Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Getting Started with Strength Training

Before you begin flexing your biceps, or start lifting those dumb bells, you need to take care of a few things. For starters, you need to follow a proper routine that suits your needs and more importantly, your body so that you are safe and free from injury. So you must stick to a few basic guidelines that will give you all the benefits of exercising, while keeping all dangers at bay.

Remember to always warm-up and stretch your muscles before and after a training course. This will save your body from aches and pains. Also, never start immediately after a meal. If you’ve had a really heavy meal, start exercising only after a gap of 3-4 hours. In case of a light snack, it is advisable to have a gap of 1-2 hours.

Clothes make a man, especially before you start exercising. Wear comfortable and loose clothes, that do not restrict your movement in any way. It is best to have two layers of clothes instead of one heavy dress. Shorts, top and tracksuit or leotard, tights and tracksuit are the best combinations. A headband is useful both for keeping your hair out of your eyes and for preventing perspiration from running into them (particularly if you wear contact lenses). Also, wear hand gloves to keep a firm grip on weights and to prevent blisters. You also need top pay attention to your footwear. Choose correct shoes, as there is a danger of your feet slipping if you wear incorrect footwear. It is desirable to wear training shoes.

Keep a bottle of salt and glucose handy. This would be of immense help if you feel faint or dizzy. Never exercise if you have any form of viral illness or have been advised rest or are on medication. After a long illness, consult your doctor before you resume your routine.

If you are on a strength-training programme, you need to keep in mind a few tips:
  • Exercise till you feel the fatigue in the muscles.
  • Exercise the muscle group that you have exercised in one session, only after 48-72 hours.
  • Steadily increase the weight against which you are working. If you can do more than 15 repetitions of the given weight, it’s time to move on.
  • After every six weeks of training with heavy weights, train with light weights doing different exercises. This ensures that joint stiffeners does not develop.
  • Keep changing the order of your training.This helps to stock the muscles.
  • Keep your schedule short and sweat not more than 45-60 minutes.
  • Do not talk during a workout. Concentrate only on the exercises, so that you learn to do the exercises properly and avoid injury.
  • Sip electrolyte water in between a workout. Do not gulp/guzzle water.
  • Have a good diet plan, otherwise you may not see the benefits of exercise in spite of working out hard.
  • Take adequate rest and get enough sleep, or else you may need to take forced breaks.
  • Exercising with a friend or partner is always more motivating. Chances are that both of you will stick on the programme, be able to spot defects in the techniques and hence help each other in avoiding injuries.

A disciplined routine will keep you safe from injury and help you enjoy your exercise.

Top 10 Fitness Myths

Do you believe that your workout should leave you feeling dead on your feet or that running is the best way to stay in shape? Like many other fitness freaks, then you too are suffering from some myths or false beliefs about fitness. It's time you learnt to separate the myths from reality, the facts from fiction and be well informed about fitness.

Myth No 1: A really good workout means that you should be very tired after that.

Fact: This is not true. In fact, you should finish each workout with the feeling you could have easily done a bit more. If you feel too tired this only means that you are pushing too hard.

Myth No 2: Sore muscles exemplify that they are getting stronger.

Fact: Not at all. Sore muscles actually mean that you have damaged or torn the microscopic-sized connective tissue that surrounds your muscle fibre. This soreness may be due to damage to the muscle fibers themselves. Remember, delayed muscle soreness may peak between 24 to 48 hours after the workout.

Myth No 3: Running is the best way to get fit.

Fact: Forget it. There is no one best way to get fit. The truth is that you should do what you like or else you will not be able to sustain it on a long-term basis. This could be running or jogging or even walking. In fact, anything that you enjoy and can pursue regularly will help you stay fit.

Myth No 4: If you are careful you don't need a warm up before a work out.

Fact: This is a dangerous myth! You are actually making yourself extremely vulnerable to injuries by not warming up. Gently stretching out and warming up your muscles before (and after) you exercise is the number one defense against many a sports injuries, including tendonitis

Myth No 5: No pain, no gain.

Fact: Another destructive myth. Pain is a warning signal given by your body that something is wrong. If you feel real pain during a workout, you should never push past it; slow down or stop your workout immediately. However, there is nothing wrong in a slight discomfort.

Myth No 6: The best time to exercise is early in the morning.

Fact: There is no best time to exercise. Timing is a matter of personal choice and habit, convenience and availability. What is important is to find what suits you best, stick to that and make sure that you exercise regularly.

Myth No 7: Drinking water while exercising will result in cramps.

Fact: This is absolutely untrue. You actually need water when you are working out and more so after completing your workout. An increased intake of water will actually help you fight headaches, cramps and a feeling of tiredness.

Myth No 8: Excessive sweating while exercising means you are unfit.

Fact: Not true. Sweating is the body's built in cooling process. While exercising if you sweat more your natural mechanism is working properly and you are on the right path.

Myth No 9: Stop exercising and your muscles will turn to fat.

Fact: What a myth! Do you know that fat and muscles are two different things? One won't turn into the other. What happens is that muscles shrink if you stop lifting weights or exercising. However, if you become fat after that it is probably because you're overeating.

Myth No 10: Sleep extra hours before any hard activity or when you are very tired.

Fact: Sleep is not something that you can store nor does more sleep mean extra energy. Eight hours of sleep is sufficient for an average individual. And simply relaxing is almost as restful as sleeping.

Hopefully you would be better informed about fitness after reading these common myths.

Five Tips for Healthy Eating

Eat to live and not live to eat. That, in a nutshell, should sum up your attitude to food and eating. Do you grab a bite whenever you have the urge to eat or forget to eat when you are too busy? Then it would be a good idea to think through these food rules to get the best out of your meals.

1. Eat regularly throughout the day including three main meals and at least two snacks. This will maintain your blood sugar levels at an optimum level throughout the day. If you miss meals, you will get low blood sugar at some stage. To make up for the missed meals if you go an eating spree that will raise your blood sugar levels. This will lead to a skewed up eating pattern. So eat little and often. Eating sporadically will also affect your metabolism. When you miss meals, your metabolism has a tendency to slow down. This happens because you're sending it messages that food is scarce, so it will attempt to get more from the food you do give it. A pattern of eating where you don't eat much during the day and then hog a lot at night will do just that. Excessive eating in one go will overload your digestive system, putting it in overdrive.

2. Your main meals should get smaller and simpler as the day goes on, ending with a simple meal at night. Follow the saying, ‘Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper.’ Have a hearty breakfast as it sets up your eating habits for the day and kickstarts your metabolism. This meal is essential and should never be missed.

Remember that the majority of energy is used during working hours and food intake should be geared towards fuelling it. But normally we eat very little during the day and then belly-bust (does this sound ok)in the evening. So the energy we are making has nowhere to go. Surplus energy at night, especially fat, is readily stored. In fact, dinner should be eaten a good two hours before sleep to allow for partial digestion.

3. Be organised with the food you keep in the house and what you order in restaurants. What you buy is what you eat, so start by shopping correctly. Plan what you are going to eat, especially if you are on a fitness plan, and stock up the fridge accordingly. It's easy to go off track when you open the fridge and are faced with junk food. When eating out go easy on the oil and spicy curries.

4. Keep a food diary even if it's only in your head. This means that you keep a mental note of what you eat throughout the day. Then you can see when you go wrong and not do it again. Sometimes this helps in overcoming a specific habit that doesn't become apparent until you see it written down. Eating correctly is food management. It doesn't happen by chance, but because you make it happen, and a diary will assist you in your mission. A diary need not take more than three or four minutes a day to fill out and it will help. Food diaries are now smarter, simpler and more effective. Click on to Activekarma’s personalised program - MyDietMate for more details.The program has a smart diary, which helps you not only record yourenteries, but also gives you immediate feedback as well as asesses long term trends

5. Have a balanced attitude towards food management. Don't panic. This may seem like a trivial rule, but it's probably the most important one and at the root of healthy eating. What it means is trying not to fit your life around these or any other suggestions but to fit the rules into your life. Food intake is really about management and balance.

Following these rules will ensure that you manage your food and, in turn, your body productively.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Components of Fitness

Do you sometimes feel you have reached a plateau and you need a change in your workout routine, but do not know how to go about it? Are you flummoxed whether you should run faster, longer or harder? Do you need to up the pace or can there be other methods of going around it? Should your muscle building exercises be done more often, harder or do you need to increase the weights to bring about a break in the plateau? Where do you go from here?

To answer all these questions, you need to first take a look at the different factors that make up fitness and understand the principles by which each work. Fitness is a global all-encompassing aspect and is dependent on a number of factors. Fitness not only refers to your aerobic (heart-lung-respiratory-circulatory) capacity and efficiency but also to the strength and endurance of your muscles as well as the amount of flexibility you have in your body.

Components of fitness


This is the manner in which you do your workout. Different modes satisfy different needs in the body. Walking, running, cycling, swimming, step classes all cater to the aerobic component of the body. Yes, these would, in the long run, help in toning up the lower body but they derive their energy from different sources in the body. Or when you want to work your muscles, then you have to do some repetitive movements and specific exercises that will benefit. So when you say you have been working out for so long and you yet haven't gained in muscle growth, what you probably have been doing are exercises for increasing their flexibility!
Ideally, for a well-balanced body, you need to work out all modes to get the greatest benefits. You should also include activities that develop your finer characteristics like balance, coordination and posture.


This refers to the number of times you are doing the same exercise. If, for example your routine comprises running once a week, weights once a week and stretch exercises once a week, your total count of workouts is three but the frequency of each effort is only once a week.

