Apparently, I had no idea what being “stir-crazy” actually meant until we entered this indefinite solitary confinement they call quarantine. Even as a proud introvert, it feels like the universe is shoving all the plans I’ve ever canceled in my face and screaming, “IS THIS WHAT YOU WANTED?” This is absolutely not what any of us wanted—as any introvert will tell you, part of the thrill is canceling plans. With no plans to cancel, this endless abyss of plans that could have been (canceled) feels like a discount version of Groundhog Day. Not only are we mourning the closures of our favorite restaurants, stores, and bars, but many of the activities that kept us sane are no longer an option. One of the most difficult aspects of my quarantine has been the closure of my gym, and not only because of the sense of community it provided. Physical activity has been one of the only things I’ve found in over a decade of pretty severe anxiety that actually helped keep it in check. According to the CDC, reduced anxiety isn’t the only noticeable benefit of regular physical activity. Just 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week (that’s like 7 episodes of Schitt’s Creek which, realistically, you’ve done in one day) can improve both your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Regular exercise can also reduce your risk of certain cancers and cardiovascular disease. So yeah, TL;DR, exercise is good for you and I’m sorry for all the times I pretended I had cramps to get out of gym in high school.
During this time of incredible stress and uncertainty, the anxiety-reducing aspects of physical activity are more important than ever. Being trapped inside a small space with no end in sight is stressful, to say the least. Exercise is definitely helpful, and nothing makes me feel quite as calm as the aftermath of a heart-pounding sweat session. There are plenty of workouts that can be done from the comfort of your own home, but when running is your go-to, working out while quarantined can be a little more complicated (unless you have your own treadmill, you lucky b*tch).
At the beginning of quarantine I was running four miles a day ….. Now I’m proud because I did a single squat
— Donese (@donese22) July 9, 2020
It’s SO tempting—outside is literally right there. You can see it and hear it screaming at you to lace up and get out there. So what’s stopping you? If your neighborhood is anything like mine, you’ve seen countless people jog by, headphones in, totally oblivious to the fact that we’re in the middle of a freaking pandemic. If they can do it, why not the rest of us? Well, because we both know we’re smarter than that. Yes, it’s tempting to squeeze in a quick 3-miler and be back inside before the coronavirus even has a chance to notice we left our bubble. Unfortunately, this isn’t some high-risk game of tag and we really can’t afford to take any chances. Here’s the great news, though—experts say that it is fairly safe to run outside, as long as we take the proper precautions. Family Medicine Physician Doctor Mike Varshavski—or as he’s known on Instagram, Dr. Mike—tells Betches that running “is considered a low to moderate-low risk activity based on the new chart put out by the Texas Medical Association” and notes that “throughout this pandemic, almost all shelter at home orders have continued to allow and encourage solo exercise like hiking, walking, and running.”
So that’s the good news! And as long as you follow these pretty easy guidelines, you can rest easy knowing that you put your safety and the safety of others first.
1. Jog Alone Or In Small Groups, But Make Sure You Maintain A Safe Distance
I get it, running with your best friend or your running group like you’ve done for years is a blast. However, just because you have been extremely cautious about protecting yourself from the coronavirus doesn’t necessarily mean your running partners have done the same. Make sure whoever you’re running with is also taking the proper precautions, and continue to practice social distancing even when running outside. Dr. Mike tells Betches, “any time you are exposing yourself to other individuals, it raises the risk of catching the virus,” reminding us, “those who look healthy can still be spreading COVID-19. If you have to go with a group (for safety reasons, perhaps), try and be with the smallest group possible.”
Brian Labus, Ph.D., MPH, assistant professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Nevada Las Vegas told Runners World, “If you deem running with a small group is something you’re comfortable with, you’ll want to ensure that these few people have been properly careful over the past few months, same as if you’re running with one other person. Additionally, your small group should run somewhere you know you won’t come in close contact with others.”
Labus also emphasizes that if you live with someone in the at-risk age group (over 65) or someone who is immunocompromised, extra precautions are necessary, and running with a partner may not be the best idea. He explains, “There have been over 182,000 cases (as of June 10) and over 77,000 COVID-19 deaths (as of June 6) in those age 65 and over since February 1, according to provisional data from the CDC. It is safer to run solo until disease transmission is low in your community.”
2. Bring A Mask With You When You Run
It’s probably not necessary to wear a mask while you run outdoors (and realistically, it would be really tough to wear a mask during any exercise that leaves you gasping for air) as long as you maintain the proper distance between you and anyone you encounter outside. Indeed, Dr. Mike tells Betches that “a mask should not be worn while running as sweat will make the mask wet and create other problems.” He advises, “The best protection is to wear the mask until you’re ready to exercise, take it off, and stay at least six feet away from others as best as possible.”
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That said, it’s probably not a bad idea to bring a mask with you when you run just in case. You may end up lost and needing to grab an Uber back, you could desperately need to run into Walgreens for a drink of water, or you might end up running into your ex and needing a disguise. Point is, there are a lot of reasons you may need a mask when leaving your house, so make sure you have one with you at all times.
Donald Milton, a professor of environmental health at the University of Maryland School of Public Health explained to the New York Times, “Outdoors is relatively safe, and masks would only be important if you are exercising in crowded areas or indoors in space shared with other people.” According to Milton, as long as you’re keeping your distance, you should be pretty fine running outside with your mask at the ready in case of an emergency.
