Getting Back on The Fitness Wagon … Again

I fell off. I started getting zoned into doing everything but exercise. And what happened? I started to feel crappy. I had headaches, backaches, felt bloated, and tired. Here’s what I did.

First, I took a hard look at my schedule. What was I really doing during my waking hours? Was I spending my time doing things I wanted to do, or was I spending my time doing things I thought I had to do? Now the argument I have too much to do and I have to do it all doesn’t work so well for me. I usually find that I may think I have a ton to do but when I break it down into actual needs I can usually find things I can let go of.

It takes me time to change. I have to give myself space. Space to think about what my life will be like if I put this exercise activity on my to do list. It usually takes me about three weeks to implement a new behavior – longer if I beat myself up over it. So I have learned to start thinking like a fitness everyday person even if I am not. This allows me to prepare both myself and those around me for the changes I will need to make. I don’t exist in a vacuum so it is important for me to think through my schedule changes so I can better prepare my family and friends.

Finally, I have to follow through. So for all my analyzing and all my space honoring my timeline for change when it comes down to it – I have to do it. I am the one who puts on my workout shoes and gets the exercise done. And usually, I am much better for it!

6 Things to Look For When Hiring A Personal Trainer

Interested in reaching your fitness goals? You look to your health care professional when you are sick so why shouldn’t you look for a personal trainer when you want a certain fitness level? They are the professionals in accomplishing fitness goals. They know the tricks, the methods, and the protocols to get you where you want to be – physically. So don’t pass them by thinking they are a luxury. Take control of your life, ask for help, and reach your fitness goals! Here are some things to look for when you are hiring a personal trainer.

6 Things to look for when finding a personal trainer:
1. Background – look for someone with a recognized certification, experience, and education. Does their area of specialty and interest match your goals.

2. Education – Certifications, workshops, and continuing education are all ways a personal trainer can stay up-to-date on industry changes. It is not necessary that your trainer has a related degree, but it can help. Look for an exercise science background and fitness testing background.

3. Experience – prior training experience is a plus, and a must with someone who does not have a related degree. Be leery of a trainer who claims their personal workout is the best. A good trainer should be able to create individualized programs for you.

4. Check the Internet for certifications – there are many. Beginning summer 2005 Personal Trainers will have an option of taking a national board test – this website can point you towards certifications the test accepts – these certifications have to pass acceptance through the non-profit organization, the National Board of Fitness Examiners (www.nbfe.org) and a third party accreditation.

5. Your trainer should not push supplements, fad diet plans, our work outside their areas of expertise. (e.g. A trainer with no nutritional background should not be analyzing your diet and making complicated recommendations – especially if you are taking any medications, herbs, or other types of supplements that could be affected by the changes.) Most trainers have basic nutrition in their backgrounds and are comfortable telling you when you need to get help from another professional.

6. Look for someone who is willing to work with your health care professionals, and someone willing to listen to you. A good trainer will see the value of a team environment to help you reach your goals.

Change Up Your Workout

If you are plugging along with the same ole’ workout and still are working toward a particular goal it may be time to change it up. The body gets good at our overloads which means it becomes efficient. When this happens you are not working as hard and we tend to plateau. Many of us just get bored.

So maybe add intervals, change the days you workout, if you haven’t been strength training or doing cardio add it in, or maybe add more of it. Check the internet, magazines, or hire a trainer to get some fresh ideas and new exercises for your routine. Sometimes the small changes are the ones which keep you moving forward.

Fall Into Fitness

If you have looked around your life and daily planner and found fitness is missing its time to fall back into fitness this year. Ask yourself what do you want to be looking back at next year and looking forward to as September rolls around in 2010.

Fall is arriving. Its getting cooler and darker. As we move through seasons its a great time to change or add to your workout routine. For many following the seasons seems natural. During fall we are preparing to come inside. Inside our homes and ourselves. Gardens are going to seed and birds are moving south. Its a time of change. If you looked around this week and felt change occurring but realized you have let your fitness slide now is the time to add it back in. If you have been doing the same ole’ same ole’ workout, now may be the time to change it up or add more to it.

Examine what you have been doing? Where have you put your fitness emphasis? Has it been on weight loss and now needs to shift to weight maintenance? Were you training for an event which is now over and your workout motivation seemed to stay behind as you drove off the event grounds? Are you still working toward the same goal but have now moved into a different phase of training and its time to add more intensity to your work to stay effective?

And remember, as always, its all about you. Your choices, your changes, your life.

Running: A Beginner’s Guide

Are you secretly harboring a desire to run? Maybe you are a long time runner and looking to improve your time or distance. Maybe you have gotten complacent and need a form refresher. Today is all about running.

