Category Archives: product review

CrossFit. Is it for you?

CrossFit has received a lot of attention from the public as a whole.  Their marketing campaign is the sport of fitness has arrived.  For a few years now I have been intrigued by CrossFit.  I have seen the nationals on TV and the Reebok commercials.  I have also spent time googling Crossfit people and looking at their bodies and trying to determine if it is the workout itself, the diet, the A Type personalities, or a combination of all of the above.  I mean who would not want to look like this?       images-2

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Then I wondered if these types of people were just athletes who no longer had a sport.  Maybe former gymnasts or other college or even pro athletes who just loved fitness.  After that I realized that was me.  I am a former athlete who has run Marathons and tried different things mostly because I no longer had an outlet for my competitive side.  On top of that fitness and working out is my only real hobby.  It’s what I love to do on the weekends.  Go for a run or hit the gym for a pick up game of basketball.  I have done yoga, swam laps in the pool, played flag football, taken different cardio classes such as spinning but eventually most of them bored me.  I even did Muay Thai for two years. I don’t run marathons because I think I will lose body fat.  I have written extensively on this blog about how slow long distance running does not mean less body fat,.  I run marathons because I like the competition.  I compete with myself for my personal best and I love the journey of training for a race.  I love following a plan over the course of 16 weeks and seeing it come to fruition at the end.  So why can’t I do the same things with CrossFit?  I lift weights. I lift weights a lot.  I have missed an entire week at the gym once in the last 12 years and that was because I hurt my knee.  But as you get older “how much do you bench?” becomes less and less important.  Combine that with the fact that I can’t bench nearly what I used to when I was 290 pounds I was benching around 325.    Now I weight 190 and I bench around 245 for a max.  Pound for pound it is very similar but when I lost 100 pounds 8 years ago I decided that being strong has never really done anything for me.  I want to be able to move, to be powerful, to be coordinated, and to be able to react to any situation.  I tell people if Zombie apocalypse happens would you rather be able to run or bench press twice your body weight.  I think CrossFit might be the type of well rounded workout that provides all of those qualities.

I tried doing the Workout of the days on my own but at a commercial gym it just isn’t possible.  Number one when no one is looking it is just too hard to push yourself.  In a class setting  here you have others suffering with you and pushing you through it creates a bond similar to being on a football team or in the military.  I wanted that feeling of we are in this together.  The other things is at a commercial gym if you were to work out with the intensity of a Crossfitter you would look like a complete nut.  I am starting to get bored with my usual routine of Chest / Tri’s Back Bi’s, Shoulders and Legs, and Abs and cardio on the weekend.  Lifting slowly with too much rest in between might make you look bigger but is that what I really want.  Cartoon muscles that can’t perform with power and precision in a coordinated manner?  Do I want to be fat, slow and strong or do I want to be lean. quick, and powerful like a cheetah.

Unknown    As a strength coach and a CSCS I also know there is a lot of haters on the Crossfit movement and I have also been one of them at times.  Olympic lifts are meant to increase power and not endurance.  No-one should clean for 1 minute straight because their form might slip and create problems.  Plyometrics are about quality and not quantity.  To amplify the stretch shortening cycle you should focus on a quick spring like effect and not on the number you can do in a given time.  The stretch shortening  But if you are an NFL Lineman your body has to adjust on the fly for a bullrush or a speed rush.  Our bodies ate adaptable and that is our greatest gift that we can achieve and overcomes physical, mental, or social obstacles.  Maybe we can have it all.  I think my knowledge of the olympic lifts will only help me on the CrossFit journey because I can recognize problems in the kinetic chain and correct them quickly.

I don’t know if I am going to like CrossFit or not but I am attending a free class this weekend at Guerilla Gym in Morristown, NJ.  I am interested to see how much instruction there actually is on some of these lifts.  Of Course I am not going to tell them I am a cscs because I want to see what I can pick up from them in my pursuit of knowledge. I can say that as a strength coach I would not recommend CrossFit for any athlete who wants to train for their sport.  There are just too many risks and there is no single energy system that CrossFit trains you in.  But as a personal trainer and fitness enthusiast my curiosity got the best of me and  I am going into this with an open mind.  When I started this blog I said let me be your guinea pig so here it goes.  Maybe I will love it and it will be a new passion for me similar to running.  Now I just have to work on those stupid kipping pull-ups that I can’t seem to get.  Stay Tuned for more details on my CrossFit experience.

