Flexibility is one of the most neglected areas in an exercise program, and is the last of the three essentials to proper fitness training. The general goal of stretching is to increase or maintain the range of motion around a particular joint. Maintaining or increasing this range of motion can have many benefits to your activities of daily living as well as potentially decreasing or eliminating certain chronic tight areas that can increase the risk of developing orthopedic issues. Hello- lower back pain; this is usually caused by hamstring, lower back and hip flexor tightness.
Additionally, stretching and flexibility training assists in cooling down the body after a heavy workout and has shown to be a fabulous technique for stress relief. Yoga anyone? Current research supports the best time to stretch your muscles is after your workouts when you no longer need to produce large forces within the joints or after a 5-10 minute warm up. The bottom line is the muscles need to be warm to stretch. Cold muscle is like a piece of taffy from the freezer, loosen it up so the joints are supple, have lubrication and are ready for elongation and mild tension. Use our guidelines below to set up your flexibility training and don’t forget to put it into your weekly workout program.
- Mode- static (non-moving) stretches, passive and active stretches
- Frequency- 2-3 days per week minimum, 5-7 optimal especially for tighter areas
- Intensity- stretch to tightness at the end of range of motion but not pain; mild discomfort
- Time- hold stretches 15-30 seconds
- Repetitions- 2-4 per stretch per side
- Stretch all major muscle groups as well as those involved in your exercise routine and your tighter areas. Most common: hamstrings, hip flexors, inner/outer thigh, calves, lateral trunk, upper back, lateral neck, anterior chest and shoulder area
I will be posting my fab 5 stretches next week. The 5 moves are an easy way to stretch all the tight areas in your body in a minimal amount of time, and meet all the guidelines for flexibility training.
By now hopefully everyone has eliminated all sources of trans fats from their diets and are making active efforts to read food labels for ingredients that list hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils and putting them back onto the shelves where they belong. It may also interest you to know that there is a new substitue ingredient in town that is just as bad for you. GASP! Look at your labels and if you see something called interesterified oildon’t buy it. It has the same negative effects of a trans fat, which can lower your HDL (good cholesterol) and raise your blood sugar. Neither contribute to good health.
Heed the warning and tell everyone you know to watch out for this dirty little food substitute.
Muscle conditioning, often referred to as resistance training, is the second of the three keys to building your optimal physique. By resistance training you are building muscle tissue (part of lean weight), and improving body composition. More lean weight, less fat weight, it’s a good thing (pardon the Martha Stewart reference). Increasing muscle mass improves your physical capacity to do daily activities, improves balance and strength of skeletal muscle, improves posture, decreases lower back pain, improves bone density, improves overall muscle strength and endurance and my absolute favorite reason, it contributes to increases in basal metabolic rate (BMR). With a higher BMR, your body burns more calories at rest and has the ability to stave off those extra pounds because muscle tissue is so active in comparison to its slug friend the fat tissue.
Simply put, more muscle gives you better physical function, improved ability to burn those calories off and the aesthetic beauty of a shapely limbs, torsos, butts, backs and the list goes on. Use these simple guidelines to put together your muscle conditioning workout.
· Mode- bodyweight, resistance equipment, dumbbells, body bars, bands, stability balls, medicine balls, or tubing
· Intensity- high; to the point of momentary muscle failure or 2-3 reps before it (should feel muscle working hard, then feeling total exhaustion and unable to do more at end of set)
· Repetitions- start with 8-12, but understand protocols ranging from 3-20 are common
· Sets- 1-3 per exercise, rest 30-60 second between sets
· Frequency- 2-3 sessions per week, on non-consecutive days (M/W/ F or T/Th/S)
· Number of Exercises- select 8-10, choose an exercise for each major muscle group in the body; a different exercise should be performed for a specific muscle group every 2-3 sessions
A few additional notes of importance when it comes to resistance training: to optimally benefit from muscle conditioning you must warm the muscles up with lower intensity movements before increasing to a more significant resistance; in other words doing your cardio first or a few sets with significantly lighter weight will do the trick. Muscles do have a memory and workout programs need to be updated with changes to the Frequency, Intensity, and Mode every 4-6 weeks. Additionally, I always recommend that if possible, a Certified Personal Trainer be retained, at least for a couple of sessions, to perform assessment (very important), teach proper technique, and to set you up with a program geared to your own needs.
Cardiovascular, sometimes called “aerobic” training provides many benefits for you heart and circulatory system and is one of the three critical areas that should be addressed in a well-rounded program. Cardio training not only improves the ability of the heart and lungs to work more efficiently, but it also burns extra calories. Understand this- calories need to be burned in order to lose weight. Whether you have extra pockets of calories around your middle, hips, buns, thighs, or arms you will need to move your mass to burn them off. To get started follow the guidelines below then place them into your regular week’s schedule. Better yet, have your trainer find your specific training zone to prevent you from working too hard or not hard enough during your cardio sessions.
· Mode- large muscle rhythmic activities that can be maintained continuously and are aerobic in nature (walking, cycling, swimming, jogging, elliptical machine, group exercise cardio classes)
· Intensity- work between a moderate and vigorous effort (64-94% of Maximum Heart Rate/40-85% of Heart Rate Reserve) or use perceived exertion scale- on a scale of 0-10, with 0 being just out of bed cooking breakfast and 10 being maximal effort, you should work to feel the intensity to be between 4 and 7.
