Archive for March, 2009

Pacing yourself for Pollen

March 30, 2009

One interesting thing about exercise is that performance improvements seem to come in seasons. While it is not uncommon to notice dramatic improvements in endurance and work capacity when first introduced to interval training for example, even the lightest workout can still steal your wind come spring time.

While these changes can many times be attributed to stress, lack of sleep and general fatigue, one factor we do not often take in to account is Pollen. According to one recent study, individuals suffering from allergy to airborne allergens, such as pollen, exercise may exacerbate their condition due to increased ventilation during exercise.

In English, this means that the heavy breathing you may experience during a job, run or vigorous bout of exercise is not due to decreased performance, but rather an allergic reaction to substances circulating in the air. Due to the record Pollen count this spring, we have noticed a substantial number of clients struggling to recover between sets and exhibiting general fatigue before/after each session.

But because Pollen season can last in to July, this temporary condition seems set to last for some time. But while it is virtually impossible to get away from the effects of allergies, our answer has been to segment more vigorous training—interval training, intense strength circuits, etc—during each workout to allow the body to recover.

For example, performing one set of our interval training circuit at the beginning of the workout, followed by several minutes of prehabilitation or core exercises—and then repeating the second set several minutes later to allow the lungs to purge any lingering allergic reaction.

This same strategy can be applied to any strength or interval routine by splitting up a thirty minute run for example, in to two more intense fifteen minute sessions.

Workout:

  • 30 minute jog
  • 8 am: 15 minute run
  • 8 pm: 15 minute run

A further advantage of this strategy is a more intense overall effort and a better overall training effect. Because I always instruct my clients to “give it their all” during training, this strategy makes perfect sense for any season.

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Are you over training your lifestyle?

March 27, 2009

One common issue I get with new clients is the fear that “over training” in the gym will sap energy in over weekly activities.Put simply, over training is an emotional, behavioral and physical condition that occurs when the volume and intensity of an individual’s exercise exceeds their recovery capacity

And while it is true we ramp up the intensity during the 30-60 minutes in the gym,  I have yet to see a true case of “over training” from strength training alone– even in the case competitive bodybuilders whose emotional issues stem from other “habits” (cough roids).

What many of us fail to factor in however are the other activities in which we are currently engaged. Take someone that plays a recreational sport (tennis or soccer for example) for several days a week and suddenly incorporate an interval and resistance training program in to equation and you have a significant increase in total stress on the body.

The other factor which cannot be quantified are stress, sickness and/or lack of sleep which all play a role in recovery. Week after week, the affects of these activities/ailments add up to cumulative fatigue which will eventually take it’s toll.

With this in mind, a good recommendation is to include a “back off” week every 4-6 weeks in which total volume of activity is reduced by 60-80%. In the gym, this means lifting lighter weights, reduced intensity and taking more time for restorative stretching.

In place recreational activity, this can also be the opportunity to engage in unstructured cross training– yoga, long walks, spending time with family, etc– which breaks your regular routine and allows the body to recover.

Speaking from experience, strength and performance greatly benefit from this sort of routine while allowing the mind to recover perspective.

With Spring Break just around the corner, the coming weeks are an excellent opportunity time to take advantage of time away from structure. Try this for a week and your body will thank you!

Metabolic Stimulus act

March 23, 2009

In the wake of economic woes and recent reports which suggest obesity can take up to a decade from your lifespan, Leading fast food McDonalds still recorded record profits for the 4th quarter of 2008.

What this tells me as a fitness writer Is that while we still have a long way to go in terms of health in this country, Americans are willing to splurge on what they Put in to their bodies. Be it comfort food or fresh fruits and veggies, the point in times of distress is simply getting enough calories to maintain sanity and Function.

Often when we become overwhelmed or depressed, the first impulse is to drastically reduce what we are eating. But while This may work in the short term for weightloss, a starvation mode metabolism translates to more stress hormones and higher bouts of anxiety. Combine this with long days at the office and little time to unwind and you have the perfect recipe for physical and mental breakdown.

