TIME Exercise/Fitness

13 Fun Ways to Work Out With Your Dog

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The versatile furry friends can do anything from running to yoga to boot camp with you

Dogs make the best workout buddies. They never complain about hills or cancel on you last-minute. And they’re always stoked to follow you out the door. That energy can be contagious: research from Michigan State University found that canine owners were 34% more likely to get the recommended 150 minutes of exercise a week than folks who didn’t have a dog. Even if you’re just taking your pup for a walk, that counts. (Move at a brisk clip and you can burn as many as 170 calories in half an hour.) But there are lots of other activities you and Fido can do together—all while strengthening your bond.

Check out these fun ways to get fit with your furry pal.

Running

Because dogs are creatures of habit, they can help you keep up your weekly mileage: Once your pup gets into the routine of a morning run, she won’t let you wimp out if it’s drizzling, or you’re just feeling bleh, explains J.T. Clough, author of 5K Training Guide: Running with Dogs($8; amazon.com). “She’ll wait by your sneakers, tongue out, tail wagging,” says Clough, who runs a dog-training business on Maui. “Her excitement can be enough to change your attitude.”Concerned your little pooch won’t keep up? No need to worry, says Clough: “The truth is most small dogs have more energy than the big breeds.” Just be careful in the heat and humidity, since dogs don’t sweat like we do. And if you have a flat-faced breed (think pugs and Boston terriers), keep your runs under five miles, Clough suggests, since these dogs have a harder time taking in air.

Stand-up paddleboarding

It’s almost as if stand-up paddleboards were designed for canine co-pilots: Dogs of all sizes can ride on the nose (while you get a killer ab workout). Pick an ultra-calm day on a lake or bay for your first excursion together, so your pup can develop his sea legs. If you’re struggling to balance the board, try paddling on your knees, which lowers your center of gravity, until your dog is comfortable. Still, odds are you’ll both take a dip, which is why Clough recommends outfitting your dog with a life preserver. It’ll make it easier for you to lift him back onto the board, too: Most doggie vests have an easy-to-grab handle, like the NRS CFD (from $35; amazon.com).

Is your dog a born swimmer? Bring a stick or throw toy and play fetch once you’ve paddled out.

Kayaking

You can also take your dog out for a spin in a sit-on-top kayak. Smaller breeds may perch up front, while larger dogs might feel safer closer to your feet. Teach your buddy to get in and out of the kayak on land first; then practice in the shallow water close to shore. (If he seems nervous about sliding around, you could lay down a small mat or piece of carpet so his paws can get some traction.) The trick is to keep the first few outings relaxed and fun (read: brings treats!). Stick to inlets and slow-moving rivers without too much boat traffic. You can let your dog paddle alongside you if he wants to swim. If not, that’s okay too: “He’s getting lots of stimulation just by riding in the boat,” says Clough—all while you ton your arms and core and burn hundreds of calories.

Cycling

Is your dog so exuberant on walks you worry she might one day pull your arm off? If so, try letting her keep up with you as you pedal: “Biking is perfect for dogs with tons of energy,” says Clough. “They are totally psyched to flat-out run.” Meanwhile, you’re getting a great workout (cycling can torch 500-plus calories per hour) and building your leg muscles.

If your girl likes chasing squirrels and skateboards, consider using a device called the Springer. It attaches the leash to your bike’s frame or seat stem and absorbs much of the force of sudden tugs ($130; amazon.com).

Biking with your dog may actually help with any behavioral issues she has, Clough adds. “The biggest problem I see with dogs is that they’re not getting enough exercise.” Indeed, veterinarians at Tufts University’s Animal Behavior Clinic say aerobic exercise stimulates the brain to make serotonin, a hormone that helps dogs, especially those who are anxious or aggressive, to relax.

Rollerblading

This is another great way to burn off a dog’s excess energy—as long as you’re an expert inline skater, that is. If not, “it can be disastrous,” warns Clough. “Your dog will be like ‘Woohoo!’ and you’ll be like, ‘Where’s the break?!” But even if you’re super confident on wheels, she suggest rollerblading in an area free of traffic, like a park or boardwalk, so you can enjoy the excursion as much as your pal. Chances are, you’ll have so much fun you’ll forget you’re seriously working your core.

