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Treat your Baby Right. Getting Fit and Staying Strong During Pregnancy

Now that your exercise habits affect both of you, maintaining a home fitness routine during pregnancy makes a lot of sense. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends being active for 30 minutes on most, if not all, days during pregnancy and cites reductions in backaches, bloating, constipation and gestational diabetes as just a few benefits of activity. Additionally, recent research shows better long term heart health for babies of mothers who exercise during their pregnancy (see our February Blog for more on that). Check out ACOG’s recommendations and don’t forget to talk to your doctor about your exercise program (or plan for one) during your next prenatal appointment. Here are just a few tips for getting started or maintaining your pregnancy exercise program using your home fitness equipment.

Getting Started: As long as you’ve received the all-clear from your doctor, feel free to begin walking on a treadmill or using a recumbent bike. These low-impact activities are doable for nearly everyone and will reduce your risk of many pregnancy complications. Work up to 30 minutes per day of a moderate intensity (ask your doctor what this should feel like for you). You can also add in some strength training every other day to get your body ready for the demands of motherhood. Here are some great pregnancy exercises.

Staying Strong: If you’re already putting your treadmill or elliptical through their paces, there’s no reason to change your routine now that you’re running for two. ACOG recommends that mothers-to-be continue previous activities, as long as the risk of falling or abdominal trauma is small. Using your home fitness equipment is a great idea during pregnancy as it allows you to cushion the impact of your workout, control the climate (overheating is a big no-no, especially in the first trimester) and easily monitor the intensity of your workout. Finding a doctor who is comfortable working with pregnant athletes can be a big help in getting the support you need during your pregnancy and determining appropriate guidelines for your workouts. Although you don’t want to reach serious oxygen deprivation, don’t be afraid to work hard if you’re already used to a good workout. Research is starting to show that fitter mothers produce fitter babies.

Adapting your Routine: Whatever your plans for training through pregnancy keep them flexible and celebrate your victories each week (or each workout). At the moment, I’m 33 weeks pregnant with our second child and have cut my workouts back to a minimum maintenance level: One “run” per week, one strength building workout, and one intense cardio interval session. This gives me a break from the soreness that comes from repeating the same activity late in my pregnancy and lets me feel like I’ve accomplished something (only six more runs until I deliver!). I try to mix in a little yoga with or without my toddler present, but find that I need to really listen to what’s going on with my body to be sure that it leaves me feeling better rather than overstretched and sore. Scheduling an easy week every month or two, during which I do only recovery workouts (if any) has also been key to staying motivated and uninjured during this pregnancy.

If you’re looking for more tips on exercising during pregnancy and keys to adapting your workouts you can check out this blog from my first pregnancy or these exercise guidelines at American Pregnancy.

Weigh In: Are you motivated to continue (or start) using your home fitness equipment during pregnancy? Do you have any tips to share?


Pick an Event to Add Motivation to Your Home Workouts

Whether you’re looking to participate in a charity run/walk, your alumni basketball tournament or annual softball game, training for an athletic event is a great way to stay motivated and bring new life to your treadmill, elliptical and exercise bike training. Signing up for an event (and paying the registration fee) is often more likely to keep you accountable throughout your training than if you were relying on your own self-discipline. Although committing to competition can be intimidating for a newcomer, most competitive events include a place for both experienced participants and beginners. Here are four tips to get you to the finish line.

Find an event. Wondering where to start? If you’re not already part of the community of athletes in your area, waiting to hear about an event through advertisements and outreach can leave you in the dust when it comes to training and preparing. Check out websites such as www.active.com or www.coolrunning.com for a full rundown on what’s coming up near you. If you’re new to your activity, decide on an event that’s a few months out to give yourself time to train without risking injury.

Make a Plan. The Internet is a great resource for developing a training plan. Runners can search on Couch to 5K or “couch25k” for help in designing a plan that will meet your needs. You can also check out some great resources at active.com. If you’re thinking of joining a local intramural event, establishing your fitness through training that includes sprints and intervals is essential.

