Join the Sofa to 5K Challenge

Have you ever wanted to run a 5K race? Well now is your chance! In just 10 short weeks, Coach Jenny will have you up and running — and well on your way to completing your first 5K.

The easy-to-follow, 10-week Sofa-to-5K training program begins Monday, September 15, 2014 and ends with running a community 5K by Sunday, November 30, 2014.

When you sign up, you will receive weekly email updates from Coach Jenny during your training, including workouts and helpful tips to completing your first 5K. We also invite you to join the Horizon Fitness Sofa-to-5K Challenge Facebook group for even more exclusive help from Coach Jenny, including real-time answers to your questions.

Once you complete your race, visit the Sofa to 5K Challenge Facebook page to upload your race photo and story of how the Challenge changed you and you will be entered to win a Horizon Fitness treadmill, elliptical or exercise bike . All participants will also receive a custom Sofa to 5K t-shirt!

First things first: sign up by visiting the Sofa to 5K website. You’ll also find a welcome video by Coach Jenny, a sample training plan and the official contest rules. Also don’t forget to sign up for the challenge group - a great way to find support and motivation during the program. Join us here.

Creating Your Own Home Gym

Home gyms can be a major time convenience and more cost efficient in the long run than an expensive gym membership. Before you begin assembling a home gym, it is important to outline your goals. Are you looking to bulk up and build mass? Or lose weight and improve your cardiovascular health? Every exercise regimen should incorporate both, but understanding what you want to focus on will help a lot when it comes time to start, especially if you have limited space.

Where to Start

There is no need to go crazy at first. You can still get a great workout with a limited supply of equipment, and this will allow you to make sure you are committed to your routine before investing thousands more dollars in exercise equipment.

One of the things many people do not consider enough when building a home gym is space. Fitness incorporates more than just sitting on a bench or moving your legs on a machine. You need plenty of space to move around and really work up a sweat. If you have limited options, you can always make things work, but think basement before unused den when it comes to your location.

The Budget Gym

As I mentioned above, you do not need to start your gym with a bunch of expensive equipment. Here are some basics that every home exerciser should have:

  1. Stability ball: Although they take a bit of getting used to (they have a tendency to roll away from novices), nothing is better at supporting the spine and isolating your stomach muscles. Give your core the workout it deserves by doing abdominal (ab) exercises on one of these.
  2. Resistance bands: Resistance bands provide a lot of flexibility for your routine and can help build and tone muscles by using your own body against isolated muscles.
  3. Pull-up bar: Many pull-up bars can easily fit in a doorway and will allow you to do several exercises that target your core, back and arms.
  4. Weight bench: You do not need an array of weights in the early stages of your home gym, but a bench will allow you to work with resistance bands and dumbbells to target muscles in your shoulders, back, chest and arms.
  5. Dumbbells: You may also want to add a small set of dumbbells at this point. You can perform lunges and other exercises that will help work your legs, and you can also use them in a variety of ways to work your upper body, too.

The Full Experience

Of course, the above should only be your introduction to the home gym world. As you continue using your home gym, you can add more equipment, such as Cardio equipment: This should be first on your list. Horizon Fitness makes a range of machines that will get your heart beating in no time. Ellipticals, exercise bikes and treadmills offer enormous bang for the buck when it comes to getting a good cardio workout. If you have shaky joints in your knees, go the lower-impact route with a bike or elliptical.

  1. Cardio equipment: This should be first on your list. Horizon Fitness makes a range of machines that will get your heart beating in no time. Ellipticals, exercise bikes and treadmills offer enormous bang for the buck when it comes to getting a good cardio workout. If you have shaky joints in your knees, go the lower-impact route with a bike or elliptical.
  2. More dumbbells: A more complete set of dumbbells will allow you to take full advantage of your bench. You can add to these with an Olympic bar and some plates (you will need rubber mats to protect your floor) and you will have a full free-lifting setup.
  3. All-in-one machine: You can finalize your gym with one of these bad boys. Often, incorporating this type of machine will allow you to work your back, shoulders, arms, legs and other muscles in ways free weights alone cannot. With one of these, you will never have to pay for a gym membership again.

