8 Foam-Roller Exercises

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If you’ve never invested in a foam roller — commonly found at sporting goods stores for 20 to 40 bucks — you’re doing your muscles a major disservice. Regularly using a foam roller offers many of the same benefits as a sports massage, including reduced inflammation, scar tissue and joint stress, as well as improved circulation and improved flexibility.

“Foam rolling helps with increasing muscle flexibility and joint range of motion, especially when used in conjunction with an active warm-up routine,” says Heather Jeffcoat, DPT, certified facial stretch therapist and owner of Los Angeles–based Fusion Wellness & Physical Therapy. “It also helps with muscle-force production when done before exercise, reducing exercise-induced muscle soreness, reducing delayed onset muscle soreness, increasing pressure pain threshold and reducing trigger-point sensitivity.” 

Timing and Tips

The timing of using this self-massage tool also matters. Jeffcoat suggests foam-rolling the desired muscle groups immediately before a workout to increase flexibility of the muscle and range of motion of the nearby joints. 

“Pre-activity, foam rolling has been shown to reduce muscle stiffness and improve range of motion,” Jeffcoat says. “The best results are seen when it’s used with dynamic stretching and an active warm-up. Research supports using the foam roller over the desired area for 90 seconds up to two minutes — longer has shown negative results in performance.” She also suggests using it immediately postworkout to reduce DOMS and exercise-induced muscle damage.

The following exercises can be performed separately or combined into a 10-minute preworkout or postworkout routine. Since it’s best to perform roller exercises once your muscles are warm, you’ll need to do a quick five-minute warm-up if you opt to do them right before a weight-training session.

For each exercise, slowly roll back and forth as described for 20 to 30 seconds before moving on to the next exercise. As you roll, take deep, slow breaths to help your muscles relax. Always avoid rolling onto your joints — the roller should stay positioned under your muscles at all times — and if you hit a particularly tight or tender spot, stop rolling and apply direct pressure for 30 seconds, or until the pain abates.

“For recovery, the research supports using as much pressure as possible while respecting your boundaries for pain,” Jeffcoat suggests. “And use caution when using a foam roller for inter-set activities. If you are rolling your quadriceps exclusively, research shows a decrease in hamstring activation. This could lead to a decrease in performance, specifically in a person’s ability to continually produce force of the hamstrings. This occurs due to a phenomenon called reciprocal inhibition, where activation of one muscle group creates an inactivation in the opposing muscle group.”

If you’re new to foam rolling, only incorporate this series of moves into your routine every other day for two to three weeks. After that, you can try doing it once or twice daily — both before and immediately after your workouts. 

How to Foam-Roll Your Upper Back (Thoracic Spine)

Woman Foam Rolling Upper Back
Photo: HAO ZHANG / Getty Images

Start: Rest your back against the broad side of a roller positioned underneath your shoulder blades. Bend your knees so your feet are flat on the floor. Lift your butt and place your hands behind your head, or cross your arms over your chest.

Roll: Keeping your core muscles tight, slowly roll forward and back so that the roller moves up and down between the middle of your back and the top of your shoulder blades.

Tip: Don’t tilt your head forward to look at your legs as you roll — this may place stress on the spine. Keep your head and neck in line with your back at all times. 

How to Foam-Roll Your Latissimus Dorsi

Foam Rolling Lats
Photo: HAO ZHANG / Getty Images

Start: Lie on your right side with your right arm extended along the floor as shown and the roller directly under your right armpit — the roller should be perpendicular to your body. Bend your left arm and lightly place your left hand on the floor for support.

Roll: Roll up and down so the roller moves from your armpit to just above your waist. Once you’re finished, switch positions to work your left side.

Tip: Keep the thumb of your extended arm pointed up toward the ceiling — this puts your arm in a position that helps pre-stretch your lats. 

How to Foam-Roll Your Quadriceps

Quads Foam Rolling
Photo: microgen / Getty

Start: Lie face down with the roller positioned directly under your thighs. Bend your elbows so that your forearms are flat on the floor to support your weight — your feet should be suspended above the floor or lightly touching as shown.

Roll: Keeping your abs drawn in and core muscles tight, use your arms to gently roll your body forward and back to move the roller up and down from your pelvic bone to just above your knees.

Tip: Want to increase the intensity and really get at that ache? Stack your feet to roll one quad at a time.

How to Foam-Roll Your Iliotobial (IT) Band

Foam Rolling IT Band
Photo: insta_photos / Getty

Start: Position your left hip against the broad side of a roller on the floor. Cross your right leg over your left as shown, and put both hands on the ground for support.

Roll: Using your left arm to assist the motion, roll your thigh back and forth over the roller from just below your hip to above your knee. Continue rolling for the allotted time, then switch positions to work your right leg.

Tip: If you need more pressure to loosen things up, stack your legs — but keep in mind that your stability will be challenged.

How to Foam-Roll Your Glutes

Foam Rolling Glutes
Photo: GrapeImages / Getty

Start: Sit on the floor with your legs straight. Extend your arms to lift your glutes, place the broad side of a foam roller under your butt, and bend one leg and angle your body so one cheek bears the brunt of your weight.

Roll: Move your glute back and forth across the roller. (Keep in mind that the range of motion will be small.) When your time is up, shift your weight to the other side and repeat.

