Category Archives: Exercise

Enjoying the Journey of Marathon Running

…the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon pushed my physical and mental limits

BY ADAM O’MEARA

Running a marathon isn’t easy. Whether you’re the winner of the race or coming across the finish line in five hours, it will push your physical and mental limits.

And those physical and mental limits is what the sport of running is all about for me. Running keeps me goal-oriented and focused, both on enjoying the journey towards achieving my race goals and demonstrating my ability to focus mentally on daily tasks.

That emphasis on focus is particularly important for me. Without exercise I can begin to exhibit symptoms of the broadly used term of ADHD, which I was diagnosed with in grade 12 of high school. I personally consider this “condition” a blessing as I attribute my energy, zest for life, and never-ending curiosity (attributes of many who are placed into this personality classification) to it.

I work in the natural health and supplement industry and know for certain that physical activity is shown and proven to be a necessity if you wish to live a healthy, happy and long life. Albeit training for marathons puts highly unnatural amounts of stress on the body.  As a response to this big stressor, I am very careful with what foods I put in my body and I rely on high quality natural supplements to help mitigate cellular damage and keep my immune system strong (I am proud to serve as an Ambassador of PURICA and represent the wellness company on Vancouver Island).

On the day of the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon – October 7th – it was cold and rainy in Victoria. Yet as the nearly 8,000 participants lined up to partake in either the 8k, ½ marathon or full marathon events, I did not sense any disappointment or resentment to Mother Nature. The energy at any sporting event is undeniable and it feels good, really good, to be part of it.

I looked to my left and to my right and saw people of all ethnicities, shapes and sizes who were out there for their own reasons. But once that air-horn sounded and we all began our race we each shared one goal – get to the finish line as fast as possible… And then to the pancake breakfasts, Thanksgiving dinners and (for me) a couple cold, locally brewed beers.

Training had gone well leading up to this event.  Back in April I had employed the services of a Canadian running legend and coach, the one and onlyJim Finlayson. With his direction I was able to maximize the available training time and get my body into good enough shape to have a shot at my lofty goal of 2:35:00 for the full marathon.  I had a previous PB (Personal Best) of 2:44:00 for the open marathon and a couple sub-3 hour marathons in the 16 Ironman triathlons I had completed.

With all my running and endurance sport experience, doing an open marathon didn’t seem that intimidating until about 48 hours before the race. At that time all the usual pre-race nerves, excitement, anxiety and rivers of emotions started flowing through my veins, and into my soul.  It is impossible to explain the pre-race feelings you get when you have prepared to your best potential, but it is safe to say that it is a magical feeling that never gets old.

Getting your running mileage up to certain thresholds is important, and I was able to log quite a few 100+ km weeks. This gave me confidence.  And I had nailed some key sessions in the 6 weeks before the event. Upon reflection before the race I found beautiful peace of mind in the fact that I had really done all I could in training, and armed with this confidence I was ready to race to my potential on the day.

About one mile into the race I settled into my own pace and allowed the eager group just ahead of me to drift away. Proper patience is critical to success in any distance but the longer the event gets the more important it becomes. The ultimate goal pace was 3:40/km and this is right where I sat through almost 30 kilometres. Fuelling the body properly with exogenous carbohydrates sources is also something that can’t be ignored at this distance. My fuelling was on track, and stayed on track for the entire event.

At about 19 km I had hooked up with two runners from Seattle and we worked well together for about 15 km. At that time I made a small miscalculation and ran past the table that my third bottle of energy drink was on, I had to turn around and lost about 15 seconds, which is just enough to snap the tie I had with the other runners. For the last 8 km I was all alone. My focus was still good and my physical strength was not yet fading. It is typically the last 10 km of a marathon that really start to hurt, but this is no foreign feeling to me and so I was ready and willing to push on through.

Just before the 39 km point my body started to indicate it was reaching its limit. My quadriceps were both showing early signs of cramping.  When a major muscle group like this starts to threaten to cramp it is a real problem.  The only thing to do is to shorten the stride length, listen intently to your body and go into survival mode in order to not seize up completely and have to walk.

