Bike to Work (in Comfort)

Happy National Bike to Work Week! Although Bozeman chose to delay our Bike to Work Week Festivities (June 4-8), I still rode into the office this morning in solidarity with the rest of the state and nation! Everything is so green and the air is crisp—it’s an outstanding time to ride!

To kick off this special week of riding, we wanted to re-share a video we produced a couple of years back on bicycle comfort, in case you missed it or need a refresher. If you’re comfortable on your bike, your riding will become much more enjoyable and unlimited! Enjoy, and stay safe out there!

 

Happy Bike Month!

May is here, and it’s one of our favorite times of the year! There’s Star Wars Day, Cinco de Mayo, the end of school, Memorial Day weekend, and of course, National Bike Month!

Here’s a few links and news about Bike Month happenings in your community!

  • This week (May 7-11) is National Bike to School week. For those of you with children, check to see if your child’s school is doing special promotions or group rides this week.
  • Next week (May 14-18) is National Bike to Work week. Check your local community calendar for events. Here is some info for Missoula and Bozeman riders:
  • Bike Walk Montana is a great resource anytime to learn more about riding for transportation and riding safety.

On a personal note, I was able to kick off National Bike Month in a fun way last week, while visiting Kalispell and Flathead Valley Community College. On May 1st, a small group from FVCC braved the threat of rain and rode west on one of the Kalispell area’s fantastic Rails-to-Trails paths. The weather turned out to be fine, and we had a really enjoyable after-work ride in the early evening light. Thanks FVCC!

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Saddle Up!

—Neal

 

Swim-to-Bike Transition

We’re on the cusp of National Bike Month, but did you realize that April is Adult Learn to Swim Month? So as we transition from April to May, here is a post from guest-writer Phillip Luebke, addressing the importance of swimming skills for adults.

Phillip Luebke works at MSU-Bozeman as a government contracting advisor for the Montana Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC), where he helps Montana companies do business with federal, state and local government agencies. He currently serves as president of the Bozeman Masters Swim Club and is the Top Ten and Records Chair for the Montana Local Masters Swimming Committee (LMSC). He is looking forward to competing in his first USMS National Championship Meet in Indianapolis next month.

Every year the Swimming Saves Lives Foundation formally declares the month of April, “Adult Learn-to-Swim Month.” In many parts of the country, this is the time of year when outdoor pools, lakes, and beaches are opening for spring and summer recreation. It’s a little early for that here in Montana (I’m writing this in the middle of yet another April snowstorm), but it’s never too early to start thinking about summer recreation and water safety.

More than a third of adults in the United States can’t swim the length of a pool, which puts them at risk of being one of the ten people who drown every day in the United States. Summers in Montana are an especially dangerous time. 46% of drowning deaths in Montana occur in June, July and August, and the rate of unintentional drowning deaths in our state is 54% higher than the rate for the U.S.

To help prevent drownings, the Bozeman Masters Swim Club gave free swim lessons to adults during the month of April. They were beginner lessons for adults with little-to-no swimming skills. Some never learned how to swim when they were younger. Others might have had a few lessons as a child, but never achieved a level of competency where they felt comfortable in the water.

You might not find anything strange about a swim club offering swim lessons, but I should point out that it’s not something that is normally offered by a masters swimming club. Masters swimmers (swimmers aged 18+) may need help with their technique or want to build up their strength or endurance, but in general, they already know how to swim. So why are we doing this?

A grant from the Swimming Saves Lives Foundation was the spark that spurred us to offer free adult learn-to-swim (ALTS) lessons last year, but once we saw the impact our lessons were having on the participants in our program, we knew that it was a program that we had to keep going. Learning to swim can be life-changing. The heartfelt gratitude that was expressed by the “graduates” of our program at the end of last year’s sessions is what prompted me to volunteer to be an instructor this year.