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My Top 10 posts of 2012

These are the articles that received the most views in 2012.  I always love getting feedback and seeing the number of  views  for my articles so keep it coming in 2013.  This year I had people from all over the country contact me about my articles. I am always humbled and honored that people take the time to search me out for advice about health and fitness.  JerseyStrong was viewed in 60 countries worldwide.  In the month of December my articles for Stack Media made me one of the top 10 most viewed on the platform.  I sincerely hope everyone has a HEALTHY and happy new year!

1.  Product review of the Nike Plus Sport Watch

2.  High School Strength Coach.  Necessity or Luxury?

3.  How to Gain 4 pounds of muscle in 10 days.

4.  How to Warm Up Like the Pros.

5.  2012 ING NYC Marathon.

6.  Things I eat.

7.  3 Step Approach Guaranteed to Build and Protect Shoulder Muscles.

8.  The Ripped Lower Ab workout. 

9.  What an Amateur Runner Thinks during a 20 Mile Training Run.  Warning.  Explicit Language.

10.  How Long can you build muscle.

Of course there are other articles that were not the most viewed out there in cyber land but I think you should still check them out.

Hurricane Sandy and the NYC Marathon:  A Runner’s Viewpoint.

I was also featured in Men’s Health Magazine this past year so this article was probably the most viewed overall because it reached millions of people worldwide via Men’s Health Magazine.  I included the link in my blog post.  If you haven’t seen it yet check it out.  Image

Under Armour Charged Cotton Storm Full Zip Hoody

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For those of you who read my previous blog entry.  Holiday Gift Ideas for the Fitness enthusiast. (Tested and Approved) You know that I recommended this sweatshirt as one of my 12 best gifts for the Holiday season.  This sweatshirt by Under Armour is the most comfortable sweatshirt I have ever worn.  The charged cotton material makes you feel like you are wrapped in a blanket and the Storm technology keeps you dry.  I can wear with a pair of jeans and sneakers on a cold day or while I am on a run. At first I thought I wouldn’t like having a zip up hoody because it feels more like a jacket than a sweat shirt but the elongated look made me look slimmer than the cut off look of a pullover. The bottom of the sweatshirt has a cuffed ribbing that you can wear flat instead of having to fold under like a normal pullover sweatshirt. This even allows you to wear a jacket over the hoody which many hoodies are too bulky to try.  The hood liner is super comfortable and sports a waffled look that is comfortable to wear. It has front hand pockets that are lined. This sweatshirt is even great for wearing while going on a run in the winter months. It kept me dry while the snow was falling and I had no problems staying warm.The material is designed to deflect moisture.   This is a do all sweatshirt with style.  Under Armour has a whole line of hoodies just in time for the winter months.   Bottom line, the Under Armour Charged Cotton Storm Full Zip Hoody is a must have this winter.

Holiday gift ideas for the fitness enthusiast. (Tested and Approved)

Nike + sport watch. $169.00
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The Nike plus sport watch is part of the Nike plus series of products including the sportband, the fuelband, and the new kinect training. It is clear that Nike wants to become your own personal trainer. I have had the Nike plus watch for some time and I can’t say enough good things about it. It tracks all of your runs and allows you to customize your workouts on your own Nike plus website with graphs and charts. For a further review of the watch check out my article at Stack.com. http://www.stack.com/2012/10/08/training-with-the-nike-running-watch/

Subscription of Men’s Health Magazine. One year. $19.90

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In my house when I get a new idea for anything whether it’s a recipe I want to make, a gift I want someone to buy for me, or a new look the joke is “you saw this in Men’s Health didn’t you?” Every month when I receive that magazine I sit down and usually read it cover to cover. No where else can you get more information of health, fitness, style, and just how to be a man in the 21st century. You can even find quality articles such as this one. http://www.menshealth.com/weight-loss/belly-joe-lopez With articles like that how can you afford not to get a year’s subscription?

