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Summer Running

Oak Bay Half_Beach Drive

Summer is here and with this prolonged spell of hot weather we need to make adjustments for running in the heat, such as running at cooler times of the day and ensuring you are well hydrated.

With running clinics also starting up all over the Island it is time to think about your goals. Many of the clinics are focused on fall races – usually a marathon or half marathon – and so we will be running all summer, probably in hot, and sometime humid temperatures. Here are some tips for coping and enjoying your summer running.

  • Choose when to run. If you can try and run early in the morning. If you are in a clinic this may well be decided for you. Most start at 7:30 am or 8 am to avoid the heat of the day. Other days, if your lifestyle allows, you can run even earlier. On the plus side is if you are training for a half or full marathon you will have completed your long run early and can enjoy the rest of the day.
  • Plan cool routes. We are fortunate to live near the water where sea breezes make it cooler, and we also have trails, as in Elk/Beaver Lake, where there is abundant shade. Check out victoriaweather.ca which has live temperature readings from all over the region, so you can find the cooler spots to run.
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. We can never stress the importance of drinking water. It is important to drink not just on the run but the day before. Carry water, or if you are running for more than hour have an electrolyte or sports drink. Plan your route where there are washrooms and water fountains so you can top up your bottle. Dehydration is a serious condition so avoid caffeine beforehand, and before you partake of that post-run refreshing beer, drink water first to hydrate.
  • Fuel. On long runs you may want to carry some sport nutrition such as gels or chews. These can then be eaten periodically during the run. Experiment with how often to eat – every 30 minutes is standard but for a longer marathon training run, it may be you need to fuel every 15 or 20 minutes. Many runners think that water will keep them hydrated but water doesn’t have carbs or sugar you can lose energy quickly over a longer run. With the addition of extreme heat, you can feel drained and nauseous. So experiment with running and eating and see what works for you.
  • Wear technical clothing. Wicking fabrics are the norm for runners but there are a lot out there, so check in with your local running store for advice. Tech shirts do regulate body temperatures so even on cool days the fabric will keep you warm. The close fit the shirt the better – this enables it to wick away moisture. You can get shirts with UV protection – darker colours have a SPF of 40 and lighter colours SPF 20. Chafing can be an issue for many so investing in a 2-in-1 short with a liner may avoid that, and always apply Body Glide or a similar anti-chafing product, on sensitive areas. And don’t forget the visor and hat – this protects your scalp and your forehead from the sun. Sunglasses also protect the eyes and also avoids you squinting which can in turn cause tension in the upper body.
  • Adjust your training. If you were planning a training run or workout with a high RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) then adjust accordingly. The RPE varies from 1-2 where little effort is required to 9-10 which is maximum effort. In the heat you will feel like you are working harder to maintain your pace, so run by how you feel, not what your GPS is telling you. If it gets too warm, run at a lower RPE.
  • Post-exercise cooling. If you plan on running near the ocean or lake, then a dip into the water after you run works wonders. Wade in and give your legs a soak for 15 minutes – you will be amazed how quickly this will aid your recovery. Have a recovery sport drink or chocolate milk afterwards. Research has shown that chocolate milk has produced great results.
  • Skip the run and do something else. If the temperature is out of your comfort zone – just don’t do it or head to the treadmill in your gym. The other option is to cross train and go for a bike ride. Incorporating some hills with some steady endurance is a good substitute for a run.

These are just a few tips for help you enjoy your running this summer. See you on the trails.

Trail Tripping

cash on mt doug

It’s Brr out there. After a glorious summer and magnificent fall with warm days, cool nights, and lovely sunsets, we have had a cold winter. Two cold snaps in December and then January have left us hibernating, but this is a wonderful time to get out and explore the trails. Whereas the sidewalks have been icy, the trails on the whole have been crisp underfoot. The cold leaves form a carpet when I run, the crunch under my footsteps often the only sound I can hear – besides the happy panting dog beside me!