Tip: Press through your palms and move through your shoulders to shift forward and back. 

How to Foam-Roll Your Hamstrings and Glutes

 

Foam Roller Hamstrings and Glutes

Start: Sit with your legs extended in front of you and the broad side of a roller positioned directly under your thighs. Place your hands flat on the floor behind you for support.

Roll: Using your arms to initiate the motion, slowly roll back and forth to move the roller up and down from the bottom of your glutes to just above your knees.

Tip: As you roll, try rotating your legs in and out from your hips — this will allow you to hit your hamstrings more thoroughly.

How to Foam-Roll Your Calves

Foam Rolling Calves
Photo: HAO ZHANG / Getty

Start: Sit on the floor with the roller underneath your calves. Place your hands on the floor behind you and raise your butt off the floor — all your bodyweight should be on your hands and the roller.

Roll: Slowly roll forward and back to move the roller up and down from just below your knees to above your ankles.

Tip: To up the intensity, do the move one side at a time by stacking your legs. To change the emphasis, try turning your feet in or out as you roll. 

How to Foam-Roll Your Shins

Foam Rolling Shins
Photo: dima_sidelnikov / Getty

Start: Get on your hands and knees on the floor, with the broad side of a foam roller placed underneath your shins. Your hands should be positioned just in front of your shoulders on the ground and your heels rotated slightly outward.

Roll: Shift your weight forward, bringing your shoulders in front of your hands, to move the roller from your ankles to just below your knees. To target the appropriate muscle, lean on one shin at a time as you roll. 

Tip: Make sure you don’t roll directly onto your knees because this can cause discomfort and exacerbate injuries.

 

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Why Less Clothing Isn’t Always Best for Summer Workouts

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When looking for summer workout clothes, many athletes opt for “less is more” because of the intense heat. Some people may not even think twice about what to wear during outdoor workouts or long runs because it’s as simple as a sports bra and shorts.

However, selecting the most protective summer workout apparel may just save your life in the long run.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. Even the smallest amount of exposure may lead to precancerous and cancerous (basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma) lesions or sores. Basal cell and squamous cell make up 95 percent of diagnosed skin cancers and are highly curable if treated early. Melanoma is the most serious because it can spread to other organs. It’s responsible for 75 percent of all skin cancer deaths.

Another well-known side effect of too much sunshine is that the ultraviolet (UV) light emitted by sun damages elastin fibers in your skin, leading to sagging and wrinkles.

Rebecca Baxt, M.D., FAAD, board-certified dermatologist, says that all your skin is equally able to get sunburned, but “certain areas are higher risk due to the angle of the sun when it hits the skin, such as the top of the head, forehead, nose, chest, top of shoulders and tops of feet.”

To protect yourself, you need good sunscreen and proper clothing. Here are some go-to strategies for protecting yourself outdoors.

4 Clothing Tips to Protect Your Skin During the Summer

Wear a hat. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends starting to layer protection from the top by choosing a quality, tightly woven hat. Choose a 3-inch brim to cover not only your face but also the tops of your ears, shoulders and even your upper back. Popular brands like Athleta, Coolibar and Patagonia offer sporty workout hats in lots of designs and colors.

Wear UV clothes. UV clothing has ultraviolet protection in the fabric and is labeled as such, so check the tags for confirmation before buying. To be considered protective, UV clothing must have an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) of 30.

Choose colors wisely. Dark colors absorb more UV rays, so less is absorbed by your skin.

“If you are not wearing an SPF fabric as described above, then dark or bright colors work best to absorb the rays, such as black, navy blue or bright red,” Baxt says. “Lighter colors, pastel colors or white do not do as well for sun protection.”

Wear sweat-wicking material. When shopping for summer workout clothes, look for words like dri-fit, quick-drying or breathable. Researchers from Western Michigan University found that synthetic polyester shirts retain less sweat and increase ventilation during workouts. Polyester, a synthetic material made from a combination of ingredients all melted down to produce polyethylene terephthalate (PET), is hydrophobic, meaning it doesn’t absorb sweat.

And your skin isn’t the only part of your body that could use some pre-sun prep. Check out other ways you can “summerproof” your body before your next outdoor workout here!

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7 Yoga Poses for Muscle Recovery for Athletes

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For some athletes, yoga isn’t on the workout roster. In fact, for some, it’s not even on the workout brain. But yoga can be beneficial for every athlete; whether you’re into running, weightlifting, CrossFit, HIIT and more. Regardless of your training, it can assist your breathing control and muscle recovery when practiced regularly. 

When you gently increase circulation (blood flow) to muscles, as you do while moving through yoga poses and focusing on breathing, oxygen is carried with it. Being purposeful with your breathing like this can therefore help you feel energized again and ready to tackle your next workout. 

“Whether you do yoga directly following a hard workout or on a recovery day, it is a really important part of a balanced fitness routine,” Jillian McLaughlin Wirtz, certified yoga instructor, says. “The focus on breathing allows us to stretch and strengthen these muscles in a more mindful way rather than just repeating the same generic stretches.” 

A combination of restorative and challenging poses is just the right pairing to relieve your muscles after training. 