Dog-friendly boot camp

Fitness classes designed for people and pups—like Leash Your Fitness in San Diego and K9 Fit Club in Chicago —are becoming more and more popular. In a typical class, you’ll run through high-intensity moves for strength, balance and cardio while your four-legged companion practices obedience drills. “I recommend that people at least try out a class,” says Clough, who helped launch Leash Your Fitness. “The focus is more on the person’s workout than the dog’s,” she explains, but your dog is learning to feel comfortable in a distracting environment—and that will make it easier to take him along on other fitness adventures.

Dog yoga

Yep, “doga” is a thing, and it turns out pooches are naturals at this ancient practice. Can’t picture it? Think about your girl’s morning stretches: She probably does a perfect cobra, right? In a doga class, you’ll help her try more poses—and she’ll (hopefully) act as a prop for your own poses. But really doga is all about the pet-human bond. There’s often some doggy massage and acupressure involved. And while you’re in such close contact, you’ll have the opportunity to do a regular health check, feeling for any lumps beneath her fur.

Active fetch

You throw the ball and your pup goes bounding after it. But who says you have to just stand there? While he’s retrieving, bust out some muscle-building moves like crunches, lunges, squats, and more—until you’re both panting and worn out. Better yet, race him for the ball and squeeze in some sprints. Fetch can be a game you play, too.

Soccer

Believe it or not, some dogs love soccer—especially herding breeds like Border Collies and Australian Shepherds. Pet brands sell soccer-style balls (resistant to sharp teeth) in different sizes, like the 5-inch Orbee-Tuff ball from Planet Dog ($20; amazon.com). Once your boy learns to “kick” or “dribble” with his nose or paws, get your heart rates up with keep-away, or by punting the ball and racing for it.

Not a soccer fan? Try engaging him with other toys (like rope tugs) and activities (such as hide-and-seek). “Put yourself into kid mood, come up with a game, and show him,” Clough suggests. “He’ll most likely play it with you.”

Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing

Cold weather doesn’t mean you have to leave your dog cooped up. Some breeds—like Huskies and St. Bernards—have snow in their DNA, but many dogs enjoy a good romp in the white stuff. And whether you’re on snowshoes or skis, you’ll get in a low-impact, total-body workout. But the best part comes later, when you both curl up for a snooze by the fire.

If your dog gets chronic snow build-up between the pads on her paws, you can outfit her with booties. Brands like Ultra Paws (from $32; amazon.com). and Ruffwear ($90; amazon.com) make rugged footwear for winter walks.

Stair-running

Thanks to the vertical element, climbing stairs (or bleachers) makes your quads, hamstrings, and glutes work extra hard. You’ll tighten up your lower half, while Spot burns off the biscuits.

Join a canine charity race

You have the perfect training buddy. Why not work toward the goal of finishing a dog-friendly race? Events for four-pawed runners and their owners—such as the Fast and the Furry 8K in St. Paul, Minn. and the Rescue Me 5K9 in Irvine, Calif. —are held all over the country.

Don’t have a dog?

You can still work out with one. Call a local animal shelter and volunteer to take dogs out for walks or runs. Pound puppies are often desperate for exercise and attention, and your commitment to your new furry pal is great motivation to stick with a fitness routine. Best of all, as an anxious or unruly dog learns to walk on a leash and behave in public, you’ll be improving his chances of finding a forever home.

This article originally appeared on Health.com

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TIME Exercise/Fitness

How Exercise Helps Curb Alzheimer’s Symptoms

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Most studies so far have focused on the importance of physical activity before you develop Alzheimer’s. But can it treat the disease once you are diagnosed? Two studies hint that may be the case

At the annual Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in July 2015, scientists report some encouraging news about the benefits of exercise. In the first studies to look at physical activity among people already diagnosed with the early stages of Alzheimer’s, moderate to high intensity workouts may not only slow down the biological symptoms of Alzheimer’s—but may lead to improvements in cognitive functions as well.

In one study involving 200 people with mild or moderate disease, Dr. Steen Hasselbalch from the University of Copenhagen and his colleagues randomly assigned some participants to an hour of exercise three times a week for 16 weeks, while allowing the remainder to continue without a regular activity regimen. After a phase-in period, the exercisers were working at a moderate to intense level, achieving 70% to 80% of their maximum heart rate for at least half of each session.

MORE: Your School Grades Affect Your Risk of Dementia

That level of intensity is important, says Hasselbalch, to achieve results. Compared to the control group, the exercisers showed fewer symptoms such as anxiety, changes in mood and depression that are common among Alzheimer’s patients. Overall, those who were more active did not show any changes in cognitive functions, but when Hasselbalch looked at the results more carefully, he found that participants with milder disease who exercised actually did perform better on intellectual skills after the 16 weeks. They were tested on memory, language, mental speed and other executive functions.