3. Scope Out Your Street During Different Times Throughout The Day, Or Find A Different Street Altogether
Please withhold all “duh”s, because from what I’ve seen firsthand it apparently needs to be said—the easiest way to keep your distance when running outside is to run in a less crowded area. Now, this doesn’t mean driving 38 miles to the middle of the forest to knock out your run. This honestly may be as simple as spending a few days looking out your window every hour or two to see how many people are out and about. Peak hours in your neighborhood may also vary between weekdays and weekends, so also take that into account when planning your run. Ideally, you want to find both a time when not too many people are out, and a place where you have plenty of “escape routes.” This means not running next to a busy street that you can’t cross if you see a group of people on the sidewalk. If you’re running on a forest path, it means being able to step way off to the side if someone else is approaching (and, see #2, don’t forget your mask in case this isn’t an option).
Dr. Benjamin D. Levine, a professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center and Texas Health Presbyterian Dallas, explained to NPR the importance of keeping an even greater distance when exercising outside. He advises, “The greater volume and rate of breathing that occurs during exercise has the risk of spreading droplets farther. I think it’s reasonable based on the known changes in breathing during exercise.”
I don’t know how many times I’ve been out walking and out of absolutely nowhere, a jogger runs by me so close that I feel a small gust of potential plague-wind as they pass. This isn’t okay, guys. First and foremost, if we can’t be considerate to other people who have just as much of a right to use the sidewalk as we do, we shouldn’t be out running in the first place.
That said, if you’ve been keeping an eye on your street and it really doesn’t seem like there’s much of a break in the constant stream of people passing by, check out some other side streets nearby. Chances are, within a mile or so of where you live, there are some quieter residential streets that will be far less congested.
4. Make Sure That It’s Actually Okay To Run Outside In Your Area
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now everyone else can hear me heavy breathing too? cool. credit/permission: @itslaurentbtw
As we’ve discussed, it is more than tempting to grab your shoes and just GTFO. But even if you’ve thoroughly read through these important tips and feel confident in your ability to run outside safely, please hit pause for just a hot second. Because of the constantly evolving nature of how we’re handling this pandemic, running outside without a mask may not even be allowed in your area. Make sure you’re constantly checking mandates from your state health departments to ensure you’re adhering to your area’s current requirements. These mandates are changing fairly regularly in some areas, so it’s a good idea to check them daily before your planned run. Your state will most likely have a dedicated coronavirus page with all of the latest information, from things like the number of confirmed cases to reopening guidelines.
Dr. Mike emphasizes, “Know that there is no such thing as absolute safety when outdoors. The guidelines of wearing a mask, physical distancing, and washing hands will certainly reduce risk but not eliminate it. Know what is an acceptable risk for you.”
If you’re still hyped up to go for an outdoor run, more power to you. Just remember the four M’s, and you should be good to go. Maintain your distance, Mask (in your pocket/bra/around your neck/whatever), find tiMes of the day that are less crowded (ok that was a stretch, who cares), and Mandates (check your local mandates to see what rules are in place in your area). Happy running!
Images: Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels; donese22 / Twitter; notskinnybutnotfat, dietstartstomorrow / Instagram
You know how you don’t really like cupcakes that much, until they’re in your office and free? (Okay, maybe that was a bad example because everybody loves cupcakes, but you know what I mean.) That’s because it’s basically a scientific fact that things are significantly better when they don’t cost money. Another prime example of this phenomenon in action is workout classes, which, if you live in New York, usually cost the equivalent of a human soul, so finding any kind of deal that offers free workout classes is better than your f*ck buddy telling you he’s finally ready to date you. Still waiting that one out, but you get what I mean.
Anyway, even though New York robs us every damn day, sometimes this godforsaken city gives back and offers us free workout classes when we’re new to a studio. So if you want to get swole while you save (I hate myself) then check out these seven workout studios offering very generous new member specials. Yes, I’ve done every single one of these places because I live in the seventh most expensive city in the world on a writer’s salary, so I take what I can get, especially when it comes to free workout classes.
1. GRIT BXNG
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💥 WORKOUTS LIKE YOU’VE NEVER SEEN BEFORE 💥 Push your SPEED.💨 Flaunt your SKILL. 🥊 Empty your TANK. 💦 Bring the ((HUSTLE)) and train with the HOTTEST and the most EXPERIENCED trainers in the world. 🙌💯 Opening August 8th! Your GRIT FAM is waiting… @evanfitness_nyc @angela_gargano || #August2019 #ComingSoon #OwnYourGRIT #UnionSquare
Okay, after I read GRIT’s deal online, I called to make sure it wasn’t a typo because it was that good. Rest assured, it’s not a typo. If you buy the new customer intro offer, for the price of one class, you get a free class, a “bring a friend pass,” a GRIT gym bag, and two free drinks at the GRIT bar. To put that in perspective, one class is $36, so you get all of this swag, a free class and a buddy pass for basically nothing. If you don’t buy this special right the f*ck now, I am judging you.
If you’ve never heard of GRIT, you’re welcome. It’s interval training with three stations: heavy bags, treadmills, and floor exercises. So basically, it’s Barry’s but with boxing. It also has serious night club vibes, so if that sounds like your cup of tea, drink up!
2. Swerve Fitness
Swerve is your basic spin studio, but believe it or not, I don’t mean that in a bad way! One class is $34, but if you buy the new member special, you can get two classes for $40. That’s basically buy one get one free, which sounds like a pretty good deal to me. If I had to compare it to another spin studio, I would say that it’s most similar to FlyWheel, except for the fact that you’re assigned to a team and the teams are racing each other. If that isn’t really your jam, you don’t have to buy into the whole team/race thing and can just ride your bike instead, but if you are Tonya Harding-level competitive (hi neighbor), then you will love this place.
Tbh, I’ve only done the barre classes here, but Exhale is not your average barre class. It’s really f*cking hard and well worth the price. However, if you’re not down to shell out the money you were going to spend on a new fall jacket, you’ll love the new client two-for-one special for $37! As a writer, I was taught to write what I know, so I’m only going to talk about the barre classes, but this place also offers cardio and yoga classes.
