June 24, 2012

A Plea To The Fitness Industry

I am posting this on the blog with hopes you will add this link to your Facebook page, and that you will forward it to any fitness professionals you know.  Next week I will resume my usual posts.  Thanks for your help:

To all fitness professionals:
For those of you lucky enough to work in the fitness industry, I ask that you start to question about where the industry is going.  I know research backs the effectiveness of metabolic/interval/HIIT/boot camp type training programs.  I have read the studies promoting the effectiveness of HIIT for even deconditioned people, and yet I ask if this is the path the fitness industry should take. 
Look at any of the brochures for fitness conferences and you will see at least a three to one ratio of hard core type classes compared to those designed for the less fit.  Certainly a few sedentary people may brave (and succeed at) high intensity classes, but, we are preaching to the converted.  Most of those who love these high intensity workouts do not need us.  They would work out on their own.  We are missing the huge inactive population, and I believe, turning them off.  High intensity may be effective, but it is not going to draw the sedentary into fitness.  The beauty of HIIT may be that you can achieve better results in less time, but many in the industry seem to promote it as an excuse to workout harder and harder.
If you are only out to make money then you may not care whether we reach the inactive.  However, most of us got into fitness because we love it and want to share it with and help others.  We cannot reach the majority by training the minority.  I am not saying to give up on HIIT or on training the fit. However, we do not need to spend so much of our time finding new ways to make exercises harder and more complex. The inactive make up the majority of our population.  If we work together to find a way to reach them, we will have more clients and have made a real contribution to the health of our nation.

June 10, 2012

Think Small For Big Results

Most people fail at their dieting or exercise resolutions because they have set unrealistic goals.  Upon hitting a roadblock (going off a diet or missing an exercise session), they give up, using the detour as an excuse to pack it all in.
Instead of setting huge goals that few can achieve, aim for success by finding small changes that you can actually stick with.  Try to make just one change a month, and your success will keep you motivated, making a healthier you.
  • Give up one soda a day: This will save you over 54,000 calories a year, which can help you lose 15 pounds!
  • Drink two glasses of water before one meal each day.  You are likely to eat 100 calories less at that meal; adding up to a loss of another 10 pounds a year.
  • Switch the milk in your coffee to skim, or even better; drink it black. That small amount of whole milk (or cream) can add up to 100 calories a day.
  • Go for a 20 minute walk after dinner.  Even a leisurely pace can burn up to 60 extra calories, adding to a loss of about 6 pounds in a year.
  • If you are exercising, add one interval session a week.  Intervals (see post from Sept. 30, 2010) will help you burn more calories before and after exercise.
These are just a few ideas of relatively easy ways to improve your health.  The important thing is to pick something you can succeed at.  Try just one at a time, and you will find that thinking small can lead to big results.

June 4, 2012

Vote For This Blog

This blog has been nominated for best blog of 2012. Scroll to the bottom of this page to "25 Best Fitness Blogs", click on "view this list", scroll to me and "like" (that's your vote).

June 3, 2012

Beware The HIIT

High intensity interval training (HIIT) is getting lots of press.  For good reason; it works. HIIT involves alternating short intervals of very high intensity with longer intervals of active recover or rest. Training like this (previously reserved for athletes) can get you results in a shorter amount of time.  New studies are showing that HIIT can be effective for clinical populations, including those with cardiac disease or metabolic conditions such as diabetes.
This does not mean that those with high-risk conditions should be running to Boot Camps, CrossFit, Tabata, P90X or other such high intensity programs.  You need to be prescreened by a physician (he or she should know the specifics about the program you plan to follow) and carefully monitored.  Ideally, such a program would be undertaken one on one. 
If your only option is a group class, make sure you watch before you participate.  In a group class it is easy to be caught up in the high intensity environment. "Workout until you vomit" is the unbelievable mantra of some of the more extreme instructors and participants.  Keep in mind that a high intensity interval for you may be a fast walk, even if the rest of the class is sprinting.  Resist any pressure to do more than what is appropriate for you. Many seem to believe that pain and sweat are indications of a good workout.  Check to see if there is air conditioning.  If you are in a high-risk category, exercising in the heat is not a great idea.  The instructor should be watching participants and correcting their form.  One hundred pushups is not a great achievement (and can cause serious injury) if they are done with poor form.
If your doctor clears you, and you opt to choose HIIT training, you need to build a base layer of fitness first, gradually increasing training about 10% a week.  Once you start the HIIT program, do no more than one day a week at first.  Two and perhaps three sessions can be gradually added in, but never more than three.  This goes for the already fit, your body rebuilds with rest; no one should be doing more than three HIIT workouts a week. You still need to do moderate intensity training another three to five days a week. The benefits of HIIT can be great, but the risks are serious and real. CrossFit instructors joke about “Uncle Rhabdo”, a reference to a potentially life threatening condition rhabdomyolysis, where the break down of muscle (from too intense exercise) can cause kidney damage and possibly death.  Train responsively with a good instructor and you can get the benefits without the risks from HIIT.