Typically (and depending on your goal) you should follow this pattern:

Mode Frequency per week
Cardio-vascular / aerobic exercise 3-6
Muscular strength 2-4
Muscular endurance 3-5
Joint and muscular flexibility 5-6
Balance and coordination everyday
Posture training any and every time


Intensity is the amount of work that the body does. It is the percentage of the maximum heart rate (MHR) at which you are exercising. It differs from pace, in a way that the car travels at different speeds. It depends on which gear the car is going at that speed. Say for example, a car is travelling at 50 km per hour in second gear, it has to work at a higher intensity than if it were to travel at the same speed in the fourth gear. The same metaphor can be used for the body at work.

Intensity can be expressed by the training percentage of your MHR. If you are working at a higher intensity, then your heart rate is going to show a reading of anywhere from 75-85 per cent of your target heart rate activekarma

Duration or time

The amount of time a task takes from start to finish is the duration. It does not refer to the amount of time you collectively spent in the gym, warming up, wiping your face and gassing with the boys.

Mode Duration per effort (in minutes)
Cardio-vascular / aerobic exercise 10-60 (not more than that)
Muscular strength 20-60
Muscular endurance 10-60
Joint and muscular flexibility 10-40
Balance and coordination everyday
Posture training any and every time

So why do you need to keep these in mind when you are deciding where you need to go from here?

The reason you constantly need to change all these factors is because the body has a quality of adapting very easily to change. It does not take very long for it to adapt to the kind of good stresses you put onto it. So changing one or any of these factors is necessary to trick it and keep it from getting complacent. The success of your workout depends on changing one factor at a time, not all of them together.

This way you can also expect that the body will work well and reach heights that you never knew were possible. That is the way Olympians fly.

You Can Be Active After 50

When I started taking fitness classes, my first two clients were both 50-year-old. Still going strong, their example of enthusiasm and dedication can be a source of inspiration to any 50-plus looking for it. They clearly believed in the adage that it's never too late to start.

Fifty years ago, exercise did not hold the same meaning as it does today. Was there a need to exercise as much then as it is now? From the stories told by the elderly, life wasn't so cushy then as it is now. Yet somewhere down the line, as life has become more sedentary, exercising to keep up the same levels of activity has become the need for the day, irrespective of what age bracket you fall in.

Modern day city living places great demands on all of us these days and this does not spare even the elderly. Even if they are heading towards retirement or not burning the home-fires as much as they did, these twilight years need to be cherished with fond memories and in good health.

As one grows older, the activity levels are not the same as they used to be. The less the body is used, the less likely it is going to perform efficiently. The body has a certain capacity that allows it to go to great lengths to adapt. When this capacity is not fully utilized, the body slows down and does not function to the fullest. Thus as one grows older, the need to be active grows higher and higher.

Here are some reasons why those in the 50-plus bracket must stay active:

Use it or lose it
The heart is a muscle and just like any other muscle, needs to be constantly worked on to improve its efficiency. The muscles in the body need to be consistently strengthened to delay atrophy and reduce injury. Similarly, the joints need to be frequently lubricated to remain flexible and the nerves need to be stimulated repeatedly to stay alert. Exercise can do all of this and much more.

Keep the brain ticking
Research has enough evidence to show that exercise enhances the mental capacities. It stimulates the mind, quickens reaction time and the increase in oxygenated blood to the brain ensures slowing down of the ageing process.

Psychological Effects
Exercise is known to have a positive effect on moods, behavior, self-esteem and body image. As we grow older, these are the areas, which if strong and positive, will hold us in good stead.

Fight osteoporosis
The ageing process brings about a fall in calcium that leads to the weakening of the bones, bringing about problems like arthritis, osteoporosis, and osteo-arthritis. Any weight bearing exercise will delay this process and make the bones stronger and less resistant to these ailments. Especially with women who have reached their menopause, exercise is highly beneficial and recommended by most doctors.

Fight gravity
The skin and muscles sag as a result of lack of use. But exercise corrects this in all ways. The muscles get taut with use during exercise thus tightening the skin around it.

Build immunity
It is a well-known fact that as we age, our immunity levels reduce, leaving us open to all kinds of illness that can be debilitating. Any exercise can boost our immunity system and fortify the body to fight illnesses off successfully.

Strengthen breathing capacity
The process of airway passages getting ineffectual is almost reversed during exercise, reducing the risk of breathing ailments like asthma, sinusitis etc.

Something to look forward to
Exercising regularly can give you a mission to accomplish, once your life's goals are met. It gives a sense of purpose and achievement as well as a meaning to life in the twilight years. It also provides a platform for a meeting ground where common visions can be shared with others.

What kind of exercises
You may find that starting a vigorous program may be difficult, but the good news is that you don't really have to. If you have already been exercising a fair bit, continuing it may not be a problem. But here a few options for those just starting out.

Walking is the best way to start a program. It is easy to follow through and endure because you can set the pace for yourself. All you need is a good pair of shoes and comfortable clothing. Choose a soft surface to walk on like a mud track to reduce the risk of hurting yourself. Take your partner with you and catch up on all the years you didn't have time to!

Yoga is another very popular method of keeping you in the spring of things. It is highly beneficial as it involves each aspect of your persona: mind, body, spirit and soul. It can rejuvenate like no other program can and is equally suitable for older people and the young.

Practices like Tai chi (an ancient Chinese martial art form, involving slow, circular and flowing movement) Falun Gong (another ancient Chinese practice involving the mind and body), Pilates, Alexandra and Feldenkrais are regaining in popularity in the modern world for the positive effects they have. (The latter three are basically simple mind and body works or exercises that followers believe lead to a feeling of oneness, connectedness and quiet.) They do not require very strenuous efforts and, like yoga, they also involve more than just the body to work. They improve balance and coordination, and are believed to bring about a certain calm and serenity.

So go dare all and get a move on, if you haven't already. Make the twilight years of your life fit and fun. It will be well worth every moment!

What is the best time to exercise?

What is the best time to exercise? This is an oft-asked question related to exercise. Frankly, timing is a matter of personal choice and habit, convenience and availability. The best way around it is to actually work it through for yourself and come up with the best answer, once the considerations have been made. It works differently for different people. Those who have erratic schedules do it whenever they have the time, while others manage to stick to a regular time.

Time can pertain to the time of the day as well as the time of the year. In situations that have constant weather conditions, there is no requirement to modify your program. But those exercising in places with changing conditions need to constantly re-assess their environment and make changes accordingly. This would apply even to those who travel or like to exercise in different situations. There are also some that break up their routine into two and work out both morning and evening, due to lack of time.

Time of the day

There are early risers and there are those who sleep at the crack of dawn. Expecting the former to work out in the evening when the day is almost done or the latter to get cracking at dawn with a routine would seem futile and unrealistic. Examine the type of person you are and then make your schedule accordingly to ensure you stick by it.

The Early-Morning Riser:

The positives:

  • Yoga and other softer forms like tai-chi seem to have a calming effect in the morning.
  • Whether or not you should do exercises after you have bowel movement depends only on whether you are comfortable.
  • Eating a light fruit or drinking tea will not hamper your movement. If it is a heavy meal, wait for an hour and a half before working out.
  • Look at it this way: the good deed for the day is done.
  • Start the day on a charged note by exercising in the morning.

The negatives:

  • Late morning risers may not have enough time to work out.
  • Those rushed for time may not find it rewarding enough.
  • There are some who are terribly inflexible in the morning and need a very long warm up before starting out.

The Late Risers:

The positives:

  • Limbering up for them happens sooner than in the morning.
  • Very early morning routines might lead to muscle cramps and pulls due to an inadequate warm up period.
  • High powered workouts like Karate Step and Kick boxing are generally better executed in the evening hours.
  • Evening hours provide an opportunity to spent pent-up anger and frustration.

The negatives:

  • You could be too charged up before bedtime to find sleep
  • There should ideally be a gap of Ѕ hour before your exercise and meal time, thus delaying your bed time
  • Post-meal workouts are a no-no. The body is too busy assimilating the meal to be bothered with providing blood to the extremities, thus making you feel lethargic rather than energetic.

Duration or Timing

Time also pertains to the duration of each activity. Here is a simple chart to follow:

Type of workout Duration per effort (in minutes)
Cardiovascular / aerobic exercise 10-60 (not more than that)
Muscular strength 20-60
Muscular endurance 10-60
Joint and muscular flexibility 10-40
Balance and coordination everyday
Posture training any and every time

Coping with Seasonal Changes

The Cold outdoors

In extreme cold weather exercising outdoors without proper clothing allows heat to escape from the body and puts too much pressure on the cardiovascular system to work harder to provide blood to the extremities. In the cold, beware of frostbites and hypothermia that occur even in high wind chill conditions.

What to do

Cover the exposed areas of your body to prevent frostbites.
Keep the head covered to save the heat from getting dissipated.
Those prone to asthma should warm up well or avoid exposing themselves to the cold outdoors.
Hot & humid environs

When temperatures are high, profuse sweating leads to loss of body fluids. This reduces the amount of blood returning to the heart, resulting in cardiovascular stress as indicated by very high heart rates. Beware of heat strokes and heat exhaustion during these times.
High humidity (over 60 per cent) when added to high air temperatures, impairs the body's ability to dissipate internal heat. This can also lead to heat strokes and heat exhaustion.

What to do

Thus it is sensible to work at medium to low intensities in warmer conditions.
Wear light, loose clothing allowing air to circulate over the skin's surface
Replace fluids furiously and fast before they replace you!
Air pollution

Regular exercise should be avoided in areas with high levels of pollution.

What to do

Try to work out (if you must) either early in the morning or late evening or on weekends to avoid the effects
Take the option of working out indoors
High Altitudes

At moderate to high altitudes, the blood cannot deliver as much oxygen to the exercising muscles. It takes weeks to adapt to major changes in altitude so be careful.

