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Why Running is Good for Your Health

The jury still seems to be out on whether running is really good for you, but I’m here to make the case that it is. With a well-balanced workout plan, running can provide tremendous health and emotional benefits for years (and years) to come.Vision Fitness running lifestyle image

Improve Cardio Health

Running is a fantastic way to improve your heart strength. As you run, your need for oxygen and blood flow increases, therefore making your heart pump harder and more frequently to supply the muscles with the energy they need to keep you moving. As you continue a running program, your heart, much like your other muscles, get stronger and more efficient. Also, running improves your immunity, which means less sick days.

Improve Muscle Tone

It’s a misconception among non-runners and beginners that running only works your legs and your heart. In reality, a proper running form engages a variety of muscles, helping you create tone and definition. Endurance running is great for achieving a lean look overall, but if you want to focus on different areas, you should try different workouts. Shorter intervals and sprint workouts can really help target more fast-twitch muscles, which are different from the slow-twitch muscles used in slow and steady long runs. Incorporating hill sprints will also target additional muscles you might otherwise miss. By its very nature, running also helps engage your core – how else would you stay upright? Pumping your arms triggers your back and shoulder muscles. So, focus on using everything you’ve got with every stride you take.

Lose Weight and Increase Bone Mass

Common sense tells you that in order to lose weight your calorie intake has to be less than your calories burned. If you naturally burn 2,000 calories per day, you have a lot more leeway than someone who only burns 1,200. Running is a powerhouse when it comes to calorie expenditure, even when walking the same distance.

“When you walk, you keep your legs mostly straight, and your center of gravity rides along fairly smoothly on top of your legs. In running, we actually jump from one foot to the other. Each jump raises our center of gravity when we take off, and lowers it when we land, since we bend the knee to absorb the shock. This continual rise and fall of our weight requires a tremendous amount of Newtonian force (fighting gravity) on both takeoff and landing,” says Runner’s World Editor Amby Burfoot.

It’s also worth mentioning that running, a weight bearing activity, is also great for increasing bone density, helping to decrease your risk of osteoporosis. As you run, your muscles pull on your bones to withstand the stress of the activity, thereby also making your bones stronger.

Improve Your Emotional Health                                                         

Being part of a social group may help decrease risk for depression. There is an enormous community centered on those who enjoy running. You may benefit from seeking out a run buddy, but even if you choose to run solo, you can be active socially with online and in-person running groups. Share your triumphs and tribulations with those who can relate.

Another positive aspect of running is the fund-raising sector. Train for and run in a community race that raises money for a cause you support. Running for a charitable event is a great way to feel a sense of worth and accomplishment. Plus, you may meet some new friends.

Running is also great for helping you sleep better at night, therefore giving you more energy during the day. It also increases endorphins, which are what prompts the runner’s high you may have heard of.

How to Prevent Injury

Running is an incredibly healthy sport, but as with all activities, there is always a risk for injury. Mitigate that risk with a few quick tips.

Follow a diet filled with lean protein and complex carbohydrates. Of course running is a great way to lose weight, but incorporating a healthy diet can also help get you to a manageable weight, reducing strain on your back, knees, hips and ankles.

Stay relaxed. While you run, try to focus on any tense areas, in your shoulders for example, and work on letting it go. Drop your shoulders, unclench your hands and relax your facial muscles.

Strengthen your running muscles. If you find you have achy knees, it may be an issue of hip strength. Try squeezing in a few sets of walking lunges, wall sits and planks into your non-running days. Increase foot stability and strength by spending some time barefoot and including some balance work. Also, try cross-training, like biking, which is a fantastic way to get stronger and faster.

Stretch and recover. What you do after and in between runs is just as important as your running and strength workouts. Warm up for a run with a fast walk, not by stretching cold muscles. You increase your risk for injury. Instead, save your static and dynamic stretching for after your run, when you’re warm and your muscles have loosened.

Also, use a foam roller – every day if you can – it will help you recover faster by getting at those really tight spots and reducing inflammation. Make no mistake; it will be painful – at first. But if you continue rolling every day, you’ll find the trouble areas will begin to melt a bit, and you will start to look forward to self-myofascial release.

