Thursday, February 26, 2009

Unravel Strength Training's Mysteries

Starting a strength-training program can be an incredibly empowering, and an incredibly confusing experience. There are many myths about what strength training can and cannot do for you. Here, shake out the untruths and get some real answers about strength training.

Untruth: Strength training ads bulk to women.

Truth: Lifting weights increases the amount of lean muscle mass and can decrease body fat in women. A May, 1998 article in The Physician and Sports Medicine states: 'strength training results in significant increases in strength, no change or a decrease in lower-body girths, and a very small increase in upper-extremity girth.' Because lean muscle burns fat, you're likely to decrease in overall size through strength training.

Untruth: Strength training may be good for strengthening bone and muscle tissue, but it doesn't strengthen the heart.

Truth: Strength training produces a wallop of benefits to your heart. Research has found that strength training can reduce LDL ('bad') cholesterol levels. Some studies have also found that strength training reduces blood pressure. Finally, the stronger muscles that strength-training produces can help prevent overexertion, like in moving heavy objects or shoveling snow.

Untruth: Strength training reduces your flexibility.

Truth: 'If you work through a full range of motion in your strength training program, you can actually increase your flexibility,' says Cheryl Milson, exercise physiologist and president of Premier Health Enhancement Programs in Los Angeles. If you use your joints through the full extent of an exercise, you'll build flexibility rather than lose it.

Untruth: Strength training isn't effective for weight loss, only building mass.

Truth: As you may well know by now, the muscle that strength training builds boosts your calorie-burning rate (your metabolism) throughout the day. The more lean muscle you have, the more calories you'll burn just to exist. When combined with aerobic exercise (for a bigger per-bout calorie burn), strength training is an excellent activity to aid in weight loss.

Untruth: The more crunches you do, the flatter your stomach will get.

Truth: Crunches alone won't get you a washboard stomach, you need to be vigilant with your entire fitness program to see the results of your abdominal strength training. 'Abdominal muscles get flatter with nutrition and cardiovascular exercise [combined with strengthening the muscles],' says Michael Wilson, an exercise physiologist and certified personal trainer in New York City. If you strengthen your abs and there is fat on top of them, they will become stronger, but won't appear as defined as they will on a leaner body. If you're faithful to your aerobic routine and a low fat diet, you can reduce your overall body fat percentage and gain greater abdominal muscle visibility (not to mention a trimmer middle).

Tip: to keep getting stronger, don't just do more crunches, change to a tougher exercise. 'Choose an exercise that's more challenging,' says Wilson, 'if you normally do crunches on the floor, move up to incline crunches.' If you can do 25 crunches (on the floor) without difficulty, it's time to challenge yourself.

Untruth: If you build muscle through strength training and then stop, all that new muscle will turn to fat.

Truth: Muscle and fat are two completely different forms of body tissue, one can't turn into the other. However, you are in danger of adding fat if you stop strength training and don't reduce your caloric intake. In the absence of regular strength training, muscles will shrink, and as a result your body will burn calories at a slower rate, which will result in an acquisition of fat.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Weight Management: What’s Stopping You?

Willpower - you either have it, or you don’t. Or so we’ve been told. And just what is willpower anyway? Merriam-Webster’s defines it as "energetic determination." But, how you manage your health is not based on how energetically determined you are. It is based on the choices you make. Willpower is passive; the power to make decisions is active. No longer is "I just don’t have the willpower" an excuse. And speaking of excuses...

What’s Stopping You?
One of the first things you need to anticipate when starting a weight management program is that stumbling blocks will inevitably surface. But the good thing is, you can do something about them! First of all, you need to identify them so you can plan how to handle them.

Think of things that may get in your way and classify them. Here is a simple system. If an event or circumstance that you have no control over interferes with your plans or actions, for example illness or a death in the family, call it a barricade. When an event that conflicts with your plans or actions can be anticipated, can be anticipated, like having your son's baseball game scheduled during the time you normally workout, that is an obstruction. And, an event or circumstance that could have been prevented with a little planning - such as when you say you’re too tired to workout or go to your weekly meeting - is really an excuse.

Write It Down
The first step in overcoming these stumbling blocks is to write them down. Make a list under each category; include possible ones as well. Next, come up with possible solutions for each. As you’re doing this exercise, you may be surprised to find that what you thought were true obstacles to your program, are really just excuses. Be honest - you’ll only benefit from it in the long run!

One’s motivation for sticking with a weight management program comes from many sources, both internal and external. But what may be a motivational tool for one person, may be a motivational stumbling block for another. For instance, for some people, the scales can be a real motivator. If they’re on a weight loss program, they just love to see that dial move downward. But for others, it can be a true obstruction if they tend to go up and down slightly in their weight, or if it’s just not moving down as fast as they’d like it to.

Some Common Examples and Solutions
Take a look at some common obstructions that you may find yourself having to hurdle at one time or another, as well as, some possible solutions.

Stumbling Blocks: Food

Problem: You find you just can’t resist certain foods.

Solution: You are the gate-keeper to your home. You should determine what comes into it. If there are certain foods that you find you cannot eat in moderation, then keep them out of your house. Don’t believe in "forbidden foods." If you like cheesecake, then you should be allowed to splurge on occasion. But if having a whole one sitting in your refrigerator is too much for you, then don’t have it in your house. Instead, order a slice when you go out to eat. Better yet, order one slice and share it with someone.

Many experts believe that cravings are real, and have a physiological basis. But you can beat the craving. If, for instance, you’re longing for something sweet, like a pastry which is a carbohydrate, then try squelching it with a healthier carbohydrate, like half of a small whole grain bagel with a little fruit spread. The bagel is more nutrient dense and lower in fat and calories, and it will probably satisfy your desire.

Stumbling Blocks: Time

Problem: Finding enough time to workout or attend meetings.

Solution: To manage your time you need to do only one thing: plan. You need to have a plan that you can stick to. But you don’t just wake up one morning and think, "I’ve got it!" Like any good plan, it takes time. One of the first things you should do is, over the course of several days, write down all your activities. By doing this, you will see just what activities actually produce results, and which ones are just "busy time." You’ll be amazed at how much wasted time we generate each day!

Next, write down your goals - both short term and long term -and decide which activities contribute to your meeting these goals. Begin to weed out those that don’t. Prioritize the events in your life, and make "to do" lists. This includes stay-at-home moms - you’re doing a job, too, and although children certainly have a way of throwing a wrench into even the best laid plans, it helps to have a flexible schedule to go by. Often, being able to cross things off your list is a good motivator, too!

Stumbling Blocks: Money

Problem: Health club fees, cost of meetings and prepackaged plan meals, or recommended supplements are too costly.

Solution:Managing your money can be handled in much the same way as managing your time. Plan it out. Begin by asking yourself, "Where am I spending my money?" Keep track - write it down. Then decide what items or activities are necessities, and which could qualify as being more frivolous. How many times during the week do you eat out? Is that daily cup of java really necessary? Cut down on the "extras."

Another thing to look at when we’re talking finances is the actual program you’ve chosen. What expenses go along with it? Initiation fees, weekly meeting fees, cost of prepackaged food and supplements.....the list goes on and on. Is there another program or plan that is less expensive, but that has a proven track record for success? It may simply involve making an appointment with a dietician and/or personal trainer to get you going on the right track. Is a membership to a gym necessary, or can you stay motivated and get the same results by working out at home or outside, either by yourself or with a buddy?

Stumbling Blocks: Weather

Problem: Foul weather prevents you from getting to the health club or weekly meetings.

Solution: Have a back-up plan! Have some necessary exercise equipment at home, including weights, videos, and your favorite piece of stationary equipment, so that in a pinch or times of adverse weather, you can still workout. Good weather for ducks? Then get your rain gear out! Another option if you just can’t stand to get wet is to mall-walk. Many malls actually open early for walkers.

If your weekly meeting gets canceled, ask your leader if it can be rescheduled, or try contacting members of your group and set up a time to get together informally later that week - go for a walk together or just socialize. Even if they can’t, just the phone contact will help give you a boost of motivation.

