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WOMEN Don't Be Afraid to Lift Heavier Weights

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I often see the fear in women's faces as they listen to my suggestion that they try a heavier weight to keep challenging their bodies. The hesitation to "up the weights" comes from many myths we have heard over and over again.

One of the most common myths is that women will bulk up or look masculine if they lift heavy weights. But women have much lower testosterone levels than men, making the possibility of growing large amounts of muscle unlikely. Monitoring calorie intake in your diet and doing cardiovascular activity daily should also alleviate this worry. With strength training, the body's metabolism is fired up and lean muscle mass is increased. This gives the lean, tight body you desire.

Another myth is that muscle can turn into fat if you stop training. But muscle cannot "change" into fat. What occurs with lack of use, is that muscle cells atrophy (shrink in size) causing your excess food energy that is not burned to be stored as fat. The bonus of strength training is that more calories are burned as muscle strength grows.

Noticing a weight gain with strength training is also misunderstood. You may not lose weight and the scale may even go up a bit, but your body will feel more compact and your clothes will feel different. Staying off the scale and noticing the change in the shape and tightness in your body is a much better gauge.

Men and women are in the gym with various goals. Both want to be strong, improve health and athleticism. Know what your goal is and go after it.

Not convinced yet? There are numerous benefits to women building strength. Personal development that builds strength will be noticed in ALL areas of life. Strong muscles also can prevent injury in your everyday activities. At the end of a workout, imagine feeling emotionally empowered, standing taller and ready to accomplish your goals. This is a huge plus!

Shelley Rubinstein,

PBNSG Fitness Director

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Sitting At Work? Change Your Ways!

It is challenging to explain how even as much as 5 minutes of physical movement can make people more successful at their jobs. Regular exercise is essential for good health, but unfortunately knowing this is not enough motivation for many office workers to get moving during their day. An abundance of research is showing that even a short walk during the workday can lead to a happier, more productive work environment. Instead of drinking an energy drink for a quick pick-me-up, a low or moderate intensity exercise will increase energy levels and decrease feelings of fatigue. Studies have found that job burn-out and depression were highest among those who did not exercise while participants who were physically active were happier. The benefits of walking are numerous. Creativity is improved due to opening up a "free flow" of ideas and the ability to solve problems quicker during the day. Engaging in regular exercise can also yield a higher percent of wage increase, earning you not only healthier muscles but a healthier paycheck.

A few simple, time-efficient strength exercises you can do at the office are the following:

Chair Squats: Start seated in a chair, then stand up. More challenging – Do squats without the chair.

Desk push-ups: Place both hands on the desk shoulder-width apart then lower the body until the elbows reach 90 degrees and press back up to starting position. More challenging – Perform push-ups on the floor, either on the toes or knees or with feet elevated on a chair.

Hip bridges: Lie on the floor face up with knees bent to 45 degrees and feet flat on the ground. Elevate the hips toward the ceiling until there is a straight line from the knees to the shoulders. More challenging – Place both feet on a chair and perform the exercise.

Elbow plank: Lie face down with elbows underneath the shoulders. Rest on the knees or toes, keeping the trunk muscles tight. Hold for 10 – 30 seconds. Do NOT hold breath. More challenging – From elbow plank, lift one leg at a time then lower.

Dips: Sit in the chair, placing the hands on the side of the chair. Press down until the hips are elevated. More challenging – move the body to the front of the chair to increase range of motion, then dip down and up.

Perform 5 to 15 repetitions of these exercises in a circuit style format, resting as necessary and repeating the circuit if time allows.

For cardiovascular exercise simply get out of your chair and walk around. You can also march in place then bring the knees up to hip height. Try stepping from side to side, swinging your arms or reaching up to the ceiling.

What are you waiting for? – change your ways!

Shelley Rubinstein

Fitness Director

PBNSG

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Burning the Belly Fat

Let's talk about belly fat. Everyone has some belly fat which is right under your skin. Deeper belly fat is called visceral fat which is deeper inside, around your heart, lungs, liver and other organs. This kind of fat can adversely affect your health by producing stress hormones and inflammation that affect the body's production of insulin. Some visceral fat is needed to provide cushioning around your organs but too much can also contribute to high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, dementia and certain cancers. When too much weight is gained, the fat storage areas get full and the fat is deposited into the organs and around the heart. A simple, low cost way to determine how much visceral fat you have can be as easy as wrapping a tape measure around your waist at your belly button to check your girth. Measure while standing up and make sure the tape measure is level. You want your waist size to be less than 35 inches if you are a woman and less than 40 inches if you are a man.

Now for the good news!

Being Active Burns Fat - Visceral fat likes inactivity so the key is to be active, no matter what size you are. Aerobic exercise – anything that gets your heartrate up will help you to lose belly fat. Walking, running, biking, swimming, cardio classes and cardio machines are all good. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise at least 3 – 5 times per week. Keep in mind that spot reduction (losing fat in one spot) is not possible so doing only abdominal exercises will not make you lose fat from the belly. They will, however, keep your core strong and tighten your abdominals. Studies have shown that exercise prevented people from re-gaining abdominal fat after weight loss.

Healthy eating – I will call this a lifestyle change rather than a diet, and it is critical to losing belly fat. Studies have shown that excess sugar increases belly fat and liver fat, which can lead to insulin resistance and other metabolic problems. Start reading labels on food to educate yourself on unhealthy refined sugar. Drinking sugar-sweetened beverages including high-sugar sports drinks is also harmful. Consuming whole fruit (soluble fiber) has many health benefits giving you plenty of fiber, which is also found in many vegetables and legumes.

Getting enough sleep can be a big part of controlling belly fat. So can managing stress, so be sure to include relaxation and meditation in your life.

So, there is no "magic pill" to take for reduction of belly fat, though you will see plenty advertised. Exercise and self-control will give the most immediate results and be the safest.