As someone who has been swimming since about age seven, I don’t think I ever truly appreciated what it’s like to go through life without knowing how to swim. We have heard some heart-wrenching stories from participants entering our program about what that is like. These are stories I wouldn’t feel right sharing, but this excerpt from the USMS Adult Learn-to-Swim Instructor Manual paints a pretty vivid picture:

Once a person is convinced that swimming any distance is impossible, a life of avoidance begins. Excuses are made to remain safely on the beach while friends run for a cooling dip. Vacation plans are altered so that swimming is not included. Fearful or nonswimming parents will stay out of the water or instill fear in their kids to keep them safe. Cruises, fishing from a boat, and ferry rides are all accompanied by the concern of, “What happens if we go over?” For anyone who does not know how to swim comfortably, there is a nagging sense of something missed, that the joy others feel while swimming is not available.

That is no way to go through life. Think of all the fun summer activities in Montana that happen in and around bodies of water. Here in Bozeman, we’re doing our small part to eliminate lives full of excuses, avoidance and fear…and the community responded. All three of our sessions filled up just a few weeks after we opened registrations.

I have already seen remarkable improvement from the adults that I have been instructing. Students who struggled with putting their faces in the water on the first day are now taking multiple strokes across the pool and learning to breathe properly so that they can continue to swim without stopping. Recent lessons have included smiles and laughter, along with high-fives and fist-bumps. Six lessons over three weeks is a short period of time to learn anything, but I remain optimistic that most of our students will be able to master the five water safety skills the American Red Cross has identified as critical for “water competency” by the end of this month:

  • Step or jump into the water over your head.
  • Return to the surface and float or tread water for one minute.
  • Turn around in a full circle and find an exit.
  • Swim 25 yards to the exit.
  • Exit from the water. If in a pool, be able to exit without using the ladder.

If you don’t know how to swim, and would like to learn, feel free to reach out to me at president@bozemanmasters.org or 406-600-2771 and I’ll try to point you in the right direction. In addition to the ALTS program in Bozeman, there are at least a couple of USMS-certified ALTS instructors in Kalispell and Missoula, and I know a few folks who give private lessons, but are not USMS-certified.

If you already know how to swim, but would like to improve, I strongly encourage you to check out a U.S. Masters Swimming club near you:

Bozeman Masters Adult Learn to Swim Lessons

Joining the Challenge

We love to hear inspiring stories of our employees challenging themselves and others to get stronger, eat better, and live healthier lives. The following story was shared with us by Megan Schultz, from the W.A. Franke College of Forestry & Conservation at UM Missoula. Enjoy!

Before Christmas 2017 we were having casual conversation about exercise and the topic of planks came up. My coworker Kara and I were telling our Director, Norma, about how good of an overall body exercise a plank is. So, the 3 of us along with Jeremy in our research center (ITRR) embarked on the 28-day plank challenge. Each morning the 4 of us would meet and do planks together in the office. We built up to a 4-minute plank that culminated on Christmas Day!

During the plank challenge, some other employees in our building heard about it and were interested in joining us for another challenge. After the plank challenge, we did a wall-sit challenge where we built up to a 5-minute wall-sit. When we started this challenge, none of us thought we would make 5 minutes! But, we all did. And for those who were not involved with the plank challenge the first time around, they added that on. By the end, we were all doing a 5-minute wall-sit and then we decided on a 2-minute maintenance plank. There were now 8 CFC employees participating!

For the next challenge we wanted to incorporate some lower body and upper body, and Johanna suggested a squat challenge and push-up challenge together. The squat challenge was a different kind, with most days wrapping up with a variety of all the different kinds on the last day. The push-up challenge built up to 60! Some of us did knee push-ups, inclined, wide or just regular. And we continued our 2 minute plank each day at the end of the other exercises.

[This week] we will wrap-up our latest challenge. For this one we looked at a variety and created our own hybrid: squats, bridges, lunges, tricep dips, yoga poses, and the stand-by plank. This challenge has been the most time consuming, but it still only takes about 15 minutes to get it all in! We meet each morning at 10:15 and instead of hanging out catching up by the water cooler, we’re meeting for some exercise!

