January 30, 2012

Rescue Your Resolutions

How are those New Years Resolutions?  Have they been banished to the guilt region in the back of your brain?  The problem is most likely not with you, but with your resolutions. There is a good chance your resolution was too broad (lose weight, exercise more), or extremely difficult (lose 50 pounds, exercise an hour every day).

Change your goals to specific, doable and positive goals and they will be much easier to keep.  Instead of vowing to lose weight, focus on small changes you can make to get there:
  • Drink 2 glasses of water before each meal. (Studies have shown this helps people lose weight).
  • Eat with your non-dominant hand. (This will cause you to eat slower, another proven way to eat less).
  • Use a smaller plate.  (Most people will be satisfied with less food when the plate is smaller).
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables.  (Instead of depriving yourself, fill up on healthier foods).
Find what motivates you and use that as an incentive. Write your goals down, and tell people about them.  Program yourself for success; it is not too late to get back on track.

January 23, 2012

Best Ab Exercises For The Waist

As requested, I will resume my description of the “best” abdominal exercises (see post from Dec. 11, 2011) according to muscle activity.  Below are the four rated highest for working the obliques (the muscle fibers that run on an angle and help make up your waist):
Number one and two are the Captain’s Chair and Bicycle, which I discussed in the post from Dec. 17, 2011.
Number three is the Reverse Crunch: Perform this on your back with your legs in the air.  Use your abdominals to lift your hips off the ground.  If done correctly the range of motion will be very small.  The major drawback with this exercise is how it is performed.  I see people using momentum to fling their legs up by their heads.  Not only does this minimize abdominal involvement, it also puts stress on your back.  Make sure to keep the movement very small and controlled, think of bringing your heels to the ceiling, rather than up by your head.  Tight hamstrings can make this hard to execute.  If that is the case, try it with your knees bent, but keep your heels close to your thighs to avoid using your legs.

Number four is the Hover or Plank: This exercise is great for the abs and for your back.  (See post from Nov. 14, 2010 for tips on form).  Those with wrist issues will need to perform this from the elbows.  Once you can hold a plank for at least 20 seconds in perfect form you can try these variations:
      Maintain the plank and lift one leg without letting your hips shift. 

     Add a stability ball:  Place thighs on the ball, forearms or hands on the floor and hold the plank. To advance, walk out further so your shins are on the ball.
Once you are good with that, you can place your elbows on the ball and plank with your feet on the ground. 
These variations are very hard, so make sure your plank is perfect before you advance.

January 14, 2012

Does Yoga Wreck Your Body?

The New York Times has done it again:  Another Sunday magazine article that seems to focus on discouraging us from exercising. This article, titled "How Yoga Wrecks Your Body" ( gives a very negative picture of the practice. The author blames yoga instructors and "ego" for many yoga related injuries.  He also indicts yoga itself, citing evidence that several common yoga poses are high risk, and should not be performed at all. It is true that some instructors (and students) have turned yoga into a competitive sport.  There are instructors who push students (and students who push themselves) past an area of comfort to actual injury.  Many poses are controversial, and should not be attempted by those with certain risk factors.  The plow and various headstands are the most contested positions for all participants.  Strokes and nerve damage are rare but possible dangers.

However, it should be clear that any type of physical activity has risks, and that anything performed to an extreme will eventually cause an injury.  This is why it is crucial to find an instructor who will honor your physical limitations.  Even more essential is for you to listen to your body, IF IT HURTS DON'T DO IT!  Yoga has many mental and physical benefits, take the time to find a true teacher, focus on your own progress and you should be able to avoid injury.
(For more on yoga see the post from Oct. 27, 2011)

January 4, 2012

Only Superhumans Can Keep Weight Off?

My clients have been buzzing (and discouraged) by the Sunday New York Times article: The Fat Trap. (  The author cites several researchers in reaching her conclusion that one needs to be superhuman (and pretty obsessive) to keep weight off.
I will not deny that it is even more difficult to keep weight off than to lose it in the first place.  However, the author does not discuss two significant factors that can help in weight maintenance.
The first is the fact that increasing your muscle mass will increase your metabolic rate.  This means you will burn more calories, even while at rest.  “The Fat Trap” only discusses aerobic exercise.  Lifting weights is a key component to weight maintenance, and it is hard to understand why the article does not discuss it at length.
The second fitness strategy ignored is interval training. (See post from Sept. 30, 2010). Working at alternating periods of hard and easy exercise is another great way to increase your metabolic rate when you are NOT exercising.
Those who want to lose weight and keep it off need to incorporate weight training and intervals into their workouts.  That does not mean it is easy to keep the weight off, but focusing on steady state aerobics only will mean longer, less effective workouts.  For those who are frustrated by the weight struggle, keep in mind that you will still get the health benefits of exercise, even if you do not lose weight.  Only ten minutes a day will decrease your risk of diabetes, cancer and heart disease.