For many running congers up type A personality visions or hamsters. Some might use the word crazy and others secretly want to be runners. Almost anyone can run if they start at their level, get good shoes, and take it slow. If you have chronic ankle, knee, hip, or back issues running may not be for you, on the other hand it may be something you can do if you start at your level. As with any exercise program get clearance with your health care person before beginning.

First, the business stuff. Find the right spot for you. Is it a trail, a road, hills, no hills, and consider length. Next, think about safety. Is the spot safe for you to run? Will you be with a buddy, alone, a group, or a trainer? Also, its a good idea to have water, a small first aid kit handy, and Goo or hard candy (energy and help with low blood sugar) depending on the length of your run.. Do you need to drive and park? Consider the clothing you will need. Layer up and get good shoes. Shoes can make the difference in running. Find a salesperson you like, trust, and who knows how to fit your feet for any concerns you face when planting your feet.

It is a good idea to cross train other exercises with running. This allows a break and helps keep overuse injuries at bay by creating more balance in the body. Other activities could be swimming, rowing, biking, etc and strength training should also be included in your fitness routine.

Running is a practical way to maximize time and caloric expenditure, however we want the energy expended to go toward running, not be wasted in other non-essential movements. In other words, pay attention to your form. Core stability plays an important role in all sports activities and running is no different. Abdominal and low back muscles are involved in walking, running, and holding us upright. The quadriceps and hamstrings also work across the hip to help stand, walk, and run. It is important to think about mechanics of movement when considering running form.

Begin in good alignment, knees over ankles, hips over knees, shoulders over hips, and the ears centered over the shoulders with the crown (top, not forehead) of the head moving up toward the ceiling or sky. Begin walking slowly and notice how your body moves. Do not try to change anything at this point just notice. How do your feet hit the ground? Do you bend at the hip? Is the core strong enough to stabilize you while you swing the arms or do you feel rotation? Where are you holding tension – do you clench the hands, tongue, teeth, toes? Speed up your pace and notice if things change? These observations will be important to help you understand where you may be weak, have muscle imbalance, or are likely to waste energy while running.

Once you understand your own form concerns you will be able work on undoing them. According to Julie Sieben in “Run Like a Pro”, you should be upright and relaxed with your gaze resting about 10 feet in front of you. She suggests acting like a string is pulling the sternum to the sky so the chest is lifted and the shoulders and back and down. Running gait is individual, however you should not try to over or under stride. The foot should land directly under the body and your center of gravity. Aim to keep the leg slightly bent at the end of the push-off phase keeping the body closer to the ground. Through out the run pay attention to breathing. Make sure to breath deeply, all the way to your belly. Beginners tend to breath shallow because the body is requiring more oxygen than they are used to. They are then forced to stop because they cannot catch their breath.

Remember, begin any training program slowly. Keep focused on form, areas where you may be wasting energy, and your breathing. Once you get into running vary your times, terrain, intervals, and distance to keep you challenged and motivated. Most important, believe in yourself – you can be a runner!

Sample Workout 6 Week Training Schedule

Walk Interval Run Interval Total Time Times Per Week
Week 1 5min 5min 20min* 3
Week 2 4min 7min 33min* 4
Week 3 2min 12min 28min* 4
Week 4 2min 15min 34min* 4
Week 5 2min 25min 27min* 4
Week 6 30min 30min 4

*Alternate Walking & Running

By Julie Sieben, Run Like A Pro, American Fitness Magazine Sept/Oct 2006, p.58-61

Sieben, J.(2006). Run like a pro. American Fitness Magazine. p. 58-61, American Fitness Magazine, September/October
2006

Staying Motivated To Exercise

Staying motivated to exercise can be a challenge. Last week my kids started school and this week they all start soccer. Just thinking about the running makes me tired, and its only going to become more intense in the next few weeks. So I have to be ready to keep exercising or I’ll never reach my goals. Here are some ideas to keep you motivated, too.

Schedule your exercise just like you would any other appointment. This will help you begin to see your workouts as another part of your day instead of something extra you have to do.

Find a workout buddy – I don’t always get to workout with my two favorite workout friends but just chatting about it re-energizes me to keep going.

Write down your fitness goals. This can help create more concrete ideas surrounding what you want and what you are willing to do to get it. Once you’ve written it down cut out pictures that help you visualize your goals. Paste your goal sheets everywhere you’ll see them each day – the car, office, your closet, bathroom, on the fridge – you get the picture.

Commit to yourself. You are worth the time and effort. Delegate household chores where you can and drop to-do items that are not necessary. Sometimes we just do things because we always have or think we need to. It may be that it is an old need and is no longer serving you now. Take an honest look at your schedule and clean it up to create time for the things you really want in your life now.