“It’s been shown with other diseases that exercise can have beneficial effects,” he says. “Now we have shown it’s also important for dementia. So if you now have this alternative treatment, it sends a message that you can do something even after diagnosis to treat dementia.”

MORE: Two New Alzheimer’s Drugs Offer Hope—With Caveats

Because the people exercised in a group setting, he says that simply being part of that social situation and getting out of the house and interacting with others appears to reduce the mood-related symptoms of Alzheimer’s. “But if you really want an effect on cognition, then you have to exercise hard.”

He admits that his study did not delve into how the exercise might be contributing to the improved cognitive changes, but he will be analyzing the blood and cerebral spinal fluid collected from the participants to study that further.

MORE: Alzheimer’s May Show Up in Saliva

Such changes are what Laura Baker, from Wake Forest School of Medicine, and her team did with another group of early stage Alzheimer’s patients. They wanted to see what biological changes exercise might have on the Alzheimer’s process, and focused on 70 patients with mild cognitive impairment and diabetes, both of which significantly increase the risk for Alzheimer’s. Some were randomly assigned to simple stretching exercises, while others were told to exercise four times a week and, like those in Hasselbalch’s study, had to work hard enough to raise their heart rate to 70% to 80% of its maximum for 30 of the 45 minutes of each session. Baker then studied their cognitive function tests, brain imaging and levels of Alzheimer’s proteins in their cerebral spinal fluid.

She found that those who exercise rigorously increased the blood flow in the areas of the brain responsible for memory and higher level processing. The result was a dramatically increased score, by 80%, on average on the cognitive tests than those who just stretched, even after accounting for age-related changes in thinking. More intriguing, the exercisers also showed on average a 14% lower level of the protein tau, which is a good indicator that brain neurons are dying and Alzheimer’s processes are well underway, at the end of the study compared to before they began the exercise regimen.

“What’s encouraging to us is that we don’t have treatments now; there’s nothing for Alzheimer’s patients,” says Baker. “The possibility that a non-medicine intervention could actually change the disease — we’re just very encouraged by these results,.”

While the exercise regimen wasn’t an easy one — it qualifies as moderately intense physical activity, which for a group of older adults who are likely sedentary to begin with is certainly a challenge, both Hasselbalch and Baker say that with the right execution — by working with participants and by gradually increasing their exercise level — achieving the amounts of activity needed to help their brains is possible. Baker also points out that it’s time to start studying the combined effects of new medications that are being tested for Alzheimer’s and increased physical activity. Together, she says, they may hold the key to actually slowing down and possibly even reversing progression of the disease.

TIME Exercise/Fitness

Find Out How Many Calories to Cut For Weight Loss

A new NIH calculator gives you a personalized plan in minutes

Forget the number 2,000—a new government calculator uses the latest research to spit out an exact calorie count and exercise regimen you’ll need to hit your weight loss goals.

The calculator, called the Body Weight Planner, is now available online for public use, but the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has used it in research since 2011. “We originally intended the Body Weight Planner as a research tool, but so many people wanted to use it for their own weight management that we knew we needed to adapt it with more information about how to achieve a healthy lifestyle,” said Kevin Hall, PhD, one of the creators of the tool and a senior investigator at the NIH, in a press release.

Read more The Best Way To Make Your Exercise Habit Stick

The calculator asks your weight, sex, age and height—standard measures often used to prescribe a calorie plan. But it also incorporates more recent research about exercise to further personalize your plan, asking you to estimate your physical activity level on a scale of 1.4 (sedentary) to 2.5 (very active), to name your goal weight and to pick a date by which you want to reach it.

Most of us get about that far in thinking through a weight loss plan, but the calculator doesn’t stop there. It also asks you to name a percentage by which you plan to increase your physical activity and tells you what kind of exercise, how much, how often and what intensity level it’ll take to get there. Adding in a routine of light running isn’t the same as starting intense swimming, and in a distinctive feature, the calculator doesn’t weigh all physical activity equally.