Using your Fitness Equipment to Train. Your home fitness equipment is a great complement to outdoor and field training. Elliptical machines and recumbent bikes train your heart while eliminating impact on your joints and muscles. Try using this low-impact fitness equipment for recovery workouts the day after your harder training days or as substitutions at times when you feel on the edge of overtraining and injury. Treadmills are a natural complement to running and walking outdoors, reducing the impact of running on asphalt and concrete and providing the comfort of training in a climate and weather controlled environment. Alternating some of your running or walking workouts with time on your treadmill may reduce your chances of injury as you acclimate to working out outdoors. Your treadmill can also help you stick to your training schedule when weather or personal demands prevent you from working out outdoors. You can also customize your workouts to prepare for hills by running at an incline. Since running on the road is a different experience from running on a machine, you’ll want to avoid doing all of your training indoors.

Have fun! Don’t get so wrapped up in your performance the day of the event that you lose sight of your gains on the way to the starting line. Choosing a competitive event brings new energy to your workouts and can give you an edge in meeting your fitness goals. By signing up and committing to training, you’re already a winner!

Weigh in: Do you plan to compete in a road race or other sporting event this year? How are you using your home fitness equipment to prepare?


Fitness Equipment and the Sound of Silence

An important issue to consider when purchasing fitness equipment for the home is how much noise it will make. A quiet machine will make it easier to enjoy your workouts, whether you like to listen to music, watch TV or just enjoy the peace and quiet. Also, people tend to work out at different times throughout the day, and many of you enjoy working out either late at night or in the early morning. Our elliptical and suspension trainers are the perfect fit for you! When compared to nearly every elliptical trainer in the specialty market, we have not found a quieter home product. Try them out for yourself and test them against other brands, and you will see that this makes for an easy decision when you’re concerned with not disturbing others in the house.


Achieve the perfect fit on your exercise bike

If you’re a cyclist, no matter your experience level, you may have experienced that tingling or a numbness in your glutes mid-workout. Or perhaps you’ve fallen victim to hyperextension because of improper pedal positioning. Instantly, your motivation deflates and you cut your bike workout short by 10 minutes. Thankfully, these are avoidable situations. Read on to learn how to position your exercise bike seat properly for a comfortable and injury-free ride.

A good rule of thumb for a recumbent exercise bike is to place the arch of one of your feet onto the center of the pedal. Then, release the seat lock latch, push with your foot until your leg is nearly straight, and set the latch. If you are pedaling correctly, with the ball of your foot on the pedal, this should place a slight bend in your knee so that you don’t over extend and cause injury.

On the upright bike, the easiest way to position the seat height is to stand next to the bike. Unlock the seat post and raise the seat unit the top of the seat is at the middle of your hip. Then replace the seat post lock, sit on the seat and check to make sure your leg has the slight bend when the center of your foot is on the pedal. If the seat is too high or low, dismount the machine and raise the seat post up or down one notch and try the fit again. You may also be able to adjust the seat forward or backward to optimize the angle of your hips or to perfect the handlebar reach.

On various indoor cycles, like the Vision Fitness V-Series, you can also adjust the bike handlebars vertically for maximum comfort. Start by raising the handlebars so they are slightly above the seat height. This allows for proper posture and alignment for even weight distribution while you’re biking. Make sure you can comfortably reach the handlebars without locking your elbows. You want to have a slight arch in your back, so make sure there’s no strain in your neck and shoulders.

If your indoor cycle has fore/aft handlebar adjustment, you can use that to maximize your riding position as well. After you have positioned your seat fore/aft (if the bike has this type of adjustment), release the handlebar fore/aft adjustment lock and place your elbow on the nose of the seat. Then, extend your arm straight pushing the handlebar with the tip your middle finger until your arm is straight and fully extended.

Once you’ve made initial adjustments, ride for a few minutes and fine tune for the perfect fit. If you’re new to cycling or have taken some time off, don’t get frustrated if you can’t bike 10 miles the first day back in the saddle. Start with a mile or two at a time to get your rear familiarized with the bike feel, especially on an indoor cycle saddle, which is much narrower than a recumbent or upright exercise bike seat. Looking for more tips on how to ride? FitSugar.com also has a great video on how to fit an indoor cycle.

