Category Archives: Training

5 Tips to Getting More Out of Your Workout

img_0537You did it! You made the decision to work out; put the time aside; bought new gear; made a commitment to better yourself; ready to workout. Only thing is, this scenario constantly repeats itself and yields the same result – nothing. Isn’t it enough to just show up? The answer is unequivocally NO but that’s for another discussion another time. Let’s say though that you are committed and exercise is something you do fairly regularly yet you are still not getting the results you were looking for. Without getting into a discussion of how other considerations like nutrition, stress, sleep, etc. affect your goal outcomes, let’s first take a look to see how you could be getting more out of your workout.

Don’t Go In Cold. I will confess that I was very guilty of this in my younger, indestructible years. Go to the gym and get right into working out – may be a couple of lame stretches but hardly preparing myself for the workout. Some will question why a warm-up is even necessary or what exactly counts as a warm-up. There is nothing more to understand other than it is what your body needs. Exercise is a physical stress, but a good stress or eustress. Whatever it is you do for exercise, it is going to be something different than what you do on a daily basis. (No, household chores do not count as exercise.) The body, specifically the heart, muscles, tendons, ligaments, skin…do I go on…needs to be better prepared neurologically and physically to go from 0 to 60 (or whatever speed you are moving it) to handle the new stress they are about to encounter. Dynamic movements (they used to be called calisthenics) are best followed by simply getting the body moving such as light walking or cycling. Stretching is not warming up and not something you should do as it has been shown to actually be a hindrance to physical activity. More on that later. Like warming up a car before driving it away, your body will respond better to what you have planned when it is primed to go.

Fuel Up. Most would agree that they would never take a road trip without properly fueling their car yet they will get a workout in, which requires some energy, without properly fueling themselves. Chances are that if your workout fueling plan is bad your nutrition in general is most likely not that good either. A workout doesn’t require a major meal but it does necessitate a little boost if the plan is to actually workout. Muscles store energy locally in the form of glycogen which can be broken down into glucose when called upon to be used as fuel. But as the time or intensity of the workout progresses, more energy may be required and NO that energy is not quickly made available by stored fat either. The general rule of thumb is to provide some energy (calories) from either a carbohydrate and/or protein no less than 45 minutes prior to exercise. Your body will thank you for it and you will reap the rewards of the workout you actually made time for.

Whatever You Avoid, Go After It. One of the many lessons I’ve learned and later appreciated in this life is that your hardest teachers are usually the best. Same can be said about exercise. Most have a favorite exercise and most definitely they also have an exercise(s) they loathe or even hate. In my experience, the hate comes from the hard and the hard is what makes the exercise great. Case in point, big exercises that train the legs. Training the legs (with the hips representing 2/3 of the muscle mass in the body) is hard when done correctly. Large muscle groups need more blood, which means a higher hear rate, which means labored breathing, which means searing discomfort (I’ll refrain from saying pain here), etc. When trained properly, the legs/hips create more of a stimulus to change (increase muscle, decreased body fat, etc.)than any muscle group in the body. So squat, deadlift, lunge, press, and their many variations and use actual resistance. Attack all exercises within reason at some point to challenge not only the physical but the mental as well.

Stop Wasting Time on What Has Been Unproven to Work. No matter what gym or health club I have worked or visited the view is always the same. People walking aimlessly doing their “cardio” while watching TV; boys lifting weights but spending more time looking at themselves then actually working; girls picking up little weights trying to “tone” their arms; both sexes wrecking themselves working abs ; etc. Here’s a reminder. Unless you’ve got plenty of time, doing cardio while watching TV will take 2-3 hours to see some results. Intensity has a lot to do with it. Unless you are training to be a strongman, rest intervals between sets of weights should be short. The longer you take, the more time that is wasted into actually stressing the muscle to change. Little weights cause no change. If you want physical change, you have to lift a resistance that makes the muscles actually “work”. All the abdominal exercises in the world will not, I repeat, WILL NOT magically burn the layer of body fat between your skin and the abdominal muscle underneath. You’d be better off spending as much time working harder in all aspects including and most importantly, paying attention to your diet.

Take Care of Your Body. If you abuse your body in and out of the gym, there is no nutrition plan, workout plan, or supplement that is going to make wrong right. Listen to it when it is trying to tell you something is wrong and don’t fall into the trap of thinking “well I use to be able to do this.” Stretch muscles to alleviate tightnesses and improve range of motion AFTER a workout. Don’t get caught up in trendy workout plans and gimmicky programs. If you’re still not sure on what to do, seek the help of a professional. (That does not include celebrity trainer endorsements or YouTube.) Most of all, make your workout unique to your goals, not someone else’s. Finally, never under estimate the power of sleep. It could be the deal breaker if all pistons are firing but your sleep patterns are erratic at best.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

Age is No Excuse

downloadsaWith the Olympic Summer Games winding down, one thing’s for sure I’ll get a better night’s sleep getting to bed at a more reasonable hour. It’s such a fantastic time to not only cheer on our country, but to see the level of competition among the athletes who for the most part are forgotten until perhaps the Summer Games resume in four years. They work hard, train tirelessly, and make no excuse for a chance at winning an Olympic Gold in their chosen craft. One aspect I pay more attention to now is the age of some of the top level competitors who certainly make no excuse that their age is somewhat of a hindrance. Most of the naysayers would say they’re too old or they should act their age to which they valiantly show the proverbial finger by competing and sometimes even winning.

