Are you guilty of treadmill racing?

(via Pinterest)

As a new runner, I’m certainly not one who should be openly admitting this but, I will admit that I usually glance down at the speed of the runner next to me on the treadmill. It’s called treadmill racing. It’s petty and I don’t really gain anything from it, but what can I say? I’m competitive.

Since I have been training for my first 5k, I’ve been doing most of my runs on the treadmill because the program calls for a lot of interval training and I find it easier to monitor my time on the treadmill. But I’ve noticed a trend at my gym among the runners to my left and right. Occasionally, my co-runners will glance down at the speed I’m running, and in turn I tend to do the same thing. It’s mostly out of curiosity but I think this bad habit can cause some people to become uncomfortable. For me, when someone next to me is running faster, instead of feeling bad about not going as fast, I use it as motivation for future runs.

However, I also know that some gym-goers can be uber-competitive, making you feel self-conscience of your running. But, keep in mind, you don’t know what they are training for, whether it be sprints or distance, and they don’t know what you’re training for, so be confident in your running!

Women’s Health Magazine suggests setting the time you want to run and then covering the display with a towel to ward off any wandering eyes. Don’t worry about your neighbor’s speed because it’ll distract you from your own run. If treadmill racing is too stressful, opt for an outdoor run, free of competition and numbers. Outside you are running your own speed, and no one can one-up you on that.

Zumba fitness frenzy shows Latino influence on U.S. culture

I wrote this story for one of my classes in which the students in the class are contributers to the online news organization, La Prensa

Zumba has been hitting the fitness community by storm and is starting to raise questions of whether this is just a new fitness trend, or whether the spike in interest in the Latin-music inspired cardio class is a depiction on the greater Latino influence on the cultural landscape of the United States.

“I definitely think it is something positive for the [Latino]/Latin American community, and I feel through attending a Zumba fitness class they will feel more welcoming, more accepting to Latin American culture,” said Gabby Corbera, a junior at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Zumba instructor at the university’s Recreation Center. “It’s really important because in 2050 they [Latinos] are going to be the majority.”

Zumba was first created by accident by choreographer and fitness instructor, Alberto “Beto” Perez, in Cali, Colombia. In 1986, Perez forgot his aerobics tapes for a class he was teaching in Cali so he used the tapes he had in his bag that were recordings of traditional Caribbean salsa and merengue music, and improvised a routine. Using this “supposedly” non-traditional music for an aerobics class ended up being a hit and in 2001, after moving to the United States, Perez partnered with Alberto Perlman and Alberto Aghion to create a demo video. Now Zumba classes can be found in over 110,000 gyms and in 250 countries.

Corbera, who was born in Venezuela to Peruvian parents, said that the widespread practice of Zumba classes worldwide shows just how important Latin American/Caribbean culture is not only in the United States but also across the globe.

“I really love that people can get a sense of it, a taste of it just by going to one hour of Zumba fitness class,” she said. “It’s not limited to a Latin American narrative, it incorporates a lot of different beats from Asia and other parts of the world.”

Corbera was the first Zumba instruct at UMass’ Recreational Center and said that she began taking Zumba classes when she was in high school. Corbera said she is most attracted to the music in Zumba classes and the energy that all of the attendees have in the class. While Zumba is influenced by traditional Latin American/Caribbean dances, it is not limited to them. Some dances included are cumbia, salsa, merengue, mambo, flamenco, chachacha, reggaeton, soca, samba, belly dancing, bhangra, hip-hop and tango.

“I try to bring in an international perspective to the class by trying to incorporate international beats and international rhythms; that is what the program was founded on,” she said.

“What I’ve noticed in my classes, because of the music I play, because it’s not just hip hop, because it’s not just American pop music it attracts different types of groups here on campus. In terms of demographics I’d have to say it’s very diverse- Latinas, Asians, African-Americans – just anyone and it’s because of the music I feel,” she continued.

Zumba’s pervasive cross-cultural popularity ranked it ninth on CNN Health’s top fitness trends for 2012. Besides it’s cultural impact, Zumba helps fitness goers burn 600 to 1,000 calories in a single one-hour session.

“Part of what I love about Zumba is it allows me to embrace my ethnic identity and that’s really important for me,” Corbera said.

As Zumba and other Latino-influenced cardio classes continue to find their place in gyms across the country, Corbera encourages people of all cultures to “Come, work out and get a little cultured.”

Morning workouts to boost your energy

Rise and get fit! (via Pinterest)

There’s a common misconception that to be a morning workout person you have to be a morning person. False. It helps if you like the morning but it’s not a requirement. I started doing early morning workouts in the fall when I took a job requiring me to start work at 6:00 a.m. I’ve always been an early riser but having enough energy to exercise before the sun is up wasn’t really in my schedule.

