APR 26, 2023
Minute 1: Fitness tests you need to check
When we were kids, the three best days of spring at school were:
3. Teachers let us have class outside
2. The ice cream truck reappeared after winter hibernation
1. On the last day of the year, the custodian climbed onto the roof and tossed down all of the balls that had landed up there during the prior nine months. The worst part of spring – or any season – was the dreaded pop quiz.
At the risk of inducing PTSD, we are bringing you an unannounced quiz today. This time it measures your pliability and mobility instead of multiplication tables and sentence construction. It turns out that mobility is a useful indicator of how well you’re aging, according to: “15 Mobility Tests to Make Sure You’re Aging A-Okay.” This first test should let you know how your legs, hips, and knees are doing. Sit in a chair with your arms against your chest, and then stand up and down as often as possible over 30 seconds. For aging athletes, the article says 12 to 18 reps is a good target. Next, let’s check your upper body mobility with the back scratch test. Lay one arm against your back and raise the other up and over your shoulder. The goal is to get your fingertips to touch behind your back. Ideally you want about 2 inches of overlap. Now, let's move onto some strength tests, like the ones listed in “4 Fitness Tests to Gauge Strength, Flexibility, Conditioning, and Power.” First is the farmer’s carry, which requires you to walk while gripping 75% of your bodyweight in your hands. If you’re able to cover 250 feet in 90 seconds, you’ve passed with flying colors. Last but not least, see how your heart is doing by following the guidelines set out by WHOOP in: “What is a Good Resting Heart Rate by Age and Gender?”
Minute 2: These are some of the healthiest carbs
According to TikTok and Instagram, carbs are either our most vital source of energy, or our biggest nutritional pitfall. It’s no wonder they’re so polarizing, given how carb-heavy foods can vary widely in their nutritional impact. On one hand, there are sugary snacks and processed foods that leave your blood sugar spiking. But there are plenty of healthy carb options, too, like those listed in the “10 Carbs You Need in Your Diet, According to a Dietitian.” Consider opting for brown rice instead of white, since it’s been shown to lower your risk of heart disease and help maintain a healthy body weight. One 2019 study found that those who ate white rice for a year gained 6.5 pounds, while those who ate brown rice remained the same. Next on the list is fruit. Fruits often contain lots of sugars, but their fiber content slows digestion so that you don’t experience a rush and subsequent crash. For more details on that, see: “Ask a Dietitian - Is Sugar in Fruit Bad?” We’ve covered a few healthy options, but what about “The 21 Unhealthiest Carbs on the Planet?” If you’ve ever consumed a caramel or mocha latte, it should come as no surprise that they’re chock full of added sugars. Keep your breakfast healthier by going with unflavored coffee drinks. Also on the naughty list are snacks like tortilla chips, which are made with processed grains that have had most of their nutritional value removed. To learn more, check out “The Whole Truth About Whole Grains.”
Minute 3: 30 ways to make fitness fun again
Sometimes, the hardest thing about running isn’t the burning muscles or labored breathing; it’s the repetitiveness. If you feel stuck in a rut, consider these ways to “Celebrate yourself – and try a naked 5k! 30 ways to make fitness more fun.” Don’t worry, they don’t mean literally running a 5k naked; it’s just a way of telling you to ditch the headphones, trackers, and other gear that can get in your head. That way, you’re freed up to take in the sights and sounds around you, as well as listen to your body to see if you should be going faster or slower. Other options include spending more time outside when you exercise, which has been shown to improve mood and reduce stress. One option we’ve been experimenting with lately is to take longer-than-usual walks. Author James Frew seems to be on the same page: “I walked for 90 minutes every morning for a month, and here's what changed for me.” In addition to improving his fitness, James felt more energized and productive at work. If you’re wondering what you can do to make longer walks interesting – beyond music and podcasts – consider these ideas: “19 Easy Tricks to Make Your Walks More Fun & Interesting.”
Minute 4: Dance your way to fitness
Professional dancers move so gracefully, it’s easy to forget how much hard work goes into their preparation. Behind all that finesse is an extraordinarily difficult exercise routine that aims to build flexibility, strength, and balance. If you’ve ever wondered how these elite athletes train, check out: “I Spent a Week Working Out Like a Professional Ballerina – Here’s What Happened.” The majority of a dancer’s activity is practicing choreography, but we’ll just focus on the supporting exercises they follow. Like yoga and tai chi, Pilates is a form of exercise that’s designed to support and protect your body, and if you want to try it out, here is a good place to start: “This Pilates for Beginners Workout Will Seriously Crush Your Core.” The article contains two circuits to try out, lasting 15 minutes each. They make use of moves like lunges, squats, and planks to develop your strength and mobility with no need for any extra equipment. If you want moves inspired directly by dance, consider: “Six Barre Exercises That Will Make You A Better Runner.” So much of a dancer’s ability comes from developing their legs, which is why there’s lots of cross-training potential for runners. Try positions like the All Fours or side-lying leg pulse to extend your range of motion in your legs.
Minute 5: Quick Intervals
Earlier in the issue, we talked about the physical and mental benefits of exercising outside. Well, we should mention that those benefits are most prominent when you’re in an area with low air pollution. How do you know if that’s the case in your city? Well, you can check the list here: “Find Out If You Live in One of the Most Polluted US Cities.”
Measuring and understanding your VO2 max can seem like a complicated way to track your progress as an athlete. But did you know there are ways to estimate it without having to be tested with specific equipment? Not only that, but once you establish a baseline, there are lots of workouts geared specifically toward improving VO2 max. If you’re interested in improving your aerobic efficiency, read: “What Is a Good VO2 Max? How to Improve Yours to Run Faster.”
We’re only a few months away from summer heat, and experienced runners know that means it's time to start getting adjusted. On a hot day, battling the heat can be just as difficult as the physical exertion of exercise, but we came across some reassuring data that shows just how resilient the human body can be. Researchers were surprised to learn how important of a role moving air plays in cooling athletes, and you can see their research process in “How Elite Marathoners Handle Hot Conditions.”
Minute 6: Daily Inspiration
Last week at the London Marathon, we saw one of the most remarkable comebacks of all time from Sifan Hassan. She had injured her quad in the leadup to the race, and it wasn’t long before it gave her trouble as she made her way through the course. By mile 12, she even had to stop and momentarily stretch it out! As if that wasn’t bad enough, she almost missed a drink station later on in the race, requiring a sharp right turn to grab it while dodging a guide motorcycle. Despite all those obstacles, Hassan finished with a remarkably fast kick to secure the victory in her debut London Marathon, and it will go down in history as one of the most memorable marathons of all time. For a full writeup of the event, read “LEGENDARY: Sifan Hassan Gets Dropped Early, Storms Back To Win 2023 London Marathon,” and you can watch clips of her highlights in the link below.