Tag Archives: working out

Getting Back to Normalcy

During these trying times we often talk about when things will return to normal. Thing is, nobody really knows if and when that is. What we can agree on however is that life goes on. We must continue on with our lives the best we can. While this temporary wrinkle to our “normal” lives exist, more and more opportunities present themselves as a return to “normal.” For one, fitness is and needs to be a part of our lives. Besides the many proven benefits of fitness, making fitness a regular part of your life has been shown to be one of the top combatants to this ruthless pandemic. But finding a way to get and stay fit comes with its own issues and question marks.

Getting Back to the Gym

Here in Pennsylvania and other parts of the country., most gyms and fitness centers were given the green light to reopen in June. Each situation has its own limits and restrictions but nonetheless customers were permitted to pick up their fitness routines back inside the gyms where they had been committed. So, whether you are back in the gym or are thinking about going back, here are a few things to consider:

  • Learn more about what your club has done during the closure and what policies have been put in place for your safety, as well as the safety of its employees. You can generally find this information on the club’s website or social media channels; if it’s not there, make a phone call or arrange a face-to-face visit and ask about.
  • What deep cleaning took place during closures and the new cleaning and disinfecting policies that will be in place (e.g., what products are they using, how often areas are cleaned, who is responsible for the cleaning)
  • Capacity limits and if reservations are needed for the gym as a whole or the specific area where you plan to spend your time (e.g., group fitness studio, weight room floor, functional area, cardio equipment). Try to schedule your workouts during slow times if possible.
  • What entry policies are in place for employees and exercisers to help decrease the spread of the virus (e.g., temperature scans, daily health questionnaires, signs and symptoms, tracking of those using the building at the same time in case a member reports being diagnosed after exercising on site)
  • How policies for staff and patrons will be enforced.
  • What are their mask policies? Most places still require a mask be worn at all times, particularly if you are someone with pre-existing respiratory or cardiovascular conditions.

Being able to clearly answer these questions is a positive sign that your gym or health club has done its due diligence, but you’ll still want to proceed with caution. On your first day back, carefully observe staff and patron behavior to see if what is proposed aligns with the club’s day-to-day reality. The less time you spend in the gym, the less exposure you will have, so get in and get out.

Alternatives to Working Out in the Gym

If you are uncertain about returning, have underlying health conditions, worry about being in frequent contact with others who are at high(er) risk whom you could possibly affect, take your time in returning. Keep in mind, there are other ways to get moving! It has never been easier to find at-home exercise options, whether it’s walking in your neighborhood, riding a bike, using an exercise app, training virtually with a fitness professional, or taking video-on-demand or live-streaming classes.

Everything comes down to a choice so always exercise good judgment and do what’s right for you.

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

12 Days of Fitness 2019: Day 8 – Dispelling 5 Common Training Lies

(This is part 8 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

As a fitness professional, it is my job to not only work with people but educate them on the how, why, and what about fitness. In my 25 years of being a fitness professional I think I’ve heard and seen it all. Every once and a while something will surface that gets a lot of press and notoriety that people take for gospel. Most times, it’s something that was bad news in the past that’s just been repackaged to look new and sound better. It’s not. So here I’ve put together 5 of the top fitness/training myths that continue to pop up from time to time and ruin most people’s journey to optimum health and fitness.

