Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Stability Ball Crunch Pointers

When doing ab curls on a stability ball (the big ones full of air), make sure you extend back over the curve of the ball, and only come up to where your head is just barely above parallel with the ground.

I see so many people start with their torso parallel with to ground (or higher!) and wind up almost sitting up on the ball at the top of the movement This pretty much negates the advantage of having a ball. You'd get a more intense ab contraction if you did regular ab curls on the ground.

Also, keep in mind that the closer together the legs are, the harder the move is. So legs together from heel all the way to upper inner thigh is the most advanced method of doing stability ball crunches.

Additionally, as with any ab exercise, keep the abs tight and engaged throughout the movement. When you don't let momentum take over and instead actively use muscle all the way through, the exercise becomes both more challenging and more effective.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

You Can't Cliff Note Lasting Fitness

The other day on Sparkpeople.com I posted this status update: "You can't 'Cliff note' fitness. If you only learn what you should do without the why, you won't stick with it because you won't know why it's important."

I have had many people tell me that they don't want to read a book or get informed about how to make their own diet or exercise plan. "Just tell me what to do and I will do it", they say. They'd rather not be bothered with taking the time to learn the details.

While, to a large degree, this kind of attitude is what keeps us personal trainers employed, it's also what tends to keep well-meaning people from reaching or maintaining their goals. Look, if a person doesn't understand the mechanics behind why what they are doing is working, they won't feel compelled to keep it up once they have reached goal.

I give long pause to eating buttered popcorn because I am fully aware of the reasons why the combination of carbs, fat, and sodium is going to cause a scale hike that will take a couple of days of disciplined eating and water consumption to undo.

You can't go into denial about stuff you have full knowledge of. This is a powerful tool in the battle of maintaining your goals once you have reached them.

I know it can be boring. At the age of 19 I started this whole weight-lifting thing. Back then we didn't have women's fitness magazines that were designed to engage the mind of a female. We had Flex and Muscle and Fitness- both geared primarily towards men. I would force myself to read the details in the articles that talked about why what they were suggesting worked. I read books on fitness and proper eating, forcing myself to pay attention in the more boring parts. After a while, as I started to understand more of the terminology, it got a little more interesting. But trust me, some of this stuff is still about as fascinating as reading the prescription information that comes with your antibiotic.

However, twenty-eight years later this discipline has given me a no-excuses ownership of the shortcomings that have led me to struggle with weight gain. This has been extremely facilitative in initiating change. Without this information banging around in my head, and growing as I have continued to educate myself, I am sure my struggle with excess body fat would have been even greater.

As a trainer, I love it when my clients ask questions. The people with the curious minds who inform themselves are much more likely to stick with the program and get good results that last.

So educate yourself. Turn into a giant two-year-old by learning to ask "Why?". Ask your trainer why you are super-setting chest press with step-ups. Look up the reasoning behind the eating plan you are using. Read articles. Read books. Don't blindly follow; Educationally follow. If for no other reason than to enable yourself to be able to make your own exercise and eating plan if, God forbid, you can no longer afford to pay for assistance.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

40-Year Key Study Flawed?

I recently read a very interesting article in my IDEA Fitness Journal, which is for ACE certified professionals.  (A great publication with cutting-edge fitness and nutrition information).  I was so happy when I was able to find this article online so that I could share it with my Better Body group on Facebook.  (If you want to join, search "Better Body" on Facebook.  It's a private group, so you will have to request to join and see the posts, but as soon as me or one of my admins sees the request, we'll add you.)

Anyhow, the article says "that 40 years of nutrition information from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey—the gold-standard database for such information—may be fatally flawed."

It goes on to explain (this is pretty interesting, if you ask me) "the authors said that it would be nearly impossible to survive on most of the energy intakes— the “calories in” and “calories out”—that participants reported. This misreporting of energy intake varied among participants; it was greatest in obese men and obese women, who underreported their intake by an average of 25% and 41% (716 and 856 calories per day), respectively."