The resulting calculations tell you three things: the daily number of calories you’ll need to eat to maintain your current weight, the calories you’ll need to reach your goal in your specified time, and the calories you’ll need to maintain your goal once you’ve met it. You can then use SuperTracker, a meal-planning tool developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), to devise a meal plan based on your calorie stats. =

For people motivated by microscopic proofs of progress, there’s even an expert version of the calorie calculator that breaks down your goal by day, so you can see exactly how your weight loss will likely progress—decimal by decimal—if you stick to your program.

Read next: Here’s The Amount Of Exercise That Lowers Breast Cancer Risk

TIME Cancer

Here’s the Amount of Exercise That Lowers Breast Cancer Risk

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A new study calculates how much weekly exercise can reduce fat levels enough to lower the chances of developing breast cancer

More than 100 studies have found that physical activity can lower breast cancer risk; the most active women tend to have a 25% lower chance of developing the disease than the least active women. But how does exercise help?

Christine Friedenreich, scientific leader of cancer epidemiology and prevention research at Alberta Health Services, and her colleagues had identified body fat as a possible pathway to lowering cancer risk. In an earlier study, they found that women exercising 225 minutes a week showed dramatic drops in total body fat, abdominal fat and other adiposity measures.

MORE: New Genetic Test for Breast Cancer Would Be Cheaper and Easier

That inspired the team to examine more closely the effects of the commonly recommended 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise a week on body fat measures. They compared these effects to a doubling of that amount of activity, to 300 minutes a week, to see if more exercise had a greater effect in lowering body fat.

Reporting in JAMA Oncology, Friedenreich found that indeed, among 384 non-active women past menopause, some of whom were normal weight and others who were overweight or obese, those randomly assigned to exercise for 300 minutes a week over the year-long study lost more body fat than those who were active for 150 minutes each week. The women didn’t change their diet or any other aspect of their lives; they just exercised their allotted amount, by walking, running, cycling or using an elliptical machine or treadmill.

MORE: Many Breast Cancer Patients Get Unnecessary Radiation

Overall, the women exercising 300 minutes weekly lost 1 kg—about 2.2 pounds—or 1% more body fat than those in the 150 minute group. The former also lost more abdominal fat and had a bigger drop in their waist to hip ratio. They did not, however, lose significantly more weight.

That last finding is important because many physical activity and cancer studies focus on weight as an outcome and correlate pounds lost with cancer risk. But Friedenreich wanted to specifically tease apart what physiologic effects exercise has on the body, specifically on fat, since fat levels have been linked to a higher risk of a number of cancers, including breast cancer.

MORE: Here’s How Well Your Genes Can Predict Your Breast Cancer Risk

While the women who exercised more saw the biggest drops in their body fat measures, those who followed the recommended amount of activity—150 minutes each week—also melted away some of their fat. But the finding suggests that more is better, and for preventing cancer, it may take more than the recommended amount of exercise to produce a benefit.

“The exercise guidelines were developed with [heart disease] outcomes in mind,” says Friedenreich. “So at that level, they can have an effect on blood pressure, cholesterol levels and waist circumference. But for cancer prevention, we may need to exercise at higher volumes. So yes, doing 150 minutes of activity a week is good, but if you can do more, then from a cancer prevention perspective, 300 minutes is better.”

The fact that exercise can lead to a drop in body fat is especially important for cancer of the breast, she says, since fatty tissue is the primary source of hormones that can drive breast cancer after menopause. Fat also plays a role in the body’s immune and inflammatory responses, both of which are also involved in cancer. “I’m sure that doctors are advising their patients to be more physically active to prevent heart disease or diabetes,” says Friedenreich. “So we’d like to add cancer to that list of chronic diseases that exercise can potentially prevent or help to lower the risk.”

TIME Exercise/Fitness

Here’s the Best Way to Make Your Exercise Habit Stick

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Having this kind of habit will make you a more successful exerciser

It’s not always easy to convince yourself to exercise after a long day of work. (Ok, it’s never easy.) But people who consistently manage to do it may be using a simple trick—whether they realize it or not—according to a new study published in the journal Health Psychology.

The most consistent exercisers, researchers found, were those who made exercise into a specific type of habit—one triggered by a cue, like hearing your morning alarm and going to the gym without even thinking about it, or getting stressed and immediately deciding to exercise. “It’s not something you have to deliberate about; you don’t have to consider the pros and cons of going to the gym after work,” explains L. Alison Phillips, PhD, assistant professor of psychology at Iowa State University and one of the study’s authors. Instead, it’s an automatic decision instigated by your own internal or environmental cue.

