7 Wonders of the Fitness World

Twas 7 nights before Christmas, when all through the land
Not a person was exercising, no workouts were planned.
The ham was carved, candy eaten without care,
10 pounds later we complain life isn’t fair.

This holiday season, before you snuggle into your bed,
Make sure to have a Holiday plan in your head.
Fitdigits is sharing the year’s best fitness tips,
To help you avoid adding winter weight to your hips.

7th Day- 7 Wonders of the Fitness World

This list is a bit different then the classic 7 Wonders of the World, which are more reserved for awe inspiring spectacles. Instead, this will be using the literal meaning of the word “wonder”. Allow me to use an antiquated literary technique, and provide the Merriam-Webster definition of the word wonder:

  • something or someone that is very surprising, beautiful, amazing, etc.
  • a feeling caused by seeing something that is very surprising, beautiful, amazing, etc.
  • something that is surprising or hard to believe

With these definitions in mind, the 7 Wonders of the Fitness World are going to be often overlooked and surprising aspects that are helpful in making sure you are in tip-top shape.

  1. Sleep– Sleep is an essential component of working out. You could be doing everything else perfectly, but without enough Zzz’s you can find that you will not make the gains you should be. For more information, check out an article on Health.com on the 11 Health Benefits of Sleep.
  2. Interval Training– Interval training should be a key component in the toolbox of anyone who is focused on Fitness. By having your heart rate alternate from high to low, you see benefits you wouldn’t otherwise, as outlined in this Mayo Clinic Article on Interval Training. Create your own custom Interval Workouts in the Fitdigits app with Custom Routines.
  3. Breakfast– I’m guessing you have heard the saying “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day”. Do you know why you have heard this ad nauseum for years now? Probably because it is true! Break the 7-9 hour fast of sleep with a balanced and nutritious breakfast, which will leave you full longer and get your metabolism going. Try oatmeal with blueberries to get lasting energy, antioxidants and more to fuel your day.
  4. Hydration– Water is one of the most overlooked fitness supplements out there. Everyone is rushing to grab the newest fad or craze from the nutrition world, but good old water still is needed and necessary for workouts and recovery. Men’s Health does a great job outlining 5 Reasons to Never Neglect Water.
  5. Recovery/Rest– Sometimes the want and need to workout can be overwhelming. You have goals that seem so far away on the horizon, and you just want to keep pushing until you reach them. However, not paying attention to your bodies recovery and overextending yourself can be a detriment to your goals. Learn more about The Importance of Recovery.
  6. Pre-Workout Meals– What you eat before a workout can go a long way towards determining how effective that workout will be. Make sure to have a meal heavy in complex carbohydrates, low in simple sugars and laden with vitamins and nutrients. A great example is an Almond Butter, Blueberry Preserves, and Banana Sandwich.
  7. Core Workouts– Core workouts are the forgotten pillar of working out. While core workouts have numerous health benefits, too often they are shrugged off as a waste of time. False! Core workouts are a, ahem, core part of any workout routine. Learn more about How Core Fitness Exercise Benefits the Entire Body.

5 Heart Rate Training Myths

The Loch Ness Monster. Bigfoot. The Chupacabra. All of these myths have been circulating since the beginning of time. Since we do not have concrete evidence either way, there is no possibility of reaching a verdict as to whether the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, or the Chupacabra actually exists. However, when it comes to myths about heart rate training, we have answers as solid as steel. Read below for some common heart rate training myths, and the truth behind them.

1. If you want to burn fat, it is best to get your heart rate as high as possible. You better be working out until you are sweatier than John Goodman’s third chin after a set of crunches in a sauna.

WRONG: This statement has about as much validity as Manti Te’o’s girlfriend. The best method for burning fat at a higher percentage is a steady, consistent workout in Zone 2 (60-69% max heart rate), the fat burning zone. This zone uniquely targets fat because fat is a slow burning fuel, so if you do a long and less-intense workout, your body will target a higher amount of fat cells then carbohydrates. While you may burn more net calories in higher heart rate zones, you will burn the highest percent of fat calories in Zone 2.

2. The best way to check your heart health is to see how far you can push yourself during a workout and how fast you can go. After the workout is over, check out how far you traveled and what time you got to truly determine if you are in good health.

WRONG: If you are physically active on a regular basis, a great way to check your heart health is by checking your heart rate recovery after an intense 10-15 minute workout. You can figure out your heart rate be either using Fitdigits iCardio’s recovery feature, or by manually figuring out your recovery. Either way, if your recovery is between 22-52 beats per minute (BPM) after a 10 minute ramped up workout, it is average. If your recovery is higher than 52 BPM your heart is very healthy, and below 22 BPM your heart is slightly older then your calendar age.

