Changing Seasons – Changing Workouts

Most find it easier to get into routines when fall comes.  Fall is a transitional time.  This is a perfect time to re-evaluate your goals and renew your commitment to yourself.  If your schedule becomes busier during the fall and winter how will you continue to reach your daily, weekly, and monthly fitness goals? How have you been doing? Here are some ideas to get you motivated to workout during our darker days.

With good planning you can make it through this transitional period with no bumps and no missed workouts. Think about your options. As the weather turns colder many find it hard to continue outdoor workouts. Where will you go? Who will you go with? What do you like to do? For some its actually changing a workout format. Maybe you don’t like walking on treadmill, but are not getting out of your warm bed to walk in the snow. What will you do to keep moving?

There are so many options it can seem overwhelming. First, what lifestyle changes do you need to make? Do you need more time, different hours, or more variety? These questions are important to ask yourself before you have the chance to talk yourself out of exercise because it is too dark, too cold, and too boring. Will you need to make different parking or transportation accommodations? What about safety issues? Clothing, especially shoes? How about motivation and mood considerations? Many find they are not as motivated, even depressed during darker days.

Our last step is to decide our workout types and places. As a rule if you want to lose weight concentrate on cardiovascular work. If you are looking for more tone strength comes first. You will need a combination of both to make this change happen. Will you be working out at home or is there a Fitness Center near by, outside or inside, there are many options. Research the best for you in your community.

Now is the time to begin your fitness planning for winter. Fall is a great time to take advantage of routines and plan your healthy activities each day. You’ve made the most important decision to get regular exercise and now you’ve done the toughest part…deciding what you really want and where your dedication will take place. If you move everyday you will get there!

What is Functional Training

Ready to take your workout to a new level?  You’ve been building workouts you can do anywhere, now add an unstable surface and you’ve got functional training!  What is functional training? Well, functional training mimics activities you do in your daily life.  If the reason you avoid working out is because you think its rather boring to sit on a machine, lift weight ten times, rest as you stare off into space, lift again, and repeat on the next machine, I have news for you.  Functional training is fun, practical, applicable to your daily activities, develops your core strength so you have a stronger base to deliver power from, and a strong core helps keep you more injury free.

Think about what movement you would like to become better at. Is it playing with your children or grandchildren? What about a specific sport or skill in sport? Golf season is right around the corner. How about the ability to lift items out of your refrigerator without fear or moving from your couch to the bathroom? All of these items can be made better using functional training techniques.

We know that to get better at something we need to practice. Your mother was right when she made you sit at the piano for hours. You have to practice in order to create better neuromuscular efficiency. Basically put, the more you practice the better your brain gets at sending the signal to the muscle, “this is how I want you to move”. The more that pathway is repeated the more efficient you will be at the movement.

If you are trying get better at or to avoid injury during a movement or sport you must practice that particular movement. So I don’t know about you, but I know I don’t walk around doing crunch type movements all day, so why do a million during a workout? If I wanted to effectively train my abs I would look to more core aligned movements, which produce more power through strength development of the entire core. This would allow me to do the things I need to everyday. I have small children, I need to rotate, lift, move quickly in odd directions, and lift 30lbs of squirmy people at any given time. I do not need all my ab strength to allow me to crunch forward.

Try adding some functional training to your workout this week see what happens. First, pick a movement you would like to become better at. Start practicing that movement with no weight, then maybe with light weight, and finally on one foot. Next, begin creating an unstable surface with your basic strength training routine. Try lifting the heel of one foot while performing your lifts to create the unstable surface. If this is comfortable try to lift the whole foot off the ground for a one-legged more unstable surface. In yoga we concentrate heavily on foundation, or what is in contact with the floor during our movements. The same rule applies here, the smaller the foundation, the harder the core will work to stabilize you, therefore the more strong the core will become at adapting to slight movements of the body when put under stress (strength training), and the more you need to concentrate on alignment and proper form, keeping your mind more engaged. It is important, as always, to discuss your workouts with your health care provider and to make sure you are working within your own boundaries. Do not attempt to perform an exercise with bad form. You are better to do something small with good form rather than big with bad form.

