How Exercise Boosts Brain Power + Week of Smart Workouts

Exercise is a smart choice for maintaining physical health and it also plays a role in promoting overall happiness and well-being. But, can exercise make a person more intelligent? Probably so say sports scientists from Finland who recently published some surprising findings on how the type and intensity of exercise may have a bearing on brain power?

Find out the best form of exercise for a brain boost. Yes, some workouts can make you not on stronger, but smarter!

The study compared pitted moderate-paced running, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and weight lifting against each other to observe how these various forms physical exercise can increase hippocampal neurogenesis (e.g. the creation of new brain cells) in an already mature brain. The test subjects – rats! The running rodents were left to run on their cage wheels (a moderate jog, some up to several miles a day) with free will while the HIIT group was given a daily 15 minute regimen of repeated strenuous effort sprinting with jog recovery. And, the weight-lifting rodents climbed walls with little weights attached to their tails as a sedentary control group lounged around and watched. I laugh just thinking about this! mouse-lifting-weight

Whether mouse or man, it appears that the winning exercise for long-term brain health may simply be moderate running or “jogging” and, by my semi-educated extrapolation, other similar “aerobic and sustained” activities like biking, swimming and brisk walking.  It seems wheel-jogging rodents had the most vigorous rates of new brain cell growth, significantly higher than the sedentary, lay-around rats. The hightailing HIIT group had some brain cell growth, but not as much as the aerobic joggers, with researchers hypothesizing that physical stress impedes neurogenesis. Interestingly, the resistance-trained rats were no different brain-wise at the end of the study – which keeps the status-quo on “muscle head” jokes!

Exercise is not only great for your health, but can make you smarter! Find out what type and intensity of workout will give you the best brain boost!

Seriously though, all forms of exercise are beneficial for the body. Just like variety in diet is important for optimal health, so is mixing up the way you move. While jogging or easy running may boost brain cells, lifting weights strengthens muscles, bones and tendons, helping to improve every day work capacity.  And, both resistance training and HIIT up the body’s metabolism, one of the keys to keeping a lean silhouette.

I think trail running and obstacle course races like Spartan are a great way to add “extra” to simply running – a well-rounded athlete is a smart athlete, too!

Below are some of my favorite running, HIIT and other workouts — pick your favorites and get strong, get smart!

 

 

Here are a week of workouts to get stronger and smarter:

  1. 20 Minute Kickboxing Workout to Kick Monday in the Face
  2. You Got Mad “Ups” Body Weight Workout
  3. Boom! Med Ball Workout
  4. Trail Run Tabata
  5. Fun Faster 800m-Lover Workout
  6. Sayonara Sprint Partner Run Workout 
  7. Soccer Strong Workout – – also great for OCR Training

What is your favorite “type” of exercise to do? Do you mix it up, or single sport? Ever feel smarter after jogging (haha)?  Please share in the comments — XOXO, Jennifer

Running and Jumping for Joy About Compression Socks + #Giveaway

Jennifer Fisher TheFitFork.com  Jump Rope

I am a huge fan of compression socks and am hosting a giveaway for a really fun pair (of winner’s choice) at the bottom of post.  I wear this type of knee sock for nearly every race and workout and also on those work days when I’m standing for lengthy periods of time at an event expo, teaching cooking classes or otherwise running around. In fact, I’ve found that on those days when I do have to stand up all day, I still have enough spring in my step later in the evening to fit my training in or going around with the jump rope in a pair of Polka Dot Compression Socks (as above).

