Category Archives: Movement & exercise

stop obsessing over the scale!

Please. And start paying attention to your body composition. Healthy people come in all shapes, sizes and numbers. You can be thin and still have the a high percentage of body fat,  almost as much as someone much bigger. For example, a woman who weighs 150 pounds and has 19% body fat is going to be much more slender than a woman who weighs 150 pounds and has 35% body fat. Duh, right. But think about the fact that when you are looking at the scale you are overlooking that fact! The number is irrelevant in so many cases it’s just not worth worrying about. I was my thinnest and most healthy at 142 pounds. I was pure muscle. Unfortunately, I didn’t keep this, a desk job will do that to you but I bet you didn’t think someone could be a size 2 and 142 pounds! Goes to show you.  Start thinking about how you feel, your energy level, your mood and your relationship with food. Pick up some heavy weights and start building lean mass. As a bonus – you’ll burn more calories just sitting around when you have more lean muscle mass than fat.

FYI – If you are a member of a gym you can take advantage of their personal trainers (usually you will get a session or two free with membership) and have one of them assess your body mass. That’s when they pinch you with the calipers. At the YMCA you are entitled to 3 meetings with a wellness counselor who will do the same thing.

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Finding Time To Move It

A common problem for many people is the lack of time they have for exercise. Most folks think they need to carve an hour or more from their day to dedicate to the gym, class or home routine. Truth is 30 minutes 3-5 days per week is sufficient and far better than nothing. Furthermore, you can break that 30 minutes into two sessions of 15 minutes or three of 10 minutes. I have found, during my busiest times, that two 15 minute sessions works best. Here’s a basic rundown of what that can look like.

For most anyone, getting up 15-20 minutes earlier, although difficult at times, is doable. Getting that first 15 minutes at the start of your day helps to wake you up, jump start your metabolism and start your day in a positive direction. I suggest these workout center around resistance training. With that in mind you should remember that your muscles will need 48 hours to recover after a workout. For example, if you work your arms Monday you won’t work them again till Wednesday, choosing instead to work a different group of muscles Tuesday. This is called a split routine. You can also choose to do a full body workout and perform some type of cardiovascular workout on the alternate days. I suggest full body with cardio on alternate days as the best format, mostly because you absolutely have to work your cardio in there, but whatever works for your schedule and goals. In any event, if you are just starting out or trying to lose weight, it’s best to get up and move everyday.

The key to maximizing short spurts of exercise is to make them count by keeping the intensity and focus high. I suggest doing this by using a technique called superset. Using this model of training you will be working muscles without any “rest” in between reps but instead working opposing muscle groups. For example lets take upper arms, do 8-12 reps of bicep curls then immediately follow with 8-12 reps of tricep kickbacks for sets each. There are several different ways to “superset” but this is the easiest for beginners to understand. Follow this method for all major muscle groups, developing the sequence that works best for you and your time constraints. I like to work a little cardio into the last five minutes of the final 15 minutes by jumping rope or performing burpees (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burpee_%28exercise%29).

An important part of any workout is your warm-up and cool-down. To optimize your time I suggest building those times into your morning routine. For example, I get up out of bed and begin by windmilling my arms as I head out, roll my neck then squat walk down the hall and do leg lifts as I brush my teeth. You can do the same thing at the end of your workout for your cool down. As your waiting for your coffee to brew, stretch your hams for example.

Don’t forget to get some type of cardiovascular workout during the week. Otherwise, all those gorgeous muscles you’re waking up 15 minutes early for will be hidden under a layer of fat.

Keep it up!

Check this out for superset training ideas and how-to:

http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/wotw23.htm

More is Rarely Better

We all want more and when it comes to food, having more is giving us tremendous health problems. Talk about more! More diabetes, more heart disease, more morbidly obese children and adults. That’s just a whole lot of awful.

What has gone wrong, among other things which we won’t discuss in this post, are our portion sizes. Since the ’70’s, Americans have added an average of 600 calories per day to their diet while becoming more sedentary both at work and in leisure. Most of the extra calories are being consumed as larger portions. Supersize me anyone? Think about the last time you had a steak at a restaurant. I bet the smallest cut was 12oz. Guess what? A serving size is 3oz! How about pasta, can you imagine eating just a cup? Probably not! It’s because that just hasn’t been the norm for a long time. Ladies and gentlemen, that endless pasta bowl just isn’t what it seems to be. It’s a bowl full of excess weight waiting to happen.

Keep things in control by employing a little thought and mindfulness into your meals and snacks. Will a “small” do? If you order a steak, maybe you just have a portion of it then make a great steak salad for lunch (for two) the next day – now you’re watching your calories AND stretching your dollar!

Exercise for results

If you’re like most people you don’t have a ton of time to spend on your exercise regime. Luckily, you only need about 30 minutes per day three days per week to see gains in your fitness. The catch is those 30 minutes need to be productive which means they need to be moderately to vigorously intense. Simple terms, you need to break a sweat. In order for your sessions to be productive you’ll need to apply the principles of overload and progression. Without applying these principles you will stop seeing results, in other words you’ll hit a plateau.

