Health and Fitness Tips and Inspiration

  1. Proven Sprint 8 Program is For All Levels of Fitness

    Sprint8 Image

    It’s no secret that High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is one of the top training trends in the fitness industry today.  In addition to being a good challenge (the words “high intensity” in the title give that away), HIIT workouts can be quick and very effective.

    While there are many ways to get in a HIIT workout (bodyweight intervals, Tabata, Boot Camp-style workouts, spin class, etc.), beginners can be somewhat intimidated and unsure where to start.



    Matrix treadmills inside a 2nd Wind Exercise Store

    Enter the Sprint 8 program!

    Sprint 8 is a well-rounded HIIT program because it allows everyone the opportunity to tackle a HIIT workout at a level that’s appropriate for them.  So whether you’re a beginner, intermediate or advanced exerciser, Sprint 8 offers pre-programmed options that best fit YOU!

    Another big advantage to the Sprint 8 program is that can be done on a treadmill, bike, or elliptical trainer.  In fact, Matrix Fitness has the Sprint 8 pre-programmed into select pieces of their equipment.



    Example of the XER console on a Matrix exercise bike.

    Before we continue, let’s give a quick re-fresher of how HIIT works…..

    Because of the higher intensity, HIIT recruits fast-twitch muscle fibers.  Fast twitch fibers are designed for anaerobic or short but powerful bursts of energy (think a track & field sprinter, a running back in football, etc.).  Steady-state cardio on the other hand recruits slow-twitch muscle fibers, which are designed for aerobic or endurance-type activities (think long distance runners).

    Fast-twitch fibers need more fuel than slow-twitch fibers. This allows them to not only function properly when called into play, but also to recover properly following a workout or sporting event.  If your workout targets fast-twitch fibers, you’ll burn more calories during the workout AND after the workout.  This later is known as the “after-burn effect” or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, which allows your body to continue to burn calories well after your workout is over.

    The Sprint 8 program makes HIIT training really simple and consists of 3 main components:
    • A pre-programmed 3 minute warm-up that gradually increases your heart rate.
    • Next it goes into the heart of the workout as the user goes through a series of 30 second sprints (8 in total), followed by 90 seconds of active recovery (slower pace that allows the heart rate to gradually come down). The HIIT portion of the workout is based on the user’s input of age, weight and desired level of intensity.  The Sprint 8 equipment will then automatically adjust speed, elevation and/or resistance throughout the workout.
    • The workout then finishes-up with a pre-programmed cool-down that allows for proper heart rate recovery.
    Console interface displaying an in-progress Sprint 8 program-

    In this example the user is at a 4.0% incline and sprinting at 8.4mph. The exerciser is 22 seconds into their third 30 second sprint. Don't worry there are beginner levels, see below.

    Who Can Do HIIT Workouts?

    Anyone!

    Although many think of HIIT being for advanced exercisers that are already in great shape, HIIT workouts can be modified to fit all levels of fitness and all ages.



    The key for beginners is to learn how to listen to your body.

    The Sprint 8 program does a great job with this because you can adjust the workout to fit your fitness level.  For instance, there are five levels – Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, Elite, & Custom. The beginner level starts with the lowest incline and speed settings and as you move up in levels the incline and speed increases. In each of these levels are sub-levels (see photo). While the goal of this program is to complete all 8 sprints at your maximum potential, the Custom option does allow you to choose how many sprints you want to do. You can then gradually work your way up to a full 8 sprint workout as your bodies adapt to the introduction of HIIT training.

    This what the Beginner Level looks like:



    Within the beginner level there are 5 sublevels. The first of the five is shown. The console is listing the 8 sprints and recovery sessions for Beginner Level 1. So as you can see the first sprint would be at 3% incline and 3.2 mph and the recovery is at 0% incline at 1.5mph.

    Who Should Do HIIT Training?

    Everyone!

    Well, at least those who are ready to take on HIIT and have the ok from their physician to add it into their exercise regime.

    HIIT training and the Sprint 8 program offer a quick and effective way to get your body in great shape.  Focus initially on 2-3 days/week, with a full Sprint 8 workout only taking 20 minutes!

    To supplement, add in an additional 2-3 days/week of resistance training or other beneficial workouts such as yoga or pilates.  And don’t forget to focus on a clean meal plan that includes plenty of protein, healthy carbs (fruits & veggies) and fats (nuts, fish, avocados, etc.), and lots of water.