If you feel a nagging pain, take time off from your workout. As always, prior to starting a new training program, check with your health care professional to make sure you are in good enough health.

So there you have it. If you have always wanted to try running, but have been afraid of the hype, fear not. Follow these tips for a healthy, happy running habit.


Finding silver linings in life and appreciating what we have

Recently, Linda, a woman in my water exercise class for cancer patients, told me that she was scheduled  for a major surgery. To stave off her fear and in anticipation of the unknown, she made a list of everything she is grateful for and all that is good in her life.

That is something, I thought, we should all do occasionally. Sure everyone gets down about stuff; everything from the major, life-changing things like a cancer diagnosis to tiny myriad daily annoyances like a rude salesperson or the robo-calls that interrupt our dinner time with family.

But it pays to remember all the good things that happen in our days. The young man who gives us a seat on the subway when our feet are killing us; the glimpse we get of a group of tiny ballerinas at the gym, twirling and swirling in abandon; the nice thank you note from someone you helped.

Keeping a positive attitude not only elevates your spirits, but may even extend your life. According to a study at the University of Pittsburgh, optimistic women were 14% more likely than pessimistic ones to be alive after eight years. Researchers speculate that optimists have more friends and deal better with stress. After all, no one wants to hang out with a Debbie Downer.

It makes practical sense that there can only be health benefits in finding the positive in situations instead of focusing on the negative. Hollye Jacobs is one woman who has a mission of finding silver linings in all aspects of life. After a breast cancer diagnosis she found the silver lining in her mastectomy by noting that “my chest will be as perky as my personality.”

Now she finds silver linings all around her. Beets are one of her favorite foods. She even liked them before she had breast cancer. But the silver lining, she writes in her blog is “that there are gobs of anti-cancer benefits of eating beets.” Plus, she notes, they are available all year-round so you can find them readily available anytime.

Now, that’s making lemonade out of lemons!

Look for silver linings whenever you can, she suggests. They “will provide the balance and perspective to get you through anything and everything!”

Another woman who surely has the right to complain, but doesn’t, is Jen Smith, 35. She discovered her breast cancer when her son was nine months old. He’s now six and her cancer has spread to her ribs, her scapula and her spine. At Stage IV it is incurable. But instead of bemoaning her fate, she is “Living Legendary,” she says, pulling all the fullness and fun she can from life and celebrating each day she is alive.

Her silver linings: living to take her son to his first day of kindergarten, to Disney World and Hawaii. “I’m making choices of how I’m going to spend my time,” she explains. Instead of a one-day celebration for her recent birthday, she celebrated for a whole month with the theme: “I’m 35 and still alive.” The silver lining: “I had dessert every single day of the month!”

When my friend Liz recently lost all her hair due to chemo, she found a silver lining: Hermes scarves!

Some people call cancer a blessing because it’s taught them compassion, patience, acceptance and strength. For many, at least, it’s made them appreciate the little things and be grateful for good health, friends and even modern medicine. Instead of the bad, they think of the good it’s brought into their lives – friendships, closeness with family and an inner strength they never knew they had to tackle life’s battles. The best thing that can come from the experience is that it makes us recognize and appreciate the good that can come from a rotten situation….in other words, finding the silver linings. They’re all around us, notes Hollye, “All one has to do…is look for them.”

So maybe it’s time to let some of the bad things go and focus on all that is good in our lives and count our blessings every day. As a quote I read says: “Survivors isn’t just a term – it’s an attitude.”

Have you found any silver linings lately?






Overtraining Symptoms, Causes and Recovery

Have you ever set a goal, created what seemed like a great plan and then proceeded not only to follow that plan but to do even more? Chances are you were highly motivated and wanted to cross the finish line in the least amount of time possible. Suddenly, you hit a road block, you burned out, you got tired, you lost motivation or maybe you even started to lose some of your early results though you continued working hard. If all of this sounds familiar, you may have experienced overtraining.

Although the “more is better” approach may work for a short period of time, it will often lead to unwanted consequences and setbacks. Below is information that will help you identify whether your burnout may actually be the result of overtraining, the causes and what you need to do in order to recover from overtraining.