It Always Comes Down to Thoughts and Choices

News flash: you’ve been aging since the day you were born. Today you’re older than you were yesterday, last week, last month, last year. A 20 year old is old to a 6 year old; a 43 year old is old to a 30 year old. Age is a chronological measure of the distance you’ve made it in this life. Old is a relative labeling of who and where you are as a person, or at least what you think that is. Age is an indisputable measurement; old is a subjective state of mind. One’s age doesn’t determine what they can and can’t do based on how old they think they are or chose to be labeled. So it all comes down to if you think you’re old, then old you must be. But you need to really think twice about passing judgement on someone else your age, perhaps older, who refuses to use age an excuse to keep them doing the things they want to do when no one wants to expect or believe that they can.

The Biological Facts

There are those that will always say, “you just wait until you get to be my age” triumphantly waving the flag as if they accomplished something great. Greatness in life shouldn’t be measured by the number of years in one’s life, but the life in those years. There are physiologic process at work that change for everyone as we chronologically age: decreased muscle mass; decreased bone density, decreased flexibility, greater skin elasticity, etc. But never should they be used as scapegoats to stop moving/living. Then there’s the excuse of having no energy or too stiff to move. Not rocket science here, but most if not all of these symptoms can be reversed with regular physical activity, not necessarily competing at high levels of fitness. Physical movement is not only a necessity of a healthy life, it is what keeps others moving and others sitting and waiting.

A Few Age-Defying Olympic Champions

 As a fitness professional for close to 22 years, I’ve had the fabulous and fortunate opportunity to work with clients of all ages, even those most would think are too old to have a trainer or be in the gym. Never, not once did that ever stop them from always putting their best foot forward. Instead, they’ve become some of my better clients; completely coachable, hard working individuals with nothing to prove only that they can. But not all “old” people have white or no hair. Some are currently competing in these current Olympic Games and defying age as a barrier to their success.

  • Oksana Chusovitina: at 41 years young and five feet tall,, she is the oldest Olympic female gymnast in history, competing in her seventh Summer Games.
  • Kristin Armstrong: U.S. Cyclist, who just a day before her 43rd birthday won her third consecutive gold medal in women’s time trial. She’s the oldest female cycling medalist of all time.
  • Julie Broughamm: a 62 year old equestrian who actually just competed in her first Olympics in Rio.

As previously stated, one does not have to compete in the Olympics to prove age is but a number. I’ve made it a point to collect stories of other examples of age defying logic and shared with my followers on my Facebook Business Page. They’re all worth the time to watch, listen, and or read. Enjoy!

  • The Iron Nun – my most recent favorite featured in an ad for Nike. Here’s also an interview with her. Makes you just want to hug her.
  • Ernestine Shepherd – at 80 years old, the world’s oldest bodybuilder. Her story behind how she became what she is touching.
  • Random video of a gentleman squatting what appears to be 405lbs!
  • Shirley Webb – an 80 year old grandmother deadlifting 225lbs!
  • Lan Yin Tsai Lan Yin Tsai – a 90 year old woman who rides the 2 day, 75 mile option of the MS City to Shore I participate in every year. I’ve even had the privilege to ride by her several times over the years. She rides her bike in a dress and heels to boot!
  • Ida Keeling – a 100 year old (that’s not a typo) woman who runs regularly and even competed in the Penn Relays this past spring in Philadelphia. By the way, she’s the reigning national champion in the 60m dash, 95-99 age group.
  • Kay and Joe O’Regan – an octogenarian couple who race marathons together and celebrated their 57 wedding anniversary by running the Cork City Marathon one final time, holding hands as they crossed the finish line,

If you’re still not inspired and convinced that age is but a number, you have missed the whole point of taking care of what you got and doing the best you can with it. Proper nutrition and exercise are a key component to that but if your state of mind is just content with where it is, then that’s just a shame.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and do better.

What You Thought You Knew About Fitness is Wrong

Confused Woman Scratching Her Head
Confused Woman Scratching Her Head

In today’s day and age of social media, it seems everyone becomes an expert: political, financial, spiritual, technical, nutritional, and of course, physical. Behind the shroud of computers, tablets, and smart phones, the “experts” offer and voice their views and opinions on everything and anything and sadly have many believing in what they’re saying (selling) without little proof of their claims. Furthermore, what’s reported in the media is usually more attention grabbing than evidence worthy. Through my years as a fitness professional, I’ve seen thousands of gurus and media morsels leaving bits of useless wisdom that many have taken as gospel becoming fitness “experts” themselves. Every time I head to the gym to work out I often struggle and bite my tongue as I witness the result of what sheep following sheep looks like. After a recent visit to the gym, I was inspired to write about what so many are doing or saying wrong, most likely unbeknownst to them in the hopes that it helps you.

Cardio is a very inefficient method of burning fat. Aerobic (cardio) exercise is a great and critical component of fitness. It strengthens and improves the cardiovascular system responsible for delivering oxygenated blood to all working organs and muscles in addition to lowering blood pressure and hundreds more of key physiological processes. Doesn’t sound too exciting, huh? I would guess most people doing “cardio” are of the mindset that they’re working off the pounds (fat) more than the other benefits. The reality is you burn little to no fat at low to medium intensities (most of what I witness people doing); the longer you go doesn’t equate to more fat being burned; the amount of calories burned while exercising equals energy spent during the activity, not the amount of fat burned. To efficiently burn fat requires you to “torch” it – work at higher intensities for shorter bursts of time, a level most have to work up to over time.