“Practicing yoga directly after a workout alleviates overall tension, expands blood flow to your muscles and ensures oxygen and nutrients energize your tissues,” Amanda Sacks, LMSW, 500-hour RYT, says. “If you have fifteen minutes after your workout, choose three to five yoga poses that you can deeply relax into.” 

Here are some poses to try as you get into practicing yoga to complement your workouts. 

7 Yoga Poses for Athletes

1. Downward Dog Pose

Downward Dog Yoga Pose
Photo: yulkapopkova / Getty Images

Begin on your hands and knees. Inhale and lift both knees up off the floor, raising your hips up to the ceiling. Exhale and push both arms straight, and push your heels toward the floor.

2. Supine Pigeon Pose

Photo: Lordn / Getty Images

This stretch is also known as the figure-4 stretch. Begin lying on your back. Inhale and cross your right ankle over your left knee. Exhale and reach both hands up to pull your left thigh into your chest. Hold, release and repeat, the second time crossing your left ankle over your right knee.

3. Bridge Pose

Bridge Yoga Pose
Photo: yulkapopkova / Getty Images

Begin lying on your back with both knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Inhale and lift your hips up off the floor. Exhale and reach with both hands toward your heels.

4. Happy Baby Pose

Happy Baby Yoga Pose
Photo: fizkes / Getty Images

Begin lying on your back. Inhale and lift both legs up with your knees into your chest. Exhale, and reach your right hand up to grab the outside of your right foot, and your left hand to hold your left foot. Move so your lower legs are perpendicular to the floor.

5. Supine Twist Pose

Photo: AzmanL / Getty Images

Begin lying on your back. Inhale and bring your right knee up toward your chest. Exhale and gently roll to your left, letting your knee fall down on your left side. Keep your left leg out straight. Place both arms straight out from your body to help you stabilize. Hold. Release, and repeat drawing your left knee up and over to your right side.

6. Legs Up the Wall Pose

Photo: Getty Images

This restorative pose allows you to rest at the same time. Lie down on your back with your hips close to the wall. Raise both legs straight up and then gently place on the wall, so they are perpendicular to your body. Inhale and slowly exhale.

7. Cat/Cow Pose

Photo: Jomkwan / Getty Images

Begin on your hands and knees. Inhale and gently arch your back and lift your chin up. Exhale, round your back and tuck your chin into your chest. 

 

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5 Nourishing Foods for Workout Recovery

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If you want to maximize your workout efforts, a key piece of the puzzle is ensuring that your body has the nutrients it needs to thrive. Making a conscious effort to fuel up with the right foods for workout recovery will help your muscles repair themselves and get stronger. 

As a general rule, eating within two hours after your workout is ideal. And if you don’t already, it’s not a bad idea to schedule your snacks and meals ahead of time just as you do with exercise. Then you’ll be sure to stick to your plan and reap all the benefits of your workouts.

When it comes to fueling your muscles postworkout, it’s not just when you eat — some foods are better than others for replenishing nutrients and getting you stronger. After logging a hard workout, repair and re-energize your muscles with the following recovery foods.

5 Foods for Workout Recovery

1. Chocolate Milk

It’s not just for kids. Research published in Medicine and Sport Science concluded that chocolate milk’s 4 grams of carbs to 1 gram of protein ratio is ideal for an after-exercise treat for your body. 

“Carbohydrates will allow your body to replenish glycogen stores and improve your next workout,” says Carol Fenwick, MHS, RDN, LD, American College of Sports Medicine–certified exercise physiologist. “Milk has protein, and carbs help that protein to be utilized for building and repairing muscle.” 

2. Golden Milk

Originally from India, this hydrating cocktail of good-for-you ingredients has many reported benefits, from reducing inflammation to decreasing aches and pains. Keely Grand, MA, certified personal trainer and wellness specialist, recommends warming up a cup of oat or nut milk to start. Then add 1 teaspoon of fresh grated turmeric, a drop of honey, fresh grated nutmeg and ¼ teaspoon of natural vanilla (optional). Finally, add 1 teaspoon of ashwagandha powder along with a dash of pepper. Sip and enjoy!

3. Peanut Butter and Jelly

Revisit your fave lunch from childhood with this postworkout oldie but goodie. Fenwick recommends a peanut butter and jelly or banana sandwich on whole-grain bread with a glass of milk because it provides the ideal after-exercise balance of nutrients. The combination of peanut butter for protein, bread for carbs, and jelly for carbs and antioxidants gives your body just what it needs. You also can swap out the peanut butter for a different nut butter, if you prefer. 

4. Yogurt and Berries

Yogurt and fresh fruit have unique benefits that make for a killer postworkout meal. Berries are packed with antioxidants, prebiotic fiber and polyphenols, which keep your gut happy. Greek yogurt has lots of protein, making it a solid choice for after lifting weights. As far as the berries go, any berry is a good berry, so you can mix and match to beat boredom. It’s a versatile snack you can have fun with.

5. Smoothies 

Smoothies are a classic postworkout snack for a reason. They’re hydrating, can be packed full of nutrients and the possibilities are virtually endless. Just be sure to use real foods, Fenwick says. They’re convenient, portable and economical, too, because most ingredients can be bought frozen or even in bulk. 

