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.