In Good Health,

Shelley Rubinstein, Fitness Director for PBNSG

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MAINTAINING YOUR FITNESS ROUTINE DURING THE HOLIDAYS

Don’t let the Holiday Season derail your fitness routine. It is easy to drop your workout at the gym or cancel your training session when your calendar starts to fill up with shopping, cooking and social gatherings. Maintaining your fitness routine will keep stress minimized and help keep extra pounds OFF.

Stay focused and on track with these easy ideas:

What will keep you coming back to the gym? Changing your routine could do the trick. New exercises with a different focus will challenge your body and make you feel energized and looking forward to your next workout.

If you primarily do cardio training, learn exercises that improve core strength, which will keep your abdominal and back muscles strong. Be sure to ask a fitness professional for help. If strength training is lacking in your familiar routine, ask for help to learn how to properly use the weight machines or dumbbells. A MUST for everyone, especially this time of year, are range of motion and flexibility work to keep your body stress-free and your mind relaxed and focused. A yoga class or restorative based class with some meditation will help reduce holiday stress.

Maybe you can find a partner to join you and learn some fun partner drills.

SO – what are you waiting for? An invitation?

Consider yourself INVITED! My fitness does NOT take a vacation - I make it an important part of my day.

Happy Holidays!!

Shelley Rubinstein, Fitness Coordinator

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MINSET - Is Yours Positive?

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MINSET - Is Yours Positive?

Help stick with your exercise and nutrition program by recognizing your Mindset.  

Sometimes our beliefs about ourselves or others can guide our behaviors and how we view the world around us. Think about how differently people see the world around them and the ways they respond to frustrations that arise while trying to achieve fitness and weight goals.

But is it possible to change our minds and confront negative thoughts, replacing them with more accurate and logical thoughts?  David Burns, author of Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy (Harper Collins 2012), researched some common negative thoughts or distortions that can affect a person's ability to stick with an exercise program.  Do any of these sound familiar?

  • All-or-nothing thinking:  "If I can't do all of the reps in the set, I'm not cut out to exercise."
  • Over-generalization:  "Since I couldn't get the lunges right today, I'll never be good at them." 
  • Mental Filtering:  Dwelling on negatives while ignoring the positives.
  • Jumping to conclusions:  Thinking you will fail at the type of exercise an instructor may want you to do.
  • Criticizing yourself with shoulds or shouldnt's, musts, and have-tos.
  • Identifying with your perceived shortcomings and labeling yourself with a negative name.

You may be able to unlock barriers to behavioral change and help yourself to achieve better well-being.  Mindset is about a person's belief that he or she has the capacity to create positive change.  It is about the change and the belief that they can create their success.

Mindsets can be labeled as Fixed vs. Growth.  A person with a growth mindset believes that conditions can change and people can improve themselves.  A person with a fixed mindset sees the world as unchangeable.  They can learn to make small gradual changes, helping them believe they can control their life by realizing that they are in charge.  

So think about your mindset regarding exercise and health. Is it a Fixed or a Growth mindset? If it's Fixed, start to make gradual changes to believe in yourself and integrate mind and body to become healthy and fit.  

 

Shelley Rubinstein
Fitness Director

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Free Weights or Weight Machines for Strength Training?

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Free Weights or Weight Machines for Strength Training?

When you walk into any fitness gym, you will see a combination of both free weights and machines for various strength training exercises.  Some people just use free weights (dumbbells) for their workout and some only use the weight machines.  Many use a combination of both to optimize their workout.  The debate has been around for decades - which is better for you?

No single piece of weight equipment is best for everyone.  Both free weights and machine weights can help you increase your strength.  The choice is based on your personal preference, your physical fitness level, your fitness goals and your access to equipment.  I hope the following can help you determine what form of strength equipment is best for your needs.

FREE WEIGHTS:

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ADVANTAGES: First, free weights are versatile and inexpensive.   Free weights recruit more muscle groups and muscle fibers, and require more balance and coordination.   Free weights also allow for more variations in range of motion and promote the joint stabilizer muscles.  You have freedom to move around a variety of planes rather than being locked into a specific range of motion or pattern.  This allows your body to do what it is naturally built to do - move.  The term "functional fitness" means using key core and stabilization muscles to mimic what you do in real life like squatting, lifting things over your head and rotating the body.   Proper technique is essential and it may take some careful instruction and training to learn safe and effective form.   There is an endless variation of exercises you can do for each muscle group.  It is also possible to train anywhere, even in your own home.  

DISADVANTAGES: Among the disadvantages of using free weights are the possibility of putting your body in the wrong position while lifting and the risk of dropping the weights.  Lack of knowledge on proper lifting technique can prevent many from learning good form with the dumbbells. There are so many exercises you can do, it's easy to get confused about where to start.  

WEIGHT MACHINES:

ADVANTAGES: Many people can learn to use weight machines quickly.  They are generally safe when instruction is given by a fitness professional.  Do NOT be afraid to ask for help when you are unsure how to use one.  Use machines that are adjustable to your body dimensions and that move freely through their natural motion paths.  You should be given your seat adjustment numbers so you can set up your machine to your body.  Weight machines are supportive and often have padded seats and back rests.  This can be ideal for people just starting out to work on form.   Most machines have a picture demonstrating its use, making them easy to use on their own or with other machines to create your own circuit.  Most of your body is stable and being held in place allowing you to isolate muscle groups more efficiently.  It is easier to increase resistance on machines without risk of injury.   

DISADVANTAGES: Among the disadvantages of training ONLY on weight machines is that most machines require you to use both arms or legs to move the weight, so if one side is stronger than the other, that side may do more work than the weaker side. As mentioned above, the weight machines isolate specific muscle groups, neglecting the important stabilizing muscle groups around the joints.  The extra support the weight machine provides may embolden the user to lift too much weight, which can sometimes lead to injury. It is possible to use too much weight and enough poor form to cause a serious injury.  Also overloading the same muscles day after day can set you up for an overuse injury. 

