Spring Workout Roundup

The changing of seasons can mean different things to different people depending on what part of the country you call home, but it’s a good chance for everyone to pause and refocus their energy on the fitness goals that are important to them. This can mean learning to run, improving a 5K race time, motivating loved ones, or simply just get up and move more.

We’ve rounded up a few of our favorite articles to help you take a fresh perspective on your spring workouts:

If your fitness slightly stalled in the winter months, check out the Reaching a Fitness Plateau article to learn more about the little switches you can make to effect your day-to-day health and happiness.

Everyone is on their own fitness journey, so it’s important to remember that if you have a loved one that isn’t progressing at the same rate you are (or want them to be.) A recent “Ask an Expert” article focused on what to remember when trying to Motivate Others.

New to running? Coach Jenny Hadfield shares some of her expertise for How to Start Running.

Planning on running a 5K with a pal this spring? Read more about What to Do the Night Before a 5K Race to help you prepare.

Jumping into (or out of) a workout isn’t the best approach. Instead, learn a few Warm Up and Cool Down Basics to help you exercise for efficiently and effectively.

Nothing screams spring like a good ol’ fashioned road trip! But eating healthy along the way can be tricky. We have a few suggestions on Healthy Road trip Snacks to keep your fueled on your awesome adventures.



Rewarding yourself with some new gear is a great idea! And keeping them smelling fresh? An even better idea. Read more about the Best Way to Wash Workout Clothes.

Whether you’re exercising in darkness or sunlight, with a friend or alone, it’s wise to invest in pieces of essential safety gear that will keep you safe for miles to come. Here are a few suggestions on essential Safety Gear for Runners

Warmer seasons come with longer days and more frequent outdoor exercise activity. Take a look at the signs and symptoms of heat illness and how to Exercise Safely in the Heat.

Interested in more articles? Visit the Horizon Fitness Community homepage.

Meet Ken Grall

Take a moment to meet one of our Horizon Fitness experts, Ken Grall!

Ken is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength & Conditioning Association, as well as a Youth Fitness Specialist (YFS) through the International Youth Conditioning Association. He has trained and coached in the fitness and sports performance fields since 1992, having worked with all fitness levels from the beginning exerciser all the way up to professional athletes.

Since 2009, Ken has owned and operated Edge Fitness in the Madison, WI area where they specialize in group fitness and personal training. That same year he also became an Athletic Revolution franchisee–one of the nation’s top youth fitness and sports performance training businesses–where they have worked with hundreds of local athletes and coaches focusing on total athletic development, injury prevention and education.

We recently caught up with Ken to ask a few questions:

How long have you been doing what you do / have you been a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist?

KG: I have been in the fitness field since graduating from UW-La Crosse in 1992 and became a C.S.C.S. in 2000.  Other certifications I’ve obtained along the way include A.C.E. Personal Trainer, Nike S.P.A.R.Q., IYCA Youth Fitness Specialist, and IYCA Speed & Agility Specialist.

What is one piece of advice you’d give to someone who wants to become healthier?

KG: It’s a mind-set. You have to first want to be fit/healthier and then do the little things it takes to get you there like regular workouts (find activities you LIKE to do), eating clean (cut out the processed junk that’s everywhere and focus on protein, produce and water), and getting plenty of sleep (7-8 hours/night MINIMUM). Keep in mind that it takes time…consistency is the key!

How would you describe your coaching/training style?

KG: Looking back I can see that my training style has changed quite a bit over the years. I’ve evolved from the “hit them hard each workout” trainer into what I am today – someone who is focused more on getting people to move and feel the way they should.  I teach people to train smarter and focus more so on the quality of a workout vs. the quantity.  When everything clicks they know how to listen to their bodies and determine when to go hard, when to ease up, when to take a day or two for recovery, when to focus on mobility/flexibility/corrective exercises, etc.  I view myself more as a coach and teacher rather than a trainer.

Read a few of Ken’s most popular articles:

Reaching a Fitness Plateau

Consistency in Workouts

Flexibility vs. Mobility

Common Nutrition Myths

You can also catch up with two of our other writers, Coach Jenny Hadfield and Joli Guenther.