The researchers wanted to see whether this type of habit, known as an instigation habit, was better than another type of habit at predicting who stuck with a month of exercise. At the beginning and end of the monthlong study, they asked 123 university students and faculty questions that assessed how often they exercised and how strong their exercise habits were—whether they did it without thinking, for example. From these questions, they gleaned whether a person has a strong instigation habit—one where a cue triggers the instantaneous decision to exercise—and whether a person has a strong execution habit—that is, knowing exactly what kind of exercise they’ll do once you get to the gym, or being able to go through the motions of an exercise routine while being mentally checked out.

The only factor that predicted how often a person exercised over the long-term, they found, was the strength of their instigation habit.

MORE: 7 Psychology Tricks To Make Your Resolutions Stick

It got stronger with time, too. “When people started exercising more frequently over the month and became more active, I saw that their instigation habit strength increased with that frequency, but execution habit didn’t really change in relation to frequency at all,” Phillips says. Zoning out mentally during exercise didn’t have a negative effect, but it didn’t help a person adhere to a regimen, either.

That’s good news for newbie exercisers who might be intimidated by the same routine day in, day out. “In the long term, it seems beneficial, or at least not harmful, to have variety in your routine,” Phillips says of the results. “A lot of people might shy away from starting to exercise because they think, oh man, I can’t possibly imagine myself doing this forever. They might think of one boring routine—running on the treadmill—and to them it sounds like torture, so they give up before they even begin.”

Some repetitive behaviors do reinforce exercise, she says. “When you’re just starting to develop an exercise routine, I think it might be helpful to engage in the same behaviors, to have this patterned action.” But sticking with a cue—instead of clinging to the same tired routine—appears to be what will get you back to your workout again and again.

TIME Exercise/Fitness

You Asked: Is It Healthy to Sweat A Lot?

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If you’re hot, perspiration is normal—even lots of it. But there are other times when excessive sweating could be cause for concern.

Here’s the tricky thing about using sweat as a barometer for health: “A lot of it comes down to biological variation,” says Dr. Craig Crandall, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

Crandall says if you examined two people—same height, sex and build—one might produce twice the volume of perspiration as the other. “It could just be one person has more sweat glands,” he explains. “Everybody’s baseline is different, so it’s hard to say what amount of sweat is ‘healthy’.”

Still, patterns emerge when you look at big groups of people.

A 2010 study from Japan examined how fit men and women sweat in response to exercise, and compared their sweating rates to those of unfit people. Fit people not only perspire more, but they also start sweating sooner during exercise, says study coauthor Dr. Yoshimitsu Inoue of Osaka International University. Men also tend to sweat more than women, Inoue says.

Crandall says the differences between fit and unfit people has to do with each person’s capacity for heat generation. “A high fitness level allows you to exercise at a higher workload, which generates more heat, which in turn leads to more sweat,” he explains.

He says men tend to sweat more than women for the same reason overweight or obese adults often sweat more than thin people: Their bodies are larger, which leads to greater heat generation during activity.

Crandall’s own research has found people sweat more after spending time in hot climates. “An athlete training here in Texas versus someone up in Montana may sweat differently in the same conditions,” he says. “Their bodies adapt in response to hot or humid environments.”

So sweat is complicated. But most of the research suggests perspiring in response to heat or exercise—whether you sweat a little or a lot—doesn’t mean much about your health.

Of course, there are other forms of sweat that have nothing to do with heat regulation.

People sweat when they’re nervous, and Crandall says nervous sweat tends to come from different glands than exercise- or heat-induced sweat. “The sweat glands that are sensitive to emotions are mostly under the arms, in the palms, and in the soles of the feet,” he says. While that’s unfortunate for nervous sweaters, there’s no evidence that people who sweat a lot due to worry are less healthy than those who aren’t as emotionally sweaty.

There’s also a condition called hyperhidrosis, which is excessive sweating either all over your body or in one particular area, such as your palms or pits. Excessive means up to four or five times what most people would sweat, says Dr. Adam Friedman, a dermatologist and residency program director at the George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

While the cause of this pernicious perspiration is often not identifiable, it can stem from an infection or illness, certain medications or an underlying endocrine condition like thyroid disease, Friedman says. Because of these links to health concerns, he says people who sweat all the time, day and night, should speak with a doctor.

Regardless of how much you perspire, exactly what you’re perspiring doesn’t vary much from person to person. Crandall says, “Sweat is basically water, sodium chloride, and potassium”—all of which you have to replenish after sweating heavily, he says.

