your foot lands, there’s no reaching or stretching the leg in front of your body.
This change in form reduces the impact your legs experiences and cuts your injury risk by creating a more fluid, efficient stride.
Your mom was right all those years ago: You should stand up straight. This applies to running posture, too.
Slouching, or leaning from the waist, is a common problem for many runners who try too hard to perfect that “forward lean” they heard was part of proper running form. While a slight forward lean is part of good form, it should come from the ankles, not the waist.
The best part? A slight forward lean from the ankles happens naturally without even trying. So don’t consciously try to lean forward. Instead, focus on running tall with a straight, erect posture.
To help you remember, pretend a string is attached to the top of your head and an imaginary giant is pulling it upward toward the sky. Creepy? Perhaps. But it’s an effective way to reinforce a tall, straight back with no slouching.
Cadence is the number of steps you take per minute (with both feet). The magic number for optimal cadence is thought to be180 steps per minute, according to the legendary running coach Jack Daniels who observed at the 1984 Olympics that this was the average cadence of most elite runners.
But this isn’t a hard and fast number—it’s just a general guideline. When you’re running at an easy, comfortable pace, your cadence should be at least 170 steps per minute.
An average cadence of at least 170 for easy runs means you’ll reduce impact forces on your legs, cut your injury risk, and even improve your running efficiency. How? With a shorter, faster stride, you’re “bounding” less and not introducing the stress that accompanies longer, more impactful strides. In other words, you’ll get hurt less often and probably get faster.
The next time you go for an easy run, count the number of times your foot lands in one minute, then double it (to account for both feet) to get your cadence. If your step rate is under 170, work on increasing it by roughly five percent every two to three weeks until your cadence increases.
To re-cap: Avoid over-striding, run tall, and up that cadence. And that’s it! Most runners who come to me for coaching don’t need sophisticated form analyses in a running lab. Sure, those details can be fun, but typically they’re not as helpful as theeasy-to-implement tips here. Focus on these fundamentals and you’ll reap the rewards: fewer injuries, more enjoyable runs, and maybe even some new personal bests.
And doesn’t that make running a lot more fun?
Taken from Greatist.com Written by Jason Fitzgerald
Many runners say they love the sport because it gives them a chance to be alone with their thoughts. But if you’ve ever trained for a long-distance race, you know that’s an awful long time to be alone with your innermost desires or that same old Top 40s music on your iPod.
Usually free and frequently updated, podcasts are a great alternative when you just want to zone out as you log the miles. Whether you’re looking for entertainment, personal growth or just to learn how to run faster, you can find a show to fit your mood. We asked pro runners, running bloggers and coaches for their favorite podcasts to give you a heavy dose of motivation as you hit the pavement.
Whether you eat like a caveman or are just curious about the Paleo diet, Practical Paleo author Diane Sanfilippo’s podcast is a go-to for anyone curious about the grain-free, dairy-free lifestyle. With cohost Paleo blogger Liz Wolfe, Sanfilippo covers everything from what to eat to lower cholesterol and why you need to give up gum to see results from a sugar detox.
“I recently became a nutrition and health coach,” says Sara Larsen, “so I love listening to learn something new, and it keeps me entertained on long runs on the treadmill.”
If you’ve ever watched The Biggest Loser, you’re used to seeing “America’s Toughest Trainer” giving the contestants her signature tough love approach. But her free, weekly podcast sheds light on a more vulnerable side of the brash fitness superstar, showing how she deals with underlying causes of behaviors like emotional eating to push through her own barriers.
Running blogger and coach Laura Skladzinski tunes in to Jillian Michaels because her episodes usually have a big mental component to them. “It’s like therapy while you run!”
The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley studies the psychology, sociology and neuroscience of well-being. Their thought-provoking podcast explores themes like the neuroscience of happinesswith experts in the field.
Pro runner Deena Kastor—who recently shattered the World Masters Half-Marathon record—is a huge fan. “I love anything that has to do with optimism and progress,” she says. You’ll learn everything from the power of self-compassion to how to be happier at work.
If you are a mother and a runner, you’ve probably heard of Another Mother Runner. Hosted by irreverent and witty bloggers Sarah Bowen Shea and Dimity McDowell, the podcast is “like listening to a hysterical conversation between friends,” says run coach Gia Alvarez. The show includes guests like Magdalena Boulet, a former Olympic marathoner, who now does research and development for energy gel company GU Energy Labs. The long-time friends and business partners share insights on fitting in training time, demystifying track workouts and their upcoming races. (McDowell is currently preparing for an Ironman 70.3 race!)