Remember, the key to a home gym is actually using it. You cannot tone your body or lose weight if all that equipment just collects dust. Make sure the space is well lit and treat it as a sanctuary. It is your space, so own it, and use it to its full potential.

10 Ways to Stay Cool in July and Feel Like a Kid Again

Remember being a grade school kid and how much you looked forward to summer vacation? Don’t let that carefree feeling on soaking up the summer days escape you. Celebrate summer while feeling like a kid again. Here are 10 ways to stay cool and feel young. 

1. Set up the sprinkler. Or the Slip’n Slide. Either way, get into your swimsuit and let loose like one of the kids.

2. Start a fight. Fill up bunches of water balloons and put in a large storage container for easy access. Make it more competitive by hiding water balloons around the yard like you would Easter eggs and split into teams, or make it every man for himself.

3. Popsicles. This delightful frozen treat has fewer calories than ice cream and tastes so refreshing on a hot day. Get some from the frozen foods aisle of your grocery store, or make them yourself using a home popsicle maker and a variety of juices.

4. Chill out. Put a spray bottle with water or a bottle of lotion in the refrigerator. If you’re getting a little heated, apply some of the chilled liquid and feel instant relief.

5. Dine outside. Find a shady spot and set up a picnic of cool foods like watermelon, cold chicken, cherry tomatoes and maybe a pasta salad.

6. Quench your thirst. Indulge in some of those mouthwatering drinks you may not let yourself have often. Have some fresh squeezed lemonade or an Italian soda.

7. Play video games. If it’s really a scorcher out there, stay inside and turn on the gaming system. Play some active games and you’ll be having fun before you know it.

8. Check out a flick. Either go to the movies or have an at-home movie day with some all time children’s classics. As long as there’s air-conditioning and chilled snacks, it’s a great way to stay cool and enjoy a day off.

9. Head to the beach. Slather on that sunscreen, grab your beach towel and head to the beach for some sun, sand and splashing around.

10. Take a ride on a slide. Get in the air-conditioned car and drive to the nearest water park for a day filled with water coasters, wave pools and lazy rivers.

Weigh In: How will you stay cool while enjoying these long summer days?

4 Tips to Help You Purchase the Right Fitness Equipment

Looking to purchase piece of home fitness equipment? You’re not alone. The convenience of being able to work out at home causes many people purchase a variety of products for their home gym, whether it’s one treadmill or an entire line of strength machines. If you have never bought fitness equipment before, it can be overwhelming to walk into a sporting goods store and purchase the right product. What you choose to purchase for your home should reflect you and your needs. Use the handy F.I.L.E. acronym when considering what to look for in a piece of fitness equipment.

F – Family or Friends. Is the product just for you, or do you have family or friends that might be using it? You’ll want a machine with more durable components if a family of five will be using it compared to a single user.

I – Injuries. Do you have any pre-existing injuries? A treadmill may not be the best choice for someone rehabilitating from knee surgery, but perfect for someone looking to lose postpartum weight. Elliptical trainers and exercise bikes are the best for low impact exercise. If you decide to purchase a treadmill, be sure to look for one with good deck cushioning.

L – Limitations. What are your limitations? Maybe it’s space, budget, or timing. A non-folding treadmill may not be best for someone living in an apartment, but perfect for new home owners looking to build a home gym.

E – Exercises. What exercises do you like to do? This is important to know because the best piece to buy is the one you’re going to use. If you primarily run outdoors, an indoor cycle could be the perfect complement to help you achieve that personal best.

Keep this acronym in mind when you go shopping to make sure you buy something you’ll be satisfied with for years to come. Check out some additional tips on choosing fitness equipment.

Have you recently purchased an item for your home gym? What was your shopping experience like?

