Elliptical vs Treadmill


Walk into almost any gym or specialty fitness retailer and you will be confronted with row after row of treadmills and ellipticals. Although these machines are both classified as “cardiovascular equipment,” both have individual qualities that will suit some exercisers better than others.

Before purchasing a piece of equipment this fundamental to a balanced exercise program, it’s important to consider which would be best for your fitness level, workout style and budget.

Elliptical Machine Benefits

The elliptical features two pedals that move in a smooth, uninterrupted circular motion that allows for an impact-free workout. This can be invaluable for individuals with injuries or weaknesses in their knees, ankles, hips and lower back.

Additionally, two long handles extend upward from the base of the machine and place resistance on your upper body. This full-body workout means that you have the potential to burn significantly more calories per hour with an elliptical than if you were to use a treadmill or exercise bike.

There are some potential drawbacks to ellipticals. Because the structure of the elliptical machine controls and limits your range of motion, the movement may take some getting used to. The stride length is also built into the machine, although some allow for slight adjustments, and exercisers with shorter strides may find themselves hyper-extending their knees, which can be problematic over time.

Another factor to consider is that you set the pace on an elliptical (unlike a treadmill, which provides a motorized speed). This can sometimes make it challenging to maintain a constant speed, and if you aren’t highly self-motivated, it can be tempting to go easy.

Selecting an Elliptical

As with any piece of exercise equipment, it’s important to compare elliptical machines until you find one that perfectly fits your needs. Look for a durable machine that will be able to fully support the weight of all its users and has a heavy enough flywheel to offer a smooth, quiet workout. Quality ellipticals are designed to mimic your natural body posture and movement.

Benefits of Treadmills

Apart from the benefits associated with all forms of cardiovascular exercise, the key benefit of treadmills is accessibility. The running or walking motion required to use a treadmill is natural, comfortable and familiar.

Many home treadmills also fold up for easy storage. While running outside can be made difficult by terrain or weather, treadmills offer an even surface and the climate control of your home or gym.

Another advantage is that treadmills can have a built-in motivation factor. The belt speed and the incline will adjust automatically when you follow a program, reducing any tendencies to relax during a workout. Although you can stop or slow the machine at any time, the automated pace prevents you from easing up unintentionally.

The treadmill running surface is cushioned to reduce the stress on your joints from repeated impact, but this is still a concern for exercisers with a history of joint problems. Also, some people find treadmills repetitive, making them less likely to exercise as often as they should.

Finding the Perfect Treadmill

When shopping for a treadmill, look for a machine with a solid frame and a wide running belt. These features will allow you to use the machine comfortably without modifying your natural stride. The highest rated treadmills have larger motors that allow the belt to rotate smoothly and quietly.

Integrated support for media players is an additional feature that may help to alleviate some of the boredom experienced when running indoors. Features that allow you to track your progress through multiple workouts will also make your routine more enjoyable.

Which is Best for You?

If you already enjoy running outdoors but find that your cardio routine suffers because of the weather, a treadmill might be your best choice. People who suffer from joint pain, however, would likely benefit from using an elliptical. Also, if you have difficulty incorporating an upper body workout into your schedule, you may find that the elliptical helps you save time by including these muscles in your cardio.

Regardless of which machine you chose, you’ll want to select a quality model that will last you a long time and help you reach your fitness goals.

Strength and Cardio Training: Should They Mix?

woman doing a push up at home

Strength and cardiovascular training methods are often at odds. Many people train in strictly one or other, believing that the neglected training style will somehow hinder their progress. Gym myths and misunderstandings just add to the confusion, promoting ideas like “running burns muscle.” Other exercisers simply don’t know how to incorporate both strength and cardiovascular training into their schedule and favor the one they enjoy the most. Should these two training styles be used together? If so, how? Let’s dig in.

Myths and Misunderstandings

Usually, people practice cardio because they want to lose weight and lift weights because they want to gain muscle. However, two persistent— and incorrect — ideas have pervaded gyms around the world, deepening the divide between strength training and cardio workouts.

