Shari Duncan

Tag: Cardio

Pool Running –Be kind to your joints AND burn more calories!

by on Jun.04, 2011, under Fitness, Strength and Agility Training

Get your feet wet and get in great shape.

It may look a little weird but pool running is one of the best cross training activities that’s not just for runners.  And it’s FUN!

Do you know someone who HATES to work out because they can’t stand to get sweaty and overheated?  Pool training might be the ticket that can whip them (and you) into shape!   Water resistance offers a no-impact, relaxing workout that still taxes the body, increases heart rate and results in an ideal cardiovascular exercise. Water running tests your endurance and fitness, increasing oxygen consumption and heart rate without putting weight and strain on your joints. We all know that running on pavement is a notoriously high impact activity. But water acts as a giant cushion for the body and is much kinder to joints and tendons than tarmac and other surfaces.  And the deeper you wade into a pool, the lighter your body becomes.
“The magic of the water,” says Jane Katz, Ph.D, a former Olympic swimmer, coach and author “extends the life of your

Burn calories and give your joints a break!

running by providing comfort, safety and a greater range of motion.”  Because the water pressure in a pool is significantly greater than air pressure, exercising in a pool provides two extremes at once–the resistance to stress the body and the liquid density to protect it.  So even when you travel, you can get a good workout from walking laps in waist –deep water in the hotel pool.

Added weight of ankle weights in a pool may be just what is needed to mix up your cardio routine and keep it challenging and interesting! The benefits of using ankle weights under water include enhanced resistance for not only your legs as you run or swim, but provide added resistance for your body in general.  Ankle weights tend to not cause joint damage or stress when used underwater.   If you are overcoming an injury, don’t stop working out… work out smarter!  Under water activities carry a lesser chance of joint strain and low impact and/or pool exercises can still give great results without compromising your routine or setting you back from your health goals.

Water Running:

As with any new workout program, start and progress gradually. Water running may not feel as grueling as running on pavement but it does require a good bit of energy. Studies by Dr Robert Wilder, a physiologist and the director of sports rehabilitation at the University of Virginia, have shown that the added resistance of water – it is 800 times denser than air and provides up to 12 times the resistance you get on land – means that you work harder and expend more energy pool-running than you do on land.   On average a person can burn 11.5 calories per minute running in water.  One study done at New York’s Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine found that walking at 3 miles per hour in mid-thigh water depth burned twice the calories of walking at the same speed on land

The exact number of calories burned are influenced by several different factors:

– your age

For buoyancy during deep water running/jogging

– weight
– fitness level
– water temperature
– range of motion used
– intensity
– time of day
– technique

At first you may find that you fatigue early and fail to sustain an entire workout. Give it time. In water, when you double your speed, your legs encounter a four-fold increase in resistance. While running, your body should be perpendicular to the pool. Your legs, however, should not flow as in typical running. To attain the greatest amount of resistance and smoothness, “sweep” your legs forward, from toes to hips, with minimal knee lift. This form, similar to the movement done on a cross-country ski machine, uses the entire leg to drive against the water.

Training Tips: Any type of training, from tempo runs to speed work, can be replicated in the water. For example, you can alternate faster leg action for 2 minutes with 2 minutes of easy striding (with high knees).  Or you can go hard

for 10 minutes, easy for 5, then repeat. Studies show you get virtually the same benefit as running “on-land” but with less wear-and-tear on the body.

If you engage in deep water running, you will need a special flotation belt known as an aqua jogger to keep you upright and afloat and enables you to run instead of merely treading water.  If you are running where your feet make contact with the pool floor, you should consider some aqua shoes (with rubberized soles) to protect the feet and prevent sliding.

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Put some FUN into your workout with “FUN”CTIONAL Training!

by on Nov.17, 2010, under Fitness, Motivation, Strength and Agility Training

Train your body to handle real-life situations.

Functional fitness focuses on building a body capable of doing real-life activities in real-life positions, not just lifting a certain amount of weight in a restrictive posture created by a gym machine. The key to functional exercise is integration. The primary goal of functional training is to transfer the improvements in strength achieved in one movement to enhancing the performance of another movement by affecting the entire neuromuscular system.  It’s about teaching all the muscles to work together rather than isolating them to work independently as conventional weight training does..  Functional strength training is not just done to improve your appearance, but to help improve performance in everyday activities. Exercises that

Train your whole body to improve performance in everyday life

Train your whole body to improve performance in everyday life

isolate joints and muscles are training muscles, not movements; which results in less functional improvement. For example, squats will have a greater transfer effect on improving an

individual’s ability to rise from a sofa than knee extension.

Train movements instead of muscles.  If you’re training the movement, the muscle will follow.!