My recommendation is for you to choose a strength training system that you enjoy and that fits into your lifestyle.  Aim to do a weight training exercise of all the major muscle groups at least two days a week.  One day of rest between strength training sessions is recommended to give your muscles rest.  An IDEAL training program may incorporate both free weights AND weight machines.  You can get the most from muscle strength gains and joint stability using both systems.  If you are rehabbing an injury, ALWAYS follow your doctor's and physical therapist's advice.  Remember that proper form and technique is MORE important than the specific type of equipment and how much weight you can lift. 

Workout safely and have FUN!


Shelley Rubinstein, Fitness Director




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OVERUSE INJURY

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OVERUSE INJURY

How can I prevent training injuries?  

Whether you are starting a new activity or you have been exercising for a long time, most overuse injuries are avoidable.  Learn how to pace yourself while getting fit and how to recognize when your body may need rest.  Your best fitness intentions can be sabotaged by being at risk of an overuse injury.  

Among common causes of overuse injury are: 

Training errors:  These can occur when you take on too much physical activity too quickly (too much too fast), training too intensely, exercising for too long or simply doing too much of ONE type of activity.  Muscles can be strained causing an overuse injury.  

 To prevent:  Pace yourself and gradually increase your activity level. Avoid becoming a “weekend warrior”.  Spread your fitness activity throughout the week instead of compressing it into the two weekend days.  Some athletes mistakenly think more exercise is better, and they fail to get adequate rest between workouts.    

Technique errors:  Improper technique and poor body mechanics can also take a toll on your body.  Most people need some professional coaching at the beginning of any new activity to learn the fundamentals and develop good habits.  We are all unique and some movements may be better-suited to your abilities and body structure.  An instructor can help you modify exercise movement (when needed) to better match your abilities or biomechanics.  

To prevent:  Consider getting fitness coaching or training from a fitness professional to develop good workout technique, form and habits.  

Repeated movement:  Doing the same exercise day after day is another way to end up with an overuse injury.  Stressing the same muscle groups and performing the same movement patterns repeatedly can put a strain on muscles, tendons and ligaments.  This can cause irritation, inflammation and even stress fractures.

To prevent:  Cross training or doing a variety of different types of exercise will help avoid muscle strain.  Mix up your routine and build variety into your fitness program.  There are many low impact activities - such as walking, biking, swimming and cardio fitness classes - that will allow your body to use muscle groups differently.  

 Improper footwear:  Wearing the right shoe for the activity you will be doing is important, especially for runners. Know when using shoe inserts or insoles are helpful.  

 Surfaces:  For runners, the terrain you run on can also lead to injury. 

 Improper equipment:  Using the wrong equipment or poorly fitting equipment can lead to stress on the muscles and joints and increase injury risk. 

 

If you suspect you have an overuse injury, consult your doctor.  You will likely be advised to take a break from the activity that caused the injury and given any medication for pain and inflammation you may need.  When you think the overuse injury has healed, make sure you have completely regained strength, motion, flexibility and balance before beginning the activity again. Many athletes try to come back from an injury too quickly, frequently developing a secondary overuse injury while trying to "make up for lost time".   Pay special attention to proper technique to avoid future injuries.  

Although an overuse injury can happen to anyone, you may be more prone to this type of injury if you have certain medical conditions or take certain medications that can affect your balance.  Overuse injuries are also more likely to occur as you get older - especially if you don't recognize the impact aging can have on your body and learn to modify your routine accordingly.  

Don't allow an overuse injury to prevent you from being physically active.  Listen to your body, pace yourself, cross train to avoid this common setback.  

Fitness Professionals are available to you - be safe and have fun!!

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HOW OFTEN AND HOW MUCH EXERCISE DO I NEED?

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HOW OFTEN AND HOW MUCH EXERCISE DO I NEED?

Answer:  The ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) guidelines recommend the following for most adults:

Cardio-respiratory Exercise (cardio):  Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.  This can be met through 30-60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise FIVE days per week, or 20-60 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise THREE days per week.  You can meet these requirements either in one continuous session OR multiple shorter sessions of at least 10 minutes to accumulate desired amount of daily exercise.

Resistance Exercise (strength training):  Adults should train each major muscle group 2 -3 days each week using a variety of exercises and equipment.  Two to four sets of each exercise will help improve strength.  For each exercise 8-12 repetitions can improve strength and power, 10-15 repetitions for middle-age and older persons and 15-20 repetitions to improve muscular endurance.  You should wait at least 48 hours between resistance training sessions.

Flexibility Exercise (stretching):  Adults should do flexibility exercises at least 2 - 3 days per week to improve range of motion.  Each stretch should be held for 10-30 seconds holding to the point of tension or "tightness".  Flexibility exercise is most effective and safe when the muscles are warmed up and will feel best after aerobic activity or strength training.

It is always important to check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program AND if you experience any unusual symptoms while exercising.

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HOW DO I BUY THE RIGHT WORKOUT SHOES?

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HOW DO I BUY THE RIGHT WORKOUT SHOES?

Answer:  Your shoes are an important part of your physical activity routine.  You are going to be wearing them a lot.  Keep these pointers in mind when shopping;  choose shoes that are made for the type of physical activity you want to do (walking, running, tennis, etc.)  Look for shoes with non-skid soles, good heel support, enough room for your toes, and a well cushioned arch.  Make sure your shoes fit well and provide proper support for your feet.  Ask for help from a sales professional.  If you have diabetes or arthritis this is especially important.  Shoes should feel comfortable right from the start.  Think of your shoes as safety equipment for your feet.  Check them regularly and replace them when they are worn out.  Signs of needing new shoes could be noticing the tread on the bottom is worn down, your feet feel tired after activity or your shins, knees or hips hurt after activity.  

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I LOVE TO GARDEN.  AM I GETTING EXERCISE?

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I LOVE TO GARDEN. AM I GETTING EXERCISE?