Try different ingredients like banana for carbs, flaxseed for essential fatty acids, peanut butter for protein, spinach for antioxidants or strawberries for electrolytes, just to name a few. Grand says she makes a smoothie that includes wholesome and healthful ingredients of frozen berries, half a banana, a pitted date, 1 tablespoon of almond butter, 1 cup of chopped kale and nondairy milk, with freshly ground flaxseed sprinkled on top. 

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An Unconventional Training Idea for Older Women

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A new paper in the Journal of Sports Sciences, in setting up what turns out to be a highly unusual and interesting experiment, casually drops this little fact-bomb in its opening sentence: “The cardiac phenotype of a substantial fraction of the population, i.e., mature women, is mainly unresponsive to endurance training.”

Wow. The hearts of mature women are “mainly unresponsive”?! That seems like kind of a big deal, since the health-promoting effects of endurance training are an article of faith in this column. So it’s worth starting out by acknowledging the chronic underrepresentation of women in exercise science studies. Exactly how women respond to a given training program, and how that changes with age, remains uncertain because it hasn’t been studied enough.

In fact, there’s some history to this claim. Back in 2019, two of the authors of the new study, Candela Diaz-Canestro and David Montero of the University of Calgary, published a meta-analysis looking at the extent to which men and women can raise their VO2 max, a key marker of aerobic fitness, through endurance training. Their conclusion: for a given dose of endurance training, men got a bigger VO2 max boost than women by about 2 ml/min/kg—a difference that corresponds to a 7 to 9 percent reduction in premature death.

Following that study, a group of researchers from the Mayo Clinic wrote a letter to the editor of the journal suggesting that the difference was mainly present in older women, not all women. Diaz-Canestro and Montero didn’t agree, but in 2020 they published another meta-analysis, focusing this time on how the structure and function of the heart changes in response to endurance training. Once again, they saw bigger adaptations in men than women—but this time, they did see evidence that the difference showed up primarily in older women. Something, perhaps related to the hormonal changes that accompany menopause, seems to alter how women respond to training later in life.

That’s the background that sets up the new study, from Diaz-Canestro, Montero, and Christoph Siebenmann. Their goal is to figure out a way to enable postmenopausal women to reap the full benefits of endurance training—and their suggestion is to donate blood. A typical blood donation takes about 10 percent of your blood, or 500 milliliters. This is pretty much the opposite of altitude training: you lose 10 percent of your oxygen-carrying red blood cells, and consequently your aerobic fitness drops immediately. But the additional stress on your heart, in combination with vigorous endurance training, could provide the stimulus needed to improve fitness even in postmenopausal women.

When you withdraw 500 mL of blood, about 60 percent of it is plasma, and 40 percent is red blood cells. The plasma, which is the liquid part of the blood, is easy to restore. Within 24 to 48 hours of a blood donation, you’ll have added enough plasma to bring your total blood volume pretty much back up to normal. But now your blood is diluted, because there are still fewer red blood cells to carry oxygen in any given volume of blood pumped by your heart. In women, red blood cells may not return to normal for 9 to 12 weeks. During that time, your heart will have to pump a little harder to supply oxygen for a given level of exertion—and perhaps, as a result, it will get correspondingly stronger.

For the study, 15 moderately active women between the ages of 52 and 75, all postmenopausal, agreed to have 10 percent or their blood volume removed. Then, after three weeks to allow partial recovery of blood values, they completed an eight-week endurance training protocol that involved two to five interval sessions per week on a stationary bike.

Here’s what the oxygen use (VO2) looked like at different heart rates. For each exercise intensity, the white bar shows the baseline value, the striped bar shows immediately after the blood withdrawal, and the black bar shows after eight weeks of training:

(Photo: Journal of Sports Sciences)

You can see there’s a consistent pattern: the amount of oxygen consumed at a given heart rate drops after blood withdrawal, then increases to a higher-than-baseline value after training. The increase from baseline is only significant at 80 and 90 percent heart rates, so we can’t say that this protocol increases VO2 max, but the data is certainly suggestive of a possible effect. Measurements of heart structure and function—the outcomes that, in the researchers’ earlier meta-analysis, didn’t respond to training in older women—also showed improvement in some but not all cases.

So is this a good reason to rush out and donate blood? Endurance athletes are famously (and justifiably) reluctant to part with their hard-earned hemoglobin. The idea that, rather than trashing your training, a well-time blood donation might actually give you an extra training stimulus is interesting. If this research tempts you into donating a few weeks before the start of your next big training build-up, that seems like a win-win situation for you and for society.

As for the hypothesis that blood donation will overcome the reduced training response in older women, there are a bunch of caveats to consider. First, there was no control group that did the same training without donating blood. The authors emphasize that other studies with similar training protocols in similar populations haven’t produced big changes like this, which suggests that it’s the blood donation that sparked the magic. But still, without a direct comparison, how can we know that this particular program of intervals wasn’t simply better than the training used in previous studies?

More generally, it’s hard to interpret the nuances of heart adaptations. To be convincing, you want to know that a protocol helps women stay healthier or live longer, not that, say, it subtly changes the dimensions of one chamber of the heart. That, as the researchers acknowledge, will take more and longer-term research.

Still, whether or not their proposed answer is correct, the question posed by these researchers is an important one. Those of us who dispense exercise advice tend to glibly assume that exercise is a universal prescription that benefits everyone equally. If some groups such as postmenopausal women don’t benefit as much from the usual advice—and that’s still a big if that deserves more study—then we need to explore alternative approaches.


