4 Things Women Should Be Doing in Their Fitness Training—But Aren’t

28 02 2011

4 Things Women Should Be Doing in Their Fitness Training—But Aren’t.


A Little Unstable…

14 01 2011

Greetings.  Hope everyone is well and that all New Year’s Resolutions are still intact.  I wanted to share with you today a way to get a little more out of your workouts in a little shorter time.  Take any typical resistance exercise such as bicep curls or lat pull-downs, add in an element of instability and you have increased the effectiveness of the exercise.  Let me explain further.

Think about doing a set of alternating dumbbell curls while standing on firm solid ground.   The instability could be added by balancing on one foot instead or, standing two feet on a thick foam rubber pad.  Now, in addition to working out the biceps you are working out your “core” muscles, those that stabilize the hips/pelvis, spine and shoulders.  The advantages to this are that you are working extra muscles important for balance and daily function, AND burning more calories for an overall more efficient workout.  Here are some more examples.

Try doing squats on a BOSU (look at Google Images), or almost any other exercise that you do standing flat on the ground, instead standing on a BOSU with flat side down.  You can also do sit ups sitting on a physioball or BOSU.  Some of these exercises may be a bit risky for injury for someone who has never done stability work, so using a trainer or spotter or work-out buddy is recommended initially.  Now for some other considerations.

I did a little web research prior to writing this and found a high percentage of articles recommending AGAINST stability training.  Most if not all of the negative reviews that I read were by trainers or those in a closely related field.  There was a definite consistent theme to their criticisms.   They all stated that you will not gain strength or muscle size with stability training and that training on solid ground is better for that.  My response is that I believe that is exactly true.  If your goal is to max out your bench press or curl, or you are wanting to bulk up, stability is NOT the way to go.  However if you are looking for toning and a way to add more trimming or fat loss to a resistance routine, improve the strength of core muscle groups, or just burn more calories in a shorter period of time, stability resistance exercise is a good choice.

Another criticism of theirs is that it is not safe, with most of these comments relating to using free weights, such as dumbbells while using a physioball.  The ball may burst, or you may topple off.  Again, valid concerns, but you can still do a lot of other exercises on the physioball without free weights, AND the physioball is far from the only prop to use to introduce an element of instability.

Bottom line:  My time for working out is much more limited at this time in my life.  I am looking for the most bang for my buck.  A few years ago I was able to lift weights 4 days a week for about 1.5-2 hours, and do about 30 min of cardio 3 times a week.  Now I workout with a trainer once a week for an hour, by myself once a week for an hour, and do cardio for 30 min 1-2 times a week.  I cannot bench or squat as much as I did with my schedule from a few years ago, but my body looks as good if not better, I maintain less than 11% body fat, and feel better with less workout associated pain, all with MUCH LESS investment in time.  I attribute this primarily to 3 things:  working out with a trainer once a week, using instability in my routine, and incorporating plyometrics as well (a subject for a future post).  I don’t care (as much) anymore what my max bench press is or how many inches my biceps are.  I want to be fit, feel good, have my wife say I have a cute tushy, and have others say, “boy you don’t look 43.”  So for me, instability it is.

Get Him to the Greek

30 12 2010

Hello to everyone as we wind down 2010.  For today’s post, thought I would throw out some info in support of “Eating like the Greeks.”  Many of you have probably heard of the Mediterranean Diet and that it is supposed to be healthy.  There are various studies which show that following such a diet likely lowers risk for cardiovascular disease, which includes heart attacks and strokes, as well as diabetes.  New studies also show that adherance to such a diet likely slows cognitive decline as well.  See here:  http://tiny.cc/fdlq9.  So that means that if we follow this diet, we should have lower risk of developing conditions like Alzheimer’s, possibly Parkinsons, and other forms of dementia associated with aging.  This lower risk is likely the result of the high level of antioxidants found in the Mediterranean diet. 

So what is so special about this diet?  Most (mainstream) diets touted as healthy today have several similarities.  Primarily all, including the Mediterranean diet, are a plant-based diet rich in fruits and veggies, that also recommend whole grain breads (more fiber) and cereals as opposed to the more U.S. traditional refined (white) bread, rice and pasta.  Typically saturated fat is limited as well.   Some specific recommendations more unique to the Mediterranean diet include the following:

  1. Stronger recommendation in favor of certain types of fat, or sources of fat, as opposed to the recommendations limiting fat.  Promotes lots of nuts and using olive oil in place of butter and margarines, so essentially a diet high in the heart healthy Monounsaturated fat, as well as polyunsaturated fat.
  2. A stronger recommendation in favor of fish, at least twice weekly, and against red meat, only a few times monthly.
  3. Probably a little stronger emphasis given to nuts and legumes (see #1 above.)
  4. The spices used in Mediterranean cooking not only substitute for less healthy butter and salt AND taste great, but often contain very healthy nutrients as well, such as different sources of antioxidants.
  5. And of course the Mediterranean diet includes red wine most days, which is helpful if you are able to limit yourself to about 5 ounces for women, and 10 ounces for men, daily.  We are learning more and more about the healthy effects of red wine (see Resveratrol) and other alcohols, ALWAYS IN MODERATION, all the time.

For more info on the specifics of Mediterranean diet see the Mayo Clinic website here:  http://tiny.cc/7bqgh.

So Happy New Year, and celebrate with a nice glass of red wine or two, instead of the shot of Jaegermeister!