Answer:  Absolutely!  Some people think gardening isn't really exercise, but after you do the mental work of planning your garden, making your list of seeds, plants and tools needed, the real "work" begins.  Working in a garden requires bending, lifting, digging, carrying and moving - a lot!  You are using your whole body.  Shoveling soil and compost, lifting 40 pound bags of mulch, pulling weeds, planting and dividing plants are serious physical activities.   There's always something to do in the garden from spring planting and weeding to fall cleanup.  Do NOT forget to stretch your muscles, especially your back when you are finished.  

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I HAVE HEARD THE TERM "POSTURAL ALIGNMENT".  WHAT DOES IT MEAN AND WHY SHOULD I BE AWARE OF IT?

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I HAVE HEARD THE TERM "POSTURAL ALIGNMENT". WHAT DOES IT MEAN AND WHY SHOULD I BE AWARE OF IT?

Answer: This is a great question! Maintaining good balance in one's life both mentally and physically is important. I will address the physical. Balance is the ability to maintain the body's position over the base of support (stance) whether the base is stationary or moving. When there is even distribution of weight over the base of support, stability is produced. Postural alignment involves the position of the head, torso, hips and lower extremities to support the body in an upright position. Correct postural alignment is characterized by ears over shoulders, shoulders over hips, chin level, back of the neck long, chest lifted from the sternum, knees relaxed, and abdomen pulled in. The pelvis rests over the hip joints and there is a slight "normal" amount of curse in the spine.  Keeping your core (abdominal and back muscles) strong will aid in good balance.  You can practice your alignment in front of a mirror and with a buddy.

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Why Strengthen The Core?

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Why Strengthen The Core?

Core training provides the body with a strong working foundation.  The core muscles are necessary whether you are seated, standing or moving.  All individuals should perform exercises that focus on training the core to protect and strengthen the entire back musculature.  

  • A strong core helps:
  • Prevent the incidence of back injury and pain
  • Ensure efficient and functional movement
  • Correct poor posture
  • Improve balance
  • Increase athletic capability

 

While the goal for many is to gain a "six pack" look in their abdominals, this does not ensure core stability.  Core training involves more than just great looking abs.  It involves the integration and coordination of movement for strength and stability.  A weak core hinders functional movement, increasing the risk for injury.   Most would agree that core training involves all the muscles of the abdominals, pelvis, spine and the muscles around the shoulder and scapulae.  

Learning to activate the stabilizing muscles of the core before movement of the arms or legs (the prime movers) will decrease the risk for injury.  Establishing neutral position (neutral spine) should first be established to ensure that the natural curves of the spine are maintained.  This will keep the shoulders, hips, knees and ankle joints in line supporting proper body alignment.  

Here are a few tips to stabilize the core:

  • Activate your core by drawing your abdominals inward (navel to your spine) A good visualization cue is to think of zipping up a tight pair of jeans.  
  • Tighten the gluteal muscles to assist with core stabilization.
  • Practice continuous breathing. Do not hold your breath.
  • Focus on quality, not quantity.  Perform each exercise with a controlled movement speed.  Take your time through each repetition. 
  • Stay focused and concentrate on the muscle group being used.  
  • Be aware and concentrate on the movements, reinforcing postural cues like drawing abdominal muscles inward.  

 

The major muscles of the core involve the following:

  • Rectus Abdominis - a long muscle that extends along the front of the abdomen.  This is the "six-pack" part of the abs that becomes visible with reduced body fat.
  • External Obliques - these muscles are on the side and front of the abdomen, around the waist.
  • Internal Obliques - these muscles lie under (deep muscle) the external obliques, running in the opposite direction.
  • Transverse Abdominis - the deepest of the abdominal muscles.  They lie under the obliques, wrapping around your spine for protection and stability.
  • Multifidus - a series of deep small muscles which travel up the length of the spine.
  • Erector Spinae - a total of three muscles along the neck to the lower back.
  • Muscles of the scapular area and around the shoulders.
  • Muscles of the hip and outer and inner thigh surrounding the pelvis.

A wide variety of effective core exercises can be performed seated, standing and lying down both supine and prone.  These can be safely taught by a Fitness Professional. 

I recommend you have a Fitness Professional teach proper lifting, sitting and standing techniques to correct any problems that may occur from poor posture.  Learn proper stabilization techniques of the lower body to create a solid foundation to perform all exercises properly and effectively.  

Happy Training!! 

 

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The Importance of Warming Up Before Exercise

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The Importance of Warming Up Before Exercise

In the winter, we usually let our cars warm up a bit before driving off.  You can compare beginning your workout to this same principle.  During a warm up, you physically prepare your body for the demands of exercise by gradually increasing the body's temperature. 

Sudden strenuous exertion can be linked with potential cardiovascular and musculoskeletal complications.   Research has shown that without proper and gradual warm up before cardiovascular exercise, some people can experience heart rhythm irregularities or even chest pain because inadequate oxygen is not supplied to the heart muscle.   

"Warming up" means exactly what it implies.  You gradually increase your body core temperature, which increases blood flow to active muscles and allows your body to adjust to circulatory changes.  After a warm up, there is less chance of musculoskeletal injury because you increase blood flow to active muscles, making ligaments and tendons more flexible and increasing your range of motion safely.    

There is even a mental aspect to your warm up.  Mental preparation can help to ease your mind into the workout.  Warming up and visualizing your activity before you start can increase your endurance and help get you through the hardest part of your exercise routine.  This applies especially to more strenuous forms of exercise such as hiking, cycling, running or any advanced aerobic class.   

An effective warm up should include 5 - 10 minutes of active movement BEFORE light stretching of major muscle groups.  Usually this gradual movement will "mimic" the activity you will be performing. It is NOT recommended to stretch first as your muscles will not have the proper blood flow providing the oxygen and nutrients needed for performance and will not be as pliable.  

Go ahead and enjoy your workout REMEMBERING to first warm up and stretch.  BE SAFE! 

 

 

 

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Walking Tips

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Walking Tips

We all know that regular physical activity is an important ingredient of a healthy lifestyle.  The benefits of exercise include lowering your risk of heart disease, diabetes and even some cancers.  It can also boost your energy and mood, help manage your weight and promote a better night's sleep. 