Some people who hope to slim down avoid lifting weights, because they are afraid it will make them too bulky. The truth is that muscle growth is a very slow process, and it requires a well designed program of diet and exercise to be followed for years before you appear “bulky.” On the contrary, proper weight training will increase the strength and endurance of your muscles, which will improve your cardiovascular efficiency and burn more calories and fat in the process.

On the other hand, weightlifters who are looking for bulk tend to fear that cardio burns muscle. This one is more of an oversimplification than an outright myth. It is true that in extreme cases of over-training your body will begin to use muscle for fuel. However, your body will only go catabolic when you exercise at a high intensity for more than 45 minutes, exercise every day, or exercise on an empty stomach. Put simply, cardio will only burn muscle when you give it no other choice. Balance in your training and in your diet will prevent muscle loss.

A healthy combination of strength and cardio training will allow your body to perform at its best, letting the two systems complement each other rather than compete.

How to Do It Right

Understanding that cardio and strength training don’t cancel each other out is only half the battle: now you have to balance the two properly. Mixing cardio and strength training requires a highly individualized approach based on your goals, body type and chosen sport.

First, you should decide whether your focus is to lose weight or gain muscle. Trying to do both at the same time will most likely slow your progress and frustrate you, and may even lead to over-training injuries. Again, this does not mean that you are choosing one training method over the other; the key is to make them work together.

If your primary goal is to gain muscle, then you should lift three times per week, with two moderate-intensity cardio sessions of about 20 to 30 minutes each on your off days. Lifting and running on the same day not only takes more time, it increases your risk of overworking your muscles, which is exactly what you want to avoid.

Next, you need to consider your body type. Is it easy for you to lose weight or does it feel like a constant struggle? Are you naturally muscular? Your body’s natural tendencies will have a strong bearing on your workout plan. For example, an endomorph —  someone who is natural heavy-set — will need to schedule more cardio days to lose weight, but will likely find it easy to gain muscle with plenty of stored fuel in the body.

Lastly, we need to consider your sport. An endurance athlete (such as a marathon runner) will need a completely different skill-set than a football player. While both of these examples lean towards either cardio or strength, these athletes can still benefit from both modes of training.

As is the case with many aspects of fitness, balance is the key to mixing both cardio and strength training into your routine. While these two modes of exercise are frequently considered incompatible, when scheduled properly, they will work together to help you reach your fitness goals.

Have any tips on mixing strength and cardio training? Please share them in the comments!

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What to Eat Before a 5K Race

FA 5K race (3.1 miles) is a great distance for beginning racers, as well as for more experienced runners looking to warm-up for the season. To give yourself every pre-race advantage, it’s important to consider what you put into your body.

As you’ve heard countless times before, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. What you eat before your race, and when you eat it, could have a big impact on your energy level and overall performance. Here are a few common practices used by endurance athletes and how they could affect your race–for better or worse.

Myths to Avoid

Traditional endurance wisdom encourages carbohydrate loading or “carbo-loading,” by eating large amounts of carbohydrates the day before and the day of your race. The logic behind this is that carbohydrates are the body’s primary fuel, especially during exercise, when they account for 40 to 50 percent of energy production.

The problem with this theory becomes clear when you understand that the fuel used during exercise is stored in your muscles and liver. If you think of these stored carbohydrates as fuel in a car, then your muscles and liver can be compared to the gas tank. Like a car’s gas tank, there is a limit to how much fuel can be stored. Numerous studies have shown that not only does the carbo-loading myth offer no benefit to  runners – it could actually slow you down.

Another common practice is to eat simple carbohydrates, like honey or sugar, shortly before the race for a quick boost of energy. This, however, can lead to dehydration: your cells need excess water to absorb the sugar. The sugar spike will also lead to an insulin reaction, which will cause your blood sugar to drop sharply later on, leaving you tired and sluggish.