What to do

Decrease your intensity
Increase warm up and cool down periods
Acclimatize yourself to the new conditions
To wrap up, time and timing is a matter of individual choice and personal preference. What's important is to find what suits you best, stick to that and make sure that you exercise regularly.

Healthy Eating Out

Do you love eating out but at the same time are afraid to do so? Do you think "here goes my diet plan", whenever you go out? Do you also avoid socializing because you are dieting? If you have answered yes to all these questions, then it's time you took a reality check and discovered that eating out can be a happy and healthy experience.

Do you know that:

  • No one gets fat from one meal. It takes a number of them for fat to accumulate.
  • Eating out once every three weeks is a viable option if you have the self-control to come back on line the following day.
  • When you eat a working lunch five times a week it won't work, because you're establishing a pattern which good meals and exercise cannot negate.
  • Eating too much and then going berserk on the treadmill the next day leads to tiredness, and endangers your health. Don't do it.

Then should you stop eating out? No. The best solution is to choose restaurants that offer healthy foods and make selections that tie in with what you want to achieve. But if this is not possible, you have to select what you eat with care. Having the odd curry once every two or three weeks isn't so damaging.

Here are some top tips when you eat out:

  • Eat smaller portions of fatty foods: If there's something you really want but shouldn't be eating, share it with someone else.
  • Ask the waiter not to bring bread and butter to the table: Also ask dressings and sauces to be served separately. That way you can control how much you want to use, or skip them altogether.
  • Ask them to reduce the amounts of fattening items: Such as cheese or butter that come with the dish.
  • Ask for a starter: If you must have a dish that is rich in fat. And for your main course order something low-fat. Remember that soup and plain pasta are good fillers.
  • Serving sizes: These are relevant, so order one serving of meat, fish or poultry, two servings of vegetables and three servings of grains, rice, pasta, cereals etc. By ordering like this, you're much more likely to stay on track.

Cooking styles and methods vary from country to country and cuisine to cuisine. Let's check out the different types of restaurants and see what's on offer:

1. Fast-food outlets
If you eat regularly from these joints, then it will be difficult for you to cut your fat. Fast food joints offer mainly burgers, fries, milkshakes, pizzas etc, which will only add to your calories. Instead, go in for the healthy options -- though limited here -- and eat only salads, fruit juices or fruit salads.

2. British Cafe
The British mainly rely on the griddle or deep-fat fryer to cook a lot of their food. Try to avoid items that are cooked in this way. Instead go in for baked beans on dry brown toast, poached eggs, baked potato with low-fat fillings like tuna, sweet corn or chicken strips with peppers. Another healthy alternative is to have soup, a whole meal sandwich or roll with a salad and lean meat, fish or poultry filling and fresh fruit. Avoid mayonnaise, coleslaw, butter, margarine and sugary sweets and confectionery.

3. Italian restaurant
Italian cooking uses a lot of olive oil, which is healthier in comparison to saturated fat, but it's still fattening. Cheeses like mozzarella and Parmesan are also widely used, especially in pizza. If eating Italian, maximize on the excellent fresh salads available. Ask for dressings on the side or use lemon juice instead. Always aim for tomato-based pasta sauces instead of the cream ones and limit the use of Parmesan cheese. If your favorite pizza topping is Pepporoni, then you would be advised to stay away from it as it has a high fat content. Avoid cream-based sweets like tiramisu. Instead, think healthy and just have a spoonful of fresh fruit.

4. Chinese restaurant
Chinese food is cooked in a wok or a deep-fat fryer. The wok cooks the food quickly, which means that the vitamins are retained in the food. However, Chinese in general is a high-fat type, especially those dishes that are deep-fried in batter. Here too, opt for steamed rather than fried rice and remember that sweet and sour sauce contains a lot of sugar, so don't have too much of that. For dessert, choose the fruit on offer.

5. Japanese restaurants
Japanese food is usually healthy and nutritious. Apart from one or two notable exceptions, most of the food can be ordered easily. Eat lots of Sushi or raw fish, a Japanese delicacy, is low in fat and high in carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Stay away from the tempura batter-fried dishes as they are rich in calories. Even sake (rice wine) is loaded with too many calories, so it is better to give it a miss and opt for the green tea. You can eat a lot of vegetables as the Japanese use little oil. And finally since they are not known to have a sweet tooth, always go in for the beautifully prepared fresh fruit.

6. Indian restaurant
No Indian dish is complete without adding dollops of ghee in it, which increases the fat intake of the dish. So if eating in a Indian restaurant, be careful to select what you eat.

Go in for boiled rice rather than fried rice.
Eat wheatflour-based chapattis rather than naan (which is heavier as it is made from maida) or parantha to which fat has been added.
Avoid cream-based curries like korma dishes.
Eat little gravy as it has a lot of fat content.
Don't order papads; they are fried and highly fattening.
Order Chicken tikka as it is comparatively low-fat.
Drink water instead of an aerated drink or beer or you may end up with a beer belly.

Follow these tips and find out how eating out can become a healthy and pleasurable experience.

Weight loss: Battling with the Bulges

Have you been inspecting your belly lately and plotting against its elimination? Are you hiding the bulges on your thighs behind long flowing shirts and baggy pants? Conjuring up all sorts of plans to extinguish their existence, you are willing to go to any lengths - you've answered the ad for spot reduction, reducing "motapa" by Ayurvedic methods, tried and tasted shakes like it's going out of style, but yet nothing happened. The truth is going to be bitter but here it is -nothing is going to happen! You're not going to lose it until you move it.

The role of fat

A certain amount of fat has a purpose in the body. The normal range for women is about 18-25 per cent of total body weight and for men is about 15-20 per cent (click on the following link to find out your Body Mass Index and check whether you are overweight. Your diet should contain about 15-20 per cent from sources of fat and that too, from good sources. Recent research has shown that omega -3 fatty acids, polyunsaturated fatty acids in small quantities are good for us. Good sources of these can be fish and peanuts.

Remember that fat is a source of energy that is used almost like combustion in the body. The body also has a survival instinct to store excess calories in the form of fat to be used only in cases of emergency. Thus if the body gets the regular signal that it requires energy, then and only then does it mobilize fat as a prime source. However, if on a regular basis, there is less activity, the fat stores are the last reserves to be used in the body.

The body also takes its cue from the amount of energy it receives from what's being put into it - i.e. the nutritional aspect. When that is in deficit, it refuses to metabolize the fat stores. That is why crash diets are so unsuccessful, without any element of exercise.

Fats in the body also are necessary to dissolve vitamins A D E K, which are not soluble in water. If there is a smaller percentage of fat in the body, the vitamins do not get absorbed in the body thus leading to a deficiency.

It has been shown that women who have a very low percentage have irregularities in their menstrual cycle and are sometimes unable to conceive a child (a certain minimum being necessary). That is why you hear of woman athletes taking time off to catch up with motherhood.

The role of exercise

The kind of exercise you do is also what matters. Here we need to understand the difference between aerobic and anaerobic exercises. Anaerobic activities include any activities that require huge bursts of energy and the carbohydrate stores in the body provide these. These do not and cannot last for more than 1-3 minutes. This is because there is not enough of oxygen present during the activity. Anaerobic activities include sprinting, high jumps, squash and weight training.

Aerobic exercise on the other hand, take place in the presence of oxygen, which mobilize the fat stores into activation, so that they provide the primary (but not only) source of fuel. This sort of activity involves the heart and the lungs, which, depending on their efficiency, receive their source of fats from ALL over the body to fuel them (the less efficient the heart-lung system is, the less it will derive from the fat stores due to the inadequate and infrequent supply of oxygen). So you will find that practicing regular aerobics will reduce the fat percentage all over the body and increase the lean body mass in the body, which may not even show in reduction of overall weight on the scales. In other words your percentages change. Aerobic exercises have a longer lasting quality about them and can be endured by the hardy and conditioned body. That is why they need to be done very, very regularly. Brisk walking, swimming, cycling are all examples of aerobic exercise.

Fat distribution

Why fats accumulate in someone's belly and on another person's hips is something that is genetically determined. It is in your genes and there is not much you can do about it. Yes, you may be able to contain the percentage of fat in your body with regular exercise and a good nutritious diet. But whenever the input and output do not match, these will come creeping at you in the same predisposed places you are most susceptible to. So if you have a mom who's got heavy hips you can blame it all on her, when you decide to do nothing about it!

Beside the hereditary factor, there is also a universal, sex difference to the distribution of fat in the body. Women have a tendency to accumulate fat on their hips, thighs and upper arms. Men tend to have fat around the belly often called love handles (yeah sure, they handle us fine!) The distribution of fat around the belly is also more dangerous to health which is no wonder women far outlive men!

The amount of excess fat (which has accumulated due to intake of excess calories or a sedentary lifestyle in any form not only fat) can also act as pointers to your predisposition to AND risk of ailments like coronary heart and arteries diseases, hypertension etc.

So what is it you can do to get rid of bulging bellies, thunder thighs, heavy hips and the like?

Doing aerobics daily (or at least 5-6 times a week) for anywhere from 20-60 minutes. If this amount of time is not feasible to you at one stretch, do it in bouts throughout the day. This can have a cumulative effect.

To take care of toning the muscles that lie underneath the accumulated fat, you can do a series of toning exercises. Remember though, that you must work out all parts of the body equally so that none of them are weak. This will save you from future injuries in the weaker parts.

Do not forget the Go-Show principle -- what goes in, shows out (unless used up in the form of exercise! Replace it with Go For It!)