And no, despite what you may have heard from the detox circuit, sweating does not rid your body of “toxins”. “It’s not like parts of the junk food you ate are going to escape through your sweat,” Crandall says. “There’s just no evidence of that.”

TIME Exercise/Fitness

11 Training Tips for Running Your First Half-Marathon

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Remember: every run has a purpose, so don't skip any

Running a half-marathon is all the rage these days, especially among women. In fact, a recent Running USA Report revealed that 13.1 is the fastest-growing race distance. What’s more, in 2014, the ladies made up 61 percent of the field.

So why are women rushing to the starting line?

“We are seeing an exciting time for women’s running in general,” Knox Robinson, coach at Nike+ Run Club NYC, publisher of the international running culture journal First Run, and co-founder of the Black Roses NYC running collective told Health. “It’s a combination of everything from women having more disposal income as consumers, companies giving more attention to women’s gear, and the ability, through social media, to see women of all shapes and sizes running, which is empowering.”

Adds Jenny Hadfield, founder of CoachJenny.com: “The training is the new way to socialize and catch up with friends. Plus there are a host of women’s specific races that provide a friendly, non-competitive environment for newbies.”

Thinking of tackling 13.1 in the near future? Consider these tips from top running pros before you lace up.

Know it’s possible

“From the beginning, I try to communicate in all ways— visually, literally and coaching-wise— how possible it is to reach this goal through intelligent training and preparation,” says Robinson who also notes that the half is a manageable distance for everyone to train for and wrap their heads around. “But you have to believe in yourself” to really succeed.

Be selective about your shoes

Your feet are your foundation, so give them the respect they deserve by investing in a good (good doesn’t always mean super pricey) pair of kicks that are comfy and truly fit your feet. Look to your neighborhood specialty running store for help, advises former Olympic runner John Henwood, founder of TheRun, a boutique treadmill studio in New York City. Here, they’ll perform a gait analysis to help decode what style of shoe is best.

Build your base

A running base is the number of miles and weeks of running you have in the bank before you being training for a race, and it is essential to a successful training season. “It’s like the foundation of a house,” says Hadfield. “The stronger the base, the more easily the body can withstand the demands of a training program.”

Find the right training plan

Before you settle on a regimen, ask yourself what your goals are, and then work back from there. “Long distance running is about being able to run faster, longer and better,” says Robinson, “so your training must be oriented in the same way.” Choosing a plan that suits your style and fitness level is also key. “When you start from where you are, you progress more readily and enjoy the journey,” explains Hadfield.

Give yourself enough time to prepare

Not only does the body need time to adapt to the progression of the mileage, but sometimes life gets in the way, so it’s wise to have a little extra cushion. Look for training schedules that fall between 14 and 16 weeks. “This gives you weeks to play with in case something happens along the way, time to live your life and have vacations and plenty of time to build up the longer runs safely,” says Hadfield. “Plus, the shorter the season, the higher the risk of injuries as well as burn out.”

Remember: every run has a purpose

So don’t skip any. The long runs on the weekends are the bread and butter and build your endurance and ability to run far. The shorter, faster workouts build speed and fitness. And the easy mid-week runs bridge the gap between these two. “Get into the habit of training by your breath, like in yoga and tuning into how it responds to the workout on the given day,” says Hadfield. “Some days will feel easier, and some harder, but when you train your body, you’ll always be in the optimal zone.”

Whatever you do, don’t neglect the long run

For some, long runs, for lack of a better word, just suck. Regardless, it’s important to get in a handful of them for the length of time you expect to be out on the course. Just as important as getting comfortable with the amount of time you’ll be on your feet, is training your mind for those miles, too. “The challenge for distance runners is that you have to give your mind something to do,” says Robinson. “Our minds aren’t used to occupying that amount of time, and after an hour or so it begins to wander.” And a idle mind is a breeeding ground for negative thoughts that make the urge to walk or stop that much harder to resist.

Hit the weight room regularly

You may think you just need to pound the pavement to prepare, but keeping your body strong through weight training is a big factor in your success. Stronger muscles improve not only your running skills, but help ward off injuries too. Build strength days into your training one to two times per week, along with another day of cross-training in some form of cardio, such as spinning,” advises Henwood. And don’t forget to work that core; a strong one can improve running biomechanics, making you more efficient at pounding that pavement.

