"Life is what happens when we are making other plans..." or say the saying goes.
Although the summer brought many ups and downs, I was able to continue training and working toward my 1st 5K race. In summary, my sister (swimmer) and her sister-in-law (cyclist) and I signed up for a team Triathlon six months ago, a first for us all. Having run about 100 times in my entire life, I began training at 10:30 min/mile pace and completed the race at 10:15 min/mile tempo for the 3.2 mile course with hills, soft sand/sidewalks, and around 400 participants.
What I learned on Race Day:
- I'd like to keep running and keep improving but with music! Music is my inspiration and driving force. This race did not allow it as a cyclist was hurt by someone wearing ear buds, but I just saw another run event that allowed them. Read the participant guidelines for each race carefully.
- The entire experience was much more fun going with friends and/or being on a team. I would have backed out last month due to my August employment at a University had I not: 1) set up a training session with an amazing running coach to help me improve my form in mid-August, 2) had my sister holding our team to our commitment to attend and complete the race.
- I love my family, but watching for them around the track probably slowed me down. Turned out the moment I stopped looking, they were at the finish line standing by cheering me on. Lesson learned: keep your head on the race and give hugs when it's over! (Thanks for coming, my family!) Note to observers: Cheer enthusiastically! Spatters of weak claps are not very encouraging...
About racing for the first time:
- Six months ago I was only learning to do a 5k. Now I feel I could do an entire triathlon if I wanted to. I've proven to myself I can work one hour of training per day into my week, so I wouldn't be the fastest, but I could complete the event fairly well.
- Of the 400 people signed up for the triathlon, about two-thirds registered the 4 weeks prior to the race. This was this event's 1st year; I've heard registering for larger events like the Boston marathon is a whole other process and experience. Just like I mentioned about attending conventions or your first group exercise class, a little advanced planning and registration is incredibly beneficial toward your successful inclusion.
- Everyone was incredibly FRIENDLY. I expected elbow jabs, foul play, and harsh competition, but I made more friends in four hours than I have in the past four years. Only about 10% of the competitors were there to win and vanished at the start line; everyone else was focused on their personal achievements and out-doing their own race performance.
|My Awesome Team: Heidi, Me, Mary|
GREAT articles and resources from the professionals for your first event:
- 10 Tips for First-Time Triathletes, Gale Bernhardt, Active.com
- How to Run Your First 5K, Jen Murphy, Active.com
- RaceFinder, Runner's World
- Free Training Guides, Runner's World
(Sorry readers: If you'd like to know what the drills are, contact Dr. Karp!)
Readers: Comment with your tips/treats for race day!
Or, how are you planning/preparing for your 1st race?
Now that you know a bit about your cardiovascular system, let’s get started on understand your heart by taking some baseline measurements. Your Resting Heart Rate (RHR) is the slowest heart rate for you and gives valuable information regarding your current fitness level.
Take your resting heart rate when you first wake in the morning but are still lying in bed. Find your radial (wrist) pulse with your first and second fingers of the opposite hand and count the number of beats you feel over 60 seconds (one minute). If you have a Heart Rate Monitor with Touch Screen, just reach over to your bedside table when you wake up, strap it to your wrist, and take an instant reading. Do not move around much as your heart rate can instantly jump 10-20 beats just reaching across your body; lay still for a few minutes when the monitor is in place.
Resting heart rate varies from 50-90 beats per minute across the adult population. Athletes are known to have resting heart rates as low as 30-50 beats per minute. I recommend you take your resting heart rate at least three times a week in the morning as your fitness improves, then at least once a week when you reach your goal resting heart rate and are in a health-maintenance stage.
This link has a RHR chart: What does your RHR say about your fitness level? For example, I am a 31 year old female, 5 ft 5" and 115 pounds. I take 7,000-12,000 steps per day and I exercise about 5 days a week for one hour at a time. My resting heart rate for the past month has been 45-55 beats per minute (bpm). Readers: What is your RHR? Comment below!
Resting heart rate declines over time when fitness improves due to an increase in stroke volume and increase in parasympathetic innervations (Robergs, 2003). After one month of increased endurance training (walking, running, swimming, biking more often) your resting heart rate can decrease by 5-10 beats per minute and stay lowered, showing you have improved your blood volume to supply oxygen to your healthier body, increased your heart muscle strength and capacity, and improved your nervous system. With a regular, appropriate cardiovascular program, your resting heart rate will drop around 5-7 beats a minute each month until you reach your best health and fitness level at around 50-70 beats per minute (Horton, 2011).