As you exercise, your body is making physiological adaptations to adjust to the “stress” you are creating. For example, if you start weight training and lift 8 pounds for three sets of 10 reps, you’ll notice that after time it becomes easier and easier. That’s because your body is adapting by becoming stronger. But your body will reach a point where that 8 pounds 30 times isn’t doing a thing, you need to increase your resistance, which means to add some more weight or increase reps. This is introducing overload to your muscles to which they have to adapt again, again becoming stronger. You can vary your method of applying overload by increasing weight, reps, or sets or by reducing the rest period between sets. A note for women, adding more weight will not make you “bigger”. We simply don’t have the hormones to do it. You will become stronger with more definition, but not bulky. When implementing overload it is advised not to exceed 5% of your current ability to avoid injury.

Progression and overload go hand in hand. Progression is exactly what is sounds like it is, it is the progression of overload in your workout resulting in muscle gains (strength or endurance). When thinking about increasing any variables in your routine  (frequency, intensity, type and time)* you should feel no soreness after your last workout. This is a good indication that you are ready for the next step.

Above I’ve talked about variation in your workout, there are other methods of keeping your workout interesting and challenging. Periodization, which is simply organizing your workout into cycles of intensity. Say, Monday is low intensity, Wednesday is moderate and Friday is high intensity. This is an example of a very condensed periodization cycle, more frequently the cycles are broken down into periods of several weeks or months. Other methods include circuit training which is the practice of cycling through a circuit of specific exercises, one after the other to complete a circuit. Interval training is another way to keep things challenging as you can control the intensity of your training as per your fitness level. An interval training session is typically a cardio workout where periods of high intensity are followed by periods of active rest, then repeated. This method of cardio training is very effective in making gains in your cardio fitness in a relatively short period of time.

When you do reach your goals you are ready to enter the maintenance phase. This is the phase we want to get to. At the maintenance phase you are interested in keeping what you’ve worked so hard to get, but you no longer have to be too concerned about overloading your muscles, just keeping them challenged with variety. This can be achieved through varying your exercises. For example, if you usually work on machines, try using free weights or cables. If you use a leg press try a barbell squat. By altering the angle of your joint movement you are forcing your muscles to fire in a different pattern. You’re also using your muscles differently and employing more muscles per movement. So, for example, by moving from a leg press to a barbell squat, you are requiring your body to use muscles to stabilize your body as you stand and perform the squat whereas lying down on the leg press you are isolating your hamstring and glutes. Keeping your workout interesting and rewarding is a great way to ensure you’ll stick with it.

* Frequency – how often are you working out.  Intensity – the resistance or weight, sets or reps. Type – the type of exercise you are performing. Time – How long your session lasts

Joggers Live Longer, Study Says

Joggers Live Longer, Study Says.

Starting a Cardio Program

Resistance training is an important part of your fitness training. It builds lean muscle that give your body the tone and shape you love. It also improved your metabolism along with a slew of other great benefits. Where I have observed problems when beginning a fitness program is not the resistance training, but the adherence to a cardio program. I know plenty of people say the hate it. They hate to sweat, they think its boring, you name it. So often I watch people come into the gym and spend 30-45 minutes on a decent weight training routine but never do a second of cardio and wonder aloud why they aren’t seeing any definition. The fact is, you need to get that fire stoked with cardio to burn the calories and burning more calories than you consume is what leads to loss of fat. As an added benefit, by working your heart you are doing one of the best things you can do to reduce your risk of many cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers, and diabetes. How’s that for a good reason to start liking sweat, or at least tolerating it. For an average healthy adult, you should be engaging in your chosen aerobic activity for at least 150 minutes (2 hours 30 minutes) per week, which is just 30 minutes per day. That can be 15 minutes in the morning and 15 in the evening. Easy right?!

I’m convinced that for many people it may not be that they don’t like any sort of aerobic exercise, it is because they haven’t found one that suits them. So what I’ve done is compiled a list of basic workout formate with their pros, cons, equipment and some tips on getting started. I hope you find one that fits!

 Walking

Pros: Easy to start, accessible, low impact, studies show that regular brisk walking can have the same benefits as jogging

Cons: Well, the only one I can come up with is perhaps if you don’t have access to a safe place to walk. However I don’t think that is something many people will run into.

Equipment: Nothing but a good pair of walking shoes needed. Please don’t wear your casual shoes. I recommend finding a comfortable pair of shoes that are made for light workouts or walking specifically that have proper arch support.

Getting Started: Start easy. Especially if you have been inactive. Try starting with short sessions, 10 to 15 minutes, 5 days per week. Then gradually increase you time as you feel comfortable. Try to reach for at least 30 minutes 3 days per week of brisk walking. 5 days per week is ultimately the goal.

 Running/Jogging

Pros: Easy to start, accessible, efficient workout

Cons: Same as above

Equipment: A good pair of shoes. This is your most important purchase and can make or break your experience. When you buy shoes I recommend going to an athletic store or, if you have one nearby, a store specifically for runners. The prices shouldn’t be much higher, if at all, so don’t worry. You will find a wide variety of shoes and expert advise, which is worth the extra buck or two. Go try shoes at the end of the day when your feet are slightly swelled. Your feet naturally swell slightly during the day and when running. Make sure to bring the socks you plan of wearing when you run to ensure a good fit. Have your feet measured and try a few shoes. Don’t just go for the first pair or the one that looks the best.

