Fiber Content: Cardio for the Winter Season

As the seasons change, so do your options for physical activity and training; gyms and treadmills start to fill up and workout times and space become a premium.

In order to make the most out of late fall, winter, or early spring training, flexibility within your routine is a surefire way to ensure consistency.
I have to admit I am stubborn and religiously stuck in my exercise routine, and anything making me deviate from my normal daily physical activity plan is an annoyance. To combat this, it would be ideal to develop multiple workout options.

The ability to develop a weekly plan shows forethought and commitment to increasing health and fitness over the winter months. The following will outline some general training options that can be performed in the University Center’s fitness facilities.

As the weather starts to turn, most people tend to gravitate toward the treadmills. Treadmill training produces nearly the same energy expenditure as running at a particular intensity, which is why most competitive runners train with them.

A challenging alternative to regular treadmill training, fartlek training has been practiced for years by cross country and track and field athletes to break up the monotony. The concept behind fartlek training is to vary the intensity and distance at random and various times throughout a predetermined training distance or time (e.g. 3 miles or 60 minutes).

If you were performing this on the city streets of lovely Pittsburgh, you might start out by jogging down Forbes Avenue toward Squirrel Hill. Once you got to Murray Avenue, you might take a right and increase intensity for a block or two until you reach your next milestone and once again either decrease or increase intensity. Look for street signs or certain markers to help you pace yourself.

Indoors, this becomes tricky. Start out with a time or distance of your choice based on your previous training experiences, such as 30 minutes. Begin with an easy pace to elevate the heart rate and the core body temperature. Concentrate on your surroundings to take the place of outdoor markers: Watch the people around you or television.

After about 5–10 minutes of easy jogging, start your fartlek training based on your normal habits. Pick a piece of equipment near you that you can easily watch out of the corner of your eye, and each time a new person uses the equipment, vary your speed or the inclination of your treadmill through the full workout. For the TV, try varying the speed or inclination every commercial break or scene change. Keep it fun, and don’t get caught at a speed or inclination that you cannot handle and injure yourself.

This is a great option for people who experience lower back or knee pain during running. The elliptical is second to using the treadmill for energy expenditure. With the elliptical, you can also perform modified fartlek training using the same protocol as the treadmill. Also, a way to spice up this option would be to vary the direction of the movement.

Most people use an elliptical like they would use a treadmill — by putting one foot in front of the other.

This movement pattern is identical to the movement patterns seen during walking or running, hip flexion followed by knee flexion, and will recruit the respective muscle groups (illioposas and quadriceps).

Try changing up the movement patterns and start the motion with hip and knee extension. This will primarily engage the posterior muscle groups, which tend to be hard-to-hit areas. The muscle groups involved in hip and knee extension are the hamstrings and the gluteal muscles (gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus).

During a typical 30–45 minute cardio session, try changing up the direction every 10 to 15 minutes to work both muscle groups and to keep you interested.

The next edition of “Fiber Content” will expose you to other cardiovascular options to keep you engaged and undeterred because of overcrowded facilities. Exercise options to be discussed include stationary/spinning bikes, indoor rowers, stair climbers, and swimming. Do not forget to integrate static and PNF stretching into your daily physical activity plan.

As with all exercise, before you start, consult your physician to gain medical clearance.

Please email me if you have any questions.