October 29, 2012

No Power? No Gym? No Problem!

Use this quick workout to keep you fit when other options disappear:

Warm up 3-5 minutes by slowly walking up and down your stairs and around your house.
Sprint up and down the stairs 5 times.
Walk slowly around the house for 1 minute.
Do 20 squats. (See this post for tips on form:
Repeat the stair sprints and the walk.
Do 20 back lunges each leg.
Repeat the sprint and walk.
Do 20 perfect form pushups (You can use your knees or a wall if your form is not perfect for all 20). (See this post for pushup form:
Repeat the sprints and the walk.
Do 20 triceps dips.
Repeat the sprint and walk.
Do a plank for 20 seconds. (See this post for form on planks)
Repeat the sprint and walk.
Keep walking until your heart rate and breathing are normal.

(No stairs? Do 45 seconds of jumping jacks instead)

October 21, 2012

Should You Work Out Before Breakfast?

My friend’s daughter overheard a fitness instructor tell his students to “skip breakfast so they can burn more fat”.  I am happy to say that her daughter was horrified by this, and she is right: For years some exercise professionals have been telling their clients to work out before breakfast to burn more fat.

The reverse is true.  Recent research shows that you burn more calories and fat when you eat a light breakfast before exercise.  Metabolism increases during and after the session for those who eat, compared to those who fast. 
In addition, you should know that the area of nutrition advice is a big controversy in the fitness industry.  Nutrition is critical to a healthy lifestyle and weight loss, and trainers should be up to date with the latest information.  However, only a RD (Registered Dietician) is qualified to give specific dietary advice.  In most states, anyone can call him or herself a nutritionist, but there are strict standards for RDs.  Be very wary when listening to advice (or buying supplements) from a personal trainer who is not a RD.
For those who are just not hungry in the morning, you should know that study after study show that those who eat breakfast weigh less and have a lower rate of diabetes than those who skip.  Try eating something light, such as a yogurt and fruit or whole wheat toast with peanut butter, you will have a better workout, burn more fat and calories, and feel better all day.

Paoli, A., Marcolin, G., Zonin, F. Neri, M. Sivieri, A., and Pacelli, Q.F. (2011). Exercising fasting or fed to enhance fat loss? Influence of food intake on respiratory ratio and excess postexercise oxygen consumption after a bout of endurance training. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 21, 48-54.

October 14, 2012

The Myths Of Zumba

When people learn that I teach Zumba, they often say, “I can’t do Zumba, I’m too uncoordinated (have two left feet, can’t shake my hips, can’t dance etc).”  I tell them they are missing the whole point of Zumba.  Zumba is not a dance class; it is a party that happens to be a great workout.  The beauty of Zumba is that anyone can do it.  There is no right or wrong as long as you move. Some instructors abuse the principle and turn Zumba into a hip-hop or dance class.  If you stumble into one, try another; do not assume all Zumba classes are like that.
Music is a big part of Zumba’s success (most health clubs, gyms and fitness studios now have Zumba classes on the schedule).  Zumba gives each instructor freedom to choose his or her own music, but classes should include 70% international music, especially Latin based, with the remaining 30% up to the individual instructor. This is why Zumba can seem so different from class to class, the music is an essential part.   
The main drawback with Zumba is the failure of the Zumba fitness company to insist that each instructor be certified for group fitness. It is highly recommended, but not required.  Unfortunately, some of the licensees do not follow this recommendation; therefore, you should check that your instructor has an accredited group fitness instructor certification before taking class.  
Zumba has branched out by adding other variations, including classes geared to baby boomers, seniors and kids.  The Zumba Toning classes use light weight training sticks that purport to increase toning and sculpting.  The drawback is the sticks are really too light to do much “toning”, and the use of weights (even light weights) at a fast tempo increase the risk of injury.  This is especially true when unqualified instructors lead; I have watched Zumba Toning classes that make me cringe.
One other myth you may have heard is that Zumba burns 800 calories a class.  Zumba is a great workout, but you would have to work at an extreme high intensity to burn that many calories.  Most Zumba classes combine a mix of high and low intensity songs to give an interval like effect.  One would need a full hour of all high intensity songs to come near to burning 800 calories.  Zumba burns about as many calories as any aerobic type activity (spinning, treadmill etc).  Take Zumba because it is fun and a great aerobic workout, but don’t expect to burn 800 calories.  Their catch phrase is “party yourself into shape”, try it, you may find it to be true.

October 7, 2012

Rest For Better Results

The most neglected part of many fitness programs is rest. Progress from training occurs during the recovery, not from the training itself.  Your body repairs and strengthens during rest; continuous training can actually make you weaker. If you workout every day you need to create a routine that allows your muscle groups and energy systems to recover.
This does not mean you need to rest every other day, but you should cycle your workout to ensure this repair process.  This is why many lift weights every other day, or split their routine to work different muscle groups on different days.  Cross training is another great way to aid your body.   Running and swimming are great aerobic complements, as they each stress different muscle groups.  If you do high intensity workouts then a rest day is even more essential, some may need more than one day to recover.  For those who feel too guilty to take a day off, aim for active recovery after a high intensity day.  This means an activity that is easier for you, for example if you ran some serious hills, take an easy jog on the flats.
For athletes and those into serious training, periodization is highly recommended.  This is a structured program that can be up to a year long.  It breaks training into various cycles that can include preparation, competition and transition.  This allows for maximum preparation and rest to avoid injury and overtraining.  You can do this with any activity.  One example is to lift heavy weights for strength one cycle, and for endurance (lighter weights with more reps) on another cycle.  However you choose, just make sure to give your body adequate rest (including sleep), and it will thank you by showing you better results.