Stumbling Blocks: The Scale

Problem: The numbers on the scale don’t move as fast as you’d like them to, or, they seem to go "two steps down, one step up."

Solution: One option is to throw the scale out! Although weight is important, people tend to put too much trust and worth on it. Your weight on the scale can vary day to day, or even within the same day, depending on how much you’ve eaten at a meal and how much fluid you’re retaining.

Weight training will add muscle, which is heavier than fat. So although you may be losing fat, you’re adding muscle. With the right equipment and a properly trained and experienced practitioner, body fat analysis is a better indicator of weight management. Or you could take measurements of your body - hips, thighs, waist, arms, chest - every couple of weeks.

If you’d rather not get into so much number-keeping, then base your progress on how your clothes feel. Have you gone up or down a size? How about that belt - have you been able to tighten it up more lately without giving yourself a hernia? Or, how do you feel overall? Do you feel healthier? Can you walk further than you used to and still breathe? Have you been able to shave some time off that mile? There are many ways to keep track of your progress. And if you decide to keep the scale, remember, there’s no need to weigh yourself every day. If you must step on the scale then remember, once a week is plenty.

Stumbling Blocks: Food

Problem: You find you just can’t resist certain foods.

Solution: You are the gate-keeper to your home. You should determine what comes into it. If there are certain foods that you find you cannot eat in moderation, then keep them out of your house. Don’t believe in "forbidden foods." If you like cheesecake, then you should be allowed to splurge on occasion. But if having a whole one sitting in your refrigerator is too much for you, then don’t have it in your house. Instead, order a slice when you go out to eat. Better yet, order one slice and share it with someone.

Many experts believe that cravings are real, and have a physiological basis. But you can beat the craving. If, for instance, you’re longing for something sweet, like a pastry which is a carbohydrate, then try squelching it with a healthier carbohydrate, like half of a small whole grain bagel with a little fruit spread. The bagel is more nutrient dense and lower in fat and calories, and it will probably satisfy your desire.

Stumbling Blocks: Kids

Problem: Since having kids, you just can’t find a good time to workout, let alone the time to make healthy meals. Weekly meetings or a trip to the gym are out, especially for those who may be nursing and cannot leave the baby with anyone else.

Solution: Children sure do change our lives, but you can still find the time and the resources to workout. First of all, if you’re breast feeding, you need to be careful about what you’re eating; a low calorie diet should not be undertaken. Seek the advise of a registered dietician.

If you want to do the health club scene, then choose one that has a nursery, or classes for new moms that allow baby to come in with you. If that’s not an option, then consider bringing baby in tow. A front pack, back pack, or sling work great for carrying baby at the gym or while hiking. A stroller, is great for those outside runs or walks. Workout while baby is napping, or set him in his infant seat while you exercise - he’ll probably love to watch you! And if you find you can never get a full workout in? Do it in bits and pieces throughout the day. Remember, anything is better than nothing!

In place of meals, consider snacking or grazing throughout the day instead. The trick here, though, is to make healthy foods available. Buy premixed salad, precut veggies, fruit, whole grain crackers, bagels, and cereals, reduced fat cheese, nuts and seeds, yogurt...easily accessible foods. And don’t forget the water! Save sport drink bottles, fill them half-way with water, and stick them in the freezer. When you need a drink, fill it up the rest of the way with water, and voila! You have a nice cold drink that won’t have you running to sink for refills every fifteen minutes.

Stumbling Blocks: Family and Friends

Problem: They tell you that you don’t need to lose weight, bring foods that they know you’re trying to avoid into the house, plan activities during the time they know you have meetings or normally workout, and overall just jeopardize all your attempts at weight management.

Solution: Be open and honest. Explain to them why you’re doing what you’re doing, and how it makes you feel when they don’t support you. Ask them why they don’t - sometimes it stems from the fact that they are afraid of the change and what may develop out of it. They may fear you becoming too confident and not having as much in common with them. They might know that they’ve got changes in their own lives to make, and aren’t ready to face up to them yet.

Invite them to join you in an effort to improve their overall health, too. And if they still insist on acting as a stumbling block? If it’s someone who doesn’t live under the same roof as you, then you may have to try to avoid that person. In the case of a child or spouse, keep chugging away the best you can. Once they see how much better you feel about yourself, your attitude will rub off!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

How Much Do I Have to Work Out?

That depends on what you plan to accomplish by working out. If your goal is to complete the Ironman Triathlon or compete in the Mr. Universe contest, then you know that you had better workout intensely and often. If, however, the goal of the exercise program is to raise your level of health somewhat, then the answer gets a little tricky.

The Standard
Most fitness professionals are still proponents of the standard recommendation: "exercise three or more times per week at a heart rate of 60-90 percent of maximum for at least twenty minutes." This certainly isn’t a bad recommendation, especially since it’s been well known for years that habitual inactivity is associated with increased death rates, but there is some very good data that suggests that surprisingly modest levels of physical activity will provide ample stimulus to improve overall health, lower chronic disease risk factors and increase longevity. In recent years, sedentary lifestyle has been elevated to the disease risk status comparable to other risk factors such as high blood cholesterol, blood pressure and cigarette smoking.

Modest Levels of Activity
In 1995, two very interesting articles were published on this topic in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The first sent shock waves through the fitness community when it announced that intense exercise wasn’t needed for health benefits. The article, which was co-authored by some of the most prominent researchers in health and fitness, suggested that if people could incorporate 30 minutes of total physical activity throughout the course of the day, the result would be a 12% decrease in mortality in the United States. The activity, the panel indicated, need not be structured, intense or even resemble "exercise" in any way. Such everyday activities as walking, gardening, taking the stairs, etc... are excellent candidates to get the total minutes of activity up to the recommended 30 per day.

The twenty member panel that came up with the recommendation was convened by the Centers for Disease Control and pointed to the growing body of research indicating that the health benefits of physical activity are linked principally to the total amount of activity performed. The panel’s recommendations were endorsed by the American College of Sports Medicine, but in no way should suggest that individuals who are currently performing more intense exercise should back off. What it does mean, however, is that even modest levels of physical activity, even if it isn’t intense enough to result in optimal fitness, has a strong positive influence in lowering the risk of many chronic diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, certain cancers, diabetes, stress/anxiety and depression.

The Second Article
The second JAMA article seemed to contradict the first when it reported that health benefits and lifespan were advanced by vigorous, but not by moderate exercise. This study used data from the study of over 17,000 Harvard Alumni which just ten years previously had caused a stir when it reported significant health benefits of moderate physical activity. This particular study, however, classified participant’s exercise intensity by self-reports. Subjects categorized as vigorous exercisers were compared with a group that included both moderate and low intensity exercisers.

The well-known "law of diminishing returns" my have been at work here, resulting in the appearance of health benefits only in the vigorous exercise group. Previous research has shown convincingly that the health benefits of exercise are not as dramatic in intense exercisers when compared to the large gains that are possible in beginning exercisers. For example, in subjects who improve their fitness level from unfit to moderately fit, the decline in premature death is as much as 40 percent. In those exercisers who progress from moderate to high fitness, however, the decline in premature death rates is only about 15 percent.

And the Moral of the Story Is...
It is certainly a confusing issue, but the moral of the story is that small amounts of physical activity are better than nothing at all and that more intense exercise is even better than that. The distinction between optimal fitness and optimal health must be kept in mind. Health benefits can certainly be attained via modest intensity physical activity accumulated throughout the day (burning 2,000 calories per week is recommended), but fitness benefits must be obtained via higher intensity exercise more along the lines of the good old ACSM recommendations (20 minutes, 3x per week, at 60-90% of maximum heart rate).

Does Exercise Increase Your Need for Vitamins and Minerals?

Exercise participation can increase your need for many nutrients, most notably water and energy. Whether vitamin and mineral needs are increased as well is still an issue of some debate. While some nutrients are almost certainly needed in higher amounts by intense exercisers, some nutrient requirements are probably no different for athletes than for couch potatoes. And, some nutrients can be thought of as specifically tailored for exercisers because they may improve athletic performance, yet have virtually no benefits for sedentary folks.