Today we completed 80 squats, 60 bridges, up to 70 lunges (some of us did a lower amount), 12 tricep dips, and a 1 minute plank! I pushed to start this challenge quickly after the last one ended because I wanted to finish out the challenge with the group before I am gone to have a baby. This has been such a great way to stay active during my pregnancy and I am thankful for the support of my colleagues.

It’s my understanding someone else will spearhead the challenges will I am gone, and I look forward to joining them again when I am back from maternity leave.

Best,

Megan Schultz, Project Manager & Research Associate, ITRR, University of Montana

Challenge group photo 4.6.18
Super strong UM staff celebrating the completion of another challenge and Megan’s soon-to-be new arrival!

As an epilogue, we’re happy to share that Megan had a little baby girl this week and mom and baby are doing well! Congrats Megan, and thanks again for sharing!

 

Thinking like a coach

One of our annual Montana Moves challenges asks you to create your goals for the year. These goals could be personal, professional, or wellness related. (If you haven’t done so yet, this challenge runs until March 4th.) Every January, I must admit I get the most excited to write down my athletic goals for the year. Writing down my big goals gives me a framework, strategy, and plan for the year. For me, I know that in the absence of concrete goals, my exercise is less focused, less consistent, and less effective. As I went through my yearly practice of goal setting and planning this year, I was thinking about the process, and I wanted to share some of that process, because I believe it can be a tool for bridging the gap between having a goal and making it a reality. This is a process that coaches use to build programs for athletes, teams, or clients, but I think many of the concepts translate to goal-setting and planning regardless of the type of goal.  In other words, this process can be used to set personal, professional, or financial goals as well as physical.

Step 1: Begin with the End in mind

This is where your initial goal-setting will come in. I won’t spend much time talking about goal setting here—if you need a refresher, check out this post. The main thing is to begin with the end in mind.  What’s at the end of the journey? What are you trying to accomplish? Is it a big event? Is it something on your bucket list? Is it a personal best? Is it just to look smokin’ hot before your June vacation to some place warm? Be specific, write it out, and put these events on your calendar.

Once I have dates on my calendar, I like to figure out how much time I have to prepare for each event. I even have an app on my phone called “Days Until”. It’s a free, simple app that let’s me know exactly how many days I have until certain events. I even know how many days until my hundredth birthday (20,589 days, so there’s plenty of shopping days left for you to get me something nice). I also like to count how many weeks until these events, because a week is a nice, neat unit of training measurement that many coaches use, and is often referred to as a microcycle.

Steps 2 and 3: What’s the Big Picture? How does today’s workout fit into that?

Once I know how many weeks I have to train, I start thinking about the big picture. What are the general concepts I’ll need to work on over large chunks of time in order to reach my goal? One thing that I’ve done the past couple of years that’s worked for me is to divide my year out by the month–once again, a nifty, pre-made training unit. For me, I often use a month as a macrocycle. Anything from 4 to 8 weeks is common for a macrocycle.  It’s long enough to see a training effect before changing the emphasis of a program. This consistent varying of a training program allows for specific results, and is the best way to avoid the dreaded “training plateau”.

A couple of years ago, I made a marcrocycle spreadsheet that keeps me dialed into my training goals, and focused on upcoming events. Here’s what it looks like: 2018 Macrocycle (Neal) If you like it, feel free to copy it, modify it, and use it for yourself.

Let’s break down a few month-macrocycles from this spreadsheet as examples. Right now, my training focus is to build my aerobic base through cardiovascular training and cardio-strength training. My next event on the calendar that I’d like to be ready for is Run to the Pub, on St. Patrick’s Day here in Bozeman. So my microcycle (week) is structured to includ two running days, 2-3 resistance training days, plus cross-training days with things like skiing and swimming. Next month, I’ll bump the running up a little. In the meantime, each cardiovascular training session is designed to build up an aerobic base (nothing fancy, just building up volume) and each trip to the gym should focus on driving my work capacity (the ability to do high quality work while warding off fatigue). In this case, what I’m doing for resistance training is a complement to what I’m doing with my cardio exercise.