But remember that no amount of abdominal crunches or leg lifts by themselves will take care of your problem. They have to be in tandem with aerobic workouts and must include some flexibility exercise for good measure.

Of the numerous benefits, fat reduction is just one of them, so it's a worthwhile exercise to make it a part of your routine and daily life and not just a goal by itself. Take charge of your life and fat now!

Tips On Cardio-Vascular (CV) Fitness

Do you find yourself panting after climbing three flights of stairs or sweating profusely after lugging a bag of groceries to your fourth floor apartment? No, it's not because you are getting old, but it's because you are not doing enough exercise to keep your heart strong. Cardiovascular exercise is the keystone of fitness and the path to a healthy and happy life. You can choose from between running, walking, doing aerobics and many other activities as part of your cardio fitness. But for now, take a minute and read this to find out how best you can exercise your heart.

Cardio-vascular workouts directly impact the heart muscles, the efficiency of the lungs and the entire circulatory system They help in reducing heart related disorders, risks associated with obesity and increase resistance to disease and longevity. The immediate advantages start showing up almost within weeks (provided you reduce your calorie intake). The visible external (as well as other benefits) benefits are toned legs, and increase in lean mass within the body. The long-term benefits that take place within your body include lowered blood pressure, slower resting heart rate, more blood volume per stroke, less chance of fatty and cholesterol build up in the arteries. The list goes on and on.

How do you classify an aerobic / cardio-vascular (CV) workout?

Technically, CV exercises is any rhythmic activity which uses the large muscle groups (such as legs) in your body, in conjunction with the heart and lungs in the presence of oxygen and for a relatively longer duration (at least 10-15 minutes) of time. Walking, swimming, cycling are some activities that can qualify as aerobics. As opposed to that, anaerobic workouts require a high amount of energy that normally can't be sustained for very long periods. Sprinting, long and high jumps are examples of anaerobic workouts.

But what may be aerobic for some can be anaerobic for others. It depends on each person's level of fitness. Those who have been working out for some time will find that even jogging and running are also aerobic activities for them. Whereas for some beginners, even walking can be anaerobic.

For whom?

Almost anyone can start exercising aerobically - the young and old, women and men, lean and mean, knotted and fit. But remember you are exercising your heart, so those with heart-related disorders, diabetes, joint problems such as arthritis, or problems like osteoporosis or obese people need to consult their doctor before starting on a fitness programme.

What to wear?

Wear lose and comfortable clothing that you can breathe in, preferably cotton to absorb the sweat. When exercising outdoors in the winter it is better to wear layers rather than one heavy jacket. This way you can remove layers when hot and put them on one by one when you are cold or have finished your activity.

Any aerobic activity requires an investment in a good pair of shoes. Make sure that your shoe has three layers: the insole that provides the important arch and toe support and some cushioning, the mid sole is the layer between the outsole and the insole, which should provide the maximum cushioning and should be lightweight and the outsole to provide the correct traction.

Your shoes should be lightweight, be flexible in the front third (just under the toe area), have adequate heel support (3/4 inch) and have enough room in the toe box area to avoid cramping of your toes.


If you workout outdoors, avoid hard surfaces which could be jarring to the joints. Instead use soft though yielding surfaces that provide the spring and bounce, rather than too much impact. Uphill walking /jogging is great for toning the front of the thighs and building endurance. Gravel and sand as surfaces, also increase intensity because they are harder to walk on.


You may wonder what is the best time to exercise? You can exercise anytime as long as you have not eaten a heavy meal for at least two hours. During the winter months, the outdoors will be safer and more conducive to exercise provided there is not too much fog or pollution. During summers, it would be better to exercise indoors or at least stay away from the harsh sunlight. The choice of morning and evening though is a matter of personal choice. However, the rule of thumb is not to do a heavy workout too close to your bed time for it might interfere with your sleep patterns.


Depending on your goal, a minimum of at least 2-3 times (to make any difference) and up to a maximum of 6 times a week is what is suggested.

Duration and intensity

Duration means how long or the time spent on each aerobic effort. This should not be less than 10 minutes (to make a difference) and not more than 45 minutes to an hour at the maximum (to prevent over-exercising).

Intensity means how hard or the effort you are putting in. If your workout leaves you panting for breath and even after 5-10 minutes you are still huffing and puffing, you may be working too hard and your intensity may be too high. You may need to slow down and gradually work your way upwards. Think of aerobic exercise as "in the presence of oxygen" - if you're out of it, slowing down will not leave you gasping for it. Also use duration as a benchmark -- if you can continue with the same intensity for over 10-15 minutes, you are working your aerobic capacity.

However since both aerobic and anaerobic systems work hand in hand (at different grades), the more you push your aerobic limit the higher you heart and lung can endure and the fitter they get.

Is there a difference between impact and intensity?

Impact is the ground force reaction, the force with which the foot strikes the ground and it's reaction to the rest of the body. Intensity is independent of the impact. It can be achieved by using a high level of energy, doing vigorous workouts, without having to impact the ground with a high force.

How do you evaluate yourself?

Workout your target heart rate zone and take your pulse during the peak of the exercise to know if you are within the zone. If that is too difficult, take your rate of perceived exertion into account.

How do you graduate?

Play around with different factors one at a time to vary your exercise routine, to achieve maximum benefits and get rid of the monotony. This also tricks your body out of its complacency and makes it work harder all the time.

Safety tips

If you use the outdoors to workout, remember to carry:
A stick to ward off stray dogs
Identification and emergency contact numbers and addresses
Any special medical information such as allergies, medication etc
If you exercise indoors make sure:
There is adequate ventilation and air conditioning
The machines are in good condition
There are emergency aids around in case of a special need.


Drink plenty of water so that you do not get dehydrated, otherwise you may feel giddy, have fainting spells, slower circulation, disorientation etc. This is one of the most important factors contributing to your success in the workout but one that is often overlooked. An easy rule to remember is to drink one extra litre of water for every hour you exercise. Heart disease is the number one killer all over the world and one of the main causes of it is inactivity. So all you lazybones, jump off that couch and get moving. Make a beginning by walking to your market or park, carry your own groceries rather than having them delivered and get up and change the channel rather than using the remote. All this will keep your heart in top shape and take you a long way towards a healthy life.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Proper Breathing Pranayama Exercises

To live is to breathe. Without oxygen, no cell in your body would be able to live for more than a few minutes. Most people use only a fraction of their full breathing capacity. This inefficiency allows fatigue and stress to set in. Proper breathing can tone up your entire system and enhance health and vitality. Pranayama breathing exercises are the link between the physical and mental disciplines of yoga.

Yogic breathing or pranayama revitalizes the body, steadies the emotions and creates great clarity of mind. In all these exercises exhalation, rather than inhalation, is accentuated. This is because correct exhalation cleanses the lungs and speeds the elimination of toxins from your body. Before practising the exercises, you should be sure that you understand how to breathe correctly, making full use of the diaphragm.

The mechanics of breathing

During yoga asanas, you breathe through your nose. When you inhale, your diaphragm moves downward and air is drawn into your lungs via your trachea and bronchial tubes. When you exhale, your diaphragm moves upward and pushes the air out of your lungs.

Pranayama teaches you how to breathe effectively. These exercises are most effective at sunrise or early hours of the morning and should be done facing eastwards. However, before starting with the various Prananyarna exercises it is necessary to keep in mind certain basic instructions.

  • Place: The Pranayama must be practised regularly in a room that is airy.
  • Food: A small cup of milk or fruit juice should be taken before starting Pranayama and another cup of milk after the practice.
  • Hygiene: Before starting Pranayama, the body should be clean and free of impurities. You should bathe at least half an hour after the Pranayama exercise.
  • Clothes: Wear loose-fitting clothes and avoid constricting collars, ties and tight belts.
  • Intoxication: Do not use tobacco in any form and do not drink alcohol. Cigarette or tobacco smoke injures every part of the respiratory organs.
  • Health: It is advisable to avoid doing Pranayama exercises when one is in impaired health or suffering from some serious ailment. Women should not do any strenuous or vigorous exercise during pregnancy.
  • Sex: Celibacy will give better results. Those who cannot observe this rule should be moderate in sex.
  • Breathing: You should breathe through your nose and not via the mouth. Inhalation and exhalation must be silent, slow, deep and easy without any discomfort or strain. Pranayama must be practised in a state of relaxation.
  • Others: Too much talking, sleeping, eating should be avoided.
  • Posture: For doing Pranayama exercises the three best known seated postures are Sukhasana, the easy posture, Sidhsana the perfect posture; and Padamasana, the lotus posture. You can select the posture according to your convenience, depending upon your age and suppleness. But in all the postures, the head should be kept erect while the neck, shoulders and the back should be straight.
Breathing Exercises

Lying Down: Lie flat on your back. Your legs should be relaxed, as is the rest of your body. Put one hand on your abdomen. Breathe slowly and gently, feel your abdomen rise as you inhale and fall as you exhale. Keep your breathing slow, deep, and relaxed. Deep abdominal breathing exercises the diaphragm. Proper use of this muscle can greatly enhance your breathing capacity. This movement is important, as it brings air to the lowest and largest portion of your lungs.

Sitting Up: Sit up straight, placing one hand on your abdomen and the other on your lower ribcage. Imagine that you can see your lungs. First, draw air into the lowest part of your lungs. Next, pull air into the middle of your lungs by stretching your intercostal muscles. Finally, feel the upper portion of your lungs expand. Most people breathe too shallowly, which should be avoided.

Yoga breathing exercises

In these breathing exercises, adopt the Vishnu Mudra with your right hand to close your nostrils. Tuck your index and middle fingers in to your palm and raise your hand to your nose. Place the thumb by your right nostril and your ring and little fingers by your left.