You don’t have to lift iron to build muscle. You cannot ignore enough the value of adding strength training to your routine. It’s the only “anti-gravity” exercise we can do. The result: strengthening of muscles and skeletal structures; the ONLY way to change the shape of the body; a much more efficient fat burner as it increases the body’s energy requirements during AND after the work out. The good news is if the weight room still “scares” you, you don’t have to lift iron to build muscle. Balls, bands, bodyweight, etc. are some of the many other tools available to build muscle. The most important concept to understand is that in order to build muscle you need these three components: mechanical tension on the muscle (resistance), muscle damage (stress at the cellular level that spurns new growth), and metabolic stress (intensity).

Stretching before a workout is unnecessary and could be counterproductive. Perhaps that school gym teacher from back in the day left his/her mark with you but we’ve come a long way since then. Number one, stretching a cold, tight muscle could create a bigger problem. Number two, stretching a muscle creates more joint laxity that may not be beneficial to movement. Your best bet? Warm up the muscles and the body with light activity or soft tissue manipulation (i.e. self-myofascial release) in tight spots. Still like to stretch? Be my guest but there’s a better, more effective way.

It’s not necessary to train like a bodybuilder. No disrespect to those who train to be a bodybuilder or figure competitor. It’s very hard, dedicated work that involves more than just the weight room. But for many more than not, bodybuilding is not something they’re training for and no amount of weight training is going to make them look like a body builder without all of the other components. Train for your goal, not your aspiration.

It’s physically impossible to lengthen and/or tone muscles. Two of the biggest buzz words in fitness that I’m sure sell tons of programs and magazines. Here’s a sobering anatomical fact: your muscles are the length they’re always going to be without of course cutting muscle origin and insertion points or lengthening bones! Muscles always have “tone” (tonality) otherwise they wouldn’t work. Muscles can get leaner (translation: stronger, tighter, shapelier) and more defined (translation: less body fat between them and the skin).

There’s no magic to your exercise order. Variety is key with your workouts, particularly when it comes to what and when you do it. Most stick to a pattern that they’ve mirrored for years and wonder why they’re not getting anywhere when it may have worked for them initially. Change it up – the order of the exercises, the type, the sets, the reps, etc. Don’t be married to what you think is the perfect program. The perfect program is one that evolves and progresses over time.

You don’t need to use EVERY piece of exercise equipment in the gym. One of the few advantages I see to belonging to a gym or health club aside from the social aspect is the variety of options. But to the novice or pseudo-expert, that really doesn’t make a difference. It can be overwhelming and intimidating but most of the stuff is duplicates or multiple versions of achieving the same goal. It’s like knowing the difference between two high-end sports cars – if you don’t know the difference in their engine and driving capabilities, your decision might be influenced only by the color of the car.

Sweat/post exercise soreness is not good indicators of workout success. It’s a known physiological fact: some people just sweat more than others. It’s not a badge of honor – it’s a very efficient cooling mechanism that some have. For those that don’t sweat much, it’s not always indicative of workout intensity but a less than efficient cooling mechanism. Regardless, it’s not a score card to even be concerned with. As far as muscle soreness goes, it sometimes happens when a new exercise/muscle pattern is learned, or more mechanical stress/tension was introduced. Some get sore 24-48 hours after a workout, some longer. Again, it depends on the amount and type of stress that was introduced to the body and how YOUR body responds. But comparing it to others is like comparing apples to oranges.

The longer the workout, the less efficient it becomes. More is not necessarily better; it’s just more. Those who claim to be at the gym for an hour or two are physically in the building for that time but I would challenge just how much real work is done during that time. Intensities dwindle; fuel supplies diminish at the muscles, anabolic hormones decrease, etc. as time moves on. Time is never an excuse to get in a quality workout. Quality always trumps quantity when it comes to fitness.

 

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

Navigating the Fitness Jungle

Jungle-personal-training-phuketIt’s the most wonderful time of the year! I’m not speaking of the holidays which have just passed. I’m talking about the fitness industry’s most wonderful time of the year when the masses jump on health club memberships and fitness programs in the hopes that this year will be different. Like clockwork it happens every time at this time of year and the industry is counting on it, all to the dismay however of the regulars who keep their fitness membership active throughout the year. A parody video went viral recently about the phenomenon of the “newbies” (aka resolutioners) abruptly entering the hallowed grounds of the gyms where the regulars take exception, albeit jokingly, to sharing their workspace. While there’s humor to be found in it, it does create a sort of cloud of uncomfortableness and frustration on both sides (a whole fitness franchise was built on this phenomenon) that isn’t necessary and is counterproductive to the common goal of fitness. As someone who has spent a great deal of my life in gyms and health clubs of all types, I’m here to provide a map of sorts to both sides to getting along and striving to reach unprecedented goals together.