Planning a Proper Breakfast

Experts at the Colorado State University Extension recommend eating a light meal three to four hours before your race so your body has ample time to properly break down the necessary nutrients. This will also give your stomach time to settle. The meal should feature starches from complex carbohydrates, which break down more quickly and easily than proteins and fats. Avoid foods that are high in fat and simple sugars. Good examples of appropriate foods are whole wheat or multigrain bread, cold cereal, pasta, fruits and vegetables. Unlike the carbo-loading approach, these should be eaten in moderation, with the entire meal totaling only around 500 calories.

Small amounts of caffeine may help improve your athletic performance, according to several studies. Be careful, however, since coffee is a diuretic and can increase the risk of stomach cramps and dehydration during the race.

It’s also important to select foods that you enjoy, and that you know your digestive system tolerates well, because your mood and comfort will affect your performance. Don’t use the morning of the race as an opportunity to try something new for breakfast since it could backfire and cause discomfort or digestive troubles. Try a variety of foods throughout your training plan to find what works for you.

In addition to your meal, you should drink at least 64 ounces of water leading up to the event, but stop drinking at least 30 minutes before the race begins. Having excess water in your system will make you feel bloated, slow you down and possibly give you stomach cramps.

Because a 5K is a relatively short race, it’s not necessary to follow a particular diet in the days leading up to the event. Maintaining a generally healthy, balanced diet and eating an appropriate light breakfast will give you the nutrient stores you need to perform your best on race day.

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Interval Workout Basics

Interval Workout BasicsInterval training is one of the most effective ways to get fitter and burn more calories. The concept is simple and works for any piece of home fitness equipment. Constantly varying the intensity and anticipating your next recovery or push makes these workouts fly by. Increasing post workout demands for recovery, burns calories even after your training session ends. If you’d like to break out from preprogrammed settings and create your own customized workout, here are a few basic ways to include intervals in your workout routine.

Hills/Resistance: Whether you’re running or walking on your treadmill or elliptical, you can increase the incline to up the intensity without increasing the impact on your joints. Increasing resistance also works well for indoor cycles, mimicking the challenges of outdoor terrain. Increase your incline for one to two minutes, followed by recovery periods of approximately two minutes. This simple workout will get your heart pounding and improve your core strength while also training your quads and glutes to meet the demands of your summer activities.

Speed: Using your home fitness equipment for steady cardio sessions results in training your slow twitch (i.e. endurance) potential. Adding speed to train your fast twitch muscle fibers has a lot of benefits, including power for short periods of demanding exercise (like moving furniture or a round of summer softball) and increased calorie burn to maintain these metabolically hungry muscle fibers. You can build in brief periods of sprinting on your treadmill, elliptical or indoor bike to give you some of the benefits of a speed workout, without the wear and tear on your joints.

Heart Rate: With Polar Heart Rate monitors integrated into consoles of treadmills, ellipticals and exercise bikes, this is a remarkably easy way to gauge the intensity of your workouts. Design your own intervals on the fly by using speed and resistance to increase your effort, bringing your heart rate to at least 85% of your maximum. Alternate these pushes with recovery periods, returning your heart rate to below 70% of your maximum. Using heart rate rather than time ensures that your body is fully recovering during the easier periods of your workout and that you are pushing sufficiently during the hard periods, making your workouts more effective and keeping you strong to the finish.

Just one session per week will let you gain the benefits of interval training. As you adapt, shoot for two to four sessions per week. It’s easy to over train, so keep a recovery day between interval sessions to avoid injury and exhaustion. Enjoy your next workout and the benefits of interval workouts in your training plan!


Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor, and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin. To find out more, visit the Meet Our Writers page.

Ask an Expert: How often should I replace my running shoes?

SI’m a relatively new runner (I only run about 10 miles per week). How often should I be changing out my running shoes? -Jared

Welcome to the wonderful world of running! Ten miles per week is a great running regimen and at that rate, the average running shoe will last about 40-50 weeks or close to a year. The general rule of thumb is to replace your running shoes every 350-500 miles but that can vary based on the following variables:

  • Style. Lighter weight shoes can break down more quickly.
  • Weight. A lighter runner may get more miles out of the shoes than a heavier runner.
  • Form. Someone who runs with a heavy foot strike will wear through shoes more readily than someone who lands lightly.
  • Variety. If you wear the shoes for other activities like kicking around, other sports, walking and site seeing, this will add on to the mileage.