Meet Joli Guenther

Take a moment to meet one of our Horizon Fitness expert bloggers, Joli Guenther!

Joli is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin. She especially loves working with clients on holistic health issues, work-life balance, and fitness for joy and function in daily life. When not working or working out, she enjoys cooking, gardening, and other hobbies related to her 100 year old farm house and acreage in rural Wisconsin and seeking out adventures with her two young children, husband, and chocolate lab named Gus. You can also find her on Facebook by following JoliYoga.

We recently caught up with her to ask a few questions:

How long have you been doing what you do / has your training evolved over the years?

JG: I’ve been teaching yoga and providing fitness training for about ten years. I started with teaching yoga and branched out to other group and small group formats, as well as personal training, as a way of connecting with more people in a way that allowed me to also draw on my Social Work background to meet the needs of my clients in a less intimidating, more individualized environment. The biggest way that my training has evolved is that it has become more integrated. I see the benefit of training in a variety of formats, from interval sessions, to yoga based workouts, to functional movements. Whether you’re a versatile athlete or are just seeking overall health, continued improvement comes from constant variation with recognition of individual differences, such as anatomy, age, or injury and training history.

What is one piece of advice you’d give to someone who wants to become healthier?

JG: As adults, the majority of our actions each day are the result of habits. If you want to be healthier, identify the habits that are preventing that and seek to replace them with a new, healthy habit, rather than emphasizing the things you feel that you need to give up. If snacking in front of the television is the thing that keeps you from your goals, find a new activity and place to be during that time of day. If you’re struggling with establishing daily exercise, find a way to fit it automatically into your day. We know that morning exercisers tend to be the most successful in sticking to their daily workouts, largely because they are able to (habitually) complete the workout before other challenges and activities interfere. Investing in home fitness equipment or finding a convenient way to work out in the morning can be key to making that happen.

How would you describe your coaching/training style?

JG: Playful. Whether I’m teaching or training I motivate my clients to find the curiosity and joy that we all experienced from physical activity as kids on the playground. I recognize that we all have challenges and struggles that can interfere with achieving our goals. My job is to help my clients find reasons to prioritize investing in themselves and to see that those daily investments add up. I help my clients to get curious about exploring their abilities and potential and provide them with the tools and motivation to do so.

Read a few of Joli’s most popular articles:

Five Benefits of Pool Workouts

Strength Training at Home

Tips to Stay Motivated

Fitness Advice for Busy Moms

Best Way to Wash Workout Clothes

Simple Yoga Moves for Morning and Evening

Interested in learning more? Reach about Coach Jenny Hadfield or visit the Meet Our Writers page.


Selecting the Yoga Practice That’s Right for You

With so many styles and benefits of yoga available, sorting out the yin from the yang and the power from restorative can be pretty daunting. Looking for a little guidance on finding the right fit for your first class? Here’s an overview of some of the benefits of yoga as well as the styles that will emphasize these benefits, so you can select the yoga practice that’s right for you.

Overall Fitness. For the fitness-minded person who is just looking for a well-rounded approach to cross-training, yoga can offer benefits in the three areas of fitness: cardiovascular, strength, and flexibility. While you need to keep moving to get your heart rate up, recent studies demonstrate that the cardiovascular benefits of yoga can be in keeping with those of brisk walking and exercise, resulting in increased fitness and decreases in LDL Cholesterol and body weight. If this sounds like your type of practice, look into a Power, Flow, Core, or Vinyasa yoga classes. You might also see this type of offering billed as Baptiste or Forrest yoga. These classes are offered in both traditional and heated studios and you can expect to sweat even at room temperature.

Strength and Improved Mobility:  Whether you’re looking to prevent injuries, improve your balance, or increase your functional flexibility, yoga can assist you in becoming stronger and moving in a healthier fashion. A classic Hatha yoga class, such as those provided by Iyengar trained instructors, or a traditional “Hot” yoga class, as made famous by Bikram Choudhury, will likely emphasize alignment and balance. If you’re intimidated by the quick transitions between postures found in the Power and Flow styles of yoga, you’ll find the slower pace and deliberate instruction comforting, while even advanced students will benefit from the precise alignment cues and opportunities for continued progression. You might also benefit from an Ashtanga approach, a demanding athletic practice that combines movement between postures with an emphasis on proper technique.