If you’re wondering, “Ok, Neal, you’re training for a road race, but you’re only running twice a week? Shouldn’t you be running more?” Perhaps. But alas, I’m not 23 anymore. I know my body, and these days I have to build the road miles slowly. Also, I like to ski, and XC skiing is great cardio. And finally, I’m not trying to hit my peak fitness until this summer, so I build up slowly to that, which helps me stay healthy. Showing up to a starting line healthy is always my first goal when designing a training program.  If you’re injured, you can’t train, and you can’t race–at least not well anyway–and the quickest way to get injured is to do too much too soon.

There are two events highlighted on my calendar this year. Those are the events I want to peak for and perform my best: the Bozeman Triathlon in June and the Montana Cup XC race in late October. My training goals and focus are designed to get me to those events fit and healthy. If I feel like doing something different, or I’m having a low motivation day, a quick look at my macrocycle calendar helps me re-focus. It’s on the wall behind my desk, along with my written out goals.

Now let’s look at October and compare it to February.  October is a peak month. My aerobic base will have hopefully been built.  So I’ll be free to do more intervals, tempo runs, and speedwork in preparation for the Montana Cup XC race. To me, this is the fun stuff, but it has to be earned. I can’t start with it. My microcycles (weeks) in October call for four runs per week, plus a bike and endurance lift for cross training.  That leaves a rest/recreation day for other fun. Perhaps some fall hikes.

After the Montana Cup, my racing is done for the year, and I switch gears to off-season strength, hitting the gym three times a week and lifting pretty heavy stuff (for me). This change is good for my body and my mind.

In summary

Start with your SMART goal, write it down, and get it on the calendar. Begin with the end in mind. Then, if it’s helpful, write out some training focuses–perhaps chunking them into macrocycles. Finally, write down your plan for the week (microcycle), making sure it fits into the big picture of what you’re trying to accomplish. On low motivation days, look at your goals. Ask yourself why you are going to exercise today.

Finally, always be able to answer these two questions:

“What is my goal for today’s workout?” (Now)

“What am I working toward?” (Big picture-future)

Happy training!

Neal

P.S. For more on training goals and how to manipulate exercise variables to reach goals faster, check out today’s webinar Sets, Reps, and Such.

Wellchat Episode X: Mountain Bear Expedition.

Episode 10: Special guest Lisa Verwys from the Museum of the Rockies talks about her upcoming Mountain Bear Expedition, an all-female ski traverse across Yellowstone National Park.

Learn more at: www.mountainbearexpedition.com

The Montana Moves & Meals Wellchat is available on Itunes podcasts! Subscribe and take us with you for a walk, run, or drive!

Ridge Laps and The Law of Specificity

I had my spring training plan all laid out. After an off-season of strength training and skiing, I had begun to slowly add some running mileage back to the routine. The Run to the Pub was 9 weeks away. Plenty of time…

Then a friend asked me to be on her team for King & Queen of the Ridge, an annual Bridger Bowl event in which you see how many “Ridge Laps” you can do in a meager five hours. A ridge lap involves a nearly 500 foot vertical bootpack from the top of the Bridger ski lift up to the top of the ridgeline, and then you ski back down. Sounds fun right?

This is one of those events that I’ve heard of, and in the back of my mind thought, “Hmm, I wonder how I’d do in that? Maybe I’ll try that out someday.” It reminds me of a time in my younger life when I thought I’d really like to skydive. And then I got an opportunity to go skydiving, and it got real, and I thought—do I really want to skydive? Maybe I’ll just save that for later. (I’ve yet to go skydiving.)