For more Sweat Science, join me on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for the email newsletter, and check out my book Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance.

 

— From Outside Online

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6 Pool Workouts For New, Intermediate & Advanced Swimmers

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Looking to add some cross-training to your weekly workouts? Consider scheduling in a pool workout. Not only can swimming be a fantastic recovery activity for runners — especially if you log a few laps holding a pull buoy between your legs, allowing your arms to do the work while your legs float behind you — but swimming workouts are also a great way to build stronger muscles and better cardiovascular endurance without additional impact on your knees, ankles and hips.

You don’t need to be hot on Katie Ledecky’s heels to benefit from a swim workout, so don’t worry if you’re a relative rookie. As long as you’re comfortable in the water and able to swim at least a few consecutive laps, you can dive into one of the workouts below, adjusting the distances and rest times to suit your current abilities.

Get Started: Pool Workout Tips

If you’re not yet comfortable in the water, find yourself struggling to make it from one wall to the other or simply want to improve your swimming skills, Holly Neumann, U.S. Masters Swimming manager of Adult Learn-to-Swim and Foundation Programs, suggests seeking out a certified coach or instructor—ideally, one who’s educated in methods that work best for adult athletes, like those listed on the USMS Adult Learn-to-Swim website. A coach or instructor can help you build the confidence and skill you need in order to swim laps safely, and can also provide feedback on form, breathing and even be a great resource when it comes to figuring out what gear you need and where to get it.

But coaches aren’t only for those who need help staying afloat. They’re also invaluable for swimmers of all levels—and you don’t necessarily need to shell out for one-on-one instruction.

Neumann, who is also the coach of Sarasota Tsunami Masters Swimming, recommends those who are water-competent find a registered U.S. Masters Swimming Program, where, if needed, they can start in the beginner lanes. “The swimmers in the beginner lanes tend to have more time on the wall because there is more stroke instruction and more explanation of general terms and set goals,” Neumann says. “The side bonus to this added coaching is more rest, which newcomers to the sport need.”

Common Issues For New Swimmers

Brand-new swimmers also tend to have just one speed and tire out quickly, whether they’re trying to swim fast or not, Neumann observes. “But that improves quickly,” she says, “and then it’s time to start playing with speed and tempo.”

Runners in particular often deal with challenges like sinking legs, inflexible ankles and difficulty breathing regularly through their mouths. “Swim fins are a runner’s best friend,” Neumann says. A few sessions with a coach or instructor can go a long way in helping you understand how to overcome these troubles, because in swimming, efficiency is of the utmost importance, and that comes from improving your form—something that’s hard to do without feedback from the pool deck.

Finding The Right Swimming Workout For You

There are several factors to consider when choosing a swim workout.

Length

At least to start, it’s wise to begin with a time goal, like 15 or 20 minutes, rather than distance (although you will want to note how far you go in that time so you can track your improvement). As you get stronger, you can increase both how far you go each time without taking a break and how long your workout lasts overall.

Rest

Keep in mind that, unlike a long, slow running workout where you might plan to run at a steady pace for 30 minutes or more, in swimming, workouts pretty much always incorporate rest. You might swim 100 yards (which, in a typical 25-yard pool, is down and back twice), then rest a few seconds—not because you’re gassed, but because that’s how the workout is designed. In the beginning, your rest times will make up a decent percentage of your workout, but as you improve, you’ll reduce your time hanging onto the wall.

Intensity

As Neumann noted, most new swimmers have a hard time finding their different gears, so your initial workouts will likely be at more or less the same speed. As you develop a better feel for what “easy” versus “hard” feels like, you can add harder efforts and even sprints into your workouts. You’ll want to add more rest time after these efforts—just like at the track when you’re doing speedwork—but you’ll cover more ground (err, water) in less time as you become capable of increased intensity.

“Go-to sets for swim rookies include things like ladder sets, which can be easily remembered and can measure improvement over time,” Neumann says. “Maybe someone starts with a ladder swim of 50-100-150-100-50, with a minute or more of rest between each. As they keep coming to swim practice, the distances can be increased, and/or the rest decreased to track improvement.”

You can also add intensity to parts of that ladder workout by incorporating builds (for example: starting with a 100 at an easy effort and going faster so that you’re ending at maximum effort) and descends (starting at a hard effort and slowing to easy). “I also like for my swimmers to have at least one ‘second stroke,’ to alleviate boredom and prevent overuse of any one muscle group,” Neumann says.

6 Swim Workouts for Runners: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced

Use the following workouts as guides, adjusting as needed. All swimming distance measurements are in yards.