To The Newbies:

  • Congratulations on your commitment to start a new. You will find that there are many more just like you who are entering the gym for the very first time or for the first time in a long while.
  • Get familiar with what’s available to you. Most health clubs/gyms give what I call the “museum tour” pointing out things that you may or may not know how they can help you. If there was an introductory lesson offered, take it, even if it seems remedial. (If you drive and just bought a new car, you would want to be showed all the features and how they work, wouldn’t you?)
  • If working with a personal trainer is available, use it, even if it means paying a few extra dollars. Fitness is not a thing to do for a few short weeks. It is a lifestyle and mentality. Learn the basics first from a qualified professional before you start deciding on how much you think you know how and what to do.
  • Don’t try to do too much at first. Easier said than done but trying to do it all at once will 100% of the time lead to burn out, possibly injury, and a negative perception of exercise – all of which could have been a factor in your past.
  • Practice gym etiquette, which is just a fancy way of saying be a decent human being. Treat others as you want to be treated and leave the equipment the way you would want to find it for your use.
  • Learn to share, not hog, equipment. Don’t sit on a piece of equipment that you’re not using for a single rep. If you need a rest, get up and move away or find a place to sit that’s not part of any exercise routine. It is a gym by the way. The goal is to move.
  • Get involved with a group, whether it be a class or a program but beware the instructor who is only in it for their own benefit. Trust me; you’ll recognize who they are right away.
  • There’s no need for a “judgement free zone”. Newsflash: most of the people working out are into their workout and could care less about what you’re doing. There’s no need to form a low opinion of yourself. You’re here and still doing more than the person who’s still sitting at home.
  • Don’t be afraid to hold your head up, smile, say hello, etc. I’ve seen many friendships, relationships, even marriages form from being social with those surrounding you with common goals. Make the gym/health club an extended family of sorts.
  • Leave your phone in your locker, or better yet in your car. If you can’t put aside the time to exercise for yourself (emergency reasons excluded) it’s going to a short and frustrating journey or a long and fruitless one. The gym is where you work out, not work

To The Regulars:

  • I know the gym is more crowded than usual and you’re already looking forward to that second week in February when it normally falls back but let me remind you – you may have been one of those newbies at one time. Welcome them, and help them out if you can. Be a mentor or role model.
  • Don’t judge a book by its cover. No one knows the walk that person has taken but they’re here now. Be an inspiration and/or encourage them to embrace the journey.
  • Proper gym etiquette applies to you too. Don’t be that guy/girl that others learn to despise, new or old. This is everyone’s gym. Use it the way you expect it to be used and shared by others.
  • Don’t be so unidimensional. You’re the experienced one. Space a little crowded for your chest day? Don’t tell me you don’t have a hundred other exercises to utilize that same muscle group a different way! Perhaps you might benefit from working with a qualified professional. Real growth comes from change.
  • Same as with the newbies. Leave your phone in your locker, or better yet in your car. The gym is where you work out, not work or hold photo sessions.

The gym/health club is not a mythical place. It’s a real, live place where real, live people can gather and work towards their individual fitness goals together. Like a community, it will only be as strong as its weakest link.

 

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

12 Days of Fitness 2015: Day 11 – Foam Rolling 101

(This is Part 11 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful blurbs and tips to keep your fitness in focus over the holiday season)

foam-rollerFitness fads come and go and I only endorse or use the ones I know are worth their merit. Some are not always obvious or popular in the public eye while others are everywhere you look. Take for example the foam roller; a compressed, often cylindrical piece of foam where people roll themselves on in some bizarre looking horizontal dance. Today, foam rollers can be found almost anywhere from gyms, rehab centers, and homes to specialty stores and big name retailers. Why? Because they work but it takes a better understanding and appreciation of how and what they do that makes them a valuable tool in your arsenal.

It’s All About the Fascia

Fascia is the connective tissue beneath the skin that surrounds the muscles. It is made primarily of densely packed collagen fibers that permeate your muscles, bones, nerves, blood vessels and organs. There isn’t a place in your body where fascia doesn’t exist. Over time with training and/or physical activity, the muscles become tight and the fascia starts to thicken and shorten to protect the underlying muscle from further damage. Sometimes the fibers and fascia contract so much they form trigger points, which manifest as sore spots needing to be released. The problem is fascia also has the ability to contract independently of the muscles it surrounds and it responds to stress without your conscious command.  That means fascia can impact movements, for better or worse.  When fascia becomes restricted, adhesions form causing soreness, restricted movement, gait change and potential injury.

Enter the Foam Roller

Foam rolling, a type of myofascial release, is the application of pressure to eliminate scar-tissue and soft-tissue adhesion by freeing up your fascia. Once a technique only performed by skilled physical therapists and massage therapists, self-myofascial release through the use of a foam roller can be very beneficial. The good news is fascia and trigger points can be released. Even better, once released, every one of the problems tight fascia and muscles have caused usually clears up. The goal of using the foam roller is to stretch and loosen the fascia so that it and other structures can move more freely resulting in decreased muscle and joint pain, increased circulation and improved mobility, balance and gait for peak mobility and performance. But like anything that is good, too much or improperly utilized methods can be more detrimental than beneficial.