Its Time to Get Back on The Fitness Wagon!

I don’t know about you but I’ve been slackin’ in my fitness routines. I’ve been loving the summer weather, traveling, and playing but none of it with really direction toward fitness. I can’t say I’ve grown any rounder but I do feel I’m lacking some feel good energy I get from a solid fitness routine. As the calendar turns toward September I am motivated to start again. Here’s what I’m going to do.

First, I’m going to begin with cardio. I don’t know why but this always seems to get me motivated again. And its going to be a hard cardio session. Not a killer one but one I know I did some work in when I am done. Next, I’m going to get going on weight training. Back to lifting a full body routine 2-3 times a week for the first couple of weeks maybe even the first month. After I have my cardio (which isn’t always a high intensity workout) back to 4-5 days a week for around 30 minutes and my strength training at 2-3 days a week I’m going to start breaking into more interval work. I’ll add intervals into my cardio and super sets into my strength training to get an extra blast of cardio in without compromising my time. I’m big into yoga so I’ll keep my daily practice going and I eat pretty good now but I can definitely add some more fresh veggies in while we harvest our small garden and stock up from the farmers market for our winter preserving.

All this coming together sounds like a lot of time but really I’m looking at about 5 hours/week. That’s nothing when it comes to good health – I think I can find that to keep my quality of life high — no problem the trade offs just aren’t worth not doing it!

10 Ways to Add More Activity to Your Day

Here are 10 Ways to Add More Activity To Your Day:

1) Park and Walk
2) Take the Stairs
3) Play with your children or other people’s children
4) Walk the dog
5) Take a stretch break every 90 minutes – get up from your desk and do a couple of simple stretches
6) Pace with you are on the phone
7) Carry your own groceries out
8) Make your lunch or break an active one – replace a sedentary meal with an exercise routine and smaller lunch – if you sit down and eat healthy following a workout you might enjoy it more than a long, sedentary, routine eating habit
9) Each time you go to sit down do a squat first – Act like you are going to sit down but when your butt hits the chair stand back up. By the end of the day you’ll have done a whole set!
10) Add some intensity to your house cleaning routines. When picking up around the house add lunges, squats, and rows to your chores. If you are feeling really good add some jumps or run stairs.

Get creative about your movement and watch your energy rise, your sleep get better, and your motivation to move grow!*

*no guarantees, though 🙂

Take Your Workout To The Park – Workout Outside

This is the time of year to get out and to the park. This is my favorite time of day. I load up the kids, pack a book on tape if I think there is the slightest chance they may fall asleep during the walk, and make our way down to the local playground. My eight – six – and four year olds are excited and I’ll be crossing workout off my to-do list. Yep, I will be moving too. This isn’t time for me to sit on a bench and read, talk, or yawn wondering how many more times the slide can produce such a gleeful sound. Why should I wonder…why not find out?

In my line of work I repeatedly hear, “I’m just too busy to spend time working out.” We’ve all heard obesity is on the rise. Childhood obesity is steadily climbing, and is a risk factor in many diseases. According to the University of California, Irvine Medical Center, Type II diabetes is on the rise in children. “Known as “adult onset” diabetes because it usually affects people over 50, the disease is afflicting children as young as 4”, for many Type II diabetes is linked closely to obesity and inactivity. Fortunately, obesity in most cases is preventable, but yields enormous health risks if left unattended, and people aren’t listening. They continue to blame someone else for the extra weight they are packing around; just look at the newest trend in lawsuits and petitions to claim obesity as a disease along the lines of AIDS. Instead we can change our lives. We have the power to create a better quality of life just by moving our bodies.
So, next time you make a trip to the park, play with your kids, run, jump, pull-up! Research shows a correlation between parent-child activity behaviors. Study after study show links between parent activity levels and their children’s activity levels. Being active is not only going to benefit you, it will directly influence your child’s attitudes about activity and their lifestyle choices for the rest of their life. If that isn’t reason to move, I don’t know what is.

Check out my Youtube Channel for ideas on home exercises. Then adapt them to your park setting.

Next time you visit the park,(children optional); try these moves:

General Guidelines:

Pay attention to the muscles you are working. Exhale as you complete the exertion or work phase of the movement, and keep proper alignment. Maintain core (abdominal and back) strength to protect your spine as you work, and lastly have a great time – your kids won’t be the only ones begging to head for the park once you’ve become a player, too.

Lower Body:

Entire Lower Body~

Determine the approximate distance you’ll be walking to get to the playground. Divide that number into six sections. Begin by walking one section. Follow that with walking lunges for one section, repeat until you’ve reached the park. If your sections are large, do 10 walking lunges at a time, rest by walking, do 10 more, repeat until you’ve completed the section.