Post your updates…

21 12 2010

In response to a special request, this entry will be where anyone can string in results they would like to share.  That way, we won’t have to look down the strings of several previous blogs to find the success stories that others are posting.  So let the fun begin…

Dashing through the snow…

11 12 2010

Hey for those of you who are looking to get fit and don’t want to give up running outdoors just because the temperatures are plummeting (for instance all the way down into the upper 50’s here in Arizona), here are some tips to lessen the pain of butting heads with Mother Nature:

  1. Dress in layers.  Innermost should be one of those wicking fabrics like silk or the synthetic polyesters or polypropylene.  Next layer is insulating, most recommendations I see are for fleece.  And the outer layer should be a wind and water resistant material, that could possibly have additional insulation itself.  Benefit of layers is you can always remove one if necessary.  Don’t be afraid to start just a little chilly, you will warm up quickly.
  2. Stay hydrated.  Winter weather, while obviously much cooler, is also much dryer.  As we work harder to stay warmer, we are loosing more moisture through our respiration, in addition to sweat.  Good advice to drink more water an hour or two before heading out to exercise, and carrying some water with you if you plan to be out for more than 20-30 minutes.
  3. Fuel the fire.  We also can burn extra calories exercising in the cold, so be sure and eat a carbohydrate-rich snack or meal a couple of hours prior to exercise if possible.  For prolonged outdoor activities, consider stashing a power bar or gel pack in one of your pockets to snack on during exercise.
  4. Be careful.  Carry your cell phone with you in case of trouble.  Much less daylight hours in the winter so have some reflective material on your outer layers.  If exercising in the snow, wear darker or brighter colors.
  5. Law of Traction.  When running in snowy or potentially icy areas, wear shoes with extra traction, with nubs, or shoes such as trailrunners.
  6. An ounce of prevention.  Take care to avoid some potential hazards.  Cold dry air can be a trigger for some with asthma.  Start with small sessions of exercise, preferrably with a buddy and close to home, and take your inhaler with you.  Also, in really cold weather, remember to cover all exposed areas of the skin to avoid frostbite (not a really big problem here in Phoenix).  That means wearing gloves and face masks.  And for goodness sakes, do as Grandmother B always said and wear a hat.  Lots of heat lost throught the noggin’ so choose one made of fleece or other insulating material.

Happy Running.

The Benefits of Circuit Training

29 11 2010

Hello everybody.  I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  Perhaps some of you are still staggering through the days in tryptophan-induced semi-comas from eating left over Turkey!  Well for those of you who were serious about making some healthy changes for yourself, and using our 25 year class reunion as motivation, here are some tips on using a form of training called circuit training.  Circuit training uses both aerobic conditioning and strength or resistance training combined to maximize your results in a shorter period of time.  Because of the essentially limitless possibilities of how a routine can be designed, almost anyone can do this.   For instance, if you are a jogger and really don’t like lifting weights or don’t want to go to the gym, you can pause your jogging at regular intervals and incorporate exercises like push-ups, crunches, lunges, etc over several cycles to get a more complete workout.  Conversely, if you love lifting and spend lots of time tossing iron around at the gym, try jumping rope, step-ups or jumping jacks in between sets (instead of going all Arnold Schwarzenegger in front of the mirror).  Briefly, here are the Bene’s of Circuit Training:

  1. You get both aerobic exercise and strength/resistance training in a single work out.
  2. Beginners avoid the monotony that may contribute to discontinuing a new exercise program.
  3. Regular exercisers add variety which will stave off boredom, lack of focus, and possibly injury.
  4. Is one of the best ways to alter body composition quickly, i.e. decrease body fat and increase lean muscle mass!
  5. You don’t need a gym.  In fact you don’t even have to use any equipment.  Body weight will suffice.
  6. Because movement is constant, and you can exercise your entire body, it is one of the most efficient ways of exercising out there.  Great workouts in as little as 15-20 minutes.  More bang for the buck, or a higher Return on Investment, for the bargain conscious!
  7. It is completely customizable.  You can adapt your current workouts to a circuit format.  Experiment and adopt your favorite routines.
  8. Even within the concept of circuit training you can have variety, doing several different “circuits” over time.  Use a few different ones in the gym, another couple tailored to jogging, some to do at home in front of the TV or in the backyard, and maybe even one to use when you are on the road, in a hotel room.  Endless possibilities!

So give it a try, Google or Bing things like “equipment free circuit training, circuit training while traveling,” etc.   Hope this helps.  Please don’t hesitate to comment.  Happy Holidays!

Making it a little easier

17 11 2010

Hey for those of you want to start, or continue, to improve your health in anticipation of our 25th class reunion this next summer, (IT WILL HAPPEN, I JUST KNOW IT!), here is a couple of tips related to working out in a gym.  Consider choosing a gym that is incredibly convenient to get to.  Choose one very close to your house or work.  I had a membership to a pretty nice gym here in Scottsdale that was about 2.5 miles from my house.  Had that membership for over a year and went maybe 3 times.  Then a 24 Hour Fitness opened up across the street from our neighborhood, and that was close enough to get me there.  Going one step further and getting a personal trainer really got me working out regularly.  A personal trainer can be expensive, but that cost was part of what got me committed.  I didn’t want to spend that type of $$ and then waste it.  Plus, I got remarkable results from just two 50 minute work-outs weekly, one with the trainer, then one on my own, doing the same sorts of exercises as I did with the trainer.  That can stretch a package of 25 training sessions out to almost 6 months.  Hope this helps some.   Make the choice to make today a great day!

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