One of the simplest and least expensive ways of exercising is to start walking.  Walking is low impact, safe, simple and requires no practice.  It is a weight-bearing exercise that builds stronger bones and supports joints by strengthening muscles in the legs and abdomen.  No equipment is needed - just comfortable and appropriate clothes and a good pair of walking shoes. 

When you begin your walk, start out slowly to give your muscles a chance to warm up.  This is done to avoid stress on the body, reducing the risk of injury to muscles and joints.

Walking techniques and tips:

  • Keep your head high.  Use good posture, keeping your chin parallel to the ground.  Looking down prevents efficient breathing and changes the curve of your spine, straining your neck, shoulders and back.  Pull stomach muscles in tight and gently lift your chest.  Find your natural stride.  Avoid locking your knees and step lightly (heel-ball-toe).  Imagine a string pulling you up from the top of your head. 
  • After about 10 minutes of slow walking, your muscles are warmed up and some light stretching can be done to help prevent soreness and injury.  Stretching is most important at the end of your walk.  Stretching your quadriceps muscles, hamstring muscles, calf muscles and even upper body will feel wonderful.  Sitting down immediately after your walk does not give your body a chance to cool down and may cause your muscles to tighten.
  • Holding hand weights or wearing ankle weights is not recommended.  You may put strain on your joints and throw off your balance, compromising your safety.  Increasing your intensity can be achieved by walking faster, walking uphill or making arm motions overhead, forward or at your sides. 
  • Hydrate!!! Drink a glass of water before your walk, and bring water with you to drink during and after the walk.  Dehydration can lead to lightheadedness, headaches, and sore muscles.
  • When walking outdoors, walk with a friend, stay in safe areas and carry identification.

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Question:  How can I stay motivated to exercise regularly?

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Question: How can I stay motivated to exercise regularly?

Answer:  

There are many methods to stay motivated and be successful in your exercise program. Here are a few I've found to be helpful:   

  1. Start slowly - both with the number of different exercises you do and the length of time you spend at each session.  
  2. Use visualization - Visualize yourself completing a great workout. 
  3. Schedule! - Make a regular appointment with yourself. 
  4. Set realistic goals - Believe in yourself! 
  5. Forgive yourself - Don't feel guilty when you miss a session or two.  Do exercises that you enjoy. 
  6. Keep eating nutritious, healthy foods - Plan healthy meals and snacks to avoid poor nutritional choices.  Tell yourself and others how good you feel when you exercise and eat healthy. 
  7. Buddy up - Exercise with a friend or friends. 
  8. Loosen up  - Be flexible with your program. 
  9. Kick out the jams - Listening to inspiring music while exercising can make your time more enjoyable. 
  10. Find incentives - Reward yourself with incentives for accomplishing your goals. 

 

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Using Weight Machines Properly and Safely

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Using Weight Machines Properly and Safely

In order to gain optimal benefits from your strength training, a few simple "rules" should be followed each time you exercise.  Keep these in mind as you go through your next weight workout.   It is always best to ask for help from a fitness professional if you have any questions or are unsure how to set or use a machine. 

1.  Check your form!  Proper body alignment is important to safe lifting technique.  Good posture = head aligned with shoulders & hips, shoulders back and down (and relaxed), abdomen in.

2.  Remember to adjust your seat to the proper height which should be given to you during your first orientation to weight machines.  Maintain proper posture throughout each repetition.  Do NOT arch your body to achieve a greater lift.

3.  Exhale upon exertion for each repetition.  Do NOT hold your breath throughout the set.  For those who have a tendency to hold their breath, counting each repetition out loud is a good way to assure proper breathing.

4.  Avoid locking out joints (knees and elbows).  Extend fully, but do not lock your joint. 

5.  Even worse, NEVER add resistance while supporting the weight.  Add resistance only before exerting force on the weight.

6.  Jerkiness during the second half of a repetition  (the lowering phase) indicates the use of excessive resistance.  Reduce the resistance if this happens.

7.  In order to protect your muscles, joints and connective tissue, always move throughout each repetition in a SMOOTH and CONTROLLED fashion.  Never "jerk" or use swinging motions (momentum). 

8.  Do not "lift" with the same muscle groups on consecutive days.  Either work the entire body every other day or split the muscle groups up and alternate groups if working with weights on consecutive days.  Aerobic (cardiovascular) work can be done every day!  So can abdominal/core work.

9.  Vary your program occasionally to prevent plateauing.  You can vary the order of the machines and change the intensity by trying more pounds/less reps or less pounds/more reps.

10.  Remember to warm up your muscles BEFORE working out and stretch your muscles completely AFTER working out.

 

 

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Fitness While Traveling

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Fitness While Traveling

Maintaining your exercise routine and good eating habits while on vacation takes some planning and self-discipline.  You have worked hard to increase your fitness levels and strength gains.  Travel can seriously derail any fitness program and leave you feeling fatigued and stressed.  By scheduling in some moderate aerobic activity and sensible eating, it is possible to come home feeling energized and healthy!

An important tip to help you stay active is phoning ahead to find a hotel with a fitness room.  Many hotels have an exercise room with cardiovascular machines, weight machines, or free weights.  If this is not a possibility, then ask if they have an affiliation with a local gym where you can get a one day pass.  Some hotels may have a personal fitness trainer that will come to your room or a selection of workout videos to use.  Resistance bands are light and easy to pack and work your muscles as though they are lifting weights.  A pool is an excellent (and refreshing) way to get some exercise.  Swim some laps or simply "walk" lengths in shallow water.  Be sure to pack your swimsuit!

Remember that walking is the easiest and least expensive form of exercise.  Bring your gym shoes and do as much sightseeing on foot as possible.  This will also decrease your taxi fares!  Be sure to get maps from hotel concierge and walk in safe areas.  Ask if there are parks or trails nearby.  Take the stairs instead of riding elevators and escalators.  Go dancing in the evenings at a nightclub.