Because athletes and avid exercisers need to compensate for the high energy expenditure of training and competition, they generally consume more food and a higher number of calories than the average person. The extra calories serve to support the energy needs of exercise and maintain adequate energy stores of glycogen in the liver and muscles. The fact that you’re consuming more food to provide those needed calories also means that you’re getting an increased intake of vitamins and minerals - with the assumption that you’re making wise food choices and selecting those with a high nutrient density.

Although the increased energy needs of exercise are usually satisfied by a higher intake of the energetic nutrients (carbohydrates, protein and fat), it is important to keep in mind that vitamins and minerals play a vital role in the metabolic processes which are responsible for extracting the energy from foods. In addition to their role in energy production and storage, vitamins and minerals function as crucial co-factors for synthesis and repair of muscle tissue and red blood cells, and for protection of many tissues from the damaging effects of oxidative stress.

Energy Metabolism
A number of micronutrients, most notably vitamins in the B-family, play a critical role as co-factors in energy metabolism. As co-factors, B-vitamins function as parts of enzymes involved in converting carbohydrates, proteins and fats in to energy. In some cases, B vitamin intake is tied to energy intake and protein intake. For example, the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for three B vitamins; thiamin (0.5 mg), riboflavin (0.6 mg) and niacin (6.6 mg), is based on increments of 1000 calories consumed - (based on a 2,000 calories per day diet). Daily intake of another B-vitamin, B6, is based on protein intake (0.016 mg per gram of protein) because of its involvement in protein metabolism.

Thiamin is needed for metabolism of carbohydrate and branched chain amino acids (BCAA) - both of which play important roles in energy and fatigue during exercise. Riboflavin is necessary for the production of two key energy-generating enzymes - flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD) and flavin mononucleotide (FMN) - which are needed during the metabolism of glucose, amino acids and fatty acids for energy. In addition to the role that vitamin B6 plays in amino acid and general protein metabolism, B6 also has crucial functions in energy production from carbohydrate - as in the conversion of lactic acid to glucose in the liver and the release of muscle glycogen to the bloodstream as free glucose.

While nutrient requirements based on energy intake may appear to be confusing, the good news is that, with a balanced diet and an adequate caloric intake, your B-vitamin intake is likely to take care of itself. The bad news, of course, is that if you’re satisfying your caloric needs with empty calories or highly refined or processed foods, there’s a chance that your intake of B vitamins is sub-optimal.

Feelings of Tiredness and Fatigue
Excessive feelings of tiredness and fatigue in athletes can sometimes be linked back to inadequate dietary intake of B vitamins, iron or carbohydrates. While vitamin B supplements and carbohydrate rich foods are often an effective and safe nutritional approach to combating fatigue, iron supplementation is not something to be taken lightly. Unless iron deficiency anemia is documented by a laboratory test (plasma ferrin analysis), high dose iron supplements should be avoided unless specifically recommended by your physician. In men, high does iron supplements can rapidly build up, with the potential for promoting tissue damage in heart, liver and muscles. If you think that you might need a bit more iron in your diet, a more prudent approach to boosting iron stores would be to consume an additional 100 mg of vitamin C at each meal to increase iron absorption.

Free Radicals and Oxidative Damage
Intense exercise can increase oxygen consumption 10-20 times over resting levels. A side effect of elevated oxygen consumption, however, is the generation of free radicals (electrically charged particles) and "oxidative stress" - which can damage tissues and cellular membranes. In defense of body cells and tissues, the body produces a variety of antioxidant enzymes that help to counteract many of the damaging effects of free radicals. In mounting its own antioxidant defenses, the body uses a number of minerals, such as zinc, copper, magnesium and selenium, in manufacturing enzymes to counterbalance the damaging effects of free radicals. In addition, other nutrients, like vitamins C and E, contribute to the body’s antioxidant defenses. Vitamin E is one of the most important fat-soluble antioxidants - providing crucial protection for cell membranes and internal cellular structures. Vitamin C, a water-soluble vitamin, performs important antioxidant functions within the blood and fluid compartments within and between cells of the body.

Immune Function
Both exercise and nutrition are known to influence the activity and responsiveness of the immune system to varying degrees. In most cases, moderate levels of exercise tend to bolster immune function, while extremely high intensity exercise and ultra-endurance events can sometimes temporarily suppress the immune system. In a similar manner, an inadequate intake of certain nutrients can reduce the response of immune system cells. In particular, vitamins A, B6, C, and E play a role in immune system function, such as maintaining the activity of specialized immune system cells like natural killer cells and CD4 cells.

In competitive athletes, a higher intake of vitamins C and E may help reduce their susceptibility to respiratory infections, colds and influenza - particularly following intense competitions such as triathlons and marathons.

Exercise / Nutrition Interaction
The relationship and interaction between exercise training, nutrient intake and athletic performance is incredibly complex and not well-understood. It is generally assumed that regular intense physical activity elevates somewhat the requirements for B-complex vitamins and vitamins C and E. It is also well accepted that the preferred route of satisfying this elevated requirement is through an increased consumption of whole grain carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables and low-fat meat and dairy products. Common dietary sources of the B vitamins are enriched grains - which typically add back the B complex vitamins at 25-100 percent of the RDA levels. Historically, highly processed foods, such as white rolls, white rice, honey and jam have been used in feeding studies to induce generalized B vitamin deficiency. In some cases today, however, highly processed foods, because of the enriched flour that forms the base of many of these foods, represents a significant portion of the B vitamin intake for many athletes. Other dietary sources are: Thiamin - pork and legumes, Riboflavin - eggs, lean meats and milk, vitamin B6 - chicken, tuna, beans, brown rice.

The Role of Supplements
Nutritional supplements may be warranted in many situations, particularly in cases of dietary restriction for weight loss or to attain a certain body weight goal. As general rule of thumb, a daily caloric intake of less than 1500 calories per day is unlikely to include a wide enough variety of foods to meet minimal requirements - so some form of dietary supplementation is often necessary.

True deficiencies of most B vitamins are rare in athletes consuming a mixed diet. Because of their role in energy metabolism, however, even a short period of sub-optimal intake can impair energy output and compromise athletic performance. In the case of B-vitamins, a sub-optimal intake of one is usually accompanied by a sub-optimal intake of others. A combined marginal intake of several B vitamins would be expected to impair physical performance in a matter of weeks and lead to more severe conditions such as anemia, muscle weakness and depression following prolonged periods of inadequate intake. In such cases, a multi-vitamin or B-complex supplement would be warranted.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Fitness - A Lifestyle Approach

So often we are caught up in the moment and lose our perspective. We tend to push ourselves harder, demand more and expect more. Sometimes, we reap the results we aim for - sometimes our body just can't adjust. In those times, muscle stiffness and soreness aren't uncommon, especially if you 're pushing to excel. For most of us, these aches will ease within a day or two and are usually nothing to worry about. When you push a little too hard, chances are you'll wind up with a sport related injury.

How can you protect yourself against injury before it happens, yet reap the highest potential your body has to offer? First, it is imperative to understand that fitness and health are not dependent on weight or body size, but a composition of aerobic conditioning, flexibility, a balance of muscular strength and conditioning, and wholesome, balanced nutrition.

No Pill Can Provide These Benefits
The myriad of health benefits that accompany the incorporation of an aerobic exercise program in ones lifestyle is truly overwhelming. By comparison, what type of pill can increase your longevity, increase the amount of "good cholesterol" in your blood, help stabilize your blood glucose level, decrease your disk of cardiac arrest, decrease your risk of certain types of cancers, and in general, help you feel better about yourself? With a steady diet of aerobic exercise all of the above can happen. The key to your success is to be slow and steady. Do not try to do too much at once, and remember, keep it interesting…be creative.

