'Tis the Season for Fitness Resolutions

Simple tips to making your fitness resolutions stick in 2016

Half of us will make a resolution for the new year and about eighty percent will fail. When it comes to setting a fitness-related New Years Resolution, the failure rate is even greater. How can you set yourself up for success in 2016? Here are my tips -

Understand that the typical resolution(s) fail for a many of reasons but have a few key themes involved. The biggest failure theme is failing to plan the success of your new endeavor. Typically planning is pushed back until the alarm clock goes off on January 1 and, after a long evening of revelry, you expect yourself to leap out of bed and into your resolution. You hit the snooze button on your alarm clock and your new goal. You realize you're not "feeling it" today and go into January 2 feeling a bit guilty and unaccomplished. The downward spiral has begun!

Avoid the "I'll start tomorrow" attitude, or pushing back beginning action towards your goal. You suddenly find yourself looking bleary-eyed at the start of your resolution (and your mirror) on January 1 with a goal and no idea how you're going to do it. The result; guilt, and an overwhelming instinct to return to comfy old habits.

What can you do to prevent the resolution failure spiral?

Start planning your new habits now

  • Inventory your gear. You're not going to get anywhere without the proper gear. Worse, you could end up injured. Research the proper footwear for your newly desired activity. You may want to get fitted a a local running specialty shop for shoes. Tell the staff what your plans are so they can direct you to the best shoes for you. Do not skimp on shoes. Sore feet will not get you where you want to be!

Following shoes on your assessment list should be socks, bra (if appropriate), and outerwear. Again, a little research will go a long way and you don't need to empty your bank account. I'm what you might call a "dumpster runner" - I run in whatever I have around at the time. None of it matches and most of it was purchased on the cheap. The key is to get clothing made from moisture wicking materials and layer for maximum benefit in cold weather.

Make the necessary purchases before you turn the calendar page. Remember to take time to put the stuff on...just to get the feel for how your new gear fits and works.

  • Assess your time and money budget. Print a few monthly calendar pages from your computer and plot out when, where and how much time you plan to train. While many people use the calendar on a Smartphone, putting your schedule on paper gives you a more comprehensive look at the first month of your training. These planning pages become the foundation of your training diary (more on that next post)

  • Choose a venue for your activity. If you're joining a gym, go there in advance to get a feel for the place. Visit at various times of the day including the timeframe you plan to exercise. The staff should be able to tell you when the busy and slower times are. You'll also want to be aware of any special classes going on that may limit your activity. Classes being held in the pool may keep you from lap swimming and spinning classes may delay getting on the bike trainer, for instance.

Simple tips to getting started

  • Just a day or two of planning and dress rehearsal will go a long way towards keeping your fitness habit on track. Hold a few "dress rehearsals" If you plan to train in the morning then get up a little early each day just to get your body used to it. Slip into your training gear. Make the most of this time by going over your gear or even driving to the location you plan to train at. 
  • Plan your route to the gym. Practice driving to the gym in your morning and evening commute. Get a feel for parking and how long it will take you to get in the place. 
  • Map a few routes. If you're like me you'll be training outside all year. Take the time now to plan a few routes to run or bike. Walk or drive those routes in advance of your start dates to get a feel for what they look like at the time you plan to be there. You'll avoid unpleasant surprises and feel comfortable by doing a few preview visits. 


Running in winter. Whats cold got to do with it?

Reaction to Cold: How the runners body responds

Cold weather will have an impact on your body and your training no matter how well conditioned you are. There are five body changes at all year-round runners need to be aware of: 
  1. Vasoconstriction-constriction of the blood vessels. 
  2. Tachycardia-Increased heart rate
  3. Tachypnea-increased respiratory rate
  4. Brochospasm-constriction or spasming of the smaller airways
  5. Dehydration-loss of water.  

The major effects of cold are the root of all other cold related problems. Combat them and you'll enjoy your winter running with decreased risk of illness or injury. These five body changes are the building blocks of system failure caused by cold environmental conditions. They all stress the healthy body and a greater impact can be seen in runners who are not prepared for cold weather action.

Cold conditions do not have to be extreme to cause problems. Even mild decreases in temperature are enough to trigger those five major effects of cold on the body. Runners can have increased heat losses through radiation and conduction and those losses increase by 25 to 30 times when a body is in contact with a cold or wet surfaces such as wet cotton socks. 

Any condition or disease that involves vasoconstriction, respiratory or neurological impairment can put a runner at increased risk during exposure to cold. In general, increased cold exposure risk increases with:
  • Circulatory, vascular or neurological disease
  • Raynaud's Phenomenon
  • Alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, or energy drink use
  • Trauma or Hypoglycemia
  • Prior cold injury
Better health means better performance in cold environments. Exposure to cold decreases mental capacity with increased risk of injury, accidents and errors.

While often considered during the hot summer month, dehydration is a major threat during cold periods. Evaporation losses, sometimes referred to as insensible losses, increases with cold atmospheric conditions. Respiration moisture losses account results in large amount of fluid loss through evaporation. These respiratory/evaporation losses  increases dramatically in cold environments as the moisture in exhaled breath increases. Dehydration is more prevalent with excessive use of caffeine or alcohol. Prolonged exposure to cold and dehydration are important variables to evaluate as both increase risk for hypothermia.

Environmental exposure to cold is also linked to decreased mental capacity. Reduced mental endurance has been shown to increase the risk of errors and accidents. Runners should be taking this into account when training in cold environmental conditions for any period of time.