Wow!  Those are some pretty skewed numbers in relation to what people are actually consuming.  And for 40 years they may have very well managed to make the "gold standard" flawed!  Amazing.

I find this pretty fascinating.  It puts a lot into perspective.  How many times have we either heard someone say or said ourselves "I  really don't eat all that much?"  The fact is that a vast majority of people weigh the amount that their caloric intake supports.  This is something you just can't run very far from.  Yes, there are rare exceptions, but the key word there is "rare".

The best defense against this is to log your foods, including calories, and be very honest about portion sizes.  Measure and weigh your food.  You might be surprised at how much less a Tablespoon or an ounce is that you thought.

Admittedly, I just cafeteria-styled that article and took the parts I wanted.  Here is the article in it's entirity.  I would encourage you to read it right here.

I'm a big believer in facing your circumstances.  If you get honest with the facts, you can make adjustments to see change in your health and appearance.

Friday, January 17, 2014

No, I Don't Juice

This morning, while purchasing frozen berries, my checker asked me if I juice.  (And by this I mean make juice in a juicer, not use steroids.... which I also don't do!)  She looked surprised when I told her no, I don't believe in it and asked why not.  I told her because everything I've seen about juicers shows that they leave the good stuff (the pulp) behind. 

Juicing seems to be the symbol of health and vitality lately, but in reality it's cutting one's self short of a lot of fiber and nutrients.  The whole fruit or vegetable is more healthy than squeezing the liquid out and leaving the solid behind.  In terms of heart health, colon health, cholesterol, satiety, and elimination, to name a few, the whole food is far superior to what you are left with when juicing.

Every time someone crows "I can get twelve servings of fruits and vegetables in one glass!", I inwardly roll my eyes.  Uh, that's not twelve servings, because a true serving would have the pulp.  That's like, maybe, 4 servings by the time you get rid of all the good stuff you left behind, and even then it's only partial nutrients.  They'd be better off spreading half of those twelve fruits and vegetables out over the course of the day.  The nutrition of six pieces of fruit or vegetable would be better overall, and it would be a lot less expensive.

So no, I don't juice.  When I do make a liquid with my produce, I blend.  That way, I get ALL of the food down me, and don't have to clean up a messy juicer when I'm done.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Double Meat Cheapskate

Here is a tip I use at Subway.  This will REALLY apply now that they it is January and they are selling all foot-longs for $5.

I like to get my turkey or ham 6-inch subs with double meat.  This is usually an extra dollar.  When I can get my sub in foot long for $5, it's less expensive than the 6-inch double meat. So I order it in the footlong, ask for a fork, and only eat half the bread.  I either use the fork to move the meat and toppings over to the half of the bread I am going to eat or (easier) eat them right out of the bread with the fork.  This isn't all about saving a buck, though- I also get double the veggies this way. And I'm always looking for more veggies!

Additionally, I always have local discount cards sold by our high school Band program that include a free drink with a footlong at Subway.  So by the time all is said and done, I have spent $5 plus tax for a double-meat sub and drink.

And, as I have said before, it's not waste to throw the bread away.  Would you rather put it directly into the garbage, or eat it and then have to go through the butt-pain of losing it?  Seems to me the garbage route saves a step.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Evening Up Your Weak Side

Almost all of us have one side that isn't as strong as the other.  Usually this is our dominant (writing) side for the upper body and, interestingly enough, the opposite side for your lower body.  This is because we tend to cross-brace with our opposite leg for our working arm.

At any rate, it's not usually much of an issue until you start working out in the gym.  Then, the difference can be frustrating, particularly when you look in the mirror as you progress and see more developed muscles on one side.  It can also be confusing as far as how to go about dealing with this in terms of weight lifting.

I have employed a method that, while not exactly rocket science, works. And it works safely.

There are two plans of attack, here, and they depend on if you are working both limbs unilaterally (individually) or bilaterally (together).

