Category Archives: BootCamp

Beyond the Road: Circuit Training

We heard somewhere that running isn’t everything.
Okay, yes, that’s true.  It isn’t.  There are lives to be lived out there that don’t involve interval training or miles logged.

But we’ve also embraced the idea that running doesn’t need to be 100 percent of your fitness picture, either.  That’s why in addition to our various running apps, we’ve also released Bootcamp for iPhone, a complete circuit training app that guides you through a total body workout using the same interface and framework as our Bluefin apps.

If you are a running graduate looking to take on another challenge or a day-to-day runner looking to build speed with some dedicated strength work, Bootcamp is designed to give you everything you need to be successful, from instruction to timing to tracking.

If that sounds like something you’d be interested in, check out http www.bootcampapp.com for more info.  There you’ll find:

Bootcamp is currently $2.99 on the app store and is worth a look if you’re looking to begin or expand your circuit training work.  We’ve put together some handy canned workouts targeting specific muscle groups — like arms, quads, and abs — so hopefully there’s something for everyone, depending on what you are trying to accomplish.
We’ve got some great updates in store for you, too, so we’ll be sure to keep it interesting.  Good luck, circuit trainers; and stay tuned for more from Bootcamp!

More Thoughts on Back to School

Keeping with the spirit of the back-to-school season, we’re blogging about student fitness this week, beginning with Monday’s post about running on campus.

Why the focus?  Because it really, really matters.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services data points out that in about one generation, the percentage of overweight kids (ages 6 to 19) in the U.S. just about tripled.  That’s a scary thought.

Think of it this way.

From time to time, we get e-mails of thanks from once unhealthy folks now happily back on the right track after working through the 5K program.  These wonderful, impressive people are typically middle-aged, and generally have been in poor health — overweight and out of shape — for quite a while.  Starting, quite literally, on the couch and building up to a full 5K is nothing short of heroic for them and can be the start of a life-changing (and even life-saving) shift in their lifestyle.

Reading those e-mails are the absolute high point of what we do.  But you know what?  As much as we love a good comeback story, we’d much rather see people avoid falling off the wagon in the first place.

School is a time when good habits are cultivated and bad ones begin to dig in their heels.  Staying active and healthy throughout grade school, high school, and college is the best way to set up for success and good health for the years and decades that follow.

Only about a quarter of high-school-aged kids are currently getting their recommended daily dose of physical activity.  So I guess the point is that if you’re young, do everything you can to keep feeling young.  If you’re not so young, but know someone who is, remember that anything you can do to encourage healthy lifestyle choices now is going to pay dividends down the road.

If Ease into 5K or another Bluefin program helps make that happen, we couldn’t be happier.  But even if you’re just out there setting a good example or maybe extending the offer of a friendly jog around that new campus, your attention might make all the difference in the long-term health of someone you care about.

Do you circuit train? (Want to start?)

For a lot of us, running is the heart and soul of our fitness routine. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that, but don’t forget there are ways to complement your training and even pick up some fitness benefits that running alone doesn’t always deliver.

Circuit workouts can be a great addition to your fitness plan, either as part of a dedicated routine or as an alternative workout for days that you’re stuck inside or just bored and looking to mix things up.

There are two big wins when it comes to circuit training. One is that you are breaking out of your routine and challenging yourself in ways you might not otherwise. You do have some muscles that aren’t fully engaged by the motion of running or walking, and a good circuit workout will help you find them (trust me).

Another benefit is that you’ll engage the muscles you do use for running, building muscle mass in ways that running naturally doesn’t.

That can be significant. As a runner becomes more experienced, he or she will naturally face certain fitness plateaus, points where no matter how dilligent the training, strength and speed just don’t seem to be developing as they should. This can sometimes mean that although cardio and stamina are top-notch, sheer muscle strength hasn’t kept up.

Circuits can help by focusing on key muscle groups and helping to develop a strong core that will yield benefits ranging from improved posture to reduced risk of injury.

By doing exercises that work with the natural resistance of your body weight, you can build strength without adding a lot of bulky mass. After all, if you’re reading this blog you probably aren’t training to look like the guys on the covers of muscle magazines.

If circuit training sounds interesting and you are looking for some good all-around exercises to get you started, check out our Bootcamp Circuit Training App on the App Store.

Or if you’d rather take some of the exercises on a test drive, just read through the exercise descriptions (no pressure, no purchase necessary).  We’ve got a variety to choose from, including explanations on how to do each one properly.

Happy Bootcamping!

How to run marathons without really thinking about it

Okay, okay.  You will have to think about it.  And work your tail off. But that’s not the point.