    Why Sprint 8?

    Again, with many of Matrix Fitness products, the Sprint 8 program is built in and ready to go!  This takes the guesswork out of having to build your own HIIT workouts and allows you to follow a proven program that can offer some great results.

    And, as previously mentioned, with the Sprint 8 program you don’t need a ton of time to accomplish a very effective workout.  That alone is a game-changer for many of you who struggle to find the time each day to fit in a workout.

    Finally, it works!  Take some time to research the Sprint 8 program on your own and you’ll find plenty of evidence as to its effectiveness.

    About the writer: Ken Grall is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and owns and operates an Edge Fitness in Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more about Ken.

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  2. How To Get The Most Out Of Your Treadmill



    Whether you’re a beginning exerciser or someone who has many years of working out under your belt, there’s no doubt the treadmill can be an invaluable tool in your fitness routine.

    Treadmills are a safe and relatively easy option for those looking to get on the right track to being more active, losing weight and burning calories.  On the flip side, treadmills can also offer-up challenging opportunities to blast fat, increase cardiovascular endurance and take your workouts to a whole new level!

    Regardless of where you fall on the fitness spectrum, you want your hard work to pay off!  Plus, if you’ve invested your hard-earned money into a treadmill, you owe it to yourself to get the most out of what it can do for you and your fitness goals.

    One way to do this is to take advantage of some of the built-in programs that almost all of today’s treadmills provide.  Whether you want a steady training pace, the added challenge of hills, a workout based on calorie or distance goals, or the metabolic benefits of intervals, chances are you have these right at your fingertips when you power-up your treadmill!

    For some, simply hopping on a treadmill and pressing “Start” is all they need.  This is often referred to as the “Quick Start” mode.  With the push of a button users can manually control their speed and incline and get in a perfectly good workout.  Many beginners start this way and it’s an excellent way to get acclimated to the treadmill and work at a pace that’s comfortable and appropriate for you.

    But as you progress and adapt to manual workouts, you may want to consider trying a few of the more common built-in treadmill programs to not only spice-up your workouts, but to also get more “bang for your fitness buck!” and to avoid the dreaded fitness slumps and plateaus.

    Built-in programs will take a lot of the guess-work out of your treadmill workouts.  Once you select which program you want to tackle, you’ll often be guided to select which level you want to work at.  This may take a bit of experimenting on your part….I suggest to start low and work your way up as needed.  The program will then take over by automatically adjusting your workout variables (speed and incline) for you.  They should also have a built-in warm-up and cool-down period to assure you’re getting everything you need from your workout.

    Keep in mind that you should always be able to manually over-ride any of these built in programs to better fit your needs.  So if you find yourself being challenged a bit too much by the speed or incline, simply over-ride the current setting by using the up/down buttons on the control panel.

    While all treadmills are a bit different, here are a few of the more common and popular built-in programs….

    HIIT Intervals Research proves there are great fitness benefits to interval alternating - alternating periods of higher speed or incline with periods of slower speed or lower incline.  Not only does it provide a challenging workout, but it’s a more efficient way for the body to burn fat and give your metabolism a long-lasting boost.  Plus you can accomplish a great workout in a shorter amount of time!

    Be sure to ease into these types of workouts as they do take a little getting used to.

    As far as built-in programs go, these are often labeled as “HIIT", ”Intervals", “Fat Burn,” or “Rolling Hills” on many of today’s treadmills.  They can also be given a specific name like the popular Sprint 8 program by Matrix Fitness.

    5k/10k/Performance For those who are looking to train for a specific distance or pace, many treadmills will have built-in training programs to help users determine a good pace for themselves or to help the user who may have a particular goal in mind as far as a pace or time.

    These programs are also handy for avid runners who may not be able to get outside due to bad weather.  They can plug in a pace or goal time and the treadmill will do the rest.  Of course, you still have to do the actual workJ.

    Heart Rate Heart rate training is very popular today and, with most treadmills being heart rate compatible, you can often find programs that will keep you in a select “zone.”

    Chest strap heart rate monitors are popular for this type of programming and will automatically communicate your heart rate with the treadmill.  The unit can then adjust speed and incline within your particular program to help keep you in a specified heart rate zone.