Day to day changes in resting heart rate: If your resting heart rate at any time jumps 15-25 beats during the week on a given day, it may be that you are overtired, overstressed, exposed to illness, and/or lacking recovery time. Mine RHR usually reads 60-70 bpm on these mornings. Aim for a gentle workout with walking, yoga, or mind-body meditation on this day and try more cardio when your resting heart rate calms down (Burke, 1998). Combine both long term improvements (decreases) in resting heart rate and day to day changes from stress and recovery, and you’ve got great motivation to track your resting heart rate as I mentioned above.
Heart Rate Variables in this Picture: Just to review, resting heart rate is your slowest/calmest heart rate number. Smaller people have smaller heart sizes, less volume pumped per beat, and therefore faster heart rates. Later we will explore how changes in posture (lying, sitting, and standing) cause instant heart rate changes as do changes in temperature (hot versus cold). NOTE: Check with your doctor before beginning an endurance program if you take medications that affect your heart rate, blood pressure, or metabolic systems.
Readers know I've wanted to share my recent experimentation with Heart Rate Monitors. But first it is important to share some Anatomy (body structure) and Physiology (body function) about our hearts.
Your Cardiovascular System is your heart (cardiac), blood vessels (vascular), and circulating blood. The wellness of these elements allows for oxygen transportation to your working tissues, blood pressure control, fluid balance, and body temperature regulation. Pulmonary refers to the circulation of blood through your lungs; Systemic is the circulation of blood through your body. Arteries (from the heart) and veins (to the heart) are smooth muscle and can change slightly increase or decrease blood flow or redistribute flow through the body.
What is one Cardiac Cycle? The right side of your heart receives blood from your body and sends it to your lungs for oxygen uptake. The left side receives oxygen-rich blood from your lungs and pumps it to your body. The left and right volumes of your heart are the same, but the pressure is highest leaving your heart on the left to the body and lowest where it returns from your lungs on the right.
What is Blood Pressure? 1/3 of your Cardiac Cycle is blood flowing passively into the heart, or Diastole. Systole is the other 2/3 of the cycle: the force of the ventricles (lower chambers of the heart) contracting. When you begin walking and progress to running, Systole slightly increases and Diastole should remain the same or slightly decrease. Both Systole and Diastole can improve (usually showing a decrease) within three months of beginning a regular cardiovascular program.
Did you know? Plasma Volume increases by 10% within 24 hours of an endurance workout which increases return to the heart and load/fill before each heart contraction.
Stroke Volume is the amount a heart can fill and pump per heart beat. This varies by gender (men have larger heart volume than women) and fitness level. During events, the stroke volume of an athlete can be as much as 70% higher than untrained subjects for a similar heart rate.
To help you understand more: An elephant has a huge stroke volume (large heart) and low heart rate. A hummingbird has a tiny stroke volume (tiny heart) and high heart rate. A baby has a lower stroke volume and higher heart rate than an adult; his/her heart rate slows as his/her heart and body grows larger.
With all other variables removed: In adulthood, the maximum number of heart beats per minute decreases on average by about one beat per year.
Cardiac Output is the volume of blood pumped for a given heart rate each minute, both controlled by the nervous system and hormonal changes in the heart in response to the body’s demands. Raise either heart rate or stroke volume and blood circulation increases.
How our bodies are limited: Oxygen Delivery or Oxygen Use?
During exercise above one’s aerobic capacity (where delivery meets demand), skeletal muscle can use oxygen quicker than our circulation can deliver it. This is why some athletes turn to Blood Doping (artificial increase red blood cell numbers through injections) although it is highly dangerous and illegal. The smart athletes can instead train at higher altitudes to increase the demand and production of red blood cells in a healthy and legal manner, the benefits of which occur after only one to two weeks but fade within three days of returning to lower altitudes.
Cardiovascular Drift: As you aerobically exercise anywhere from 10-60 minutes, stroke volume decreases due to increasing demands from temperature regulation, decreasing hydration levels, and increasing muscle metabolism. Heart rate will therefore increase to keep cardiac output constant.
Now you know some basics on what the cardiovascular system is all about, I’ll be sharing posts on:
- The Value of Knowing Your Resting Heart Rate
- The Benefits of Warm Ups and Cool Downs on Heart Rate
- Variables: What Changes our Heart Rate
- How and Why to Use Heart Rate Monitors
- Training Zones and How do you Calculate Yours
- Training Tips and Special Considerations for Endurance Work
AND a page of the resources I’m using to bring you this valuable information.