Brooks Glycerine running shoes. $140.00

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Brooks is my go to brand for running sneakers. I think running sneakers are so important to the amateur runner. Much more so than what hat or shirt they might be wearing. Without properly fitting sneakers a runner is likely to get injured which can derail running altogether. My theory is that larger companies like Nike have so many different brands and products that they do so well. They deal in basketball, baseball, football, and a million other things. Brooks just does running. So when it comes to sneakers I choose Brooks. The Glycerines are their top of the line sneaker with plenty of cushion for a heavier runner. They are for runners with a neutral arch and they just look good.

Under Armour Charged Cotton Storm Full Zip Hoody. $74.99

This is hands down the most comfortable sweatshirt I have ever owned. I can wear with a pair of jeans and sneakers on a cold day or while I am on a run. At first I thought I wouldn’t like having a zip up hoody because it feels more like a jacket than a sweat shirt but the elongated look made me look slimmer than a cut off look of a pullover. The bottom of the sweatshirt has a cuffed ribbing that you can wear flat instead of having to fold under like a normal pullover sweatshirt. The hood liner is super comfortable and sports a waffled look that is comfortable to wear. This sweatshirt is even great for wearing while going on a run in the winter months. It kept me dry even while the snow was falling and I had no problems staying warm. This is a do all sweatshirt with style.

Race entry into a favorite race. $90.00

Races are fun for the whole family. Plan a trip around a race. Visit a new city that you have never been to. There is no better way to see a city than to for for a run. After the race you can celebrate by going to a nice dinner and partaking in the post race party. My favorite is the Baltimore Running Festival sponsored by Under Armour. They have a wheelchair race, kids fun run, 5K, half marathon, and a full marathon. Best of all the gear is second to none. When Under Armor sponsors s a race you are getting top of the line race T-Shirts.

HB Tune IPhone carrier. $24.99

Sometimes I run listening to music and sometimes I don’t. When I was getting ready for the NYC Marathon I was starting to plan for all the logistics of how I was going to find my wife after the race in a sea of thousands of people. I wanted to have my IPhone on me while I was running but I have never really found an armband that worked quite right. They are great for wearing at the gym but if you plan on running 10 or more miles they always twist and slip. I didn’t want to have to worry about it on marathon day. Then I found the HB Tune IPhone carrier. How simple. A phone carrier that straps to the palm of your hand. You hardly even know it’s there. On top of it you can still use the touchscreen feature through the plastic. You should always have a phone on you during a run for emergencies and now you can.

Nike Men’s LW Wool Skully. $22.00

When running in the winter you need a hat to keep the heat from escaping. Most snow hats or skulls have that loose bottom where you just fold it over. The Nike LW Wool skull has the tight fitting bottom that goes over your ears. Combine that with the wool material and it’s a perfect hat to wear during a winter run or just when outside putting up Christmas lights.

Under Armour Coldblack T shirt. $34.99

I am very picky about which T shirts I wear to run in. This is my favorite. The material is light but not absorbent. It doesn’t get too wet from sweat and it is extremely comfortable to wear.

Brooks PureFlow running sneakers. $89.95

The Pure series by Brooks is their attempt to create a more minimalist running sneaker without going completely minimalist like the vibrams or other similar products on the market. Many runners have tried vibrams and end up getting hurt. These are a good compromise. They have a light feel almost as if you are running barefoot. The sneaker has a very low profile and a stylish design. I have gotten more compliments on these sneakers than any other I have worn as far as their looks. If you are a heavier runner like myself then you might not want to overdo it with these but instead use them as an alternative for speed workouts and shorter runs.

Nike Fuelband. $149.99

The Nike Fuelband is basically a suped up pedometer with modern day technology. It tracks your movement throughout the day and allows you to log in and create goals and really see how much exercise you get. It is stylish enough where you can wear it every day and it doesn’t look out of place. With a cool light up feature it can act as a watch, a calorie counter, a pedometer, a step counter, and something they call Nike Fuel. Nike fuel is a measure of movement that is equal from person to person unlike calories burned. I aim for 5,500 Nike Fuel a day. Because of Nike large resources you can also see how you stack up to Nike sponsored athletes. In the past year I have Twitter trasj talked to Serena Williams and Manny Pacquiao because I earned more fuel than them. I am sure both of them could beat me up especially Serena but it’s fun anyway. You can also download your results on your smart phone and look at trends.