Muscles seizing up due to fatigue and/or inappropriate levels of calories and electrolytes is a horrible feeling that I am familiar and try to avoid at all costs since walking or limping is much slower than running an adjusted pace. I won’t forget that 39 km marker for a while as it was right at that point that my quads packed up and went home early. I drew on my years of experience and was able to manage the damage enough so that I could continue to run, albeit slowly.

The finish line never gets old, and at this race you can’t actually see the finish line until you are about 150m from it, so when you come around that last slight bend and see it the elation sets in and all the discomfort that has infested your body disappears…until you cross the line and stop running. Then, it really hurts for a while.

I knew I had done everything I possibly could have on the day, and so my first real attempt at running an open marathon was an overwhelming success.  The typical feeling of “I will never do that again” was there, but I was in a more peaceful mindset at this finish line than I have ever been in the past. When I competed in triathlon and there was prize money on the line I was almost never satisfied with my performance (even if I had won the race). But as I age and mature I have started to enjoy the journey more since I know it won’t last forever.

I would like to leave you with two last thoughts:

  1. It does not matter how fast or slow you are, the important thing is that you set a goal (in any physical activity) and enjoy the journey to that goal;
  2. Each event in which you participate allows you to set a positive example for the youth and helps build your community.

Train smart!

PURICA ambassador triathlete Adam O’Meara wins Elk Lake Triathlon

Our athlete ambassador and territory manager Adam O’Meara won the Elk Lake Triathlon on August 6th. The “standard” or “Olympic” distance event consisted of a 1.5km swim, 40km bike and 10km run. Adam exited the water right on the heels of the first two swimmers, but once on two wheels he quickly took over the race lead and never looked back. Adam’s race splits of 21:08 swim / 59:46 bike / 37:07 run brought him to the finish line just 7 seconds over the 2 hour mark.

Here are Adam’s thoughts on the event. “It is quite the treat to get to wake up in your own bed on race morning, but I was still up at 4:30am to take care of everything in a stress free manner. It took my body a while to warm up but once I got things firing I felt like I was ready to race strong. I led the swim for about the first half, whereupon another swimmer came up beside me, I decided to allow them to take a turn leading so I could relax a bit. I came out of the water in 3rd place right behind the lead swimmer and Karen Thibodeau (a local female athlete who is a great swimmer). One of my main goals for the day was to have a really solid bike, and I felt I had prepared properly to do that. I felt strong from start to finish on the bike and then as I started the run my legs were feeling good – relatively speaking of course! I didn’t know how far behind 2nd place was but I had a pretty good idea since there are stretches on this course where you can look back and see a distance of about 2 minutes. As always there was some rough patches sprinkled in throughout the day but overall I was very strong and very happy to have taken the win. It was made all that much better because my wife, son, daughter, mother and sister were all there to cheer me on and see me at the finish line. Something I have learned over the years is that it is very important to celebrate your successes, so for the rest of the day I definitely was in a great state of mind as we all enjoyed some awesome family time…… and the cold beers tasted extra good!”

This win was preceded by a 3rd place finish at the Great White North Triathlon on July 2nd and a 1st place finish at the Nanaimo Triathlon on May 28th. Adam has completed over 15 Ironman distance events, many shorter distance races and he is no stranger to the podium. This father of two is passionate about living life to the fullest. When he is not working, spending time with is family or training he enjoys preparing healthy food for is family and himself.

Go Big & Go Home

Building muscle fast can be easy as one, two, three, if you go big and go home.

Here is an effective muscle building circuit that works multiple muscle groups in the least amount of time. One exercise targets your lower body and the Push-Pull exercises build your upper body.

The Workout:

  • Do 8-12 repetitions.
  • Do 3-6 rounds
  • Rest for 75 seconds after each exercise

The Circuit

Barbell Squat:

How To: Set your feet shoulder width apart. Hold bar across your upper back with overhand grip. Initiate the movement by first pushing your hips back, then bend your knees and lower your body as deep as you can. Drive your heels into the floor keeping your torso as upright as possible.