· Frequency- 3-5 days per week
· Duration- 20-60 minutes of continuous or intermittent activity; 10 minute bouts are OK to start with. Goal is to expend 250-300 calories per session.
By conditioning your body through regular, cardiovascular exercise your resting efforts are far less. Yes it is true folks- some people work hard just to remain at rest. Imagine what would happen if they had to run to catch the bus? This would be a great stress for the untrained, deconditioned body and it is unfortunate, knowing the human potential. Perhaps an even bigger motivator is that this kind of exercise has been shown to dramatically reduce your risk of heart disease; this country’s number one killer. It does this by lowering cholesterol levels, decreasing blood pressure and lowering your heart rate.
So you’re interested in dropping a few pounds and decide it would be a fabulous idea to hire a certified personal trainer. After some research, asking around and deciding on your perfect pick you make the call. Here’s your play by play- in the third person from my observations as a 16 year fitness professional.
Step one √
You make your first appointment and as all good CPTs (certified personal trainers) will do, you are scheduled for a formal fitness assessment to find out your fitness baseline as well as discuss your goals and health history.
Step two √
You arrive, go through steps and procedures, and leave with a sense of excitement for what your future holds as a thinner, stronger and healthier you. You anticipate your next appointment with your trainer.
Step three √
Your first workout session goes well. Your trainer has worked hard to put together an appropriate program based on your needs, fitness level, goals, time and availability. Fire is growing in your belly with anticipation for what is coming next. You decide to purchase 30 more sessions- you are committed to do this and will do it!
Step four √
You’ve worked out twice this week and notice no change, no weight loss or even a sense of being healthy. As a matter of fact your sore, frustrated by your lack of endurance on the stupid treadmill and can’t believe how long it takes you to recover from a simple body weight squat exercise. You feel angry and unmotivated even though your trainer is telling you that progress is being made on a cellular level and progress will take time, but will definitely happen. She guarantees you results in 30 days if you stay committed.
Step five √
You decide to bail out of your 5th session. Who cares, what difference does one workout make in the scheme of it all. You tell yourself you’ll walk around the block later that evening to make up for it. The evening passes, you don’t walk.
Step six √
You arrive late to your appointment, unmotivated, upset by lack of results and just can’t seem to put your head into your health. It’s been two weeks, you’re still fatter than you want to be, confused and just plain defeated. Now what? You decide to cancel your next few appointments while you decide whether or not this exercise thing is for you.
Here’s what I don’t get: it took you 10 years to put on the extra 40 pounds and you want me to give you exercises that make it go away overnight or within two weeks; that isn’t physically possible. You feel frustrated by your lack of results, while I’m frustrated by your lack of commitment to your health, wasting of my time waiting around for you and complete disregard for everything I’ve told you about safe weight loss progression. You compare yourself to your younger days of activity, agility and movement abilities but don’t listen to me when I tell you the old homage of “you don’t use it, you lose it.” You want to work minimally, but see the efforts of maximum participation. This isn’t a possibility- sorry, life’s not fair you have to move it to lose it. You invested in your life by affording sessions with a professional who is trained to bring you success in a safe and effective manner, but still don’t trust my words of wisdom.
What’s the matter, are you afraid of change? Do you want to feel this way for the rest of your life? How would you feel if you achieved all your weight loss goals? What is really keeping you from connecting to the healthier you? I don’t get it, and I probably won’t get it because I know the truth on what it takes to make your goals happen. Listen to me, follow my advice and see the results you desire, or cancel your appointment and feel like a piece of crap. In either case- I’ll be here waiting for you with my clipboard and tennis shoes.
Looking ahead….free exercise program advice coming you way this week! Get into it and stay committed so I can write a blog for the other side of the spectrum J
Let me get one thing straight before I wander off into my series of blogs- I LOVE my work. I love movement, watching people move, helping others to improve themselves and feel my energy and honesty are a valuable asset to not only my clients, but also consumers. I want to improve how people move, feel and function in their daily lives and always strive to be creative, safe and most importantly scientifically founded with my exercise and workout advice.
I understand that each person is an individual coming from different genetic backgrounds, past/present exercise historys, energy and attitude levels. I also realize that what motivates one can demotivate another and there are many layers to peel back to find what works. Oftentimes I discover individuals looking for simple solutions to very complex issues, such as quick gimmicks for weight loss, magic exercises to melt off fat in target areas, or just plain nutrition strategies to make them look like a model on the cover of a magazine.
It is my job to sort all of this out and offer the best advice, education and safest mode of exercise for individual abilities and fitness levels. I am extremely honest and do not blow smoke up anyone’s butt to get them to do something. I do however, let you know where I stand as a fitness professional and will be the first to express my opinion on fitness fads, poorly written or misrepresented fitness articles (like the one I just saw in Fitness magazine by a so-called trainer to the stars, more like a moron who needs a lesson on the laws of gravitational forces), or just general insights that I have on my work or training.
I want all of you to feel supported, but also understand that I do have a side of me that can be sarcastic, blunt, or misconstrued as unsupportive when I tell you how I feel about things. This blog is my opportunity to share myself with everyone and hopefully shed a new perspective on things for the clients and consumers. So, don’t be taken back by my words, instead try to see my side of things and then give me your feedback.
There- I’ve shared my few words of warning. I look forward to your comments and concerns.