Blog Posts

Learning To Balance

Balance is something many of us take for granted. Think about how you balance. Has anything ever taken away your balance? An injury or loss of hearing, sight, or a case of vertigo? Have you tried incorporating balance into your fitness training and noticed how much your core engages? Balance can be a great way to begin adding functional activity into your daily life.

Balance is learned. Many of us don’t remember learning because we were little when we learned to walk. If we can learn it, we can unlearn it, so we must keep doing it to keep our balance strong. Balance is done not only with the body, but the eyes and ears. If we lose a sense, we will have to adjust how we balance.
Start noticing when do you need to hold onto the railings, walls, things around you? Begin trying to hold on less. If you already have great balance begin incorporating unstable surfaces into your workouts, such as the BOSU, balance discs, and foam rollers.

Balance can be incorporated into many different movements, but my favorite way to teach balance is to have people brush their teeth while standing on one leg. Your body will adapt very quickly, as this is more a nervous system adaptation. Once you’ve got it on one leg move to your other. You may find you balance easier on one leg than the other. Each of us has a dominant side so it is normal to feel as though you are better at balancing or using one side or the other. By practicing balance on both sides of the body you are creating freedom to move.

More freedom in movement will translate into moving more, and you’ll be feeling great about your body’s ability to move. Once again, your body – absolutely amazing!

How to Stretch Effectively

Photo Credit: www.Sunlighten.com   

Many people fail to stretch because they just don’t know how. The basics of flexibility are easy and once you get them down begin adding them into all your workouts for maximum benefits. Stretching may seem mild in comparison to your normal workout but don’t forget to stretch your muscles will thank you.

When you begin flexibility training start slow. Begin by holding stretches for 15-30 seconds at the point you feel tension in the muscle. Do not bounce as you hold these stretches, you’ll run the risk of hurting muscle tissue. We have a built in response system for muscle tension, and bouncing can damage muscle tissue by moving it beyond the threshold too quickly. Stretch all muscles you worked.

Try foam rollers to help you relieve soreness and deepen your stretches.

Many times stretching can help soreness. There are many theories surrounding muscle soreness, but stretching seems to relieve it. Begin by moving around or taking a hot shower or bath, allowing blood to reach muscle tissue, stretch muscles that are sore using the above guidelines, and feel better.

Remember: 

Warm Up Your Muscles
Start Slow
Move to the Point of Tension
Hold for 15-30 Seconds
Repeat Stretches 2-3 Times Per Muscle Group
AND Don’t Ignore Your Flexibility Training!

What is Flexibility Training?

Many times this fitness component gets left behind. Here’s why you should take this part of your exercise routine seriously.

Flexibility refers to our joints’ ability to move through their complete range of motion. This is very important to our fitness level because it allows us to perform the movements we want to do. If you are an athlete you’ll want to have the ability to move through full range so you are at the top of your game. If you are moving for health you’ll want to train for flexibility because supple joints allow you to move well.

Inadequate range of motion is the cause of many injuries. Lower back pain is often associated with tight abdominals, hip flexors, or hamstrings, and the more you hurt the less you move. The less you move the more tight your muscles become and the less you move. See where this leads?

As a component of fitness, flexibility training should be done after a workout, when the muscles are warm. Stretching after a workout allows your muscles to learn. They remember how far they stretch, which is how our flexibility grows. Performing flexibility training when the muscles are warm allows them to capitalize on the blood they have, creating more stretch safely.

Flexibility does have limits. We are genetically programmed to be more or less flexible, but not an excuse for not training. You will build upon what you have. Remember fitness is about where you are, not where you think you should be or where your neighbor is. It is all about you.

Feel like you need a tool to help you reach your flexibility goals? Try foam rollers.

Who Are You Changing For?

Many of us decide it’s time to do something different in our lives. But is this decision truly ours? Or has someone else put the idea we need to change into our head? When deciding to change honestly answer these two questions.

Once you have convinced yourself you are ready for change you must determine who you are changing for. The obvious answer may not be the real answer. Deeply look at your motivation, are you the reason for the change, or is a parent, spouse, doctor, sibling, friend, etc. Is it someone else’s idea or voice you hear?
If it is not you; commitment is likely to wane. Next determine why you want to change. As with the question of who, why is a critical factor in realizing a goal. Determine your why. Get passionate about it. Taste it, feel it, begin to live it.

Immersion into an idea is supported by research and will lead to change. In other words, find as many ways to support your new lifestyle, new activities, new thoughts, rewards, support, new ideas about how you could change your habits to support your new direction.

The more pathways you create in your brain to support this change the more likely you are to succeed. Believe with every cell in your body and it will manifest.

Change Is Hard

But that doesn’t mean you can’t make it happen. You can and why not start today.

Change is hard. It is very hard. The truth is, changing is harder than staying the same, regardless of how I might beat myself up for failing to change. It is easier to continue smoking, eating poorly, or being sedentary even when I know these things are bad for me. Our food choices are based on their ability to fuel our bodies, release “feel good” hormones, and satisfy us, and we seek out activities that provide us pleasure. Pleasure is a personal choice which may not have anything to do with what is best for us.
If you are going to make a change in your life you have to be ready for discomfort – at least for a short while. In the beginning it will seem easier to go with your old routine rather than try a different activity. It will also feel better (comfortable) to stick to the old. Starting something new usually requires a little risk, a little uncertainty, and a little discomfort. The key is to be ready for this discomfort and accept it. Deal with it and use it to your advantage.

Be Accountable

Who is responsible for our health? Ultimately we are. Why then are so many people looking to blame other’s for their weight issues?