The good news is you can develop a relationship with your shoes and along the way learn what works for you and your shoes. Here’s how:

  • Mark the date you purchased the shoes on the side of the shoe sole with a permanent marker to remind you of birth date and replacement date. You can also include this information if you use a paper or online log and keep track of the mileage on the shoes. There’s even an app called the Running Shoe Tracker – Shoedometer that tracks the mileage of your shoes.
  • Save your shoes for runs only and they’ll last longer.
  • Check the sides of the soles for wrinkling as this is often a sign that the shoes are breaking down.
  • Wash your shoes by removing the insole, wash with a mild soap (dishwashing detergent) and sponge or brush, stuff with newspaper or paper towel to dry.  Avoid putting your shoes in a washing machine or dryer as it will destroy the shoe’s materials.
  • If your shoes get wet on the run, simply stuff them with newspaper or paper towel to dry.
  • Avoid leaving your shoes in extreme elements like a car in the middle of summer or the dead of winter. Shoes can melt and freeze and it will break them down or even melt!

Overall, if your mileage starts adding up, you can purchase a second pair and alternate them run by run. You’ll get more time out of each pair and it will extend the overall running time.

Happy Trails.
Coach Jenny Hadfield

Coach Jenny Hadfield is a published author, writer, coach, public speaker and endurance athlete. To find out more, visit our Meet Our Writers page or visit Coach Jenny’s website.

5 Ways to Keep Running Fun and Boost Your Motivation

Female_Pair_RunningLet’s face it, sometimes running can be a drag. Whether it’s because we run the same old route or distance, or we’re just lacking the love, trying the following five fun-boosting strategies can lift the spirit of your workouts and inspire you to once again run happy.

1. Mix up the terrain. Get out of your running route rut and run your normal route backwards. You’ll be amazed just how different everything looks and how much joy a fresh route will bring. You can also spice up both your indoor and outdoor workouts by adding hills to your flat route or find a trail to make the most of a shade-filled run through nature.

2. Shake things up. It’s easy to get into the habit of running the same 30-40 minute workout during the week. Although it’s a great way to maintain fitness, once your body adapts to it, you burn fewer calories because it becomes easier. That’s the good and not-so-good news. A simple way around it is to vary the intensity of your runs during the week to include a variety of workouts. It will freshen your running recipe so you look forward to the next workout. Here are a few examples:

  • Interval Workout: Run hard for 30 seconds to 60 seconds followed by 2 minutes of walking or easy jog – eight times. This is an effective metabolic booster and a great way to burn calories and fat for hours post workout.
  • Tempo Workout: Warm up and cool down running easy for 5-10 minutes, then run at a comfortably challenging effort for 15 minutes. This is a workout that requires focus, but feels fantastic and raises your threshold allowing you to run faster at an easier effort level down the road.
  • Recovery Run: Exactly like it sounds – an easy run that allows you to keep the momentum flowing but gives you a break from the higher intensities.
  • Endurance Workout: Typically run on your off work days, run for 60 or more minutes at a conversational effort level to develop your fat burning enzymes and aerobic endurance.

3. Make it social.  There isn’t one run that I’ve done with a buddy or group that didn’t make me smile or make the time go by quickly. Research has shown that people who exercise socially (with people) can go longer and harder than when alone. Plus, you can solve the world’s problems, discuss the TV series you binge watched the night before, or the plot twist in your favorite book. Invite your friend to hop on the treadmill next to you, join a running club or training group and keep your running fun alive. You just may improve your performance along the way.