Restoration and Improved Flexibility: If you’re primarily looking for a mind-body connection, stress relief, or an introduction to meditation, along with an emphasis on opening the joints and connective tissues of your body, a slower paced class deemed “restorative” is likely to meet your needs. There are many varieties, including Yin Yoga, which includes long holds of supported postures, Kundalini Yoga, which emphasizes connecting to your sacred energy, and even Yoga Nidra, which is directed at improving your meditation and sleep. While the approaches of these classes differ, they will all result in improved awareness of your ability to observe and change the reactions of your body and mind to stress and daily demands.

While there are many more approaches to yoga than can easily be summarized, having an idea of the benefits you’d like to receive from your practice can help you to narrow down the right fit. Many classes combine one or more of the approaches described here and offer practitioners multiple benefits within a single class. Additionally, many yogis draw from different schools of yoga and different approaches when developing their own unique schedule. Whatever approach you choose, yoga offers enormous benefits when combined with your home fitness program for cardiovascular and strength training and can improve your function both in athletic training and daily activity.


About the writer: Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more on the Meet Our Writers page.

The Best of Ask an Expert

The Horizon Fitness experts have answered a lot of great questions over the years, ranging from how to clean smelly workout clothes to incorporating more strength into fitness routines. They’ve helped new moms wanting to return to fitness after giving birth, to advanced runners looking to improve their half marathon time.

Do you have a fitness-related question for Coach Jenny Hadfield, Joli Guenther or Ken Grall? Leave a message in the comments or visit the Horizon Fitness Facebook page and they will answer it in an upcoming edition of Ask an Expert.

Here are a few of our most popular questions–and answers!

What is the best way to start running? I’ve tried and failed so many times and find it painful! (Read: How to Start Running)

As a new mom, there are days I can barely get a shower, let alone eat right and exercise. Do you have any tricks to help me lose the baby weight, while still caring for my newborn? (Read: Fitness for New Moms)

At the beginning of every year I hit the ground running, only to struggle with my workouts a few weeks later. Do you have any tips on staying motivated through the winter? (Read: Staying Motivated)

Help! I recently rewarded myself with some new workout gear for sticking to my training plan and they’re already getting stinky! Do you have any advice on the best way to wash workout clothes to keep them smelling fresh? (Read: Best Way to Wash Workout Clothes)



I’ve been hearing a lot about the benefits of planking lately, but it intimidates me. Can you share some tips on how to ease my way into the exercise and different variations to get started? (Read: Planking Basics)

I’m looking for lower-impact ways to get my training in. Does riding my stationary bike for one hour at a medium level have the same cardio benefits as jogging for 4 miles at 12-minute miles? (Read: Running vs. Cycling)

I know I should incorporate more strength training into my exercise routine. Is it better to do it before or after my cardio activity? (Read: Best Time to Strength Train)

I’m a relatively new runner (I only run about 10 miles per week). How often should I be changing out my running shoes? (Read: How Often to Replace Running Shoes)

I’m going to be traveling a lot with the family this summer. What are some healthy foods and snacks I can pack during our family road trips? (Read: Healthy Road Trip Snacks)

Read more Ask an Expert articles.

Meet Coach Jenny Hadfield

Take a moment to meet one of our Horizon Fitness expert bloggers, Coach Jenny Hadfield!

Coach Jenny is a published author (her books include Marathoning for Mortals, Running for Mortals, and Training for Mortals), a coach, public speaker and endurance athlete. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Physiology, a Master’s Degree in Exercise Science and is a certified coach and personal trainer. She is a columnist for RunnersWorld.com, Active.com and has written for Women’s Running Magazine, Cooking Light, HEALTH, and Women’s Health. She was also recently recognized as one of Greatist’s 100 Most Influential People in Health and Fitness.

An avid runner, Coach Jenny has competed in hundreds of running and adventure races all over the world, including the Boston Marathon, Eco-Challenge in Borneo, New Zealand, and Fiji, and the Inca Trail and Antarctica Marathons. Her unique coaching style draws from her struggles to get started in running to crossing the finish line at the Boston Marathon. Read more on her website.

