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Move it -- outdoors

September 03, 2007|Jeannine Stein

Summer is waning in Southern California, but light evenings will last many more weeks -- and warm temperatures, of course, even longer. There's still time to get in plenty of outdoor activities and to train properly for them. Three new books offer tips and guidance for sports alfresco.

-- Jeannine Stein

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Maximizing the moves

Pilates for the Outdoor Athlete:

(Fulcrum Publishing, 2007).

Pilates zealots believe there isn't an activity or sport that can't benefit from the training and discipline Pilates offers. Author Lauri Ann Stricker, owner of Evergreen Pilates in Evergreen, Colo., touts the benefits of Pilates for hikers, bikers, runners and even snowshoers. Stricker says the advantages go beyond building core strength. Strength of other, noncore muscles, balance, flexibility, range of motion and movement skills can all improve, as can concentration and focus.

Likes: Pilates newbies will appreciate the primer on the background and philosophy behind the activity plus Stricker's clear explanations of basic biomechanics, anatomy, gait and posture. For each sport (paddling, running, cycling, rock climbing and more) there's an explanation of how Pilates can help -- such as adjusting bad posture to relieve back stress in kayakers and boosting core strength to lessen the strain on skiers' hips and knees. Pilates mat routines are given, with individual exercises demonstrated in a separate chapter. Stretching and light weight work are also included.

Dislikes: Organization of the book could make it challenging for beginners to set up a smooth, consistent Pilates practice. Because routines are in one part of the book and individual exercises in another, much flipping back and forth is sure to occur before the movements are memorized. The book may also be geared best for those who do multiple outdoor sports: Snowboarders, for example, may not see much use for the other, non-snowboarding chapters and may find more guidance in a general Pilates guide.

Price: $27.95

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Going the distance

TriPower: The Ultimate Strength, Training, Core Conditioning, Endurance, and Flexibility Program for Triathlon Success:

(Healthy Living Books, 2007).

To be a better triathlete, you must be a better athlete. That's the philosophy behind this book by triathletes and coaches Paul Frediani and William Smith. It focuses on building the basics -- strength training, flexibility, core strength and endurance -- to help reduce injuries, improve performance and make the triathlon experience more enjoyable. At a time when more people are getting involved in triathlons (due in part to more mini-events), this book serves as a good armchair coach both for beginners and seasoned veterans looking for an edge.

Likes: The book covers important but often overlooked fundamentals, such as stretching and warming up. Strength and flexibility assessments help readers determine their weak links. After that, workouts progress at a slow but steady pace and cover various stages of training, including foundation (assessing what your body can do), power (using plyometrics to help develop fast-twitch muscle fibers) and maintenance (preserving the gains made so far). All are clearly outlined, with easy- to-follow routines and indi- vidual exercises explained in detail, accompanied by photos.

Dislikes: The maintenance workout is supposed to last four to six months, enough to see an athlete through a racing season. But during this span of time, burnout could set in, and changing the intensity, numbers of sets and rest time, which is suggested, might not be enough to stave off boredom. Augmenting this routine with other exercises might be in order.

Price: $16.95

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Strokes like a pro's

Janet Evans' Total Swimming:

(Human Kinetics, 2007).

Only serious swimmers should take the plunge into this thorough guide to swimming like a pro. Evans, winner of five Olympic medals, takes readers through every last detail of the sport, be it warming up, proper arm movement or the correct push-off to use during the butterfly stroke. A good chunk of the book is dedicated to detailed routines, beginning with ones that build stamina, then progressing to more intense workouts.

Likes: This is a no-frills, no-nonsense approach to swimming from an undisputed expert. Although Evans interjects personal tips and insights throughout, the book isn't doused with the syrupy motivational sermons found in most exercise tomes; evidently, she assumes the drive is already there.

Dislikes: Evans begins the book by talking about gear, believing that the right stuff -- swimsuits, goggles, caps and the like -- makes swimming easier and more enjoyable. We can't argue with that but can take issue with the fact that she touts Speedo products quite a bit. Speedo just happens to sponsor the Janet Evans Invitational swim competition. Coincidence? Perhaps not.

Price: $17.95

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jeannine.stein@latimes.com

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