I never go overboard - haha!I’ve written quite a few posts about compression socks in the past (like this one about compression and running-CrossFit-yoga, so I hesitate to rehash everything – but the basic ideas is that the compression in socks (which usually starts the strongest in the foot or ankle and then moves up the calf), keeps the blood flow from slowing and giving you that lethargic, swollen, dead-leg feeling.  I like to call this squeezing, “happy hugs for your feet” – it’s doesn’t really feel as much “tight” as it does “embraced.”   Anyway, this ‘hugging” encourages better circulation and, in turn, legs will feel more energized, less achy and heavy. Some doctors even suggest compression socks may help to prevent varicose and spider veins. Oh how I wish stylish compression socks were available during my pregnancies, as I had vein problems quite bad and was forced to wear thick, full-length compression hose in an awful “suntan” color” – I was quite the sight to behold.

bright life go logoBut, today there are so many fashionable choices in compression socks that don’t sacrifice any of the function. BrightLifeGo.com is a great online shop that features a wide range of compression sock brands that will help you put your best foot (and leg) forward! The carry lots of great brands like CEP, Zensah and Top & Derby — of course, my favorite brands is Vim & Vigr – I am a very enthusiastic (and official) ambassador for Vim & Vigr products. I am actually wearing a pair right now as I type this up (which reminds me, while I wear compression for my active pursuits, they also help keep things circulating when sitting all day at a desk or on a plane).

vim vigr compression sock collage

VIM & VIGR socks are definitely do not have that elderly vibe that compression socks of yore had – these beauties are designed with rich colors, timeless patterns, and just enough sass to satisfy my funky style. Look at some of my favorites in the collage above! Every time a wear a pair (and I never keep them hidden under pants!) I am always stopped with questions and compliments about my socks!

If you are a newbie to compression socks, you may have legitimate questions before you shell out what is a fairly substantial chunk of change for a pair of socks – which typically run $30 – $60 per pair(although so WORTH it).  BrightLifeGo.com has a easy to follow Guide for First Time Compression Sock Buyers that will walk you through the decision making process including identifying your primary need (from pregnancy or an on-your-feet job to maternity and travel) along with other concerns, like what grade of compression, what size and care instructions.

So, whohoo, I’m so excited that BrightLifeGo.com is letting me give away a pair of is Vim & Vigr compression socks (of winner’s choice) to one of my readers. They have GUY’S SOCKS also!  Check out the Vim & Vigr collection at Bright Life Go right HERE Then, see below for the entry instructions and Rafflecopter widget.

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How to Treat Sports Turf Burns + #YourSecretWeapon for Prevention

Giveaway at Bottom of Post!

I have three teenage boys . . . and they have all played soccer. I have seen a LOT of soccer and treated plenty of turf burns. Actually, I hate to say this, but I’m the most turf-burn prone and actually I have had some really bad ones just running at high speed. I’ve learned how to suck up the pain and treat them quickly – if kept clean and moist with an antibiotic cream and sterile bandage (changed frequently), the turf burns actually clear up amazingly fast!

One thing I have learned over the years (after going in for a kid’s health checkup with horrific road burn on my shoulder, arm and side) is that it’s NOT good to use hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide can actually damage the tissue further and prevent healing – plus, it hurts like hell to pour it on there, am I right?!

How to Safely Treat Turf Burn on Soccer, Football and Lacrosse Players.

Check out my handy, printable reference on treating turf burn if you or your child to happen to get the big red raspberry of pain. Also, check out his Storelli blog post on Turf Burn Facts and Prevention

One way to prevent turf burn is to not get it at all. That sounds like a no-brainer, but when you’ve got the killer instinct and are completely focused on blocking a shot, kicking a goal or hauling down field to keep position, how rough and abrasive the turf can be isn’t really on the radar. Most players would easily take some nasty burn for the team . . or personal glory!

I’ve discovered BodyShield from Storelli. This Brooklyn, NY based company is one of the soccer industry’s most cutting-edge and exciting new brands. They use proprietary technologies (inspired by extreme sports gear) to create low-profile, high-performance protective gear that helps absorb impact, minimize and prevent abrasions, cuts and nasty bruises. When you have less fear of the game, you can be fearless! If found this to be especially true of one of my kids who isn’t as must as a risk-taker as the rest of the family.