Last year, the same friend asked me to be on her team, but I had a race the same day as the event. A fine and good excuse. This year, I had no excuses, and I agreed to join her team before I could think the better of it. This left me two-and-a-half weeks to prepare. No problem right? [Insert “freaking out” emoji]

scream emoji

So I’ve hurriedly modified my training for the past couple of weeks, and I’ve done some very specific training to prepare for the event. The most specific training I could do is to actually hike the ridge and ski down, which, luckily, I’ve been able to do a few times. But since I’m not to the point in my life where I can go ski everyday, I also have to supplement with other types of exercise.

The first sport-specific workout I did in preparation for this event, was hauling sandbags up and down a stairwell in the MSU Fitness Center. I did 10-minute intervals of stairs, while practicing different carries: front, suitcase, on the shoulder, under the arms, and overhead. Then I would do a one-minute ski drill followed by a three minute rest. I structured the workout to mimic the event itself: a long hike under load, a short ski run, and short break in between.

Then this weekend, in my garage, I did loaded step-ups on a box, except this time I wore my ski boots. Who needs ankle weights when you can just slap on a clunky pair of ski boots? Again, the theme is to mimic my movement and feel as closely as possible to the real thing.

The reality is, I’m not going to gain that much physical or cardiovascular fitness in two weeks. However, two weeks is enough time to have an effect on my neuromuscular system, the connection between brain and body—how the body moves and how the nervous system recruits and fires muscles. This in turn can lend a little mental edge and the confidence of knowing I have had a bit of focused practice for the event. If the training is challenging and specific, the actual event seems much easier mentally.

All of this has to do with what exercise scientists refer to as the Law of Specificity, Specificity Principle, or SAID Principle (Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands). This principle states that the body will make specific physical adaptations depending on the type of stress, or demand, placed upon it from physical activity. In other words, you get what you train for. This holds true for general adaptations like greater strength or cardiovascular fitness, and very specific adaptations like the ability to hit a golf ball, serve a tennis ball, or ski moguls.

What makes this concept important for us? Well, let’s start with the assumption that most of us aren’t professional athletes, and don’t have professional coaches figuring everything out for us. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have goals. There are still reasons why we exercise (or there should be). Let’s also assume that we don’t have all the time in the world to exercise. Between work, social and family life, and the rest of life’s responsibilities, most of us have a limited window of time to exercise, so those precious minutes need to count.

While it’s perfectly fine to squeeze in a short bout of exercise just to get us moving and make us feel good if that’s all there’s time for, if you have a specific goal such as losing 15 pounds, running a half marathon, or improving your pickleball game, you should spend the majority of your allotted exercise time doing things that will lead to the specific results you desire.

If you need more help, there are always personal trainers and coaches who are excellent at creating programs to fit your specific needs. You can also tune in to next month’s Montana Moves webinar, Sets, Reps, and Such, which will get into the SAID principle as it relates to resistance training.

But in general, if you want to be a better swimmer, spend most of your exercise time in the pool, and when you’re not in the pool, condition and strengthen the muscle groups and movement patterns that help you swim. If you want to lose weight, choose more intense exercise that burns a ton of calories, and promotes lean muscle development. If you want to be a better downhill skier, strengthen and condition your lower body, core, and do sport specific drills. Then hit the ski hill as much as you can! Or if you want to do King and Queen of the Ridge, hike the ridge, and when you can’t hike the ridge, carry sandbags up stairs, or do step-ups in ski boots. And if possible, do it longer than 2 weeks.

Be specific. You’ll discover specific, and hopefully favorable, results.

We’ll see what kind of results I get this weekend. Honestly, I just want to challenge myself and have fun. Whatever I do will be a personal best.

You can check in on twitter @montanamoves or at the bottom of this page to see how it goes!

Neal

bridger pano
On the 6th or 7th lap, I’ll try to remember to enjoy the view.