PHEW! This is why these posts are slow to be published… there is so much to know about how to achieve and maintain your best heart health. But don't you feel smarter already?
One thing all superhero movies have in coming are a hero that doesn’t want the job. Frodo doesn’t want to carry the ring. Spiderman wants to get married and settle down. Luke just can’t find the force.
Heroes everywhere have battles they ignore, run from, or try to side step.
- People are losing jobs and moving away, starting over.
- People are trying to have children and finding they can’t.
- People are going to war to fight for their countries and coming home changed.
- People are trying to find purpose and joy in the things they’ve worked for that, in the end, are not what they thought they would be.
Briefly pause the chaos and look at your life from a different angle.
There are 168 Hours in One Week.
1. Take 5 Hours a Week to Exercise: 20-60 minutes a day and find your power.
2. Eat with Purpose: food entering your mouth should have a goal IN your body.
WARNING: Those against you achieving the two steps above are part of the DARK side!
“I’ve spent much of the last five years trying to help communities improve the effectiveness of their health and wellness efforts. One of the most stubborn challenges is getting kids to move out from behind the TV and computer screens and exercise. It is one thing to tell them to get 60 minutes of exercise each day, but it is far more difficult to make that a reality.
Last summer, I asked my 11-year-old son Alec about how to help make better progress in this important area. His answer was simple: “You have to make fitness fun.” So, I followed on by asking him what was the most fun thing he did that was a lot of exercise. He answered, “Playing ‘ultimate challenge’ in gym class.” I had never heard of that game, so I asked a few more questions. What he shared opened my eyes to what I think it the ideal activity for communities to embrace to promote youth fitness.
Ultimate Challenge is a game that gets kids of all ages and abilities running more than any game I’ve seen. It is like three simultaneous games of “capture the flag” going on at the same time, and regardless of age (from 6 to 60) or physical fitness level, there is always a motivation to run. Either you’re charging in to capture a football, playground ball or rubber ring, or you’re being chased, trying to catch someone, or trying to rescue a friend. The rules are simple, and it is FUN!
That night, we decided that the best way to promote Ultimate Challenge as a popular activity across the country would be to create kits that contain everything that groups or organizations need to play the game or host an event where kids could play the game. The next day we registered www.ultimatechallengekits.com and started a “social entrepreneur” business to help get kids fit.
Roll the clock forward several weeks, and my son got his first order to provide 20 kits to the Get Up & Go! Campaign for St. Clair County, Illinois. A non-profit hospital had purchased 20 kits to give away to youth groups that joined their community fitness initiative. The kits were an incentive for youth groups (like Boy Scouts, church groups or after-school programs) to embrace fitness, and the kits provided them with everything they needed for kids to get a lot of exercise month after month for years to come.
More recently, a non-profit organization in Minnesota wanted to host a field day for kids from an urban charter school. They rented 3 Ultimate Challenge kits for a day and had about 15 volunteers come to supervise (and join in the fun) with nearly 100 grade-school age kids. It took about 15 minutes for the adults to learn the rules and play a quick game so they’d be ready for the kids to arrive at a city park where the 3 courts were set up. That morning, there were over 80 kids running, laughing and having a blast as they played the game for over an hour. After lunch, the 3rd, 4th and 5th graders wanted to play again, and this time some of the adult volunteers joined in the fun. It was another hour of non-stop exercise and fun. I can’t imagine an easier way to have that many kids get that much exercise, and it was by far the most popular activity of the day.
A couple weeks later, my son brought an Ultimate Challenge Kit to a camp-out with his Boy Scout troop. One father commented that he felt the game would last about 15 minutes and the boys would be ready for something different, but they had to stop the game after over an hour of non-stop action. Then, the group of 12 to 17 year-old boys chose to play Ultimate Challenge again after dinner—and they played full-tilt until 9:00 PM when the adults insisted that they head back to camp for the evening campfire. The game was so popular, they made it the main activity of their troop meeting 3 weeks later."
Here is an article I wrote, featured in Water Safety Magazine this past January, that seems more than appropriate for this hot July weather. Enjoy! - Megan
"Here is some advice on when and how parents can support their children as they learn water skills.
