July 29, 2012

Less Can Be More

The longer days of summer offer a chance for many to step up their fitness programs.  Others find that changed schedules and vacations make it harder to maintain their exercise.  A frequent question I hear is, “how long does it take to lose my conditioning?”
The good news is that research shows that your fitness level can be maintained if you keep your intensity up.  If you totally stop exercising, the reversal of your fitness gains can occur within one to two weeks.  However, even if you workout for shorter periods of time, and less frequently, if you workout just as intensely you will not lose your conditioning.  This goes for aerobics and resistance training.  For example, if you usually do two sets of lifting weights four days a week, you will not lose strength if you only lift one set two days a week, but lift the same amount of weight.  Do not allow missing a few workouts to deter you from your goal; workout just as intensely and you will be able to get right back on track when your schedule allows.

Swank Ann M. Maintaining Your Fitness Gains. ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal. 2012:16(4):35-36.

July 22, 2012

Five Ways To FIre Up Weight Loss

!. Give up on the “magic pill”.  Despite the infomercials, there are no quick fixes or easy ways to lose weight. Those who lose weight quickly usually put it right back on, and add a few pounds in the process.  Ask yourself how long it took to put the weight on.  Take it off slowly and you are more likely to keep it off.
2. Write it down.  Keep a journal of what you eat, as well as your physical activity.  Most people underestimate how much they really eat.  Keeping an honest account will make you more aware, and inspire you to eat less: Seems most people do not want to write down that second piece of cake, so a journal helps them avoid eating it.
3.  Measure your food until you are familiar with appropriate portions (  Read labels carefully.  A quick glance of a product might show only 100 calories per serving, but the package that you demolish in 5 minutes may contain two servings.
4. Get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day.  You can do it all at once, or in 10 minute chunks.  Exercise helps raise your metabolism (which slows as you lose weight), and plays a crucial role in keeping the weight off.
5.  Before you eat anything, focus in on your hunger.  Are you really hungry, or do you just feel like eating?  Are you stressed, tired or bored?  Are you eating out of habit (tv goes on, food goes in)?  Identify the real reasons causing you to eat.  You may find that you are not really hungry. Change the habit causing that trigger and the hunger (and pounds) will melt away.

July 14, 2012

Beware The Smith Machine

I will brave it and take on another fitness staple; the Smith Machine.  The Smith Machine is a weighted bar that locks into place to allow you to perform squats, bench presses and lunges.  It is theoretically safer because the bar can be secured at any point during the movement, giving you the “safety” of lifting heavy weights without a spotter.
The main problem with this is that it locks you into one plane of motion.  There is a good chance that this is not your natural movement.  Performing a squat or lunge in such a fixed pattern can lead to back, neck and knee problems.  A bench press in such a fixed position leads to stress on the shoulders.  Since the machine helps balance and stabilize the weight, the tendency is to lift heavy, compounding the problem.  In addition, our bodies are made to move in 3D, and the straight up and down motion takes that away. 
If you have been relying on the Smith Machine, switch to dumbbells or barbells.  Without the machine to lean on you may need to lessen the weight, but you will work your stabilizing muscles, increasing your balance and coordination. 

July 1, 2012

Do You Tell Rational Lies?

Are you telling yourself rational lies?  Rationalizing is something we all do, but it is especially common in health and fitness.  However, most rational lies are just dressed up excuses. Below are some rational lies you may be telling yourself about fitness:
  • “No time to workout”.  Do you think all those who do workout have more free time than you do?  Of course not, they have simply prioritized exercise. Take a realistic look at your schedule; how many hours do you spend at the tv or computer?  You may choose to keep sitting, but admit that the screen is your priority, not that you have no time to exercise.
  • “I’m too tired to workout.”  Most of us are exhausted from our stressful and busy lives, but exercise is a better energizer than caffeine.  Force yourself into “just five minutes” of activity, and you will probably find you feel good enough to complete a workout.
  • “I have back/knee/hip/etc problems.”  Exercise makes almost every physical ailment better.  Find a reputable trainer and learn to strengthen the muscles supporting the injured area, you will feel better all over.
  • “I can’t afford a gym”.  This may be true, but walking and running are free. If you are on medication for diabetes, high blood pressure or cholesterol, sticking with a fitness program can lower your medical costs as your need for medication goes down.
Rethink your rationalizations, are they a real barrier or rational lies?  Take responsibility for each one and you will be left with no excuses and the results you want.