Pull up:

Trainer’s Tip: The difference between a chin up and a pull up is for a chin up, you use an underhand grip and for a pull up you use an overhand grip. Incase you’re wondering, a chin up is a little easier because it uses more biceps to assist with the range of motion. Because of this you can switch between pull-ups and chin up to target your biceps and back.

Barbell Shoulder Press:

What & Why: Shoulder presses target front and middle deltoids and triceps while activating the upper traps, rotator cuff and serratus anterior. Making it a great mass building exercise and improves the stability and mobility of the shoulders.

How To Combat Feeling SAD

During the winter months we tend to eat more sleep more and experience more ups and downs during the shorter days. Winter can cause some people to experience weight gain and a lack of energy but it can also bring on a form of clinical depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Research by the Mayo Clinic reports SAD is diagnosed more often in women than in men, but men may have more-severe symptoms. Young people have a higher risk of winter SAD than older adults. Living far from the equator and having family history of SAD or other forms of depression may increase your risk of seasonal affective disorder.

Symptoms specific to winter-onset SAD, sometimes called winter depression, may include:

  • Cravings for sweets and starchy foods
  • Weight gain
  • Heavy feeling in the arms or legs
  • Noticeable drop in energy
  • Chronic Fatigue
  • Oversleeping
  • Difficulty concentrating at work and at home
  • Irritability, Constant agitation and anxiety
  • Avoidance of social situations
  • Increased sensitivity to social rejection
  • Hopelessness (including suicidal thoughts)

Don’t brush off these seasonal feelings as simple “winter blues” that you have to tough out or just shake off. Here are some effective remedies to keep your mood, motivation and movement up throughout the winter.

  • Exercise regularly, even in cold weather. A brisk walk outdoors can improve mood and help combat weight gain.
  • Physical activity helps relieve stress and anxiety.
  • A healthy diet rich in Vit D, E and B
  • Light therapy is a common treatment for winter SAD. Light box therapy mimics outdoor light and can improve mood in as little as two weeks.
  • Decreased sunlight hours can lead to a Vitamin D deficiency. Supplementing your diet with a high quality Vitamin D3 supplement can help regulate mood.
  • Mind-body therapies that may help relieve depression symptoms include: Acupuncture, yoga, meditation, Guided imagery and Massage therapy

It’s normal to have some days when you feel down. But if you feel down for several days or weeks at a time and you can’t get motivated to do activities you normally enjoy, be sure to see your doctor.

Winter Lifestyle Practices

Winter is the season with the least amount of light, coldest temperatures and very skin drying conditions indoors with furnace heaters etc. Your skin might need more moisture and your body might crave more sleep to keep a healthy glow. Waking up in the dark to go to work and then not having time in the sun after work can create a natural tendency to feel introverted and can trigger feelings of depression or you might naturally want to eat warm, hearty comfort foods. To prevent hibernation pounds from creeping on this winter season here are some Winter Lifestyle Practices to help your health radiate!

  • Stay hydrated and add warming spices such as ginger, cloves and cinnamon to your herbal teas and recipes rather than sugary lattes or dehydrating caffeinated beverages.
  • Increase your fat intake slightly with healthy essential fatty acids found in avocado, raw nuts, fish or chia seeds to nourish supple skin and provide a grounding feeling during the dark cold months.
  • Incorporate more root vegetables such as, yams, pumpkin, squash or sweet potato rich in beta-carotene that will keep skin nourished and bright from the vitamin A conversion.
  • It’s tempting to curl up and not want to move when it’s cold outside, but the combination of dark days, cold temperatures and non-activity is the perfect combo to weaken immune function and contribute to depression. You must stay active! There are thousands of great DVD’s, online programs and apps that you can do at home to avoid the cold and still honor your workout time.
  • If you are limited to the amount of sunlight exposure I suggest taking a high quality Vitamin D3 vitamin, such as the Vegan D3 gummies by PURICA to help keep immune function string, balance moods and maintain healthy bones.
  • Honor your body’s natural tendency to want to stay in and sleep more. A nice relaxing evening in, sipping on some warm Effervescent Magnesium while enjoying a hot bath will help support muscle relaxation, improve your quality of sleep and increase your overall level of wellbeing.