4. Run musically.  Create a special running mix for your next workout and you just may run faster than you think you can. That’s because research suggests exercising to music can boost your ability to run harder and longer. Create a musical workout to boost motivation by starting and finishing with two songs that have a slower rhythm to warm up and cool down. Then alternate a fast paced song with a slower song 4-6 times and match your speed to the tempo of the music to get in a musical interval workout. The time will fly, you’ll love this workout, and will count the days until you can run it again (promise!)

5. Register for a race.  The old adage of dangling a carrot on a stick can be enough to brighten any runner’s gloom. Whether a 5K or a half marathon, once you commit, every workout has a purpose and inspires you to prepare for the challenge ahead. If you’ve been racing, try something new to spice up your routine; a triathlon, trail race or obstacle course. When you challenge yourself, you will rise to it and make the most of every workout.

Every runner goes through highs and lows over time. The highs lead to improved performance and impressive accomplishments, while the lows (if you listen) can guide you to making the changes needed to continue to evolve.

Happy Trails.
Coach Jenny Hadfield

Coach Jenny Hadfield is a published author, writer, coach, public speaker and endurance athlete. To find out more, visit our Meet Our Writers page or visit Coach Jenny’s website.

Choosing the Right Fitness Equipment

HorizonEllipticalChoosing the right piece of home fitness equipment—whether that’s a treadmill, elliptical, or exercise bike—depends on what you wish to accomplish from your home training sessions. As you set up your training plan, here are a few things you might want to consider:

Treadmill: Providing a natural workout (as simple as heading out for a walk!), a home treadmill means that your fitness is not at the mercy of weather or daylight. Cushioned treadmills are also a bit easier on your joints compared to walking and running outdoors. You can use your treadmill as a back-up to your regular, outdoor sessions or schedule it into your training plan as an active recovery that takes advantage of the added cushioning and controlled environment. You can also push yourself by including challenging interval runs or hikes, adjusting the incline and speed to push your heart rate and your fitness. Many treadmills also fold, making them easy to move out of the way, a particular advantage if your home gym space doubles as a living area.

Ellipticals:  Elliptical trainers offer a simple, no impact movement, while continuing to burn serious calories and challenge your cardiovascular system. If you’re new to exercise, are concerned about the impact of running, or simply want to burn as many calories as possible while minimizing the wear and tear on your joints, an elliptical is a great option. Additionally, you have the option of strengthening the upper body at the same time, improving your posture. Ellipticals can also be used in a backwards pedaling motion –a benefit unique to this piece of equipment. This allows you to strengthen muscles on the back of your body, improving your ability to spike a volleyball or run downhill, while allowing the quads time to recover.

Indoor Bike:   Indoor cycles are also a great, no impact option for continuing to work out through or following injury or to mix in recovery workouts with a higher impact program. If you’re vulnerable in your low back and knees, you may especially appreciate the natural seated position of the recumbent bike. Recumbent bikes, however, can make it harder to get your heart rate up if you don’t make a conscious effort to overcome that through increasing the resistance and speed of your workout. All indoor bikes are a great option if you’re looking for a convenient, no-impact workout that you can use for cross-training or recovery if you can see yourself branching out into road races or triathlons.

Looking for more tips? Check out our buying guides for treadmills, ellipticals and exercise bikes for videos and what you should consider before making your purchase.

Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor, and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin. To find out more, visit the Meet Our Writers page.

Ask an Expert: Best Running Surfaces

Running SurfacesI typically run on the sidewalks around my neighborhood – is this bad for my joints? Is there any benefit to switching it up and running on different surfaces like the road, grass, loose gravel, etc.?  -Sarah

Running on a variety of surfaces is a great way to mix up your routine, boost your motivation and improve your running performance. The key is to learn about the pros and cons of each to make the best choice for your personal running life. Here is a list that will guide you in the right direction.

Sidewalk

  • Pros:  A safe, out of the line of traffic place to run, especially in urban areas and in the darkness. Many sidewalks, if in good condition, provide a predictable and even (not cambered) terrain, which allows for better running form and alignment.
  • Cons:  The concrete sidewalk surface is much harder than asphalt and create greater impact forces on the body versus the road, track or path. You may need to stop and start to cross streets, navigate pedestrians and other obstacles on the sidewalk throughout your run, not allowing for a continuous flow and pace.