Stretch to Protect
Stretching, in its many wondrous forms, is just one of the safe guards you can take to help protect yourself from injury. Stretching both pre- and post-workout will provide an increase in your range of motion and thus increase your strength, speed and balance. Remember, as the muscles strengthen as a result of exercise, they also become tighter. There is no quicker way to get hurt than to push your body before the muscles are warm, the tendons stretch, and the joints are lubricated.

Incorporating Weight Resistance
A weight resistance program that supports your goals, provides a balance of strength and conditioning and encourages flexibility is critical in your development as an active being. By learning proper technique, form and the program fundamentals of resistance training, you can increase the likelihood of being able to distinguish between ache and injury. Therefore, you are able to modify your program and incorporate the changes that will strengthen your weaknesses and prevent injury. Remember, technique and program design are more important than being able to "lift the stack".

Premium Performance and Optimum Results
Racecar drivers don't set track records and win races with faulty plugs and watered down gas, nor can you expect to perform well without premium fuel in your tank. A diet rich in complex carbohydrates, loaded with fruits and vegetables, and washed down with copious amounts of water can make the difference between another noble try and a personal record. Depending on your event and goals, your diet should be designed to provide you with the optimum nutrients activated at the optimum time.

Remember, playing it smart and injury free doesn't happen by chance or accident, you need to plan on being successful, whatever your aspirations are!

Lunch Date: Noontime workouts

How would you like to get on the weight machines without waiting in line, and gain the undivided attention from the staff at the gym? How about reclaiming your evenings and a better body to boot? If that's not motivation to start working out at lunchtime, then we're not sure what it's going to take. Why not make a date to start noontime workouts today?

Does Golf Count?
Ask anyone at the gym why they're there and you're sure to hear familiar reasons. Baby boomers keen to keep with physical demands from their kids, office jocks on the corporate basketball team who don't want to get injured, women aiming to feel comfortable in a new swimsuit, and of course, those who say 'I just want look good' or 'feel better about myself".

If asked, 'Do you exercise regularly?' would you answer 'Does golf count?' If so, you are probably among the thousands of weekend warriors who drag your feet through the week without exercise in your routine and try to make up for in on the weekend. It's time to incorporate exercise into your week - let your lunch hour change your routine and possibly, your life.

A Great Way to End the Day
"During lunch hour you will have energy," says Paul Juris, Ed. D. Director of New York's Equinox Fitness Training Institute. "Plus, it's good to get out at noon if you work in an office. You will feel invigorated and de-stressed, enabling the rest of the day to go smoother. In the middle of the day, gyms are less crowded, there's far less intimidation from hard core users, and you're likely to find you get better attention from the staff."

Working out at noon can also help prevent that "late-in-the-day un-motivated" attitude - when the hour grows longer and the day slides away - it's suddenly too late and you are too tired to do anything more than head home.

If You're Not the Work Out Type
But what if a party size bag of Doritos sounds more appealing than a work out at the gym? "Try simply moving on a regular basis" says Juris. "Even walking up to your apartment on the third floor is a first step. Do the math. Add this to walking instead of taking a cab, plus a weekend bike ride and you're on track. Small changes can often promote a sense of getting started without really committing. These in turn can motivate you to go further and get in to the gym."

What's the best way to overcome the feeling of lack of self-confidence and discomfort of unfamiliar territory? Any good exercise facility will do some type of initial assessment that gives you feedback about how fit you are. Put your ego aside and take advantage of these services. An introductory - and often complimentary - personal training session, free demonstration of equipment or a free fitness assessment can lay a good foundation for advancements and variety. And however fit or knowledgeable you may feel, you'll find that you'll eventually crave variety."

Being Busy is Not an Excuse
Earlier this year, Juris developed the 'Type A Workout' offered at Equinox Gyms, NYC. Designed for busy business people with limited time, it allows the participant to experience a full workout featuring flexibility, cardio and core stability in a forty-minute personal training session. The percentages spent on each area vary according to the individual. In 40 minutes, you can get a structured workout and feel invigorated instead of rushed in, rushed out and more tired.

The Bottom Line?
Before you head out for the vending machines or the nearest fast food outlet at noon, consider starting a lunchtime fitness routine. While you are puffing and sweating away, you'll have time to think about what you'll do tonight with all of your newly found free time.

Q & A: What is the Difference Between Edurance and Strength in Weight Training?

Q. What is the difference between endurance and strength in weight lifting?

A. As the song goes, "you can't have one without the other"; endurance and strength training go hand in hand. The difference is the route you choose to get you there or, in other words, training style.

  • For endurance lifting: You can start with light weights (3 -10 lbs), increased repetitions (15-20), and a brief rest between sets (30-50 seconds, maximum).

  • For strength lifting: You might try heavier weights (80% of max. on certain lifts), decreased number of repetitions (1-6) and a recovery time of 3 - 5 minutes between sets.

As you increase endurance you are also making gains in strength, and as you are increasing your strength, you are making gains in endurance...they compliment each other.

Ten Common Mistakes to Avoid at the Gym to Stay Injury-free

Worn out shoes.
Athletic shoes need to be replaced every three to six months - even indoor gym shoes may still look clean and new after heavy use. As soon as the support to ankles and arches breaks down, get a new pair.

Incorrect bench presses.
Doing too many repetitions, too many sets, with too much weight is a set-up for rotator cuff injuries, a painful shoulder condition.

Doing "lat pulls" behind the head.
This exercise, pulling down a bar to strengthen the latissimus dorsi muscles, can be a problem for people with tendon problems in the shoulders. I recommend that it is pulled toward the sternum in front of the body.

Too many risers in step aerobics.
Novices in step classes will frequently pile on the risers to look good in class, risking unnecessary muscle soreness the next day or heaven forbid, a knee injury or a stress fracture.

Overdoing stair machines.
The kings and queens of the stairmaster who tread on the machine for hours at a stretch, leaning too far forward, overworking their quadriceps, may be in trouble. To avoid injury, balance the stair machine's uphill effect by running downhill, or doing leg presses.

Excessive impact.
Whether your exercise is aerobics or running, pounding the floor too hard can lead to shin splints or plantar fascitis. Resting, cross-training and wearing proper shoes with orthotic inserts can help.

Lifting weights without a spotter.
A spotter is someone who can not only alert you to poor technique (such as locking your legs or holding your breath), but can also help you out of trouble by reminding you of your limits.

Failure to warm up and stretch properly.
Because of time factors, people probably don't do a thorough warm-up where they break a sweat and warm their tissues. Always warm up before you stretch, this makes tissues far less likely to be injured. When stretching, make it a relaxed, sustained movement, not a bouncing stretch.

Wrong settings on weight machines.
Make certain that the seat height and other settings are appropriate for you. Too high or too low a seat places abnormal stress on your joints. Many machines are designed for someone 5'9" tall. Have a trainer help you find a setting right for you.

Unqualified staff.
Check your trainer's resume. Many groups offer certification or training, including the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the American Council on Exercise (ACE), and National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).

Q & A: Quick Tips to Firm Up the Stomach

Q. What are some good, quick things to do to firm up the stomach?

A. There are some great abdominal exercises you can do to help strengthen the torso such as crunches, crossover crunches, and reverse curls.

If you're just starting out these exercises, when done correctly, should provide an adequate challenge to your abdominal muscles. Be mindful when you are performing the exercises, move slowly (3 counts up, hold for 1 count, and 3 counts down.) Concentrate on proper form and technique. Remember, it's the quality of the movement not quantity that will help firm your midsection.

Unfortunately, no exercise can give you instant results. Results come from maintaining an exercise program over time. If your goal is to firm your stomach, a combination of cardiovascular exercise, resistance training, low-fat eating, and practicing portion control, are your quickest way to a flatter stomach.

Bodybuilding: Machines Versus Free Weights - A Comparative Overview

Often it is asked, "What is best to work out with, free weights or machines?" Of course, the complete answer is more complex than the choice of one or the other. The answer depends on what type of equipment you have access to, will you be working out with a partner or a personal trainer, your time availability, history of lifting, and your budget.