Getting Started: Start slow. A common mistake for beginners is to go too fast push too hard and become fatigued, frustrated and quit. It will take some time to find your pace but it’s best to start very slowly at first, its OK! Walk if you have to. Again, its OK! Try to track your runs based on time rather than miles. Running is very individualized and you’ll have to experiment to find your starting point. You may have to start by walking more than jogging. Over time, your pace will improve and you’ll find yourself running farther and enjoying it more. You can’t beat a workout that burns an estimated 200 calories in just 20 minutes.

 Cycling

Pros: Low impact, Great way to commute to work if you have a bicycle safe route – save gas!!,

Cons: Can be costly depending on equipment

Equipment: Bike – doesn’t matter what kind, as long as it is in safe, working condition. Helmet. The equipment from that point depends on your riding preference, road bike, mountain bike or casual.

Getting Started: If you haven’t been on a bike for a while it’s best to find a traffic free place to get comfortable again. Once you are comfortable get out there. There are so many options from riding clubs to using your bike for commuting. There are many wonderful bike rides in cities, suburbs and rural areas alike, there is bound to be one near you. If you will be riding in an area with vehicle traffic, be sure to understand how to keep yourself safe on the road. Always ride with traffic, obey traffic laws, wear reflective clothing, always wear your helmet, and watch for turning traffic.

 Swimming

Pros: Low impact, good for pregnant women, those with arthritis and older adults, great full body workout

Cons: Chlorine may be irritating, finding a pool or other place to swim may be either expensive or difficult.

Equipment: Bathing suit, goggles, kick board (optional)

Getting Started: Think about taking a swim lesson. Even if you know how to swim it is important to have proper technique to gain the most benefit.

 Cardio machines/gym example: stationary bikes, elliptical, stair climber

Pros: Low impact, easily accessible, since your workout is indoors you can continue your workout throughout the winter and hot summer months comfortably. You can read or watch T.V.

Cons: Can be monotonous, machines tend to be one size fits all so machines may be too big for some (primarily elliptical)

Equipment: Gym membership or home equipment

Getting Started: Again, as with all cardio workouts, start slow. Machines will track your time, calories, distance or METS which can be a bonus. It can also be a con as you will tend to be counting down the minutes till you’re done.

 Videos example: P90-X, Insanity

Pros: Privacy of your own home. Can be done late at night or very early in the evening when you may not want to go out for a walk or run. Like machine workouts, you can continue your workout throughout the winter since you are indoors.

Cons: Easy to skip or put off. Can become monotonous after a time.

Equipment: Varies. Some require specific equipment like resistance bands or weights

Getting Started: Couldn’t be easier, order the video and follow the directions. If you are someone who feels uncomfortable in public or at a gym this is a good option.

Sneaky Little Sweatpants

Sweatpants, yoga pants, velor, cotton or spandex – I don’t care what they are. I don’t care if they are a $10 pair from Walmart or $120 from Juicy Couture. They don’t belong in your everyday wardrobe! Beyond workout, pajamas and the occasional lazy or sick day they need to stay in a drawer and off your behind. I know they are comfy and I know some actually do look very cute. Yes I am aware. Here is the issue. Without a defined limit to your waistline you have no clue when the pounds are inching up on you until one day you pull out you favorite jeans and your thighs are stretching the seams. Yikes. That top button is the first indicator that you need to scale back and watch the calories.

The first time someone made this point to me was after the birth of my daughter. She was born in March so it was still a bit chilly here in the northeast and having been through 9 months of pregnancy and 23 hours of nature birth I was in no mood to move out of my comfort zone anytime soon. But, after 6 weeks or so a neighbor of mine, who is never one to mince words, gave me the kick in the pants I needed. Among other things she gave me this advise: Get out of those sweatpants! And so I did. But sure enough, after 6 weeks of living in my sweats, my maternity jeans were tight. That fact, and the much improved weather got me moving. I walked my behind off, literally, with my daughter in her stroller. Those tight maternity jeans were my gage, then after a few weeks I moved onto my regular jeans (at first with the help of a rubber band through the button – an early pregnancy trick). They were uncomfortable but they kept me in check. They reminded me of my goal which was of course to get back to my pre-baby size.

Even now my pants are my guide. If they are getting tight I reassess what it is that might be causing it and cut back. Same goes if they get too loose. I  definitely do not align myself with the notion that all weight loss is good and skinnier is better. If my pants are loose,  I’m not nourishing my body correctly or I’m working it too hard.

So there you have it. Keep your eye on the scale if that’s what works for you but even better keep those sweats off you behind and monitor your body without having to step on one beyond your doctors office.

Note: When attempting to lose weight initially it is best to monitor your weight with daily weight checks. My advise above pertains to those who have reached their ideal weight and are now in the maintenance phase of their fitness.