Storelli Next Generation Soccer Injury Prevention GearMy 14 year old has been wearing BodyShield from Storelli for the last two seasons – he can be really fussy about what he wears and how it feels. He’s worn the protective undershirt and head wrap and filed sliders or on the way!

The report back from my sporty mini-me is that it’s easy to gear up in BodyShield, there’s no “weird rubbing” or “too tight” feeling, and  it doesn’t reduce mobility at all – in fact, he says that he usually forgets he’s even wearing the protective gear. And (so important to a middle schooler) it looks cool!

Where Turf Burns Happen Most on Body

The Field Player Sliders use 3mm thick foam technology to protect during tackles and slides without impeding movement. No more fear of abrasions or sudden impacts and no more turf burns on the side and hips (the most common place)!

Oscar Chelsea Soccer Player

Check out professional soccer player Oscar Chelsea sporting the BodyShield Sliders and Sleeveless Undershirt. Stare if you must.

TheFitFork.com SoccerStorelli can be #YourSecretWeapon against turf burns, too! Heck, I’m even thinking about suiting up head to toe for my next Spartan Race.

That’s why I ordered a pair of Women’s BodyShield Sliders designed specifically for female needs) and they finally arrived (see below0 If you use promo code, you can receive 15% off any of everything at Storelli.com – you’re going to want it all!

 

storelli shorts jennifer

Please check out Storelli’s BodyShield protective soccer gear and check out the informative articles on their blog – must-reads if you or a family member is an avid soccer player.50 visa gift card giveaway

Also, don’t forget to enter my giveaway for a $50 Visa Gift Card that you can use for your own Storelli gear, other soccer equipment or whatever you like – just hopefully not on bandages to treat turf burn!

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6 Tips for a Fun and Safe Trail Run

jennifer running on trail

Love to run, but growing weary of the city clatter and chaos on your route or, worse yet, being stuck inside going nowhere on a treadmill?  Well, let me remind you of an “all natural” alternative to these running woes – trail running!  Trail running has become a popular diversion from the everyday road run, is a great way to add new challenges that kick up your road running game, and is a legit sport in its own right. Because the terrain on trails is more rugged than pavement (think gravel, rocks, mud, sand, tree roots), secondary muscles are called into duty to help achieve balance and maximize agility. Due to this extra action, trail running can burn up to 10 percent more calories than running on the street, according Health Magazine. Before you the trail, check out my Six Trail Running Tips to prevent any unfortunate fails!