10 Symptoms of Overtraining

  1. Fatigue or lack of energy
  2. Loss of strength
  3. Poor sleep
  4. Irritability and moodiness
  5. Loss of enthusiasm
  6. Elevated heart rate while resting
  7. Decreased immunity or getting sick more frequently than normal
  8. Decrease in performance
  9. Unwanted weight loss
  10. Persistent soreness in joints and muscles

What Leads to Overtraining?

Lack of rest and sleep will lead to fatigue, irritability and decreases in performance and increased resting heart rates. The harder your work, or the more intense your routine, the more rest you will require.

Poor nutrition – Not eating enough or eating foods lacking in nutrients that fuel your body’s recovery from the stresses of intense exercise. Without the right nutrients and calories, your body can not repair the damage done. The ultimate goal is to give your body enough good food to overcompensate for the increased loads of stress you are applying to it, and thereby becoming more fit.

Lack of variety in your training methods or regimen can lead to overtraining of specific muscles or joints resulting in soreness that does not go away with regular rest between workouts.

Recovering from Overtraining

Take time off. How long you should take off will depend on how long you have been overtraining. Three to five days off may be enough for most people, but if you have been overtraining for an extended period of time, you may need more time off.

Eat a healthy-balanced diet including lean protein, which is used to rebuild muscles. Carbohydrates are essential for replenishing your energy stores. Healthy fats are needed for energy and joint protection and the absorption of some vitamins and minerals.

Stay active but stay out of the gym. Great active recovery options include walking or recreational swimming. Movement increases blood flow, which is important for supplying nutrients throughout your body.

Get plenty of sleep. There’s a reason research continues to show six to eight hours of sleep is best.

The next time you begin to experience these symptoms as a result of your overzealous workouts, remember to incorporate some active rest and review your rest and nutrition needs. It will help prevent overtraining and help lead you to increased results in the long run.

References and Links to more information:


Treadmill Drive Motors and the Question of Horsepower

The treadmill motor horsepower rating is probably the single most recognizable spec that jumps out at a consumer when he or she begins to do their buying research. It is most likely because we have all heard this term since we were young, and many of us think we know what it means. As tends to be our way of thinking, we usually believe bigger is better. However, the truth is, the ratings and numbers can be very confusing and ultimately incredibly misleading. Here are some tips to help you sort through some of the terms and numbers you may have read about to find out what is really important when trying to understand this integral part of the treadmill.

Poor horsepower ratings

Unless the treadmill has a strong motor, you will easily wear it out. First, check to see what rating terminology the manufacturer is using. Terms like “treadmill duty” and “peak duty” have been used to mislead consumers in the past to raise the rating number (remember the assumption that bigger is better). What do each of those mean?

  • Treadmill Duty – somewhere in between peak and continuous. Treadmill duty measures the likely horsepower for an average user at an average speed over an average period of time. But because it is an average, it is not a true representation of power.
  • Peak Duty – Maximum horsepower a motor can generate when working at its hardest. This is only sustainable for a short time. Or Peak duty motors measure power at the highest possible rpm with minimal load. But since an efficient motor is not going to run at this high rpm all the time, it is not an accurate horsepower measurement.

Look for Continuous Duty horsepower

When shopping for a treadmill, look for a Continuous Duty Rating (CHP). A continuous duty motor measures the minimum horsepower delivered at all points during a workout, and is a commercial grade standard applied to treadmills used in health clubs and higher-quality home treadmills. Continuous duty motors are the highest quality available. They are more powerful, they last longer, and they deliver smooth performance.

Minimum recommendations have always been at least 1.5 CHP, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a treadmill with such a low rating these days because of all the marketing hype. However, if done right, a 1.5 CHP motor with an RPM rating below 4000 would satisfy the needs of 90 percent of home users.

The importance of RPMs

Rotations per Minute (RPMs) is really important in motor design. The relationship between continuous horsepower and RPM is torque. This is the most significant factor when determining the best suitable motor for you needs. The lower the RPM of a motor, the more torque it will have – torque being the measure of a tendency to cause rotation; in other words, the power to turn. This allows the motor to last longer. I strongly recommend a motor with an RPM rating of 4000 or lower, but never more than 5000.