Single Nostril Breathing: Sit with your legs crossed in the Easy Pose and your back straight. Close your right nostril with your right thumb. Exhale completely through the left. Inhale to a count of four, then exhale to a count of eight. Repeat five times. Close your left nostril with your ring and little fingers. Breathe through your right nostril, using the method given above. Repeat five times.

Alternate Nostril Breathing: When you are comfortable with Single Nostril Breathing, try breathing with alternate nostrils for a few rounds. Inhale with one nostril, but exhale with the other. Start a round by inhaling with the left nostril. Close it with your hand, then exhale right. Inhale right, close your right nostril, and exhale left. Do 10 of these rounds daily.

Full Alternate Nostril Breathing or Anuloma Viloma: When you are comfortable with the preliminaries, begin full Alternate Nostril Breathing. Holding your right hand in Vishnu Mudra, close your right nostril with your thumb. Exhale fully through the left, then go through another round.


Kapalabhati is one of the six Kriyas or purification practices, besides being a pranayama. The forced exhalation rids the lower lungs of stale air, making way for afresh intake of oxygen-rich air and cleansing the entire respiratory system. This is a wonderfully invigorating exercise to begin your pranayama and consists of a series of exhalations and inhalations, followed by a retention of breath. For one round of Kapalabhati you need to:

  1. Pull in your abdominal muscles forcefully, as though you have been punched in the belly. Your diaphragm will move up quickly, and this will push the air out of your lungs.
  2. To take in air, relax your abdominal muscles and let your diaphragm descend. Do not force the inhalation.

Points to Remember:

  • Relax your face. Keep your mouth closed, and breathe through your nose.
  • Keep your torso straight and do not lean forward.
  • To keep a comfortable, straight pose, sit with a cushion under your buttocks when performing pranayama.

Golden rules of Exercising

Before you get started on any exercise or fitness programme, be it at home or at the gym you should remember a few guidelines that will go a long way to help you achieve your goals. You could call them your first principles or your checklist or what you will. Just remember if you don't follow these, your programme is bound to fall flat. And you don't want that to happen, do you? So let's get started:

Before you begin:

  • IDENTIFY YOUR SPECIFIC GOAL Before you begin any programme, it is important that you zero in on your specific goal. Are you already fit and want to stay that way? Do you have a good set of muscles body but land up panting at the end of a flight of stairs? Are you as muscular as Hercules but lack the elasticity of a gymnast? Do your resemble an urn in any way and want to lose weight? Be aware of what you want to achieve and work zealously towards that. Only then will you be able to see the results in that perspective. Also, set targets that are realistic, achievable and within reach. Patience is one attribute that you will have to learn.

  • EVALUATE YOUR PRESENT LEVELS OF FITNESS Take a close and objective look at what you can achieve in the different spheres of fitness. You could do this with the help of an assessment or the Fitness Quotient test. Also take the Fitness Primer to rule out any ailments you might have, which will then require a modified programme.

  • CHART YOUR COURSE Keep a progress chart so that the results become tangible differences you can compare. Set realistic and achievable goals that you can tick off, once you have reached the milestones. For instance, if losing weight is one of your goal, try to reach 1-2 kg weight loss per fortnight which will give you more satisfaction than aiming for 10 kgs for the whole month. That way, your goals are more in sight.

  • TIMING Set a specific time period you want to allot to your program and where you'd like to fit it in. If you are a morning person, then working out with the sunrise may be your cup of tea! But if you are in a shift job, you might have to keep changing your schedule according to the free time you have on your hands. The fact remains that whether you workout in the morning or at night, is better than none. Also, remember to exercise vis-а-vis your own medical conditions. For instance, if you are asthmatic, the very early morning or late evening hours in a polluted place may trigger an attack. And as a rule, try not to exercise close too bedtime because it may leave you too hyped to sleep.

  • WITH WHOM Next, you have to figure out whether you like working out alone or in a group, at home or in a gym or club. If you have a low level of motivation, then exercising with friends or like-minded people will keep you going and ensure high levels of commitment. However, if you are a solitary bird, you may prefer the confines of your house.

  • THE COST FACTOR Exercise can be expensive. Evaluate how much money you are willing to spend to reach your goal. For some, having a home gym compliments their style and adds to their status. But if you're always on a tightrope, and fitness is a very strong word in your dictionary then you'll have to look for alternatives.

Once begun:

You need to keep in mind certain rules before you physically get started.
  • CORRECT POSTURE Always perform your exercise with right posture techniques so as not to lay stress on any of your joints and to avoid injury. Your neck should be in line with your spine, you should be sitting with your back straight and your abdominal muscles in tight, and while standing, your knees should be slightly bent not locked.

  • WARM -UP Make sure a warm-up routine precedes your actual workout to avoid any muscular pulls and tears. A warm-up should last for about 5-10 minutes and should include stretching each muscle for about 5-8 seconds. An aerobic warm-up gradually raises the heart rate and a warm-up before a strength workout will prepare the body for the strenuous activity that is to follow.

  • THE BREATHING PATTERN: THE EX-EX PRINCIPLE Whenever you exert a muscle, you have to remember to exhale. While performing any contraction, release your breath and inhale after completing the repetition. Do not hold on to your breath as it could be dangerous. In an aerobic routine, try and take deep breaths throughout your workout.

  • FAST vs SLOW Aerobic workouts should be done at moderate to high pace (depending on your goal) and muscle work in a slow and controlled manner, for maximum benefit and safety.

  • TONING vs BUILDING Exercise depending on what your goal is. If you are in the gym for just a toned slender look, then you should be doing the exercises with a higher number of repetitions and lighter weights. But if muscle bulk or hypertrophy is the name of your game, then go for heavier weights and less repetitions but making sure you start off form the lower rung and work your way upwards. Just remember, the higher the intensity of the workout, the longer should be the recovery time between two sessions.

  • LARGE vs SMALL MUSCLES If you workout both large and small muscles in the same session, make sure that you work the larger muscle groups before concentrating on small muscles like biceps and calves because these assist in the larger muscle exercises and you don't want them to tire out too soon.

  • RANGE OF MOTION When you perform your exercises, make sure you remember to complete the entire movement. This will ensure that the complete muscles are activated.

  • BALANCE YOUR WORKOUT Work on achieving a balance both in terms of a stronger heart and set of lungs as well as strong and flexible muscles. Also, aim to workout the whole body equally so that one group of muscles is stronger than the other, making the weaker muscle prone to injury. Work the back as much as the front, the top as much as the lower half, the outsides of the body as much as towards the center. The best modus operandi is to strike a balance between all categories, so as to achieve fitness in it's totality.

  • VARY YOUR EXERCISE AND EQUIPMENT Your body has an amazing capacity to adapt, so bring on different exercises to help it respond and progress in an upward gradient. Varying the type of equipment will also ensure better results. For example, on one day you might like to use dumbbells, (chest flyes) the next time around a barbell (bench press) and the next time around do a compound exercise (push up) for the whole group of muscles you are targeting. This way you can trick your body into responding to the maximum.

  • COOL DOWN It is of utmost importance that you allot about five minutes to cool down your body, stretching your muscles before leaving. A cool down routine gradually brings down the heart rate and stretching the muscles assist in getting them back to their original length besides making them more flexible. A good stretch can also help reduce post-exercise soreness.

Stick to these golden rules and you will be able to extract the maximum from your fitness programme.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Gym Etiquette

A lot of us like to go to the gym. Not only do we enjoy our workouts, we like being there. It can be a place to socialize, a place to get away or a place to hang out. But there are certain standards of behavior that allow everybody to enjoy the gym.

I once belonged to a gym that had a sign saying, "Don't spit in the water fountain." I know I don't have to tell you that, but do be sure you follow the posted house rules. Just about everywhere, the following will apply:

Wear a shirt and athletic shoes. Carry a towel and wipe down the equipment when you're finished. Wear shorts, sweats or workout pants, but not jeans; they limit your motion and the material is hard on the furniture.

Arrive on time for classes.

Rack your weights. If you can lift them, you can put them away.

Step back from the dumbbell rack to do your exercise so other members will have access to the weights. Don't walk in front of, or close to someone who is in the middle of a set.

Socializing is OK, but don't lounge on the equipment while you do it.

Let other members work in if they request and it is practical. If someone asks you how many sets you have left, tell him or her, but you don't have to let him or her have the equipment until you are done.

Don't grunt, howl or make animal noises. It disturbs others. Watch your language. The gym floor is not the place for profanity or dirty jokes.

Don't spread your stuff all over the benches in the locker room. Do not use the gym as a place to dye your hair or do other grooming tasks you don't want to do at home.

Help beginners if they forget how to use the equipment, but don't interfere with somebody else's workout if they don't want your help.

Tell management if there is something wrong with the equipment. Cooperate with gym staff, be nice to your fellow members and help make the gym a pleasant place for everybody.

Now get out there and work out hard.

Abdominal Exercises to strengthen your abdominal muscles

Here are some exercises you can do to strengthen your abdominal muscles.

Abdominal angles

Exercise Description: This is a series of exercises aimed at stretching the back, neck and hamstrings, and strengthening the abdominal muscles.

Start Position: Sit upright on the floor, the legs extended forward.


  1. Pull the knees with the hands to the chest. Pull the head down, the forehead touching the knees, the toes pointed and touching the floor. Stay in this position for eight counts, concentrating on stretching the neck and the small of your back.

  2. Straighten the back and lift up the head, the knees still at the chest; straighten one leg with the toe pointing up. Stay in this position for eight counts, concentrating on stretching the hamstrings.