Beware the Foam Roller

Foam rolling can be the savoir for those who are chronically injury-prone, those who train hard, or those chronically stiff from sitting at a desk all day — if used the right way. If not, you risk irritating, and possibly injuring, your body further. Here are some of the most common mistakes when using the foam roller

  • Rolling directly on an injured area. Seems counter-intuitive but as most things in relation to the body, unless it’s blunt trauma, the affected area is generally the symptom, not the cause of the issue. When it comes to foam rolling and myofascial release, constantly working the area of pain could create more inflammation and tension in the area, further tensing the muscles and fascia. What to do instead: Slowly foam roll your way away from the pain center to the connecting muscles. Once you hit the attachment areas, work those thoroughly. Then proceed back to the area of pain and work gently at first. Visualize yourself “melting away” the tightness. Not only will you avoid inciting excess inflammation this way, but you’ll target the real source of your injury.
  • Foam rolling too quickly. Foam rolling initially even if done properly hurts. Period. Human nature is to roll through or endure pain quickly. Unfortunately, foam rolling quickly doesn’t accomplish the objective – releasing fascia and relaxing muscles. What to do instead: You need to be slow and deliberate in your movements. While it may feel better to go fast, releasing fascia takes time. Once you find a sensitive area, slowly work back and forth over the spot. Again, be thoughtful and think of foam rolling like melting through the muscle and fascia.
  • Staying on one spot too long. While this may sound contradictory to the previous statement, it’s not. Staying on one spot for too long might irritate a nerve or damage the tissue, which can cause bruising and further inflammation. What to do instead: Be gentle at first. Start with half your body weight, using your hands or other leg to adjust pressure, and slowly work into full body weight. The maximum amount of time you should spend on any one area is 20 seconds or so. After this, you only risk irritating the spot more than you’re helping it. If you have a really troublesome area you can always come back for another session in the evening when the muscles have had time to relax.
  • Using bad posture and form. Foam rolling is hard work and I almost guarantee you’ll break a sweat. Just as with a strength training exercise, it’s easy to let your form deteriorate, especially if you are tired. What to do instead: Understand your anatomy a little better. Don’t approach foam rolling haphazardly. Stay focused on your form throughout your entire session and if you’re not quite sure how to do it properly, find someone who has the experience to show you.

 

See you tomorrow for Day 12 of the 12 Days of Fitness.

 

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

Day 1 – Chew Your Food
Day 2 – Fitness for the Road
Day 3 – The Many Names of Sugar
Day 4 – Side Stitches: Causes and Treatments
Day 5 – The 5 Reasons Why You Should Never Feel Hungry When Trying to Lose Weight
Day 6 – 10 Rules of Fitness
Day 7 – Which Are You – A Chronic Dieter or A Healthy Eater?
Day 8 – What Happens When You Skip Your Workout
Day 9 – The Truth About Lactic Acid
Day 10 – Better Nutrition Starts With a Better Plan

12 Days of Fitness 2015: Day 9 – The Truth About Lactic Acid

(This is Part 9 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful blurbs and tips to keep your fitness in focus over the holiday season)

download (2)In a previous post I discussed side stitches – possible causes and treatments; a thorn in the side (no pun intended) of physically active individuals. Like many things in fitness, side stitches can be lumped into the bag of fitness maladies and myths. Another one that comes to mind as it is often completely misunderstood and generally has a negative connotation to it is lactic acid. Let’s take a better look at this often misinterpreted and misconstrued bodily chemical.

A Bad Rap

Lactic acid and its negatively-charged ionic form lactate have had a long association with fatigue during exercise. During the course of a prolonged and intense effort, muscles lose power. The growing fatigue with exercise can be resisted for a while through great concentration and mental effort, but eventually everyone succumbs to fatigue. Exercise physiologists for the greater part of the twentieth century studied the theorized reason for muscular fatigue during exercise is accumulation of a compound called lactic acid. Once more research and understanding the metabolism of exercise was done it was found that the body does not actually produce lactic acid, just the negatively charged ion lactate. In the 2000s, a prominent biochemist and researcher in the field, Roger Robergs, took a hard look at each step in the metabolic process that turns sugars (glucose in the blood and glycogen in the muscles) into energy when you exercise to better understand and clear the air and bad reputation of lactic acid.

A Little Physiology

Energy is created in the body by one of two pathways; aerobically and anaerobically. Aerobic respiration turns sugars into fuel using oxygen, and doesn’t have any harmful byproducts. Anaerobic respiration, which doesn’t kick in until you’re operating past your aerobic limit, can generate energy from sugar without using oxygen, but results in waste products—lactate and acid. Robergs discovered however that anaerobic respiration functions all the time, turning sugar into a compound called pyruvate, releasing some hydrogen ions at the same time. Aerobic respiration works to clean up the pyruvate, using oxygen to burn the pyruvate into carbon dioxide and water, which can be exhaled. The aerobic process also consumes acid (hydrogen ions), which slows down the buildup of acid in the muscles. The generation of lactate is actually a side reaction: when excess pyruvate and acid start to accumulate (when the rate of anaerobic respiration overtakes the aerobic system’s ability to remove the waste), the body uses a pyruvate molecule and a hydrogen ion to create lactate, another way in which it can slow down the buildup of acid. The lactate can also be shuttled out of the muscles, into the blood, and burned in other areas of the body for more energy. Phew! Now while all that science may or not mean anything to you, here are the practical implications.