Prime Time IT (Internal Talk)

When you want to achieve optimal fitness success, you need some daily Prime Time to condition your Internal Talk.  What I mean by “prime time” is you need mental preparation time to set your intention for the day and insure your internal talk supports your set goals.

The first thing to do during prime time is identify any self-defeating words or labels you use to describe yourself. These can be words like lazy, fat, or weak. Or they can be limiting belief statements like, “I’m never going to get fit” or “I won’t ever be able to keep up with these healthy habits”, or a very common one, “ I hate my body. “ Dig deep and be honest to discover what self-prophesying internal talk you’ve been trapping yourself with. This step still applies to you even if you’re already fit because we all can create imaginary ceilings that can leave us with “trouble spots” or unconsciously stuck.

Step two is; identify and derail the scenarios that trigger the negative internal talk. For example, if you go to bed saying “ I can’t be a morning person” and you set your workout time to be a six am sweat session, the chances of you fulfilling the self-defeating statement, “I’m never going to get fit” is pretty high. Your subconscious mind is working 24/7, which is why you need some prime time to recondition your intention.

Step three of Prime Time is where you change IT! Changing your internal talk from the thoughts that have been keeping you stuck to ones that perpetuate positive change is how you convince your body to do a workout, even when you don’t “feel” like it.  This can be as simple as replacing the word can’t with can the moment it’s trying to leave your lips. This little swap transforms the statement “ I can’t be a morning person” to “I can be a morning person.” After a couple weeks of Prime Timing your IT, you will build the new positive belief  “I am a morning person.”

If you don’t think such a simple change can create the change you crave, I challenge you to fully commit to applying your new positive self-talk to your daily walk. That’s right walk the talk and refuse to let a bad day change your prime time perspective. Take control of your subconscious and deliberately choose your thoughts. Be intentional with your words and relentless with your actions. Refuse to let your potential life be buried and let your optimized self shine!

The Best Workout For a Crowded Gym

Navigating through the gym during prime time can be a nightmare! This workout is designed to build muscle, burn fat and ensure you won’t have to wait inline for a piece of equipment at the gym.

The only equipment you’ll need is one pair of dumbbells so you won’t even have to change the amount of weight you use as you move from one exercise to the next. As you get stronger week-by-week you can increase the weight of the dumbbells used for the entire workout routine. This routine is designed to take a rest day following the session.

The Workout:  Do 4 sets of 10 reps. Take 60 seconds rest between sets.

Dumbbell Step up: Holding dumbbells at arms length at your side. Stand in front of a step or bench that is high enough that when your foot is on top your knee is bent 90 degrees. Pressing the heel of your foot into the step, push up until your leg is straight and you are standing on one leg at the top of the bench. Lower your body back down to the floor. That’s one rep. Complete 10 reps per leg.

Neutral Grip Dumbbell Row: Grab your dumbbells, bend at the knees and hips, and lower your torso until it’s almost parallel to the floor. Keeping your core abdominals tight and spine neutral, let the dumbbells hang at arm’s length from your shoulders, palms facing behind you. Bend your elbows and pull the dumbbells to the sides of your torso, pause at the top of the range of motion, then slowly lower the dumbbells.

Offset Thumb Grip Dumbbell Curl: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, engage your core, grab a pair of dumbbells and let them hang at your sides. With your palms facing forward, extended each thumb to touch the outside head of the dumbbell. This forces the biceps brachia to work harder to keep your forearm rotated outward as you curl the weight. Without moving your upper arms, bend your elbows, and curl the dumbbells as close to your shoulder as you can. Pause, then slowly lower the weights back to the starting position.