  3. Bend the leg again, simultaneously straightening the other leg. Repeat 16 times for each leg.

  4. Repeat the exercise, but this time with the toes not touching the floor.

  5. Repeat the exercise, but this time without the arms' help.

Abdominal curls

Exercise Description: Exercises spinal flexibility and strengthens the abdominal muscles.

Start Position: In supine position, relaxed


  1. Sit upright and make the abdominal angle again as described above, bending the knees and extending the forelegs parallel to the floor. Keeping the knees pulled to the chest, extend the arms forward parallel to the floor.

  2. Lean back decreasing the abdominal angle, then pull the knees to the chest again. Repeat eight times and return to the supine position. Relax.

  3. Supporting yourself with the elbows, arch the chest up, the head touching the floor.

  4. Flatten your back again, lift up your head and put your chin on the chest. Repeat eight times.

  5. Repeat Step 3, but at the upper point of the arching, sit completely upright. Repeat eight times.

  6. Slowly return to the supine position, rolling down with your back rounded.

  7. Repeat Step 5, but after sitting up, fold forward to the knees and relax. Repeat eight times.

Cardio: An Introduction to Cross-Training

The term 'cross-training' became popular in the early 1980s. It indicates the combination of two or more sports or fitness activities into a training program with the goal of achieving balance in your fitness regimen.

In order to promote this balance, it is necessary to examine the five basic components of physical fitness as defined by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). These are: cardiovascular-respiratory endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, body composition and flexibility.

Cardiovascular-respiratory endurance is also known as aerobic endurance and involves the ability of the heart, lungs and circulatory system to work at a harder effort than in a resting state, thus supplying the muscles with more oxygen. Exercise scientists believe that, of the five basic components, aerobic endurance is the most important in helping improve overall health and reducing the risk of disease. Guidelines by the ACSM for maintaining cardiovascular-respiratory fitness suggest activities that raise the heart rate to its training zone (between 60 to 90 percent of the maximum heart rate) for at least 20 minutes, three times a week.

Muscular strength is the muscle's ability to exert maximal effort. The stronger the muscle, the greater its ability to exert more effort. Some of the benefits of strong muscles include the capacity to protect the body from harm and an increased metabolism. Resistance training is the best way to increase strength.

Muscular endurance is the amount of time that the muscle can keep performing the same exertion at a certain level and is developed by completing the same type of repetitive activities over a period of time. For example, your leg muscles are able to carry you over longer distances as you build up your weekly mileage in running programs.

Body composition refers to the fat to lean tissue ratio with large variations found in all people due to genetic makeup, diet, activity level, etc. Maintaining a medically acceptable level of body fat is considered an important indicator of health and is seen as more important than body weight. High body fat has been associated with an increased risk for many health problems including heart disease and some forms of cancer.

Flexibility, the final of the five basic components in physical fitness, is the ability of muscles and connective tissues to stretch. The many benefits of flexibility include the reduction of injury risk during exercise and increased physical performance. The past few years have seen an upswing in the number of athletes who attend yoga classes or practice it on their own. Others have incorporated a stretching routine into their other fitness regimens. To prevent injuries from over-stretching, you should remember to stretch after your muscles have already been warmed up for a few minutes and are loose and allow a full stretch safely.

With the numerous innovations in modern fitness technology, individuals interested in cross-training can pick and choose as they please until finding an activity, or activities, which they like and will stick with. For example, a person whose primary means of fitness is bicycling may decide to cross-train with an occasional run, cross-country skiing or stair climbing. Every other day, to enhance muscular fitness, she might add some resistance training. Many health clubs now offer resistance-training classes as well as other options to improve muscular strength and endurance. To balance out her physical fitness, yoga two or three times a week might be just the thing.

Basically, the list of options for cross-training activities is long and varied and should offer just about anyone something to please. Working out no longer has to be the typical dreaded job that it once was. With everything from aerobic dance to yoga and beyond, cross-training can make losing those pounds and getting in shape fun and even anticipated.

Do Vegetarian Diets Help or Hinder Endurance Athletes?

The number of vegetarians in the United States has been steadily increasing over the years. Most people adopt a vegetarian lifestyle for its numerous health benefits. A vegetarian is defined as someone who omits all animal products (including fish, chicken and turkey) except for dairy products and eggs.

In various polls conducted by the Vegetarian Resource Group, it was reported that the number of vegetarians in the U.S. grew from approximately one percent in both 1994 and 1997, to approximately 2.5 percent in 2000. In 1999 the Vegetarian Resource Group also reported that when American adults eat meals away from home, 5.5 percent of them always order a dish without meat, fish or fowl, and 57 percent of the population sometimes, often or always orders a vegetarian item.

Studies show that vegetarian diets are linked to a reduced risk of various diseases such as high blood pressure, kidney disease, heart disease and certain types of cancer. Although other common aspects of a vegetarian lifestyle, like abstinence from smoking and drinking, or higher levels of physical activity, may account for the decreased risk of disease, a vegetarian diet definitely has its benefits. Most Americans eat far too much meat and not enough fruits, vegetables and whole grains. By omitting meat from the diet, more room is available to add healthful foods.

But is it a good idea for an endurance athlete to follow a vegetarian diet? Can runners, cyclists, swimmers, in-line skaters and the like benefit from omitting meat from their diet? It all depends on the nutritional adequacy of the diet!

Although most Americans get more than enough protein in their diet, sometimes it is difficult for a strict vegetarian or vegan (those who omit all animal products from their diet, including dairy and eggs) athlete to obtain enough protein if they are not careful in planning their meals. Protein is important for endurance athletes in order to rebuild and repair damaged muscle tissue. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. Therefore, a 160-pound (72.7 kg) male would need about 58 grams of protein day, while a 140-pound (63.6 kg) female would need only 51 grams a day to meet the RDA. This amount would be relatively easy to achieve, even if following a vegan diet. But if you are an endurance athlete, the RDA doesn't quite cut it.

The protein recommendation for an endurance athlete is about 1.2 to 1.8 grams per kilogram of body weight, so now our 160-pound male that is involved in endurance athletics would need between 87-131 grams of protein a day, and the 140-pound female athlete would need 76-115 grams a day, substantially more than the RDA. For a vegetarian that includes dairy products and/or eggs in their diet, this amount would still be relatively easy to obtain, but a vegan would need to make wise food choices to make sure they had adequate protein in their diet. Good, high protein choices for vegans include beans (legumes), peanut butter, nuts and seeds, and soy products. Even some non-dairy "cheeses" contain a good amount of protein, although most contain casein (a milk byproduct), which the majority of vegans avoid. Many grains are also relatively high in protein, for example a large bagel has about 10 grams, and a cup of pasta has seven grams. Be advised that any extra protein calories, just like extra carbohydrates and fat calories, will be stored as fat.

As long as protein needs are met, athletes can be at an advantage if they adopt a vegetarian diet because they tend to be higher in carbohydrates than a non-vegetarian diet. Carbohydrates are essential for maximum athletic performance because only carbohydrates can be stored in the muscle as glycogen. Glycogen is what fuels muscles, and when these stores are depleted and not replenished, fatigue can set in. Athletes should strive to consume about eight grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight. For a 160-pound male athlete this would be about 580 grams per day, and for a 140-pound female athlete this would equal about 510 grams a day. Good carbohydrate choices include fruits, vegetables, pasta, rice, cereals and other grains. These sources of carbohydrates also supply the body with much-needed fiber.

Iron is an important nutrient, especially for athletes, because it is a component of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the substance that transports oxygen within the red blood cells. Vegetarian and vegan athletes can obtain iron from a variety of plant foods such as green leafy vegetables, legumes and nuts, as well as fortified foods such as cereals and soymilk. The iron that comes from plant sources, dairy products and eggs isn't absorbed by the body as well as the iron from meat, fish and poultry, so vegetarians and vegans (especially females) need to make sure they consume foods rich in iron.

A vegetarian diet that includes an abundance of fruits and vegetables can also be beneficial to an athlete because of the high antioxidant content of the diet. Intense physical activity can cause oxidative stress within the body, and the antioxidants in fruits and vegetables can help combat this stress. Studies have shown that a high intake of antioxidant nutrients can lead to a decrease in muscle soreness after exercise. Although it is best to obtain these nutrients from your diet, supplementing your diet with the antioxidant nutrients, vitamin C (500 to 1,000 milligrams) and vitamin E (200 to 400 international units) may enhance your performance. Fruits and vegetables also have a very high water content, which can help add to your total daily fluid needs.

Although dietary guidelines suggest that fat should comprise less than 30 percent of your diet, it is recommended that athletes go a little lower, to about 25 percent, to make room for a higher proportion of carbohydrates. A vegetarian diet is typically lower in fat than a non-vegetarian diet, especially saturated fat. Saturated fats, like those found in meat and full fat dairy products, can raise your blood levels of "bad" cholesterol, which leads to an increased risk of heart disease. Not exactly what you want as an endurance athlete! No more than 10 percent of calories should come from saturated fat, for a 2,000-calorie diet, this is about 20 grams. But some fat in your diet is essential; fat has many functions, including the transport of fat-soluble vitamins. Because most vegetable sources of fat are unsaturated fats, with the exception of palm and coconut oils, and most animal sources are saturated, a vegetarian diet with low-fat dairy products can be advantageous in reducing the risk of heart disease.