6 Tips for a Safe & Fun Trail Run

  • Focus on the run, not your pace. No trail is the same; the ups, downs and obstacles vary tremendously. That’s why you can’t measure success on a trail run in hours, minutes and seconds. By leaving your ego at home and forgetting about PRs, you can concentrate on your running form and biomechanical feedback, the inherent joy of running and the sheer beauty of the great outdoors.
  • Keep your feet functional. You’ll probably want to wear shoes that have a bit more stability and cushioning to protect your feet and ankles in rough patches. Also, slightly wider soles with substantial tread will help on muddy, wet and other slippery terrain. Also make sure that you have a little extra room in the toe box so that you don’t end up with bruised or blackened nails from extended downhills. Thin, quick-drying socks help prevent blisters if you sweat profusely or have to run through water. I am loving the Altra Running Superior 2.0  right now — they get a good grip on gnarly, rugged terrain, yet feel light and agile enough to fly fast through any obstacles in my way.
  • Gear up or go home. You don’t need to bring EVERYTHING with you on a trail run, but sometimes additional gear is nice to have (if not life-saving) during an off-road run. For example a cell phone for emergency calls, a GPS watch to track locations and, of course, your own ration of water and snacks. Other useful items to have are sunglasses to protect your eyes from not the sun and also inadvertent run-ins with tree branches, bug spray and knee-high socks to keep away chiggers and other pests, and a headlamp and/or knuckle lights if you are running through dusk into the night.
  • Put Safety Fist. It’s always best to run with a buddy, but at a minimum let a loved one know your route and estimated return time. It’s a worst-case scenario, but research any native wildlife dangers (snakes, bobcats, bears, etc.) that may be lurking and educate yourself on the best way to handle an emergency situation. You’ll want to hear all of the cues that Mother Nature is communicated, so don’t wear headphones. And, again, bring that GPS watch and phone in case you wander off course.
  • Maintain a mind-body connection. Trail running requires the use of multiple senses – sight, sound, feel and so on. While it’s easy to let your mind wander during a road run you’ve been on a hundred times, you need to remain focused on the task at hand in trail running to avoid dangerous situations. In rough terrain, the first instinct is to keep eyes focused downward at the feet – but this doesn’t provide timely feedback about what lies ahead! So, instead, keep your gaze straight ahead, analyze upcoming obstacles, and adjust your form accordingly.  Also, always keep a mental notes of mile markers or other visual landmarks passed (a trail of crumbs, so to speak), so that you can find your way back on an out-and-back course.
  • Don’t Forget to Fuel Up: You’ll likely want to bring your own water, sports drink and snacks give the more spartan running conditions — I’ve yet to see an emergency convenience store pop up like a desert oasis in the middle of a long trail run! There are so many options in hydration gear, it really just depends on the length of your race and personal preference for carrying (eg. hand-held vs. vest, belt or backpack . Also, stash some on-the-go snacks to provide on-going energy –eat before you deplete! Store-bought gus, gels and chews are fine, but I also like to make my own trail run fuel so I can tailor exactly to my needs. These are a few of my favorite trail run recipes:

Chocolate & Cherry Energy Cups - TheFitFork.com

Chocolate Cherry Trail Mix “Cakes”

Hazelnut Pecan Protein Fudge

 

 

 

Hazelnut Pecan Protein Fudge

 

 

 

What is your must have piece of gear or snack for a trail run? Please share in the comments below – XOXO, Jennifer 

 

 

Spartan Burpee How-To & Penalty + Race Registration Giveaway

Burpees.   People love to hate them, although I personally don’t think they’re all that bad. Except maybe I don’t love them so much the middle of an obstacle race when my arms and legs are already wobbly, stickers are piercing my palms and I’m coming face to face with cow patties.

How to Make Burpees More Fun - 5 VariationsBut, in a pristine situation, burpees have been a pretty good fitness friend to me, they are a simple, no-equipment needed way to get a full-body workout plus a little cardio (okay, mabye a lot of cardio).

Plus, there are a million variations as I rounded up last year on my post on How to Make Burpees More Fun – Did I Really Just Say That?

 

But in the Spartan Race, they don’t want to see the variations. And that’s good, because who has any bounce left for fancy stuff?!  In fact, I’ve been revisiting the rules on Spartan Race burpees (30 burpees required as a punishment for failing an obstacle) because, at my last race, I (gasp) received a 3-minute penalty added to my finish line time. Now, if you’re running in the open, you don’t have anyone judging your burpees, it’s honor system. But, the elite heat is suffering under the scrutiny of video cameras and clipboard bearing field officials.

spartan burpee

Before my last Spartan Sprint, I breezed through the burpee details in the Standard Obstacle Specific Instructions:

Obstacles may have a “Burpee Zone or Burpee Area”. Athletes are required to complete their penalty burpees within the designated zone or area, as burpees are monitored by Course Officials and/ or video cameras. Course officials will review video to ensure proper form is used and the athlete has completed the burpee penalty. . . .Camera review can change the outcome of the race, and results are not final until camera review and field officials have approved the results and assessed penalties

Penalty for Obstacle Failure: – 30 Burpees (chest must hit the ground, feet must leave the ground)

So, I do remember a few times when I though “hmmm, this manual says nowhere hands must be thrown in the air when feet leave the ground.” But, at one burpee zone, I decided to omit the overhead hand throw to conserve energy. This omission caused a field official to reprimand me . . .  who argues in a situation like this, so I just started back to throwing hands overhead and doing the hokey-pokey from hell.