3. When it comes to Heart Rate Zones, you are fine just going with the default formula of 220-your age for max heart rate. The corresponding zones are very accurate, and you don’t need more specialized zones unless you are a serious athlete.

WRONG: I would not wish this amount of uneducated bliss on my worst frienemy. Custom heart rate zones are the key to informed workouts, which will lead to better results. Not only will custom heart rate zones make zone based training as easy as a Kindergarten spelling test, but it will also result in drastically more accurate calories burned in your workouts if you are using a fitness application. Custom zones also allow for a caloric breakdown of how many fat and carbohydrate calories burned during a workout. Complete a Fitdigits Fitness Assessment to get custom HR zones.

4. In order to become better at endurance workouts, get your Forrest Gump on and go as far as humanly possible. Try to drive your heart rate higher than James Franco was in Pineapple Express. If you are going less than ten miles a day on your workouts, might as well throw in the towel and try your hand at knitting.

WRONG: The best way to train for endurance is to workout with steady pace workouts in the Aerobic Zone, which is zone 3 (70-79%). Do not run a race distance every day because that is just asking for an injury! However, once a week try to work in an LSD workout. No, I’m not saying you should be scoping out Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds and “feeling colors” while you run, but rather a Long but Slow Distance workout, in which you run for a long distance at a slow and steady pace.

5. When it comes to working out, monotony is your friend. If you find a routine that works for you at an intensity level that feels right, make like a Carnival ship and keep cruising. If you mix things up too much you are danger of becoming dangerously spontaneous, which often results in a putrid body odor, sore hamstrings and the inability to pronounce “hospitable”.

WRONG: Interval training based on heart rate zones might as well be called the blender, because they are a great way to mix up your workouts. If you find you are constantly doing the same routine or route during workouts, try an interval workout to add a dash of spice to your exercise life. One great type of interval workouts is High Intensity Intercal Training (HIIT), or more specifically Tabata intervals. Tabata interval training is basically when you elevate your heart rate to Zone 5 (or 90-92 % of your max heart rate) for 20-60 seconds, followed by periods of shorter or equal rest. HIIT and Tabata is a great way to burn fat, or just to switch up your routine to keep you engaged!

Creating Interval Structured Workouts with Fitdigits

Whether doing HIIT or long slow intervals (start slow then taper lol), interval-based exercise has been shown to help you define the best workout to meet your goals.

Fitdigits iCardio, iRunner, iBiker and iWalker with a Pro Plus or Star Membership gives you the ability to create and customize your workout definition, getting visual audio cues and coaching through the routines. When you have a plan, this is the place for you.

Create workouts based on heart rate or pace zones – ideally created by using one of our fitness assessments. Structured interval workouts based on heart rate are a popular feature, and tend to be more efficient and correct, but many plans are often specified in distance and pace, rather than heart rate.

Managing and Creating an Interval Structured Workout

Access your structured interval workouts:

  1. In the app, at the main screen, swipe to select the activity type you would like to create the intervals. Any activity  – run, bike, walk, etc, can be chosen.
  2. Tap the activity options (gear) icon for that activity
  3. Tap Workout Routines

With the Pro Plus package, it comes with some stock routines, targeting different heart rate zones and outcomes, that make a good base for workouts.

Managing Structured Interval Workouts

Launch Routine: To launch a created routine, tap the routine name and tap Launch. Tap Edit Routine on that same screen if you want to edit it.

Edit Routine: Tap Edit in the top right of the screen. That will bring you to the creating / editing interval workout screen described below.


Creating or Editing Interval Structured Workouts

At the bottom of the list of workouts, you will see two different types of interval workouts that can be created with a variety of options. Traditional Time & Distance based, or Music based, which is a variance on time based intervals, where you can specify the length of the interval to also be the length of the song(s) you pick, to match the effort to the beat of your favorites.

Create a Heart Rate or Pace Interval Workout

  1. Tap Add at the bottom of the Workout Routines listing
  2. Tap Name and add a description of the intervals you are creating
  3. In the Zone Type, select BPM
  4. Set whether the interval will be measured by Time or Distance. If you chose to create a music based routine, it will prompt you for either a playlist or song, see below for more on Music routines.
  5. Select the Zone you would like to target for that segment
  6. To add more intervals for that series, or even add another series, repeat the above. Check out our Guide on designing fun, effective and interesting interval workouts for more on building fun and effective routines.
  7. Choose if you want to automatically start Recovery once the workout is complete, and / or to automatically End once complete.
  8. Tap Save in the upper right to save your changes.  Heart rate zone structured interval workouts

Pace Interval WorkoutsMusic Structured Interval Workouts




How Fit Are You? Take the 2 Minute Heart Rate Recovery Test

Heart rate recovery is a great way to assess your fitness level; the quicker your heart rate recovers, the more fit your heart and body is. It is one of those factors like Resting Heart Rate and Fitness Assessments that can tell you a lot about your body and fitness.