Street/Road

  • Pros:  Running the roads can be as inspiring as a scene out of Forrest Gump.  There are a plethora of options and roads to explore and you can start right outside your doorstep or hotel room. The asphalt is easier on the muscles, joints and tendons than the sidewalk. Although there still may be some points you’ll need to stop and go for lights and traffic, you can generally get into a continuous running tempo.
  • Cons:  Many road and streets are cambered with a crown or peak in the center and an angle toward the side of the road. Running on an uneven surface can create muscle imbalance and alignment issues including knee and ITB pain as one leg is landing slightly higher on the ground than the other. Safety is an issue, especially with high speed traffic and distracted drivers. Always be sure to run against traffic to see and be seen.

Paved Bike Path

  • Pros: This terrain is the little black dress for runners. It offers the stability of an evenly graded sidewalk, with the forgiveness of an asphalt road, without automobile traffic. Many paved bike paths are marked so it can be a good way to develop your pacing skills and perform speed workouts as you can run uninterrupted.
  • Cons:  Although beautiful, many of these bike paths run through secluded areas and forests. Always run in groups, carry ID and cell phone and be aware of your surroundings. Keep your ears to the path so to hear bike and recreational traffic coming from behind you.

Crushed Limestone Path

  • Pros:  Perhaps one of the best terrains for running, limestone paths are typically flat to slightly rolling, evenly graded and very forgiving on the body. Less impact on the body means more efficient recovery and progression in your performance. They offer a safe haven from automobile traffic and a tranquil running environment. Many of these trails are can be found in parks and forest preserves, are well marked for distances and have bathrooms along the way.
  • Cons:  Unless it is outside your door or work, limestone path runs may be best suited for longer training runs or weekend excursions when you have more time to getting there.

Single Track Trail

  • Pros:  These trails run through the heart of forests and back country and undulate with the terrain. They are narrow and organic which makes for a truly unique running experience. It’s not uncommon to run over rocks, tree roots and across streams. Every step demands your attention making it a zen-like running workout. Similar to mountain biking, it develops running strength and finesse and decreases the risk of over use injuries due to running in the same wear pattern on more predictable terrain.
  • Cons:  You are running well off the beaten path in an isolated area where animals, bugs and adverse weather may cross your path. Technical trail running is energy demanding and like mountain biking or downhill skiing, it requires time to adapt and learn the optimal skills to run efficiently.

Track

  • Pros:  Your local high school track is a safe place to run your mileage as you’re off the busy streets and out of traffic. Most tracks are measured and marked where four laps equal one mile and therefore it is a great way to learn how to pace yourself naturally. All you need is your shoes and a watch or timer. The track is also a predictably flat surface and a great place to learn to run and perform speed workouts. A bonus benefit: many tracks are made from a forgiving rubber material that it easy on the muscles, tendons and joints.
  • Cons:  Unless you live by a track, getting there can be a hassle for the busy-minded runner and some tracks have limited public access usage. Running in a circle can become monotonous for some runners who enjoy the sense of exploration.

Happy Trails.
Coach Jenny Hadfield

Coach Jenny Hadfield is a published author, writer, coach, public speaker and endurance athlete. To find out more, visit our Meet Our Writers page or visit Coach Jenny’s website.

Exercising Safely in the Heat

Exercising in HeatThe summer season comes with longer days and more frequent outdoor exercise activity which means whether you’re riding your bike with the family or training for a half marathon, it is wise to understand how the heat and humidity affects your body. Let’s take a look at the signs and symptoms of heat illness and how to exercise safely this summer.

For most people, the perfect temperature for exercise is around 55-65 degrees. This is especially true when participating in consistently moderate to high intensity activity like running. I say most people because everyone is different and there are some people that can thrive in the warmer temperatures (but those are far and few between).