If I’d had anything left to give, I’da busted out “Put Your Hands Up, Put Your Mother Effin’ Hands Up” covered by a gazillion different rappers.

So, when the initial finish line results and final results were exactly 3 minutes apart, I knew something was up. It was too late to challenge, I was already home . . . plus, I want to be completely legit, flawless and clean, if I messed up, then I deserved the penalty. I know I did ENOUGH burpees, I can count. I just wish I would have known EXACTLY what was expected so this would have never happened in the first place. When you know better, you do better. I did burpees as described in the obstacle manual  (which is Chest to Ground – Feet Leave Ground). Search the web, so much controversy on the topic, even on the Spartan Race site (see the Great Burpee Debate)!

I should have watched this video which shows the hands going in the air, although he doesn’t mention this step as every other is noted.

And found this after searching the Spartan Race site for “burpees,” I found this article called THE PENALTY AND THE PAIN: BUCK FURPEES. It describes burpees with the hands overhead. This should be in the Standard Obstacle Specific Instructions, please – thank you very much.

  1. Chest to deck.  When you drop to the ground, you must execute a full push up with your chest touching the ground.
  2. Press out of the push-up jumping your legs underneath your body so that you are in a squatted position.
  3. Stand up, extending the hips, and jump off the ground with hands overhead.

Then after more searching around, I found additional information that elite racers may be penalized 30 seconds per incorrect burpee, up to 10. Then disqualification. It’s subjective still, in my opinion, and you have obviously are on someone’s radar if they are scrutinizing your burpees.

Spartan after way too many burpees

The face of a 120 burpee race. Damn.

So, my takeaway for the next race. Don’t fail an obstacle, don’t get stuck with burpees.  And, if that’s not possible, do a bonus burpee on top of the 30 reps just to show trustworthy toughness! Aroo!

No sour grapes with Spartan Race in ANY WAY whatsoever. In fact, I love them for challenging me so significantly at this stage of my life. However, I just wanted to clarify some of this burpee stuff and keep any of you from suffering the wrath of not knowing.

Other timely Spartan Race stuff you need to know:

spartan fotI also wanted to remind you about Spartan Race founder and best-selling author, Joe DeSena’s new book, Spartan Fit. It’s the go-to tome of training for newbies and veterans alike or just help on how to get super fit in 31 days, without a gym or weights. You also learn how to build your fitness from one race to the next, get nutrition advice and will be motivated by stories of inspiring Spartans. Pre-order now, it ships August 30, 2016.

How to Make a Spartan Spear in Less Than 10 Mintues and Under 10 DollarsAnd, don’t forget your spear throwing practice – I’ve got the tutorial on How to Make Your Own Spartan Spear in 10 minutes, for $10.

Register for a Spartan Race, from Sprint, Super or Beast to one of the more team-worky endurance events like Hurricane Heat or Agog and save 10% at checkout with the code SPARTANBLOGGER.

Enter my giveaway for a FREE SPARTAN REGISTRATION. Winner will receive one-time use code good for any Open Heat (non-confirmed start time) in any Spartan Race in the Continental US. Just follow the Rafflecopter instructions below.

This post and giveaway were sponsored by Spartan Race, all opinions, advice and enthusiasm are all my own.

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How to Make Spartan OCR Spear in 10 minutes + Spartan Fit

How to Make a Spartan Spear in Less Than 10 Mintues and Under 10 DollarsTo date, I’ve only have 3 obstacle course races under my belt, but I’m trying to nab a coin for the Spartan World Championship . . .maybe that’s a lofty goal, but I think it’s in my reach, especially if I can optimize my performance with a fast run.  However, the races I’ve done, like 2015 Spartan Beast Dallas and 2015 Spartan Spring Houston have been so flooded and muddy that I’ve had the wind knocked out of my running wheelhouse. Oh, yeah – but that spear throw is also standing in the way. I am 0 for 3 on the Spartan Spear Throw obstacle, that’s no surprise considering in I am 1 for 40 in the accuracy baseball pitch at an annual 12-event fitness competition I do (although, I do hold the female course record in the mile – whoot, whoot).