The original idea for the recovery had it’s roots in the Bruce Protocol, which basically takes a short but stressful treadmill test and was able to see a correlation between how fast the heart recovered and how fit or potentially unfit the subjects cardiovascular system.

We’ve found over the years that endurance or low effort activities have very different recovery rates. We enjoy measuring our recovery after a good hard workout, but for general informational purposes only. See below for a sample test and generalized results using the 2 minute recovery from Enhanced Medical Care.

Running the Heart Rate Recovery In-App Feature

When your workout is paused (while wearing a heart rate monitor), instead of tapping End Workout, tap Recovery.

Fitdigits will begin a 2:00 minute countdown.

Stop your activity and focus on breathing, relaxing and bringing your heart rate down. Take long (slow) deep breaths, breath through your nose and relax. Watch your recovery on the chart which will show how many beats your heart rate has slowed since the start of the recovery period.

Heart Rate Recovery

2 minute heart rate recovery

After 2 minutes, Fitdigits apps will display your recovery results including the percent of recovery by minutes. In the example, my heart rate recovered 15% or 20 beats per minute in the first minute, only halfway through recovery. By the end of the recovery, my heart rate was down to 105, a total drop of 28 BPM, or 21%. These results generally show a healthy recovery. According to the test published below, that puts me in the “Your biological age is about the same as your calendar age” category. I’ll take that, but try to improve as well.


Enhanced Medical Care Heart Rate Recovery Test

Enhanced Medical Care offers a good guide to a healthy recovery:

Age Target Zone 2-Zone 3
20-29 120-160
30-39 114-152
40-49  108-144
50-59  102-136
 60-69  96-128
 70-79  90-120
 80-89  84-112
90-99 78-104
100+ 72-96
Click here to see our rant on how off 220-Age can be for heart rate zones, and how to make them better with Fitness Assessments.

Do any exercise you want to until you hit Zone 2 through Zone 3 (60%-80%), that is your Target BPM before starting recovery. Then tap/swipe for pause, then tap Recovery.

Subtract your 2-minute heart rate from the heart rate you took immediately after exercising. The faster your heart rate recovers (or slows down ) the fitter and healthier your heart.

If the difference between the two numbers is:

< 22 BPM Your biological age is slightly older than your calendar age.
22-52 BPM Your biological age is about the same as your calendar age.
53-58 BPM Your biological age is slightly younger than your calendar age.
59-65 BPM Your biological age is moderately younger than your calendar age.
66+ BPM  Your biological age is a lot younger than your calendar age.


Want to Avoid Getting Sick? Exercise!

I came across a great article written for FRS by Rikki Keen, a Registered Dietitian and Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics. She works with NFL players to educate athletes on optimal daily fuel and hydration requirements, nutrient timing and supplementation.

Did you know that moderate exercise can actually boost your immunity from colds and flu for up to 24 hours? Further, “Exercising and maintaining a healthy weight can reduce systemic inflammation,” says Rikki, It’s important to keep exercising because after the 24 hours post workout, your immunity returns to the same levels as someone who is sedentary.

However, prolonged heavy training has the opposite affect: your immune system no longer functions at full capacity. In fact, when participating in marathons or other multi hour events, it could take several weeks for your your immune system to return to normal.

Our immune system is actually an “amazing communication network of cells, tissues, and organs that work together defending the body against attacks by ‘foreign invaders'”. Our skin and digestive track play an important role as the first defense barriers.

Rikki talks about the importance of sleep (7-8 hours each night) and fueling your workouts with the right carbohydrates and nutrients such as vitamin D, quercetin, EGCG and omega 3’s. She reinforces the importance of washing hands. She suggests drinking FRS (such as Healthy Defense) to help with fueling up and recovery.

So what’s the bottom line? Exercise regularly and in moderation. If you are really pushing yourself, make sure you are getting the essentials including sleep and diet.

Read the full article FRS® Healthy Defense™: Immune Balance.