    Virtual Reality While this programming feature may not yet be available on a lot of treadmills, you will find some that allow you to pick where you want to walk/run.  Maybe it’s a run along Lake Michigan in Chicago or up and down the rolling hills in San Francisco. These programs can provide some awesome scenery on your treadmill console and provide a fun escape from a regular treadmill workout.

    As you can see, treadmills can provide a lot of options and variety that will not only make your workouts more efficient, but also much more enjoyable.

    Happy Treadmilling!
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  3. Five Minute Yoga Practices for Workout Recovery



    If you've already hit the ground running on your New Year's resolutions, you might be noticing aches in new places. While DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) will reduce after a few workouts, it is be a great reminder to start adding some yoga into your training routine. In addition to increasing your flexibility, yoga can make you a better athlete by improving your concentration, breath control, and functional movement patterns. Since you're already warmed up and building strength in your regular workouts, you don't need a lot of time to benefit from yoga. Here are some of the best ways to incorporate yoga into your workout recovery practices. Standing Poses: From Warrior 1 to Triangle pose, some of the most familiar yoga postures will help you to build functional flexibility and strength. Because you are holding your bodyweight, these poses build strength, while challenging you in different movement planes. Holding these poses will build stability. Repetitions in and out of the postures will ingrain healthy movement patterns, improving the stability of the knees, shoulders, and low back. This video shows ways to use Standing Poses for Recovery.



    The sequence: Warrior 1: with shoulder shrugs and repeated transitions from standing Warrior 2: with wrist flexion and increased depth Triangle: with shoulder opening Hip Openers: These poses help to release tightness from the piriformis, as well as the rotators and flexors of the hip joint. This can reduce low back strain and increase range of motion in running and strength training. This active recovery video focuses on the hips and low back.



    The sequence: Ardha Matsandrasana (seated spinal twist) Easy Pose Supported Bridge Pose using a block for support Foam Rolling: Add foam rolling to your yoga practice to increase its benefits. By holding a posture with the foam roller or foam rolling prior to the stretch, you release areas of held tension in the body's connective tissue providing the opportunity for realignment and healing of dysfunctional movement patterns, as well as improving circulation and hydration in the muscle tissue. This foam rolling sequence is a great way to wind down at the end of the day or after a workout.



    The sequence: Figure Four with Foam Roller Modified Pigeon with Foam Roller Lat Foam Roll followed by Modified Child's pose Adding yoga for recovery into your workout routine doesn't need to take a lot of time. The brief practices provided above are excellent ways to warm up or cool down and can be rotated throughout your training week. If you have the time to include a yoga class on your active recovery days, you'll find that your practice and its associated benefits will progress even more quickly. Whether your yoga practice is intense or limited to a few minutes each week, commit to using that time to observe the effect of each posture on your body and breath to fully incorporate yoga's benefits on and off the mat.
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  4. The Resurgence of Stepmills – The Matrix Fitness Climbmill Improved



    In the peak of their popularity in the late 90’s and early 2000’s it was difficult to go to a fitness facility and not find stepmills. They were a very popular machine on cardio floors allowing users to have a never ending set of stairs in a very small space with adjustments at the tip of their fingers. Stepmills began to lose some of their popularity in the 2000’s for many reasons; elliptical market advancements & popularity, improvements in treadmills cushioning, cost of ownership, and reliability of the product.

    Today stepmills are resurging in popularity and perhaps nobody is offering a better product than Matrix Fitness and their Climbmill lineup. Matrix didn’t want to reinvent the wheel on stepmills, but rather seek to improve on the areas that current models in the industry were falling short. By assembling a panel of service technicians, fitness facility owners, and end users Matrix gathered data on all the ways they could improve the stepmill design. Leading to a transformational product, the Matrix Climbmill.

    Matrix has improved the serviceability, performance, user interaction, and cost of ownership on the Climbmill. The Matrix Climbmills boast a comfortable 10” step-depth to accommodate a wide range of users. The incorporation of a multi grip ergonomic hand rails design with built in controls creates a safe and comfortable user experience. The addition of a control zone sensing safety feature also makes the machine incredibly safe. Highlighting the commitment to providing a better product investment are features like an anti-rust frame design, sweat managements system, and oil free modular drive all designed to extend the life of the product. Matrix has quite simply taken the best stepmills on the market and improved all of their features to create the best owner and user experience in the market today in their Commercial Matrix Climbmill line.