Access to Equipment
Let’s look at "access to equipment" first. This can be looked at as either working out of a gym or fitness center or setting up with your own home fitness room. Space availability and initial investment are two factors that will determine the set up of a home gym.

If you belong to a club or fitness center, you probably have access to both free weights and machines. Dollar per dollar, or minute by minute, you will reap more benefits using the free weights. Free weights provide additional physical challenges that are not available with machines. Challenges such as "balance and coordination" and "individual resistance" per body part (although some newer machines now have accommodated this difference) are a few of the benefits of free weights. With the balance element, not only are the major muscle groups engaging, but the secondary-supporting cast is working deep within the joint to provide stability. This element of stability and activation of the secondary musculature is a paramount difference between machines and free weights.

Usually, when someone is looking to develop their own home gym, I advise free weights because, ultimately, the cost is substantially less than purchasing a one piece, do-it-all total gym. The benefits of balance and coordination, the versatility of free weights, and usually, free weights are much less cumbersome.

The Buddy System
Working out with a partner can influence your decision.
With machines, when you are fatigued with the set, you slowly return the resistance to its starting position, safely. No partner is necessary because the resistance is safely built within the structure of the machine.

With free weights, when working out alone, you must return the weights to the floor in a "body safe" position; making certain that you do not jeopardize your body mechanics or anatomy in the process. It often works best to work with a partner so that they can assist you in your last reps; this will enable you to maximize your work out.

The Time Factor
If you have a time constraint, you can probably work out "more" with machines because you don’t have the issue of picking up and returning the weights to the rack. Usually, all you need to do is adjust the seat and weights and away you go. "More" doesn’t mean a better workout. As I mentioned earlier, you are not only working the major muscle groups with free weights, you are also working out the secondary cast of muscles that support the joint. This can translate into a cleaner and more productive lifting session, usually in a reduction of the time.

History of Lifting
With regards to "history of lifting", starting with machines is a nice way to begin for the novice. The simplicity of the machines usually makes it more user friendly than free weights. Free weights require learning techniques and patterns to avoid injury and maximize time investment. As a rule, the more seasoned a lifter, the more prone he or she is to gravitate to free weights.

Getting in Shape: Secret of Success

Success at fitness is easier than you thought, that is, if you learn from the mistakes of others and avoid their pitfalls. As a personal trainer and health consultant, there have been countless times that new clients list their fitness objective as "lose 20 pounds" or "get in shape". Great ideas but they will lead to meandering hours in the gym with little to show for your time.

Goals Are Essential
The question is: how do we define our goals so that we succeed? The simple answer is “quantify”. Make your goals definable “with a number”.

For example, “my goal is to lose 20 pounds”. This is so vague and open it means little. By contrast, “I will walk everyday and eat smarter”. Better than the first attempt but it still needs some work to make it happen for you. Your goal needs to be more quantifiable. Try this: “every morning by 6:15 am., except Wednesday, I will walk at least 15 minutes. If it feels good, I will walk longer”. Chances are, once you are out the door (the toughest part), you won’t even think about stopping after 15 minutes. You defined an exact starting time and an endpoint. That plan should be enough to coax you out the door. Moreover, while walking, “talk it up!” Let yourself know that you are in the midst of accomplishing a very difficult task. Give yourself lots of kudos and envision your goals’ positive outcome. If your goal is to decrease body fat, visualize yourself as a svelte person in an outfit that you admire. Or visualize yourself playing with your grandchildren as you sit crossed-legged on the floor.

Add in Fruits and Vegetables
As for the “eating smarter”. Why not start by “adding in” foods rather than saying, “no, I won’t eat snacks any longer”. Start by adding in three fruits and two vegetable servings daily. We can count the items and make specific plans to succeed. The other benefit is that we are saying, “yes, we can eat more” rather than the old pattern of always cutting foods out of our diet and saying “NO”. We will be less apt to gorge on high fat foods when we are filled with broccoli.

Getting in Shape
What does “get in shape” mean to you? It can mean a thousand different things to a thousand different people. Quantify. “ I want to be able to jog three miles by September 1, 2000. I will start by getting medical clearance and purchasing a pair of appropriate jogging shoes and workout apparel. I will entice my friend to enroll with me in the “morning sunshine” jogging class that meets three times weekly. If I can not attend a session, I will plan a make-up session at home within 24 hours”.

Be specific in your goals, specific in your plans, and your chances of success become less of a chance and more of a doable project!

Physical exercise is a journey into self.

The sad story is that the secrets of exercise remain a mystery to many. What is it that they have or know that you don’t? Whenever someone mentions their running or exercise passion, your response is always the same, you look at them like they are from Mars or Venus and say, "I don’t get it." Secretly, you wonder what you’re missing. Secretly, there are no mysteries of exercise, it is self-exploration.

The Journey
Physical exercise is a journey into self. We are in constant battle with ourselves. To move or not to move, that is the question. Over the years, we have developed a very keen and active system of avoidance. For example we may say, "I’ll try to get in a three-miler this weekend." From the moment we said it, we knew that we were giving ourselves permission to fail. "Trying" is a 50/50 proposition. "I tried to run this past weekend but there was a great movie and..." Practice this phrase; "try to stand up". What happened? You either stood up or you remained seated, there is no in-between land. You either do it or not, period. Know thyself!

Setting Goals
When we set specific goals and achieve them, we feel good about ourselves. It takes discipline and dedication, a strong desire to win (whatever our goal is), and the will power and determination to walk out the front door and jog or run or bike…. When we step out that door, we are immediately transposed into "the athlete". Bestowed upon us are the attributes that fit all athletes…disciplined, determined, a real achiever. We like that feeling! We believe we are doing something positive and feel great for being a doer.
Know thyself!

Stick to It and Survive
Our sense of confidence and heightened esteem will carry over into other areas of our life. Employment struggles become less of a burden because we know we have the tenacity to achieve, the ability to follow through, and the knowledge to make it happen. We know that we can stick to it and survive, more than survive, prevail and triumph! Know thyself.

Adopt Einstein’s pithy maxim: "energy begets energy".

Determining Your Target Heart Rate (MHR)

There are two methods in determining your target heart rate, one general and one that incorporates your resting heart rate.

Method One
Subtract your age from 220. The result is your maximum heart rate (MHR). This is the theoretical maximum that your heart can beat per minute. Based on your goals, you multiply your MHR by the target heart rate (THR) percentage you established earlier. For example, you want to improve your cardiovascular conditioning and decrease your blood cholesterol levels. You should exercise within 60-80% of your maximum heart rate.

Let’s say you are 30 years old:

-30 (Age)
190 or maximum heart rate (MHR). Multiply 190 (MHR) by 60% to determine your lower limit and then multiply 190 by 80% to determine your upper limit.

Results: suggested range of 114 beats per minute for the
lower limit and 152 beats per minute for the upper limit. When exercising, you should maintain your heart rate between 114-152 beats per minute.

Method Two
We establish your resting heart rate (RHR) by taking your pulse at rest by counting the beats for one minute.

Step 1:
(You are 30 years old and have decided to exercise at 60-80% of your max).

190 MHR (so far the same)

Step 2:
Now subtract your resting heart rate from the MHR and get 130 (known as the heart rate reserve - HRR).

Step 3:
Multiply your predetermined training ranges by the heart rate reserve (HRR) and add the RHR:
x .60 (%)
+60 (RHR)

x .80 (%)
+ 60 (RHR)

We established a range of 138-164 beats per minute. If you compare the ranges of method one to method two, you can see that there is a great degree of variation. Estimating the proper heart rate zone is critical to maximize your exercise time commitment. By incorporating your resting heart rate in Method two, you are personalizing the formula and adapting it to your current fitness level.