Get on a Roll

All that running (and strength-training!) can leave muscles super tight; loosening them up with daily self-massage can go a long way in terms of keeping you injury-free, says Henwood. In fact, research shows that it can boost tissue repair, increase mobility and decrease soreness. So grab a foam roller and get down to business; your muscles will thank you on your next run.

Mix it up

You may feel a sense of comfort sticking to the same route day in and day out, but it could lead to burn out and overall resentment of those miles. For the sake of your sanity, and to keep things fresh, Henwood suggests opting for a change of scenery or surface (track, trail, treadmill) every once in a while. Other ways to hit refresh: creating a new playlist or buddying up if you are typically a solo strider.

Have fun

“Running is an emotional experience; it’s a whole body experience,” notes Robinson “Take time to have fun, as you build toward your goals.”

This article originally appeared on Health.com

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6 Moves That Burn More Fat in Less Time

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Here's everything you need to know about plyometrics

 

There’s an in-vogue specialized training method that many people are using to get crazy results, and it is one of the fastest methods to get fit in a short amount of time: plyometrics.

Plyometrics are explosive movements that combine power, speed, and strength by working several body parts at once. Since they recruit more muscles than your average exercise—compare a bicep curl, which isolates only that one muscle, with a move that activates your arms, legs, and core simultaneously, like many of the ones below—you burn more calories not only during your workout, but up to eight hours after you’ve finished.

While plyometrics are well-known in the world of sports as a way to help athletes improve their game, they’re starting to take the rest of the fitness world by storm, and for good reason: In addition to toning and sculpting your legs, booty, arms, and abs, plyometrics help to build strength, increase balance and coordination, and improve cardiovascular health.

Before you jump off the couch and head to the gym, make sure you’re ready to handle plyometrics; since the difficulty level is somewhat advanced, being able to perform a proper basic squat and lunge first is important. Once you’ve mastered those moves, you’re ready to move on. Here are 6 plyometrics that will burn fat in no time:

Squat Jumps

Start by getting into the bottom of a squat position. Your legs should be slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and slightly turned out. Your chest should be out, shoulders back, and core engaged. From here, explode straight up in the air, allowing your feet to leave the ground. Make sure to land softly on your toes when you come down. Doing this will protect your knees and hips. Complete 10-15 squat jumps.

Lunge Hops

Start in a lunge position with your right foot in front and left foot behind you with your left knee about an inch from the floor. From here, explode straight up out of the lunge, switching your legs mid-air and landing softly on your toes. You will now have your left leg in front and right leg behind you. Repeat this until you’ve completed 10 total lunge hops.

Skaters

Start at the bottom of a squat position. Jump to the left, landing on your left leg, while bringing your right leg behind your left ankle. From here, jump to the right side with your right leg, bringing your left leg behind your right ankle. This completes one rep. Complete a total of 30 skaters.

Toe Taps

Find a stable medicine ball, step, or bench. This will be your base for the toe touches. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and arms by your sides. Bring your right toe to the edge of your base. From here jump and switch your feet so that your left toe is at the edge of the base and your right foot is now back on the floor. Repeat this for a total of 30 toe taps.

Medicine Ball Squat Thrusts

Grab a medicine ball and stand with your legs slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Hold the ball at belly-button height and slowly squat down until your thighs are parallel to the floor or lower. (Do not let your knees extend past the tip of your toes.) From here, explode upwards and toss the medicine ball straight in the air. Keep your eye on it so you can catch it and drop right back into the squat position. Do 12-15 medicine ball squat thrusts.

Medicine Ball Burpees

Grab a medicine ball and stand with your legs slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Squat down to the floor and place the medicine ball between your feet while keeping your hands on the ball. From here, jump back into a pushup position, making sure your hands are placed securely on the ball. Jump your feet forward until you are at the bottom of a squat again, then stand up straight. Try to do 10-12 medicine ball burpees.

Liked these moves? Check out A 5-Move Workout To Get Your Butt In Shape

This article originally appeared on Health.com

More from Health.com:

TIME psychology

How to Manage Stress

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Shane Parrish writes Farnam Street

Exercise can become your best medicine

For any of you who have experienced a ‘runner’s high’ or endorphin rush while exercising you know how powerful the feeling can be. But there are many more chemicals at play than just endorphins and they can do much more than just make you temporarily feel good. Regular exercise can help you combat high levels of stress and anxiety.

In Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain the authors explain how exercise can become your best medicine.