Begin functional training and watch your abilities soar. You’ll become better adapted at moving in the patterns you do all day long. Maybe even make the greatest ESPN shot of the game ever recorded … No guarantees, though. Happy Training!


Muscle That Matters – Paul Scott

The Functional Training Craze – Jesse Cannone

Exercise and Cancer

Many studies are currently being released regarding the relationship between cancer and exercise, and many of us have been touched by cancer in some fashion.  New research shows links between prevention and survival of cancer with exercise, which is exciting*.  Cancer used to be a death sentence, but with today’s technology cancer doesn’t have to be, and adding exercise to your daily life now, can help you ward off the disease or be more successful in survival, not to mention providing a higher quality of life as one goes through treatment.

Exercising does not have to be overwhelming. A recent study touted the risk of dying from breast cancer cut by 25 percent with one to three hours of walking and 54 percent when time is increased to three to five hours. It seems a combination of exercise formats can be beneficial. According to Exercises for Cancer Supportive Care by Kathleen Dzubur, MS; Francine Manuel, RPT; Gary Abrams, MD; Lee Erman, NCTMB; Ernest H. Rosenbaum, MD

Scientific research has documented that walking or bicycling 30 – 45 minutes per session, 3 – 5 days per week produces the following benefits: decreased nausea, decreased fatigue , increased physical endurance and increased quality of life. The benefits are believed to come from effects on hormone levels, adiposity, gut transport time, and endorphines produced by exercise that are believed to affect mood. Various types of aerobic and resistive exercises also improve the functioning of the heart/lung/circulation (cardiovascular system) and strength of the muscles. Aerobic exercise programs have added benefit of increasing the red blood cell count positively affecting the fatigue suffered by cancer patients undergoing treatment. While receiving the various cancer therapies, minimizing deconditioning of the body is the main goal of an exercise program. The better condition you can maintain your body, the better you will tolerate the side affects of chemotherapy, radiation and other invasive treatments. It will also be easier to do the required activities of daily living

The American College of Sports Medicine outline guidelines for beginning an exercise program to support cancer treatment. “Exercise programs for cancer patients should be developed from the screening information, the exercise assessments, and the exercise prescription. Patients that are in treatment will not have “linear” progression from exercise session to exercise session. They should expect to experience “ups and downs” from the cancer treatment; therefore before each exercise session the cancer exercise specialist should re-evaluate the exercise prescription.”

It must be stressed that beginning an exercise program while you are also undergoing the stress of a disease or other aliment takes patience, perseverance, and kindness for yourself. It is important to communicate with your health care provider and find a personal trainer who is experienced with cancer recovery. It is vital to find support because some days will be very hard, others very tired, and others will be wonderful, find someone who can support those ups and downs while you are walking the path of cancer.

*Please Note: Exercise is not a cure all for cancer, but overwhelming amounts of research support it as a benefit. Also, talk with your health care provider before beginning any exercise program.


Exercises for Cancer Supportive Care; Kathleen Dzubur, MS; Francine Manuel, RPT; Gary Abrams, MD; Lee Erman, NCTMB; Ernest H. Rosenbaum, MD

ACSM Fit Society Page – Winter 2003

The Role of Exercise in Recovery from Cancer Treatment; Carole Schneider, PhD, FACSM and Susan D Carter, M.D., Rocky Mountain Cancer Rehabilitation Institute

ACSM –§ion=20033&template=/CM/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentFileID=28

Study Shows Exercise Boosts Breast Cancer Survival Rates; Marilynn Marchoione

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via Duluth News Tribune –

Body Fat And Weight-Loss

You have taken the weight loss challenge, been consistent, and the scale has not moved!  What is going on?  You are ready to quit, you know this is good for you, but frustration is mounting; you are beginning to question the whole idea…is it a conspiracy?  Why hasn’t the scale moved and why  does my  (insert body part here:____________) still look like that?  There are a couple of reasons we do not see immediate change when we begin a weight loss program.First, weight loss is a slow, slow process. Forget the commercials claiming you’ll lose 7-15 pounds a week. If you drop a dress size that fast, that’s about how fast your dress size will come back, and you’ll probably gain a size as well. When you are trying to better your health, it is best to approach it as a lifestyle change, not just a short term goal.