  • A better understanding of the biology of fatigue only reinforces the concept that your aerobic strength is a huge factor in your physical performance. While your body has various mechanisms to buffer the acid produced during high-intensity efforts, all of these are limited. Only increasing your aerobic fitness will allow you to substantially increase how far and how hard you can go.
  • Additionally, recognizing that lactate has a greater role than simply causing fatigue allows you to better understand the place of high-intensity workouts at or faster than the “lactate threshold.” These workouts aren’t just working hard for the sake of working hard—they train your body to produce, process, and burn lactate (as a fuel!) at a greater rate.
  • There is still the inescapable fatigue that comes with acid overload. There really is no getting around it the harder you work. You can include high intensity interval workouts to improve your ability to buffer the acid produced when training or competing at high intensities, but everyone is ultimately limited by the accumulating acidity in their muscles and blood.
  • Your body certainly produces acid during exercise, and it produces lactate as well. But it’s the former, not the latter, that’s the main culprit for fatigue.

See you tomorrow for Day 10 of the 12 Days of Fitness.

 

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

Day 1 – Chew Your Food
Day 2 – Fitness for the Road
Day 3 – The Many Names of Sugar
Day 4 – Side Stitches: Causes and Treatments
Day 5 – The 5 Reasons Why You Should Never Feel Hungry When Trying to Lose Weight
Day 6 – 10 Rules of Fitness
Day 7 – Which Are You – A Chronic Dieter or A Healthy Eater?
Day 8 – What Happens When You Skip Your Workout

12 Days of Fitness 2015: Day 6 – 10 Rules of Fitness

(This is Part 6 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful blurbs and  tips to keep your fitness in focus over the holiday season)

3320970787_58eb36939aEveryone has their interpretation of what fitness is or what it means to be fit. However, at the end of the day we can all agree that fitness is (and should be) an important part of our lives no matter how we all go about it. The most important concept to remember is the best way to improve and work on your fitness is the one you’re doing and going to keep doing. If you’re successful with that concept, here are a few key points to always keep in perspective no matter what you’re doing.

  1. Respect Sleep and Rest. Somewhere along the way we became martyrs to our work. The more you worked (not necessarily harder) the better you would be and sleep or rest would leave you behind the pack. Who has time to rest when there’s all this work to do? Wrong! A good night’s sleep, when your body’s chemistry shifts, and all kinds of beneficial bodily repair gets underway is one of the easiest ways to make an investment in your health. Want to be stubborn about it and think sleep is overrated? Your lack of sleep probably manifests itself daily with the same stubbornness with which you don’t recognize it – physically, mentally, and emotionally.
  2. Exercise Specific to Your Goals. Just because you exercise doesn’t always correlate with what you’re trying to accomplish. Somewhere along the line we grouped ALL exercise as a way to achieve any goal. If you want to be a bodybuilder then train like a bodybuilder. If you want to be a runner, then train like a runner. If you want to just feel good and healthy, it’s not necessary to kill yourself with mindless exercise that will probably cause more harm than good. Be clear about your goal first and foremost and then use the literally thousands of tools in the tool chest to accomplish that goal.
  3. Stop Buying Into Supplements. The word supplement itself simply means “in addition to.” The “in addition to” is an already healthy lifestyle that may or may not get an extra added boost from taking a dietary supplement. Supplementing a poor diet and lifestyle isn’t going to magically improve anything. The kicker is despite the supplement industry being a multi-billion dollar industry there is very little real data to support most of the theoretical claims. While you probably can’t do a lot of real harm if you take any supplement, putting your blind faith into them is time and energy poorly spent.
  4. Do It Right or Don’t Do It at All. If you’re going to commit to the time and energy to make fitness a part of your daily life, don’t waste any time and learn to do it right. The mindset of “something is better than nothing” has a very low return on investment and it’s a lie people keep telling themselves to feel good about what little they do. Remove the hood of pride and ego. Do it right, and make fitness worth your time every time.
  5. Get Off Your Ass. If you sit on your butt for the greater part of your day at a desk or even in the car, the little bit of exercise that you might be doing isn’t enough. According to a new study that found an hour of sedentary behavior increased people’s risk of being unable to perform basic functions—like doing household chores—by 46 percent even if they still met the minimum exercise requirements of 3 days a week of 30 minutes. Get up and move often. It’s why we were born with legs.
  6. Never Stop Moving. Take this in the most expansive and philosophical way. Build movement into all aspects of your life—work, home, play—and throughout your life. You name the diseaseand exercise is the cure. Workout, and not only will you be healthier, but happier and more confident.
  7. Eat Real Food. You won’t find the recipe for a healthy diet on the back of a package. Change the way a food naturally exists, and you change the way your body absorbs it. There is a huge disconnect between the marketing claims of pre-packaged food and real food made from scratch.
  8. Real Fitness Goes Beyond Skin Deep. Our society has been assuming for years that the picture of health is thin. If you look great externally you must be healthy and of course the opposite that if you carry some extra weight you must be unhealthy. You can be skinny and fat just as you can be overweight and very healthy. Exercise goes a long way to prevent many diseases better than it can change the shape of your appearance. If change in your appearance is what you truly desire, you have to have a concern for the growth and development of lean tissue – whether you see it or not. But that is not what fitness is all about.
  9. Experiment on Yourself What works for others may not work for you —and vice versa. We all have the same muscles and biological make up but that doesn’t mean there still aren’t many differences among us. Find what works for YOU based on what YOU want and will keep YOU engaged.
  10. It’s Not All About the Gear. Don’t get me wrong. Good gear makes things more enjoyable and potentially more comfortable but they ultimately don’t get the work done. Put as much priority, care, and thought into your fitness and nutrition and you’ll look good in any gear you put on. Remember, the ancient Greeks used to compete in the Olympics naked. I don’t think there was much concern for their gear over performance then.