  1. You have to confuse your muscles. If you’ve ever bought into the hype about muscles getting confused (P90X people), pay attention. This idea of “muscle confusion” was fabricated by some clever fitness marketing gurus eager to sell their products. Simply put, muscle confusion states that you have to change up your workout from session to session or from week to week – different exercises, varying rep ranges, and switching up rest periods – in order to get leaner, faster, and stronger. And by never giving your body a chance to adapt to a specific routine, you’ll never plateau and consequently never stop making improvements. Not exactly. Spend too much time with any one specific stimuli and your body will adapt to it less and less. But actively changing things up from time to time will yield much better returns – no confusion.
  2. You can lose tons of fat and gain muscle at the same time if you train hard enough. In an ideal world, yes. But in the real world, no. The only types of people who can simultaneously pile on muscle and melt fat are beginners, those who are just coming back to the gym after a long hiatus, very obese individuals, or folks on performance-enhancing drugs. Unless you’re one of the above, you’ll be spinning your wheels if you really want to try and go down this route. Prioritize one over the other and keep up the intensity in the gym regardless of your goal.
  3. Cardio will burn fat. Steady-state cardio is not inherently a fat loss modality. By itself, it does have mild benefits for cardiovascular health, but it’s not going to get you the lean physique you’re striving for. The more cardio you do, the more efficient your body becomes at burning calories. Sounds like a good thing at first glance, but if fat loss is your goal, this is the opposite of what you want. Moreover, study after study has shown that exercise protocols involving steady-state cardio have led to negligible weight loss and that aerobic exercise by itself is not an effective form of weight loss therapy.
  4. More volume is better, no matter how you go about it. Translation – more total work is the answer. No. There are people who love to tell you that they spend hours in the gym when in reality the total work they’re actually doing is questionable. Training volume is a critical component of exercise and one that can be easily manipulated. In fact, it’s one of the greatest determinants of muscle growth, much more than any other component of exercise. But the “more is better” mantra is never the goal with exercise. Consistency and progressiveness are.
  5. As long as you exercise, you can eat whatever you want. This is one of my favorites. You ALWAYS have to be mindful of not only what but how much you eat. Exercise is NEVER a permission to eat whatever or how much you want. Most exercise sessions burn a lot less calories than you think (ignore treadmill counters, fitness trackers, or popular fitness threads). The long term effect over time is that you’re typically burning more than being sedentary which will have a positive effect. I will tell you that here is where most people fail. They’ll work out, modestly at best, and then buy a smoothie or their favorite coffee drink that they feel they’ve earned. That’s a big no.

And that’s the problem with much of the information you read – we take an ounce of truth and turn it into two tons of BS. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

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

See you tomorrow for Day 9 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day #16 Tips for Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain
Day #2 – Cholesterol Myths You Need to Stop Believing
Day #3 – Festively Fit: Staying Fit Over the Holidays
Day #410 Fitness Myths That Need to Die
Day #59 Ways to Trick Yourself Into Feeling Full
Day #6The Cult Of Supplements And The Dangers Of Multi-Level Marketing
Day #7 – The First 5 Things Nutritionists Will Tell You To Cut From Your Diet

 

 

12 Days of Fitness 2014: Day 2 – Common Strength Training Mistakes to Avoid

(This is Part 2 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

too-lightEven before my days as a fitness professional, I spent a lot of time in gyms, including backyard, basement, garage, as well as brick and mortar buildings. Through my own experiences and subsequent educational background, I’ve learned a tremendous amount about how the muscles work, how they adapt, and how they grow. But despite all of that, I still learn something new every day that just keeps it that much more fascinating. So imagine my disbelief and frustration when I see those who are clearly investing the time to lift weights, whether it be to build strength, change the shape of their body, or improve some level of performance, and they’re going about it all wrong. It’s not just about proper form either as there are exceptions and individual characteristics to consider (we’re not all built the same) in each case. The lifter from beginner to the experienced is guilty of making the mistakes too as it pertains to strength training and here are a list of some of the most common ones to avoid.

Using Too Much Mr. Mo-Mentum

Certain power movements require some momentum to complete but not every day, standard lifts. I’ve witnessed way too often when a person uses way too much momentum and swinging when they lift. Momentum doesn’t work a muscle through the full range of motion. Instead, it works towards improving your reversal strength. When you lower a weight down (eccentric contraction) and immediately reverse it (concentric contraction), there is a large amount of stored kinetic energy. This energy acts like a spring and ends up neglecting the beginning of the concentric phase of the movement. It’s like driving a manual transmission without first taking your foot off of the gas to step on the clutch.