The Grid Foam Roller. $40.00

When you workout you get tight. Any soft tissue tightness can lead to dysfunction which can lead to injury. The Grid foam roller has these little grid like features which let you customize your massage / foam rolling experience. As a runner I often use this one on my calves and Hips. I love it because I can really feel where my tight spots are and work them out. Remember to go slow and breathe. If an area hurts you can adjust the pressure but don’t skip it. It hurts for a reason.

Personal training sessions. Packages range from $40-$80 per session.

Personal training sessions might just be the kickstart you need to a new life. Whether you hate going to the gym or you are just looking for some new ideas contact me and we can set something up. I have packages for all levels and price ranges. I am a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist which means I can program workouts for all athletes. My specialities are Golf, Tennis, Baseball, Endurance races, and Weight Loss. I lost 100 pounds and have kept it off for 7 years. I was featured in Men’s Health Magazine.

To find out how I can help you or your loved ones:

Call. (973) 713 4481.

E-mail. llopesl55@hotmail.com

Follow me on Twitter. https://twitter.com/JoeLopez55

Like my Facebook page. www.Facebook.com/JerseystrongPersonalTraining

Top 10 IPhone apps for health and fitness

10.  LifeTimes Fitness. If you belong to this “Globo gym” you just know.

9.  Running Pace Calculator.  Want to figure out how fast you have to run to do a 2 hour half marathon?  This it it.

8.  Healthy Grocery List.  Find better options in your super market

7.  Men’s health urbanathalon.  Training for the race or just want a killer workout. Try this.

6.  Runner’s World Smart Coach.  This guided me through my first marathon.

5.  Fooducate.  This is the best option to scan your groceries and see if they are really healthy or have misleading labels.

4.  Nike + running.  If you use Nike products this tracks runs and gives you a personalized homepage with graphs and charts.

3.  Hal Hidgon Marathon training.  This is what I am currently following for the 2012 ING NYC Marathon

2.  Nike fuelband.  Syncs through bluetooth so you can know exactly how active you are each day.

1.  MyFitnessPal.  Track your daily eating habits and you are 100% more likely to lose weight.

Product Review: Nike plus sport watch

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Nike plus watch sponsored by TomTom. I have been using the Nike plus platform for almost 4 years with relatively little problem.  As a runner I enjoy being able to track my progress.  The Nike watch is a good looking watch that you can wear with any athletic gear and not look out of place.  It allows you to check your running history and running record with the touch of a button.  This is a great motivating tool because it forces you to always think about how you can improve your running habits.  Each run has a date, per mile pace, calories burned, and lap times which can be configured in your settings.  I choose to break down my runs into mile intervals.  This allows me to see if I went out too fast on a 10 mile run or if I need to adjust my splits on a 5k.

When running the watch has a GPS feature which creates maps, and tracks elevation on your run.The GPS can be a little time consuming to “link”. They do have a quickstart button if you don’t like to wait around or if you are running with a group of people you can choose not to use the GPS feature.  I have done this when the GPS doesn’t link but if I have the watch I want to use all of it’s features. Without GPS you can still see pace and distance just not your route.  You can see pace charts directly over elevation charts and see correlation in your runs.  As soon as you are finished simply unhook the watch band and plug the USB into any computer.  This will automatically bring up the Nike plus site where you can sign and see your personal running website.  Here you can set goals, see trends, and even form social media connections with other Nike plus users.  The site also automatically posts to Facebook or Twitter so you can annoy all of your friends and show them when you go on a run while they sit on their couches and watch TV.

The one negative would have to be the Nike site which occasionally has issues with being too slow and clumsy.  Although since they updated it this past summer it has been much improved.  I guess when you are dealing with a global company like Nike the overall traffic volume just jams up the site.

The Nike watch sells for $169.00 in stores.  If running and technology is your thing then I would definitely recommend it.