We recently caught up with her (in-between her many running adventures) to ask a few questions:

How long have you been doing what you do? 

CJ: My career in running and fitness has been evolving for over 22 years.

What is one piece of advice you’d give to someone who wants to become healthier?

CJ: Surround yourself with a community of healthy people. Whether online, in a group at your local running store or gym or one-on-one with a friend, healthy living is contagious. You’ll learn their tips, receive support, establish camaraderie and have a built in source for accountability.

How would you describe your coaching/training style?

CJ: One word, flow. Everyone is unique, and what I most enjoy is helping people learn how to run their best lives. My philosophy is all about making your workouts and healthy habits flow with your life. 

Check out Coach Jenny’s most popular articles:

How to Start Running

Treadmill Workouts to Keep Workout Fresh

What to Do the Night Before a 5K Race

New to Running

Seven Benefits of Fitness Trackers

Easy Workouts While Traveling


Understanding Heart Rate

After running shoes and a source to play music, a heart rate monitor is usually the first piece of equipment runners add to their workouts. If you aren’t using one now, you’ve most likely at least played with them in the past, calculating whether you’re working too hard or not hard enough, estimating your total calories burned, and even tracking your mileage or sharing your workouts. Using a heart rate monitor can give you a lot of insight into the quality of your workouts, fitness level, and effective training. So what are the best ways to really get the most out of this popular gadget? Let’s break down the benefits:

Step 1: Get your real max heart rate. While the calculation of (220 minus your age) has long been the standard for estimating your max heart rate, there are newer, more accurate methods for fitter individuals. One favored formula is 205 – (.5 x your age).


The biggest take-home is to recognize that your maximum heart rate is very individual and isn’t going to be in complete agreement with any formula. If you see a number on your monitor that’s higher than you thought your maximum heart rate was, that number is your new maximum heart rate. Use it for planning your training.

Step 2: Calculate your training zones. Once you’ve established your actual maximum heart rate, you can use it to calculate your zones for training based on the amount of effort that you’re shooting for in a given workout. At a minimum you should calculate your easy zone, at 65% of your max (not above 70% of your max), and your work zone, at about 85% of your max.

Knowing these numbers allows you to design your workouts intelligently depending on your training goals on a given day. You should include easy days that are directed at increasing your endurance and providing active recovery, during which your heart rate stays below 70% of your maximum. While this may leave you working at a significantly lower effort than you’re used to, (perhaps even walking) you will find that your fitness improves in time as you’re able to work more efficiently on your hard training days.



Step 3: Alternate your training zones throughout your week. If you’re choosing cardiovascular workouts every day, make sure you’re building in active recovery days that keep your heart rate below 70% of your maximum at least twice a week, more frequently if you feel that your age or the demands of your training make that a necessity.

Heart rate monitor training is a great way to keep your efforts consistent between your treadmill sessions and time training on the road. For more on Heart Rate Monitor training, John Parker’s Heart Rate Monitor Training for the Complete Idiot gets consistently good reviews and includes programs that will both challenge you and improve your recovery. Polar’s website is also full of tips directed at helping you get the most from your monitor.

About the writer: Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more on the Meet Our Writers page.

Reaching a Fitness Plateau

We’ve all been there. Whether we’re trying to lose weight, add muscle, or even develop a new skill, we hit that point in our progress where everything seems to stall. Do any of these sound familiar?

  • “I’ve been losing a little bit of weight each week for months, and yet I’ve been stuck the past two weeks despite sticking to my regular routine.”
  • “I’ve been increasing my bench press weight for each of the past 8 weeks, but this week I lifted less than before!”
  • “I’ve been running faster and faster miles for a year now, but I can’t seem to break past the seven minute mark.”

Fitness plateaus. Are they real? What happens when you get stuck on one and how can you break through? It can happen at any fitness level, so let’s take a closer look.