The actual workout at Exhale is really great. Thankfully, there are no little inflatable balls that you’re somehow supposed to balance on your joints while tucking, micro-moving, or whatever else you do in other barre classes. The only equipment you use at Exhale includes a resistance band, weights, and sometimes a TRX band-like strap that’s fastened to the barre. You will most definitely be shaking by the end of the class, but it’s very much worth it. I bought a 10-pack of barre classes and noticed a serious difference in my arms and abs, which is something I never thought I’d say.
I will never not LOL at this studio’s name, but they have a fab new member deal that makes up for it. One class is $34, but they’re offering two classes for $28! Either they’re really bad at math or really generous. This place offers three types of classes, all of which take place in a 50-degree studio. I know what you’re thinking, “Wait, that sounds les mis!” And it is for the first few minutes, but you actually get a way more effective workout in the cold than you do in the heat because science. (And because you’re not sweating like a grease monkey—my less science-backed opinion.) Whether you choose a HIIT, Slide, or HIIT + Slide class, you’ll definitely feel the brrrn (sorry, I had to). By the way, HIT uses battle ropes and weights for total body strength and conditioning, Slide is a low to mid-impact class focused on light resistance training and lateral training on the Brrrn Slide Board to improve balance and core strength.
5. CorePower Yoga
For the mother of all deals, CorePower offers a full week of yoga classes for free. In other words, seven free yoga classes. Back when I lived in Atlanta, my apartment was above a CorePower, so I did the free week, and after the free week, I ended up purchasing an unlimited membership and went nearly every day. CorePower’s free week is definitely a gateway to spending a ton of money, but it’s so worth it. This is a hot yoga studio, which offers a great workout that also feels very relaxing. Like most yoga studios, they offer a variety of types of yoga classes that range in difficulty, but my personal favorite is the Yoga Sculpt, which is just a regular flow, but with weights. Look, no one is neutral about hot yoga since you either love it or you’d rather die than be stuck in a hot room for an hour, but if you do enjoy Bikram, you will definitely like CorePower.
Tbh I felt like I was training for the f*cking Marines when I took Orangetheory, but I did it for the free class they offer new clients. There’s an OT on like, every block in every city, so if you haven’t noticed this place exists, I don’t really know what to say to you other than be just a little bit more observant? If you’ve walked by them a million times but don’t understand what they are, allow me to explain. To me, OT is a less intense version of Barry’s Bootcamp. It’s high-intensity interval training, but you won’t feel like you need to chop all of your limbs off because they ache so badly after a class. There’s a treadmill section, a floor section, and a weights section, so if you’re into that, definitely sign up because your first class is free, so why not? Plus, apparently you’re still burning calories even after you leave because the exercises are designed that way. Something about the orange fat-burning zone…or something. Look, I was focused on not dying in class, not learning.
If you like boxing, you will like Overthrow, especially because you get a class free when you buy your first one! More importantly, the workout is really good. Most of it takes place on a heavy bag, but there’s also some light sparring and, of course, a miserable ab workout toward the end. Why must all boxing classes force us to do ab exercises after we’ve spent all of our energy beating the sh*t out of a 100-pound bag? Anyway, Overthrow’s bag section is really intense and you will def need a nap afterwards. First, the instructor will go over the basic punches and then assign each one a number so that he can quickly make up combinations for you to use on the bag. Ever heard the phrase “1-2-punch?” That comes from boxing! 1 is a jab and a 2 is a right arm cross. These are things you’ll learn at Overthrow. So the combinations are obviously a little more challenging than two punches at a time and they are absolutely a workout. During the last few minutes, it becomes very clear that everyone is dead, but not before sparring and abs!
Images: GRIT BXNG; gritbxng, swerve fitness, exhalespa, brrrn, corepoweryoga, orangetheory, overthrownewyork / Instagram
I don’t know about you guys, but I always feel a little weird in the weights/machine section at the gym because I’m usually the only woman amongst a gaggle of retired frat bros who I don’t want to talk to, look at, or breathe near, and yet they somehow always manage to pump iron right next to me. Truth be told, I don’t really spend a ton of time in this area because it’s always been a little bit intimidating to me, but after realizing that I lack the upper body strength to lift my MacBook air, I did a reassessment of my workout regimen. So, I swallowed my insecurities, wommaned up and asked a fitness, expert to help me become the most Beyoncé circa Coachella 2018 version of myself (while still eating sugar, dairy, and carbs). I asked Mike Clancy, lifestyle coach, certified personal trainer, and founder of MikeClancyTraining, about which gym machines I should stop being afraid of and start using . Mike knows what the f*ck he’s talking about, so if you’re trying to get strong for 2020, listen up and stop tiptoeing around these pieces of gym equipment.
1. Yoga Ball
There are so many things you can do with a yoga ball that have absolutely nothing to do with yoga. Clancy says, “Consider using the yoga (Swiss) ball for ab exercises, since the roundness allows your spine to fully flex and extend, unlike crunches and sit-ups. The ball is also great for providing support for your lower back when you are curling up and down.” As a new fan of the yoga ball, I’ll share a few of my favorite exercises. Get in the plank position with the tops of your feet on the ball. Slowly lift your butt in the air and lower. The ball will roll toward your straight arms with every lift and back with every lower. This targets every part of your abs and you will be so sore the next day that breathing will be a chore.
Another option is to lay on your back with your legs extended in front of you and hold the ball between your ankles. Reach for something behind you for stability if you need to, and do everything in your power to keep your lower back on the ground as you lift the ball straight up and back down. Your upper abs will be screaming to make it stop, but they’ll thank you when you’re rocking those cute little muscle indents. Lastly, if you’re having an off day and want to have a more chill ab day, sit on the ball with your back as straight as you can. Put your hands behind your head and lean back enough so that your back is parallel to the floor. Use your abs to pull you up without breaking your posture or letting your elbows cave in.