Beginner Swim Workout 1

  • Warm-up (200 easy swim, 100 kick)
  • Repeat 100s: 6 x 100, odds are easy, evens are moderate effort (or a build from easy to moderate). Rest 10 to 30 seconds between each.
  • Cool-down (200 easy swim)

Beginner Swim Workout 2

  • Warm-up (200 easy swim, 100 kick)
  • Ladder: 50, 100, 150, 100, 50. All at easy to moderate effort. Rest 10 to 30 seconds between each.
  • Cool-down (200 to 300 easy swim)

Intermediate Swim Workout 1

  • Warm-up (300 easy swim, 100 kick)
  • 4 x 50 build
  • Repeat 100s: 6 x 100, odds are easy, evens are hard effort. Rest 10 seconds after easy efforts, 20 seconds after hard.
  • Cool-down (200 to 300 easy swim)

Intermediate Swim Workout 2

  • Warm-up (200 easy swim, 100 kick)
  • 4 x 25 build
  • Ladder: 50, 100, 150, 200, 150, 100, 50. All at easy to moderate effort. Rest 10 to 30 seconds between each. (Option to add second stroke of choice on fourth 25 of each set.)
  • Cool-down (200 to 300 easy swim)

Advanced Swim Workout 1

  • Warm-up (300 easy swim, 200 pull buoy or second stroke, 100 kick)
  • 3 x 50 build, 3 x 50 descend
  • Repeat 100s for time*: 8 x 100, odds are easy, evens are hard effort.
  • Cool-down (200 to 300 easy swim)

*Your time should be very close to the time it takes you to swim that 100 at a nice, easy pace—maybe just a couple seconds more. (So, if swimming 100 yards at an easy pace takes you 1:57, you could round up to 2:00.) For hard efforts, use that same time, but note your actual time to the wall on your first hard effort and try to come as close to that as possible on every hard 100 to follow. The remaining time is your recovery before going into the easy swim. (So, even if your hard effort gets you back to the wall in 1:30, you still won’t leave for the next easy 100 until the clock hits 2:00.)

Advanced Swim Workout 2

  • Warm-up (300 easy swim, 200 pull buoy or second stroke, 100 kick)
  • 3 x 50 build, 3 x 50 descend
  • Ladder: 50, 100, 150, 200, 300, 200, 150, 100, 50 as follows (rest 10 seconds between each):
    • 50 hard
    • 100 build
    • 150 moderate, add second stroke every other lap
    • 200 moderate, with sprint every fourth 25 (so, 75 moderate, 25 sprint)
    • 300 easy to moderate, use second stroke every fourth 25
    • 200 moderate, with sprint every fourth 25
    • 150 moderate, add second stroke every other lap
    • 100 descend
    • 50 hard
  • Cool-down (200-300 easy swim)

Whether hitting the pool on your own, in a group or with a masters swim club, it’s not uncommon for new swimmers to feel a bit intimidated by swim culture. But don’t let that hold you back.

“Trust me: No one is really looking at you, but people tend to be self-conscious at the swimming pool,” says Neumann, who offers the following advice for feeling more comfortable and confident. “Ask questions about how to swim with others in a lane. Pay attention to what other swimmers are wearing, and ask them where they bought their swimsuit. Ask to test the goggles in the lost-and-found box before you spend too much on a pair you don’t like. Learn how to put on a swim cap.”

Many of these things you can research online or ask the lifeguard about if the thought of approaching the other swimmers makes you squirm, but Neumann insists that you shouldn’t be afraid to reach out. “Swim people are among the nicest around, but they spend a lot of time with their eyes underwater, so unless you speak up, they might not notice you need a tutorial.”

 

From Women’s Running

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7 Joint Health Tips for Fitness Longevity

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Joints undergo a lot of wear and tear in a life, especially if you’re an active individual. And while genetic factors certainly play a role in joint health, lifestyle is also key in keeping those joints in good working order. 

Common Joint Issues in Women

Regardless of your activity level, every woman is prone to joint issues. Some of the most common woes involve the lower extremities. “Knees are probably the most common, followed by hips, ankles and shoulders,” says Antonia F. Chen, M.D., associate professor of orthopedic surgery at Harvard Medical School and director of arthroplasty research at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Why the knees? Chen blames it on women’s anatomy, namely the angles of the bones from the hips through the knees and down to the ankles. 

Of course, there are hereditary issues, like rheumatoid arthritis, that can be difficult to prevent. But even arthritis comes with good news. “Arthritis is manageable and treatable and shouldn’t be feared,” says Sridhar Yalamanchili, PT, MSPT, physical therapist with Atlantic Spine Center in West Orange, New Jersey.

How to Keep Your Joints Healthy

So what should you be doing to keep those joints healthy and strong? Try these seven strategies:

1. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet

Food and supplements can directly impact joints, Chen says. When her patients eat an anti-inflammatory diet, they report that their joint pain is reduced. Think about foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and turmeric. And while many people tout supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate for joint health, the verdict is still out on how helpful they are.  

2. Choose joint-friendly activities

When it comes to activity, it’s a double-edged sword. “Too much exercise can lead to joint overload, which can hurt the joints,” Chen says. On the flip side, though, weight-bearing exercises are important for maintaining joint health, and activities like using the elliptical and bike riding are better on the knees than activities like running, she says. Walking on soft, even surfaces like tracks also can be better on joints than walking on asphalt or concrete. 

3. Pump some iron

You know strength training can help maintain bone density, but it also can strengthen tendons and muscles, which, along with ligaments, form the support system for your joints. “A stable support system reduces the stress on the joints during daily activities,” Yalamanchili says. For joint health, aim for two full-body strength workouts every week, focusing on compound exercises that use multiple muscle groups. 