However, now that I’ve started working out in the morning I’ve found there are so many benefits that outweigh the temptation of hitting the snooze button. First off, if you work out in the morning you can be reassured to get in your sweat for the day.

“If you work out be­fore your day distracts you, your chances of exercising regularly go way up,” said Cedric Bryant, Ph.D., chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, in an article in Women’s Health Magazine. People who work out in the morning have a higher chance of making a habit of an exercise routine. Also, working out in the morning is sure to keep you sharper during the day because exercise enhances secretion of neurotransmitters.

Another benefit of an early-bird workout is that exercise at the start of your day can boost your metabolism for the rest of the day, allowing you to more effectively burn calories.

There are definitely days that I’d rather hit the snooze button and go back under my covers but working out in the morning makes me feel like I’ve already accomplished something that day. But like any new routine, you can ease into it and acclimate to the new routine with these tips:

  • Make it a date- You wouldn’t blow off a date on any other occasion so why leave your fitness plan hanging? Make your morning workout into the dream guy or girl of dreams who you’d never stand up.
  • Mangia!- Eat something! You’ve been asleep for the last eight to 10 hours so you don’t have any calories to burn. Whatever you choose to eat make sure it contains some carbs. I usually have a small bowl of cereal or granola bar (and some coffee so I don’t fall asleep on my drive to the gym!).
  • Get you gear in gear- Having your gear ready the night before so you’ll be set to head out early. The more time you waste looking for your water bottle and socks, the more time you have to come up with an excuse not to go. I keep my gym bag next to my nightstand to remind me to get out of bed, my gear is waiting.
  • Take a class- Sometimes the best way to ease into a morning workout routine is by taking a class that’s filled with other people who are just as tired as you are. The group dynamic will keep you motivated to keep going.
  • Give it time- It won’t be easy in the first week or so to get into the grove of working out early. You might experience a crash around late afternoon- according to Active.com “morning exercisers often need to eat more in the morning and less in the evening to optimize their performance all day.”

Once you get into your new routine, I promise you will feel more energized and motivated to take on the rest of your busy day!

The ‘Greatist’ Runner’s Guide

I came across this infographic on one of my favorite fitness blogs, Greatist.com, and thought I’d share it. It’s a clear, concise and visually appealing runner’s guide, that gives you all the information you need about running, from finding the right shoe for your running type to eating the right foods to enhance your performance.

More Health and Fitness News & Tips at Greatist.

Hunger Games workout: Train like a Tribute

"I work out because I know I would've been the first to die in the Hunger Games." (via Pinterest)

The much anticipated adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ hit novel “Hunger Games” was released today and fans are wondering how they can get in shape like star heroine Katniss Everdeen. One New York gym has developed a new workout, Train Like a Tribute, to get fans and fitness lovers alike in shape for the Hunger Games arena.

New York Sports Club fitness instructor and former Marine, Eric Salvador, created a workout similar to the training of the “tributes” in the book. He developed exercises that simulate the four skills necessary for survival in the “Hunger Games”- archery, tree climbing, speed work and strength. Although the classes do not start until next week, classes will also be offered in Boston, Philadelphia and Washington D.C.

Salvador’s 45-minute workout includes “Katniss kickbacks and Peeta presses (named for two of the main characters), along with archery work, simulated tree climbing (using TRX bands) and even a ‘Sprint to the Cornucopia,'” according to a TODAY Health article.

“In the book, the characters have to sprint at the beginning to grab all the materials they need for survival,” Salvador said in the article. “In our class, the participants sprint to the center of the room to grab their dumb bells, water, mat, towel and a bow. But they can only grab one item at a time, so they’re going back and forth and back and forth.”

Fox News gave an outline of some of the exercises that are involved in the workout:

  • Katniss Killers- Using an actual bow, ” while standing in an archer’s stance, participants pull the bow back until taut.  But instead of releasing the bow string, they bring their arms back to starting position and repeat until finished.”
  • Capitol Crunches- “The capitol crunches help participants improve their core strength.  Tributes lay flat on their backs, with a weight extend above their heads.  They are then told to do a number of full sit-ups while keeping the weight above their heads.”
  • Jabberjay Jacks-  “In the ‘Train Like a Tribute’ workout, jabberjays are also keeping tributes in line by making them do jumping jacks while crossing their legs.  This helps them improve their speed and agility for the games.”
  • Peeta Presses- “In order to build strength, participants position dumbbells by their shoulders and then extend them upwards over their heads.”