2. Hip Extension Machine
Do you guys know about these? Not all gyms have them, but if my Murray Hill
sh*thole Crunch does, I feel like a lot of gyms have to. I’ve also learned that, unlike treadmills and rowing machines, all hip extender machines are a little different. Mine, for instance, is a padded metal pole with hand grips behind it and pedals in front of it. Am I creating a brilliant visual or failing miserably? I realize this kind of sounds like I’m describing a torture device. Anyway, so one of your feet is on the ground and the other is on the pedal. Bend both of your knees slightly and push on the pedal with the ball of your foot. You don’t need to push back really far, maybe just a few inches. This targets your lower ass, which creates that scoop of ice cream shape. Isn’t that all we want in life? You can also adjust the pedal so it’s next to you instead of behind you and do the same exercise to the side which works your side glutes.
If you’ve ever taken a barre class, this machine is like the glutes section, but way more effective because there’s resistance with the machine. It’s also a lot easier on your joints than trying to lift your leg in the air while putting all of your body weight on your wrists and one knee. Ouch!
3. Cable Biceps Bar
The bicep machine is pretty self-explanatory, but I will walk you through it just in case you need a little bit of motivation. The machine is pretty small, which makes it way less intimidating that those terrifying full-body workout machines. So you set the weight you want to lift, grab the bar, and do your bicep curls. I usually start with eight pounds and work my way up from there. Clancy says, “Try using the bar attachment on the cables for performing strict bicep curls. By keeping your elbows in a fixed position, the bar will help build and sustain tension in your arms, dramatically increasing the effect compared to normal sets.”
The key is to go slowly so that you’re lifting and lowering with muscle, not momentum. You can bend your arms in a 90-degree angle starting at your hips and do a half curl or fully extend your arms down your lefts for the lower and fully bend them for the lift. If you’re not feeling it, don’t push it.
4. Hanging Leg Raise
This is another ab machine that targets your lower abs and it is very, very effective—speaking from experience aka my sore abs. The hanging leg raise is a machine that’s shaped like a “T” with padded poles for you to put your arms on while your legs and abs do all the work. Your arms are bent in a 90-degree angle in front of you while your legs are fully extended beneath you.
Slowly lift your legs without separating or bending them and slowly lower. According to Clancy, “The flexion of your hips using straight legs will highlight and target the ever-popular lower abs, and get you one step closer to the V in your stomach. Lean back and slowly raise and lower your legs to really enhance the contraction.” You can also do this same exercise with your legs extending on a slight angle to work your side abs. And if you’re really feeling yourself, you can bend your knees at your chest and extend in front of you without putting them down. I’ve only seen one person do that and she was my trainer at the time, so you may need to work up to that one.
5. TRX Bands
These are fab. They take up no space and are actually really easy to use. If you don’t want to do push-ups on the ground for whatever reason, TRX bands are for you. You can perform two different types of push-ups with these, and both are as painful as hell to do. But it’s the kind of pain that will later remind you that you’re getting strong. Clancy says, “Those yellow TRX bands are great for calisthenics and bodyweight exercises because they move in all directions, the movement options are endless. In particular, TRX bands are phenomenal for doing rows and other pulling motions. You can incorporate fully-body, multi-joint movements such as a squat-to-row, or a reverse lunge to one-leg knee lifts.” If all of that sounds really confusing, just remember that if YouTube can teach you how to expertly execute a smokey eye, it can teach you how to do a one-knee leg lift.
I personally only really use the bands for arm exercises and sometimes abs, but because they are just two bands hanging from the ceiling, you can really use them for anything your heart desires. Get swole.
Images: Unsplash; Shutterstock (5)
Robert Jackson is an Ironman UK finisher and certified personal trainer based in Canary Wharf, London. He specialises in training time-poor office workers who want to get back in shape, and first time triathletes. Find out more at www.minimalfit.co.uk
So, you’d like to take on your first triathlon? You probably have lots of questions already, such as “how should I train for my first triathlon?”, “Can I use a mountain bike?” and “what distance triathlon should I choose?” I’ll be covering all that and much more in this helpful guide on how to train for your first triathlon. Before we get started, let’s clarify a few key points…
What Does A Triathlon Involve?
As the name suggests, there are three (tri) parts to a triathlon, which are completed in this order: swimming, cycling, then running. There are four main race distances you can complete, which are Sprint, Olympic, Half, and Full. Full distance is also commonly referred to as an Ironman Triathlon.
How To Pick A Distance
It’s good to set lofty goals, but only the brave or foolish would consider taking on a half or full distance triathlon for their first outing. Most people start with a sprint distance triathlon. In fact, some even start with a super-sprint, which is a newer addition to the scene to help accommodate first timers. I would personally recommend choosing either a super-sprint or a sprint distance, depending on your previous sporting experience.
The longer the distance, the more hours you need to spend training each week, and for more weeks leading up to your event. Because this post is aimed at first timers, I’ll assume you’re training for a sprint distance triathlon. A short answer is that you’ll want a good 12 weeks to prepare. There will inevitably be days or weeks where you can’t train because life gets in the way, so it’s rare you’ll actually be training for 12 solid weeks.
Let’s break down each discipline and see what kind of sessions we need to do for each one to make good progress. For swimming, you would ideally do 3-4 sessions a week. Little and often is key in order to keep your “feel” for the water, so the sessions need not be long, maybe even just 15 minutes. For cycling, you’ll want at least two sessions a week. 1 long ride, getting used to the distances and being comfortable on the bike, one interval session to improve your fitness, and, if possible, one hill sprint session to develop power. For running, again, at least two sessions a week following the same structure as cycling.