Functional strength training (FST) is becoming more popular because it is so practical and is an ideal way to help maximize sports performance. The goal of FST is to develop athleticism. Athletic movements like running, jumping, throwing and lifting are enhanced. Sound technique and optimum speed with movements that are within the context of your sport are further developed. Functional movements offer an effective method in improving balance, coordination, and stability as well as agility, speed, power and strength.  FST should supplement traditional weight lifting and is not intended to replace it.  It provides variety and additional benefits that directly transfer to common sport movements. And because movements are neuromuscular in that they require the power of both your brain and your brawn, the best exercises to increase functional strength simply involve practicing the movement or motion you want to get better at.  Basically, exercises should mimic the movements of the sport while working against resistance. Weight training for strength may not enhance the endurance or strength required for a golfer. A golfer needs to work on core strength, and training involving swinging.  A runner, on the other hand, should enhance local muscular endurance.

Standard resistance training machines are of limited use for functional training – their fixed patterns rarely mimic natural movements, and they focus the effort on a single muscle group, rather than engaging the stabilizers and peripheral muscles.

Functional Equipment:

Tools of the Trade

"Tools of the Trade"

  • Dumbbells
  • Kettlebells
  • Body Weight
  • Resistance Bands and Loops
  • Sandbags
  • Cable Machines (Pulleys)
  • Exercise Balls
  • Medicine Balls

Strength training isn’t just about improving your physique. Incorporating Functional Strength Training can enhance overall well-being and help you achieve your potential, no matter the overall fitness goal.

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What comes first… Cardio or Weights? Prioritize YOUR workout.

by on Jun.25, 2010, under Fitness, Strength and Agility Training

You know you got to do it.  Love it, hate it, or just love to hate it; we all need to incorporate some type of cardio into our fitness routines.

It is an essential part of any training routine. The question that is  often asked  is whether it is better to do cardio BEFORE or AFTER weight training.  The answer lies partially on your specific goals and what you want to accomplish. Your current conditioning, stamina and mindset are also important considerations.

In general, any exercise performed when you have ample energy is performed with greater intensity and with more focus and efficiency. Exercises you perform once energy supplies

Cardio, BEFORE or AFTER?  The choice is Yours

Cardio, BEFORE or AFTER? The choice is Yours

are low (or depleted) are less effective and more likely to result in injury. So If you are a recreational athlete, you might consider doing cardio and strength training on separate days.  Or you might combine the two with intervals or circuit training, which both strength and endurance activities are applied to whole body or timed routines. Or you may just start with what motivates you that day.

However, if you are trying to achieve a specific goal, such as building muscle or improving sports specific skills, or if you have an extremely high level of fitness already, then order may play a role in your training regimen.

Cardio BEFORE Weight Training

Light cardio before training serves as great warm up that prepares the muscles for heavy lifting. The cardio can actually help to reduce the number of warm up sets necessary.

In order to build and maintain cardiovascular endurance,  perform endurance exercise first, If you are preparing for a hiking or biking event or training for a 10K or triathlon, then the focus, energy and efforts should be in the area that will assist you in improving/achieving optimal performance and results. Lifting prior to running is not recommended because you increase your risk of injury due to muscle fatigue.

Cardio AFTER Weight Training

Likewise, if the goal is to build muscle, it makes sense that your energy and efforts should be dedicated to weight training before cardio. Cardio burns fat and carbs depleting energystores necessary for strength training. So a hard cardio workout before training may not leave you enough fuel to challenge your muscles. If the body’s carbohydrate stores are depleted during intense cardio, there will not be enough critical fuel left to sustain a weight training session. Over time, this could actually lead to a decrease in strength.

Low intensity cardio activity after training also serves and is recommended as a cool down activity.

So if your goal is to improve your overall health and condition, the order really does not matter. Do what works for you.  If you prefer to get your cardio “out of the way”, then do it first. What matters is that you participate in activities that you enjoy and that combine both endurance and strength training!

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Jump, Jump for your Health!

by on Mar.06, 2010, under Fitness

Minute for minute, rope skipping may be the single, most complete & beneficial exercise around.

It’s inexpensive, portable and easily incorporated to anyone’s lifestyle or fitness level.

Don’t be mistaken, rope skipping is hard work…but that’s good for you.  The more you do, the better your stamina.


Jumping rope can burn up to 1000 calories per hour, making it one of the most efficient workouts possible. It is considered a low-level plyometric exercise that can help develop muscular strength and power. It develops both muscular and cardio stamina as well as muscle tone, by developing long, lean muscles in both upper and

Powerful tool for Fitness!

Powerful tool for Fitness!

lower major muscle groups.

Jump rope training  also enhances:

  • Coordination
  • Agility
  • Balance
  • Quickness, timing
  • Footwork
  • Endurance and overall athletic conditioning

The heart rate achieved by jumping rope is equivalent to the heart rate achieved during running and jogging but without all of the jarring to the knees. In fact, jumping can help to strengthen calves, arms, shoulders and even abs. This form of cardiovascular exercise can increase metabolic levels – even after the workout is complete. As a result and because of the high calorie expenditure in a short time, jumping rope will burn excess fat & is an exceptionally efficient form of exercise for weight loss.

Many athletes skip rope as part of their training  (think boxing) and others engage in rope jumping competitions. There are numerous jumping techniques and levels of complexities to challenge even the most conditioned person.