So as the seasons turn once more, I think of the many trails we can explore on foot – either as a brisk walk, hike or a run. We can choose to run by lakes, the ocean or through residential areas where rural trails are in abundance so let’s start with Mt Doug. It is the largest park in Saanich and has a myriad of trails at its base. All of the trails have excellent markers and there are maps at some intersections, so getting around is fairly easy even if you are directionally challenged. If you hike to the top you have a 360° view of Victoria. For runners keeping to the lower trails can still offer a challenge with many undulations and tree roots. It provides a good workout and your dog will love you for it.

The 10k trail that circumnavigates Elk and Beaver Lake is a gem in Victoria. On a warm day it provides shade and on a rainy day: shelter. It is ideal for running or walking as there are many places for your canine friend to cool off. Just beware of the algae warning signs. It has been particularly bad this past summer and your pet could get sick if exposed to it. The trail is marked every kilometre so you can explore by distance or minutes.  Watch for others enjoying the trail, in particular horses. Dogs can be off leash as long as they are under control. And keep an eye out for the National rowing team who train on Elk Lake year-round.

Another beautiful place to exercise is Thetis Lake. Rated moderate to challenging by the CRD, this 834 hectacre park has an abundance of trails that intersect to you can make your journey as short or long as you like. Arbutus trees are a feature of this lake trail as is natural wildlife on the water. Like Elk and Beaver Lake there are areas for your four-legged friend to enjoy a cooling swim. The all-year round doggie beach is a particular favourite allowing your best friend to socialize with like-minded canines. If you like to run or walk early then you will see triathletes training as the main beach is a popular spot for swimming.

Victoria has two great urban/rural trails that intersect – Lochside Trail and the Galloping Goose Trail.  Lochside Trail is a 29 km trail from Swartz Bay to Victoria and even though there are paved and road sections, the Royal Oak Drive to Sayward Road and beyond to Island View Road has some off road and is surprisingly quiet. It is a favourite for cyclists so if you are running with your dog then it is advisable to leash up. Ocean views are a feature of this trail.

Lochside meets the Galloping Goose trail at the Switch Bridge. It is 60 km of sheer delight for recreational athletes with many cyclists also enjoying the Goose. The pathway is now paved all the way to Colwood. However, beyond Colwood it is still mainly trail and stunning to explore – particularly around Roche Cove and Matheson Lake and all the way to the Sooke Potholes. This part of the Goose is surprisingly quiet and largely undiscovered so ideal for a quiet, solitary run or walk. It is marked every kilometre so you can choose to join the trail at a convenient spot and venture forth for as long or short as you like.

Other areas worth exploring are Horth Hill Regional Park near Sidney, Durrance Lake in Mount Work Regional Park, Francis King Regional Park in the Highlands, Goldstream Provincial Park and John Dean Provincial Park on the Saanich Peninsula.

 

Quality not Quantity

Galloping-Goose-Trail-just-outside-Victoria-SM

How obsessive are you about your fitness routine? Is it the most important thing in your life and you would rather die than miss your scheduled run or workout? Or are you okay maintaining your fitness by “just” being active three or four days a week? For many, fitness is an obsession and when it reaches that level, it sometimes is no longer be enjoyable, so perhaps it is time to get off the treadmill and re-evaluate your lifestyle and goals.

We live in a competitive age and peer pressure can be intense. Group exercise, running clinics, and training rides are all there to motivate us and improve our fitness, which admittedly does have enormous benefits, but the environment can be competitive and before you know it you are signed up for a number of events, and you are broke – or even worse injured from over-training!

So it may be time to sit back and think – what do I really want to achieve and can I do that without breaking the bank balance? The answer is that of course you can. We are blessed with living in a place that means we can exercise year-round outside, and there are affordable activities and events you can do while still maintaining a fit and healthy lifestyle.

For runners this is a no-brainer. If you are tired of training runs at a goal pace, then just go for a run with your dog and treat it as Fido’s run. If your run is near water and your dog likes to swim, stop and let him/her have a paddle. On a warm day your dog will appreciate it. If you don’t have a 6-year-old lab who loves to run and swim (sorry – have to mention my boy Cash) then find a friend, pick a nice trail and do it!

Finding new places to run can be adventurous. Again grab a two or four paw buddy and explore new areas and terrain. We have abundant trails in Victoria – if you like a challenge, Mount Doug or Thetis Lake are options, or the Galloping Goose beyond Langford is relatively flat and not that busy.