In total, that’s at least seven sessions a week. No one said triathlon training was easy! You also need a rest day, so you have to fit seven sessions into six days. First, let’s take a look at the first part of a triathlon, the swim.
Leg 1: Swimming
Swimming is the first stage of a triathlon. In most races, you will start in waves of different age groups which are separated by men and women. This is the case for most outdoor swim events, but for indoor (pool) swim events it will differ. Let’s start by taking a look at the differences between them so you can choose what’s best for you and your first event.
If you’re confident in the water and can get some good practice in open water before your event, go for an open water one. If you’re not a confident swimmer and are unlikely to join any courses or practice in open water, you’re probably better off starting with a pool swim. It’s entirely up to you, but I have seen many first timers have to get out of the water in open water events because they were not used to it and had not practiced.
Swimming in open water is incredibly intimidating just by itself. There are some key skills you need to master before you can swim in open water safely, effectively and efficiently, which include sighting, drafting (staying behind another swimmer), turning, wearing a wetsuit, and learning to be comfortable in cold and crowded water.
Because swimming is mostly about being comfortable in the water and being relaxed, the key part to all your swim sessions is about technique and being calm. There are a few different sessions you could do. One is a long steady swim, where you should aim to build up to swimming 1km in distance without stopping. Don’t worry about how long it takes, just aim for the distance and remaining relaxed. Another is an interval session. Aim to swim four lengths at a time (assuming a 25m pool) then rest for 60 seconds. Repeat those intervals for up to 30 minutes in total. The last is a technique session. Spending time improving your technique will pay dividends, but since swim technique is complex, make sure to get help from a local triathlon club or swim coach.
Let’s now transition into the second leg of the race, cycling.
Leg 2: Cycling
The cycling leg of nearly every triathlon is proportionally the longest part, which means that strong cyclists do quite well in triathlons unless they are terrible swimmers and runners. As a result, it pays to spend more time practicing cycling than any other area. For your first tri, there will be some key points to consider, so let’s get stuck in with the first one…
If you don’t have a road bike, don’t worry, but make sure that the race you enter allows mountain bikes. This is important, because a lot of events will not allow them. If you’re semi-serious about cycling or triathlon, a road bike is a must-have item. You don’t have to spend thousands, but a half-decent one will make a world of difference. Regardless of your bike selection, you can still perform the same style of training to maximise your performance.
Without going into too much detail, there are three main types of session you want to perform. Longer, steady pace rides (to get used to the distance you need to ride), interval sessions (aimed to do a set amount of time at a speed faster than you can hold for your steady ride, with a set amount of lower speed riding), and hill repeats (designed to improve your leg strength, fitness and ability to tackle hills).
Leg 3: Running
OK, now we’re onto the final leg of the race. The run. After swimming and cycling you are going to be tired, so this is where all your training sessions will help you. Let’s start by looking at brick sessions, which are called as such because they’re when you complete one exercise session after another.
A ‘brick run’ is where you run immediately after cycling, which is what you will do in the race. This is a very important technique to test out in training. If you have not done this before, it will be a shock. If you’ve pushed hard on the bike, your legs will be tired so when you start running they might cramp up. That’s why we practice it in training first.
After one of your bike rides, come home and have everything ready to go out for a run. You can treat it like a practice transition two. Get off your bike and as quickly as you can get out running. You should aim to do at least one of these types of session a week so you know you can run straight off the bike without getting cramp.
There are also other run sessions you can complete. These are the same as the cycling sessions and for the same reasons as already mentioned, longer, steady pace runs, interval sessions, and hill repeats.
Images: Coen van den Broek / Unsplash; Giphy (4)
Fitness is so subjective. It’s a personal journey that looks different for everybody. As a professional, all I can do is put out the best information I can that is scientifically backed. If it’s anecdotal then I will tell you straight-up that I haven’t been able to find scientific evidence supporting or negating a theory or claim. Not all information I put out will always support everybody’s fitness regimen. So many of my articles (including the most recent one on running) have a poppin-ass comments section because everyone has their own way of working out. I will always write the truth about what works for me from MY own experiences and also as a professional, from being a part of other people’s journeys. What works for me and my clients will not always work for everyone. I think the discussions being had are fantastic, and this is the biggest sign that people are finding what works for them and staying true to their own path. If my writing gets you considering ways to be healthier or sparking health-related conversations then I have achieved my purpose. However, if this article, and any of my other articles do not resonate with you, it doesn’t mean I am saying what you’re doing is wrong. Follow what your body tells you, first and foremost and forever.
With that said, let’s talk about cardio. There are two sides to every story, just like the story of your Tinder date’s last relationship’s demise (if he said “she was crazy” she probably wasn’t, FYI, she probably just caught him cheating and left). When it comes to cardio, some people love it, some people hate it. I’ll let you figure it out for yourself.
Cardio is any activity that elevates your heart rate. So anything from pacing anxiously after sending a bold text to running after your Uber after the club closes technically counts as cardio. But let’s break it down further into different TYPES of cardio.
Low Intensity Steady State Cardio
If you guys go on a cardio machine such as the treadmill or the elliptical or whatever else, you might see this chart that correlates your age with your current heart rate and that determines what kind of zone you’re in (there’s “fat burn” and “cardiovascular” zone). For a long, long time, people thought that to burn fat and lose weight you have to your ass in the fat burn zone for hours. The fat burn zone is not tiring for the average population (if you’re healthy and don’t have any disorders). That’s like a chill walk around the neighborhood. Boredom and stalker-ish tendencies aside, you can do that for hours, right? You’re not going to be out of breath or anything. Low intensity steady state cardio is basically the kind of cardio that you can do without too much effort, for a long time. And yeah you’re in the “fat burn” zone because most of the calories is coming from fat metabolism, but you’re only burning like, 200 calories in an hour. When new information came out the inaccuracies about the “fat burn” zone and about the benefits of HIIT or high intensity interval training, everyone jumped the LISS ship and now it seems like the only people every chill walking on a treadmill in the gym are somebody’s grandparents.