Be Your Own Personal Trainer to Get Big Results from your Home Fitness Equipment

You know that getting the most from your home fitness equipment takes more than just jumping onto your elliptical or treadmill for the same workout each day, but deciding what to do next can be overwhelming.  Working with a personal trainer is helpful to keep things challenging or to learn proper technique, but most of us can get great results at home just by putting a little extra thought into our training.   Try a few of these tips to get the kind of results you’d expect from paying big bucks to work with a personal trainer. 

Goal Setting  Working with a personal trainer brings structure and focus to your workouts.  You can get this advantage when using your fitness equipment at home by deciding on your major goals (frequently weight loss or performance improvement) and breaking them down into weekly and monthly goals.  Once you know what you’re hoping to achieve each week, you can structure your workouts accordingly.  For more on planning your workouts, check out my previous blog on Periodization here.  

Accountability  Knowing that you will have to check in each week and having someone hold you accountable for completing your workouts is a huge benefit to working with a personal trainer.  You can recreate this accountability with a little planning and using your natural supports.  A workout buddy or an online forum may be a natural fit for you. Choose your partner carefully and make sure they’re as committed as you are.  I’ve seen workout partners derail each others efforts by giving each other an excuse to head for happy hour or lunch rather than hitting the scheduled workout.  You can also try beginning a personal journal and reward system to keep track of your performance. 

Diet  Cardio is important but don’t overlook the effect of diet on hitting your fitness goals.  Current research is proving what we knew all along…that weight loss happens most effectively when we combine diet and exercise.  If you’re not keeping track of your diet, you may unconsciously be consuming enough calories to undo the good of your workouts. Counting calories and food journaling are effective, but can be time consuming.  You can also try taking a month to break some of the habits that are keeping you from hitting your ideal weight.  Good targets include dropping sugar, alcohol, and second (or oversized) helpings from your diet.  Hitting these common culprits will keep you from making up for your increased caloric output with hidden calories.

Hit the Weights  In addition to burning more calories and adding definition to your form, strength training makes your cardio workouts more effective.  By increasing your range of motion, power, and stability, strength training will let you work out harder with a lower risk of injury.  Try alternating every four to six weeks between body weight exercises (such as push-ups and squats) to improve your range of motion and stability and those using free weights, such as dumbbells, to improve your strength. 

Weigh In:  What have you done to get more out of your home fitness equipment?  What tools and techniques have helped you to reach your goals?

Get the Most from Your Home Fitness Equipment and Stick to Your Resolutions

If you cleaned up your fitness routine with the New Year, the end of January is a critical time.  Your work should be paying off with a few pounds lost or gains in strength and performance, but you’re also facing the challenge of maintaining your motivation each week.  What’s going to keep you sticking to your resolutions this coming year?

Overcome Obstacles:  Having fitness equipment at home is a huge advantage in sticking to your workouts, but there will still be days you find yourself struggling to stick to the plan.  Think over the last few weeks.  When you’ve succeeded in meeting your fitness and eating goals, what went right on those days?  Developing solutions to potential obstacles can pay off in a big way by helping you identify and solve your fitness foes.  Small investments, like lining up help with childcare or dinner preparation a few days a week or remembering to pack your clothes and seek out the hotel elliptical and treadmill during business travel can make a big difference in sticking to your fitness plan in the long haul.

Reward Yourself:  Think about your specific goal.  If consistently using your home fitness equipment is your goal, keep track of the workouts you’ve completed in a desk calendar and reward yourself regularly (try every 6-12 workouts).  Rewarding yourself for losing a set number of pounds or meeting performance goals every three to four weeks can work for weight loss or performance enhancing training programs.  A good reward is something you enjoy, but that feels like a splurge…a massage, a gift card for your favorite store, or a night on the town with friends or your significant other are all great ways to celebrate your achievements and keep you on track.

Change it Up:  If you started a new routine at the beginning of the year, start planning where you’re going next.  We’ve all heard that our body tends to plateau after 4-6 weeks of the same training program, so it’s important to keep changing things up.  As you end your first training cycle of the year, it’s time to plan for your late winter/early spring training routine.  For some ideas on how to plan, check out our previous article on periodization here

Weigh In:  Good luck on making 2011 your fittest year yet.  We’d love to hear more from you.  Have you stuck to your healthy intentions for 2011?  What are your challenges and what’s keeping you on track?