Another tip is to run by feel and not time. Leave that $200 GPS behind and enjoy the actual run itself, not the fact that you have to run 8km today at a 5:30 pace. If you really have to know how long you ran check your watch before you leave and then when you get back, or put the GPS in a pocket and resolve not to look at it while you’re out there.

If you really can’t go a few weeks without running a race, then run some of the low-key community events. The Vancouver Island Running Association (VIRA) put on a series of races from 5k – half marathon every winter/spring, or check out the MEC race series that runs year-long.

So you have been a five-day-a-week runner for ever, and now as you get older want to still run but afraid your fitness level will decrease. That isn’t the case if you cross-train. Substituting a run with a bike ride or a swim is an excellent way of maintaining your fitness. You will still get a good cardio workout without the excess strain on your body that too much running can cause. Cross-training is also a great way to help injury prevention.

The Galloping Goose and Lochside Trails are perfect for cycling and if you like to ride in a group look out for the number of non-competitive rides available this year. MEC’s Century Ride is popular, and this year they are offering two rides, in May (with a choice of a 50K and 100K ride) and October (60K and 100K). MEC’s philosophy is simple: “We want to be able to offer everyone easy access to events that otherwise people wouldn’t do,” says Caitlin Brown, MEC Event Coordinator. Their ‘meet-up’ rides and runs are a great no-fuss option and available to anyone who just want to drop-in. They also offer clinics for those that do need that extra motivation.

Many of us head to the pool when we get injured, but why wait for that dreadful moment? Depending on your weight and the intensity of your swim you can burn many calories, and you feel toned afterwards as you are using every muscle in your body. If you haven’t swum for a while, don’t dive in and do an hour straight off or you will feel very sore the next day. Just like any activity, build up gradually. Pool running is not just for when you’re injured either – it can be a great way to get a no-impact, low-stress, cardio workout.

As we head into the warmer weather this is the perfect time to think about your fitness regime particularly if you do feel you are doing too much, or just want a change. It really is all about quality of life and getting out and enjoying a healthy lifestyle which you can do without being obsessive about it.

Safety First – Staying Active and Safe this Fall

running on the beachStaying active through fall and winter can be a challenge for many of us. It is the time of year when we want to curl up on the couch with a warm drink rather than face the darkness and inclement weather that the season brings. While it can be exhilarating to exercise outside when it is cooler and darker, given the choice of working out indoors or outdoors, we often go with the former choice, but with a little preparation and thought there is no reason why you can’t make the most of the outdoors.

Whether you are running, cycling or walking having the right gear is crucial for comfort as well as safety. From head gear to shoes there is a myriad of choices out there and so there really isn’t any excuse for not dressing appropriately. Remember a warm body is a happy body so take the time to invest in some proper clothing. Ear bands and hats are an essential item if you feel the cold (remember 80% of your body heat is lost through the head) as are gloves or mitts. You may need to wear one, two or three layers on your body depending on the weather and wind chill. There are many thermal and technical moisture-wicking fabrics out there so ask your favourite running, cycling or outdoor store for recommendations. Tights can come in varying degrees of thickness so this will depend on the temperature and your comfort. And don’t forget socks. Not cotton, but smart wool.

Once we put the clocks back at the end of October, then the days will get shorter and we face the prospect of exercising in the dark, in the mornings and evenings. Being visible is very important and always remember, just because you can see, that oncoming car doesn’t mean he can see you. There are many poorly lit streets in Victoria and so wearing light colours is important. Many jackets are now made with reflective materials, but you can still buy bright yellow safety vests to go over any jacket. Runners and cyclists should check out a cool new product – the Tracer 360, a fibre optic visibility vest, which is lightweight and has multicolour flashing modes, which can be seen for over a quarter mile. Head lamps are also good to wear and cyclists should always have front and rear lights.

If you are taking out your four-legged friend for a walk or run at night, it isn’t only you who needs to be visible. There are reflective leads and collars on the market and also LED lights specifically for attaching to a collar or harness.