So is LISS a complete waste of time?
Not exactly, not even for fitness experts that train constantly. LISS is so damn chill that you don’t need any time to recover from it after. You can actually use it TO recover after a day of lifting heavy or strenuous work. It will still increase your circulation and get you feeling active, but not completely drain your energy reserves. LISS is perfect for beginners. The main goal for anyone starting their fitness journey is to GET MOVING in any way, shape or form. It is also great for anyone easing their way back from an injury or illness. Personally, I use LISS as a way to wake my body up on certain days. I usually work out pretty much right after I wake up, and sometimes your girl is not trying to jump into anything crazy right away. I’m still trying to get my life together. So I’ll jump on a treadmill first, and start walking. I’ll check my emails, check IG and Twitter, ignore any “wyd?” texts I got while I was asleep and then put on Schitt’s Creek on Netflix on my phone. I’ll progressively pull up the incline (remember, I’m not a beginner, so if adding incline makes this no longer something you can do for a full hour, it’s no longer LISS) throughout the cardio session. Afterwards, I’m awake, my blood is flowing, I’ll be ready to move on with my workout or with my day, depending on the schedule. Now, not every day will be LISS, and it doesn’t have to be. If you’re someone that does HIIT a lot and love it, you don’t have to ditch it completely. LISS is just another tool you can use on days where you need or want a more gentle approach. It’s effective in a different way and you’re certainly not going to be huffing and puffing, so you might not FEEL dead but it’s effective all the same. You don’t always have to feel dead after a workout to for it to be effective.
High Intensity Interval Training
This baby came in hot. Barry’s Bootcamp, SoulCycle, Rise Nation, etc. are all designed around HIIT training, it’s a very lucrative cardio approach.
While LISS you can do the whole time with no breaks, with HIIT breaks are a crucial part of the whole training because
otherwise you might die the body requires oxygen. When you’re sprinting on a treadmill or a bike, your body is quickly running out of oxygen, turning the state of your cells acidic (all that carbon dioxide, honey!) which is why you’re out of breath. The work phase of HIIT shouldn’t last more than 90 seconds, mainly because you shouldn’t be physically able to. While LISS uses fat as its primary means of energy, HIIT is considered to be so high intensity that we’re working with depleting your carbohydrate stores because carbohydrates provide quicker energy. Now, this doesn’t mean you won’t lose fat with HIIT. In fact, you’re working so hard you’re probably burning equal the number amounts of an hour long LISS session in half the time with HIIT. There is also something called EPOC or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. When trainers tell you to do HIIT because you’re burning calories for hours after you’re done training, this is what they’re talking about. It’s the body’s way of restoring the oxygen levels back to normal, and it requires calories to do so. EPOC is only activated during intense exercise—the duration of exercise doesn’t matter so this isn’t something that can ever be achieved with LISS.
Do You Ever NEED To Do Cardio?
It’s the 21st century, you don’t ever NEED to do anything. But you probably should. If you’re lifting weights and doing circuit/HIIT training, LISS could be a good recovery tool for you. It’s also a good jumping off point for beginners, so if you’re trying to get a friend or family member started on working out you can have them join you on your LISS day. It’s also such a great multi-tasking tool. You can do so much sh*t in the time you’re walking on the treadmill, guys—reply to emails, call your girls or your mom and catch up, read the news. You can’t multi-task while doing HIIT unless you’re open to seriously injuring yourself. HIIT is so killer, it’s great for amping and switching up your workout routine so you can continue to progress. It can be incorporated into your resistance training routine so you can do a little two-in-one situation. In fact, many people do cardio and don’t even realize they’re doing cardio with HIIT (but more on that a little later).
I’ve found the best way for me to do cardio is to combine LISS and HIIT. I’ll do LISS (which is pretty much the traditional cardio… walking on the treadmill, using the elliptical, etc.) then add some HIIT fundamentals into the weights portion. According to science (and my experiences), the best results in exercise come from a combination of cardio and resistance training. I mentioned before in an article that without cardio I looked “puffy” so I make it a point now to do cardio. Some people will say this is super misleading and weights don’t make you puffy.
Hear me out.
At that time, I was lifting heavy and slow for muscle growth. When your muscles grow, it is holding onto more glycogen stores (because it knows it needs it for the work, our bodies are incredibly smart) which holds onto water (should I write about this little phenomenon? Lmk in the comments!). That’s why I got that “puffy” look. I also wasn’t losing fat at the same rate I was building muscle, so it was double the puff. If all you do is lift heavy weights and never do “cardio” in your whole life, and you’re not “puffy”, I’m willing to bet that you’re doing some sort of HIIT in your workouts. You’re doing 3 sets of 30 seconds of jump squats? Are you doing battle rope intervals? You’re doing cardio, baby. Welcome to the club, so happy to have you.
Images: Clem Onojeghuo / Unsplash; Giphy (3)
I hate endurance running, and I know I’m not alone. If my clients come to me and tell me they hate running, I will never make them run. I am a strong believer in making fitness NOT torture, so I will never force clients to do something they absolutely have an aversion to. My own personal reasons for making running my absolute last choice (and I mean LAST, like this is if I was stuck on some desert island and all I had to work with was a track to work with. Actually, not even then, I would just do some sprint/walk intervals instead of running for straight 45 minutes) of cardiovascular activity go much further than just my own personal distaste for the sport. Here are some reasons why the only time you’ll see me run is chasing after a 6’4 emotionally unavailable man.