The point is that no matter what your fitness level or running experience is right now, inside you is a marathoner waiting to be set free. You might think that sounds crazy, but one of these days you’ll know what I mean.

Maybe it’ll be during the cool-down of the final workout of Ease into 5K or in the afterglow of a big race.

One day it’ll just hit you. You want to run further. That’s how it starts.

Ease into 5K is a great program for getting off the couch and into regimented training.  Completing it will leave you feeling stronger, faster, and more confident…exactly the qualities necessary to become an utterly addicted distance runner.

We have a whole suite of Bluefin apps that  make it easy to keep upping your game as you aspire to longer distances and bigger challenges.

Here’s a quick breakdown of each of them.  For details on each, click here.

  • Ease into 5K will prepare even a non-runner for a full 5k in just nine weeks.
  • Bridge to 10K is a six-week program designed for Ease into 5K graduates who want to double their distance.
  • Ease into 10K is a ten-week 10k program intended more for moderate to advanced runners.
  • Hal Higdon’s Novice Half-Marathon is a 12-week program that will get you running 13.1 miles.
  • Hal Higdon’s Marathon is an advanced program designed to ready you for a full-length marathon.
  • Bootcamp a circuit training app that will help strengthen your core muscle groups and help make you a better runner

While a marathon might seem far off from where you stand right now, there’s definitely a path from here to there when you look at the various regimens listed above.  Tackling these programs one at a time will have you gunning for a full 26.2 before you know it.

Even if you haven’t completed your first 5k just yet, taking a look at the other programs available can help keep you excited about the possibilities ahead when it comes to running and fitness.

Have you had success with the support of multiple Bluefin apps?  Please tell just about it in the comments.  We might feature you in an upcoming blog post.

Travel tips for working out on the go

For a lot of us, sticking to a training program is all about routine.  You make your workouts a part of day-to-day life and the next thing you know, they’re second nature.

But what happens when life throws you a curveball?  Weddings, birthdays, family vacations…these things happen.

Here are a few thoughts on keeping your fitness program on track even when life takes you on the road.

Bring your gear.  You know what stinks?  When you’re motivated to work out, have some time to spare, and don’t have what you need to get out there and run.  Bring your sneakers, some clothes, and an extra bag to protect the rest of your stuff from your smelly gear.

Embrace the facilities.  Lots of hotels have gyms and hitting one when you’re on the road can be a great change of pace.  They’re typically well-maintained and often full of motivated folks giving off good, positive energy.  The hotel pool can also be a great fitness tool, especially if you don’t have access to one at home.

Head out and back.  It’s easy to be intimidated by the idea of going for a run when you’re away from your usual route.  Put your mind at ease by planning a simple “out and back” run.  Simply head out in one direction and turn back once you reach the halfway point.  With a little help from your audio alerts you can focus on your run and let your headphones tell you when it’s time to turn back.  Just make sure to do a little homework and make sure the route will be generally safe and secure.

Consider alternative workouts.  Sometimes, despite the best intentions, doing workouts as planned just isn’t in the cards.  If time or logistics are becoming a problem, be willing to do something else for the sake of staying active.  You might not have half an hour available for a good run, but you can probably squeeze in a few minutes to do some simple stretching or circuit exercices instead.  Staying active, even if it isn’t your ideal workout, will help keep you on track and make it a little easier to get back in the swing of things once you’re home.

Relax.  It’s easy to adopt a mindset that missing a workout (Or two. Or ten.) means you’ve failed your training program.  That simply isn’t true and can turn a small setback into throwing in the towel for good.  Don’t let a break in your routine be the end of you.  Even if you do miss a few workouts, don’t let it be a big deal.  Take a deep breath, move on, and pick up where you left off once you get back home.

Hopefully some of these tips will help keep you on track during your travels.  Has anybody out there been having success getting workouts done despite travel or other breaks to your routine?  Tell us about it in the comments!

Fine-tune your workout with audio alerts

Everybody responds to coaching and motivation a little bit differently.  Did you know you can adjust your audio alerts to match your training style?

Not only can you choose the voice of your coach (Alison for a female voice and Jim for male), but you can also decide when and how often you hear alerts.  By default, you’ll get two notifications in addition to the standard “run” and “walk” commands.  There’s an announcement when you reach the halfway point of the workout and another indicating that the last run is coming up.

The halfway alert is an especially handy feature during “out and back” runs when you need to know when to turn around and start heading home.

Notifications can be toggled on and off through Settings under Audio Alerts.  There you can also toggle a third option, “Run time left,” which will let you know when you have 10, 5, 2, and 1 minutes left in a running interval (or continuous run).

New Alerts!

Some people like to lock their screen and power through a workout without thinking a lot about how much is down and how much is left.  On the other hand, if you thrive on keeping an eye on the clock and knowing exactly where you stand, hearing how much run time is left might help you focus on running without glancing down at your screen.