Accountability. A big, very important word, accountability. In our society of give me’s, I deserve’s, and I want’s we have lost some accountability for our actions.

America was founded on hard work. Our streets of gold were for the taking if one wanted to work hard enough. Now, I know if we look at our history from a social perspective there are many items to consider, but if we look just at the concept it is very simple. If I work hard I can do anything.

In our culture I believe we have lost direction when it comes to working hard on our fitness. The International Health, Racquet, and Sportsclub Association posted a survey on American exercisers. It was very interesting to see that a whole demographic is still looking for a quick fix pill.

I meet many people who wonder why they cannot lose weight. “I try so hard”, they complain. Then we look at their actions. They eat large portions, have long Friday night happy hours with friends, lots of soda pop and fast food choices, and no planning for meals or workouts.

They spend their money on other items, rather than a gym membership or home workout gear. Sometimes I wonder where the rational is.

For example: If I drink a 20 oz bottle of pop each day. At approximately $1.50/pop, I could afford a gym membership, more than 6 workout videos, a small set of dumbbells, 2 yoga kits, personal training, a pair of shoes, or some workout clothing.

Hmmm…is it any wonder more than 60% of our population is overweight? Until we begin to take responsibility for our actions weight will continue to climb.

The Motivation Game

Motivation comes and goes. So how can you stay motivated to reach your fitness goals? It has more to do with looking inside yourself than outside yourself for rewards and recognition.

When people hear what I do for a living they tend to grab a part of their body – one they are not particularly fond of – and say, “what do I do about this?” which is then followed by, “ I know I should, but…”, which can then be followed by_________ (you fill in the blank) – excuses.
We know what to do, our bodies tell us they like to move. We watch it, read it, hear it, but we choose not to, why? We know we will feel better, we know we will look better, and we know we will build confidence, which will lead to many positives about ourselves, so why don’t we move?
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Motivation is a tricky component to reaching a goal. It can be so strong one day and absent the next. This means you must constantly find ways to motive yourself. You must be creative here… no pressure right? It can be very simple. Decide that today I am going to walk for 20 minutes, and then look for ways to fit it into your day. Can you wake up a bit earlier, walk over lunch, after work, with your children or partner, is time critical today – do you need to break it down into increments? Look at the number of possibilities you have to reach the goal of walking 20 minutes. Enlist a friend or a supportive person to help make sure you reach your daily goal. (We will be discussing goal setting next week).

If you can step outside your comfort zone, make sure you are driving the change, and determine why you really want to change. Once you have done these two activities you have created a solid start to reaching your goal. Add passion and attention to your daily habits mixed with a lot of positive feedback and you’ll be on your way. Motivation will come and go, but you’ll be ready – you are now motivated to stay motivated!

Choosing Your Ideal Body

Have an image in your head of the ideal body? Think you need to look different than your current structure allows? How did you come up with that idea, anyway? What is your real body type?

Each person is different, therefore carry weight differently. There are three different body types, and each category is going to have different properties and will carry and build muscle differently.
A Mesomorph has an athletic build – usually builds muscle quickly, an Ectomorph is someone who is thin, may have trouble putting on weight, and tends to have a small bone structure, and an Endomorph is someone who easily puts on weight, and may have trouble losing it – no you are not all endomorphs.

It is not fair to judge yourself now if you are far from your “normal” body type. Most of us can remember where our bodies felt best, and it may not be on any ole’ chart. We can remember feeling strong, having energy, how good it felt to move. This is our ideal.

Unfortunately, we are constantly looking at images of other people which may not reflect what is best for us. Many people use the media’s portrayal of the human body as ideal however one must remember that media is an art form. Images are created, modified, and altered. What we see may not be real. Things get taped up, moved over, pulled tight, air brushed, and we often do not see the entire “stage” of an image – who is behind the model, how garments are held on, how are they standing, sitting, being held up, etc.

You are not a piece of art on display. You are a real human being with daily activities, responsibilities, and patterns, many not always glamorous. You want a body that supports your life demands and has the endurance to see you through the finish line. Set your ideal body accordingly.

Charting Your Fitness Without Using Body Weight

Many people come to me and say, “ I want to weigh…”, I always ask why. This usually frustrates the client and their response is something like, because that’s what I should weigh or what I did weigh. What I would like all of you to know is…stop using weight as the ultimate measure of your success. Get off the scale!
How then, you say, am I supposed to know how I am doing? The best way is to ask yourself:

Do your clothes fit better
Have I lost inches
Do I feel better
Is my stress level down
Am I sleeping better
Do I have more energy
All of these will be great indicators of your commitment and your success. However, if you’d like more feedback on your fitness and your progress, its more effective to measure body fat.

See the blog posts on What is Body Fat and When to Weigh In for more information on this fitness component.

When to Weigh In

Many people like to use body weight as a motivating factor to stay focused on their fitness goals. Beware of getting caught in the number trap.

Weight is important, but please don’t let it be your success or failure mark. Many things change throughout the month, and as your body cycles (both men and women) your body weight will change. This is true during the day as well, you will weigh different in the morning than the evening. Your body weight may fluctuate around 5lbs in a day – so how can that be a great indicator? Plain and simple it isn’t.
If you must weigh yourself, do so on the same day of the month and at the same time each weigh-in. It is easiest to do this when you wake up, you’ll be able to wear the same thing and generally have eaten the same thing prior to weighing – nothing for approximately 8 hours. You can weigh yourself in between your monthly weigh-in but I caution you to not be too tied to that number instead use it to keep you focused on working out.

Finally, remember a weight measurement in fitness is a time measurement. To get the most accurate idea of how you are doing you must track this measurement over a period of time.