Category Archives: Cardiovascular

Turkey Trot Training

Let’s think ahead: Thanksgiving Day!  I know it’s over a month away, but here’s the deal.  If you’re anything like me (and my family), the food simply doesn’t get any better than that 4th Thursday in November.  With all that food comes a little bit of guilt because all that food isn’t being negated by some physical activity.  Well have you ever thought of running a Turkey Trot?  You know, those Thanksgiving Day runs of 5 or 10K.  Those runs that give you the ability to eat guilt-free the rest of Thanksgiving Day!

I think 2012 is the perfect year for you to complete your first 5K (3.1 miles for all you Americans).  I’ve put together a training plan so that you can do it and feel good about it.  It isn’t designed for you to go fast – it’s designed so that you can get to the finish line… and then on to that turkey and stuffing!

This plan is assuming you’ve done NO running up ’til this point.  You can start this on Monday and I’ll get you to the finish line.  The program consists of five weeks of training, three days per week.  You can do that, right?

Each number is obviously miles.  For first-time runners that may seem like a lot.  Let me say this: you will be so surprised at how fast (and well) your body adapts to the stress you put on it.  And as always, you can send me a question via this form and I’ll coach you through it.

What what do you say?  Are you up for your first 5K?!  You’ve got all the tools – your move.

Back-to-Back, again

My racing season is off to a fun start. Last weekend I ran Madison half marathon with my father-in-law. It was my birthday weekend and I decided to dedicate my birthday and my run to Jake and his foundation which raises money for Sturge-Weber syndrome. Donations are still coming in, so thanks to all who joined my team for that race.

This weekend we are going to Des Moines for the 20k Dam to Dam, Iowa’s distance classic. Last year Steve and I did the same back-to-back runs. I like the challenge of two long runs on two consecutive weeks. It ensures that you don’t just wing-it; you could get through the first half but the second would get you.

And the big thing for me is still the pressure I put on myself. I don’t care if it’s a 5k, 10k, half, or full marathon. Putting a run on your schedule is the best way to get and stay in shape. Having a competition will give you just enough reason to eat a little healthier and out the training miles together to be successful on race day.


Can’t Blame Mother Nature This Year

How cliche to talk about weather, right? But I hear so often how winter is so tough for working out – it can be a legitimate deal-breaker for even the toughest workout warriors. Well that sure hasn’t been a good excuse this year, right! We’ve had the most mild winter in as long as I can remember So has it still been an excuse for you?

No shirt, no shoes, no PROBLEM!

Working out outside is 100% more advantageous than that indoor treadmill or elliptical workout so many of us default to. I know I come down kind of hard on this one, but the reality is people who workout outdoors have better adherence to their workouts and I would argue have better results at the same time. Now don’t take this too far – I’d rather you workout at the gym than not at all. But what I’m saying is that if you’re willing to go outside and battle the elements, I would argue that you’re determination is where it needs to be.

In reality excuses do legitimately come up. If it’s not the weather, it’s family obligations. Or grad school – I know the feeling on that one. Or even work seasons have demands that make workouts tougher to make happen. But this year we can’t blame the weather, it’s just been too nice. An essential component to successful pursuit of healthy behaviors is identifying the obstacles that trip us up, set us back, even knock us down. Remember, it’s not how many times you fall down, it’s how many times you get back up.

Get up, get out, get going.


P.S.  I checked the weather for next week: 65+

So start today and this weekend and you’ll absolutely love next week!


Training Tip: Go back-to-back

Training can get boring – very boring.  It’s easy to lose motivation and that’s why I coach every client of mine to find a race or event to work towards.  Put something on your schedule.  Training with a specific goal in mind puts all your workouts into context.  I’ve organized workouts for the last six years around this idea and this summer I’ve taken it a step further.

I scheduled two half marathons for back-to-back weekends.  Madison half marathon was May 29 and Iowa’s Dam-to-Dam was the following weekend.  Now you might be saying “Hans, if you’re ready for the first, why wouldn’t you be ready for the second?”  When you get to the half marathon level, many runners upon completing 13.1 miles will take the next week off or at the most severely decrease their mileage. I didn’t have this luxury.  I needed to maintain my stamina and strength for the next weekend.  Two components further complicated things: (1) I ran a personal best in Madison, so my muscles were extremely fatigued, and (2) I didn’t have a full week between races.  Madison was on a Sunday and Iowa was the following Saturday.

"Done, and done!"

Still, it was a great experience.  The excitement between races was a new feeling for me.  Rather than peaking at one race for one day (really one morning) I had the feeling of being a competitive athlete for an entire week because I ran and had to come right back and do it again.