There is usually a lot more planning to do when exercising in the dark – the usual routes during the day may not appear as attractive at night. So this could be a good way to try new ones – just ensure they are well lit, well frequented and have good footing. If your neighbourhood is dark then drive further afield. Running on Dallas Rd in winter with waves lashing the beaches and the sea spray in your face is very invigorating. Although we have a great trail system in Victoria, sections of the Galloping Goose and Lochside Trails aren’t well lit and so it may be best to avoid those at night. Exercising with a friend is always more fun at the best of times, buddying up in the winter is even better.

We always talk a lot about hydration and fuelling while exercising during the summer months, but tend to neglect this over the fall and winter. It isn’t warm, I am not sweating so why do I need to drink water? We can still get dehydrated even in the cooler temperatures, our bodies don’t give us the obvious signs as they do in summer, but we still perspire – particularly if you are on a long run or ride – so always hydrate before and during and refuel afterwards.

Exercising can be fun and safe during the dark days of fall and winter, you just need to be prepared to brave the elements and get out and do it.

Cool Summer Running

Aug 1 runSummer is here and for many of us it is time to get out and enjoy outdoor activities – not that we can’t do that all year round on Vancouver Island. But we take on a different perspective when it is warmer, dryer and knowing that we may have three months or more of fabulous weather. With the long range forecast calling for a hot, dry summer we also need to be cognizant of being out in the sun in extreme heat, and taking the necessary precautions to avoid sunburn. Depending on the activity we also may have to adjust our schedules to workout when it is cooler.

Take running as an example – the Island is the best place on the planet to run. Which is why we live here – right? We can run outdoors 12 months of the year – not many places in Canada can boast that. But there is that special time of year when all we need in addition to a good pair of shoes is a singlet, shorts, hat or visor and we are off exploring the wonderful trails and pathways here.  But with the hot summer predicted we may need to make adjustments to our schedules and also what we wear. Here are a few tips for running this summer.

  • When to run. Depending on your running goals and if you run alone or with a group, run early in the day or later in the evening. If it is already 16°C at 8 am with a forecast high of 25 then run at 7 am. If you are training for a half or full marathon you will have completed your long run before the heat of the day.
  • Choose your routes. Run by the water and enjoy sea breezes, where is it usually a few degrees cooler, or on a trail with a lot of shade.  The victoriaweather.ca website has live temperature readings from all over the region so you can find the cooler spots to run
  • Hydrate. It is important to drink not just on the run but before. Drink water the day before a long run and the day of. Carry water (there are some great water belts out there) or if you are running for more than hour have an electrolyte or sports drink. Plan your route where there are washrooms and water fountains so you can top up your bottle. Dehydration is a serious condition so avoid caffeine beforehand, and before you partake of that post-run refreshing beer, drink water first to hydrate.
  • Eat. On long runs you may want to carry some sport nutrition such as gels or chews and fuel beforehand. Many runners think that water will keep them hydrated but often forget that the difference between a good and bad run is fuel – they can lose energy because they haven’t eaten enough. With the addition of extreme heat, you can feel drained and nauseous. So experiment with running and eating and see what works for you.
  • Wear wicking fabrics. Never wear cotton on a summer run (yes people still do). There are many new fabrics out there, so what to wear? “Firstly, it’s important for technical shirts to be a closer fit as their purpose is to wick away moisture,” says Nick Walker, Owner of Frontrunners. “Tech shirts regulate body temperature so on cooler mornings the shirt will also keep you warmer.” There are shirts that have body mapping: mesh panels on heavy sweat areas such as under the arms and the back. You can also get shirts with UV protection – darker colours have a SPF of 40 and lighter colours SPF 20. Sugoi and New Balance have a shirt with ‘ice-fil’ – a cooling fabric so when the body sweats, the shirt is cool to touch. Chafing is an issue for many so investing in a 2-in-1 short with a liner can avoid that, and always apply Body Glide or a similar anti-chafing product, on sensitive areas. And don’t forget the hat and sunglasses. According to Walker, your face is more relaxed when you are not squinting, and that ensures you don’t tense in the shoulders and upper body.
  • Adjust your training. If you were planning a training run with a high RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) then adjust accordingly. The RPE varies from 1-2 where little effort is required to 9-10 which is maximum effort. In the heat you will feel like you are working harder to maintain your pace, so run by how you feel, not what your GPS watch is telling you. If it gets too warm, run at a lower RPE.
  • Post-exercise cooling. In addition to water and your favourite nutrition try chocolate milk – research has shown it has recovery elements. After a hot run, and if you are by the ocean or a lake, wade in and give your legs a cool soak for 15 minutes. You will feel a lot better for it.
  • Skip it! If the temperature is out of your comfort zone – just skip the run. It won’t hurt and you can always head to the treadmill in the gym and do the run there.