What’s the most difficult part for you to fit on your exercise bike?


Use the Watts program to stay challenged during your workouts

“Watts” is defined as a measurement of power output that the user is exerting. Vision Fitness is one of the few manufacturers to offer a Watts program, which comes standard in the Deluxe and Premier Consoles for all cardio machines. The program works by setting a watts level (try 150 to start) which is used to calculate the user’s RPMs. The treadmill, bike or elliptical will then apply resistance or elevation accordingly. If the user moves at a faster RPM, the resistance will remain at a lower level, but if the user starts slowing down the product will increase the resistance. No slacking during your workout! Most users slow the pace after the first 15 minutes, but the Watts program will just apply more resistance to remind them to pick the pace back up. If the user would rather move at a slower pace, that’s fine too—the resistance will just be more difficult. The Watts program is great because you are keeping a consistent power output, which is the same as maintaining a consistent caloric expenditure, thus making your workout more efficient and productive. Try it out at your nearest Vision Fitness retailer today!

Already use the Watts program? Tell us what you think about it.


Getting More from the Heart Rate Sensor on your Home Fitness Equipment

National Heart Health month may be over, but there’s no reason to lose focus of conditioning your ticker. Most Horizon Fitness equipment models include a heart rate monitor to make keeping track of heart rate during your workouts quick and convenient, but are you really getting the most from this feature on your treadmill, elliptical, or exercise bike? Whether you’re a well conditioned runner or a beginning exerciser, keep reading for a few tips on getting started with heart rate training.

Know your Max: The first step to using your heart rate for a more effective workout is getting a good estimate of your maximum heart rate, since any targeted heart rates for your workout will be based on a percentage of this number. Estimating your max heart rate can be done in one of three ways, depending on your fitness level.

If you’re new to exercise or would like a conservative estimate, the standard formula of 220 minus your age is a good way of determining your max heart rate.

For those who have been exercising for a year or more, the formula given above may be too conservative, leaving you with a lower heart rate than is accurate for your fitness. A new formula of 205 – (.5 x your age) tends to produce a more accurate maximum heart rate for relatively fit individuals.

These two formulas are great starting points for heart rate training, though the most accurate maximum heart rate predictor involves a running stress test. Learn how to complete the test and get more comprehensive information on heart rate training on the Runner’s World website.

Determine Your Target: Effective heart rate training means deciding on a target heart rate for your workout based on your training goals. After establishing a base fitness that allows you to work out at 50-60 percent of your max heart rate, beginning exercisers will want to stick to 65-70 percent of your maximum heart rate for most workouts. This level is sufficient for some serious calorie burn and heart health benefits, but is moderate enough to let you to workout daily for long periods of time.

Intermediate to advanced exercisers may want to introduce interval training to your workouts to maximize fat burning and fitness benefits. A simple approach to intervals is to aim to bring your heart rate into 85-95 percent of your maximum effort, maintaining that peak for between 45 seconds and 3 minutes. Between intervals, reduce your effort until your heart rate returns to 75-80 percent of your max. Using intervals as little as once a week (and not more often than three times per week) can lead to serious pay offs in performance and post workout calorie burn.

One final way of using your heart rate monitor, is to monitor the pace of “recovery” workouts for serious runners and athletes. During these workouts, your heart rate should stay below 75 percent of your maximum effort, allowing you to maintain the pace of your workout for an hour or more while allowing your body and mind to recover from your more difficult workouts. You’ll find that learning to maintain this lower effort ultimately pays off by boosting your performance at the upper end.

Learn More: The article mentioned above also provides some great resources for books and web pages on heart rate training, including the SportsMed site of Mark A. Jenkins, providing a beginner’s guide to heart rate training.

Weigh In: Tell us how you are using the heart rate training features on your home fitness equipment and what you’ve gained from this approach.