Now, we have all heard the benefits of several small meals per day, but the reality is it can be hard to break away from your routine to eat correctly. With this in mind, the key to effective eating is to plan ahead. Here are a few strategies to assist below:

Fast food: When it comes to fast food, the main source of processed junk is the items which contain a grains or processed carbohydrates. While grilled items are preferred to fried and breaded foods, remove the bun, tortilla chips or shell and you have essentially eliminated the largest source of dietary danger.

Dining out: Whether eating at Applebees or Emerils’ (though I’m not sure this would be considered more upscale), the basic composition of most restaurant menus includes some variety of fish, chicken and steak. With this in mind, a simple salad with a vinaigrette dressing, grilled chicken, steak or any fish fit the bill for low carb. One note on preparation, be sure to ask how the veggies and meat is prepared (whether steamed or sauteed with butter) to save calories during your meal.

Eating on the road: When your meal options are limited on the road, the name of the game becomes preparation. For some, this means preparing foods such in advance for long trips, while others simply rely on what can be found in the nearest grocery store or mini-mart. In either case, listed below are foods we lie with recipes and preparation tips:

Snacks prepared in 15-20 minutes:

• Red/black bean soup- Legumes are an excellent source of fiber and non-starchy carbs. For a listing of several excellent recipes, check out http://www.squidoo.com/healthyvegetarianrecipes

• Flavored chicken/steak cuts- Cooked and cut up chicken, steak or turkey breast. Simply cook for 20 minutes and marinate for 2-3 hours. For a list of marinades, check out http://www.cooks.com/rec/search/0,1-0,steak_marinade,FF.html

Quick hits:

• Deli meats- 6-8 Slices turkey, ham, pork, chicken etc contain around 30 grams of protein and around 150 calories.

• Protein shakes- Two scoops of any protein is around 180-200 calories. For those that use water only, Try a dab of Walden Farms maple syrup for a flavor boost.

• Raw veggies- The beauty of raw veggies is they can be eaten in almost limitless quantity. To give them a little kick, check out waldenfarms.com for a list of CALORIE FREE dressings, sauces and dips which have changed my life (yes, I love them that much)

• Bell peppers- Bell peppers (either cut up or eaten whole) are an excellent source of anti-oxidants without the added sugar of fruit.

Twenty seconds to change

March 20, 2009

My kids are sick, I have no time after work, my lunch break is only twenty minutes. As a personal trainer, these are but a few of the “excuses” I have heard as to why we don’t exercise outside of the gym (or at all).

In many cases, these are perfectly valid reasons that become perceived barriers (or excuses) without a better solution. While the CDC now recommends 60 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per week to make significant changes in your body, I say this is overkill.

The main reason many of us do not do aerobic exercise (walking or jogging on a treadmill, )exercise for sixty minutes is simply because it is boring. The other drawback with this sort of long, drawn out, exercise is it lacks the intensity to establish quick bodily changes.

Interestingly, research has also shown that breaking up exercise time (four fifteen minutes sessions versus one single sixty minute workout) has been shown to be more effective in achieving  physical change.

This is mainly because the possible intensity over a fifteen minute session is significantly higher than what can be sustained over sixty minutes.

With this in mind, my challenge to readers is to step back from the notion that you must workout for 30-60 minutes to achieve physical change. In fact, my solution is quite the opposite.

While you may not have even an hour per day to devote to exercise, do you have twenty seconds? If you are tired of spinning your wheels without results in the gym or lack the time and motivation for sustained exercise, the following plan is for you.

Breaking down the problem:

Before breaking down the excuse of why you cannot exercise, it is important to first understand the very real barriers that may be currently blocking your path:

– Lack of time (you work all day with small, infrequent breaks)
– Lack of space (You work or live in an area without space or equipment to move around)
– Lack of motivation (to exercise anyway)

Taking these factors in to account, my solution is to pick simple bodyweight exercises or movements which can be done in any environment and breakdown your workout over the course of a day– rather than an hour.

For example, a workout which calls for two sets of ten push ups and squats would entail performing a set of ten, resting 60-120 seconds and repeating three times. This would typically take between 35-30 minutes. The problem here is that it is difficult to break from work, sweat, hit the shower and return in under 45-60 minutes.

