Bounce Back from Muscle Soreness

Fall is in the air. The air is crisp and the kids are back in school. What a great time to start a home fitness program! If you’ve been increasing the intensity on your fitness equipment or trying a completely new activity, you’ve probably been introduced to Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), the extreme fatigue and ache that sets in a day or so after your workout and usually lasts for about 48 hours. How do you cope?

First off, the good news, a bit of DOMS means that you’re doing something right. When we exercise in a new way or at a greater intensity, we cause microscopic tears in the muscles used. Although these tears heal, we feel inflammation, increased blood flow and overall achiness in the affected muscles. That soreness you feel means that you’re actually getting stronger and your fitness is increasing. While some soreness is nearly unavoidable, there are things you can do to control and reduce the pain.

The Day of Your Workout
Cool Down:
The newer the activity or more difficult the workout, the cool down is more important. By gently stretching after your workout, you return your muscles from their contracted working state to the length you use every day. Try ending your workouts with a slower pace of whatever activity you just completed and finishing with some gentle stretches of the major muscles used – big victims of DOMS tend to be the quads, shoulders and glutes. Eccentric activities that cause the muscle to lengthen while working, such as running downhill, are the biggest contributors to DOMS. You can keep soreness under control by gradually increasing these types of demands during your workouts.

Proper Nutrition: Because DOMS is related to the healing process of your body, giving your body the best recovery diet possible will reduce the pain and get you back in the game more quickly. The 45 minutes after your workout are the most important for meeting your recovery nutritional needs, so don’t overlook your post-workout nutrition. Include a combination of carbohydrates and protein in whatever snack you choose immediately after your workout. Some suggestions include fruit and low-fat yogurt, a low-sugar protein shake, or an omelet. Then incorporate a diet high in nutritious carbohydrates (think vegetables and whole grains) and lean protein for the next 24 hours. Helpful vitamins and supplements include antioxidants and fish oil to reduce inflammation and increase healing and circulation.

The Next Day
As long as you’re not noticing a sharp, localized pain, heat is a great way to reduce the effects of your tough workout. Try a hot bath with Epsom salts or a heating pad on the most painful areas. Heat will reduce the stiffness of your muscles and further step up the blood flow to speed the healing process.

Massage: Treat yourself to a professional massage while you start your new routine, or talk your honey into helping you out. You can also self massage using a yoga ball (or racquet ball) or foam roller. Click here for a demo of how it’s done.

Active Recovery: You may not feel like leaving the couch, but it’s probably the one thing that will make you feel better. The day after a tough workout, try to schedule a gentle walk or bike ride, an easy yoga session, or a bit of time in the pool. If you have fitness equipment at home, you don’t even need to get out of the house, or your pajamas, to get in some light activity. Gently working your muscles through their range of motion will remove the waste products associated with their recovery and ultimately leave you feeling better.

The Day After That
Get back to it. One of the greatest motivating factors for keeping up your workouts may be avoiding an extreme case of DOMS. As you continue your healthy new habits, you’ll find your body adjusting and your soreness diminishing. While DOMS is usually the worst for a new exerciser, it is an indication that you’ve done something right by making new demands of your body. Over time, you’ll need to step up the intensity and seek out new activities if you want to keep feeling the burn. Increase the elliptical or bike resistance or treadmill incline if you’re working out at home or take to the hills during your outdoor workouts if you’re looking for more of a challenge. Click here for more information on coping with muscle soreness.

Weigh In: Have you experienced soreness while starting a new home fitness routine? What’s been helpful for you?

Beat Sedentary Life Style Health Risks Using your Fitness Equipment at Home

If you’re contemplating an investment in fitness equipment for your home, consider this…recent research demonstrates that decreasing the amount of time we spend sitting each day is at least as important to our health as the amount of time we spend exercising. Click here for a summary of findings. Although cutting edge office furniture, such as treadmill desks, may help a few beat the health risks of a desk job, for most of us the key is to decrease sedentary time outside of the office. Your Horizon fitness equipment can help you find places to squeeze in exercise by using it during times you’d normally spend sitting. Try using your recumbent bike while reading or your treadmill while watching television. Click here to find out how every little bit of physical activity makes a difference in your fitness level and health. Even incidental daily activities (such as chores or shopping) will help reduce the health risks of a sedentary life. However, to really gain the most fitness and weight loss potential from the time you spend exercising, keep the intensity high. Your Horizon fitness equipment can help you do that through the aerobic or interval settings on many models.

