Plan Your Rest Days Like You Plan Your Workouts

We get this question all the time here at Nerd Fitness. Since we advise most people to train 3 days per week with full body strength training routines, many Rebels have a few off days each week.

Source: What Should I Do on My Off Days?

Walking is certainly easy and accessible.  I’ve made the mistake of doing yoga a couple of hours before swimming – my shoulders were horrible in ways I’d never experienced.  So trial-and-error 😉

But I did use to do yoga the day before a race, at least 24 hours between yoga and the race.  It was really good to do something, but something different and generally low impact.  Now into triathlon offseason and cyclocross season, I’m approaching things differently.  I have one more rest day, which is good because I’ve been noticing I’m really burnt out… even though I’m doing less.

The Surgeon General’s New Prescription for America: Get Off Your Butts and Walk

Every few years, the US Surgeon General issues a recommendation for the country, like encouraging Americans to use sunblock or breastfeed their kids. These are usually public health no-brainers, where the science has determined that Americans would absolutely be better off if they all followed this medical advice. Today the Surgeon General said that simply making the US more conducive for walking would improve the health of half of its citizens.

Source: The Surgeon General’s New Prescription for America: Get Off Your Butts and Walk

Walking is the most accessible means of exercise, which has been covered in the past:

Runners Aren’t Necessarily Healthier Than Walkers

There was a time when the optimal exercise speed was however fast you had to run to get away from a saber-tooth tiger. Even today, in much of the developing world, people exercise through activities such as farming and fetching water that are necessary for survival.

Source: What’s the Optimal Speed for Exercise?

Not the first time I’ve posted news like this

What if you want the cardio without the high impact? SWIM!  But nothing beats walking/running when it comes to barrier to entry.

What to Do Between Your Intervals for the Best Workout

Speedy interval sessions require rest between repetitions–and especially when you’re pushing your limits, the natural instinct may be to stop and put your hands on your knees while you catch your breath. But experience teaches us a counterintuitive lesson: Gentle jogging during those precious snippets of recovery sometimes makes it easier to run fast on the next rep. That’s because jogging keeps more blood flowing through your legs, clearing away the metabolic waste products that build up during hard running and contribute to muscle fatigue.

Source: How to Recover Between Intervals

The information applies to most physical activities.  The article is on a running-centric website, but mentions the study of cyclists.  This should be applicable to swimming… I look forward to updating my training, once my rib heals.

​”Heel Striking” When You Run May Not Be So Bad After All

The debate continues!  Heel striking isn’t a new thing, and doesn’t owe its existence to modern running shoes.

Even though 95 percent of runners instinctively strike the ground with their heels, there is a growing trend among running experts to have lifelong heel strikers convert to a more forward contact point. The switch to a mid and/or forefoot strike pattern is supposed to reduce impact loads and en­hance the storage and return of energy in our tendons (making us faster and more efficient, as demonstrated in the illustration above). The theory is that because we’ve had our feet protected by shoes for so long, we’ve recklessly started landing on our heels because we could no longer sense the dangerous impact forces associated with heel striking. By reverting to a more natural midfoot strike, we will avoid injury and run more efficiently.

Source: Is It Harmful To Heel Strike When Running?

Intuitively, it makes sense that a heel strike would act as a braking force more than a forefoot/midfoot strike would. But surprisingly, the opposite is actually true. Force platform data from natural heel strikers and natural FF/MF strikers consistently showed zero forward braking force on heel strike, but a large forward braking force on FF/MF strike.

Upon further analysis of joint motion, they discovered why: with a heel strike, the ankle is plantarflexing (toes coming down relative to the shin). This allows the ankle joint itself (and therefore the rest of the body) to continue moving forward relative to the ground as the foot comes down to the ground. With toe strike, the ankle is dorsiflexing (toes coming up towards the shin) upon strike. This causes the ankle joint to move backwards relative to the ground, producing a large momentary braking force and presumably a large bending moment through the tibia and fibula.

