Archive for October, 2009

Shoes that shape you up? My experience with Shape Ups.

October 26, 2009

“Get in shape without going to the gym,” that’s what the Skechers Shape Ups shoes say they can do for you. But can you really get in shape without setting foot in a gym? That’s an interesting question for someone who’s a trainer and a gym rat like me.

Of course you can get in shape without going to the gym, who can deny that? Joggers, swimmers, hikers, cyclists, rowers, surfers, cross country skiers, the list goes on and on for activities that get you in shape without stepping foot inside a gym. However, you CANNOT get into good shape (read: physically fit) without being active. Also, the activities of choice need to be done most days of the week and performed at least at moderate intense for a sustained period of time (30 minutes minimum). This is simply what the body requires for any physical fitness improvement.

The Shape Ups are a class of shoe referred to as “rocker bottoms.” They were designed to recruit more muscles in the legs than are typically used while walking and their “Kinetic Wedge” soles are meant to simulate the conditions of walking on sand. Basically this means the shoes require more energy to use.

Which brings us nicely back to the subject at hand. Can Shape Ups shape you up? The answer is a “yes, if….” They can If you walk in them vigorously enough to where you’re getting your heart rate high enough to be in a cardiovascular training zone (at least 60% – 65 % of your max heart rate). This is where you’re feeling breathy and breaking a bit of sweat (and it’s not because of the temperature outside). The other contingency factor is your current fitness level. The more out of shape a person is, the faster they’ll see and feel results. A very fit person may not see major changes in their bodies, but will probably feel the difference between this type of shoe and a regular walking shoe.

As for me, exercise is basically what I do for a living. I workout pretty intensely most, if not all days of the week, and for what most would consider a pretty substantial amount of time. What possible benefit can the Shape Ups have for me? I started wearing my Shape Ups over the summer and I love them. Since I’m already very fit, I don’t expect to see a whole lot of change in my body by wearing them, but I really enjoy that bit of extra work I feel in the backs of my legs when walking in them…. particularly uphill. I also get a great stretch in the backs of my legs and calves, so I love using them as a workout recovery. Why not burn a few extra calories while recovering, and get some extra stretching in while doing my errands?

Another benefit of wearing Shape Ups is how they make you continually adjust your balance because the soles rock. This is good for improving balance and pelvic stability (which is a component of core strength) and that’s something most people can use!

Lastly, truth be told, the Shape Ups also add another 3” to my height, and that’s a benefit I can’t get from any of my other athletic shoes!


It’s Endurance Time

October 10, 2009

The term “endurance” may mean different things to different people. But for fitness fanatics, enthusiasts and gym rats, endurance has a great deal of significance, both in a physical and a psychological sense.

Strength and endurance, when it comes to physical activity, do not mean the same thing – but there is some crossover. Think of the difference as a sprinter vs. a marathoner. Endurance is not all about speed as you probably know. No sprinter could run at their fastest pace for anywhere near a marathon distance. And, a long distance marathon runner would probably get smoked racing against someone who trains for sprinting.

If you take my Spinning or Revving classes you know that Fall is the season where we focus on Endurance Training. We don’t do too many sprints and the ones we do are short (be sure to show up for some Fartlek training – don’t worry, you’ll like it….I’ll explain more about that later). If you are training with me this season, we are focusing on keeping our pace steady and our heart rate consistent. Good idea for you to break out those heart rate monitors and try to keep your heart rate in the range of 75 – 85% of your max heart rate.

The basic formula is 220 minus your age multiplied by .75 and .85. The range in between is a good goal. For women, take 226 minus your age and continue with the equation.

If you know your resting heart rate (RHR), you can do the Karvonen formula (which is a bit more precise): Take 220 minus your age, minus your RHR, multiply by .75 and .85 then add your RHR back in.
Being able to keep our heart rates at the higher end of the spectrum without going totally anaerobic, the more we improve our Cardiovascular Endurance.
“Muscular Endurance” is our ability to cope with fatigue and tolerate high levels of lactic acid. As our muscular endurance improves, the longer we can maintain proper form and pedal at higher speeds with more resistance!

So, what will we be doing in our Spinning and Revving classes to improve our endurance? We won’t be using extremely high resistance because will make us so fatigued that we’ll need to recover (lowering or taking off resistance and reducing our heart rate). The better our endurance, the less we’ll need to recover obviously! Fatigue, incidentally, is not something we just feel in our muscles… it’s also psychological… “how much longer will this last? I don’t know if I can go on! I can’t hold on much longer!” Does this sound familiar in your head?

Here are some benefits of improved cardiovascular and muscular endurance: the body becomes better able to produce ATP (the energy your muscles need to contract) via aerobic metabolism. The body’s ability to deliver oxygen to the working muscles improves and the body’s ability to use that oxygen improves. You may have heard the term VO2Max? That is a key factor to your fitness level. The more energy your body can produce aerobically vs. anaerobically, the easier it is for your body to access fat as fuel and lessens the amount of lactic acid disturbance you feel when working out (that’s muscle burn folks!).

Back to VO2 Max for a second. VO2 max is basically your aerobic capacity and is considered the best measure of a person’s cardiovascular fitness and maximal aerobic power. Spoiler alert ladies: VO2max values are typically 40-60% higher in men than in women.

Elite endurance athletes typically have a high VO2 max and for the most part it seems to be genetically determined. However, with proper training, VO2 max can be improved by as much as 20%!

The goal of any endurance training program is to help the athlete reach their genetic upper limit for aerobic power

As you may have guessed, endurance training is important for many sports – not just the pure distance events like running, swimming and cycling for example. Even some traditional strength and power based activities are helped by having a solid aerobic base.
Happy Endurance Season everybody!

Technique Tidbit:
You’ve heard me talk about “efficiency” and “exercise economy” by now. Here’s what I mean, two athletes may have the same VO2 max and the same lactate threshold (the point during exercise where the body is accumulating blood lactate faster than it can be cleared out). Yet what is far more important is the speed or workload at which the person is exercising when they reach these points. Someone with a higher exercise economy will use expend less energy (consume less oxygen) at any given intensity. Therefore researchers believe economy of exercise – be it stride length, swimming technique or body position on a bicycle – is an important contributor to endurance performance!