Cross-Training on Your Fitness Equipment Can Make You a Better Runner

We all know that running is a great workout.  It’s challenging to both your strength and stamina.  It’s simple, just put on your shoes and go.  And it’s adaptable to your schedule and location.  So why add cross-training to your running workouts?  Simply put, there will be times when you can’t or shouldn’t run.  Inclement weather, a work schedule that limits your access to the outdoors at reasonable hours, a nagging injury, or a desire to increase your cardiovascular fitness without increasing the load on your tendons and joints are all reasons to consider adding cross-training into your plan. 

When adding a second type of workout to your fitness regimen, the convenience of your home fitness equipment is second only to the convenience of a run right outside your door.  You might even find it more accessible when summer temperatures sky rocket or the autumn rain starts to pour.  Cross training for runners has two general purposes: to make you a stronger runner, or to maintain fitness while preventing injury.  The result you’re seeking from cross-training will determine which equipment and which workouts will be the most effective in enhancing your running. 

Stronger Running:  If you’re seeking improvements in your running times and performance, but find you’re at the maximum of the miles your body can handle, you’ll want to add a workout that closely mimics running outdoors.  Adding in quality workouts on the elliptical trainer can improve your running performance while limiting the strain on your joints and tendons.  The key to this type of workout is to challenge your cardiovascular fitness through interval training (if you’re looking to add speed to your running) or distance (if you’re looking to add endurance).  This type of workout is also a good option if you find that the weather, your schedule, or other uncontrollable factors are limiting the running workouts in your week.

Injury Prevention:  While running provides a great payoff in terms of fitness gains and calories burned, most of us can’t withstand the impact and physical demands of running every day.  If you’re looking to complement your running with a workout that will continue to burn calories and allow you to recover from your running workouts, you might want to consider adding a cycling workout through the use of a recumbent bike.  The key with this type of workout is to look at it as a form of active recovery.  You want to work hard enough to enter the bottom end of aerobic training (65% of your max heart rate) in order to increase blood flow to the muscles you work during your running workouts and to maximize your calorie burn.  Workouts should be at least 30 minutes, more, if you’re working on losing weight.

If you’re looking for more on the benefits of cross-training and how to choose your cross-training activity, take a look at this link.  You can also read more about the physical and psychological benefits of different types of cross training activities through this link. And finally, here’s one more resource on choosing your activity with your running goal in mind. Want to share?  We’d love to hear more about how you’re using your Horizon fitness equipment to complement your running workouts.

Wanna Race?

When confronted with a fitness rut, it can be difficult to regain momentum.  Choosing an event or a race can really focus your workouts and reenergize your efforts.  With so many races available, it can be difficult to narrow it down.  Here are few tips to help you choose the best fit for you.

Training Time

Training for a run or walk involves relatively little time spent on maintaining your equipment or improving your comfort level with a new skill.  While completing your first triathlon can be an incredibly meaningful challenge, training for the event will require time spent outside of workouts on equipment maintenance and preparation.

“While preparing for the 8k in the Mayor’s Marathon in Anchorage, AK, I trained 4 days a week leaving open Monday, Wednesday and Fridays for my rest days. These were typically my busiest days and I could change around my schedule if I needed to adjust days. It was all about getting the miles done for that week and not as much about performance.”  -Bob Najduk, Brand Manager, Horizon Fitness

Motivation

Think about the day of the event and what is likely to make it successful for you.  If you just can’t run without your iPod®, you will need to do your homework before registering to find out if they are allowed on the racecourse.  You may also want to look for well-planned crowd support, fun supporting events, or a beautiful location.

“When running the Madison Marathon, I inspired not to let down the other people I had trained with.”  -Sales Coordinator, Horizon Fitness

Meaning

Athletes and novices choose their events for different reasons.  Consider participating in an event that benefits a charity or cause that you care about.  You can also choose to dedicate your effort to the memory of a loved one or the efforts of someone fighting an illness.  Another recent trend is the development of eco-running, where you center your running workouts on creating a better environment.