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  5. Jump Start Your Fitness Today with These 7 Helpful Tips



    We are officially into 2017, and maybe you've already made goals for the New Year. If not, that’s okay, it’s always the right time to start a new goal or a life improvement. If you're making health and performance related improvements such as losing weight or getting in shape, a little planning and a few tricks can make all the difference towards making those goals a reality. If you've got big plans for 2017, here are a few are a simple tricks you don't want to miss.

    Set Concrete, Achievable Goals.

    This widespread advice is still important. If you want to make your goals a reality, know what you are trying to achieve and when you will achieve it. Give yourself a realistic deadline, such as lose 5 pounds this month. While your goal may be to lose 20 pounds or more, breaking this goal into smaller pieces lets you celebrate your progress along the way. Big changes don't happen overnight. Consistently sticking to your plan for reaching your goals over time will ensure you get the results you envision.

    Track your Progress:

    Bad days happen. The scale will weigh heavy. You will make bad diet choices. You'll miss a workout…or even three. That's called life and it's why you need to document your progress. A simple calendar or spreadsheet can record the basics: a daily weigh-in, meal planning, or just getting your workouts in can all be recorded in less than a minute. When you see a string of successes your goals become a part of who you are, making it a lot easier to stay on track and on the wagon.

    Build a support network.

    By making your goals public, you create accountability. Take this a step further by enlisting a network of others who can support you in your goals. Scheduling a few personal training sessions can be a big help in creating accountability. You can also take advantage of on-line support networks, including ViaFit integrated into everything from treadmills to recumbent bikes. This virtual technology allows you to effortlessly upload your workouts (see Track your Progress above), while choosing friends, joining in challenges, and setting personal goals that will help keep you motivated.

    HIIT it Hard.

    High Intensity Interval Training has big benefits for all exercisers, whether you're a serious athlete or just looking to shed some body fat. Two sessions per week is ideal. Just 20 minutes will increase post exercise oxygen consumption (you'll burn calories AFTER you work out!) reduce body fat, and increase your VO2 max (i.e. cardiovascular efficiency). Think that HIIT training is just for hard-core athletes? HIIT is based off of your own heart rate and performance and can be used by any level of exerciser. Overwhelmed? Sprint 8 is a patented way to take the guesswork out of HIIT training by providing efficient 20 minute workouts that are proven by research to reduce body fat and increase energy levels.

    86 Sugar and Alcohol.

    Say good-bye to sugar and alcohol. It's been fun. You know that container of your favorite cookies in the cabinet? Take them to the office. Leftover wine and sugary soda in the fridge? Throw it away. Do not buy more. Whether you're improving your performance or shedding body fat, it's time to get the empty calories out of your house so you can support your goals with wholesome nutrition that will improve your workouts and your blood sugar. And if you're looking to blast belly-fat, this is important. Not all calories are created equal and those from sugar and alcohol are the most likely to build up as inches around the middle.

    Start Slowly.

    When you want to make big changes, take the time to build a base. Frequently new exercisers are excited by their training goals and feel the need to hit their workouts hard, day after day, risking injury and burn-out. Remember that your tendons and joints will also be keeping up with the work that your heart and muscles do, but will take longer to grow strong and to recover. Build in active recovery and low or no impact training sessions so that you can keep your momentum going without creating additional aches and pains. Recumbent bikes and incline settings on treadmills are great ways to continue training and burning calories without stressing your joints.

    Invest in yourself.

    While you might be tempted to reward yourself with opportunities to indulge in skipped workouts and "cheat meals", the best rewards are investments that will move you closer to your goals. We all know the frustration of working with sub-par equipment and the joy of having workouts and progress click. Personal training and massage sessions are affordable and motivating gifts. Home fitness equipment that allows for a range of training options and body sizes is another way to ensure that you stay on track when celebrating your success. The Matrix TF50XIR treadmill offers a top of the line, commercial experience that accommodates running, incline training, and larger athletes with ease. With a large surface area and a user rating up to 400 pounds, this machine is tough and will stick with you as you progress in your training. Virtual Active and Sprint 8 integration take the guess work out of creating effective and motivating workouts that you can share through the effortless ViaFit platform. As you move towards your goals in 2017, remember that making lasting changes takes time and perseverance. Commit to manageable goals, record your progress, and remember to build in rewards and recognition for your achievements. By this time next year, you won't believe how far you've come!
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