Nutritional Tips for a Healthy Recovery Phase

23 September 2010
By USAT Coach Andrew Johnson (featured in the TrainingPeaks Official Blog)

Overtraining is often seen as pushing your body too far in training, but it can also be due to poor recovery. That is, had the athlete been more attentive to their recovery, they may not have pushed their body into that depleted state. Rather than overtraining, the athlete has actually under-recovered. This is why one of my favorite sayings as a coach is “the only thing you need to take more seriously than your training is your recovery”. This singular statement illustrates how important recovery really is.

I put recovery into two categories, micro and macro. Micro recovery is the day to day cycle of refueling and repairing your body while macro recovery refers to a period when an athlete is in need of a longer period of recovery. Poor micro recovery leads to more and longer periods of macro recovery. Basically, if you don’t pay attention to the day to day needs of your body, it will catch up with you in the end.

By now, the science of recovery has been well established. Post workout, an athlete needs to ingest a good mix of carbohydrates, proteins, anti-oxidants and vitamins and minerals. A ratio of approximately 4 to 1 carbohydrates to protein has been shown to be the most effective. Your carbohydrates should come from good sources like whole grains and fruits and vegetables. Good protein choices include almond butter, cottage cheese, nuts or Greek style yogurt. In addition to good carbohydrates, fruits provide anti-oxidants as well as vitamins and minerals. Some of the best out there are blackberries, blueberries, apples and pomegranates. One of my favorite post workout meals is quinoa (a simple whole grain that also has a full spectrum of amino acids), a mix of berries, walnuts, cinnamon (very high in anti-oxidants) and bit of honey. For those that cannot stomach whole foods after a workout, there are several good recovery drinks and shakes that will do the trick.
The second step is to make good nutritional choices throughout the day. Again, choose foods that have high nutritional values like fruits and vegetables and whole grains. There is no secret here, eat what your mother told you to! This helps to keep your body ready for the coming workout. Sound nutrition on a daily basis will help you avoid pushing your body into a deep hole.

No matter how good your daily routine might be, you will need periods of macro recovery. Usually planned for after a major race or at the end of the season, this period is also key. Since training is at a minimum, good nutrition is a major factor. Here is a fantastic article by Joe Friel, that breaks down the essential nutritional needs of your body during the different phases of training.

If you are still in training season and the recovery cycle is a planned period in your training plan, your nutrition should essentially remain unchanged. Your body is still in need of quality calories to re-build itself. This is not the time to start eating junk food or gorging on pizza. Macro recovery nutrition only differs in that you may need to add more calorie dense foods to your diet. If you have lost significant weight due to heavy training, you may need to add some foods you haven’t eaten in awhile.

While training for an Ironman a few years back, I was told that I was losing too much weight. The solution was to calorie dense foods back into my diet. I found the healthiest options I could, this meant adding cheese to my salads, eating more nuts, peanut butter and I switched to regular butter. I even ate organic pop tarts and while not the healthiest thing, they provided me with much needed calories.

Athletes also need to take a break at the end of the season, or after a major race. This period is typically longer than if the athlete were in season and allows the athlete to fully recover from a summer spent racing. Many athletes will start by digging into the foods they avoided during training. The ice cream, candy and soda suddenly come back into your routine. I believe this is as much mental as it is physical. Having avoided sweets or cheese for so long, your mind is somehow comforted by eating these foods. I know what it’s like to crave a burger or pizza for weeks and then have it placed in front of you after a race. It’s a great feeling because you’ve earned it. While I believe that you have to give into this, it has to be in moderation. So go ahead and indulge some, just don’t do it for every meal of the day. You should still try to eat healthy and limit your intake of less than healthy food. I know that if I’m going to go out and have that pizza I’ve been craving, I will have a big salad at lunch to get in some good calories. A small measure of restraint and forethought goes a long way in avoiding major weight gain.

Nutrition is a key element to performance. It provides you with the means to repair your body and stay healthy. Following a few simple guidelines will help you train longer and recover faster. If you find yourself in need of some help with nutritional planning, check out the plans available through TrainingPeaks. It is a super convenient way to get expert nutritional advice every day. As you know, one of the features of the TrainingPeaks tool is the delivery of daily emails. Contained in those emails are your workouts as well as any meals you might have planned. It is a seriously easy way to stay nutritionally balanced during the different phases of training as well as during the all-important recovery phase.

AJ Johnson is a USA Triathlon and USA Cycling Certified Coach based in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. He has worked with D3 Multisport for the past seven years coaching athletes of all levels and abilities. He has completed 13 Ironman races, including three Ironman World Championships. Along with triathlon he also competes in mountain bike races, ski events, biathlons, cyclocross and any other event that intrigues him. You can follow him on his blog and find out more about his coaching.

Read the original post at TrainingPeaks.