When infants are 6 months old, they begin to have enough body fat to remain warm enough in a pool for up to 30 minutes. From 6 months through age 2 is the best time for Parent-Tot classes. Swim instructors will educate parents on the correct way to hold their child in the water to keep them warm and safe, and parents can demonstrate to their infants a joy for water through facial expressions and body tension. Splash a bit, drizzle water on your face, blow bubbles, and bounce gently while holding your child securely to help him/her feel safe but relaxed in the water.
Nearing age 3-4, when your child can hold the pool’s edge, follow commands, and swim comfortably with an instructor, your support will be most useful at home before and after lessons. Fill up a large sink or wide bowl with water and give your child a straw. Have them blow bubbles in the sink by exhaling out the straw, and then inhale through their nose without drawing water up the straw. Kids can also begin holding their breath and dipping their face in the sink or bowl while safely knowing they can stand up and out at any time.
For ages 3-5, fill your bathtub with 1-2 inches of water and have your child practice lying face up. When they become relaxed in this position, have them look slightly left and right to feel the water in and around their ears and face. Next, fill the tub another inch (face still above water) and have them breathe in and out deeply, filling and deflating their lungs to sense buoyancy and floating. Turn them face down (face still above water) to practice a straight leg or flutter kick. Have your child blow bubbles in the water through his/her mouth, nose above water. Allow them to dip their nose/eyes/whole face down in the water when they have mastered the straw breathing and bowl dips or they feel ready to try.
In any swim class, same age kids vary greatly in personality. In one group of swim students you will see those that are so adventurous they are dangerous, and those that are so fearful they avoid approaching the pool. This is where a trained swim instructor’s knowledge will be most evident, and your sideline encouragement (or discipline) regarding your child can support the instructor. Watch your child enough to keep them safe, but not so intensely they are uncomfortable and distracted. After a year or two of lessons and experience with a few different teachers, you will have more confidence in a selecting both a teacher and additional swimming skills for your child.
Water can be scary for small children. Give your child both encouragement and time; provide lots of love, support, and patience. Lead by example and blow straw bubbles in a sink, dip your face in the water, and model any water exercises your child is learning when possible.
Swimming skills are built over a lifetime of experiences; enjoy as many as you can together!"
Let’s go! contains 26 travel, camp, and car songs to take you and your children on an adventure through music: you’ll explore the woods, star gaze on a cowboy’s range, dig for clams in San Francisco Bay, yodel with an ostrich on a mountain and visit 22 other traditional-now-hip places. As with all Rock Me Baby Records CDs, this CD offers fresh, upbeat styles, real instruments, lots of voices, and interesting takes on the old favorites.
1. Comment Below: Fresh food, a great sunset, or a silly game, tell us what you love about summer. Don’t be Anonymous; I can't find you if you win!
2. Enter Again: Blog about www.meganmerchant.com on your website and/or share our site on Facebook or Twitter to enter multiple times. Comment on what and where you share to receive the extra entry.
3. Be sure to click “like” at Megan Merchant’s Blog on Facebook to view new blog posts and bonus fitness tips; I’ll post the winners on July 4, 2011.
4. Friends and family can participate; that’s the joy of having my own site!
5. THREE winners will be randomly chosen from the comments below and the Let’s go! CD will be shipped to you. I'll send each winner a personal email for your address.
Singer Susie Tallman graduated UCLA with a BA in voice performance. She further evolved her voice in France, singing with the Choeur International and the American Chorus in Paris. Upon her return to the states, Tallman honed her classical training at the New England Conservatory Workshop in Boston. She has sung backup for such acts as Ronnie Spector, Darlene Love and Cheap Trick, and has performed at Carnegie Hall, The Rose Bowl, The Los Angeles Forum and Pauley Pavilion as well as in commercials for Taco Bell, The Coca-Cola Reunion Commercial and the movie Beaches. She is a former member of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus.
*Note: This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. You are providing your information to www.meganmerchant.com and not to Facebook. The information you provide will only be used for notifying and mailing the giveaway item to the winner.
It's time for summer vacation! Here are the items I pack every trip to reach my daily fitness goals, boost my mental health, and keep my nutrition on track:
Record Keeping: Pedometer, Running Watch, Note Pad/Pencil: My pedometer also has a clock so I can leave my watches at home. The Running Watchis great for my training runs as it tracks the duration, speed and distance of my workouts and more. I keep my note pad and pencil in my bag for monitoring my food, recording my workout progress, and journaling the fabulous memories during my vacation!
Hotel Room: Resistance Tube with Door Anchor, The Great Stretch Tubing Handbook: These replace the need to find a weight room, I can fit in a workout from 10-60 minutes long in the morning, noon, or night, and they weight under one pound combined in my suitcase. Awesome!
