Fit Facts: Mix It Up

The two factors that affect your fitness most are your performance in tough workouts and your overall training workload.

Go Hard and Take it Easy

Doing the same workout day after day not only grows dull, it also robs you of progress. You'll get far better results alternating hard workouts with easy ones than you would training at the same intensity every day.

Here's why: The two factors that affect your fitness more than any others are your performance in tough workouts and your overall training workload.

Easy workouts (short duration, moderate intensity) help you perform better in your most challenging sessions and enable you to increase your overall training volume because they don't deplete all your energy stores.

So the next time you go hard, do yourself a favor and reap the reward by following with an easy day.

Move Over, BMI

For many years doctors have used body mass index (BMI) as a way to indicate risk for metabolic diseases such as diabetes and coronary heart disease. But new research suggests that waist-to-hip ratio is a more accurate predictor of health status.

Body mass index is a ratio of height to weight. The more you weigh per inch of height, the higher your BMI. (BMI Calculator) Critics of BMI point out that it doesn't distinguish between lean body mass and fat mass, so athletes who are lean but relatively heavy because of muscle weight are falsely categorized as being at risk.

Waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) is simply the circumference of your waist (measured at the navel) divided by the circumference of your hips. The advantage of WHR is that it indicates the level of fat stored in the abdomen, which has a direct causal relationship to metabolic diseases. A recent study published in The Lancet found that waist-to-hip ratio predicted heart attack risk three times better than BMI.

Women are advised to keep their WHR at or below 0.80. Interestingly, large hips are nearly as protective as a smaller waist. You can trim your waist by shedding belly fat and increase your hip size by building muscle in your buttocks.

Try This: Eagle Pose

Impress your friends with this pretzel-like pose (it's easier than it looks). It'll improve your leg strength, especially the hamstrings, and balance, in addition to giving your shoulders a nice stretch.

Stand on your left foot and wrap your right leg around your left leg as tightly as possible, with the top of your right foot against your left calf. Bend your left knee. Next, wrap your arms around each other so that your left elbow is in the crook of your right elbow, palms together and fingers extended. Exhale and hold for a few seconds before releasing. Reverse your position and repeat.

Active Expert Matt Fitzgerald is the author of several books on triathlon and running, including Runner's World Performance Nutrition for Runners (Rodale, 2005) and his newest, Brain Training for Runners.

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