Training tips like this help keep things fresh.  They’re new and exciting experiences and make for great stories.  You may be asking “How did the second race go?”  I made an agreement to run with my brother-in-law and his wife so we ran an easier pace the whole way.  It was a great decision because it was the smoothest and easiest half marathon I’ve ever ran.  I walked away feeling very strong and confident in my back-to-back races.

Are you running any races this year?  Certainly it doesn’t have to be at the half marathon level.  What about back-to-back 5K?  You in?

Who Is Pushing You?

We all work really hard.  But sometimes we just need that extra source of motivation to take things to the next level.  I’ve done a few things this season to take my training for races to the next level.  I wrote about one of them just last week.  I’m forming a team to support me as I run Madison Half Marathon and the money will go to World Vision.  Here’s where you can join my team.

But sometimes the motivation needs to come in the form of small picture execution.  “How can I do better today?”  I usually train alone so I know that it’s really easy to get in a routine of going through the motions on my runs.  Well over the weekend a friend on Facebook (who is training for Madison full marathon) ran 8 miles in under 64 minutes.  That means he average under 8 minutes per mile, for 8 miles!  I was pretty impressed.  So I tucked that one away and brought it out for my next run.

I’m not fast enough or strong enough to keep up with my friend, and I knew that going into the run.  But his splits (“8 under 8” he called it) were repeating in my head during my entire run.  It helped me stay aggressive.  I ended up running 8:11 minute miles.  And I’m very happy with that.

Do you ever need motivation to take things to the next level?  Do you look for these sources or talk to others about taking things up a notch?  Successful people find ways to challenge the status quo and push the limits.

Preparing for Winter Training

I am the exception to the rule:  I actually enjoy outdoor running throughout the winter.  But what about you?  Do your workouts diminish proportional to the temperature outside?

Last year I bought shoes that are more weather resistant than my typical running shoes.  This was in reaction to the previous winter when I cam home after numerous runs with damp if not wet feet.  That was no fun.  So I made and adjustment.  I bought the shoes.  I made a plan.  Do you have a plan?

Sometimes when I’m at the gym where I work, I look at my clients (current and former) and monitor their attendance to see if they’re still working out here.  This week I noticed three (former) clients hadn’t been to the club in three weeks.  I think there’s a lull in the season where workouts fall off our priority lists.  Then of course the holidays hit and then our attendance is hindered even more.

Take control.  Make a plan. If it’s not outdoor running, make arrangements for a different form of cardio.  Focus on strength and core for the winter.  Whatever it is, don’t allow Mother Nature to determine your plans for working out.

Weekly Butt-Kicking on the Track

Part of growing stronger in fitness is breaking down your muscles so that they grow back stronger.  In a wonderful way, our bodies adjust to the stress that we impose through physical exercise.  Working at the gym, I see many people each day imposing the same stresses on their bodies.  Sure, they may be practicing the principle of overload.  But a realistic limitation unless someone is really pushing you.

Enter Todd.

Each week I teach a Sports Conditioning class on Wednesday mornings from 6:30-7:15.  It’s very similar to the ever-popular boot camps you see everywhere.  But my focus is more on cardiovascular training and functional interval work rather than a random variety of core exercise of boot camps.  My clientele has evolved into a group of attendees that are looking for performance increases, which comes from a high level of challenge.

I can challenge every person in that class on a performance level because I’m faster and stronger than them.  Actually, I can challenge every person except Todd.  Todd is a two-time Ironman finisher and he continually kicks my butt on the track.  To be honest, it gets pretty frustrating.  Todd just has a motor that operates at one notch above mine.  So as an instructor, I’m planning and executing my class with the understanding that my performance will challenge the participants, and Todd’s performance will challenge me.

I’m used to being the best at athletics, or at least at the top.  Having Todd push me each Wednesday when we’re on the track has certainly improved my performance.  Some days it’s hard to gear myself up knowing that I can’t beat him.  But that challenge is essential for my training to continue and improve.

Do you have anyone that challenges you on a regular basis?  Do you need someone to kick your butt on the track or in the weight room?  With the right attitude, coming in second place will do more for you than always being on top.

Training Success: Taper Week

One of my favorite benefits to training for a race or setting a goal is the sense of accomplishment that comes at the end.  Training is not easy.  If it is, how much training is really happening?  Training should impose stress on your body so that your muscles break down and subsequently grow back stronger.  For me, this means full or half marathon training where my long runs increase to 10-12 miles for a half marathon and 20-22 miles for a full marathon.