One of the most prominent benefits of rope skipping is its simplicity.

Jump ropes are extremely inexpensive (especially compared to other fitness equipment) and can be purchased just about anywhere.  A quality jump rope might set you back about $10.00 !!   All that is needed is a 3’x4’ area to workout which means you can jump in your living room, backyard, office or gym.  They can be packed up in suitcases; purses or back packs with ease – making  this the perfect exercise for travelers.

No matter what your fitness level, anyone can have fun while working out with a jump rope. The more you do, the more creative and versatile you can become with your workouts.  And, This is one workout that the physical benefits will be felt immediately!


Done properly, with the feet coming off the ground an inch or two, rope skipping is safe for all.  Although considered a “high impact” activity, it is a lower impact form of cardiovascular exercise than jogging.  And current research shows that some form of high impact activity is beneficial in maintaining strong, healthy bones.  Jumping on a shock absorbent surface such as a wood floor, gym mat, outdoor track, or tennis court will be more forgiving on the ankles and feet.  Avoid concrete, asphalt and other hard surfaces when possible.

Be sure to start with the right equipment. A good pair of supportive athletic shoes is important, as they will provide more lateral stability. (– To avoid things like twisting an ankle!)  Good shoes will also save wear and tear on your feet and joints.

If you want to begin a rope-jumping program, ease into it just as when starting any new exercise program. If you are not fit, skipping rope for long periods initially can raise your heart rate too high and too fast.  Begin slowly, gradually increasing both time and intensity.

One way to start is by alternating rope skipping with marching/walking in place. Jump for one minute then march in place for one minute until you’ve completed a 10-minute cycle. As you improve, where you go with jump roping depends on you, your level of health and fitness, and how you want to incorporate it into your routine.

who says workouts and weight loss cant be FUN?

Who says working out and weight loss can't be FUN?

Jumping rope adds great variety to any workout. Try alternating one – two minute jumping intervals with other aerobic or circuit training activities.  Remember that variety is key to keeping boredom out and achieving the desired results from your training sessions. It is important to take part in activities that are fun and accessible…

It was fun when you were 5, so why not give jumping rope another look?

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Interval Training

by on Jan.28, 2010, under Fitness, Motivation, Weight Loss

The WHAT, HOW,  and WHY’s of intervals.

When you want to shake up your workouts and burn more calories without adding time in the gym, it is time to take a closer look at interval training.


Interval training is basically exercise which consists of activity at high intensityfor a period of time, followed by low intensity exercise for a period of time. Workouts are repeated for a  predetermined number of sets or overall time.

The high intensity portion of the exercise are called sprint intervals and is measured by time or by distance.  The periods of recovery are called rest intervals and involves the activity performed at a low intensity. The time of the recovery period is determined by general fitness level or by the type of sprint interval.

Examples of interval training are:

Timed sets of sprints and recovery are one example of interval training

Timed sets of sprints and recovery are one example of interval training

  • Stair Climbing/running
  • Plyometrics
  • 30 second sprint drills
  • Boot Camp Workouts
  • Speed and / or Agility drills
  • Jump Rope Workouts

A proper interval training routine involves  just enough rest to be able to push hard for the next intense effort…and you should be breathing pretty hard when the whole series is finished!!


The “how” of interval training is all about INTENSITY…. or how hard you push during the sprint interval.  Intensity is usually measured on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being no effort whatsoever while 10 represents the maximum effort possible. This is a very subjective scale based on the individual’s fitness level and the type of activity.  A ‘10’ would then be  the maximum amount of effort a person can safely expend for that particular interval.  The rest or relief interval allows the bodies high energy systems to regenerate and get ready for another round of oncoming high intensity work.


High Intensity Interval Training works because it is highly adaptable and can be tailored for anyone from novice to trained athletes.   And most importantly it produces results.

1) Saves time. Most intervals last about 20 minutes in comparison to an hour or more on the treadmill with traditional cardio exercise.

2) Stimulates a greater release of growth hormone. Studies have shown that intense interval training produces growth hormone which build lean muscle mass.

3) Better for your joints. There is less exposure on the joints because it takes less time to complete.

4) Metabolic disturbance. Interval training increases metabolism and post-exercise oxygen consumption which has been shown to burn fat for 24 hours after the interval session.

5) Variety. Interval training can be done with body weight exercises, on exercise machines, with medicine balls, with weights, and outdoors. Interval training is an effective method that has many tools.  This is important because workouts will never become stale or boring!

AND … more calories are typically burned during interval training than in lower-intensity exercise. By adjusting the intensity with bursts of movement throughout the workout,  the body is able to work  harder for a longer period of time than with moderate sustained aerobic exercises.

Interval training will improve conditioning and performance quickly, usually in just a few weeks.

As conditioning improves,  heart rate will be lower at both the work and active-recovery interval.  When that happens,  gradually increase the work ratio by 15 seconds to up to a full minute and decrease the active-recovery interval.

IMPORTANT: You should be out of breath and sweaty during the work interval to make it work but not so hard that you put yourself at risk for injury

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