As our bodies begin to adapt, it begins to change composition. As lean mass increases it does not immediately need stored energy. Fat is stored energy, think of fat as fuel. You have given your body fuel for a later date and it is holding on for as long as possible because it is smart, and your body gets twice as much energy for one gram of fat, meaning it will use all other possibilities first. It is important to remember that exercise is half the equation and you must consider diet the other half.

Simply put, the weight loss equation is: calories in, must be less than calories out. You must create a deficit if you are going to loss any fat, and you must do this over time to allow your body to used stored fat. As you begin the weight loss challenge your body begins to build lean mass. Think of lean mass as a positive – bones, blood, organs, muscle tissue, and everything that is not fat. As your lean mass increases, it needs more fuel to sustain function; therefore, as you consume a deficit in calories (food) your body will dip into stored fat as fuel. This is the point we begin to see weight loss. Consistency is the key to continued success. When losing weight ,trainers look for one to two pounds a week, this ensures it is lifestyle driving change. Your body needs time to adjust and accommodate activities, plus create balance in new patterns which support your continued health.

Exercise is a maintenance tool. You must continue to expend calories to maintain your weight. Exercise breaks down into two basic categories – cardiovascular and strength. We call cardiovascular training aerobic activity; or with oxygen. Our body performs work in different energy systems, and we want to work aerobically to burn fat. Strength training will help you build more lean mass, which will require more energy and calorie expenditure. This is what is known as raising our metabolism. Many complain as they age their metabolism drops and the weight rises. Are they as active as they used to be?

Diet is not supposed to mean deprivation. It may correspond with a current fad or book, but it should be something you can do, enjoy, and stick with. Diet simply is what you eat. If you follow portion control, eat as many whole (unprocessed) foods as possible, and variety you’ve got a good start. A calorie is a calorie is a calorie – I don’t care where it comes from – carbs, protein, or fat – it is all energy and your body will store it as extra fuel for a later date if it is given extra. So consume in moderation, give your body good food , and it will respond – no deprivation involved. Shop the outside of the grocery store – the produce, fresh meats/fish, dairy, and bakery (for whole grain breads) to help learn how to choose whole (unprocessed) foods.

Remember, your weight may go up before it comes down as you begin a weight loss program. Something that sounds too good to be true probably is, and it will take consistency over time to produce results. If you eat well you’ll feel well, and as you create a calorie deficit throughout your day your body will begin to use the fuel you’ve stored. The first step is the hardest, persevere and you’ll get there – take the first step this week.

The Evolution of Fitness – Where we are now and how we got here.

What will become of us?  Obesity is rising- it is a national epidemic.  We are poised for a major health care crisis because we do not want to take care of ourselves. What will happen to us? Sounds desperate doesn’t it?

If history is right we will prevail, and we must look to history to understand the future.  I find it fascinating to look back and see how we came to this point.  When put in historical perspective it makes sense; right or wrong we can see how we got here and where to go next. We can see that we are beginning to come full circle on ideas surrounding fitness and diet.

My grandparents’ generation saw enormous change. During this time of change their lifestyles were uprooted and people were glad for the breaks technology gave them. They were more than happy to go to the bathroom inside, however this eliminated some movement since they did not have to travel as far. T.V became a source of entertainment, and as a Robert Earl Keen song claims, “…I don’t think she’s seen the sky since we got the satellite dish.” We have truly changed our way of life. Looking back to post World War II, we created many time saving gadgets, we also had a culture of new and bigger equals better Keeping up with the Jones was a very real concept and advertising was new and glamorous. We had to learn what old school ideas were worth keeping, how to be media savvy, and how to find ourselves amidst the bombardment of ideas about “ good and better” thrown at us each day. Marketers did a wonderful job of selling us prepackaged food because is was easier to make than the “’old way of cooking”. People began to need white bread because it said something about your place in society. All this change led to more expense, which led to more work, which led to more sitting and less moving, which led to more technology advances, which led to less movement and the weight came on.