Alternating Shoulder Press and Twist:  Hold dumbbells next to your shoulders with your elbows bent and palms facing each other. Rotate your torso to the right as you press the dumbbell in your left hand up diagonally, straightening it above your right shoulder. Pivot the left foot and keep your abs braced as you rotate your torso to prevent injury to your lower back. Reverse the movements back to starting position then repeat sequence in the other direction to target your right shoulder.

How to Master Your Weight and Build Health…

…Without Feeling Overwhelmed.

When you think about getting fit, eating healthy or how to find time to work out in your already over stressed day it’s easy to quickly feel overwhelmed.

This is when many people default to fad diets and quick fix promises. Having a perfect exercise and diet plan without applying the principles leaves you full of frustrated wishes.  Having a perfect exercise and diet plan and following it for thirty days, two months or twelve weeks will work until it doesn’t. Then you’re left feeling more frustrated and probably a little heavier than when you started.

You might ask yourself; where do I start? How do I begin? What’s my first step?

You start and finish with your habits.

“First we form habits, then they form us!” Rob Gilbert, Australian chemist

The key to effectively managing your weight is repeating the right things in the right way to achieve the right results. The most effective approach to building the body you desire is to build healthy habits that will equip you with a system to grow above and beyond what you set out to achieve.

The conscious mind gets you started. However it’s the unconscious mind that makes you successful long term. Building healthy routine behaviors that are so natural you don’t need to give them much thought is how to transform your mind and body.

“Weight isn’t the problem it’s a symptom. Weight loss isn’t the solution it’s the outcome of having healthy habits.” MT

We all know fad diets and quick fix promises don’t lead to lasting results. It’s not about changing your whole life overnight. Small changes build big results when you consistently commit to practicing them. Habits are built one thought, decision, and action at a time.

Here is a checklist to help you make a new healthy habit:

  1. Decide on a goal that you would like to achieve for your health.
  2. Choose a simple action that will get you towards your goal, which you can do, on a daily basis.
  3. Plan when and where you will do your chosen action. Be consistent: choose a time and place that you encounter every day of the week.
  4. Every time you encounter that time and place, do the action.
  5. The more you do it, the easier it will be.  Within 10 weeks you should find you are doing it automatically without even having to think about it.
  6. Congratulations, you’ve made a healthy habit!

“Rise and grind?” or “Sleep in and win!”

If you are a motivated person, especially when it comes to exercise then your choice expression from the title is likely quite obvious.  I am an early bird by nature and I love being out in the early morning for my training sessions.  And for many years (10+) I have always prioritized my workouts over that extra 30-120 minutes of sleep.  But recently I listened to an episode from my favourite podcast – Sigma Nutrition Podcast – and it really struck a chord with me…… sometimes we need a reminder to put us back in check with things we know we should be doing.

I know that sleep it important for overall health and athletic performance so I have always tried to prioritize sleep, but often life gets in the way and so I rise and grind at the crack of dawn (or before) to get my workouts in.  I have a passion and hunger that almost can’t be satisfied when it comes to training hard, so it is never a question of whether or not I get up to do the workout, it’s just a question of how much less than 9 hours of sleep I get before I rise.  I say 9 hours because I know for me that that 9 hours is a golden number, if I can hit that I feel fantastic (relatively speaking) even in the heaviest training periods.

What does the science say?  Let’s start with a biggie – “the major metabolic perturbations accompanying sleep deprivation in humans are an increase in insulin resistance and a decrease in glucose tolerance.” (VanHelder T, 1989 Apr).  When carbohydrate metabolism is interfered with the negative effects abound for both high end athletes and the general public, some issues that can result are weight gain, decreased energy and lower power output.  Oxygen consumption, heart contractility and cardiac output can also be affected by the effect that sleep deprivation has on our thyroid – TSH is increased and if this becomes chronic it is problematic (Mullington MJ, 2009).  Furthermore, notes from one study conclude that response to muscle strength, aerobic and anaerobic performance capability were not affected with 30-60 hours of sleep deprivation, but time to exhaustion and rate of perceived exertion were both negatively affected (VanHelder T, 1989 Apr).