While this NPR quiz-show format podcast rarely discusses running or fitness (though its host, Peter Sagal, is a 3:20 marathoner himself), it’s still popular among runners. Its devotees say that the format keeps them thinking as they follow along. The show tests its guests on current events and trivia. A popular segment, “Not My Job” quizzes guests on topics completely and utterly out of their wheelhouse—like asking Arizona Senator Jeff Lake about winter sports. “I’ve been known to answer the questions out loud on occasion,” says blogger Mindy Nienhouse from Just a One Girl Revolution.
Triathlete Ben Greenfield may be a top-ranked triathlete and five-time Kona Ironman World Championships competitor, but his show is still accessible to newbies and seasoned athletes alike. Touching on topics ranging from how bad beer really is for you to how to mitigate damage from endurance sports, this podcast will teach you a thing or two while you check another run off your training plan. He’s known for explaining new training strategies, like the Maffetone Method, so listen up if you’ve got a new PR on the brain!
If you’re not ready to commit several months of your life to training for the big distance, you can live vicariously through this podcast. Host Joe Taricani is known for interviewing guests during marathons to give a true on-the-ground look inside a race. He talks to everyone from race directors to medical professionals and suppliers about what it takes to put on—and get through—26.2 miles of fun.
Taken from News&Views, Health.com, Written by Theodora Blanchfield
Exercising three times a week reduces the odds of developing depression by around 16 percent, scientists said on Wednesday — and for every extra weekly activity session, the risk drops further.
In a study conducted as part of a public health research consortium, the UK-based scientists said the relationship they found between depression and exercise points to ways to simultaneously improve both mental and physical health.
“Assuming the association is causal, leisure time physical activity has a protective effect against depression,” said Snehal Pinto Pereira of University College London’s Institute of Child Health, who led the study.
“If an adult between their twenties and forties who isn’t physically active became active three times per week, they would reduce their risk of depression by approximately 16 percent.”
Depression is one of the most common forms of mental illness, affecting more than 350 million people worldwide. It is ranked by the World Health Organization as the leading cause of disability globally.
Treatment for depression usually involves either medication or psychotherapy, or a combination of both. Yet many patients fail to get better and suffer recurring bouts of illness.
Pereira’s team followed 11,135 people born in 1958 up until the age of 50, recording their depressive symptoms and levels of physical activity at regular intervals as adults.
To assess depression, they looked at responses to the Malaise Inventory, a questionnaire designed to measure psychological distress, at ages 23, 33, 42, and 50. Participants were also asked how often they exercised.
The results showed that people who increased their weekly activity reported fewer depressive symptoms, but those with more depressive symptoms were less active, particularly at younger ages. Each additional activity session per week reduced odds of depression by 6 percent.
The scientists noted that the link between exercise and depressive symptoms was seen across the whole population and not just in those at high risk of clinical depression.
The study also found that people who reported more depressive symptoms than others at age 23 tended to also be less physically active, but this link weakened as they grew older.
“This finding is important for policies designed to get people more active, because it suggests that depressive symptoms could be considered a barrier to activity in young adulthood,” Pereira said.
Chris Power, a UCL professor of epidemiology and public health who also worked on the study, said it added weight to existing evidence suggesting exercise could be used as a treatment for depression as well as boosting physical health.
“If everyone was physically active at least three times a week we would expect to see a drop in depression risk, not to mention the benefits for physical health, as pointed out by other research, including reduced obesity, heart disease and diabetes risk.”
Taken From Fox News
Why bother with this whole “exercise” trend? I mean, hell. It’s hard work. It’s time-consuming. Your body aches. Your butt smells like goat cheese. (Anyone? No? Only me?) It ain’t exactly a pony ride.
And yet there are reasons (good reasons it seems) why people go the gym, love the gym, can’t seem to operate without their gym time. They literarily train their cabooses off—whether that’s in the gym, on the pavement, or on the mats, fields, and courts. It seems as though they couldn’t imagine life without exercise.
What have they discovered?
What motivates them to work so damn hard?
Why do they suffer through injuries, through misery, in sickness and in health, in good times and bad for their matrimony with sweat?