“When I first did Race for the Cure, I stayed motivated by thinking about how my Amma (grandma) had had cancer multiple times and what she must have gone through with her treatment.  I thought that if she can handle having chemo so many times, I can handle running for a while longer.  No matter how much I thought that continuing to run sucked, I was sure that chemo sucked worse.”  -Alona Tate, Customer Technical Support, Horizon Fitness

Family Support

Training for your event may require sacrifice from your immediate family.  An option is to enlist their support by involving them in your training or the event.  Many races have stroller divisions and offer walk and run/walk options.  During training runs, you may be able to involve your children by having them accompany you on a bike or in the jogging stroller.  On the day of the event, family members can also participate with you or as part of the much needed crowd support.

“When I told my family that I was going to do Ironman, they thought I was crazy, but I’m not sure that they really understood how far the race was until they came to support and cheer me on at the race.  Many of my friends helped me with training during the year.  When I would go home to visit my family they would even bike along side me for long runs or run with me too.”  -April Beard, Assistant Product Manager, Horizon Fitness

Pace Yourself

When choosing a new event or activity, let your first attempt be about completing, rather than competing.  Enjoy the journey and focus on staying healthy.

“Crossing the finish line of any race is a huge personal accomplishment.  I don’t participate to win and I don’t always run my best, but I know that I trained hard for the event and went out there to have fun. There is so much energy on race day and just being out there with the other runners is truly an inspiring experience.”  -Kristin Gritt, Marketing Specialist, Horizon Fitness

Have you competed in a race for a cause?  What motivated you?  How did you involve your family or friends?  Tell us your story.

Horizon Success Story- Kari Smith

It’s no surprise that health & fitness continue to top the charts of people’s concerns in the U.S. While we at Horizon Fitness want to provide you the opportunity to achieve a higher quality of life we, as individuals, also consider our own personal fitness levels. Some employees join Horizon Fitness with an already active lifestyle. However, others are just becoming physically active or are re-introducing themselves to health and fitness after several years of hiatus. So we know how difficult it can be to set and achieve those personal fitness goals and we want to share our stories—successes and setbacks—with you.

Kari Smith
Age: 25
Position at Horizon Fitness: Customer Tech Support- L3 Lead Tech

Horizon: What made you desire to become more fitness oriented?
Kari: I did it to feel physically and emotionally better about myself. My mom started a fitness program right before I did so she motivated me to start as well.
H: When were you last physically fit?
K: Last time I was physically fit was 2001 when I was a senior in high school. I played some intramural sports in college (tennis, soccer) and I didn’t have a car so I walked a lot of places, but it wasn’t until recently that I started a solid fitness regimen again.
H: What are you currently focusing on with your fitness regimen?
K: Endurance for running and getting an overall stronger body
H: What goal are you trying to reach?
K: I’m training for my first 5K in July and would like to do several more with increasingly better times and also I have a goal weight that I would like to achieve by the end of the year, which involves losing another 15 pounds.
H: How did you make the change from “fear of fitness” to “fitness enthusiast?”
K: I had a lot of support from family and co-workers to better my lifestyle and they helped me realize that change takes time and that it’s OK to work slowly up. In the past, I would work out really hard in the first week and then be too sore or worn out to continue. It’s all about progression I’ve learned since then.
H: What made you stick with fitness this time?
K: The people who work out in the mornings here are phenomenal at making you WANT to come work out because just knowing that you’re all there to be each other’s support and motivation was enough to make me want to come back every day.
H: Why does this particular plan work for you?
K: I do a nice mix of cardio, strength and core exercises so I never get bored. Plus, it’s really early when I work out so my brain doesn’t have time to tell my body what to do. I’ve learned it’s all mental. If you can get past that the body is capable of a lot.
H: What do you dislike most about exercising?
K: Probably anything to do with Ab exercises. Especially bicycles.
H: What do you enjoy most about exercising?
K: It has to be a tie between how great I feel after I work out and jammin’ out like a maniac in my head (and sometimes out loud) to my iPod. Plus, I know it sounds crazy, but I most enjoy the runs on the treadmill.
H: What is the most rewarding aspect to a fitness-oriented lifestyle?
K: The most rewarding part for me is how great I feel about myself plus the confidence I’ve rediscovered through exercise. I’ve lost almost 20 lbs so far and have tons more energy!
H: How do you find time for fitness?
K: Budgeting time is like budgeting money- make more for important things. Exercise for me is important so I make time for it. For me, it was not about finding time, but finding the mental capacity to start and stay with an exercise program.
H: Have you changed the way you eat?
K: A little bit, but not much. I still love food. I was never a breakfast eater, but I try really hard to get something in my stomach in the morning. I also stopped eating after 8pm, which used to be a problem for me.
H: Do you still allow room for cheating?
K: Of course, how can one live without candy and ice cream?!
H: Any recommendations or advice for those just getting started?
K: I know its total cliché and I hate clichés, but take it one day at a time and don’t worry if you don’t see results right away, they’ll come.