1. Endurance Runners Have A Higher Chance Of Injury
I think running itself is so high impact in nature, that the prolonged impact on joints is bound to cause some kind of injury sooner or later. This particular systematic review shows runners can have up to 79% greater incidence of a lower extremity injury, with evidence suggesting that long distance running is a risk factor.
I mean, I’m not surprised. All it took for me was a single incidence of shin splint to reaffirm my faith in my non-running ways and say adios to pavement pounding forever. Currently, my cardio routine consists of the elliptical, walking on an incline (hill walks or hikes gives you the same benefit if you want to take this outside) or walking the stairs with nary an injury in sight!
2. Endurance Running Raises Cortisol Levels And Belly Fat Storage
Cortisol is the product of your body’s response to prolonged stress. It is a hormone released by your adrenal glands, and because endurance running (and any other activity that is taxing on the body for a long period of time) is a stressor to the body, the body reacts to this by releasing cortisol.
Now, cortisol is not always a bad thing, but chronic elevated levels of cortisol can actually lead to storage of belly fat, which will end up being counterproductive if you’re running to try to get in better shape.
Huge disclaimer here: this is not exclusive to running, as ANY type of exercise for too long will also cause this stress response. However, because running is an activity perceived by many (including yours truly) to be a very stressful form of exercise, and this stress response is most studied in runners.
3. Endurance Running Can Make You Lose Muscle Gains When Done Wrong
Okay. Let’s get a little technical here, I’m going to bust out some kinesiology basics for you guys. Your body has different types of muscle fibers. They have different qualities, and they all actually end up looking different, because one is more prone to hypertrophy than the other. Different types of training will work and develop different types of fibers. Endurance activity such as long distance running will develop these leaner fibers that are fatigue resistant but have less power. Explosive activities, such as squatting, sprinting, or box jumping will developing these thicker fibers that are fatigue prone but are more powerful.
Now let’s say you want to build a butt. When you run too much or too long, you’re developing the leaner muscle fibers that aren’t attributing to any muscle fiber size growth, which is key for muscle mass gaining. You’re also depleting the energy stores in those muscles to be able to lift heavy enough to build muscle, because to gain mass in muscle, you need to reach that point of fatigue during lifts. So if you’re already pre-fatiguing the muscle by training the leaner type of muscle fibers, there’s nothing left in the gas tank for you to even train the fibers that contribute to size gains. Better options are instead of endurance running on flat ground, add some incline to the routine so that there’s a natural resistance focused on your glutes, hamstrings and quads. If you want to add even more incline, then you don’t necessarily have to even run. Try walking, and try focusing that tension on your glutes.
4. Running Might Make You Look Older
All current evidence I’ve been able to find on this has been anecdotal so I’m not saying this is a fact, but as someone who recently spent $250 on skincare at Sephora, I felt I should give it a mention anyway. There’s something called “runner’s face” where apparently the repeated running motion can actually cause your skin to sag and wrinkle prematurely. You mean I wasted all that money on La Mer’s “miracle broth” bullsh*t just to run it off, literally, into the ground?! IT’S A COLD WORLD OUT HERE.
Like I said, though, I’ve dug around on the internet for any type of scientific evidence of this phenomenon, and I haven’t found it. So while I mentioned it, take it with a grain of salt. Honestly, I think skin care should be a huge deal if running outside is a part of your routine because that’s a lot of sun exposure. The hyper-pigmentation, Lord! Enough to stress me out! Please put on some sunscreen if you run outside.
I may sound like a huge hater, but please note: cardio is still an amazing component to an exercise routine. Just because I agreed to not make my clients (and you readers) run for miles, that doesn’t mean I’m giving you a hall pass to skip the gym. I’m just saying there are better options to work with. I understand the appeal of running: you can kinda just zone out, it’s free and you don’t need any equipment, you can do it almost anywhere. But you could get in just as good a cardio session if you just walked the stairs. You could get in just as good a cardio session going on a hike. If you’re limited to the gym you could get just as good a cardio session using any other machine that’s less taxing on your joints. This article was meant to inform running haters that running isn’t your only option for exercise and it shouldn’t feel like it has to be. If you LOVE running and that’s your steez, don’t burn me at the stake. Do you and prosper! You have my full support, just make sure you are in a safe environment, especially if you’re running outdoors, and make sure you taking proper precautions to avoid injuries.
Images: Seth Macey / Unsplash; Giphy (4)
High-intensity Interval Training, or HIIT, was a huge workout trend in 2018. It seems like boutique studios offering HIIT classes have popped up all over the city—or maybe I only recently started paying attention. Either way, Barry’s Bootcamp is pretty famous for these types of workouts. Per their website, they offer “weight training with cardio and alternate bursts of intense anaerobic exercise with recovery periods to keep the heart-rate elevated throughout the workout,” boasting you can burn 1,000 calories or more per workout. Barry’s even calls itself “the best workout in the world”, which is a pretty big flex. So what’s it really like? Is it truly the best workout in the entire world? Will you die after a class? I tried Barry’s Bootcamp, and I’m here to answer all your questions. Read on for my honest Barry’s Bootcamp experience.
It is 11am and I’m hungover as hell in a dimly lit red room. It’s what I imagine Christian Grey’s sex dungeon looks like. I’m yawning and looking around at the people who are going to be sweating near me for the next 60 minutes. I see this lady who is built like Madonna during the VMAs kiss era, and a guy with gelled spikey hair and really short shorts who missed the memo that the early 2000s are over. Then again, we are in West Hollywood, the land of short shorts and peek-a-boo bulges. These two look well-rested, lucky f*cks.
The instructor walks in and immediately tells half the class to get on their assigned treadmills and the other half to take their assigned places on the floor next to an aerobic step bench (very Jane Fonda, how tbt). I go to my treadmill and press “on”. Other people on the treadmills are stretching, some are walking. Fake Madonna is already voluntarily jogging. I come to learn, very quickly, that the instructor will shout three sets of numbers at us. These are mph speeds that range from beginner (hi), intermediate, and advanced. Sometimes they’ll throw a curve ball and yell out percentages, which is the incline.