Book Review. The Long Run

ImageThe Long Run is a book written by Charles Butler about a NYC fireman / fitness enthusiast named Matt Long.   Matt was one of the first responders during the World Trade Center attack on 9/11.  For a while his parents thought that he and his brother, also a firefighter, might have been missing.  He was on of the heroes after 9/11 who stayed day after day and helped search for the missing. He owned a few succesful bars in NYC the most well known is Third and Long.   After long nights at the bar, no pun intended, he was an avid runner, cyclist, and swimmer.  He considered running his passion.  The book begins with him running the NYC Marathon in the annual battle between the NYPD and the NYC Firefighters.  He finished 4th among all of the Firefighters and set his new personal record for the marathon.  In doing so he also qualified for the Boston Marathon which is an amazing feat.  Any recreational runner will tell you how hard that is.  Matt Long also ran the Lake Placid IronMan and planned on one day qualifying for The IronMan in Kona, Hawaii.

The book goes into great detail on his upbringing from a large family raised in New York.  The author does such a great job painting the picture of Matt as a family man and a firefighter than when his accident happens you really feel for him as if you know him personally.  He seems like the kind of guy who you want to have a beer with and just share some stories/

During the NYC Transit strike  in 2005 Matt was supposed to meet some buddies for an early morning workout.  Because of the strike he has no way to get across town and knew that he would never hear the end of it.  So despite it being Winter time he hopped on his bike and headed across town to meet his workout buddies.  On his way a city bus made an illegal turn from the wrong lane and without seeing Matt he crashed into his bike.  Matt was pinned underneath bleeding profusely with broken bones in his legs, hips, and shoulders.  He need almost 70 pints of blood just to keep him alive and the doctors told his family that he had a 5% chance to live and if he did live he would never walk again.

The book then follows his amazing recovery with something like 30 surgeries to follow.  The severe bouts of depression that follow and of course the moment almost 3 years later where he finally accepts that he will never be the person he once was.  The book even gets into the fact that he wasn’t married and his coming to grips with the fact that he now has serious doubts that he ever would be because of his disability that left him unable to have children.

If the book ended there it would be pretty depressing but the amazing recovery of Matt Long bring him from being completely immobile for almost 3 years to running the NYC Marathon again.  It was a roller coaster ride of a book and is a great read for any runner and any person who is suffering from a lack of motivation.  If Matt Long can run a marathon after the setbacks that he had than I honestly believe anything is possible.  It is a true case of mind over matter.  Matt’s mindset that made him a great athlete before his accident as the same determination that made him a Marathon finisher after the accident. This book was a great read for me and I highly recommend it for any weekend warriors like myself.

The Long Run can be found on Amazon.

Trail Running

photo by Ann Lopez

photo by Ann Lopez

I love trail running with my dog Wrigley.  It is a great alternative to a road run which I do the rest of the year. It is also a great alternative to the gym.  A trail run works different muscles than a typical road run.  It provides a cross training benefit which can help keep you healthy instead of injury prone during a long running season.  When you hit the trails you are probably going to run at a slower pace than you would for a flat road run.  I typically run about 8 minutes a mile comfortably on the road.  On the trails that number can be anywhere from 10 minutes a mile or slower.  But because of the terrain you certainly don’t feel like you are taking it easy.  The major difference is your focus.  On a road run I can often wear headphones and just kind of zone out.   On the trails, you have to keep your eyes on the next step because of the tree roots, rocks, mud, or whatever other terrain can cause you to shift gears.  Mentally, you really have to concentrate on a trail run.  Sometimes on a downhill part its almost as if you are running put putting on the brakes at the same time.  You will have to lead with your heals in short choppy steps in order to prevent sliding down the hill on your backside.  If you can you should invest in a pair of trail running sneakers.  I use the Brooks Cascadia Cascadia 6.  Trail running shoes have a gritty sole that grips when you hit the trails on uncertain surfaces.  The bottoms of the shoes are not flat like road running shoes.  They also a bit heavier and sturdier than my road running shoes.  Just by switching sneakers once a week on a run that provides a great benefit to you feet and lower legs.  It will prevent stress fractures and overtraining injuries.