Pumping Ego Instead of Muscles

A lot of people, men in particular, are afraid to use the amount of weight they should be using rather than the weight they’re attempting to lift. They’re more afraid to be thought of as weak rather than sensible as they proceed to load up a bar with weight they can’t lift correctly. Train smart and progressively by using the right amount of weight and don’t worry what others think. If being in a contest is what you want, there are plenty that you go train for.

Using a Reduced Range of Motion

There are times when partial reps have a benefit – like when you’re trying to train your sticking points. For most people though, they should be lowering the weight and raising it through the full range of motion. Unless you want to get really good at doing quarter squats or partial pull-ups, you must carry the load from beginning to end as much distance as safely possible.

Neglecting the Lower Body

Men are by far more guilty of this than women are. It’s the beach body mentality – arms and chest get priority. Unless you want to look like Mr. Potato Head standing on tooth picks, you need to be training your lower body with the same intensity as your upper. Your quads, hamstrings, hips, and glutes are huge muscles – much bigger than your chest, biceps, and triceps. Adding muscle to these areas will do amazing things for your physique.

Not Having a Plan of Periodization or Progressive Overload

I’ve seen this way too many times when you can tell the day of the week by the body parts that are predominantly being worked in the weight room. With that, the same exercises done in the same order with the same weight for the same number of reps. If you’re going into the gym and doing the same thing each time, you’re never going to make any real progress. You must plan your workouts so that you’re continually getting stronger over a period of time. You might have to push forward with weight and then back off some before pushing forward again, but the overall trend should be up if your goal is to get stronger.

Unknowingly Creating Muscle Imbalances

Antagonistic muscles, the muscles that are opposite the muscles getting worked, need to be trained in balance. In addition, stabilizer muscles often get neglected, which keeps them weak and leads to injury when lifting heavy weight. Make sure all muscles in your body, however small or unnoticed, are being trained equally.

Trying to Spot Reduce With Exercise

Using the leg extension, leg curl, abductor/adductor, or glute machines aren’t going to help you tone up your butt and legs any better than any other exercise. That’s because fat loss cannot be targeted with a specific exercise. Fat loss is systemic, not localized. Use strength training to work your entire body and to create a metabolic environment that’s conducive to fat loss. Your diet will take care of the fat loss.

No Respect For Rest

You stimulate growth when you train, but you grow when you rest. Training and recovery are equally important. Your muscles must be recovered if they are to work at their max capacity. Depending on the intensity of your workout, the amount of work you did, and your diet, you may need 48 hours or more to fully recover.

Overdoing the Isolation Exercises

Isolation exercises are fun, but they are the long route to results. Compound movement exercises, such as squats, lunges, deadlifts, bench presses, etc., that use multiple muscle groups at once, are much more effective at building muscle and strength. Make the core of your strength training program composed of compound exercises, and then use the isolation movements to work on weak points to compliment the bigger muscles.

Not Doing a Proper Warm Up

The best way to avoid injuries when weight lifting is to be properly prepared. Warming up for weight lifting doesn’t get the attention it should as in other physical endeavors. You should at the very least get your heart rate up and blood to the muscles before asking them to move resistances heavier than they experience on a daily basis. Doing some dynamic warm-up exercises before a workout can help prevent injury and even improve performance.

See you tomorrow for Day 3 of the 12 Days of Fitness

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

 

 

Two Keys to Workout Success

If you ever need a good laugh now and then, run on over to your local grocery store and take at look at the magazines and tabloids that adorn the checkout line. All the answers in life can be found there; how to make more money; how to have a loving relationship; how to dress like the stars; and my favorite, how to lose enormous amounts of weight in as little as five days. WOW!  This also happens to be one of the places where people turn to for their exercise advice or “miracle” panacea.  What is unfortunate is that in any of these publications, all that changes is the month and the cover.  The information inside is just recycled and repackaged to what sells.  When it comes to exercising or working out, there are only two “secrets” you really need to understand.  Even more amazing is that they are not really secrets either.  So whether you like cardiovascular exercise, strength training, core exercise, yoga, Pilates, etc., these two things bar none will get you results.  They are intensity and consistency.