This is crucial because this is where a lot of manufacturers begin to play with, and boost, the ratings above 2.5 in to the 3.5 and 4 HP range. In a lot of those cases, if we examine the plate stamped on the treadmill, you will find RPM ratings in the 7000 to 8000 range. This is how they can get away with these bloated HP rating numbers. These motors are spinning way too fast and working way too hard to last the years you should expect out of a quality treadmill. RPM tinkering is only one way in which a manufacturer can boost the horsepower rating of a treadmill motor.

Electrical requirements

Finally, there are the electrical requirements needed to support a larger HP motor. Most homes today have either a 15- or 20-Amp circuit, which you plug the treadmill into.  Most 20-Amp lines will only support 2.4 horsepower from an electrical motor for a continuous period of time. So all the “extra” horsepower, if the rating is true, is nice but totally not needed and never really used.

On a related note, it is nice to have a big, strong, powerful motor in your treadmill, but it is just as important to surround that motor with up to date quality components (more on that later). If done properly, the motor won’t have to do all the work so the load can be shared amongst all the integral parts. They reduce the need for overblown horsepower ratings and produce a much more efficient running treadmill – A sort of brains over brawn scenario.

What this all means is that the customer should be more concerned with how well all these parts of the treadmill work together, rather than with a hyped up horsepower rating placed on a website or printed in a brochure. Look for a solid motor with CHP rating and low RPM’s and go from there.

Treadmill Motors: Putting it in Perspective

Motors are one of the most important factors when shopping for a treadmill, but there are other features to consider as well. Does the belt need maintenance? Is the belt cushioned? The belt quality is just as important as motor when you’re shopping for a durable treadmill. The belt and the motor work in tandem to create a smooth, efficient walking or running experience. The graphic below shoes some of the other features to consider in a treadmill. Browse treadmills with continuous-duty motors and low (and in most cases no!) belt maintenance. 




What to eat for healthy teeth

Mom used to say that eating sugary foods would rot your teeth. It turns out she was right.

Eating certain foods and avoiding others can greatly affect our oral health. This is especially true for children, but is also important for adults:

·         Toddlers: Good nutrition helps healthy teeth and gums develop.

·         Older children and teens: Eating well keeps cavities at bay.

·         Adults: Healthy foods help prevent gum disease.

The nutrition and dental health relationship works the other way, too. Without a healthy mouth, you couldn’t chew or swallow foods and absorb vital nutrients your body needs. Plus, research has shown a link between gum disease and heart disease risk.Tooth and dental instrument

Foods for your teeth

A good diet for dental health is no different than a diet that is nutritious for the rest of the body. Both the American Dietetic Association and the American Dental Association stress the importance of good nutrition for oral health. This means a diet that’s rich in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, low-fat and nonfat dairy products and lean sources of protein. Foods high in saturated and trans fats, salt and sugar should be limited.

These nutrients can help keep your mouth in tip top shape:

·         Protein helps teeth form. Kids who don’t get enough protein and are malnourished have a higher risk for cavities. Choose lean sources of protein like fish, chicken and beans. These foods are also high in iron, magnesium and zinc, which help to build teeth and bones.

·         Calcium and vitamin D strengthen teeth and bones. Low-fat and nonfat dairy products are high in both nutrients. Calcium can also be found in dark leafy greens and beans.

·         Vitamin A helps tooth enamel form. Orange fruits and vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes are rich in vitamin A.

·         Vitamin B helps keep gum tissue healthy. Whole-grain breads and cereals and green, leafy vegetables contain vitamin B.

·         Vitamin C helps maintain gums and keeps soft tissue healthy. Citrus fruits are high in vitamin C.

·         Vitamin K keeps gums healthy and controls bleeding. Dark leafy greens are good sources of vitamin K.

·         Fluoride protects tooth enamel, which makes it harder to break down. This lowers the risk of cavities. Tap water and toothpaste often contain fluoride. If you drink only bottled water, ask your dentist if you need a fluoride supplement.

Watch your sweet tooth

Sugary and starchy foods release damaging acids that harm your teeth and lead to cavities and gum disease. Foods that are chewy, gooey, sticky or dissolve slowly do even more damage because they stay in your mouth longer. Caffeinated, carbonated and acidic drinks also hurt teeth. Always brush your teeth right after eating foods high in sugar.