photo by Ann Lopez

Wrigley is an American Bulldog.  They are sensitive to heat because of their pushed in noses.  For her, I can’t bring her on a run unless it’s under about 58 degrees.  My trail running season usually starts about November 1st.  Once snow hits the trails and it is cold enough to stay then I am usually done for the winter because the snow leaves the trails too dangerous and too hard to stay on track.  In a typical year I trail run from November 1st until about Christmas.  Maybe I will get 8 weeks.  This winter has been so mild that I might get an entire season out of it.  In North Jersey we haven’t had any snow at all.  It’s been amazing for my trail runs.  Wrigley is a great running partner because she keeps me motivated.  She knows when the weekend is here because we sleep in a little longer.  When Saturday and Sunday morning comes and I walk downstairs in my running gear she gets pretty excited.  When the hat and the gloves go on then she gets really excited.  If I run out of the house without her she gets hysterical.  Wrigley had two knee surgeries in 10 months.  It is somewhat common for the breed type.  So last year she was not cleared to run.  After a slow rehab of just walking and then walking on hills she was finally cleared to return to running after about 9 months.  It was a half mile at first but this year I have done as much as 7 miles with her.  Generally we stay between 3 and 5 miles.  When we first started running I used to run her off leash.  We never had any problems and she would never run away or anything but I didn’t want to take a chance with her maybe running into another dog or a wild animal.  I recently found a leash that the human wears like a belt and it attaches to the dog’s collar with a bungee cord that provides a little stretch.  It also has a “fanny pack” that I wear under my shirt.  (Don’t worry). The brand name is OllyDog and you can get it at REI.  It  comes in super handy because I can carry treats for Wrigley which she is thankful and I can carry my phone for which my wife is thankful.

photo by Ann Lopez

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this area we have quite a few trails options.  I love Lewis Morris Park in
Morristown.  http://www.morrisparks.net/aspparks/lmmain.asp.  It has several trails ranging from short to as much as 7 miles that loop around in circles.  If you live in Morris County go to MorrisParks.net.  If you are not local to NJ and you happen to have an IPhone.  Try this app by Nortface.  Trailhead.  It can help you find a local trail anywhere by you.  So next time you want to go for a run find a trail.  It will be a whole new experience and if you have a four legged friend bring her along too.  It’s a great bonding experience and it will keep you both physically healthy and mentally sharp.

photo by Ann Lopez

Marathon sneakers

they look fast!Here they are! The Brooks ghost 4. My training has been done in Brooks ghost 2. I don’t plan on wearing these until next weeks 5 mile speed work on Wednesday. Then I will alternate runs until race day. I am super excited to test them out.

Marathon sneakers

marathon outfit

TRX product review

At trainer’s edge in Denville we have had a TRX strap for close to four years. I remember when we got it. The owner brought it in and showed us this new thing invented by a Navy Seal. It looked like just a body weight strap that we hooked to a squat rack. I tried to do some pushups and some rows on it but after that initial training I pretty much forgot about it. I used every once in a while to add something different. Mostly it was pushups and rows. A few months ago I was in the gym and was having a mental block in creating a workout. I looked at the TRX and immediately went to the computer and looked up the TRX at TRXtraining.com. They had a website with videos. WOW! They were doing things I never even thought of. Lots of core strengthening exercise. Explosive lunges right into an ab workout all with one device. I was obsessed. I immediately started just “playing around” to see what else I could do on it. I could stretch and create a warm up. I could do an inverted hand stand into a upside down pushup. The best thing was the rotator cuff exercises that I always had trouble with in other ways. My entire shoulder girdle feels so much stronger and well put together that it ever has. I can work on scapular mobility which is something I have always struggled with.
I even bought one for myself. As a baseball coach I have always struggled to find a line between building athletes and building baseball skills. With one portable weight room in a bag I can hook it onto a fence anywhere we go. I use it for my pitchers to strengthen their arms and I use it for my position players to build explosive rotational power in their hips and their core. In just today’s practice I grouped the kids by position and in between a bunting station and a soft toss station I had the TRX strap hooked up to a pullup bar and had a position specific workout going on throughout the practice. I could work on hitting offspeed pitches and developing speed with footwork drills. Can you tell I am obsessed with the TRX?
Being a runner myself I often workout outdoors especially as the weather starts to get better I know I will be using my TRX all the time outdoors. It will be in the trunk of my car all summer long.