What is a plateau? A plateau occurs when you stall out on progress, despite continuing to do “all of the right things.” This usually including eating right, exercising properly, getting adequate rest/recovery, etc. Our bodies go from losing weight consistently to getting stuck at a certain number. Or we go from building muscle and getting stronger, to having a week or two where we can’t seem to lift anything heavier. We call this point in our training “the plateau.” Everyone has them, but we don’t like being stuck on them. Progress makes everyone happier. When we work hard for something and don’t see progress, it’s normal to be unhappy.

Are plateaus real? As a trainer, it’s common for me to hear from people who say they’re stuck in a plateau. They talk about how they’ve been eating right, exercising, and getting enough rest and they can’t seem to make progress! They throw their hands in the air, freak out, get discouraged, and give up or quickly move onto the next plan that they hope will work. When somebody comes to me saying they’ve plateaued, my first response is always: “Have you REALLY plateaued?”



In a strong majority of the cases, plateaus are really just issues of concentration in disguise. Before you think you’re stuck (or in a plateau) consider the following:

Track your meals for the next few days. Oftentimes we think we’re doing great, until we realize that after a few weeks of eating the right things we’ve started slacking. “Oh I’ve been good, just this one time,” and “sure why not” become more common as we start to fall back into old habits. This one issue is probably responsible for more than half of the “plateau: cases out there. For women, a big issue is not eating enough calories. If you are trying to bulk up, are you eating enough calories to promote muscle growth

The fix: Rededicate yourself for two weeks, track your meals, and see if progress picks back up!

How are your workoutsIf you are weeks or months into a workout plan, I bet the initial luster has worn off. Have you been skipping that last rep, cutting out an exercise here or there, getting bored and wanting to go home? I know when I hit a plateau at the gym, it’s generally because I haven’t been pushing myself as hard as I had been previously.

The fix: Track your workouts regularly for two weeks and see if these changes get you back on track.

Are you getting enough sleep/recovery? This is one that most people skip out on. They are exercising, eating right, but for whatever reason they’ve been slacking on their sleep. We all know sleep is important; lack of sleep leads to increased levels of stress, less time for our bodies to rebuild muscle, to recover from strenuous activity, and more.  I know that if I didn’t get a good night’s sleep, then my performance in the gym the next day will suffer. Also, how about time off or recovery weeks?  Are you giving your body ample time to recover from a hard 8-10 week cycle of training? As hard as time off is from a mental standpoint, your body loves the time off (assuming you’ve been working hard, of course).

The fix: Listen to your body and give it the time it needs to recover.

Overall, can you honestly say you’re completely focused on quality sleep, nutrition, and exercise?  In many cases we think we’re stuck and in need of some sort of drastic change or adjustment to kick-start progress again.

Now, there are definitely instances where we are stuck or stalled, and that’s when things need to change. However, before we cover the dreaded plateau, there are a few important things to review.

To start, progress cannot continue indefinitely.

  • If you are learning to squat and you start with just the bar, adding 5 lbs a week (which is how you should learn to squat!), you will eventually reach a point where your body cannot build the strength/muscle fast enough to continually add 5 lbs a week. If it DID work that way, in three years everybody would be squatting 1000 pounds.
  • You will run into the same issues with weight loss. For example, it’s easier for you to lose 3 pounds a week when you are at 300 lbs than it is to lose 3 pounds a week when you are 150 pounds. There is simply more of you to “lose” when you’re bigger and thus progress will be easier. If you could lose 2-3 pounds a week every week forever, at some point you’d disappear, and we don’t want that. Weight loss might slow to 1 pound every other week.

Your progress at a consistent pace will definitely slow-down, which can often feel like a plateau. If you’ve been training for more than a few months, you might need to slightly adjust your expectations. Maybe this week you can only add 1 or 2 pounds to the bar. Maybe your muscle-building will crawl to 1 pound gained a month.

It happens to all of us. So, how do we stay dedicated, focused, and motivated through the dip or plateau? How do we progress during the plateau when we feel like our hard work is a waste of time? What do we do when we feel like we are just spinning our wheels? We focus on small wins, and always find a way to get a little bit better each day. In order for us to crawl out of a dip or off a plateau, we need to find a way to make a small win every day.