These items should be only eaten in moderation:

·         Sugary foods like candy, cake and cookies. Try to avoid chewy and sticky items like hard candies, caramels, taffy, granola bars and dried fruit. Watch for hidden sources of sugar in things like condiments, peanut butter and pasta sauce.

·         Starchy, processed foods such as chips, pretzels and crackers.

·         Drinks high in sugar, including soda, sports drinks and juices.

Healthy snacking

If you can’t avoid a sugar craving, eat sweets right after a meal instead of as snacks. The damaging acids released by sugary foods stay in your mouth for 20 minutes before they break down. The more often you eat sugar-filled snacks, the more frequently acids develop that can harm your teeth.  Instead, choose nutritious snacks – such as fruits, vegetables and nuts – over sweet ones.


Fitness Equipment and Location, Location, Location!

I’m sure we are all somewhat familiar with that chant. They say it’s all about the location! When it comes to fitness equipment, location is also very important. Not necessarily which room will the equipment look best in, but which room is best for the product itself. Put it in a place that you like to be. There is no need to make using the equipment a hassle by going somewhere in your home you don’t want to be.

If you prefer looking outside at nature, people passing by or just the traffic, go ahead and put the product in front of a window. If you like to watch TV, then you can put your fitness equipment near a TV. Or, go ahead and buy a TV to put in front of your fitness equipment!

You may reference your Owner’s Guide for particular instructions, but generally you want your product in a finished, temperature-controlled part of your home. The unit should be on a level, stable surface, and make sure that you have enough space around the entire unit for safety (reference Owner’s guide for specific measurements). Humidity, heat and cold can all negatively affect how the product will operate, and if it doesn’t affect it immediately, it can cause problems later on. To that note, we highly recommend keeping equipment out of garages, unfinished basements or unenclosed sun rooms and porches.

These are just a few small tips on getting the most out of your product, and helping the product work its best for you. Think of it as any high-priced electronic item. Would you want to put that in a damp musty basement, and then hang out there? No, I didn’t think so.



Could intermittent fasting work for you?

How often do you eat? If you’re like most fitness enthusiasts, you probably go beyond the three traditional meals and have five or even six small meals every day. And for years, this has been the prevailing wisdom. The driving force behind this approach is the idea that doing so will boost your metabolism and ward off the dreaded “starvation mode,” which all athletes struggle against. Many people who practice this sort of grazing also do so with the hope that they will be able to balance their blood sugar and avoid the midday crash that afflicts us all. A new approach to eating, however, promises to achieve all of that, plus more, while requiring you to do the exact oppose: Fast.

What is it?

Specifically, as the name Intermittent Fasting (or IF) suggests, the dieting method asks that you regularly go without eating. But there are several different approaches to IF that adjust both the frequency and duration of the fasts. Generally, intermittent fasting can be divided into two main categories: periodic fasts and daily fasts.

Although there are programs out there that offer specific fasting schedules, periodic fasts tend to be open to interpretation. These are usually 24-hour fasts that occur either once per year or even as often as once every week. It is recommended, however, that you don’t fast any more than one day each week.

The daily fast, despite its more intimidating name, is generally less severe since the actual duration of the fast is reduced. By limiting, your “feeding window” or amount of time that you allow yourself to eat during the day, you can prolong the natural fast that we all experience while sleeping. For example, the most popular programs require you to devote 16 hours to fasting, giving yourself an 8 hour eating window. This means that if your first meal is at 9am, your last meal of the day would by at 5pm. During that time you’re allowed to eat whenever you’d like, as long as you don’t exceed your normal caloric needs.

Why Fast?

But what are the benefits of fasting? And, if forcing your body into a severe caloric deficit can actually slow down your metabolism and cause muscle loss, why do it?

As with all health and fitness regimes, the proponents of IF tout a wide range of benefits, which include the ability to prevent type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity, as well as contribute to a longer lifespan. Counter-intuitively, Intermittent Fasting is also said to be able to contribute to muscle growth and a lean appearance.

But do these claims stand up to the test of clinical studies? In most cases, yes. But with a few expected caveats that will be discussed later.