Last but not least, it is important that an athlete consume enough calories to fuel their body! Vegetarian diets tend to be lower in calories than non-vegetarian diets, which could be a plus for someone looking to lose weight. But, if you wish to maintain your weight, it is important to consume enough calories before, after and possibly during (if it lasts longer than 90 minutes) exercise. A vegetarian diet than includes a variety of vegetables, legumes, nuts, fruits and grains can supply an endurance athlete with enough calories to keep them going. While a non-vegetarian diet isn't going to hinder athletic performance, a vegetarian diet can have some advantages when it is properly planned. A breakfast of toaster pasties, a lunch consisting of cheese pizza and French fries, and then macaroni and cheese for dinner could also be considered vegetarian, but will not be of any benefit in your athletic endeavors! But a well-planned vegetarian diet can supply an optimal ratio of nutrients that can help boost your performance!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Spinal Alignment Exercise

These exercises are great for proper posture, spinal problems and low back pain relief. Believe it or not, standing up straight helps you look slimmer, improves body image and self-confidence.


The aligned spine lets your spinal cord and spinal nerves occupy the correct anatomical position within the spinal column and between the vertebrae. Unaligned vertebral disks create asymmetrical pressure on the spinal part of the nervous system. Even if it is not pathological, this condition is not optimal for the nervous system's functioning

Start Position

Straighten the body watching yourself in the mirror.


  • Lift up the shoulders
  • Rotate them back and down
  • Keep them as far back and down as you can
  • Relax your arms
  • Make your neck long and straight, do not tilt the head
  • Make sure the pelvic is well aligned vertically and does not curl back or forward.
  • Keep the posture for 16 counts, relax.

Repeat eight times.
Remember how your body feels during this exercise. Repeat as many times a day as it takes to make it your habitual posture.

Working Out Once a Week

Have you ever been told that if you don't do your weight training three times a week you might as well not do it? Well, that theory was proved wrong some time ago. We've known for a long time that two workouts a week can give you good gains. But what about once a week?

In a recent study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, experienced weight trainees worked out either one day a week with three sets per exercise to failure, or three days of one set to failure, both for 12 weeks. The one-day group achieved 62 percent of the strength gains of the three-day group. The three-day group also achieved better gains in lean body mass, so three days was clearly more effective, even with similar volume. But the one-day group also made progress, so for those times you can't get to the gym two or three times a week, it's still a good idea to go once, as you can maintain or even increase strength with one intense workout per week, at least for a while.

This study involved experienced weight trainees, not beginners. I think it's important for beginners to work out two or three times a week because they need to learn the exercises and activate the neural pathways.

Cardio: Bicycling Basics

Biking is a great way to get in shape. The cardio benefits are intense as is the strengthening of the lower body.

After a friend gave birth to her second child, she wanted to lose those extra "baby" pounds and get back into shape. Unfortunately, she was faced with knee and hip problems and wasn't sure which sport would work best in her quest for fitness. While surfing the Internet one day, she came across a bicycling web site that provided her with the incentive she needed to start bicycling her way to better fitness.

Bicycling provides a variety of fitness benefits. Not only does it offer an intense cardiovascular workout which will help to burn fat and calories, but it is an excellent way to strengthen and tone your lower body including buttocks, thighs, and calves. Because cycling is not a weight-bearing exercise, it doesn't put the pressure on your joints and bones the way many other forms of exercise do. Also important is the boost to your self-esteem, which is experienced when you exercise outdoors on a regular basis.

The National Sporting Goods Association reports that 45% of the people taking up the sport of bicycling are women.

As the bicycling industry grows, bikes of all types are constantly improved and designed to handle almost any kind of terrain. For example, road bikes look like the 10-speeds that many of us rode as youngsters with the curved-under handlebars and narrow tires. Mountain bikes have fatter tires with knobs and straighter upright handlebars. They work well on rougher terrain. Finally, there are hybrid bikes, which have the same gear systems, handlebars and frames as found on mountain bikes, but offer narrower tires for a smoother and faster ride. Experts recommend the use of a hybrid bike for the bicycle enthusiast who wants a stable bike that handles well both on pavement and on the dirt.

The clerks at bike shops are well equipped to measure an individual and his or her new equipment. By talking to the experts, you are more likely to end up with a bicycle that fits your measurements. Without a proper fit, your bike will be uncomfortable, and you might be disinclined to ride as often as you need for fitness and better health.

In order to achieve the greatest amount of comfort on your bike, it is important to buy a comfortable seat. For example, if you are a woman, inquire about special seats made to fit a woman's body. Some of these offer a wider back and narrower nose or use softer material on the underside for a more comfortable ride. When considering all of the options, it is essential to try out the bike just as you would a car before buying it. Most bike shops will allow you to ride the bike outside first.

Prior to hitting the road or trail for your initial ride, you must purchase a helmet to protect your head in the case of an accident. All helmets sold in the United States are required by the Consumer Product Safety Commission to meet federal safety standards so the safety aspect of the helmet doesn't need to be taken into consideration. However, there are several options to keep in mind. Do you want a helmet with a vent to help you stay cool? Or you might like a helmet, which is equipped with reflective stripes for night riding or a removable visor for the sun. The helmet should fit snugly.

Once you have all of the necessary equipment, become familiar with your bike by riding around an empty parking lot or other unpopulated place. Practice shifting the gears and applying the brakes. When learning which gear works best on different terrains, remember this general rule of thumb: use the gears that are smaller in diameter on the front derailleur and the larger ones on the back for hills and the larger in the front and smaller in the back for the flatter stretches of your ride.

When you pedal, follow through on your pedal stroke and focus on making circles. Good pedaling technique involves applying force when your foot is at the bottom of the stroke and using your leg muscles to pull your leg back up, thus creating circles. You might also want to experiment by leaning when you turn or standing when surging up hills.

Many places offer clinics or classes for new riders. Ask at the shop where you bought your bike for more information or inquire at a local community college or YMCA.

Begin your training program with easy, slow rides on flat terrain. This will help you become accustomed to the sport and allow you to look forward to your bike rides. After a few weeks of fairly leisurely rides, increase the intensity of your workout by lengthening the distance, increasing your speed or adding a couple of hills. In order to prevent burnout and the risk of injury, don't change too much at once.

As you progress, joining a bike club and training with others can inspire you to even greater levels of fitness.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Getting Started with a Running Program

If you are headed out for a run … it is very important to start off slow. Many people will go hard the first day, running a pace much too fast and end up cramping, injuring themselves or putting undue stress on their bodies. They feel the pain the next few days and don't want to continue. Their first day becomes their last day, taking up another activity in place of running, in order to fulfill their exercise quota.

What do I mean by slow? Jog a slow pace, relax! Even if you feel you could walk faster, continue to go at it slowly. Maintain that pace for 15 to 20 minutes everyday for two weeks. If you can go for 30 minutes or an hour, go for it. But make sure you resist the urge to go faster in the beginning of your running program. Take it easy, and enjoy it! If it's too boring, it's a perfect pace. Eventually, you will want to increase your speed and distance a little every week or two weeks.

"Read" your body! If you feel like you can increase the speed, do it! If you feel you're going too fast, and it takes too long to recover from your run, slow down! As you get into condition, your lungs & heart will get stronger, and you will recover quicker. Recover, meaning, you won't feel as tired as you normally did in the beginning of your program.

Conditioning your body involves building your stamina and endurance. Stamina, the ability to go for longer periods at a fast pace, is built slowly. Endurance, the ability to withstand discomfort or pain for a long period, is also built slowly by increasing the pace and length/distance of your run.

You don't have to punish your body in order to be Well-Conditioned. You need only to start & build slowly, according to your own needs. Most of all, relax and enjoy the time you have to run, you will reap the endorphin highs sooner than later.

Beginner Gear-Buying Tips (Cycling)

New to the world of Cycling? Here's what to look for from frames to shoes to helmets.

Buy your bike from a local shop with a good service program. Some shops offer service regularly as part of the program. This is important, especially in the beginning months of a bike's life, as the cables will stretch and create shifting and braking adjustment needs.

Be sure to have a professional or an experienced rider fit you for the bike and helmet. The proper frame size will ensure better low back comfort and fewer problems with knees, neck and shoulders. Along with the frame sizing, you may need to change the stem or seat post to accommodate your body length and size. Helmet fit is critical for protection in a crash. A helmet that sits back too far, revealing your forehead, and perhaps even hair, won't be helpful in a crash. The straps should be snug and the buckle and not flapping in the breeze!

Shoes: Comfort is the key, but also look for a pair with a stiff sole. The stiffer the sole, the more power in your pedal stroke. Soft mushy soles transmit more of the energy from your legs into the shoe rather the putting the power in your pedals! If you are going with a clipless pedal system, have an experienced bicycling expert set the cleats up for you. Plan to spend some time just pedaling around feeling the sensation of being "clipped in". Adjust the tightness of the pedals loosely at first, so that you can easily get out of them (especially when you suddenly arrive at a red light). Give yourself lots of practice time clipping and unclipping on a soft flat area before hitting the road or the trails.

Shorts: Cycling Shorts are designed to eliminate chaffing and rubbing on sensitive areas! Try on a few pairs to determine personal fit and comfort and then DONT WEAR YOUR UNDERWEAR when you use the shorts on the bikes! This defeats the whole purpose and immediately marks you as a beginner "geek"!

Give Your Brain a Shake! More Food For Thought

Brain function is determined by many factors, one of which is proper nutrition. This 'Brain Shake' recipe has been developed to supply ample amounts of vitamins, minerals and good fats to keep our brains nourished. It's a great way to start the day. One a day helps keep the mental cobwebs away!

Brain Shake

2 tablespoons soy lecithin granules
1 tbsp. flax oil
2 to 3 tablespoons plain yogurt (with active bacterial cultures)
Banana, blueberries, melon, strawberries, papaya or other fruit of choice
1 cup milk (soy, rice or cow's milk)

Directions: Mix in blender until smooth and drink

For variations, freeze the fruit before blending or add crushed ice to your drink. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of almond butter for extra protein.