 

See you tomorrow for Day 7 of the 12 Days of Fitness

 

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.


Day 1 – Chew Your Food
Day 2 – Fitness for the Road
Day 3 – The Many Names of Sugar
Day 4 – Side Stitches: Causes and Treatments
Day 5 – The 5 Reasons Why You Should Never Feel Hungry When Trying to Lose Weight

 

12 Days of Fitness 2015: Day 4 – Side Stitches: Causes and Treatments

(This is Part 4 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful blurbs and tips to keep your fitness in focus over the holiday season)

SideStitchThere are some pains you can easily identify like a sore butt from a squat workout or a burning sensation from a strained muscle. But some irritants are not always easily traced back to a cause and none can be more annoying than the vaunted side stitch. If you’ve ever run or played a sport, chances are you’ve had the experience of at least once with a side stitch – that crampy, tight feeling in the about mid/lateral abdomen area that either slows down or halts your activity. For years there were myths about what they are and what you can do about them. I’m here now to provide some insight.

Possible Causes

Although they typically occur most in runners, a side stitch is non-life threatening nuisance that occurs in the midst of sustained physical activity. They classically manifest themselves as an aching, stabbing, or sharp pain in the abdomen, just below the ribs and are usually localized to one side. Traditionally, it was thought that side stitches were the result of eating or drinking too close to a physical activity. This gave merit to the theory of diaphragmatic ischemia (a decrease in blood flow to the diaphragm muscle that allows you to breathe) since increased blood flow to the stomach to help digest/process food and liquid would restrict blood flow to the diaphragm. Research has proved that to not be the case. Another possible explanation is the irritation or “tugging” of the ligaments that support the muscles and structures in that area of the torso. The theory says that impact during activity pulls the organs in the abdomen downwards, tugging on the ligaments in the upper abdomen and eventually creating irritation.  This could also  explain why consuming a meal (regardless of its contents) too soon before an activity can bring on a side stitch, and it explains why side stitches are common in running but are rare in cycling.  Unfortunately, there is little research to support that theory. A final theory to side stitches is that they are the result of irritation of the spinal column; a direct result of poor posture. A few studies have looked at the effects of kyphosis or “round back” on certain participants and saw that those that had a more pronounced curve in their spine then others were more likely to not only endure more side stitches, but the pain often times radiated to the shoulder on the same side as the side stitch. However, not all people with poor posture endure side stitches so again we are left with a poorly supported theory.

Prevention and Treatments

Unfortunately, the cause (or causes) of side stitches have yet to be completely determined. Like many things in fitness, the roots of side stitches are likely more complex than one single factor.  On the bright side, we can glean some useful information from the science available. If you have a history of side stitches, take note of what you eat and drink before you start your workout. Giving yourself more time after eating might stave off a side stitch. Stretching the muscles of the abdomen/torso, deep breathing, and contracting the abdominal muscles while bending forward can all help alleviate a side stitch. If you have chronic side stitches, it may be worth having a doctor or physical therapist examine your spine to see if dysfunction there could be exacerbating your side stitches. As more research on side stitches is done, we should move closer to fully understanding how the diaphragm, the ligaments and membranes of the abdomen, and the spinal column all affect side stitches. Until then, you’ll have to experiment with some of the techniques listed above to help you get over your side stitches.

 

See you tomorrow for Day 5 of the 12 Days of Fitness

 

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

Day 1 – Chew Your Food
Day 2 – Fitness for the Road
Day 3 – The Many Names of Sugar

 

12 Days of Fitness 2014: Day 12 – Making Fitness Permanent

(This is Part 12 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

Sweat_FitnessSuccess-300x201During the holiday season, most do not even give health and fitness a second glance. After all, it’s a season of hectic schedules and spreading good cheer. Who has time to work out or eat healthy? But in a few weeks’ time, that all shifts to starting the New Year on a high note with a plan for more exercise and eating better. It’s an unfortunate reality that one, most people wait until January 1 to start taking their health seriously, and 2, that it usually all comes to a screeching halt within a month’s or so time. It doesn’t nor should it have to be that way. Too often people focus on perfection rather than making progress and when it comes to our health, it’s all about progress.

The Right Mind Set

How many times have you started a diet and/or exercise program and after may be only a few weeks or days threw in the towel? Often times people jump into a diet and/or exercise plan that is so strict or so completely the opposite of what is realistic for them that they quit entirely, repeatedly blaming that exercise is not for them or that the diet was too unrealistic. Many approach diet and/or exercise programs with an “all or nothing” attitude that sets them up for failure 100% of the time. It doesn’t and shouldn’t have to be that way. You don’t need to be perfect with your eating or your exercise program. That’s an unrealistic expectation of anyone and the person that says otherwise is usually hiding some demons of their own. You just need to moving towards a place better than you currently are and that is what progress is all about.

What is Real Progress?