These are just a few tips for help you enjoy your running this summer. See you on trails.

Fueling Your Body for Exercise

simon waterYou are what you eat is an old cliché but so true when it comes to staying fit and healthy. We all have to ensure we get the required nutrients in our body, but if you exercise this is even more important. In fact your performance depends on it. Whether you are learning to run or planning an epic bike ride what you take in and how often will determine your success.

There are often misconceptions about how much you should eat – and drink – before, during and after exercise. How much protein should I eat and when? Is carbo-loading still the thing to do prior to an endurance event? Do I have to drink eight glasses of water a day to stay hydrated? You can listen to all the nutrition advice in the world, and read the hundreds of articles out there, but the bottom line is you need to find out what is right for you and your body type.

We all need protein, carbohydrates and water but a 130Ib woman doesn’t need the same as a 200Ib man. Eating small amounts of low fat protein such as chicken, turkey and eggs should be part of a daily diet. Carbs are essential as well, but in moderation – the days of gorging on pasta the night before a race are gone. We have such a variety of carbohydrates now – couscous and quinoa are examples – so it is easy to have a great variety in your diet. The essential thing to remember is don’t change up your diet radically, particularly leading up to an event.

Eating and running is different from eating and cycling. Most cyclists have the luxury of being able to eat prior to a ride and fuel up during it, but runners have to be more cautious. Personally, I never ate anything three hours prior to running, for years. This can be quite challenging when my long runs were in the morning. By not eating it meant I hadn’t had food for 10-12 hours. Even though I have an electrolyte drink on long runs, my energy level was affected and I often felt tired towards the end. Replicating this habit in a race situation can be a disaster when you have specific goals in mind.  So I smartened up and started experimenting with foods and found those I can eat 90 minutes before a long run. So a breakfast before a long run (and by long I mean minimum 90 minutes) for me is a yogurt drink and an organic crunchy bar. I then have a sport drink and also a pack of carbohydrate chews on the run.

This might work for me but not for everyone. I know someone who sets their alarm for 4:30 am in the morning, has a peanut butter sandwich – conveniently pre-made and by the bed – and then goes back to sleep until it’s time to get up and run. Experiment until you find what works. Carrying your nutrition with you on long runs is important – even if you may not feel hungry at the start, you will need it. It takes 20 minutes or so for your food to digest and get into your system so plan ahead. We have all heard the term ‘bonking’ – when you have hit the wall because you have run out of energy. You need to ensure that this doesn’t happen by spreading out your nutrition.

Staying hydrated is as important and you need to drink before you get thirsty. So do we need to drink eight glasses of water a day? That depends on our body type and weight and what other fluids you consume. Drinking too much can have an adverse effect – Hyponatremia is a condition when the blood becomes diluted from too much water. Sipping during the day and topping up your glass frequently is the best scenario – mixing in an electrolyte adds flavour, and is recommended the day before an endurance event. And what about those electrolyte drinks? There are so many out there that you need to try them and see what works for you. There is a misconception that you need to take in electrolytes from the start of your exercise routine. That isn’t the case. Water is quite adequate for up to an hour of exercise. More than an hour and you should have a sport drink or another source of fuel as your body needs to replenish its glycogen stores.

Nutritionists recommend eating within an hour of exercising. Depending on what you have just done this may not be practical or feasible. I can’t eat anything for at least an hour after I finish a long run, I just can’t stomach it, so I will munch on any remaining chews I have, so at least I know that I am taking something in.