Intensity

The word intensity can send shivers to most people.  Working under extreme exertion or to the point of complete exhaustion is usually what comes to mind.  However, intensity in this context merely describes how hard you are working during exercise.  Intensity can be measured and determined in numerous ways: heart rate; power output (wattage); rating of perceived exertion (RPE); amount of rest between sets; amount of weight used; speed per unit of time; etc. Contrary to popular belief, sweating is not an indicator of how hard you work. The intensity of your exercise is highly correlated with the desired outcome.  If you want to lose weight you need to burn more calories. If you want to gain strength, you have to lift heavy weights.  But in order to keep seeing and getting results, you also need to vary the intensity.  Otherwise, you will be working tirelessly, getting no where as if trying to climb an icy slope, and eventually burn out or stop. Applying the principle of intensity is not enough either; you need to be consistent.

Consistency

The word consistency is just as it says; something that is done repeatedly and with regularity.  Consistent behaviors lead to consistent results.  As the old adage says, “Keep doing what you’re doing, and you’ll keep getting what you’re getting.” So yes it’s true, stay consistent with your exercise and you will see and more importantly, feel the results.  Conversely, being consistent does not always mean success either.  If you are consistently inconsistent with your exercise, the results speak for themselves.  Without its partner intensity, consistency is good but it just isn’t enough.  The best example of this is the avid exerciser who works out everyday, doing the same things the same way and in months or worse years, they still have not changed.  The focus of your workouts should always center first on being consistent, creating a healthy habit.  No exercise program ever developed works if you are not consistent. Then make sure that you find a way to measure your exercise intensity, or how hard you work, and regularly manipulate that.

There are numerous factors that contribute to success.  The depth and detail of these two subjects can be discussed beyond the scope of this article .However if you grasp these two simple concepts (secrets) and start with that, you are already on your way to success.  Change is difficult, but to change is to embrace and move on, not sit and wonder what you are doing wrong.  It is more likely what you are not doing right!

 

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

 

12 Days of Fitness Truth 2010: How to Workout – Day 9

3How to workout? Doesn’t everyone know how to? You would think and perhaps you think you know how to as well, but then I’ll ask, “Are you reaching your goals?” And since working out is not the only reason for reaching your goals, it is the one component that people focus on most.  It’s easy, right? Join a gym and lift and do cardio; buy a treadmill for home and set it up in front of the big screen; mindlessly purchase the latest exercise gadgetry from the late night infomercial guaranteed to work.  Whatever you chose, working out is just something that will come naturally, right?

Going Through the Motions

Showing up to work and performing at work are two separate things. Same thing with exercise.  It is my belief that most who make the time for exercise are just showing up, going through the motions so that they can say to themselves and their network that they worked out today.  Who are they trying to convince? When there’s no change, no goals are met, or feels like the wheels are just spinning, you are guilty of going through the motions.

Physical Stress

I always liked the term “working out” because it means what it says – it requires work.  Jumping on a cardio machine to catch up on your sitcoms; hanging out in the weight room to brag about what you benched in high school; bouncing around to the same boring moves (but different music) in the class room – hardly count as working out.  Exercise needs to be thought of as a physical stress (work) above and beyond what you would do on an ordinary day.  Chose what you like but make it work.

Variety is the Spice of Life

People get comfortable with their exercise program.  When they started, they were intimidated and sore.  Then as they progressed, they became more comfortable and less sore. And then they began to go through the motions and did no real physical work.  How could that have best been avoided?  By changing things up.  It can be the exercises chosen; the order in which they’re done; the amount of weight lifted; the amount of sets and reps; the amount of time; the amount of intensity.  See where I’m headed with this? Change it up consistently and often.

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