Wellchat Episode VIII: Injury Prevention

Episode 8: Neal shares some tips on how use exercise to reduce the risk of common injuries, and also how to exercise without getting injured.

Topics include:

  • Overuse Injury
  • The 10% Rule
  • Volume, Impact, and Surface
  • Warm ups and Cool downs
  • Self-Myofascial Release
  • Resistance Training
  • Rest & Recovery

For even more info on injury prevention and recovery, click here to watch one of our past webinars.

The Montana Moves & Meals Wellchat is available on Itunes podcasts! Subscribe and take us with you for a walk, run, or drive!

Basic Lifting Techniques: The Deadlift (Video)

Pop Quiz! What do the following things have in common?

  • A small child
  • A box of stuff
  • A barbell
  • A pencil
  • A suitcase or travel bag

Pause to think…

Did you get it? All of those things could be something we need to pick up off the ground at some point in our lives, or perhaps, quite often. Whether or not you go to the gym, we’re all weight lifters. It’s  something our bodies are designed to do. Unfortunately, a lot of people do it wrong, and doing it wrong leads to a lot of injuries every year. And believe it or not, yes, people have blown out their backs bending over to pick up a pencil off the ground—literally the straw that broke the camel’s back.

So check out the latest video from Montana Moves! In this video, I talk about a fundamental movement pattern, the hip-hinge, which everyone should practice and perfect. Then we move on to lifting things off the ground and putting them back down properly. When practiced in the gym setting or at home, it’s great for building strength and confidence.

One of my goals as the MUS Exercise & Fitness Specialist is that all of our employees know how to properly do a squat, and lift things off the ground properly. When we lift properly, not only do we minimize the chance of an injury, but we feel stronger and more functional as well.

Enjoy the video!

P.S. For those of you participating in our MUS Wellness Incentive Program, this video will be posted as a challenge on Friday!

Neal

Wildcards!

Here at MUS Wellness, we certainly don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all concept of wellness. We’re all different: different goals, different interests, different motivations, etc. Variety is the spice of life right?

That’s why one of our favorite annual Montana Moves challenges is the Wildcard challenge. It gives our participants a chance to play their fitness wildcard. For some, it’s a chance to go to their wheelhouse, and be rewarded for doing their favorite things.  For others, it’s a nudge to get out of the box a bit either by trying something new, or setting a specific goal they’ve been thinking about for a while.

I always enjoy reading how creative our MUS population is, and I find the wildcards to be very motivating. Here are a few highlights. Way to go MUS!

  • Rain, sleet, wind or snow didn’t keep me from achieving my October goal of walking or hiking outside every day in the month. And I maintained 10,000 steps or more each day in October. Yippee! Also, I went to yoga classes every week in October at least 2 times a week. My body and my future self thanks me.
  • 38 day streak of 10,000 steps or more.
  • Have been working on strength training and am now able to squat more weight than I ever have and increased my 1RM by 20%!
  • I kayaked a 24 mile section of river!
  • I’m playing volleyball again! I’ll be attending every week and bringing my A game! I haven’t played for about 10 years, but it’s all coming back to me!
  • Agreed to dance in the Nutcracker. Strapping the pointe shoes back on and rehearsing 3 days/week.
  • Yesterday I had my first consult with my new personal trainer – a first for me is having someone who is keeping me accountable on lifting.
  • After months of walking and building my strength back up, I made it to the ‘M’!
  • Did 4 great hikes in Zion and Bryce Canyon over the weekend, which has been on my bucket list for years!
  • Registered for a half marathon!
  • Doing a 30 day squat challenge. Some form of squats every day for 30 days.
  • I hiked the Wonderland Trail around Mt Rainier – 96 miles in 6 days
  • I am going for a 15 x 15 challenge. 15,000 steps for 15 days. Wish me luck.

Streaks, bucket-list items, registering for new events, or resuming an old activities seemed to be repetitive themes this year.  Hopefully the streaks and new habits are still alive as we head into the holidays!