If you are flying and encounter a long layover or flight delay, try to store your carryon bags in a locker and walk the terminal.  When you are in your car, try to avoid sitting for more than a couple of hours at a time. Take a break at rest stops and take a short, brisk walk.  Park your car further away and walk to your destination.

Here are some simple exercises you can do - even in your car!

Pelvic Tilt - This exercise may help prevent and/or relieve any low back discomfort and will work your abdominals as well.  Sit up tall in your seat and place your hands behind you at the small of your back.  Now press your back into your fingers by contracting your stomach muscles.  Hold this contraction for 10 seconds and relax.  Try this a few times, holding the contraction even longer.  Be sure to breathe in and out slowly while doing this!

Gluteal Contractions -  Try contracting (squeezing) your gluteal muscles or "sits" muscles.  Hold the contraction for 10 seconds and relax.  Do a few of these, remembering to breathe normally.

Quadriceps Muscles - While sitting, use one leg at a time and straighten your knee, contracting your quadriceps (thigh) muscles.  Hold the contraction for 10 seconds and slowly lower your leg.  Try doing 10 on each leg.

Calf Exercises -  While sitting, move your feet in the formation of each of the letters of the alphabet or spell your name with each foot.

Upper Body Stretches -  Release tension in your neck and shoulders by tilting your head toward each shoulder slowly and holding for a few seconds.  Try shoulder circles in both directions.  Clasp your hands together in front, rounding your upper back and reach forward.  Reach your hands in back - opening up your chest and lift slightly.  For a full body stretch, reach your hands above your head and stretch yourself as tall as possible.

Calf Stretches - While standing, place one foot behind the other and press the heel down and hold this stretch for 20 seconds.  Repeat with your other leg.

It is challenging to eat well "on the road".  Many restaurants offer heart healthy options, vegetarian and vegan dishes and food preparations without butter, oils and cream sauces.  Carrying  some food with you such as fruit or raw vegetables can help to keep you from "skipping" meals.  You will be less likely to feel that you are starving thus overeating at mealtime. 

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!!  Always drink plenty of water, particularly if you are flying.  Be careful of the empty calories of soda and alcoholic beverages.

Whether you travel for business or pleasure, take your fitness routing on the road.  Be creative and most of all - ENJOY YOUR TRIP!

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Dear Coach Abby: Parking Lot Predicament

Q: Dear Coach Abby, 

 I take my son to tennis practice two times a week, and I usually arrive five to ten minutes early. Typically I wait in the car. I don't get to workout on these days because I come straight from work. Is there a quick and effective five-minute exercise routine that I can do on a big pond of pavement? I will have no equipment but my body, and I am not sure what else to do besides perhaps take a lap or two around the parking lot.

Driven to madness,
Car Potato  

A: Dear Car Potato, 

Your mind is onthe right track to be thinking about how you can get moving while your wait for your son to finish up. Most people would be content just waiting around. I understand that taking a walk can be a bit mundane, and I certainly have ideas for you to add flavor and bounce to your waiting time. Below you will find a full-body workout that you can fit in five minutes or less and do in anything from a stiff pantsuit or jeans to a pair of flexible yoga pants. I've taken into account that I do not know your fitness level as well, so I have included a beginner's template with intermediate and advanced options. You will only need your body weight, no watches or timers, as the workout will be guided by repetitions.

5-minute Parking Lot Circuit

Perform 3 rounds of the following exercises. Beginners, take 30 seconds of rest between each round of exercises, and intermediate and advanced sweaters can plow straight through for a more intense circuit. 

  • 5 Rear Window Push-Ups

Place your hands shoulder-width apart on the rear window of your car trunk, and bend at your elbows as you let your weight shift forward. Keeping your back flat and core braced (as if someone was going to punch you (in jest) in the stomach), push back up to the start position and repeat.  

A bit harder: Place your hands on the bumper. The steeper decline will force you to draw more strength from your upper body and abdominals. 

Much harder: Perform the push-ups with your hands on the bumper like in the intermediate version. Only this time, hold the plank position each time that you push up and bring your right knee into your chest and then your left knee into your chest. You'll get even more ab work out of this!

  • 15 Calf Raises

With your feet pointed forward, push off your toes, letting your heels lift off the ground. Lower heels to ground and repeat. If you are worried that you need assistance with your balance, keep a hand on something sturdy, say, your car. 

A bit harder: Point your heels out, toes facing in; or opposite, your heels pointing in, toes facing out. Working different angles of your calf muscle will help you build a balanced set of legs, giving you a stronger, more powerful base to stand on and walk with. 

Much harder: Stand on a curb and let your heels drop off the edge. This creates a greater range of motion, asking your calf muscles to work harder.

  • 20 Standing Knee-to-Elbow Crunches

While standing, place your fingers around the backs of your ears with your elbows pointed out to the sides. Lift your left leg off the ground and bring your left knee up and out to the side as you crunch to the left, touching left elbow to left kneecap. Repeat on the right side, continuing to alternate sides. 

A bit harder: Crunch elbow to opposite knee. Each time that you lift a knee, you will rotate, twist, and crunch, reaching right elbow for left kneecap and left elbow for right kneecap. While still working your obliques, this recruits more layers of your abdominal wall and challenges your balance.

Much harder: Perform the same exercise as the intermediate version, but hold your elbow to your opposite knee for 3-5 seconds on each standing crunch.

That's it, CP. The five-minute parking lot circuit. Whether you choose the beginner, intermediate, or advanced options for this workout, you will be working harder than anyone seated in their car. This short, effective workout will help boost your fitness and keep you slim. I hope it also drives you from madness to gladness.

For other parents or babysitters out there, don't use having a scanty block of time as an excuse not to move. Five minutes is not a lot of time, but it is just enough time to help maintain, if not increase, your fitness. So the next time you start to recline and to wait for someone in the car, think twice, then get out of the drivers seat and steer your fitness forward with one of these workouts. And if you just feel like walking, that is entirely better than staying seated.