Try those two movements yourself and you can replicate Dr. Michaud’s findings. First, pull your toes all the way back and plant your heel on the ground. Now let your toes come down. Your leg will be a few centimeters further forward than when you started. This is because of the combined effect of the radius of the heel itself and the lever arm from your heel to your ankle. Now do the opposite. Point your toes down all the way, then place the ball/toes on the ground. Now let the heel come down. Your leg will now be a few centimeters back from its starting position. Cool, huh?

Now there is a situation where both heel strike and FF/MF strike will cause braking, and this is overstride. If you throw your leg too far out in front of you before touching down, any strike type will cause a jarring braking force (but FF/MF will always be more). This is a really common error among runners and can lead to all kinds of injuries.

If you’re considering switching, what advice will help depends on what is wrong and it could be any of a million things. I would suggest finding a coach or trainer who can figure out what the problem is and recommend a plan to fix it. Sometimes you can find running groups that offer coaching and group runs for all levels; try asking at your local running shop if they can point you to one.  And if it ain’t broke…

Regular Walking Can Help Ease Depression

Moderate-intensity exercise, or even just walking, can improve quality of life for depressed middle-aged women, a large Australian study suggests.

Women who averaged 150 minutes of moderate exercise (golf, tennis, aerobics classes, swimming, or line-dancing) or 200 minutes of walking every week had more energy, socialized more, felt better emotionally, and weren’t as limited by their depression when researchers followed up after three years.

They also had less pain and did better physically, although the psychological benefit was greater.

Source: Regular Walking Can Help Ease Depression

There’s still work to be done on the details of the exercise – some might need more vigorous exercise, and the length might change.  But the value is quite real.

How A Daily 20-Minute Walk Could Save Your Life

Scientists looked at the effects of obesity and exercise on 334,161 European men and women whose progress was followed for 12 years. They found that people who engaged in moderate levels of daily exercise – equivalent to taking an energetic 20-minute walk – were 16% to 30% less likely to die than those classified as inactive.

“Whether it’s going for a walk, taking a bike ride or using the stairs instead of the lift, keeping active every day will help reduce the risk of developing coronary heart disease.”

Source: Scientists recommend 20-minute daily walk to avoid premature death

Walking is the superfood of fitness.  The premature death aspect is quite melodramatic – no one knows when they’ll die, so how can it be predicted that being active changed that?

Study: Serious Cycling ‘Keeps You Young’

A study of fit amateur cyclists aged 55 to 79 found that many were physically and biologically much younger than most people of the same age.

The 81 male and 41 female participants underwent extensive tests of their heart, lung, neuromuscular, metabolic, and hormonal functions.

Their reflexes, muscle and bone strength, and oxygen uptake were also measured, as well as mental ability and general health and well-being.

The results showed that among the cyclists the effects of ageing were far from obvious, with younger and older members of the group having similar levels of muscle strength, lung power and exercise capacity.

Source: Serious cycling ‘keeps you young’

Funny – I heard something similar about running.  So I figure some form of cardio exercise is good.

The Fitness Trend of 2014: Pain

The big story in exercise science this year was the super-short workout.

In one particularly useful study from May, scientists found that three brief sessions per day of interval-style exercise — consisting of one minute of brisk walking followed by another minute of strolling, repeated six times — allowed people at risk of diabetes to control their blood sugar better than a continuous 30-minute walk.

Just as important, these short “exercise snacks,” as the scientists called the condensed sessions, were more popular with the study’s participants than the single, longer walk, the scientists reported. They liked finishing quickly.

Source: The Super-Short Workout and Other Fitness Trends

…plenty of other studies this year underscored how wide-ranging the benefits of exercise really are. In various experiments, physical activity was found to lessen and even reverse the effects of aging on human skin; protect against age-related vision loss; improve creativity; lower people’s risk of developing heart disease even if they had multiple risk factors for the condition; increase the numbers of good bacteria in athletes’ guts; raise exercisers’ pain tolerance; and alter, in desirable ways, how our DNA works.