A to Z of Fitness

Aerobic exercise is the essential backbone of fitness and wellness. Defined as a rhythmic activity (including large muscle groups) that elevates your resting heart rate to the point that the body learns to adapt to the new imposed "stress" level. As a result of consistent involvement in aerobic activity (habitual exercise), biochemical changes occur. Additional blood vessels develop in the exercised limbs, carrying an increased amount of oxygen, blood and nutrients to the working muscle. Moreover, the muscles may increase in size, and subsequently, the bone thickens. Equally amazing, the heart beats fewer beats and produces the same amount of work as before. All this is a great benefit for getting out and doing something in the sun.

A rapid-movement type of stretching that should be performed by a select group of athletes. Unfortunately, this is the type of stretching that most of us grew up with and learned...repeatedly bobbing down to touch our toes with locked knees. This bobbing action elicits neuromuscular responses that are designed to prevent rapid stretching (or tearing) of the muscle. The end result: as we are trying to stretch the body, the body is saying "I will not allow that or you’ll rip the muscle from the bone." Because your muscles resist, very little is accomplished. Ball stretching is best suited for those involved in explosive sport activities such as sprinting and high jumping.

This is a fancy way of saying that when we lift something, the muscle(s) involved in the lifting shorten. Concentric contractions are the most prominent type of muscle contraction. A popular example is the biceps muscle; when we lift our groceries ofperson, chances are they possess a greater percentage of fast twitch fibers. Fast twitch fibers are explosive, powerful fibers that provide strong, explosive responsiveness. The downside of fast twitch fibers is that they can only perform for approximately one to three minutes, depending on the conditioning of the athlete. The by-product of fast twitch fiber activation is lactic acid. Too much lactic acid in the muscle will eventually shut it down.

Not necessarily a household word...although we all have certainly experienced it at one time or another. DOMS is an abbreviation for Delayed Onset Muscular Soreness. After an intense or varied workout, microtrauma or damage occurs at the biochemical level of the muscle. We experience microscopic tears and rips in our muscle fiber. Additionally, lactic acid may remain in the muscle area and cause discomfort Although both the microtrauma and the lactic acid individually may cause DOMS, the exact cause of the soreness is unknown. Within hours, the muscle begins to repair itself and strengthens. This is a natural phenomenon, nature taking care of itself. DOMS usually occurs 24-36 hours after the workout.

Occurs when a muscle is activated and force is produced as the muscle lengthens. Eccentric exercise is an important part of training because it challenges the muscle as it works with gravity. For example when running/walking down a steep hill, the muscle lengthens while contracting. The downside (no pun intended) is that there is a much greater amount of microscopic tearing of the muscle with eccentric exercise. Eccentric training should not be repeated more than once in a seven-day period.

One of several types of muscle fibers found in skeletal muscle. When you see a muscular person, chances are they possess a greater percentage of fast twitch fibers. Fast twitch fibers are explosive, powerful fibers that provide strong, explosive responsiveness. The downside of fast twitch fibers is that they can only perform for approximately one to three minutes, depending on the conditioning of the athlete. The by-product of fast twitch fiber activation is lactic acid. Too much lactic acid in the muscle will eventually shut it down.

We need to know where we would like to go in order to be successful. By writing down your goals, in specific terms, you can greatly improve your chances of success. A written goal has three times more likelihood of being accomplished than a plan that remains a loose collection of thoughts and ideas. Know what you want, write it down in realistic, doable steps, and then go get it!

We probably have said it, or at least, heard it, "it isn’t the heat, it’s the humidity!" We need to be very cautious when exercising in a hot, humid environment. High humidity decreases the efficiency of cooling our bodies. When exercising in hot, humid conditions, always drink more water, decrease your intensity, or wait until early morning or late evening for your exercise activity. Perhaps, work out indoors if humidity is oppressive.

Interval training is a great way to add fun and excitement to a program that is stagnant. Interval training is varying the intensity of your aerobic program, throughout the program. What I recommend to clients is to pretend you are an autocar. At each light pole, electrical poles, or mailbox (whatever works for you), shift gears one through five, each time increasing your pace. After fifth, decrease back down and walk at one, then repeat. It may appear odd but it is fun and different and it works to improve speed and endurance.

Some believe that jogging is a synonym for running but tell a runner you saw them "jogging" and they may be offended. Jogging is engaging in forward motion without the profound intensity exhibited in running. Perhaps joggers are less focused on performance, move at a slower pace, and do not monitor their performance or drastically pursue improvement in their performance. Some may say that when jogging — similar to race walking — there is always one foot in contact with the ground. As compared to running, part of the motion of the runner is "airborne".

Making a comeback under the name of Tae Bo, kickboxing has been around for some time. Kickboxing is appealing because it incorporates mental toughness, physical stamina, and a catchy combination of movements that keeps people interested, and often, helps them achieve the fitness results that they were seeking. The down side is that it requires a certain element of style and physical ability; some followers have been hurt attempting movements that are too advanced for their level of fitness or capabilities. If you like energetic movement that requires you to keep your mind on your task, maybe kickboxing is your key to better fitness!

Lifting or resistance training is becoming one of the fastest growing exercise activities. Numerous health benefits can be derived from a resistance-training program. More and more women are resistance training than ever before as a preventive measure against osteoporosis, cancer, and just to look and feel better. Make an appointment with a personal trainer or check out a local health club to begin your journey into improved health.

Exercise places an enormous amount of stress on the body. Training may bring on progressive fatigue, soreness, and eventually a decrease in sport satisfaction. Sport massage stimulates the circulation and loosens fibers that have adhered or been bound to each other. Sport massage also enhances lymphatic circulation, lubricating the muscle, decreasing friction, and removing toxins and acids. A deep, thorough massage should be perceived "like a workout", that is, drink plenty of water, stretch, and rest afterwards.

A balanced diet is critical to your effectiveness as an exerciser. Obtaining the proper nutrients prior to, during, and post an exercise event can provide rapid recovery and a heightened sense of enjoyment during the activity. Proper nutrition after an exercise event can restore your energy levels so that you feel ready to go before your next event. Eat a balanced diet and you will notice the difference!

The principle of increasing the load (intensity) of exercise to cause a further adaptation of a body system. There are many ways to apply the overload principle:

a) increase resistance
b)increase number of repetitions,
c) increase number of sets, and
d) decrease rest time between sets. Choose the best strategy that best suits your program goals.

A subjective rating of intensity of a particular task. On a one to ten scale, ten representing "hard" and one representing "very easy"; a rating of seven correlates with approximately an exercise level of 70% of maximum intensity. Why is this important? Numerous cardiovascular and biochemical changes can occur when exercising at the 70% level; there is really little need to push harder...unless competitively training. Probably the most important point, the ratings of perceived exertion scale is easy to learn and a lot less expensive than the investment in a heart rate monitor.

The large muscle group on the front of the thigh, responsible for the extension (straightening) of the knee joint. The quadriceps is possibly one of the most powerful group of muscles on our skeletal system. The quadriceps is important as a knee stabilizer and for overall leg and hip power.

A characteristic, sign, symptom, or test score that is associated with increased probability of developing a health problem. For example, people with hypertension have an increased risk of developing coronary heart disease. Risk factors are categorized as either primary or secondary. Primary risk factors are characteristics that we can not change such as our gender (for the most part), age, race. Secondary risk factors are attitudes and lifestyle-related-behaviors that we have control over. Smoking, engaging in physical activity, drinking alcohol, eating habits or not wearing a seat belt are all secondary risk factors. The goal is to focus on one risk factor and work at changing or eliminating that behavior.

The three S’s. These are the activities you would most likely find at your local health club. All are great activities for improving your aerobic fitness. The combination of the three S’s make-up a great crosstraining program. By alternating your workout, you continually challenge your brain and muscle to change and adapt to each new stress. Better yet, you can avoid overuse injuries and boredom by alternation your work out routine.

Identifying and personalizing your target heart rate is another critical area within fitness that separates the novice from the experienced exerciser. If you are going to spend your free time exercising, I want to make certain that you are doing it right and getting from it what I intend, that is, cardiovascular conditioning, blood chemistry changes, good feelings.