4. Get enough sleep

As crazy as this sounds, sleep really can impact your joints. “Poor sleep can result in less energy, which may discourage activity, leading to worse joint health,” Chen says. Yet painful joints can actually affect your sleep, leading to a vicious cycle. Bottom line? Getting enough sleep will help you maintain an active lifestyle, which will keep those joints healthy. The Sleep Foundation recommends logging seven to nine hours every night. 

5. Don’t ignore joint pain

This should seem obvious, but there are women who will brush off their pain, following the adage of “walking it off.” Yet if joint pain is persistent, seek medical attention so that you prevent a worse injury, Chen advises. 

6. Modify activities when necessary

If you are starting to have issues with a joint, look for ways to modify that activity versus quitting your exercise program, Yalamanchili says. For instance, if you’re doing high-impact activities and they’re starting to get the best of you, switch to low-impact activities or swap a strength-training exercise like a step-up for a lunge. 

7. Stay active as you age

This is perhaps the most important thing you can do for your joints because motion really is lotion. “Joint health improves with appropriate cardio activity,” Chen says. 

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Hydration Tips: 5 Ways to Hydrate for Workout Recovery

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Every athlete knows that staying hydrated is crucial to optimal performance during a workout — and that doesn’t just mean chugging some water or a sports drink beforehand. Proper hydration before, during and after a workout is critical — and so is staying hydrated throughout the day. Makes sense, since water makes up 50 to 70 percent of your bodyweight.  

When it comes to getting the most out of your workouts and maintaining the energy you need to get through them, replacing the water you’ve sweat out is a key element to recovery. 

“Not drinking enough water can wreak havoc on your body,” says Keely Grand, MA, certified personal trainer and wellness specialist. Dehydration affects your fascia, too, causing unwanted aches and pains, she adds. Add in intense exercise, warm temps and humidity and your hydration efforts need to ramp up even more. But what, exactly, is adequate hydration? 

The U.S. National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine consider adequate daily fluid intake to be about 11.5 cups a day for women. Keep in mind that on the days you’re exercising, that recommendation should be your minimum. Another common rule of thumb is to drink an ounce of fluid per pound of bodyweight per day, but there are also plenty of fluid intake calculation tools (like this simple option) that can help you figure out how much you should be drinking depending on your bodyweight and activity level.

You don’t need to drink only pure water after workouts to meet your hydration goals, though. Fruits, veggies and some juices and teas also make great options. Some even boast benefits that plain water doesn’t. 

Here are the basics on five different options for postworkout hydration. 

5 Postworkout Hydration Options

1. Plain Water

You can’t go wrong with straight-up water to hydrate throughout the day and as you work out. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends drinking 2 to 3 cups of water before your workout, ½ to 1 cup of water every 15 to 20 minutes during your training sessions, and 2 to 3 cups after your workout for every pound of weight lost during your workout. Hop on the scale before and after your workout for easy tracking. 

Carol Fenwick, MHS, RDN, LD, American College of Sports Medicine–certified exercise physiologist, says water is the best hydrator overall for after workouts, but you may need to add some food, too, to replenish carbohydrates. Some quick carbs help replenish glucose, which your muscles use for fuel during exercise.

2. Tea

Grand recommends white and green teas and rose and chamomile teas. Research published in Nutrients concluded that green tea specifically has a favorable impact on fat oxidation (read: fat burning) postworkout. Green tea also has high levels of antioxidants, making it a great water-based postworkout indulgence.

3. Electrolyte Drinks

Electrolytes are the essential minerals (think sodium, magnesium, calcium and potassium, for example) your body requires to function. They’re important to consume during and after any long-duration exercise. 

“Gatorade and other sports drinks are good for aerobic activity lasting 90 minutes or longer to help replenish electrolytes and glucose,” Fenwick says. Shoot for 4 to 6 ounces every 15 to 20 minutes. She also points out that sports drinks, like Gatorade, are made so your body absorbs them quickly. If you’re not working out all that hard or if you’re just getting a quick training session in, stick with something that’s lower in calories but still contains electrolytes.

4. Tart Cherry Juice

Tart cherry juice boasts lots of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory components. The powder form or juice from concentrate are beneficial, so simply choose which is most convenient for you. Research suggests its powerful effect comes from the polyphenols in the cherry, which help improve workout recovery. One serving of 8 to 10 ounces is enough to reap the benefits.

5. Beetroot Juice

Beetroot juice, also known as beet juice, is a nutrient-packed option for preworkout and postworkout hydration. Some specific benefits of beet juice are that it’s “high in nitrates (the good kind), potassium, and other vitamins and minerals — but also low in fiber,” says Fenwick, which makes this an after-exercise winner. Researchers from several universities also found that beetroot juice accelerated recovery postworkout. About 7 to 10 ounces is sufficient. 

If you do buy pre-made juice, make sure to read the label to avoid added sugars and preservatives. If you’re going to juice beets on your own, add in apples or even ginger to up the flavor profile.  

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The One-Week Push-and-Pull Split – Oxygen Mag

Have you ever considered switching to a push-pull split? Having a day at the gym dedicated to a glorified “shoulder workout” is becoming an ancient artifact of the weight room. The solution? Push-pull. 

This methodology gets the muscles of your body working synergistically across a week of training rather than working each group on its own. The push refers to exercises that involve the chest, triceps, shoulders and quads, while the pull involves forearms, biceps, hamstrings and back. When you organize a training session in this way, you use your agonist muscles (the muscle that is contracting) while its direct opposite (the antagonist) is relaxed.