With all the different types of nutrition out there you can have fun trying different brands and flavours. And when you find your magic formula, stick to it and make it part of your regular exercise routine.

 

 

The Resolution Factor – Making Goals Work

resolutionsIt is around this time that we start thinking of our New Year resolutions and set out goals for 2015. In past articles I have offered tips on how to make goals the SMART way – Smart, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely – so that these goals can be achievable. So if you did make goals this time last year now is the time to look back and assess how you did.

It is a good exercise to analyse your goals and see what worked, what didn’t and if it didn’t ask why. This way we can adjust our goals and be more realistic in the future.

If one of your goals was trying a new activity ask yourself honestly if you enjoyed it and if so how long did you do it for. Was it all you had hoped it would be? If you are a runner you probably set yourself a goal race – 10km, Half Marathon or even a Marathon – or even a Personal Best time.  How was the training and were you able to avoid injury and run your race?

The biggest barrier to making successful goals is time. How often do we say ‘I don’t have time to run today, I am just too busy.’ So that 45 min activity gets put off and then it is easy to procrastinate and miss another workout and so it goes on. Other barriers may be work related, personal issues or just the weather (we all like to blame the weather after all!)

So as we see another year out and a new one in, here are some suggestions on how to stick with the plan.

  • Take a moment to write down your goals and – more importantly – make sure they aren’t the same as last year. If one of your goals was to run a 10k and you did, then your next goal is to improve on your time. Be realistic – a 10% improvement is achievable. Or your goal may be to run more 10k’s – if so target the races you want to run so you can properly train and plan.
  • Ask yourself why you are making resolutions. What is the intention? All goals should be for you so you may need to remind yourself and write down why you are doing this.
  • Don’t make a drastic change in routine when you set your goals. While that may seem odd (some may say that the whole point of making a resolution is to make change). But the resolutions likely to succeed are the ones that don’t involve a major change to routine. Perhaps you are already running but getting bored with doing the same routine. Try cross-training or join one of the growing bike or triathlon groups. You can certainly think out of the box but ask yourself if you are comfortable with it. If you aren’t you are less likely to succeed.
  • Think about how you can realistically succeed with your goals. If you are a runner or cyclist are you likely to stay on track with others around you, or are you more focussed training on your own? There is no right or wrong way – we are all different, some prefer the camaraderie of being in a team, while others enjoy their own company without the peer pressure.
  • Consider the barriers that may impede your chances of achieving your goals. While this may seem negative, we need to be realistic. If there is a particular time that you know you will be busy at work, consider that when you plan. The ‘I don’t have time’ factor means you may not have time for a 60 minute endurance run, but you could fit in a 20 – 25 minute speed workout which will reap the same benefits.
  • Re-visit your goals every two months. Are you on track? Do you need to make adjustments? There is nothing wrong in adapting your goals if you feel something isn’t working for you, or if you have had a personal or work issue that may impact on what you want to achieve. The important thing is to be honest with yourself and rather than abandoning the goal, change it up and make it work for you.

Tapping Your Inner Strength

sit upsSo the glorious summer of 2014 is behind us, the fall is with us with cooler temperatures  and the magnificent autumnal colours. Days can still be warm but the mornings have a dampness about it and since the clocks went back, the evenings are getting darker earlier, but still pleasant enough to get out and do things.

Over the last few months we have talked about all of the diverse activities that can be enjoyed during the summer and I do hope some of you have tried some different sports and workouts. There is no reason not to continue these into the fall should your schedule permit, or you may want to take a break and reflect on what you did in the summer, and plan more fun and challenging activities over the next few weeks.

Fall classes at rec and fitness centres are now in full swing so you may have already set your next challenge. Or you may be waiting for the New Year to really plan and set that one goal that has eluded you. Fall is a popular time for class sign up, but January far exceeds that. Rec centres traditionally hit a spike in January as we make those resolutions that we never break (right!) But let’s not move too far ahead of ourselves – we still have three months to go in 2014 so what are you going to do with that time?