The first step in doing this is to decide your goals. If you are looking to improve your overall health and decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease, exercise within the range 60-80% of your maximum heart rate. If your goal is to "move" for the sake of calorie expenditure (weight loss), or when beginning a program, exercise around 40-60% of your maximum heart rate. These percentage ranges are referred to as your target heart rates (THR). Of course always check with your physician before beginning any exercise program. Learn
how to determine your target heart rate.

The "gold standard" of measures for body density. Determining body density and body fat as a measure of fitness and ideal weight is far superior to the widely accepted Body Mass Index (BMI) measure. Whereas, underwater weighing and body fat measures take into account lean muscle mass, BMI uses gross weight as its measure. Therefore, an athletic, svelte female may have an acceptable body fat measurement and still be classified as "obese" on the BMI rating.

The largest amount of oxygen that can be used by the body during hard work or exercise. V02 max. is a concept used frequently to measure the physiological efficiency of the body during aerobic exercise. The more efficient the body can use the oxygen inhaled, the higher the V02 max. Marathon runners, cross country skiers and other endurance athletes usually have a high V02 max. as compared to sprinters and weight lifters. VO2max. is predominately genetically influenced but can increase with training.

Vertical jumping ability is often used as a measure of lower body strength. Sports that require lower body strength like basketball and football use the vertical jump test as a performance indicator. Jumping ability in itself doesn’t necessarily make a quality athlete. Rather, the combination of coordination, quickness, strength and mental awareness do.

A warm-up is any type of physical activity of light to moderate intensity prior to a workout. Numerous types of warm-ups are available and it is important to find the one that is right for you. The goal of a warm-up is to increase the blood and nutrient flow to the soon to be working muscles. A warm muscle is much more pliable and malleable than a cold muscle; so you will get a greater stretch with less risk of injury. Try this: when you get out of bed in the morning, reach down and see how close you are to touching the floor. After being active for a few hours, try touching the floor again. You should notice considerable difference. The same principle applies when you warm-up prior to exercise. Step one: walk/jog for about five minutes. Step two: stop and spend five minutes or so doing some stretches that mimic the activity you will be doing. Step three: begin your activity for whatever duration and end with a more elaborate stretching routine.

Extreme sports fun is mixed with an element of dangerous adventure. From paragliding off the Rockies to helicopter skiing in Telluride, the X’tremist looks for challenge and a chance to defy nature.

A meditation and relaxation practice that incorporates stretching as its medium. There are many styles and practices of Yoga. Some may take on a mystic aura and others look and feel like a thorough and elaborate dimension of stretching. Either way, both are good. Knowing what you are looking for will help guide you in choosing the class that is right for you.

After a thoroughly exhausting workout in which we chase out the toxins and stress of the day, we look forward to some peaceful ZZZZZZ’S. For some, it is the “power nap” for others it is the “cover me up and don’t bother me for an hour or so”. Whatever style fits you, lay back and know deep in your heart that you deserve it!

Q & A: How Long Does it Take to See Results from Exercise?

Q. What is the best way to tone and how long does it take to see results from an exercise routine?

A. The best way to tone up your muscles is with weight training. There has been a lot of discussion about low weights and high reps for toning and low reps and high weights for building muscle. While the later is true, many women think that if they use very light weights that they will “tone” their muscles.

The fact is, that the only way to tone your muscles is to train them to failure (the last couple of reps should be hard to complete) which is something that you can’t do with extremely light weights. If you want to tone your muscles without necessarily getting bigger, you can perform 15-20 reps per set but the weight heavy enough to stimulate results.

If you already think that you look too big, you may want to lower the weight slightly and perform the 15-20 reps instead of 8-10 reps with the heavier weight. Most people will start to see results from their efforts in 6 weeks. Some people see results sooner and for some, it takes slightly longer.

Q & A: How can exercise help me gain weight?

Q. How can exercise help me gain weight?

A. If you’re a person who finds it hard to gain weight and even harder to keep it, then weight training is a must for you. When you add lean muscle tissue to your body, your overall weight will increase.

Don’t try to gain weight by eating foods that are high in fat. Don’t let your slim body fool you-thin doesn’t always mean healthy. Many slim individuals are surprised to learn that they have high cholesterol. Since they don’t tend to put on weight, they are less likely to eat foods that are low in fat.

Your first step will be to join a gym or higher a personal trainer who can design a weight training program specifically for your needs. Your next step will be to look at your eating habits to see if you’re taking in enough calories to support your everyday activities and exercise. If you’re already eating three well-balanced meals per day, try eating a healthy snack in between your regular meals. In other words, you should have two to three mini meals per day, in addition, to your regular ones.

Q & A: How do cardiovascular (aerobic) and weight training work together to achieve results?

Q. How do cardiovascular (aerobic) and weight training work together to achieve results? Are both important and why?

A. Cardiovascular exercise and weight training are both essential components of a well-balanced workout. On the health front, cardiovascular exercise is important for helping create and maintain a strong and healthy heart and lungs. Cardiovascular exercise also helps decrease body fat. Overweight individuals are at a higher risk of developing high blood pressure, heart decease, and even some forms of cancer.

Weight training, on the other hand, helps you develop more lean muscle tissue, which, in turn, burns more calories than fat tissue. Weight training also aids people in maintaining bone density, reduces the chance of injury, and adds to the quality of life.

On the cosmetic side (the reason some people exercise), weight training helps tone and define your muscles while cardiovascular exercise helps get rid of unwanted body fat so you can see those shapely muscles. If you’re doing one without the other then you’re missing out on some great health benefits and will probably not achieve the results that you’re looking for.

Quick Fitness Tips

Taking it to the next level...

To overcome plateaus in your weight management program, it is strongly recommended that you "move your body everyday." Do some type of activity: stretch, walk, lift weights, golf, tennis...something everyday!

Stretching your achilles tendon...

Eric Heiden, world famous gold medalist Olympian and Orthopedic Surgeon, suggests, if you do anything, stretch your Achilles' tendon. Achilles tendonitis is the most common overuse injury of the lower leg. To prevent injury, do lower body weight training and wear "motion-control" shoes that stabilize inward foot movement.

Train your brain...

The brain, like muscles, atrophies if unused. If exercised regularly (e.g., reading, interacting with others, etc.), your chances of maintaining an enhanced zest for life will be greatly improved.

Drink, Drink, Drink...

By the time you are thirsty, you have already lost 2% body weight, this leads to decreased performance and subsequently, lack of energy. Be sure to drink plenty of water before and after your workout.

Get a better fit from your fitness shoe...

Put the shoe on, point your toes up and tap your heel on the ground. This will settle your heel into the heel bed for the snuggest fit. Begin tightening laces at your toe area and work up to the ends of the laces to ensure an even amount of pull around your foot. But don't pull too tight!

Q & A: Is it OK to exercise at night?

Q. Is it “O.K.” to exercise at night? Will this affect sleep, diet, etc.? Is there an ideal time of day to work out?

A. The answer to all three questions is “yes”. It is “ok” to exercise at night and it may affect your sleep—for some people positively–for others, negatively. Each person must experiment and find what works for them. As for exercising affecting diet, it is an individual issue. Anecdotally, someone who is committed to an exercise program will make healthier choices in their diet And finally, “is there an ideal time to exercise?”, any time you can fit exercise into your schedule is ideal. Some find mornings the best time to exercise, then dinner meetings and evening engagements are not jeopardized. Others use their lunch hour to burn the calories rather than take them in. Find what schedule works for you and make it happen.

Q. No matter how many sit-ups and crunches I do, I cannot seem to flatten my lower abdomen. Any ideas?

A. A couple of things may be going on, additional abdominal body fat, being female, or doing too many crunches. First, all the crunches in the world can not offset abdominal body fat. You may have some beautifully toned and carved abdominals hidden beneath some belly fat. A sound aerobic program, smart, low-fat eating, and copious amounts of water will help with reducing body fat

Second, females have a little "safety pouch" of body fat just above the pubic bone; it is there for a reason…to preserve the species. The body fat protects the internal organs in case of trauma. Thirdly, too many crunches will actually increase the size of the abdominal area. The abdominals, like all muscles, will grow with exercise.