Sports Nutrition for your Workouts at Home

You’ve probably found that whatever your fitness goals, your Horizon Fitness treadmill, elliptical or bike offer great support for your training.  Using high intensity interval and cardio settings, tracking progress in the community, and motivating music to drive your workouts are just a few of the ways to increase the training benefits of your home fitness equipment.  You probably also know that good nutrition is key to getting the most from your workouts, but do you still find yourself wondering what to eat, or when to eat it?  If you’re working on taking your training to the next level, try a few of these tips to get the most from your menu.

Eat Early (and Often):  You’ve heard it before, but fueling for performance really does require 5-6 small meals spaced throughout the day.  Frequent meals keep energy high, give you more opportunities to make healthy food choices, and keep your food cravings under control.  The key to making the most of this approach is planning ahead.  

Get Your Calories Early:  It’s no secret that skipping breakfast leads to low energy, cravings for sweets, and, ultimately, weight gain.  If you think you can’t spare the calories, think again.  Breakfast eaters tend to be leaner than those who skip this important meal…maybe because they’re less likely to overindulge later in the day and have more energy to work out hard.  A good rule of thumb is to shoot for 1/3 of your daily calories before noon.  You can space this out over two small meals if that works best for your schedule and appetite.

Healthy Lunch: The old saying, “breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper” has a lot of wisdom behind it.  Eating a healthy, substantial lunch will leave you with more energy for your afternoon or evening workout and less need for heavy, post-workout eating at night.  Put your calories up front during the day when your body is able to use them.  Your best plan for success is to think ahead of ways to have nutritious foods available and to plan for meals at intervals that will prevent you from getting too hungry.

Smart Snacking: Think about snacks as a way of making up for what your meals may have missed and to get what you need around the timing of your workouts.  To get the most from your snacks, make sure they contain at least two food groups (meals should contain three).  Pre-workout snacks help to keep your hunger under control, settle your stomach, and provide a boost for workouts lasting over an hour.  If you’ve had a reasonable meal in the last three hours or a snack in the last two, you’re more likely to overdo than under do this one, especially if your planned workout is an hour or less in duration.  If you feel that you need the energy boost or have a long workout planned, experiment to find out what works and doesn’t work for your body.  Think easily digestible, simple carbohydrate foods, such as half a bagel with jam, a banana, or fruit juice approximately 45 minutes before your workout.

Post Workout Recovery:  Getting the most from your workout means giving your body what it needs to recover immediately afterwards.  Time one of your snacks for the 45 minute window after your workout.  A good recovery snack will contain both carbs and protein (preferably in a ratio of about four to one) to refuel and repair your muscles.  Good foods include milk and a piece of fruit or half of a turkey sandwich.  If you’re on the go, chocolate milk, yogurt, or energy bars are convenient, portable, and balanced food sources.  

Drink Up: Don’t forget your water.  If you’re not sure how much you’re losing from your workouts, weigh yourself before and after exercise.  Each pound down on the scale is equal to16 ounces of fluid loss—the amount you need to replace your body’s needs.  To ensure that you’re adequately hydrated before your workout, try drinking 16 ounces of water 2 hours prior to your workout and 8 ounces immediately before.  This will give your body a head start on what it needs to keep up with the demands of your workout, without sending you to the bathroom throughout.

For more on using nutrition to get the body you want, check out this spring time post.

Weigh In:  Are you working on finding the right nutrition program for your workouts?  What are your battles or tips to success?