Aside from elevating endorphins, exercise regulates all of the neurotransmitters targeted by antidepressants. For starters, exercise immediately elevates levels of norepinephrine, in certain areas of the brain. It wakes up the brain and gets it going and improves self-esteem, which is one component of depression.”

“Another factor from the body that comes into play here is the atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP). Produced by the muscles of the heart itself when it’s really pumping, ANP travels through the bloodstream and into the brain, where it helps to further moderate the stress response and reduce noise in the brain. It’s a potent part of a cascade of chemicals that relieve emotional stress and reduce anxiety. Along with pain-blunting endorphins and endocannabinoids, the increase in ANP helps explain why you feel relaxed and calm after a moderate aerobic workout. When you talk about burning off stress, these are the elements at work.

We all know that chronically high levels of stress is very unhealthy but did you know that it can actually destroy the connections between nerve cells in the brain?

If mild stress becomes chronic, the unrelenting cascade of cortisol triggers genetic actions that begin to sever synaptic connections and cause dendrils to atrophy and cells to die; eventually, the hippocampus can end up physically shriveled, like a raisin.

But this process can also be reversed.

Studies show that if researchers exercise rats that have been chronically stressed, that activity makes the hippocampus grow back to it’s pre-shriveled state

It’s important to note that while a lot of stress is bad, a little stress can be very good. Physical fitness is one discipline which has always advocated introducing controlled stress to your system. That is, after all, how we break down and build up our muscles. The neurons in our brains benefit from a bit of stress in the same way our muscles do.

What’s gotten lost amid all the advice about how to reduce the stress of modern life is that challenges are what allow us to strive and grow and learn. The parallel on the cellular level is that stress sparks brain growth. Assuming that the stress is not too severe and that the neurons are given time to recover, the connections become stronger and our mental machinery works better.

To get the most mental benefit from your exercise program ideally you need to spend some time pushing yourself and getting a bit outside of your comfort zone.

Psychologically, this is where you ‘confront the self,’ in the words of my colleague Robert Pyles… By going beyond where you thought you could, straining and stressing and lingering in that pain for even just a minute or two, you sometimes transcend into a rarefied state of mind, in which you feel like you can conquer any challenge. If you’ve ever experienced the phenomenon of runner’s high, it probably came in response to a near maximum effort on your part. The euphoric feeling is likely due to the mixture of extremely high levels of endorphins, ANP, endocannabinoids and neurotransmitters pumping through your system at this intensity. It’s the brain’s way of blocking everything else out so you can push through the pain and make the kill.

You also need to build a routine. The stability of a routine can have dramatic effects on your mood and motivation.

Exercise immediately increases levels of dopamine and if you stay on some sort of schedule, the brain cells in your motivation center will sprout new dopamine receptors, giving you new found initiative.

Lastly, exercising at a moderate intensity serves another important function; it helps take out the trash.

Inside your brain cells, the higher activity level triggers the release of metabolic cleanup crews, producing proteins and enzymes that dispose of free radicals, broken bits of DNA, and inflammation factors that can cause the cells to rupture if left unchecked.

Okay, maybe I won’t skip yoga tonight.

This piece originally appeared on Farnam Street.

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MONEY freebies

Anyone Can Work Out for Free at Planet Fitness on Thursday

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The "Judgement Free" gym is actually free for a day

Planet Fitness is opening its 1,000th club this week, with a new location in Washington, D.C. To celebrate, the fitness chain — which operates in most states — is opening up the doors of all 1,000 locations in the U.S. and Canada to anyone and everyone, free of charge, on Thursday, June 11.

Planet Fitness bills itself as a “Judgement Free Zone,” where “members experience a hassle-free, non-intimidating environment.” On Thursday, this environment is being opened up to nonmembers as well, who are under no obligation to become members.

That doesn’t mean that Planet Fitness isn’t actively encouraging visitors to sign up, of course. A company press release is pumping up a “special one-day sale” on Thursday of $10 down and $10 per month for new members. But be warned, based on the membership prices listed on the Planet Fitness site, there is nothing special about Thursday’s “special” pricing. Basic membership usually starts at $10 per month.

Just as importantly, take note of the research that shows two-thirds of all gym memberships go unused even as those membership fees get charged month after month. At least with Planet Fitness, there are some very special bonus perks for showing up every now and then: Locations host a free pizza night for members on the first Monday of every month, and give away bagels on the first Tuesday of each month.

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