Made it to my workout today = WIN

Ate a great post-workout meal today = WIN

Added foam rolling to my daily routine = WIN

Added a yoga class to my routine = WIN

You get the idea. Getting better each day by doing something that you know is good. The longer we’ve been training, the older we get, and/or the more advanced we get in our training, the more likely we’ll be to hit plateaus and the more necessary it will be to grind out small victories, prepare for dips, and power through them. Stay focused, stay on track, learn to listen to your body and Do Not Quit!

Ken Grall a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength & Conditioning Association, as well as a Youth Fitness Specialist (YFS) through the International Youth Conditioning Association. Learn more on the Meet Our Writers page.


Technology to Inspire Your Workout Routines

Stuck in a workout rut? Don’t panic. Everyone has been at one time or another. If you are wondering where to start, why not let technology give you a hand? Try a few of these tips to give your workout routines a new life:

Recruit a Buddy. Whether you meet up in person or use an online application, working out with a partner increases your accountability. Free applications (like ViaFit) have made this easier than ever by incorporating online fitness tracking software that links with many other fitness apps (just in case you and your buddy use different devices) allowing you to effortlessly upload your home workouts, set goals, and motivate each other. Having trouble finding the right workout partner? Many apps can help you with this as well by creating on-line communities with common goals and challenges.

Set a New Goal. If you’re not feeling motivated to train for a race or event this spring, fitness apps and devices can help you set a goal that’s customized to what you do want to achieve. Tracking steps, increasing your total time spent exercising, or accomplishing a set number of workouts are all manageable goals that can be tracked through popular apps. Seeing your workouts on your home screen and receiving congratulatory messages through your smart phone can go a long way towards motivating you to stay active and step up your training this spring. Customize your software’s goal setting feature to set your unique challenge.



Try a New Gadget. From smartphone apps to GPS enabled wrist watches, fitness devices can be found in every price range and can inspire you to go further, run faster, and try new experiences.  Breathe new life into your spring training by familiarizing yourself with a new app or device and maximizing its benefits through customizing the settings to your profile. Incorporating a device that includes heart rate tracking can also be a motivating way to monitor your progress in a new activity and to track the calorie burn improved performance that accompanies your workouts.  You can also use your device to track your activity level as you run your way through your Saturday errands, add in a walk after work, and take the kids to the playground. You’ll find your motivation and your fitness increasing just by getting more daily activity.

Create a New Playlist. No discussion of technology and exercise would be complete without considering the motivating impact of music. You can create custom playlists through online tools (such as Spotify) or access playlists that others have uploaded.

Ready to get started? Web MD has a great article on customizing workout approaches to meet individual needs. Take the time to give it a read, then get moving!


About the writer: Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more on the Meet Our Writers page.




Ask an Expert: How to Start Running

Question: What is the best way to start running? I’ve tried and failed so many times and find it painful!  -Jessie

Jessie, I feel your pain. Running seemed nearly impossible to me until I learned one little secret. I’d go out and try to run as far as I could, as hard as I could, and end up quitting before I reached the end of my block. My error was in thinking that I could go out and just run right from the start. Running is a high intensity activity, and because of this, it’s important to weave it into your life gradually.

Here is a simple strategy to learn to run, and have fun along the way.

  • Set your target time to 30 minutes and hold it there until you are running 20 minutes continuously.
  • Start with walking 5 minutes, easy at first and then at a brisk walking pace. This will help warm you up for the run ahead.
  • Then repeat for a total of 20 minutes: run until you can hear your breath and walk until you catch your breath. If you are like me, you might start out with 15-20 seconds of running at first and need a full 2-3 minutes to recover and catch your breath.
  • After the run-walk intervals, walk it out for 5 minutes to cool down.
  • Run this workout every other day and no more than three times per week (ie. M-Wed-Sat). This will allow your body time to adapt and get stronger.


If you’re active and want to add more workouts to the mix, include strength, yoga, or low impact cardio activities (elliptical, cycling, rowing) on the days in between. Keep the intensity of these workouts to an easy to moderate effort level to assure you’re not doing too much high intensity exercise and allow for better recovery.

There you have it: the secret formula for learning to love running! It’s all about starting easy, sprinkling running in, and letting your body be your guide.

Happy Running.
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.