This time of year is a good time to head back into the gym and work on your strength and core. If you are a runner you may have run or about to run that fall race that was your target goal. So now is the time to reflect on that, and enjoy the down time. You no longer have to get up on weekends at the crack of dawn to get in the miles. You don’t have to do those weekly hill or speed workouts any more. You can certainly keep up the running but not the intensity. So consider a twice weekly visit to the gym. Why? Building a strength and conditioning base will make you stronger and will reap huge benefits when you decide to set your next running goal. When we say strength that doesn’t mean bulk. Maintaining two sets of 15 reps of a chest press at a moderate weight, for example, will strengthen and tone. If you want more intensity – lower reps at a higher weight will do that. It really depends on your goal. We are all stronger than we think we are, so just go with the flow and see what works for you.

Regardless of what you do – maintaining form and a strong core is important. I do my chest press and pec flys lying on an exercise ball. That way I engage my core. Similarly, bicep curls and triceps dips I do standing on a Bosu – this is great not just for the core but balance. Adding these props also make workouts more interesting and challenging. Strength workouts (including warm up and cool down) don’t have to be long: 30 – 45 minutes, twice weekly is quite adequate for maintenance, particularly if you are new to this type of training.

Prior to starting your strength training warm up first on a bike, rower or treadmill for ten minutes. Gentle stretching can be your cool down afterwards. If you haven’t used a roller, and your gym has one, use it! Gentle rolling out your quads, hamstrings, even your back can have a therapeutic effect on your body. It’s rather like giving yourself a massage. Most gyms have sample exercises posted so consult those, or talk to the fitness consultant on its proper use.

The gym is also a great time to do those exercises that your physio, chiro and massage therapist gave you that you didn’t do. (We have all been there and find excuses not to do them). So take a few minutes at the end and work on those areas that were niggling you during your training. Again, this will only benefit you later.

So regard these next few weeks before the silly season starts, to reflect on your achievements over the summer and if you did a big race, give yourself a pat on the back. Then before you dive in headlong into your next challenge, consider the gym – it is an ideal way of complementing your current regimen while giving your body a well-earned break from hi-intensity training.  And you know what? You might get to like it and want to continue it when you do ramp up the miles again.

 

Last of the Summer Workouts

sea otter at Glencoe CoveWhat a summer we are having. This long stretch of hot, sunny weather means we have no excuse to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. With just a few weeks left of warm temperatures it is a great time to get those last few outdoor workouts in. With cooler temperatures in the early mornings and evenings it is also ideal conditions for running or cycling, particularly if you are training for a fall race and need to get those last few miles under your belt.

If there was ever a time to take the gym outdoors it is over these last few weeks of summer. There are still many outdoor workouts to take in as was summarized in the last issue – such as boot camps and yoga – but there are also many ways you can use our wonderful parks and green spaces to create your own training zone. This can be a form of circuit training – alternating cardio in between each exercise – or can be done on its own. This is also a great way to prepare you for the gym if you have had a break for a few months.

Here are some examples to try. Tip: do this with a friend – far more fun and you can challenge each other.

  • Tricep dips on park bench: just as you would do dips in the gym with a bench, a park bench is a great substitute. Place your hands behind you on the bench, legs straight and dip!
  • Push-ups on the grass: soft lush grass provides a great ‘mat’ for push-ups. If you find a full push-up too much, rest your knees on the grass.
  • Bench press on a park bench or log: as with the dips, bench presses can easily be done on a park bench or if you want a lower surface – a log.
  • Side leg raises on a bench or table (ensure table is stable): if using a bench ensure it is wide enough for this exercise. This also provides a great core workout because you are on an elevated surface. Raise one leg to the side at a 45 degree angle, repeat the other side.
  • Step-ups on a bench or log: for a less challenging exercise try a log. Alternate legs as you step up and down.
  • Squats with bench: stand with the bench behind you and squat as if you are about to sit down and then stand.
  • Explosive jumps with rocks or logs: find a log with no obstacles nearby and jump over front and backwards. Alternatively find some rocks and place at 3’ – 4’ intervals and leap frog over each.

If you want to do this as circuit training do one set of each: 10 – 15 reps, cardio (jog or rope skip for one minute are examples), and repeat for as many sets you can do in 30 minutes.