Add in Strength Training to Make your Fitness Equipment Workouts Do More

It’s no secret that making it to the gym can be tough to fit in (that’s why you purchased your home fitness equipment in the first place, isn’t it?), but if you’re skimping on strength training, you’re missing the chance to get the most from your workouts.  Strength training reduces your chances of injury, letting you workout more intensely and burn more fat to show off that great looking muscle that you gained by (you guessed it) strength training.  

Unless you’ve managed to fit a complete weight room into the corner of your basement, a successful at-home workout needs to be light on equipment requirements and time commitment and heavy on the motivation.  Circuit training is a great way to fit that bill.  Turn on some music to keep your energy high and hit the following exercises for one minute each.  If you’re really strapped for time, you can do each station once before your cardio routine (see my blog post earlier this month for more on using your warm up to squeeze in some strength training).  For even bigger results, try alternating this workout with your usual cardio every other day and work up to completing three circuits.  

Squat to Row:  Holding a pair of 5-10 pound dumbbells, stand with your weight on your heels and squat down.  As you come up, lean slightly forward rowing your arms with elbows bent at your sides to work the muscles of your middle back.  

Yoga Cobra to Down Dog:  For illustrations and descriptions of this and other yoga poses, check out this link.  From a prone position, lift up to a yoga cobra then push back to a down dog.  Return to your prone position and repeat.  You’ll work your postural muscles and get a great stretch for your whole body.  

Lunge to One Legged Overhead Press:  Stand, holding a pair of 5-10 pound dumbbells and step one leg back into a long lunge, bending both knees. Step back to your starting position, lifting the same knee in front of your body while raising both hands overhead.  Repeat using the other leg.

Push Up to Plank Leg Raise:  Complete a push up (knees or toes) and come to a high push up position/plank.  Keeping your abdominal muscles tight, lift one leg from the floor.  Return the leg to the floor then repeat for the other side.  

Squat Touch Down to Calf Raise:  From a standing position squat down with your weight in your heels, bringing your butt low towards the floor.  Touch your ankles, push through your heels to lift up to standing, reaching your arms overhead and lifting to your tip toes.   

Abdominal Crunch to Leg Extension:  Lying on the floor in a face up position, bring your knees above your hips with shins parallel to the ground.  Tuck your chin in and pull your belly tight while lifting into an abdominal crunch.  As you hold the crunch at the top, extend one leg, pull it back in and then release your body to the floor.  Repeat on the other side.  

Once you master the simple moves of this workout, you’ll be able to increase the intensity and pace of your movements during your one minute training blocks.  If you’re doing this workout on its own, warm up and cool down for five minutes on your favorite piece of fitness equipment before and after your workout and finish with a few stretches focusing on your major muscle groups.

Great Warm-Ups for Workouts At Home

You probably know that a good warm-up leaves you energized and ready to get the most from your fitness equipment.  Did you know that it can also be used to prevent injuries and build strength?  If you’re confused by the idea of a pre-workout warm-up and settling for a few held stretches (or skipping the warm-up entirely), it’s time to start getting more from your home fitness equipment workouts. Think about adding in one of the following warm-up options to your workouts at home.

Start Slow:  The simplest approach to warming up is to do whatever you’re planning on doing during your workouts but more slowly and gradually expanding your range of movement. So, if you’re hitting your recumbent bike or elliptical, use the first 5-10 minutes to enjoy working through your range of motion at a slower pace than usual.  Runners might hit the treadmill at a slow jog, or even a walk.  Warming up in this way allows your circulation to gradually feed the muscles that will be working hard.  This means fewer muscle cramps and an opportunity to work more intensely after you’ve warmed up.  Listen to your body to determine how long your warm-up needs to be.  Fatigue, dehydration, age, and diet can all play a role in determining how comfortable our workouts feel.  By giving yourself enough time to warm-up (somewhere between 5 and, on a bad day, 20 minutes), you can reap the benefits of a longer, more intense workout.