A solid in-between compromise is to activate only the halfway alert, so that you can zone out until your trainer tells you it’s time to turn around.

Whatever your running style, it’s definitely worth taking the time to tweak your audio alerts to make sure they’re working for you.  If you’re unsure of the best way to go, experimentation is the only way to find out what you like best.

Consider changing things up for your next workout.  Even if you’ve been pretty happy with your alerts so far, adjusting these settings can help keep you on your toes.  Mixing it up a little is good for your mental conditioning and — who knows — you might fall in love with a setting you’d never considered.

New Features for GPS Users!  

Following our recent update, the halfway alert can now be set up based on distance.

In addition, new custom run distances allow you to choose a distance and count it down to the end.  Distance alerts will count down your miles from six remaining, plus final reminders at a half mile and 500 feet left.  Kilometers will count down at 9, 8, 6, 4, 3 and 1.5km, with a final reminder at 200m remaining.

If you haven’t opted for the GPS upgrade, there’s more reason than ever to give it a try.  As always, please let us know what you think!

3 things that will slow you down for no good reason

You work hard to get fit and build speed.

Yet still, there are plenty of little things that can creep their way into a tired runner’s workout, stealing speed, wasting energy, and generally fouling up a run.  Here are three things that will slow you down for no good reason (and what you can do about each of them).

Tension.  A locked jaw, clenched fists, and tight shoulders can all tire you out without giving you anything in return.  Don’t waste precious energy grinding your molars or keeping a death-grip on your phone.  Relax and focus on the job at hand.  Tension inhibits speed.  Loosen up and go faster.

Hyperventilation.  Hyperventilation really just refers to whenever you are breathing so quickly that your body can’t process the air properly.  It doesn’t have to mean you’re going to pass out and collapse into a heap,   just that you aren’t quite firing on all cylinders.  Shallow, labored breathing can sneak up on you during a workout.  If you feel like you’re huffing and puffing but not getting enough air, slow down your breathing and take in long, deep breaths as you run.  You should feel a difference right away.

Dehydration.  Your body can’t perform at anywhere close to full capacity if you’re dehydrated.  Drinking water is easy enough, but one thing to keep in mind — whether it’s the middle of the workday or the middle of a workout — feeling thirsty means you’ve already waited too long.  Thirst is a sign that you are dehydrated…not “getting dehydrated” or “almost dehydrated,” but already there.   Make sure you are drinking enough throughout the day that you don’t get a chance to actually feel thirsty.  Slugging a drink when you have a dry mouth just doesn’t do the trick.

There are a million energy-bandits out there, some large and some small.  These are just three examples of things that are easy habits to get into, but will slow you down and rob you of some of the benefits of the hard work you’re putting in.  Push back on them and you’ll get more bang for your buck when it comes to your training.

Playing hurt: don’t let an injury derail your training program

Bad things happen to good runners.

There’s not much as frustrating as when you’re doing everything right — sticking to your training plan, taking care of your body, eating the right stuff — but still find yourself facing an injury that threatens your ability to stick with your training program.

Just remember that even if you don’t have control over your situation, you do have control over how you respond to it.

The worst thing you can do is run hurt, aggravate your injury, and put yourself on the sidelines for even longer.  The second worst thing you can do is to let the injury get the best of you — causing you to fall off the fitness wagon and lose the strength and speed you’ve worked for all along.

Here are a few tips for staying active and not getting derailed by an injury.

Listen to your primary care provider or physical therapist.  That’s what they’re there for.  If you’ve been given physical therapy to do, do it.  Don’t blow it off.  Even if it seems trivial compared to the serious training you were doing pre-injury, treat it just as seriously.  Channel the intensity that you were putting into running into getting well.  If you’re supposed to stretch or do some exercises every day, treat that with the same priority that you would your other workouts.

Keep your routine alive.  Injuries don’t usually derail training programs by making you unable to run for months at a time.  Much more often is the case where what should be a brief interruption turns into a serious hiatus not because the injury is devastating, but because it throws the runner off his or her routine.

We are creatures of habit. Even if you are unable to run, keep your good habits alive by staying active while you heal up.  Find some physical activity that you can do without risk of further damage and use that activity to fill out your workout schedule.  Walking, doing some light yoga, even throwing a frisbee around or splashing around in a pool — there’s usually something you can do to keep moving when running isn’t an option.

Don’t stop using your app.  Let’s say you’ve got a minor injury and can walk, but can’t run.  Get out there and walk.  Choose a workout and go through the motions, power-walking the run intervals if your condition allows.  You won’t break any records, but again, you will be out there keeping your routine alive and staying in the groove.