Any movement in a forward direction is progress. There is no status quo; you are either moving forward or you are moving backwards. It’s as simple as that! That doesn’t mean there is no room for error. It just means enjoy life and all things in moderation with an eye on a greater pursuit – your health and well-being. It’s too easy to get caught up in the “I can’t eat that” or “I need to exercise more” mentality when the focus is on negative behaviors as opposed to positive, progressive ones. If you can consistently aim to eat better and regularly exercise, you’re making progress that can be more easily stepped up in times for more specific goals, such as preparing for a wedding or that summer vacation. Haphazardly piece mailing your nutrition and exercise is not going to cut it and is like climbing an oil-slicked slope – you might interpret you’re working hard but you’re not going anywhere!

The Secret to Progress

The secret is simple – make your diet and/or exercise the rule, not the exception. Good nutrition is something you need to work at daily; not weekly, or for a few months or for some unrealistic specified amount of time – DAILY! Same with exercise. It doesn’t need to be done in large chunks of time or with the pedal to the metal. It just needs to be consistent, not here and there, and in accordance with your goals. Do your best to be better and at your own pace. Keep a visual of this by keeping a food journal, or even making yourself a chart and document every time you eat a healthy meal and/or got a work out. At the end of the week, add it up and see if it’s in the majority or the minority – it becomes the rule, not the exception.

Accept and Learn From Mistakes

Don’t hide from your failures. Learn from them so that you are continually prepared for any situation. When you do get off course, don’t waste time and energy beating yourself up for it. Learn from what happened, and just move on without looking back. Many of us are so scared of failure that messing up makes us afraid to keep trying, and makes us question ourselves. After all, true success is just choosing to never give up, no matter how many times you fail.

Best to you and your families for a wonderful holiday season and a happy and healthy New Year!

 

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

 

 

12 Days of Fitness 2014: Day 9 – 10 Fitness Lies You Tell Yourself

(This is Part 9 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

mariahdolan_image_mariah01Some people like to think that they can talk themselves out of corner when in reality most times they talk themselves right into a corner. It happens in numerous scenarios in life but none could be a greater an example of when it comes to health and fitness. There are those who think they know it all or better than everyone else and then there are those that no matter what the laws of physics or thermodynamics say they are exempt. Here is my list of the top 10 fitness lies people tell themselves that either make them feel good about what they’re doing or keep them from ever reaching their goals.

  1. I know how hard I’m working by how much I sweat. Sweat will never be a valid indicator of exercise intensity. Sweat is a healthy and normal response to physical activity as it’s the body’s way of keeping cooled off from rising body temperatures. But everyone has different sweat rates and while no sweat is bad, more isn’t necessarily better.
  2. The more I work out, the faster I’ll see results. Exercise quality will always trump exercise quantity. The notion of “if little is good, more must be better” regarding exercise often gets more people injured, burned out, and blaming exercise for their lack of results rather than accepting that consistent and gradual progress will win out in the end.
  3. I’ll start working out as soon as I lose this weight. Huh? It should be seen the other way around – ‘I’ll start losing some of this weight once I start working out.” While weight loss shouldn’t always be the goal of exercise, it is a very nice side effect. Exercise (physical movement) has a seemingly endless benefit to us in so many ways that there’s really no reason to not do it.
  4. I can eat whatever I want because I exercise. You might have a need for more fuel depending on the intensity of your workouts, but just because you exercise is never a license to eat whatever you want. It’s a destructive mentality that in the long run will bite back.
  5. If I’m not sore the day after my workout, I didn’t train hard enough. Muscle soreness isn’t and should never be the goal of any exercise program. Day after or second day soreness is usually the result of a new exercise, new movement pattern, new muscle fiber type recruitment, heavier resistance, new mechanical stress, etc. that manifests itself as micro-tears in the muscle at the cellular level. Healthy? Yes, and quite normal. But success of a previous day’s workout should never be based upon it.
  6. Even though I’m still hurting from yesterday’s workout, I’ll work through the pain. Pain is the body’s way of letting you know that something’s not quite right. It might be miniscule; it might be a bigger deal, but never think you’re weak or gutless because you need to skip a day. It’s important to know the difference between pain and muscle soreness/tenderness.
  7. I’m going to work my abs incessantly to flatten my abs. Abdominal work is great and just one of many muscle groups to develop but training them will never, NEVER, flatten your stomach until you change the diet that deposits the fat on top of them. It is very possible to have very strong abs but a flabby belly. Work on your diet incessantly.
  8. I am going to pick up right where I left off with my workout. Missing a day or two is one thing. Missing a few weeks, months, or even years is a recipe for disaster. Put your ego and high school athlete mentality away and gradually work yourself back into a routine.
  9. I stick with machines to avoid injury. Injury is an assumed risk with every exercise and just because it’s a machine doesn’t make it exempt from injury potential. In fact, machine use could have a more detrimental effect on muscular coordination and development simply because most work in isolatory movements whereas the body works in multi-planar movements, but that’s a discussion for another day.
  10. I only need to do cardio because I want to burn fat. True, you can burn some serious calories doing cardio correctly but it is not the most optimal way to do it. As previously discussed, fat loss is a wonderful side effect from doing regular, consistent exercise. But cardio has benefits beyond that trump fat loss. True fat loss success come from overall systemic body fat loss through some regular, moderate to high intensity cardio exercise, resistance training, and nutritious diet.

See you tomorrow for Day 10 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better