Build Strength:  By mimicking the movements of your workout and even working into a greater range of motion, your warm-up can be an opportunity to work in some strength training, especially if you tend to fall into the cardio-only approach to exercise.  For one approach to a strength training warm-up, check out this link.  A strength focused warm-up should be between 5 and 10 minutes in duration and emphasize the use of body weight resistance at a slow pace to ease into the range of motion you will use during your workouts.  Examples of exercises that fit into this category are lunges, planks, pushups, and body weight squats.  Your goal is to energize those muscles that are used and to get your major muscle groups working together, rather than to exhaust yourself before you get to the meat of your workout.  Look for more on strength training in my blog post later this month. 

Avoid/Recover from Injuries:  Have you noticed a nagging sensation in your left calf since your last elliptical workout?  Maybe your lower back is aching ever since you started your cycling routine.  A customized warm-up gives you the chance to address your own aches and pains and make sure that they aren’t compounded by your next workout.  Start with enough movement to warm the muscles, followed by dynamic stretches for problematic areas, then slowly ease into your workout.  To dynamically stretch your muscles, gently move into and out of a stretch (without bouncing) of any areas that have been injury prone or troublesome.  Follow this stretching with a gradual increase in intensity of your planned workout.

Customize:  Adapt your warm-up to your needs on any given day.  You can pick and choose from the above approaches to design a warm-up that leaves you ready to get the most from your home fitness equipment.  By the end of your warm-up, you want to feel slightly flushed, perspiring, and psychologically ready to tackle your workout.

Weigh in:   Do you use a warm up when using your home fitness equipment?  What’s your approach?

Are Nutritional Myths Keeping You from Getting the Body You Want?

Unless you want to make studying nutrition your new full time job, separating sound nutritional advice from popular fads and completely bad ideas can be tricky business.  Could your good intentions actually be keeping you from getting to your goals?  Here are a few myths and mistakes that might be undermining your efforts.

Skip breakfast to reduce your daily calorie intake?  Skipping breakfast deprives your body of healthy calories at the time of day you need them the most, making you less productive and more likely to overindulge later on.  Your best bet is to find a balanced option (think protein, healthy carbs, and a bit of fat) that gives you about a quarter of your day’s calorie intake.  Whole grain cereal, dried fruit and milk fit the bill, as do a low fat latte, whole wheat toast and a banana. 

Avoiding Dairy?  Maybe it’s not intentional, but as you count your daily calories do you find yourself wondering whether you really need that yogurt in the afternoon or opting for coffee with cream instead of a low fat latte?  If so, you’re depriving yourself of electrolytes and minerals, as well as an important source of easily absorbed protein.  Recent studies show that milk drinkers are winning their dietary battles more quickly than those who steer clear.  The trick is to build dairy into your diet as an important source of absorbable protein and workout refueling carbs.  Try refueling with a post-workout yogurt for an excellent carb/protein ratio, low fat milk in your morning coffee, or a bit of real cheese on your lunch time salad.  Low fat ice cream or frozen yogurt (in moderation) are great treats to work into your three daily servings that will leave you feeling fulfilled and still on track.

Shakes, Bars, and Meal Replacements?  While meal replacements are a convenient way to control your calorie and nutrition ratios, in the long run these artificial foods are hard to sustain.  If you’d like a convenient grab-and-go option, look for a bar or shake that’s based on whole foods rather than supplements and artificial sweeteners, and use it sparingly for post-workout refueling or an afternoon alternative to the vending machine.  For the bulk of your calories, try to develop healthy habits based on real foods, which will provide you with a wider variety of nutrients and give you the knowledge to sustain your weight loss habits in the real world. 

Skipping the First Course?  When you’re dieting it makes sense to limit what you eat at dinner; however, many dieters undermine their efforts by not taking advantage of the opportunity to fill up on high volume/low calorie first course options.  While steering clear of the bread basket and mozzarella sticks is a good idea, a low fat vegetable soup or garden salad with a light dressing will take the edge off of your hunger and leave you less likely to overindulge on the main course.  For added benefit, try dressing your salad with a vinegar-based dressing which may further curb your hunger and add additional health benefits for your blood sugar.