This season I’m running the Haunted Hustle half marathon in Middleton with Katie.   Admittedly my training has been sub-par due to increased demand for my time with school and kids.  But I’ve done well with the long runs and my Sports Conditioning class has helped with some strength training and speed.

My training has progressed and I’ve reached my taper week.  As an experienced marathoner, I can look back at the last ten weeks of training and see the progress I’ve made.  This weekend I could get away with a short 6 mile run and be ready for the race next Saturday.  But I’m still going to push a longer run because I know it will benefit my race.  Still, taper week evokes a strong sense of accomplishment knowing I’m ready for the race.

Training and setting goals are very powerful motivators for accomplishing things in life.  Short term goals help build momentum.  Long term goals contribute to a great sense of achievement.

When’s the last time you accomplished a big goal?

What goals do you have in place?

The Principle of Overload

There is a principle in fitness training that is essential to experience any type of improvement in performance.  It’s called the principle of overload and here’s how it works.  Our bodies get really good at performing the demands we place on it.  If you ask your body to run 2 miles every other day, your body will get really good at that.  If you ask your body to do 60 push-ups and 60 sit-ups every day, your body will get really good at that.

What about at work?  If you tell your body to walk around the store room and move a few boxes, your body will get really good at that.  But what if those boxes got heavier?  You’d struggle!  Or what if you were asked to move 30% faster?  You’d struggle!

This is where the principle of overload comes in.  When you overload your system (i.e. your body) you systematically break down your muscles so that they grow back stronger.  This is the only way to improve performance, by breaking down muscle fibers.

I experienced a perfect example of this on my 12 mile run this morning.  I’m training for a half marathon in Middleton at the end of the month.  Training has gone well so far, but my longest run was last week and it was only 8.75 miles.  To jump to 12 miles was ambitious, but I know my body and it’s abilities.  Typical distance training calls for small increases in “long runs” once per week.  To go from 8.75 to 9.5 or even 10 would have been very comfortable.  But that additional two miles was excessive overload today.

And I felt it.  My route was three 4-mile loops, and on the third loop I was halfway through when it hit me.  I knew it was coming, but knowing the principles of overload and progression made the feeling even more pronounced.  I had entered a mileage where my body was completely stress because it hadn’t been there before (during this particular training session).

Of course this brings up another topic – the fight.  What do you do when you are at a place you’ve never been before, but you need to make it to the finish line?  Another post for another day.

Back to overload.  This morning’s run was excessive overload but it was a controlled situation and it was a place I’ve been before, albeit one year ago.  Still, the overload is necessary for improved performance.  (I’ll have to remind my legs throughout the day that this is for their good.)

So what about you?  Training, work, personal, spiritual.  If the principle of overload says that you must exert greater than normal stress on a system to grow it stronger, how are you doing that?

Big Rocks First – Cardio Training (Exercise Program #2)

Essential reading:  Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  The principles in this book are foundational for successful living.  One of the ideas from this book has to do with today’s topic: cardio workouts.

The principle is this:  organize your schedule inserting the big rocks first.  The idea is that when you’re looking at a schedule, agenda, priority list, etc. it’s important to put the most important elements (big rocks) in first.  Then the little rocks (less important or even unimportant) fit it around the big rocks.  
You can see the application.  In my world of exercise, health and fitness the Big Rock is cardio.  I don’t care how flexible you are.  I don’t care how big your muscles are or how much you can bench press.  And I certainly don’t care if you can do 125 sit-ups without stopping as you display your washboard six-pack abs.
What I care about is the health of your heart.  The cardio component is the Big Rock in your exercise program.  It’s the most important aspect of your training that can never be neglected.   Why?  Because nothing compares to the health of your heart.  Your heart makes everything else work.  It pumps oxygen rich blood to muscles and living tissues of the body.  Your heart is the workhorse – why would you neglect it?

So what does a cardio workout look like?  First, a cardio workout should happen three days per week.  This may seem like a lot – it’s almost every other day.  But that brings us to our second component – duration.  A cardio workout needs to be 20 minutes long to have any cardiovascular benefits.  Walking?  20 minutes.  On the bike? 20 minutes.  Running or jogging?  20 minutes.  Combination of theses?  20 minutes.

It’s important to remember that every aspect of your exercise program should be seen as a progression towards something more challenging.  I’m not suggesting that you’ll be running 90 minutes for seven days per week.  But I am insisting that you push yourself a little bit each month.  That’s right, each month.  More later.

In review, a cardio workout is:

  • the Big Rock in your exercise program
  • should start at 20 minutes of activity
  • should happen three days per week

Simple, right?  Start with these guidelines or leave me a message in the comments section and we can discuss your fitness training.

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In our next post, we’ll discuss strength training.

Happy Training!