Q. Should I stretch before or after a workout?

A. Actually, both times are great times to stretch. Contrary to popular thought and the old school ways, stretching afterwards is preferred if it was one or the other. The muscles are much more pliable after a thorough warm-up and workout. A post-stretching regimen would garnish the greatest results. In a perfect world, a warm-up and modified stretch prior to your workout followed by a thorough stretching routine after your workout would be best.

Q & A: What difference does the exercise clothing I wear make?

Q. What difference does the exercise clothing I wear make?

A. The kind of clothing you workout in can make a big difference in how comfortable you are and how you feel about yourself while working out. The key is to choose styles that fit and please you, and fabrics that work for, not against you and your activity. You also must dress appropriately for the climate.

The first clothing consideration is your base layer (which is your only layer in warmer conditions). Most of us have a ready stock of cotton t-shirts, sweats and shorts, and they're a comfy choice for casual wear. But put cotton next to your skin during your workout, and it loses its comfortable status. Cotton holds moisture next to the skin, and gets heavier when wet. Wear fabric next to your skin that has moisture-moving or "wicking" properties. Technical fabrics that wick, such as Coolmax, Dryline and others, actually pull perspiration away from your skin to the other side of the fabric. Shorts, tank tops, and t-shirts are available in wicking fabrics, as are sports bras and socks.

In cooler weather, follow your wicking base layer with an insulating layer such as Polartec or Sanchilla, and top off with a wind-breaking layer that's water resistant and breathable. Layering affords you the ability to remove garments if you get too hot. Always wear a hat in cold temperatures - you can lose up to 50% of your body heat through your head.

The style of your workout garb may help - or hinder your performance. First, choose styles that raise your body confidence. Buy the colors and styles you like and feel confident donning to the world - even if you workout alone in your basement. Make sure your clothes fit properly, improper fit can cause rubbing or chafing. Go for a snug fit but not restrictive, and nix the baggy look entirely. You want your clothes to move with you, not get in your way.

Always try on your selections in the store before you buy - put on that sports bra and move the way you will when you're working out in it - that's the only way to know if it fits correctly.

A note on technical fabric care: wash your tech duds in powdered laundry detergent, as the liquid form can clog wicking fibers. Also, when possible opt for air drying your gear, as the heat from the dryer can shrink garments and damage wicking fibers.

Q & A: Q. What is the most effective aerobic activity?

Q. What is the most effective aerobic activity?

A. If you are asking “effective” as the one that burns the most calories, cross-country skiing and running score high. Both exercises use large muscle groups of the upper and lower body and are rhythmic in nature. The faster you run, walk, swim or cycle, the more calories you will burn per minute of exercise. Choose aerobic exercise that you enjoy.

Changing or rotating the type of aerobic activity will keep your body more responsive to exercise and will prevent boredom.

All things being equal, the most effective exercise is the one that you find challenging and that you enjoy; it is easy on your joints and muscles and can be shared with others.

Q & A: How many times a week do I have to exercise for it to be beneficial?

Q. How many times a week do I have to exercise for it to be beneficial?

A. Any exercise is better than no exercise. Research has shown that regular walking for as little as an hour or two a week can reduce the risk of heart disease. If you are a beginner, start off with 30 minutes of exercise two to three times per week and gradually increase the duration and intensity of your workout.

Q. My son wants to begin an exercise program to look better and lose weight: What should I do?

A. The best approach would be to begin with some form of aerobic exercise everyday. Aerobic exercise is going to provide the greatest caloric expenditure for the time investment. Once an aerobic program is established, he should begin a weight resistance program to develop lean muscle that will assist in the fat burning process. Based on your son's weight loss objectives, 60-70% of his exercising time should be dedicated to aerobic exercise.

Power of Walking: Getting Started, Technique

So you’ve put on a few pounds over the past few years and your feeling a little sluggish these days. You’ve told yourself so many times that you need to lose some weight and start exercising that it has become a mantra.

Over the years your mind has become the home of many excuses not to exercise; your too busy, it’s too costly; you’re too tired… You reminisce about what you could be doing with the money you’ve spent on unused gym memberships. It’s all too exhausting to think about. You want to do something to get fit but you don’t know where to start.

Here’s an easy way to get started on the road to fitness:

Start Walking!
Walking is a healthy, affordable and enjoyable way to start exercising.

  • Benefits of Walking
  • Increase Overall Cardio-Respiratory Fitness
  • Decrease Risk of Heart Disease
  • Reduce Body Fat
  • Tone Problem Area’s
  • Increase Endurance
  • Reduce Stress
  • Increase Energy

Begin gradually. Work up to a moderately brisk walking pace.

Duration and Frequency: Start off by walking 2 to 3 times per week, 20-30 minutes. If fat burning is a goal, you will want to gradually increase your walking time to 45 to 60 minutes. As you become fit, you will want to increase the frequency of walking to 4 to 5 times per week.

Intensity: Your walking pace will be an important factor in improving fitness. If fat reduction and overall improved cardio-respiratory functioning, (heart and lungs) are goals, you will want to start off at a moderately brisk pace. There are two ways to measure workout intensity, heart rate and the "talk test".

Heart Rate
When determining appropriate workout intensity, fitness professionals talk about heart rate training zones. If you are looking to reduce body fat, you will want to work in a heart rate zone that will allow you to sustain your walking without becoming breathless. The harder you work without becoming breathless, the more calories you will burn. A good starting heart rate range is 55 to 75% of your maximal heart rate, (220-age multiplied by percentage of maximal heart rate). For example, a 44 year old who wants to train at 65% of their maximal heart rate would want to get their heart rate up to 114 beats per minute or 19 beats per 10 seconds, (220-44=176 X 65=114).

Talk Test
A second and less complicated way to measure workout intensity is the talk test. This method is easier and can be used alone or along with heart rate monitoring. The talk test is this simple: exercise at an intensity that allows you to talk while you walk.

Staying hydrated throughout any workout is extremely important. Make sure you drink plenty of water before, during and after your walk. You can buy a shoulder strap or waist pack to carry your water with you on your walk.


You can walk in a way that is comfortable for you, but here are a few tips that will maximize the benefits of walking.

Hold your head high and keep your chin parallel to the ground. Walk heal, ball of the foot, through to the toe. Don’t forget to breathe!!! Breathing delivers oxygen to the cells and helps with energy production. Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth.

Pull in your stomach muscles. Keep your elbows bent at a 90-degree angle and swing your arms. Swinging your arms will make your walk a full body workout.


Stretching is a very important part of any exercise program and should be done before and after you walk. Stretching prepares your muscles for an activity, increases flexibility, decreases soreness and decreases the likelihood of injury.

Muscles respond better to stretching when they are warm so walk at a moderate pace for 5 to 10 minutes and then stretch. You will want to stretch the quadriceps muscles (front of the thigh), the hamstring muscles, (back of the thigh), and the calf muscles.

Quadriceps Stretch: Using a wall or tree as support for your left hand, reach back with the right hand and grasp the right foot or ankle. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

Hamstring Stretch: Bend over at the waist and attempt to touch the ground with your hands or stand on one leg and put the other leg up on a wall or table so that the leg is parallel to the ground. Bend over and attempt to bring your hands to your ankles or toes. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.

Calf Stretch: Using a wall or tree as support, place one foot behind you. Keep your back leg straight and your front knee bent. Lean forward and attempt to touch your hands to your ankles or toes. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.


Exercise is so important for you health. You don’t need to spend hours each day to enjoy the health benefits of exercise. Here are some ways in which you can get 30 minutes to one hour of exercise each day:

* Take the time to walk the dog in the morning and evening.
* Walk during your lunch break or meet with a colleague for a walking meeting.
* Take an after dinner walk with a friend or mate.
* Start a walking club. You will meet interesting people and will enjoy spending three extra hours a week outdoors. If you live in a climate that does not allow you to walk outside in the winter, go to the mall and walk. Many malls already having a walking club you could join..