Let's take unilaterally, or individual, moves first.  This is a pretty strait-forward approach:  Do whatever the intended move is with the weaker side first, then match it on your stronger side.  So, for instance,  if you are able to do 15 reps of bicep curls with 10 pounds, you would move that same 10 pound weight to your weaker arm (in my case, this would be the left) and do exactly 15 reps- no more, no less.  Even sets where you fall short of your desired number of reps, you keep it the same.  For instance, if I were targeting 15 reps in my set but only got 13 reps out with my left arm, I would move that same weight over to my right arm and do the exact same number of reps I did with my left arm.  To help me remember how many I did on the first arm, I would count from 13 down to 1. (Yes, my memory can be that bad!)  Eventually you will get to where the left arm is about equal with the right.  Sometimes, you can even get it stronger.

In the case of bilateral moves, there are two different approaches depending on whether you are lifting two different weights with both arms at the same time (like a dumbbell press), or a single weight with both limbs (like a leg press).  In the former case (the dumbbell press), you would apply the same principle you did with the unilateral move and simply work both arms until the weaker arm gets as tired as you are targeting.  In the latter case (the leg press), you would do what my former trainer Ruben Sandoval of Fit To Be in Your Kitchen advised: "Pay attention to the weak side and your strong side will take care of itself".  So since my right side is weaker than my left on the leg press, I'm going to put ALL of my concentration into pushing with my right leg.  The left leg instinctively presses on it's own.  If it's a barbell bent row, I'm going to concentrate on pulling up with my weaker left side.  The right side doesn't need me to think about it, since it's been my dominant side my whole life.

Simple little strategies that can make a BIG difference in making your body symmetrical.  Tell me what you think!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Mental Prep for Weight Loss: Get Rid of Clothes That Don't Fit

With the New Year approaching and all of us beginning to think of our fitness goals for 2014, many are targeting weight loss.  I have a simple suggestion to get your mind in the right place to finally get smaller:  Get rid of your clothes that are too small you've been keeping around as "motivation".

I know this seems counter-productive.  Get rid of a motivator?  Ummm.......... How's it worked for you, so far?  In my experience, clothes that are too small just add to my guilt.  And when I feel guilty, I want to eat.  And when I over eat I don't lose weight.

If you can't bring yourself to get rid of them all together, pack them in a box and put them somewhere out of sight.  Like a top shelf in your closet or the attic.  I did this with a few pieces that I really loved and eight years later when I finally lost the weight (yeah, it took that long!) I got them out of storage and you know what?  They were embarrassingly out of style.  I was shocked at how tacky what I had idolized as "cute" was in present day.  I was able to shorten hemlines to make three garments more current, but everything else went into the donation box.

You might want to keep one thing, tucked away where you can't see it, for comparison to your former small size once you get to goal.  But everything else?  Buh-bye.

Another, closely related tip: Buy clothes that fit NOW.  I mean, truly fit.  Not that are just a skoesh tight because this time you are finally lose the weight.  But clothes that fit you right and make you feel as good about yourself as possible toDAY.  Why?  Because you'll be more likely to lose weight if you feel good about yourself, and it's hard to feel good about yourself when you also feel like a sausage.

So now you are thinking "If I buy clothes that fit and lose weight, I won't fit in them very long!"  I hope you are right!  It's not wasted money if it gets you moving in the right direction, is it? Plus, it's exciting to see the clothes you that used to fit get big.   Really.

Likewise, get rid of your clothes that are way too big as you lose weight.  I've found that people who keep their fat clothes around "just in case" always, and I mean ALWAYS, gain the weight back.  It's like they have given themselves mental permission to regain and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Again, maybe keep one really ugly thing in your biggest size that you would NEVER want to wear again to compare your new, smaller frame to.  But the cute stuff?  Yep- donation box.

Consider it an investment.  Why not give yourself every advantage to get into the best shape possible?