There is an increased risk of physical injury while operating in a cold environment as joints and muscles become stiff and strength decreases. These factors lead to sprains, trains and muscular micro-trauma as well as acute injury. These effects can be seen in the well-conditioned person just as easily as in those who are not in good physical condition. Risk of injury can come from external spouses, too. Make certain you can see and bee seen by others. There is no better friend on a winter run than a trusty headlamp and bright reflective vest!

Factors in remaining warm include maintaining good food/nutrition status, adequate fluid and hydration and maintaining reasonable physical fitness. Runners should be preparing their wardrobe with as much care as their body during cold weather. Layered clothing with moisture wicking ability is best. Dressing in layers allows the runner to shed clothing as body temperatures increase and put it back on when needed.

Don't neglect your head, hands, and feet. These body parts should be treated to the same level of moisture-wicking material the rest of the body enjoys. And don't forget the sun glasses. Sunglasses cut down on UV exposure, snow/sun glare and have the added benefit of keeping the wind out of your eyes. 


Why are we running outside?

This piece was originally written for my track team. After receiving several positive comments I thought make for a nice post here, too. Go ahead and apply the spirit of this piece to your cold-weather training. Rather than retreating to the climate controlled world of the gym, embrace the possibilities of training outside - in all seasons.

Read on...

Hey Coach, this is supposed to be indoor track...why are we running outside?

This is the question I've heard many times during our first four weeks of indoor track. Since many of the student-athletes have been asking about this, its safe to think parents may have the same question.

Let  me explain.

I'm guessing the question comes up because, as the name implies, indoor track is an indoor sport yet we've been outside quite a bit. While this is true, there are many reasons why the coaching staff will take the athletes outside this time of year despite the obvious drawbacks of limited daylight and cold temperatures.

Training for the indoor track season (typically) takes place in the hallways of our school building. Most indoor track teams face the same limitations that come with running hallways as few have dedicated indoor track facilities. The stress on the body that occurs from a daily dose of running on hard-tile floors can cause overuse  injuries and stress on the athlete. The various aches and pains that emerge between the second and third week of practice can be attributed, in part, to the surfaces we're running on. Athlete conditioning and footwear also play a role. The coach has to balance the training needs against environmental limitations to prevent injury as best as possible and still get the team ready to compete.

Sean, Nick leading other runners
The weather conditions so far this season has provided us with a fantastic opportunity to train outside. We've been able to be on the track, the parking lot, sidewalks, and grass. The ability to train outside on these different surfaces will reduce the training stress on the body as well as preventing some the boredom that comes with repetitious activity indoors.

But what about the cold? We've been lucky to have temperatures between 40 and 50 degrees this season but it can feel a bit colder. Some people get worried they will get sick from training outside this time of year. While colds and general illnesses tend to spike around this season, training outside is not likely to be the culprit of illness. Here's why:

You get sick from coming in contact with a virus or bacteria or some other pathogen. You cannot get a cold (or the flu) from being cold. You have to come in contact with the disease that causes the illness. That means contact with objects or other people...indoors or out. This is why washing your hands is so important. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have confirmed that simply washing your hands is the most effective way to prevent the spread of disease. Period. Don't want to get sick? Wash your hands!

If you're sick, tell the coach. This is simple. If you're already sick (its not your fault, it happens no matter how hard we try to stay healthy) you need to tell your coach. If you have a fever, sore throat or congestion in your chest you shouldn't be at practice and certainly shouldn't be training. These symptoms indicate that you're already sick and your immune system needs all the calories, rest, and sugar-free hydration it can get to fight off whatever it is. Sick? Tell a coach. Practice can wait. Your health is most important.

In addition to having contact with a disease, your immune system has to be weakened or susceptible to that disease in order for you to get sick. Now this is where things can get tricky. Vigorous exercise can, in the short term, weaken your immune system. Marathon and half-marathon runners and triathletes can sometimes get sick during or after a strenuous part of their training cycle or after a race. Thats because, even if they've been washing their hands, they've come into contact with a disease and their immune system hasn't recovered from the stress of training or long race. Student-athletes can face a similar situation. Good coaching practices that keep workouts reasonable, yet productive, will help avoid some of the training stress that can wear down your immune system. Thats part of the coaches job. You have a bigger job...

The athlete can do much more than the coach when it comes to keeping fit and healthy. Getting enough sleep, proper nutrition, and sugar-free hydration (along with hand washing) are all controllable by the athlete and will contribute to a stronger immune system and better state of health while training. You'll be able to train hard and remain healthy.

Training in the colder weather has its health advantages, too. You'll notice your nose running when your training in the cold. This is, in part, due to the impact of the cool air on your sinuses - the cool air reduces swelling and promotes drainage. Thats a good thing...looks awful, but it is good. As we rid the accumulated mucous from our sinuses we also flush away many of the germs, bacteria, viruses, that are hanging out in there. Keeping well hydrated with sugar-free drinks helps keep this mucous and secretions thin and able to drain well, preventing congestion and the "stuffy/runny nose" many people seem to get this time of year.

Key points:
Training on a variety of surfaces reduces injury.
You don't catch a cold from being cold - you get sick from contact with a disease. Wash your hands!
Your immune system can take a beating from strenuous training -  you can help by eating, sleeping and drinking healthy!
Training outside in the cold weather can actually help the body and keep you strong while enjoying your fitness!