Check out what Kari jams to on her iPod when she’s working out:

  • “Get Low” by Lil Jon & The East Side Boys – “I’m a closet Lil Jon fan. This song reminds me of all the times I’ve almost fallen off the back of the treadmill while ‘back, back, back it up’ comes on.”
  • “Rock Your Body” by Justin Timberlake – “It’s J. T-LAKE, he makes me want to dance and run apparently.”
  • “Bust It Baby, Pt. 2” by Plies feat. Ne-Yo – “It’s a new song and its hott.”
  • “See You Again” by Miley Cyrus – “She’s just bein’ Miley and I’m just being Kari, it works for me.”
  • “Cute without the ‘E’” by Taking Back Sunday – “It’s the emo in me, pumps me right up!”
  • “If You Don’t Don’t” by Jimmy Eat World – “I just relate to this song well and thinking about everything it means to me pumps me up.”
  • “Sophomore Slump or Comeback of the Year” by Fall Out Boy – “It’s upbeat at the right times for my pace it seems like.”
  • “Overnight Celebrity” by Twista – “He’s just got a smooth flow that makes it easy to run to.”

 

Target Heart Rate Zone

Training by using your targeted heart rate (THR) is a method that is growing in popularity. It’s a dependable way to ensure that you’re working out at the right intensity to reach your goals. If you work out at a level below your THR, you’re not working hard enough to achieve lasting results. However, if you work out above your THR, you’ll fatigue faster and won’t be able to sustain your workout.

What is the THR Zone?

 Target Heart Rate Zone

 

The THR Zone is the number of times your heart needs to beat each minute to achieve a desired workout effect. It is represented as a percentage of the maximum number of times your heart can beat per minute.

The American Heart Association recommends working out at a THR Zone between 60% and 80% of your maximum heart rate. A beginner should stay in the 60% range while an intermediate exerciser should strive for 70% to 75% of his or her maximum. Advanced users can push for the 80% range. This range also works if you’re doing a short workout.

To find how these percentages translate into beats per minute, refer to the chart. Remember that your THR should reflect your current level of conditioning and personal fitness goals. Before you begin any exercise program, consult your physician.

How does it work?

Once you determine your appropriate THR Zone, choose the desired time and THR range you want to work out between. After four minutes of warm-up, the incline or resistance level will increase gradually to get you to your zone. Through the duration of your workout, the incline or resistance level will adjust automatically to ensure you remain in your zone. The last four minutes of the program will gradually decrease the resistance level to give you a smooth cool-down.

How does your machine know exactly what your current heart rate is throughout the workout? It detects your heart rate by either using the grip pulse handlebars found directly on the product or by using a wireless chest-strap transmitter (only on select models; chest strap may be sold separately). When using the grip pulse handlebars, it may take up to five seconds to get the most accurate reading possible.

Whatever method you use, this program can simulate the intensity of your favorite sports, as well as everyday activities. It’s also a great way to keep your workouts interesting and challenging.