If you are a runner and want to try something different try running on sand. On Vancouver Island we are blessed with abundant beaches – so pick the beach that you feel would be the most suitable. Soft sand would provide more uneven footing so potentially could cause injuries, so hard packed sand may be the best option. Tip: for inspiration just imagine you are in Chariots of Fire!

So, enjoy the rest of summer with these workouts that are sure to challenge you, but they will also prepare you for whatever goals you set yourself this fall.

Get Moving on Summer

 

Speedway.Wide_With these hot summer days we are having, why not think out of the box and consider some summer sports that you may and tried or dabbled it, but hadn’t really given it a chance. Summer is a great time to be exploring trails, splashing around in the water or ripping up the tennis courts. So let’s see what else is out there to try.

Tennis

While we are fortunate to be able to play tennis outside year-round on Vancouver Island, for many it is still a summer sport and with an abundance of public courts, the sport doesn’t require a tennis club membership, unless you want to play competitively or in a league. In Victoria there are courts attached to most parks – in Saanich itself there are over 20 locations each having a minimum of two courts. Nanaimo boasts 15 in parks and clubs, and in the Comox Valley recent expansion to the Anderton Park tennis facility will boost the number of courts there and in Lewis Park in Courtenay.

Pickleball

You may have seen the name on some tennis courts. But what is Pickleball? It is traditionally played on a badminton-sized court with special Pickle-ball paddles, made of wood or high-tech aerospace materials. The ball used is similar to a wiffle ball, but smaller. Some tennis courts have a Pickleball court marked in blue and will post times you can play. The net is lower than a tennis net so an ideal game for the little ones in the family to enjoy. More info at: www. victoriapickleball.blogspot.ca 

Paddling

For some of us there is nothing better than hitting the water in the summer, whether it’s kayaking or canoeing. There are many opportunities out there for novices, and organizations like the Victoria Canoe and Kayaking Club, Nanaimo Paddlers and Comox Valley Paddlers offer a range of courses and activities. Joining organizations such as these offers a safe and experienced environment and the membership is usually very affordable. If you want to learn more about padding you can take in MEC’s annual Paddlefest in Victoria on Saturday, July 12.

Golf

Mark Twain called it ‘a short walk spoiled’, but for some golf is a religion. But if you don’t take it too seriously then it can be fun. Par 3 courses – like Henderson in Victoria – are a great way to spend an hour or less, perfecting your skill. They are also a good family activity. If Par 3 sounds too strenuous try pitch and putt – also great fun.

Ultimate

Ultimate takes to the parks in the summer where you will see a disk (Frisbee) being thrown from player to player in a sport that now has over five million followers in the U.S.  Canadianultimate.com is where you can find all the information about leagues and the sport. Locally, the Victoria Ultimate Players Society, Nanaimo Ultimate and Comox Valley Sports has summer leagues and offers pickup games for members. But, of course you could also grab a bunch of friends and a Frisbee and head to the park and start throwing.

Running/Cycling

A guide to summer activities wouldn’t be complete without mentioning two perennial favourites, running and cycling. I have covered these activities many times in the past, but they are still worth a mention, if not as a reminder that we do have a variety of terrain on the Island and really no excuse to pump up the tires or throw on the running shoes.  If you like to run off-road and want a challenge then try out the Gutbuster trail series. There are two races left in the series: Transfer Beach – Ladysmith and Mt Washington. www.gutbustertrailrun.com. If you like to get down and dirty then try out the Island Cup Series – Vancouver Island’s premier mountain bike event. There are three races left – check out: www.islandcupseries.com.

Outdoor Classes

Why stay in the classroom when you can do it outside? Many fitness professionals take their classes outdoors during the summer. Outdoor yoga is becoming popular in Victoria and a wonderful way to exercise while enjoying the summer heat. Bloom Yoga in Victoria offer Alfresco Yoga in July and August in a beautiful setting on the ocean. In the Comox Valley, Elm Health put on a number of outdoor classes including Fresh Air Fitness, and Jumpstart Boot Camp in Nanaimo has daily boot camps – all outdoors.

So get out there this summer and keep moving!