Hotel Pool: 2 Water Bottles, Swim Suit, Sunscreen: If your swim suit is a tank and shorts, they double as workout clothes in a pinch. The water bottles left empty and tightly-sealed create two dumbbells for under water (add water to the bottles to decrease the resistance/buoyancy of the floats).
Nutrition: Breakfast, Protein Powder, Vitamins, Snacks: Packing your own breakfast is great if you have no idea what food to expect on your trip. If you have a free hotel breakfast, hit up the milk section with your empty water bottles to make your protein shake post-workout. If the complimentary breakfast is great, you can save your packed breakfast for a meal replacement if you are on the go later. Also pack small, healthy snacks for every two to four hours to avoid excessive hunger and subsequent overeating.
Hotel Gym or Outdoors: Sneakers, Socks, MP3, GPS, Cell Phone: I like to travel in my running shoes but pack sandals in my suitcase for the pool. Bring double sets of socks; liners worn inside your cushion sockshelp prevent blisters from running workouts or excessive walking on your trip. Load your MP3 with happy, inspirational music to put you in a great travel mode. Try to research the area in advanced but a GPS is always handy for finding local gyms and parks in a new area. I carry a cell phone in case I'm able to sneak off for a run in a new place and run into an emergency.
Relaxation: Inspiring Book or Fun Magazines: Read these before bed or first thing in the morning. It is vacation; hopefully you have a bit of time to read here and there!
For Kids: Pack some Travel Music to entertain your family on long car rides, and pack empty balloons or extra socks and this link for fun travel games.
Recently on Facebook I shared my trial to cut down on my shower time. The main reason is that lately my "to read" pile is growing faster than I can keep up! My 2 year old has quit napping and my 5 year old is two months from Kindergarten. Luckily for the next blissful two weeks, I have 25 minutes of reading time at their combined City Pool swim lessons.
Here is the list on my bedside:
- Getting the Pretty Back by Molly Ringwald, p. 99
- Freedom by Jonathan Franzen, p.7
- Decision Points by George W. Bush, p.11
- A Hand to Guide Me by Denzel Washington, p.256 (almost done!)
- The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts by Gary Chapman, p.33
When I see an interesting newly released book, I place a hold on it within my City library account. Then the library sends me an email when the book is ready to pick up. Often I put books back on to my "future reading list" and place it in the library return if I'm not keeping up, as you can see from the following...
A few of the books I wish to finish:
- My Spiritual Journey by Dalia Lama, p.141
- Lighten Up by Peter Walsh, p.39
- Extraordinary, Ordinary People by Condoleezza Rice, p.80
- The Life You Want by Bob Greene, p.45
- If You Ask Me: (And of Course You Won't) by Betty White
- Little Red Book of Selling by Jeff Gitomer, p.145
It is more unsettling to have a stack of unread books on my table than 3-4 I'm greatly enjoying at the moment. I keep track of unfinished books I return when new ones come in by writing down the page number I stopped at and adding the unfinished book back on to my reading list. And then there are all the magazines left unread around the house... that's a whole other story.
Sunday, May 8, 2011
Below is my Day 13 5k Training Run after ten days of NO running. Not too bad... plus a quote and running game!
April 27: Rest
April 28: Jillian Michael's: Yoga Meltdown
April 29: Rest/Sick day
April 30: Sick
May 1: Sick
May 2: Yard work
May 3: Hot Latin Cardio
May 4: P90X Ab Ripper X, Wood chips in yard
May 5: P90X Kenpo X
May 6: P90X Cardio X
May 7: P90X X Stretch, Lead March of Dimes March for Babies Warm-Up
May 8: Run, 51 F Outside
5:20 AM: Levoxyl, water
5:40: Crackers, water, 200 mg Ibuprofen (stress: headache, stiff neck)
6:00: Warm-Up, walk
6:07-7:15: 5.87 miles, 75 mins
Notes to Self
- End of a hard ten days, stress of illness/prepping Dimes Warm-Up for 1200 people
- Goal to Self: Get out of my head, set new goal to motivate me
- New Running Game: If one of my play list songs comes on the radio, I keep running
- When Kesha's Blow came on and I was 15 ft from the house, and added a 1/2 mile!
- Thought: "If there is a God, I'm a piece in his game. Everyday my job is to figure out how to best play and the game and stay in it." - Who said it?