What can their commitment to exercise teach a non-gym goer?
Now, I’m going to go ahead and set “looking better” aside. It’s no wonder that some 103 percent of gym-goers exercise to look better. And for the record, I’m not mad at that. Looking better is a perfectly fine reason to workout and is, without question, a strong motivator. But I want to get at some more powerful convictions. Motivations that are less about exterior influence and more about what’s deep down at the heart chakra of what it means to be human.
But where was I? Oh, that’s right:
1. You should work out because it makes you happy. I don’t mean this in an esoteric way. I mean it very literally. You’ll feel awesome after you exercise. Immediately. Intensely. Unequivocally. Study after study confirms the direct relationship between exercise and increased feel-good hormones, including a study that suggests high-intensity exercise modulates the brain in a very similar way to cocaine use . (That’s gotta feel good.) Another recent study confirmed that serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine levels in the hippocampus were significantly increased by exercise, suggesting physical activity can help manage depression .
Even in the 1800s Henry David Thoreau knew what was up. “An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day,” he said.
Both science and great American poets seem to agree: We simply cannot be our happiest without exercise.
2. You should work out to make your life easier. Being stronger, leaner, happier, and more capable can make for a more manageable life:
Your boss needs you to get that box? Yes ma’am, you can get that box.
Your neighbor needs you to rearrange his furniture? Damn right buddy, you’ll move that couch.
Your homeboy needs you to carry him home from the bar? Saddle up, cowboy.
Training increases your capabilities. That’s the law of progressive overload—lift something a lil bit heavier each day, get a lil bit stronger. Run a lil faster each day, get a lil bit, um, faster. A body that is increasingly capable makes for a life that is increasingly manageable (read: awesome).
3. You should work out because it helps you win at life. Setting and achieving goals inside the weight room helps you set and achieve goals outside the weight room. The goal-setting/goal-accomplishing cycle is a learned trait. From a very early age, winners start to reinforce this idea that if they set their mind to something and tirelessly work towards its accomplishment, the outcome will be positive.Archbishop Leon Joseph Cardinal Suenens said it well, “Happy are those who dream dreams and pay the price to make those dreams come true.”
Initially, these victories are small. But eventually, the accomplishment (or foundering) of our goals comes to define our life. This same cycle repeats itself on a daily basis with our exercise. For example, if you’d like to be able to be able to do a pull-up you might:
Do seated rows.
Do inverted rows.
Do lat-pull downs.
Do assisted pull-ups.
DO A PULL-UP.
Set-work-achieve-rinse-repeat. The more you reinforce hard work with a positive outcome, the more you think of yourself as a winner. If we get good at winning at exercise, we can be good at winning at anything.
4. You should work out for your family and friends. I don’t want to get too sappy (it’ll ruin my street cred) but the people closest to you rely on your love, energy, and compassion. Mismanaging your body is a disservice to them.
This holds true for young mothers, aging grandparents, or loving husbands. Taking care of your relationship with self is the first step towards taking care of your relationship with others. Making time for exercise is absolutely, positively, in NO WAY an act of selfishness. Quite the opposite: It’s an act of generosity. The people around you deserve your best. The best version of you is a version that is constantly challenged and improved with a kick-ass exercise routine.
5. You should work out because you can. Initially, it’s easy to view exercise as a chore. Consider this instead: Exercise is a blessing. Not only do you have the knowledge and the means to exercise (how fortunate), but you’ve been given a body that is strong as a friggin’ tank, fast a cheetah, and more agile than a jackrabbit. OK, perhaps that is slightly overstated, but a healthy body is truly a work of art.
Take inventory. If you are fortunate enough, you have…
6. OK, you can work out to be sexy, too. ‘Cause the ladies like a guy with a little sweat on his brow. And the broski’s like a babski with a little chalk on her hands.
These are only a few of the millions of good reasons to hit the gym. Simply put, exercise makes for a more awesome life. Do me a favor and send this to someone who doesn’t workout. They’ll thank you later.
I’m curious to hear why you workout. If we get 25 comments on this bad boy, I’ll share my love note to exercise.
I don’t want to sound creepy, but sometimes I sit at home and study you. All alone… at my desk…I read about you and think…”
This guest post was written by Rob Sulaver, Chief Executive Fitness Ninja of Bandana Training. The opinions expressed herein are his and his alone.
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