An easy example of this is the way biceps and triceps work together: While the biceps is contracting, the triceps is relaxing. Splitting muscle groups in this way prevents overtraining while still performing compound functional movements. Compound lifts are exercises that allow you to engage two or more muscle groups at the same time. This “split” allows for adequate recovery and decreases the risk of injury while also maximizing your training capacity in the gym.

Research highlights the effectiveness of multi-joint resistance training and the benefits of muscle size and strength — especially in women — to build a better physique, decrease the risk of osteoporosis and improve metabolic function (just to name a few). The push-pull split capitalizes on the body’s ability to create muscle adaption and hypertrophy (read: growth) while still allowing it to recover. 

An example of how to organize your workout on a pushing day would be to focus on chest, shoulders, quads and triceps. A pulling day would focus on back (middle, upper, lower traps and rhomboids), biceps and hamstrings. Each of these muscle groups can be trained twice per week with a total of four training days. 

In the following example, we’re working the upper body and lower body. In doing so, you will burn more calories and use compound movements.

The 4-Day Push-Pull Split

Complete the prescribed sets and reps in each routine, taking a 60- to 90-second rest between sets during all workouts.

Day 1: Push

Exercise Sets Reps
Barbell or Dumbbell Bench Press 4 6-8
Dumbbell Curtsy Lunge 4 8-10 (each leg)
Bench or Ring Dip 4 8-10
Barbell Strict Press 4 6-8
Sled Push 2 50 meters (rest as needed between sets)
Single-Leg V-Up 4 20

Day 2: Pull

Exercise Sets Reps
Barbell Pendlay Row 3 12
Prone Resistance-Band Hamstring Curl 3 20
Banded Face Pull 3 20
Dumbbell Reverse Flye 3 12
Dumbbell Hammer Curl 3 12-15

Day 3: Push

Exercise Sets Reps
Landmine Single-Arm Shoulder Press 3 12 (each side)
Barbell Reverse Lunge 3 10-12 (each leg)
Deficit Push-Up* 3 AMRAP**
Barbell Triceps Extension 3 10-12
Side-Plank Dip 3 15-second hold (each side)

*Perform with plates or with the hardest variation of push-ups you can manage. To modify, use plates or a box.

**AMRAP = as many reps as possible

Day 4: Pull

Exercise Sets Reps
Pull-Up (weighted or the toughest variation you can) 4 5-10
Barbell Romanian Deadlift 4 8-10
Chest-Supported Dumbbell Row 4 8-10
Supinated Barbell Biceps Curl 4 8-10
Hanging Leg Raise 4 6-12

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A Sneaker Designed for Women by Women

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It’s been 45 years since the invention of the sports bra, an early example of activewear designed for women. Yet for much of the sporting-goods industry, adapting men’s gear for women instead of creating women-specific gear is still the name of the game nearly 50 years later. While there are many products marketed to women, there’s a level of compromise involved for women athletes. This holds particularly true with running shoes. Under Armour recognized the gap in the market for female athletes and developed the first running shoe of its kind with a women-specific last. With the release of the brand’s Flow Synchronicity, UA has given female runners a shoe designed just for them.

Prior to the release of the Flow Synchronicity, running-shoe makers developed women’s models on a male last and modified them. But that approach missed the mark in three key ways: women’s heels are narrower than men’s, women’s arches are in a different location, and their midfoot height is generally shallower. Taking all these variables into account, UA took 3D foot scans and created a prototype with a women’s last. Then the team recruited dozens of female runners to wear-test the design. Feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Comments like “They wrap my foot better,” “I put them on, started running, and forgot I was supposed to be paying attention to them,” and “I didn’t feel like I had to sacrifice” told the UA designers they had hit the mark. 

The latest Flow Synchronicity shoe incorporates UA’s innovative signature Flow technology. Flow is designed to deliver lightweight, comfortable performance. At just 8.3 ounces, the shoe gives runners more power from less weight, with the durability to handle the miles, too. The shoe also features a knit upper, constructed to provide zonal structure and support.

When it came to aesthetics, UA wanted to create an understated, highly wearable shoe that can go from the road to the gym and work for multiple types of runners. The wear-testers ran the gamut of athletes, from Boston Marathon qualifiers to community 5K participants and even those who love boot camp and treadmill workouts. Universally, the Flow Synchronicity hit the mark. 

Under Armour understands that every foot is different and there isn’t one perfect shoe for everyone. Creating a shoe on a women’s last, however, brings women into the equation in a way they haven’t been in the past. No longer do they have to compromise—no settling for a shoe that lets the foot slide around because the heel is too big. No more discomfort in the arch because the shoe makes contact in wrong place. The Flow Synchronicity brings women to the table, appreciating the nuances between the different genders and their feet.

By talking to female runners, scanning their feet, and creating a last just for them, UAs Flow Synchronicity team has ensured that women are no longer on the outside. They are front and center, running in comfort for miles on end.


Under Armour, Inc., headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland, is a leading inventor, marketer and distributor of branded athletic performance apparel, footwear and accessories. Designed to empower human performance, Under Armour’s innovative products and experiences are engineered to make athletes better. For further information, please visit the Under Armour website.

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