Intermittent fasting does in fact help to improve insulin sensitivity, meaning that the hormone has a bigger impact on your body and elicits more of a response. A strong insulin response is key in maintaining balanced blood sugar levels and ensuring that the needed nutrients get to your muscles quickly. This improved use of insulin is responsible for the decreased risk of types 2 diabetes associated with intermittent fasting.

Studies have also confirmed that intermittent fasting causes the human body to target fat for fuel more aggressively than otherwise, which reduces both cholesterol and body fat. Of course, the trimmed look that comes from burning all that body fat is the most famous effect of intermittent fasting but there are many more important unseen, internal benefits.

Fasting also stimulates autophagy, your body’s way of clearing out potentially dangerous waste products, some of which have been linked with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other severe neurological diseases.

It is true that previous studies have suggested that a calorie-restricted diet can increase lifespan but these findings have since been called into question by newer research.

Cautions and Things to Know

Sure, intermittent fasting sounds like the solution to all sort of health problems and could even be just the thing to give you a boost towards your fitness goals. But, IF isn’t for everyone. People who have specific caloric and nutritional needs, especially pregnant women, should not picking up fasting. As a matter of fact, everyone should discuss the idea with their doctor before getting starting.

There’s a particular concern for people with heart conditions, as well. The effect isn’t full understood but some studies have shown that long-term fasting can cause a hardening of the heart’s tissue.

One of the largest concerns with IF is that the extreme hunger pangs make you gorge when you finally get to eat. Supporters say that while this is a difficult aspect of fasting, it will ultimately help you gain control over these cravings so that they don’t control you.

If you do decide to fast, you should start out with a daily fast, using the 16/8 model for men and 14/10 for women. This will help you start out slowly and build the self-control necessary for a full 24 hour fast.

Have you tried intermittent fasting? Please share your experience in the comments.


Tips for a Safe and Fun 4th of July

fireworksIndependence Day is easily one of the best holidays of the year. The 4th of July means honoring the founding of our country (awesome), no presents to buy (sweet), summer weather (finally) and food and drinks galore (YUM!). However, just as with the winter holidays, it can be too easy to over indulge and find yourself crying, “Uncle!” Too much sun, drink or food can lead to disaster. Not to sound like a bummer, but it pays to think ahead. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your July 4th holiday without regret.


The summer sun feels incredible on your skin. However, it’s a buzz kill to wake up on July 5th only to discover you’re now burnt to a crisp. Prepare for a day in the sun by applying a moderate to high SPF sun screen every few hours, especially if you’re swimming or participating in other water sports. Just in case you get a little more red than tan, have a tube of Aloe Vera ready in the fridge. Aloe Vera has soothing properties, and the cold feels great on a sun burn.


Summer beverages are some of the best, right? Crack open a beer, mix up a batch of sangria, maybe switch to margaritas. Suddenly you’re sweating salt. Plan for the “fun” beverages by drinking water in between. Aim for half your body weight in ounces of water, plus more if you’re out in the heat. Nothing ruins a summer bash like heat stroke.


Grill outs and picnics rule the dining roost for the 4th of July holiday. Plan a menu filled with lean meats, vibrant veggies and healthy fats to give you energy so you can enjoy the festivities all day and all night. Steak and chicken kabobs are a great choice. If you prefer burgers, try making some chicken or turkey burgers. Or if you really want to celebrate your independence, go ahead and eat what you want, but keep it to a reasonable amount. Meat should be about the palm of your hand. Salads with a mayo-based dressing should be kept to a minimum. Enjoy fun, low-calorie desserts that also keep you cool, like watermelon or popsicles.

Fire Safety

There are two main events people gather around on the night of July 4th – Fireworks and campfires. At-home fireworks are illegal in many places, but if you do choose to shoot any off, be responsible. Keep children away from anything flammable and use “kid-friendly” pyrotechnics, like sparklers, with caution. When having a campfire at home, create a safe perimeter for people to move around and be careful of being near dry grass or highly flammable trees. It’s also a great idea to practice the age-old “Stop, Drop and Roll” technique – just in case. As always, have a water source close by in case of any minor flare ups.

Hopefully these tips will help you plan for fun festivities without the fear of any accidents or indigestion. Have an amazing 4th of July holiday and stay safe out there!