Along the way we made attempts at change. We created programs and grants. We said we needed to change, but the idea was intangible. Fitness became about money. Those who had it also had free time to lounge at the club. A former client refused to sweat. She said it was un-lady like even though she had been at the club for sixty years…what was she doing? The former idea of exercise was very different than today’s idea. As fitness evolved the fitness industry began a revolution and people from many walks of life began to understand its place, however research was just beginning to report the benefits and many still felt fitness was not a necessity.

Our ideas surrounding food continued to keep us out of touch with the foods we ate, and we figured out how to make corn syrup! This little ingredient hit the grocery shelves like a tornado. Suddenly we had refills at the fast food restaurants, we could get our hands on huge servings of chips, crackers, candies, and all sorts of yummy things – cheap. We’d also figured out how to make food last longer. We created trans fats. We could eat whatever we wanted whenever we wanted and could afford it. Many I speak with reminisce about soda as a reward and candy a once a week, hard earned treat, but those days are no longer and we must begin to react to the realities of today.

Junk food is readily available and cheap. We never learned the hand-me-down lessons our grandparents were taught surrounding foods, and we have moved further away from an agricultural society so many of us never see how our food comes to be. I was twenty-eight before I learned cheesecake could be made in my kitchen! Exercise has become a necessity, but only in the last decade and many have yet to buy into its effectiveness, but we are getting there. Recently, pop was taken out of schools. For many this was a first exposure with the branding, youth, and food movement, but for others this fight has been raging for years, and finally a battle was won. Chalk one up for education, persistence, research, and passion. Fast food places now have exercise happy meals for adults! The organic food industry has seen a 20% increase in sales and continues to predict growth. Cooking classes have come full circle teaching us the tricks we forgot to learn from grandma, and fitness club memberships have grown exponentially; statistics back up club membership as a top factor in reaching fitness goals. We are doing it! We are succeeding. We will win back our health…but we have to choose wisely.

Employee Health, Does It Matter

Are you an employer?  Do you know how much money you lose when an employee is absent?  Are you an employee?  Do you know how much your pocketbook is effected by your co-worker’s unhealthy habits? It is interesting to watch the debates unfold – Employer or Dictator?  Employee rights or Employer overhead?  Obesity is a big player in a company’s bottom line.

A few years ago headlines were made when workers were fired for chosing to continue smoking.  Recently, another company decided to test employees for tobacco use and fired those who would not comply.  Many employers admit they do not want to hire obese people because they know they will cost more in health care.  Other employers pay obese people less or charge them more for health care coverage. None of this is considered discrimination at this time and the debate rages: Is it?

Many employers have a very good argument. It costs an average of $660 per un-planned employee absence not to mention extra work for other employees which may result in lower morale, co-worker resentment, and a less productive work enviornemtn. A survey done by CCH, Incorporated found that personal illness was the single most common reason for last minute no-shows. According to Watson Wyatt Worldwide, employees who have a chronic or castastrophic illness account for the majority of health care costs for employers and healthy employees accounted for only eleven percent. This is important because many of our most debilitating diseases are linked closely with obesity and lifestyle choice. The costs of obesity continue to rise and in the face of a broken health care system employers are taking note and analyzing data to protect the bottom line.

Smoking is another lifestyle choice employers are beginning to regulate. More employers are beginning to look seriously at smoking and their employees.Wisconsin businesses lose $1.4 billion in worker productivity each year due to sickness and premature death caused by smoking, this according to the UW-extention program. On average, smokers miss 6.16 days of work per year where their non-smoking cohorts only miss 3.86. Not to mention longer and more frequent breaks taken by smokers. Although, smoke breaks are largely accepted in our work culture exercise breaks are seen as mis-use of company time even when research backs increased productivity, decreased absenteesim, and better morale all contriburting positive results to the bottom line.