For instance, when my team ran in the Chicago Marathon in October, 2007 (the hot one), the temperatures rose to 90 degrees and the humidity was in the 90% range. All of the runners but one suffered from the heat (499 people to 1) and their times were on average 45 – 90 minutes off their normal marathon times. It’s also important to note that many medications can affect the cooling system in the body so it’s important to talk to your doctor or pharmacist about your medicinal protocol as it relates to the heat.

You can’t beat the heat, but you can learn to work with it.

When the temperatures are in this optimal exercise zone, your body neither has to keep itself warm in the colder temperatures or work hard to cool itself via sweating, blood redistribution and panting. It’s the Goldilocks “just right” temperature and allows the body to efficiently cool itself as you move.

However, as the temperature and humidity rise above this range, your body has to invest more energy into keeping you cool. And because the body cools itself via evaporation in your sweat, the higher the relative humidity, the harder it is for your body to cool itself. When the heat gain exceeds the level your body can deal with, your body core temperature rises and this is when you are at greater risk of developing heat-related illness.

Heat Cramps. These are the mildest form of heat-related illness and commonly occurs in the diaphragm, calves, hamstrings and even your extremities (hands, feet, etc.) You may have a mild fever (102 F) and your skin flushed. This is often related to the heat, and a higher level of sweat loss (fluid and electrolytes) your body is producing while exercising.

  • What to do for Heat Cramps: If this happens, it is important to cease exercise, move into a cool space (shade or indoors) to cool the body and hydrate with an electrolyte beverage (sports drink, tomato juice, salted pretzels), place cool clothes on body or take cool shower (or pool), and remove layers of clothing.

Heat Exhaustion. This is more serious than heat cramps and if left untreated, it can lead to heat stroke and more serious consequences. Symptoms can include: fever higher than 102F, nausea, headache, diarrhea, fatigue, heavy sweating, cramps, increased heart rate, goose bumps or cool skin, and feeling faint.

  • What to do for Heat Exhaustion: Stop activity, get out of the heat, and cool body with wet towels or cool water submersion to reduce body temperature, lie down and elevate feet, drink electrolyte drink, and if there are no signs of improvement, call 911 to get medical help.

Heatstroke. This is the most severe heat-related illness as it occurs when there is a complete failure of the body’s heat regulating system and can lead to coma, seizures and death. Symptoms include: ceased sweating, warm, dry skin, loss of appetite, nausea, weakness, confusion, convulsions or seizures and rapid heart rate.

  • What to do for Heatstroke: Call 911 or your local medical service immediately! Get out of the sun and into a cool place, remove all clothing and put ice in the armpits and groin or immerse in cold water and drink cool electrolyte beverage if coherent.

Now that you know how the heat affects your exercise and resting performance, here are tips for exercising safely in the warmer temperatures.

  1. Acclimate and move by effort rather than speed. It takes about two weeks for your body to acclimate to exercising more efficiently in the warmer weather, and even then can still be a challenge. It’s important to recognize this at the change of seasons like springtime, and invest in easier effort activity until your body has time to adjust to the temperatures. It’s also important to run by your body rather than the speed on your watch or bike. If you normally run a moderate effort run on Wednesdays at a 9 minute per mile pace, run by your body instead and let the outcome be just that – the outcome. It will likely be slower than normal, but adjusting to the heat will allow your body to better recover down the road. When you exercise by what your body is experiencing on the given day, you’re better able to dial in the correct and optimal zone to accomplish your goal for the day and adapt much more efficiently workout to workout.
  2. Adjust your exercise time and location. Plan your exercise route on tree-covered, shaded streets, paths or trails and get in your workout in the early morning or at dusk when the temperatures are lower. Take your workouts indoors on Ozone or Heat Alert days as you’ll get in a higher quality workout with no risk of heat illness or the delayed recovery that often follows hot weather workouts.  This is especially important for athletes following a specific training program as a delayed recovery can have a domino effect in fatigue and greatly reduce their performance.
  3. Accessorize and hydrate. Wear light-colored, loose-fitting wicking apparel that will deflect the sun’s rays and allow for better body cooling.  Visors are effective for keeping the sun off your face while still allowing heat to leave your body via your head.  Top it off with a good sweat proof sunscreen and sunglasses and you’re set for the workout.  It’s better to hydrate consistently through the day than to power load your body with a lot of fluids before, during and after.  Everyone has their own unique hydration needs and they vary on your fitness, health, age, medications and more. Dr. Tim Noakes, exercise physiologist and author of Waterlogged, recommends hydrating to your thirst during exercise to avoid over drinking and the complications that come with it.  Water is the perfect beverage for workouts under an hour, where a sports drink with electrolytes will benefit you more for longer sessions.