Weigh In:  We’d love to hear from you.  What tricks have helped you to clean up your diet and see results?  Share your tips with us!

The Best Home Fitness Equipment To Meet Your Needs

Jumping into a new training season and beating the coming heat of summer are a couple of reasons that owning your own fitness equipment is appealing this spring.  If you’re considering taking the plunge on a new machine, how do you decide what equipment will be the best fit for your needs?  Treadmills, recumbent bikes, and elliptical trainers are all great options for starting or staying with a training program.  Keep reading for a few tips on picking the right machine for you.

Just getting started?  Recumbent bikes are a great option for new exercisers or for those looking for the convenience of a no-impact workout at home.  Because recumbent bikes use a natural seated position, they also tend to be convenient for exercisers who like to watch TV or read while working out.  If you’re feeing a little hardcore, these machines are also a great way to cross-train aerobically with your higher impact activities, letting you continue to burn calories and increase fitness while giving your joints a break.  To get the most from your machine:  after establishing a base level of fitness (work up to a steady 30 minutes, three times per week), start working in a hill or interval workout once or twice a week to increase your fitness and post-workout calorie burn.

Keeping it Simple?  Treadmills will always be one of the most popular exercise options around because nothing else really mimics the simplicity of running and walking.  The treadmill is a great choice for everyone from beginning walkers to competitive runners.  It gives the pros a chance to train in the comfort of the indoors while keeping track of workout results, and newbies can work with an activity (namely walking) that they’re already well experienced in.   Space-saving models will let your home gym fit in the tightest of spaces, making treadmills appealing for those in apartments or smaller homes.  To get the most from your machine:  If you aren’t already running or walking, start slowly to give your body a chance to adjust to the impact and avoid joint injury.  After sticking to your workouts three times a week for two to three weeks, increase your mileage or intensity by about 10% each week in order to build your fitness and endurance.

Serious Results? Elliptical Trainers let you combine the intensity of running with the low impact of cycling.  If you’re looking for a demanding workout that won’t wear out your joints, you’ll love your elliptical.  You determine the pace of your workout, so you can increase the challenge as your cardio fitness improves.  Ellipticals are great for runners looking for a low impact cross training option that will allow them to work similar muscles to those used in running and walking.  These fitness machines are also a terrific option if you’d like to work your way up to running or just want to see the weight loss and cardiovascular benefits that a more intense program can provide.  To get the most from your machine:  After getting started on your program, try adding in some reverse pedaling to work different muscles and neural connections, giving you a bigger impact…without the impact.

Several models of Horizon’s home fitness equipment offer features that will make your workouts more comfortable and fun.  With MP3-docking stations, COOLfit® fitness fans, Sonic Surround™ speakers and the ability to upload your workouts online using, working out at home has never been more enjoyable.  

Weigh In:  We’d love to hear from you.  Have you recently purchased (or are you considering purchasing) a piece of home fitness equipment?  What did you go with and why? Feel free to drop us a line here or on Facebook.

Use Indoor Workouts to Boost Your Springtime Fitness

Spring is here!  With great weather and more daylight, nothing beats heading out for a run or hike in the fresh air.  Outdoor workouts provide mood lifting benefits and if you have any plans for competing outdoors this year, you’ve got to do some outdoor training.  However, before you let your fitness equipment gather dust this spring, let’s talk about how it can make your outdoor workouts even better.

Reduce Potential Injury:  If you’ve spent all winter indoors, the impact of heading outdoors for a run or hike can be a big shock to your body.  Maintaining indoor workouts on your treadmill or elliptical gives you a lower impact option to continue to train in a way that uses the same muscles and fitness level of running outdoors, while providing your body with a break from the impact. 

Accessibility:  While nothing beats a beautiful spring day, we all know that the weather can be unpredictable at this time of year.  With planned indoor workouts you can maintain enough flexibility to enjoy the outdoors when the weather and your schedule permits, while taking advantage of the convenience of your fitness equipment to continue your training when long days and bad weather get in the way.

