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.

Fitness Myths: The Science Behind Spot Training

One of the most common fitness myths is spot training, sometimes called spot reduction. Spot training is the idea that you can cause weight loss or muscle definition in one area without affecting other parts of the body. This myth is particularly persistent because everyone wants it to be true. Everything would be so much easier if only the infomercials promising “rock hard abs” and “buns of steel” after just a few minutes with a specific product were telling the truth! What’s the science behind spot training being labeled as a myth? And how can you achieve real and healthy muscle definition? Let’s break it down a bit:

How muscle and fat work. Understanding how both fat and muscle function will help you understand why spot training is anatomically impossible. Fat makes up a layer between your muscles and your skin. Although it is true that fat is used as fuel during exercise, your body doesn’t care where the fat it burns for fuel comes from — and muscles do not take fuel from just the fat immediately around them. Weight loss is a result of total body metabolism. Often, factors that are beyond your control, such as genetics, determine where on your body you will lose weight first.

Muscle definition, then, is a balance of muscle growth and weight loss. When people dedicate themselves to one form of training or focus all of their efforts on one muscle group, they are doing themselves a great disservice. For example, many people set out to have “six pack abs” and commit themselves to doing enormous amounts of situps. This will give them very strong and large abdominal muscles, but unless they change their diet and lose the fat that obscures those muscles, the six pack will never be visible.

What science says. There are no reliable studies that support the idea of spot training. There are, however, several that discredit it. One of the most well-constructed studies to provide evidence against the concept of spot training was conducted by researchers at the University of Massachusetts in the 1980s. During the 27-day program, 13 male subjects were required to perform 5000 sit-ups. Fat biopsies were taken from the subjects’ abdomens, buttocks and upper backs before and after the study. Although the subjects only trained their abs during the course of the study, the results showed that fat decreased similarly at all three test spots.

In commenting on this study, the American Council on Exercise (A.C.E) suggested that these results highlight a possible reason why spot training sometimes seems to occur. When the exercise is difficult enough to burn a significant amount of calories, weight loss occurs evenly around the body — including the target area.

How to really tone up. The spot training myth can become a discouraging stumbling block for people who want to increase their muscle definition. Although it’s not possible to tone just one specific area or muscle group, it is very possible to increase your overall muscle definition. Doing so is simply a matter of decreasing the amount of fat on your body, while increasing the amount of muscle.

One extremely effective method for accomplishing this balance is circuit training. This workout method involves a fast-moving strength workout that incorporates every muscle group, with no rest between exercises. This keeps your heart rate up, working your cardiovascular system much more than traditional strength training.

Spot training is a fitness concept that is simply not supported by any scientific evidence. Don’t let that discourage you, though: you can safely and realistically achieve a lean, defined body through a balanced routine of diet and exercise.

Related Articles

Ask an Expert: When Should I Strength Train?
Strength and Cardio Training: Should They Mix?
Interval Workout Basics

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.

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.”