One of the next systems in line to get negatively affected would be the immune system.  And being sick can further inhibit sleep quality and quantity.  It quickly becomes clear that not getting enough sleep can have a snowball effect leading to issues that decrease the quality of our day to day lives.  Now, if we circle back to the title of this article we can start to see how anyone with athletic goals needs to prioritize their sleep.  For me this has meant actually planning in days where I can get 9-9.5 hours of sleep.  By planning it in I mentally accept it ahead of time, so when I wake up at 5:15am on my sleep in days I can silence the devil on my shoulder and go back to sleep.

I am not advocating people sleep in to the point where it affects other aspects of their lives.  But I am very much in favour of going to bed early enough that 8-9 hours is realistic and practical.  As an elite level, working athlete with a family I can’t always get 9+ hours of sleep, that is the reality.  But here are some things that I recommend to help you get enough high quality sleep on a regular basis:

  • Change your schedule (and frame of mind perhaps) so that you are actually in bed and ready to fall asleep at a decent time.
  • Take a magnesium glycine (aka bisglycinate) supplement 20 minutes before bed in a dose large enough (200-500mg) to calm your neuromuscular and musculoskeletal systems
  • Keep your cortisol in check by:
    • striving to minimize the life stressors that are out of your control
    • looking for supplements such as ashwagandha that help regulate cortisol production
  • Practice good sleep hygiene:
    • make sure your room is as dark as possible
    • lower your thermostat to as cool as possible while still feeling comfortable
    • avoid caffeine later in the day (subjective)
    • avoid watching tv or looking at your computer screen in the 60-90 minutes before bed*
    • consider favouring complex carbohydrates (over fat) at dinner time if you have trouble falling asleep
    • don’t perform intense exercise in the hours leading up to bed time
  • Keep your immune system strong with a very healthy diet and the strategic use of whole food supplements such as medicinal mushrooms

Consistency is the key with any physical pursuit and/or with achieving great health and longevity, and this includes getting enough quality sleep on a regular basis.  If you think you aren’t getting enough sleep and/or your quality of sleep may be poor than do your best to make it a priority to fix it!  I assure you it will be an eye opener 😉 when you start to feel the benefits of meeting your body’s sleep needs.

In good health,

Adam

*If you must use your electronics before bed then it is a good idea to install a program such as f.lux (PC) or Twilight (androids) that will block out the spectrums of light that interfere with your brains ability to produce serotonin.

Your Legs: From Good to Great

Legs are obviously an important body part. First of all, they help us move around and make the most of the life around us. Secondly, they’re prominent features of our overall physique.

With both in mind, walk these four steps to great legs:

Warm it up

Make sure you warm up before doing weighted leg exercises. Getting the blood flowing with a brisk walk or jog on the treadmill for 5-10 minutes with some fascial mobility stretching will get the range of motion primed before your first working set. This approach will help to prevent injury.

Variety Show

There are various muscle groups in the lower body. This means it’s important to vary the type of exercises, foot positioning, reps and sets that you do to stimulate all the muscle fibers and keep your body guessing. For example, when doing squats, place your toes parallel on your first set and then toes out in a plié position to target the hamstrings, glutes, adductors and quads on a different plain for your second set. Muscle development happens by having to adapt to a stimulus so mix it up and you’ll stimulate greater shape to legs.

Recovery

If you want to have nice strong, lean legs, you’ve got to lift heavy and support muscle growth to smooth out and burn access body fat. To do this, you’ve got to have a good nutrition plan to help optimize recovery and shape your results.  A simple 300-400 calorie cutback per day, if needed, can help burn off an extra five pounds in a month and reveal some great leg lines.

HIT the Cardio

When you hit the treadmill, intensify your results by jumping off every 3-5 minutes and do 30-60 seconds of pop squats, scissor lunges or deadlifts for your 3-5 rounds.

When you increase the strength and endurance of your legs, it makes it easier to live a more physically active lifestyle and you burn more calories overall and may indeed be a secret to staying trim.