Employers are finding positive results with employee wellness programs. Encouraging employees to adopt healthy habits is working. Employee fitness programs & and smoking cessation efforts help. Both contribute to the bottom line by decreasing employee absence and increasing employee productivity. As employees adopt better eating habits their concentration improves and again the company benefits. Although, it is well documented, many employers continue to react to employee health problems rather than take a proactive stance and support employees in healthy lifestyle changes.

As employers continue to try and curb expenses to compete in amerioca’s marketplace you can bet they will continue to pay close attention to employee lifestlye habits as they affect absence rates, productivity, and employee morale. The debate will continue to rage over obesity and lifestyle and employees will continue to be affected both tangibly and intangilbly by their co-workers un-healthy habits. It is time to look around your office, is the place you spend the majority of your concetration and time contributing to your health?

Find Support to Reach Your Fitness Dreams

Have you ever had this experience:  You are on top of the world, flying high on your excitement and new found dreams, only to have someone close to you squash it? It may be a look or comment.  Maybe its a person whose opinion is held so dear to your heart that it devastated you to get that look or comment, and squashed your spirit.

Well, get it back.  When trying to form a new lifestyle it is important to go after your dreams.  Some dreams may be weird, or hard, or nearly impossible, and those that know you best, know it will be a rough, if not, wild ride before you are done, but do it anyway, and for god’s sake quit listening to them! I am not suggesting you quit your day job, move to a faraway land, and forgo all responsibility in lue of leading a life full of your true calling, but if you’ve done your homework, making a change is going to be hard and those you may expect to support you the most may be the ones to avoid.

For many watching a loved one approach a goal we have seen them attempt and fail at multiple times – translation: we are picking up the pieces of their ruined self-confidence – can be rough and exhausting. Even when we try to be supportive it may not be genuine because we feel we know what the end result will be. For some it is painful to watch a loved one reach toward a goal we ourselves hold close and continually fail at, especially if our loved one is making it where we fell flat. Are these fair assessments? Maybe, maybe not, but is it our choice to make? NO.

If you are dealing with a friend or family member who is working hard toward a goal and failing, or if you are the friend who continually tries, but are having trouble getting it off the ground over and over, take note. Failing is reaching for success. You cannot succeed without failing somewhere along the line. If you are not failing once and a while you are stuck in a rut. I grew-up water skiing, as I got older I did not want to fall; I felt it was how I would be measured as a person. Well, luckily I figured it out – if I didn’t fall I wasn’t pushing the envelope, and if I wasn’t pushing my skills I wouldn’t get better. Basically, I got bored. I learned the harder and more crazy I wiped out the better my skills got, the more bumps I could take, and the less the small stuff mattered. Life is like that. The more you live, the more the small things won’t derail you from the goal.

Let’s put this into a fitness perspective. For example: I am looking to lose a few pounds. I have been for ten years. I continually have joined gyms, tried walking on my own, and new diets, but I never could keep them up. Finally, exhausted I gave up for a term and am now ready to begin again, sound familiar? If you look back through your history of trying, do you find that you got further each time. Progress is not always measured in pounds, weeks or calories, but look at whether the same issues derailed your efforts. Maybe in the beginning if I didn’t strictly follow my diet I was done for the week or day, which over the long haul derailed my entire goal. Or if I skipped a workout, I was so guilty I would overeat at lunch and dinner before snacking from the vending machine and a pint of ice cream. Next time I attempted my weight loss I didn’t let a missed workout or off meal ruin my confidence, but I let my schedule take me down. The third time, I figured out my schedule, but I let my fear of gyms dictate which direction I would go and I got bored and then it snowed. See how this works? Each time I got better at dealing with issues, but a new one popped up; until I finally put my fitness first no matter what, because I finally understand how important it was to me…no matter what.

By repeating an activity even if it seems we are not reaching our goals, we are creating pathways in the brain that reinforce our goal. These pathways become stronger the more they are used and soon it does not seem hard to use them at all. It seems normal. Each time we attempt to break an old habit and make it longer than we did before; we build a stronger connection to the new habit and break down the pathway to the old, which leads to leaving the old habit behind.