Sweaty Salutations,

Coach Abbs                

         

     

Dear Coach Abby: Can Moms Be Fit, Too?

 

Q: Dear Coach Abby,

   I am a mother of three kids--ages 4, 6, and 7. I always feel like I have something to do for them. When I'm not packing school lunches or helping them with their homework, I am driving them to and from their extracurricular activities. Even when I fulfilled those tasks, I find myself fishing around for what else I can do to pitch in just a little bit more. Review flash cards with my son for his upcoming quiz. Prepare a healthy dinner.

    All of this has left me feeling stressed, frazzled, and sitting in the car for much longer than I'd like to. I am weighed down both mentally and physically. My real wake-up call was a visit to the doctor for my annual check-up last week, during which I learned that I have gained 10 pounds over the past year. This places me at fifteen pounds above where I desire to be.

Something has got to give, Coach. I feel ashamed of my fall from fitness and out of touch with my body. I used to go for daily walks and runs and lift weights at the gym three times a week. I was fit! The only workout that I get now is from chasing my kids around and yanking my hair out! I eat healthfully, but I want that empowering feeling that my workouts used to evoke in me back!

I need to make exercise a regular part of my routine again. If anything, just to stay sane, and know that I should be doing at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day for my health in the long run--you know, to meet the recommended quota. 

But I don't see how I can. With my days dedicated to motherly responsibilities, I don't have the time to exercise. I also feel a pang of guilt every time I am about to step out the door to go for a workout, because a voice inside my head tells me that I am somehow neglecting my kids or the upkeep of my house by leaving. 

    Frankly, I feel completely stuck.

     Tell me, Coach Abby, how can I make sure that I exercise regularly when I have a full schedule of things to do for my kids and I always want to be doing something to help them out?

Weigh down and out,

     Conflicted Mom

A: Hey Conflicted Mom,

      Don't be so hard on yourself. We all get out of shape sometimes. Also know that you are not alone. I hear the concerns of not having enough time while being a full-time mother from many of my clients. 

     While you are obviously dissatisfied with your weight, you might not be as far from fit as you have been led to believe! Stay keen on the activity you are doing. Being a busy mom and chasing your kids around the house can entail a workout in itself, and yanking your hair out provides a nice forearm and bicep workout (only (partially) kidding). Eating nutritiously also gives you a head start on your fitness, as you will have clean energy to move and fewer toxins to fight and flush out.

     You will be happy to learn that your quandary is not an unsolvable situation. You absolutely can be a mom and exercise daily. In fact, exercising daily will make you a better mom! I created the following list to help you reach peak performance in your unique sport of raising kids! Rest assured, with a little reworking of your mindset and implementing some simple strategies, you will be on your way to receiving Most Valuable Mom. 

1. Recognize that a fit mom is a better mom

I can sense your great intentions to be the best mom that you can possibly be, but your actions are currently causing you to misfire. You see, if you don't exercise on a regular basis, you will heighten your chances of a decreased lifespan and minimize your ability to do things for your kids, none of which you intend to achieve.

Contrary to your fear that you will detract from your job as a mom, working out will increase your performance as a mother! Not only will you look and feel better, you will:

-Gain more energy, returning to your kids reinvigorated. 

-Increase your strength, stamina, and flexibility, allowing you to keep up with you kids during play.

-Release excess energy from stress, restoring your calm.

-Increase your patience.

-Boost your cognition.

-Heighten your probability of extending your lifespan.

These benefits allow you to better serve your children and maximize the time you spend with them as well as your chances of being around to care for them longer, as a mobile mother! 

You also set an example of doing physical activity for your kids. At their ripe, impressionable age, they are more likely to mimic your behavior. Starting to exercise at their age will allow them to bypass the struggle of trying to form a habit of exercise later in life, because they will be wired to move. They also will dodge many diseases attributable to a sedentary lifestyle--especially obesity, which is on the rise in the youth population and set an example for their peers to model their behavior after. 

2. Treat motherhood as your job. 

In your tough line of work called mothering, maintaining your physical fitness is a job requirement. Your boss – your body and mind, keeps a close watch on your attendance to work--your daily exercise. Show up, and your kids' lives will be promoted and you will receive a raise in endorphins and your self-esteem. Play hooky and you risk losing out. For you, that decreasing the amount of time you will be around for your children, as a mobile mother! 

   At a job, you make to-do lists of tasks that need to get done. Make exercise an item on your daily to-do list and ensure that you do the work to be able to check it off each day. 

   Also, if you want to excel at work, you cannot just show up, you have to put forth your best effort as well. So apply the same passion and sense of commitment that you do to reviewing flash cards with your son to your daily exercise. 

3. Make your health your top priority.  

You just need to put yourself at the top of the totem pole once a day. If you don't, your health will suffer. You already have experienced this. If you keep choosing your kids over your workout, helping you with your health could become their striking top priority one day.  

In order to psych yourself into doing this, you will need to stop viewing your decision as choosing between your kids and yourself. This is a trap that will leave you feeling selfish for working out. 

Instead, view your health and your kids as one common devotion. Each time that you exercise, increasing the strength of your heart, improving your memory, and building stronger bones, your kids also reap benefits. They get a mom who can keep up with them during play. They also get a mom with a clear head post-workout and more patience to listen to them with your full attention. That sliver of time you spend exercising--temporarily zoning in on your body and mind--will allow you to return to your kids and treat them as your top priority every second that you spend with them. 

4. Include your kids in your workouts. 

With summer just around the corner, now is the perfect time to get sweaty with your kids. They will be out of school soon with more free time and eager to get outside and move! 

So be extremely time-efficient and pack a one-two punch by including your kids in your workouts. This can mean doing something as simple as bringing your kids along with you for one of your old-time walks or runs, or have them tag along with you the gym where you teach them how to do beginner exercises like sit-ups, planks, and push-ups. Indoors or outdoors, it doesn't matter! You will get natural vitamin D and fresh air outside, though!