Soy Lechithin Granules contain phosphatidylserine and phosphatidylcholine. These compounds make up the membrane of every brain cell. Proper conduction of nerve signals depends on the quality of this membrane. Therefore, phosphatidylserine and phosphatidylcholine are very important in helping brain cells communicate with each other. Many research studies have shown phosphatidylserine in supplemental form to be effective in Alzheimer's disease, age-associated memory impairments, depression, epilepsy and cognitive decline. However, this supplement is very expensive, especially if taken long term. It is found in small amounts in SOY LECITHIN. Otherwise, we rely on our body's production of these components. This requires ample amounts of essential fatty acids, vitamin B12, folic acid and Vitamin C.

Flaxseed Oil supplies omega 3 essential fatty acids. This is the primary fat in the brain and is necessary for effective nerve cell communication. It is estimated that 95% of the population is deficient in Omega-3 fatty acids. Keep flax oil refrigerated. Exposure to heat, oxygen or light will diminish its healthy benefit.

Yogurt contains beneficial gut bacteria that help to produce Vitamin B12.

Fruit supplies anti-oxidant vitamins including Vitamin C and small amounts of folic acid.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Cardio: Avoiding the ’Side-Ache’

It's a beautiful day; you're out training for the Big Race. You've just taken that hill with gusto, and then wham! Bam! It's that old 'side-ache'! The Enemy from within. It's excruciating, so you stop, grab your side and curl up! Ooooh, it hurts! You ask yourself, "Why does this always happen?"

It's every runner's nightmare! If you're prone to side-ache, you'll almost hate your training sessions and fear will paralyze you and keep you from "going all-out." You avoid eating or drinking too much water before your workout, try to take it easy, think happy thoughts and still it hits like a bee sting, just as you're feeling invincible.

So how can we avoid it? Ask a running coach she'll say, "You've got to breathe!" Frustrated, you come back, "What in the heck does that mean? Of course, I'm breathing or I'd drop dead!" And so she'll say:

First, and most important in running, is to relax. When you relax you will allow your body the opportunity to inhale more deeply, either through the nose or the mouth, filling your bloodstream with the necessary oxygen it needs to pump blood to the heart at an accelerated rate. Your body depends on the oxygen you breathe in order for the body to function at its best during training or competition. If you are holding your breath, which many runners unknowingly do when they are running tense or tired, you are cutting off the oxygen supply, and bingo, side-ache. (Just the thought of it, gives me the chills!) Relaxing will allow freer, deeper breathing and will enable your tired body to rejuvenate slowly.

What to do when you're hit with that stabbing pain in your side? Slow your pace down, relax your tense body and start inhaling slowly and deeply until your lungs are filled to capacity, then exhale naturally (not blowing the air out). The pain will disappear. But you must continue your deep breathing, or it will return.

Practice deep breathing before and after your run. While you stretch your muscles during your pre-warm-up or warm-down, train your mind and body to breathe right. Inhale as you stretch, hold for three seconds and then exhale as you release the tension in your muscles. Do this daily, and your mind, body and spirit will replicate this during your run. You will run relaxed, free and you will avoid the dreaded side-ache!

Questions to Ask When Choosing a Gym

Thinking about joining a gym but not sure where to start? Here are some simple questions you need to ask before making any decisions.

Is the location convenient?

If you really plan on making working out in the gym a part of your life it will have to convenient. It needs to be within at least 15 minutes of your home or on your way to or from work if you plan on using it before or after your workday.

Do you want a large modern gym with all the latest equipment or are you comfortable with the basics in a smaller setting?

The larger the gym the more participants there will be. Visit the gym during the hours you actually plan on using it. This will give you a feel for how crowded it will be and who will be there when you are. Take note if the equipment you plan to use is free or if there is a wait.

How much will it cost?

Most gyms charge a one-time membership fee in addition to their monthly fee. Watch for specials during their slow seasons when the fee is often waived. Tell the salesperson exactly what your needs are. Don't let them sell you more options than you're going to use.

What are their hours of operation?

Make sure their hours suit your needs. No sense in joining a gym that will be closing shortly after you plan on arriving.

What type of classes do they offer?

If you plan on participating in organized classes make sure they have the types of classes you enjoy at the time you plan on being there.

Is it clean and well maintained?

Check out the bathrooms, showers, locker rooms, etc., for cleanliness. Do you notice the staff wiping down the machines, mirrors and water fountains? Let's face it; if it smells bad you are not going to stay long.

What type of special services do they offer?

If services are important to you be sure to ask which ones are available and if there is an additional cost. The most common services available are childcare, personal trainers, a nutritionist and massage therapists.

Are their instructors certified?

Ask if reputable associations certify the instructors and trainers they employ. Their certificates should be readily available.

Choosing a gym doesn't need to be a difficult chore when you ask the right questions BEFORE you join.

Cardio: Your First 5K - Rules of the Road

Not long ago, the 10-kilometer distance was the standard road race, and the occasional 5K drew beginners at one end, and speedy runners wanting to go all out at the other. Now times have changed and the most popular race in the U.S. is the 5K.

If you have not run a race, the 5K, at 3.1 miles, may call out to you as something you can handle. Should you do it? Sure.

First pick your race, preferably a nearby community race. If you are regularly running three miles or more, you're ready. If you're running shorter distances, give yourself some time to work up to three miles. If you run a mile now, add a quarter mile a week and you will be ready to race in two months. If you're running two miles, schedule your race for a month from now. This is a conservative progression and alternatives are possible. You can walk the race if you'd rather, but if you want to run it, practice until you can run three miles steady. Don't worry about finishing last. Somebody will, but it probably won't be you. Nobody quits running because they finish last in a race, as long as they finish. If this is your first race and you're not very athletic, just concentrate on distance, not speed. You can work on your speed later when you decide to be competitive. You should, however, be able to run a mile in 12 minutes or better. If not, work up to it. If that's just too hard for you, you might want to consider walking as fast as you can instead (unless you really have a burning desire to be a runner).

Once you choose your race, send in your entry form. Commit yourself with a little money and you will be less likely to back out.

On race day, arrive 30 to 45 minutes before the start. This gives you plenty of time to pick up your race packet and stand in line for the porta-potty, if necessary. Dress so you will be cool at the start. You'll warm up quickly when you run. Don't wear your race shirt for this race. Wear it afterward, to show you finished. And wear it for your next race. Warm up with some fast walking and easy stretching. Don't wear yourself out before the race. Line up at the start about halfway back in the pack. The fastest runners start at the front and the walkers bring up the rear.

Try to run at the same steady pace throughout. If you go too fast at the start, you may fade before the finish. Do not stop suddenly or move laterally for any reason, including fatigue, shoe tying, seeing a friend, etc., without checking to see that there is no one behind who will run into you. Be careful of the following: people on skates, bicycles or running with their dogs (often not allowed); little kids who run real fast and then come to a dead stop in front of you; people pushing baby strollers and taking up more than their share of the space.

If you're running with a friend, which is a great idea, go ahead and converse, but be aware you should be breathing a little heavily or you're not paying attention to your running. Take some water at the water station, and drink all you need at the end. Then go ahead and eat whatever is being given away. Watch the race clock at the finish and remember your time. You'll do better in your next race. Try to stay for the awards ceremony. You can gauge your performance in relation to others in your age group. You may even win a prize. Think you're too slow? Sometimes only one or two people are entered in a division. Take your prize -- you beat everybody who didn't show up.

Benefits of Water

We've all heard it somewhere -- eight glasses of water a day is a healthy habit for your body. Every fitness magazine, diet book and many doctors all recommend the same thing, at least eight, eight-ounce glasses of water a day. OK, so we know what we are supposed to do with regards to water, but why is it so important?

Proper consumption of water assists your kidneys in functioning properly. If your kidneys are not working to their full potential, some of their job becomes the liver's responsibility. The main function of the liver is to metabolize fat. The less the liver is metabolizing, then more fat remains in the body. No one wants that, right? Consuming enough water also helps ease fluid retention, flushes excess sodium from the system, makes skin appear supple and healthy and flushes toxins out of the body. By consuming at least eight glasses of water a day, our bodies will be healthier and look better.

All of this sounds nice and easy, but eight, eight-ounce glasses of water is a lot of water! And the recommended eight glasses increases for many reasons, such as activity level and a person's weight. The consumption of beverages containing caffeine and alcohol act as diuretics, and cause the body to eliminate water. If you consume these types of beverages, you must drink more water.

If your lifestyle requires you to drink even more than the recommended eight glasses, you may be overwhelmed at how to drink so much water in one day. Luckily, there are ways to make drinking tons of water easy, and maybe even enjoyable.

It is important to get in the habit of taking water with you wherever you go, because you will need to in order to drink enough. Purchasing a large plastic bottle with a lid that flips up into a straw is a good way to carry water around with you. Many of these bottles are labeled with the amount of ounces they hold, which is helpful if you are keeping track of amounts of consumption. Drinking a glass before meals is a good way to remember to drink water, as is drinking lots during physical activity.

Now that you have started drinking water, you may become sick of plain old water all the time. A slice of citrus fruit such as a lemon, lime or orange adds a nice zing to otherwise flavorless water. Also, changing the type of glass you drink from can also be fun. Use a wine glass or a coffee mug (just remember to measure out how much you are putting in the cup, so you'll know how many ounces it is!). Adding a splash of a favorite juice can also liven up your glass. Whatever you do, keep drinking (water, that is). It is a good way to keep your body healthy and your skin looking great.