But by breaking this same workout in to a set of five push ups and five squats every two hours, you still achieve the same result with around two minutes expended per hour. While some have questioned whether the muscles are affected in the same way as a thirty minute workout, the only factor that really matters here is volume– which remains exactly the same.

In fact, the quality of work and form improves significantly when given a task which seems more manageable throughout the day.

In this same way, short cardiovascular intervals spaced throughout the day achieve the same cumulative effect as one longer duration session. For the purposes of this article, I have chosen Tabata intervals (twenty seconds of work followed by ten seconds of rest), which have been shown to be most effective in achieveing dramatic physical change.

These intervals can be performed with any exercise which gets the heart beating. Some suggestions include:

– Squat thrusts
– Dumbbell upper cuts
– Jumping jacks
– Switch jumps

These are but a few suggestions, but the key is to pick movements which are short and intense. Listed below is an example of a strength and cardio program for the busy fitness seeker.

Instructions:

–  For strength training perform two squats and two push ups per hour for twelve hours.

– For interval training, perform twenty seconds of jumping jacks three times per hour for twelve hours.

– Perform interval and strength training on different days.

– Repeat each workout twice per week

– Add one rep or interval per hour each week to progress cumulative total.

Weight control supplements that work for a change

March 18, 2009

When it comes to losing fat, one thing which continues to amaze me is the human desire for a quick fix—despite The risk to physical health.

While the side effects of products such as Relacor, Ephedrine and others include high blood preassure, Severe headaches and even weight gain, these products continue to grow in popularity.

In fact, I have been asked several times in recent weeks by clients which of these suppliments I would recommend to suppress Appetite and speed up weightloss. My answer—of course—is that no product is a silver bullet without commitment to a solid Diet and exercise routine, but what may come as a surprise is that the solution you are seeking is already in your cupboard.

Listed below are two of my favorite “super foods” which have been shown to balance blood sugar, surpress appetite and assist in Fatloss the way other products claim—without the harmful side effects.

1. Vinegar

Health Benefits: Small amounts of vinegar (approximately 20 ml or two tablespoons of domestic vinegar) added to food, or taken along with a meal, have been shown by a number of medical trials to reduce the glycemic index of carbohydrate food for people with and without diabetes.

Multiple trials indicate that taking vinegar with food increases satiety (the feeling of fullness) and so, reduces the amount of food consumed. Even a single application of vinegar can lead to reduced food intake for a whole day.

How much to take: Approximately 20 ml or two tablespoons of domestic vinegar once per day.

2. Cinnamon

Health Benefits: Cinnamon may significantly help people with type 2 diabetes improve their ability to respond to insulin, thus normalizing their blood sugar levels. Both test tube and animal studies have shown that compounds in cinnamon not only stimulate insulin receptors, but also inhibit an enzyme that inactivates them, thus significantly increasing cells’ ability to use glucose.

How much to take: Approximately two tablespoons of cinnamon once per day.

Better posture and pain relief for high heel walkers

March 16, 2009

After 18 hours of standing of essentially standing in one place, pain from the back, hips and knees Can overwhelm even the fittest gym goer. Throw on a pair of six inch heels and you effectively reduce

The normally efficient support surface of the feet to 1/8th of it’s original area.

Now, imagine doing this day after day for twenty of thirty years and you have the perfect prescription for pain and mangled posture. While this may appear some monotonous form of torture, this is the reality many professional women face in the job world every day.

With this in mind, part of the process to getting in better shape is doing corrective work to avert this disaster waiting

To happen.

The problem: Tight calves, hips and back muscles cause the back to arch excessively creating excess pressure on the knees, hips and low back.

The solution: Stretch and strengthen the involved muscles using the following sequence to to improve posture and take preassure of

the back, knees, shins and hips.

1. Hip flexor stretch

2. Calf stretch

3. Hamstring stretch

4. Piriformis stretch

* Perform two sets of thirty second holds for each stretch.

Strength:

1. Anterior tibialis press

2. Glute bridge

3. Side lying abduction

4. Reverse crunch

* Perform two sets of ten for each exercise.