So, I gotta practice. Practice, practice, practice, so I nail the obstacle and don’t have to take the burpee penalty.  With my crazy, busy life, I don’t have time to go to any sort of obstacle course training gym – so I’m bringing some of the obstacle to my plain vanilla, suburban back yard.

Making DIY Spartan Spear

If I can make a Spartan Race Spear in less than 10 minutes, you can too. Girl power!  Here’s the supply list – it’s amazingly short and available at home improvement stores for less than $10 :

  • 1 60” replacement ash rake handle with ferrule (metal cuff on end) – $8.50
  • 1 12-inch galvanized spike or nail – $0.70
  • Duct tape or masking tape – pennies
  • Hacksaw
  • Glue, optional
  • Decorative Duct Tape, optional

Get some hay to practice the Spartan spear throw.

You will also want to get a few bales of hay from a feed supply store, out here it’s about $12 per bale. I’ve seen it quite a bit cheaper on Craigslist, if you’re willing to drive out to the boonies for your haul.How to Make a Spartan Spear in less than 10 Minutes and under 10 Dollars

So, how do you make a Spartan Spear? Easy-peasy! Follow these steps:

  1. Use hack saw to remove head off nail. You have to put some elbow grease into this, let’s see what you’ve got!
  2. Wrap a few rotations of duct tape or masking tape around bottom of nail where head was sawed off. This thickens it up so that it will fit snugly into the ferrule.
  3. If you choose, pour a bit of glue into ferrule and stick in nail head to secure. Let dry. However, I prefer to just wrap tape so that I can remove the nail tip if I want to transport my spear in the car (would hate to get impaled if I slammed on the breaks).
  4. Wrap decorative duct or grip tape around center of handle to indicate where to hold (or to just look fancy), if desired.

And, just how do you do this? Sheez, I don’t know . . .that’s why I’m practicing. I do have some tips though from my limited experience:

  • Quickly scan for a spear without a bent tip, and no blood or vomit on the handle.
  • Make sure tether is hanging on opposite side of fence from you to prevent tangling up around your legs.
  • Step into the spear launch and throw hard with a slight upward trajectory.
  • Show good sportsmanship when completing your 30 burpees and congratulate the successful competitors at this obstacle who are kicking up mud in your face. Okay, hopefully not this!

Spear ThrowThe Spartan Race Obstacle Guide says you have “One attempt to throw the spear and have it stick into the spearman (wood or hay).  The spear can’t be touching the ground.” This means it can’t stick in the hay and then fall out or brush by the hay and land on the ground. Failure to perform on your single try is 30 burpees – yay!

 


I also want to give you the heads up on Spartan Race founder Joe DeSena’s new book, Spartan Fit. Basically, it’s everything you need to know to prepare for a Spartan Sprint or just get in the best shape of your life in 31 days, without a gym or weights. You also learn how to build your fitness from one race to the next and will be motivated by stories of inspiring Spartans. There’s also diet plan in the book, I’m really interested to see what Joe’s philosophy is on eating since that’s kinda my thang. This is essential reading for the Spartan athlete, newbies or veterans! Pre-order now, it ships August 30, 2016.

If you want to run a Spartan Race – from Sprint, Super, Beast or some of the ultra endurance events like the Hurricane Heat, Hurricane Heat 12 hour, Ultra Beast, and the new Summer Agoge use the code SPARTANBLOGGER at checkout for 10% off your registration.

Also, come back next week — I’m giving away a free race registration. AROO!

So, how’s YOUR aim? Good at throwing stuff like spears, footballs, baseballs . . . or maybe just throwing fits of frustration when you miss, like me?! Have you ever run an obstacle course race? If so, what was the biggest challenge for YOU? Please share in the comments – XOXO, Jennifer