Ultimately, it is most important to tune in and listen to your body and be aware of the signs and symptoms of heat-related issues.  When you do, you’re able to make small changes in your exercise routine to assure a safe, effective workout.

Happy Trails.
Coach Jenny Hadfield

Coach Jenny Hadfield is a published author, writer, coach, public speaker and endurance athlete. To find out more, visit our Meet Our Writers page or visit Coach Jenny’s website.

Ask an Expert: Workout Nutrition

Workout NutritionIt never fails, halfway through my workout I end up lacking energy. I know I should have protein immediately following my workouts, but do you have any advice on what I should be doing and eating before my workouts to sustain my energy?  –Alec

Your awareness during your workouts is a great first step in making changes to resolve the situation. There are a variety of variables that can have that effect on your workout energy including not getting enough quality sleep, pushing too hard in a workout and not having enough recovery in your workout routine.That said, nutrition plays a vital role in maintain energy during and after your workouts.  A good first step is to keep track of what you eat for a week to gain a sense of the overall quantity and quality of foods you’re eating.

You can eat plenty of calories, but if your menu consists of too much processed, synthetic foods, it can leave you feeling drained and lacking energy. The more ingredients that are hard to pronounce on the food, the harder the body has to work to digest it and the more it lacks the vital nutrients it needs to live an energetic life.

Keeping a fuel log, whether online or on paper will help you get a better understanding of what you’re putting in your body. Focus on making small changes by switching out a few things at a time rather than revamping your diet all at once. For example, if you eat chips with your sandwich at lunch, add cut veggies like carrots or celery instead. Or add a piece of fruit to your breakfast and veggies to your dinner. The more you lean into a clean diet, the better you’ll feel. Simply put, garbage in = garbage out.

Total caloric consumption is also important as many fall prey to eating too few calories, which results in energy drain. A prolonged low caloric diet also puts the body in survival mode and shifts the metabolism thinking it needs to conserve fat.  Rather than focusing on counting calories, it’s better to invest in eating whole, clean foods throughout the day. For instance, eggs, blueberries and toast for breakfast, a salad with chicken for lunch and fish, veggies and brown rice for dinner. It’s a little like putting clean gas in your car. Your body will run better, feel better and move better.

Finally, we are all an experiment of one. Some perform best on a meal two hours before the workout. Some do better on a light meal an hour before the workout. And others still perform best with no meal before, or a glass of fresh juice. It’s best to experiment and log what works best for you.

If you are going to eat a meal, give yourself 1.5-2 hours to digest it before you workout and focus on consuming high quality carbohydrates, and lower in fat and protein. This allows the food to digest more readily and avoid having stomach issues due to having undigested food in your stomach. (Example: oatmeal with berries and nuts.)

If you’re going to eat a light meal, allow an hour before your workout and go for foods that have a higher concentration of water and carbohydrates. (Example: banana and teaspoon of almond butter.)

Also try working out on an empty stomach if your workout is in the morning. You may find that you have the most energy with nothing in your stomach first thing in the morning. Again, everyone is different and the best way to find out what works best for you is to experiment with timing, size of meal and the variety of foods.

Happy Trails.
Coach Jenny Hadfield

Coach Jenny Hadfield is a published author, writer, coach, public speaker and endurance athlete. To find out more, visit our Meet Our Writers page or visit Coach Jenny’s website.