Cross-train.  Depending on what your primary care provider or physical therapist says, there might be activities every bit as intense as running that can allow you to train seriously while your injury heals.  Swimming, biking, using the elliptical machine — there are a number of great cross-training opportunities that can sometimes keep you training on an injury that would be aggravated by running.  Who knows?  You might even find yourself hooked on one of them.

Again, I can’t emphasize enough that when you’re dealing with an injury, you have to play it safe to avoid making things worse.  But that said, there is almost always room to be active and keep moving in a responsible way that will be good for your body and good for your mental health.

For a runner, there are few things as unhealthy as spending weeks moping on the couch.  Even if you’re just getting out for a lap around the block a few times a week, you’ll be glad you did.

Three reasons to stretch after your next workout

If there’s one thing in the exercise world that’s more tempting than not running, it’s not stretching afterwards.

Most of us are pretty good about warming up and getting limber before a workout, but once the hard work is done and the fitness endorphins are flowing, it’s very easy to call it a day and hit the showers feeling accomplished.

If you are serious about getting fitter and faster, however, those few minutes following your cool-down walk are an unbeatable opportunity to treat your body right.

Here’s what’s in it for you.

1.  Prevent injury.  Just like stretching before a workout can help prevent a debilitating mid-run cramp or ward off the kind of sudden muscle tightness that leads to getting hurt, stretching after a workout can make you a more durable runner over the long haul.

A flexible, well-stretched body is simply more resistant to injury — whether that’s a training injury that occurs during a run or a more mundane injury like the ones you get taking a funny step off of a curb at the grocery store or tweaking yourself moving a bookcase.

2.  Recover faster.  That pain you feel the day after a run is usually some combination of good, healthy muscle soreness and lousy overall body stiffness.  Soreness is typically positive and recuperative.  Stiffness generally is not.

You’ll be amazed at how stretching after a workout can help you feel better the following day.  After all, you should be able to revel in that post-workout ache without feeling like you can’t lift your leg without wincing in pain because your body is tight.

3  Get stronger.  This one’s the trump card.  Especially as you get more and more experienced as a runner and an athlete, it can be tempting to forget the basics and feel like you can get by without something as simple (and, let’s face it, mundane) as stretching after a workout.  Don’t do it.

Here’s the bottom line: a well-stretched, flexible muscle is stronger than a tight, inflexible one.

Period.

If you’re serious about building strength and speed, getting limber is absolutely crucial.  There’s a brief window of time after a workout when your muscles are flexible and hot where you’re going to get the most bang for your buck.  Take advantage of it every chance you get.

If stretching has a negative, no-fun connotation in your mind (like perhaps running used to), remember that you have lots of options — from the traditional stuff you probably used to do in gym class to more mentally challenging activities like yoga.  You should certainly be doing whatever works for you.

So that said, you tell us!  What works for you?  How long do you spend stretching after a workout?  Any favorite stretches to share?

Strength in Numbers: Social Media and Community Accountability

Are you on Facebook or Twitter?  Do you post on one (or both) after you finish workouts?

One of the best ways to keep a training program on track is to be accountable to someone other than yourself.  It works with sports teams, it works with early morning running partners, and it works with social media.

Just like it’s a lot harder to sleep through a pre-dawn run if you know your running buddy is out there on the corner waiting for you, it’s a lot harder to skip a workout when you’re recording your progress online.

That’s why we tie social media right into our apps — to give you the opportunity to tell the world that you’ve committed to a training program and that you are darn well going to see it through.

It isn’t to help you brag about how fast you’re getting or make your friends feel like slobs.  (These are simply added benefits.)  The real idea is just to help you say “Hey, I was out there doing my workouts this week…and I’ll do it next week, too.”

As people begin to share more and more online — whether it’s a close circle of friends on Facebook or pages of fellow runners posting under the @runhelper hashtag on Twitter — sharing our fitness goals, challenges, and victories becomes more and more commonplace.

Finish a run that you didn’t want to start?  Post about it.  You just might inspire someone glued to their couch, about to miss the day’s run.

Thinking about skipping one yourself?  Imagine how it would feel if you had to post about that.  “Dear Facebook and Twitter: tonight I didn’t run because I didn’t feel like it.  Now I’m mad about it.  Frowny face.”

There’s strength in numbers.  And the more people you can involve, even if it’s just an occasional tweet or status update, the better your chances of making it to the end.

If you have fitness-minded friends, they can be a great source of motivation as you work your way through your training plan.  If you don’t, the beauty of the internet is that they aren’t hard to find.  There are all sorts of opportunities to connect with people who have the same goals you do.

Remember: you never have to run alone.