 As a bonus tip, ignite the fire to push hard your kids by challenging them in a race of a few sprints. This family-friendly form of competition will bring the family closer, tying everyone together with a stronger sense of camradaerie and helping to instill a fierce work ethic in your kids. Talk about worrying about not being able to serve them as a mother while working out!

And if you want to go beyond getting outside the gym box, use these suggestions to go outside of your mental box: 

-Play games like tag and Red Rover or create your own games. A bigngathering like a holiday picnic or barbecue are perfect opportunities to play these games.

-Use inexpensive equipment like jump ropes and hula hoops. 

-Go rollerblading. This activity seems so underrated and underdone. Pick a smooth path for safety and get rolling! 

-Use your kids as equipment. Yes, seriously! Your little ones are just the right size and length to use as a bar like you would at the gym. They are also energizer bunnies by nature, so have them channel some of that energy into getting their mom fit! They will get exercise out of it, too! Try these exercises, the primal form of what have been adapted into gym-equipment exercises today:

     -->Wheelbarrow:

Place your hands on the ground and have them hold your feet up. Crawl forward with your legs elevated, as you hear ", Mom, your legs are so heavy!" behind you. This is a next-level plank!

     -->"Bench Press":

Lay down on the grass or a mat at the gym with your palms upright across your chest and have one of your kids climb aboard your palms (his/her chest facing you). Push your tot up as you extend your arms and bring him/her back to you as you lower your arms. Now that's the way to uplift your kids!

     -->Piggy Back Rides:

This one will probably require you to be the carrier! Again, have you child climb aboard, this time your back, and take him or her for a journey across the field or driveway. It's like wearing one of those crazy weighted vests to amp up the resistance to your exercise, except your kids are the ones wrapped around you with all their love!

Invite the whole family--your spouse or partner; aunts; uncles; cousins--and friends to play. You'll exercise, bond, and share laughs and smiles! That's ultimate workout experience! 

5. Choose to enroll your kids in activities at places where you, too, can be active. 

Take some time to scope out the different venue options for your kids' extracurricular activities. Then you will be able to strategically pick places where you can pack in your exercise. Here are some specific pointers:

-Consider getting a membership to a health club where your kids can do activities, too. Some health clubs offer tennis, gymnastics, and swimming. While they are in session, you can get your workout on. And if you want to watch your kids practice, no worries. Some of these activities last up to two hours, so you will have time to fit in both joys. 

-Instead of sitting in the car while you wait for your kids to finish up, get out of the drivers sit and steer your fitness forward. Try these simple ways:

     -->Do a quick circuit of squats, jumping jacks, and push-ups. 

     -->Take a few laps around the parking lot or up and down the sidelines of a sport field. 

     -->Park farther away from the entrance so you have to take a hike inside up gather your kids. 

Whether your kids are involved in sports or art classes, you can find somewhere and somehow to be active while they are in session. Don't use a scanty block of time as an excuse to skip out. Even if you only have five minutes to move, use it. Five minutes of exercise is infinitely better than none! 

6. Schedule your workouts.

If being a mom is your job, you are going to have appointments to attend. Trick yourself into being obliged to workout by doing the following:

-Write your workouts in your calendar. This is similar to the to-do list tactic, but you have a specific time and date to adhere to.

If simply writing down a workout in your calendar is not convincing enough for you, then make it even more mandatory by committing yourself to someone else in the following ways: 

-Schedule workouts with a friend.

And/or

-Hire a personal trainer.

This employs guilt in a healthy way. You won't want to disappoint other people by not showing up, and I certainly hope you won't want to waste the money you invest in hiring a personal trainer, so you will have extra motivation to make your workouts happen.

So, previously maddened mom, I hope you are now gladdened. As you can see, you have avenues to work out without even temporarily stepping away from your kids. And you know that you do not have zero time to exercise, but you have zero time to not exercise. Your life and your kids' lives depend on it. Remember, we all have the same 24 hours in a day. There is no magical time to be found and added. It is just how we use that time that will determine our success.

Utilize this toolbox of strategies I've placed at your fingertips to spend your time more efficiently and to feel good, not guilty, about spending some of it on you! Doing so will be one giant step forward; and that's what my work is all about--helping you take simple steps to your better health. While you might not see results right away, I remind you to be patient. Every step counts. 

Credit: goalvanise.com

Credit: goalvanise.com

Keep setting a healthy example for your kids and powering up your performance as a mother with daily exercise. I have total confidence in you. 

Sweaty Salutations,

   Coach Abbs 

Deep Breathing for Relaxation

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Deep Breathing for Relaxation

Do you think about your breathing?  It is estimated that the average person only uses about half of their breathing capacity.  Babies and children are natural deep breathers - breathing with their entire lungs and from deep down in the diaphragm.  The diaphragm is a muscle found between the chest and the abdomen.  Most adults lose this ability, becoming shallow breathers.  We don't ALLOW our breathing to occur smoothly and naturally.  STRESS causes breathing to become more shallow and rapid.  A few nice deep breaths can be so relaxing.  When you are less stressed, you will handle things more smoothly.  You can train your body to improve its breathing technique.  With regular practice, you may breathe from your abdomen most of the time, even while asleep.  Using and learning proper breathing techniques is one of the most beneficial things that can be done for both short and long term physical and emotional health.

EXERCISES:

  • Lie or sit in a comfortable position.
  • Place one hand on your chest - another on your abdomen, just above your belly button.  This will help you get used to the action of your breaths.  The hand on the abdomen should rise higher than the one on your chest.
  • Exhale through your mouth first, then begin taking in a slow, deep breath through your nose.  Imagine you are sucking in all of the air in the room.  Do this SLOWLY, inhaling for 3-5 seconds.
  • Gently contract your abdominal muscles to help you force the air out of your lungs and belly and exhale through your nose slowly.
  • Begin again, inhaling FULLY and exhaling COMPLETELY - find a rhythm that is smooth.
  • During the exhale, you can think of releasing stress, tension or anger - LETTING GO.

If practiced over time, you may find improved energy throughout the day!

 

 

 

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