0:7:52 – I’m supposed to be running at a 7 speed on a 2%. I’m at a 6 on no incline, sweating out all my sins.
0:7:03 – F*ck this, I’m walking.
0:7:45 – I enjoy a leisurely stroll. People on the treadmills next to me are sprinting like they’re running towards alcohol and drugs. I imagine this is what I look like walking to happy hour.
0:7:58 – I get yelled at for not sprinting.
0:7:59 – I’m sprinting at 9mph and briefly wonder if I’ll be flying the f*ck off this machine.
0:8:15 – The sprint ends. I suspect I have gone into cardiac arrest.
0:10:00 – The treadmill and floor sections switch. 50 more minutes to go.
The floor sections aren’t any easier, they’re just a whole different kind of pain. Turns out it’s nothing like Jane Fonda’s workout videos. I went on Tuesday (a legs and butt day in Barry’s Bootcamp world), and on my 390,294th squat I wonder if I will ever be able to walk again. The combinations of squats, lunges, step-ups, dead lifts and a bunch of other sh*t will have your arms hurting too, because you will no longer feel your legs. At this point, you’re just doing what the instructor tells you to do. It’s Nike’s slogan manifested.
However, despite all the pain, I found myself enjoying it at some point. Maybe I do belong in Christian Grey’s sex dungeon after all? IDK. I don’t remember at what point the workout became addictive and empowering, but it did.
By the time the hour ends and I survive another two rounds EACH on the tread and the floor, I am exhausted and need a shower and a nap. I grab a “Skinny B*tch” smoothie (no, literally) from their smoothie bar and almost fall down the stairs walking to my car. The next day my legs and butt feel so satisfyingly sore. At one point I catch a reflection of myself in a store window. I’m limping down Hollywood Blvd with a really pert ass. Love it. Even though I legit died, my ghost went back to Barry’s two days later, and even live to write about it. I am everything I hate in this world.
I’m down to try any type of workout, but I’ve never gotten into running. I mean, you’d probably think otherwise if you saw my collection of Nikes, but they’re strictly for show. I’ll say yes to Pilates, spin, weightlifting, yoga, you name it—but when it comes to going on a simple run around the block, it’s a no from me. So, when I heard about Mile High Run Club, where you run on a treadmill next to 20+ other chicks in matching Fitbits, I was like, this probably won’t be my thing, but let’s give it a try anyway. Here’s how it went.
Mile High offers different types of classes depending on what type of run you’re looking for, so I had to decide which one would suit me best. There’s a “High 45” where you’re running for 45 minutes straight, a “Dirty 30” where you’re doing the same thing for 30 minutes, a “Distance” class that sounds like I’d rather die, and finally, a “Dash 28,” where you spend 28 minutes running and then about 10 minutes doing some kettlebell work. 28 minutes is, like, one episode of The Office, so that seemed like the obvious option for me. I booked a treadmill at the back of the room, closed my computer, and said a quick prayer.
I went to Mile High’s Noho location on a Sunday morning, and I immediately noted how cute the studio was. It kind of looks like SoulCycle, but with more purple lighting and less candles. Oh, and lots of treadmills. I think they use the same ones at Barry’s Bootcamp, so right away I had a feeling of PTSD as soon as I stepped onto the thing. The instructor, Sam or Scott or something, seemed decently nice and explained how the class would go down. As you’d expect in any $34 boutique fitness class, everyone was wearing the same pair of Lulu’s, including me. Oops.
Once the class started, I was pretty surprised with myself. Like, not to brag, but I was totally keeping up with the speeds and I even adjusted my treadmill’s incline a few numbers higher than the instructor told us. (Honestly, that part was an accident, but whatever.) By the end of our third sprint, I was like, “Wow, that class went by so fast.” Then I looked up at the clock and it had only been 12 minutes. Fuck.
The rest of the run went downhill from there, but obviously only metaphorically because the instructor wouldn’t give it a rest with these goddamn inclines. It probably wouldn’t be hard for you if you run regularly, but I haven’t stepped on a treadmill in like, six months, and plus I really had to pee from the giant cold brew I chugged before the class. Rookie mistake.
The one thing about running on a treadmill is that you need to be somewhat distracted the whole time to forget you’re running on a treadmill. I have to say, the instructor did a good job with that part. Even though I was nauseous and exhausted the entire time, his playlist was solid and he talked us through the running, giving us cues on form and little bursts of inspiration to keep going. I mean, it wasn’t like preachy “give to this workout what you want to give to the universe” bullshit, but it was enough to keep going without falling over.
So, after what seemed like a full day, we were allowed to power off our treadmills and were told to grab a kettlebell for the strength portion of the class. I took one of the heavier kettlebells compared to what other people were taking, but I just wanted to feel good about myself after the shit show that was the running part of Mile High Run Club. I was happy I took the heavy weight, because this part of the class ended up being pretty damn easy. I mean, it was 10 minutes. That’s usually how long it takes me to put my hair in a ponytail before the workout. We did some renegade rows, squats, and a couple ab exercises, and then the class was over.
The bottom line with Mile High is if you’re into running, you’ll like it. The instructors seem super knowledgeable, and the class is structured really well. I appreciated the pretty locker room and the music choices, so points for that. With that being said, if you already hate running, it might not suddenly make you do a 180. So while I might not be signing up for a marathon anytime soon, there’s a good chance you’ll love Mile High. You might even make a friend in the locker room that you can run your next half marathon with. Enjoy each other. Call me when you’re finished running and want brunch.
Images: Justyn Warner, Unsplash; Giphy (4)