Comfort:  Your Horizon Fitness equipment comes loaded with features that make your workouts more comfortable and enjoyable.  With Sonic Surround speakers, MP3 input, and CoolFit fans, you can relax and enjoy working out to your most motivating music, without the worry of distracting yourself on a busy (or deserted) street.  

Better Results Faster:  With a controlled training environment, indoor workouts give you a way of measuring your progress from week to week.  Many Horizon products offer an advanced Goal Center and Nike + iPod compatibility, allowing you to upload heart rate and workout data on-line.  The multiple programs and resistance levels integrated into most equipment provide motivation and greater challenges to bring you faster results, whether your goals are improved performance or weight loss.  

Weigh In:  We’d love to hear from you, are you using your Horizon fitness equipment to complement your outdoor workouts this spring?

Dust Off Your Treadmill and Gear Up for Summer Training

If your Christmas break has extended well into the New Year, you may find yourself wondering how to get back on track to enjoy the summer. Getting back into your fitness routine after a long break can be challenging, so here are a few tips to help you succeed.

Honest Assessment:  Assess your current fitness and start from there.  Many would-be athletes jump into their new program with great intentions, but find themselves struggling with fatigue or injury by the end of the second week.  A successful program starts with what your fitness is, not what you think it should be.  If you’re a runner who’s taken some time off, start with a walk/run program and increase the time spent running each week.  If you’ve been sitting on the couch rather than your recumbent bike this winter, starting with a short routine that will get you moving is more effective than jumping into a challenging hill workout.

Establish a Plan:  At first a successful plan may be more about showing up for the workouts than the miles covered.  If you’re just getting started on cardio exercise after a long break, commit to a plan that gets you moving every day for a set period of time (20-30 minutes is a good start) .  As you succeed at sticking to these workouts, increase the duration of your workouts each week by 10% until you find yourself meeting your goal.  Wondering what that goal should be?  If you’re looking to lose weight from working out, you want to work up to at least an hour per day.  For weight management and overall fitness, 30 minutes most days of the week is sufficient.  Your Horizon fitness equipment makes it easy to keep track of the duration of your workouts and to stick to your training plan through features such as the Advanced Goal Center available on some models of equipment.

Create Accountability:  Find a way of building accountability in to your workout plan to stay on track.  Local running and walking groups can add a social aspect to your workouts, motivating you to stick to your program.  You can also use a calendar to break down your training program and planned increases, track your workouts in your schedule, and using online communities to report and track your workouts.  Horizon’s fitness equipment offers motivating features such as Nike + iPod, which lets you save your workouts directly to your iPod and track your progress over time through the community and resources.  For more on this feature, check out this link

Reassess Periodically:  As you stick with your program your body will adapt and grow stronger quickly.  Continue to slowly increase your workouts every week or two and consider adding a new challenge to your workouts after the first four to six weeks of sticking with your new program.  You’ll find challenging options in the programs offered through your Horizon fitness equipment.  You may want to consider adding in an interval or hill workout each week to boost your fitness further and enjoy the energy-boosting effects of these workouts on your metabolism. 

Weigh In:  We’d love to hear how your spring training is going.  How have you used your Horizon Fitness Equipment to see progress in getting your training on track this spring?

At Home Workouts Strongly Linked to Big Weight Loss

If you’re trying to lose a substantial amount of weight, you might look for ideas in the National Weight Control Registry.  This research effort, begun in 1994, was developed to look at the habits of individuals who have managed to maintain a long term weight loss of at least 30 pounds for a year or more.

If you’re hoping that your home fitness equipment will boost your weight loss, you’re in good company.  Of the over 6000 people included in the NWCR, 89 percent have combined diet and exercise and nearly all (98 percent) exercise at home.  If you think that you can’t tolerate the impact of intense exercise needed to lose weight, consider putting your treadmill to use.  Among NWCR members, walking wins as the most popular form of exercise.  For a summary of the findings of the NWCR and some tips on what it takes to succeed in your weight loss effort, check out this link.

Weigh In:  Have your home gym workouts contributed to your successful weight loss efforts?  We’d love to hear from you!