Today look back and take stock of the failures you’ve had. Can you see a pattern? Can you see progress (remember to look at the big picture)? Can you see where you may need work? If these questions seem daunting, hire a professional to help you sort through your ideas. Once you’ve got your track record you can limit your obstacles based on past experience, draw new confidence based on what you have been able to overcome, and begin again armed and ready when your best buddy rolls their eyes and exclaims, “Not again!”

Indoor Interval Workouts

One of the biggest problems my clients face when choosing to move workouts indoors without cardiovascular equipment is keeping their heart rates up over a period of time.  At home they get bored easily and in other locations they may not be able to move fast enough long enough to really be effective. An easy way to reach your cardiovascular workout goals, keep from getting bored, and fit your routine inside is interval training.

In addition to cardio work, interval training can be strength training as well, giving you two workouts in one, as in the case of a super circuit routine. The trick is to watch your heart rate and set enough cardiovascular stations in between your strength moves to keep your heart rate up appropriately. It is not advisable that you lift the weight much faster than two to four seconds up, pause, and lower at the same rate. Lifting faster can increase your risk of injury and is likely to create an element of physics rather than your muscle in the movement. You could lift slower which challenges your muscle and mental focus differently and may be effective if you can maintain your elevated heart rate with enough cardiovascular stations.

When deciding how to move cardiovascular work inside it is important to consider your budget, what if any equipment you may need, the location you wish to workout in, your safety, and if you can realistically reach your cardiovascular needs in the new location. How will you retain your motivation as the activity becomes repetitive, and will you continue to push yourself as you become accustomed to the activities? Will you do a form of interval training, if so where and how will you get it done? Get creative – there are many options in our community for becoming active, even in the darkness of winter which is approaching, even if slowly.

What to Do When You’ve Got A Minute

Many of get strapped for time sometimes. This doesn’t mean you have to leave your fitness behind. A few well placed exercises throughout your day can help keep you on track and keep you energized through your crazy schedule.

1) Do a few sets of squats. Add some external weight by holding canned goods, water bottles, or other things lying around you can hold and which add more weight to your frame.

2) Run stairs – in the office, in the park, around town, at home – where ever you can find them – run them.

3) Park and ride (a bike), walk, run, skate a portion of your commute

Track your movement everyday:

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4) Do step-ups – using a sturdy bench, chair, or step step up and down as though your were participating in a step class or doing a strength training exercise – see #1 for overloading

5) Carry a kid – don’t have one of your own – borrow one. Playing with your kids (or someone’s) can add fun and creativity into your busy day and get you quality time with a child who needs you.

When you’ve got more than a minute try this routine:

10 Ways to Handle Office Donuts

 Many of our health sabotagers are the folks we work with. Damn those office mates! Most are well meaning. They are trying to be the good one bringing everyone Friday donuts or lunch meeting cookies and pop. However, when we are trying stay on fitness track having those extra calories around can be pretty devastating. How do you handle those well meaning office diet sabotagers?

1) Be pro active – you bring the snacks

2) Post a healthy snack list around the office – hit all the major bulletin boards when no one is looking – somebody is bound to notice.

3) Enlist co-workers in a weight-loss or other fitness challenge – then you are all working toward the same goal

4) Keep healthy snacks in your desk drawers – make ’em good and tasty otherwise you are bound to reach for the sweet treats!

5) Tactfully ask the person responsible for the breakfast, lunch, snack, or dinner meeting food to include some healthy treats – be ready with #1 when they ask what types of foods you are looking for.

6) Propose an office wide policy to serve healthy options – people are more productive when they’ve eating something healthy than when they’ve carbo loaded on empty calories and sugar.

7) Ask your boss to sponsor workout incentives – people who workout are more likely to seek out healthy food choices. Bonus for the Boss – companies who have created a workout /  exercise program report fewer absentee days, greater productivity, and better employee morale from those who participate.

8) Ask the vending machine supplier to add a few healthy choices in the machine

9) Quit walking by the break room until all the donuts are gone

10) Remember – your fitness is your responsibility. Take accountability for what you feed yourself. What you eat is no one else’s responsibility but yours.