*Safety Notes: If you are a beginner, wait until you’ve reached the playground and perform lunges while holding a bar for stability until you are confident in your form. More advanced practitioners begin by practicing while standing still. To avoid overstressing the knee, keep your knee over your ankle. This is more difficult while moving forward. Tip: Pick up your toes while practicing to get the correct position. You’ll get the bonus of balance practice, too. Once you are able to do a correct lunge standing still, practice moving slowly in a forward direction keeping the knee over the ankle.

Center your weight over both legs and keep your shoulders over your hips. Go down only as low as you can while maintaining good form. Keep your head and chest up, and keep your back knee off the ground.

Hamstrings~

Run with your children. This can take the shape of a game or whatever they are doing, let them lead you. Try this variation while you run, kick you heels toward your buttocks while keeping your knees close together. This will help you focus on the hamstrings plus run slower letting the kids win one!

Quadriceps~

Another variation on the run, one your kids will love, running backwards. Aim to keep the shoulders over your hips, as you move backwards bring the leg out, extending from the knee. Try to move slower and focus on the quads as the leg extends. To add more intensity lower your body into a moving squat as you slowly move backwards.

*Safety note: Never completely lock out a joint during a regular workout. 95% extension of a joint will protect your joints and allow you to move through full range of motion. Remember to keep the knee over the ankle. Pick your toes up to help you find the correct position, and make sure you are able to maintain it while moving before beginning advanced movement.

Abductors & Adductors~

The kids will love this one. You may remember karaoke from grade school gym class, but never knew you were working on so many things as you performed this drill, did you?

Begin moving sideways by bringing the feet together. Alternate crossing one in front of the other. Again, center your weight and focus on the muscles you are working, inner and outer thighs. Repeat with the other side leading.

Bonus: When you cross the midline of your body you are causing both sides of your brain to cooperate and are building coordination.

Calves~

My personal favorite muscle to say, gastrocnemius, can be effectively worked as you move up the stairs to the slide. On each step pause to do a calf raise. You can lift with both feet or more advanced, one foot at a time. Step on the edge of the stair; push up onto your toe. Then complete the move by bringing your heel back in line with your toes.

Upper Body:

Chest~

The good ole fashioned push-up is here. Find an elevated surface: Stairs, ledge, bar, etc. Standing, place the wrists in-line with the shoulders and extend the elbow. Bend the elbow and lower the chest towards the hands. Breathe out as you extend the arms back to the starting position. Get the kids to do them with you. Work up to ten.

Safety Note: Stabilize the core to protect the back. You will be ready to move into a more advanced exercise when you can complete 10 in good form. The more horizontal you are, the more advanced the move. Remember small is still good – better than big motion, bad form. The spine should stay long and natural.

Back & Biceps~

Everyone’s favorite – the pull-up. The playground is a great place to pull-up, there are lots of bars at different heights…ok no cheating with all your weight on your feet! Find a bar at an accommodating height. You don’t have to be straight up and down. Begin with a lower bar where your body is at an angle underneath. Grab the bar and pull your upper-body to your hands. The more advanced you are the higher the bar. Once you are completely up right use your feet only for balance or cross you ankles and bend your knees to pick your feet off the ground. See who can do more, you or the kids.

Shoulders, Triceps, & Biceps~

Get the little ones involved – let them be the weight! Depending on the size of your child they may be just what the trainer ordered. With your feet shoulder width apart and your knees soft, stabilize your core. Position your hands firmly under their arms and slowly lift your child off the ground. Keep your elbows and child close to your body as you bring your hands towards your shoulders, once you’ve given your child a kiss, extend your arms up and lift them over your head. Again, keep them close to your body. Their feet should dangle in front of your face.

Safety Note: Be careful with the child! A slow movement is required to keep the body in alignment and not use momentum to get the weight over your head. Do not strain your back as you reach up – it is easy to arch back to support the weight – remember good form first.

If you child is too big or doesn’t want to cooperate pack along some hand weights or find two rocks – pebbles don’t count, but make sure the weight (child or not) is accommodating to you. You should be able to perform 10 lifts with good form – if you can do more add more weight.

Triceps~

Back to the stairs, find a low stair and sit on the edge. Position your feet out in front of you – the further you move them away the harder the movement will be. Place you hands directly under your shoulders next to your hips. Slide your buttocks forward and lower straight down until the elbows and shoulders are in a line. Finish by pressing up into the starting position. Aim for 10.

Core Strength~

The swing set is calling your name. Begin by swinging. As you move higher into the air use your abdominals to pump your legs. Add variations: Curl into a ball at the top of the movement – bring the shoulders and knees together. Bring the knees to one side and alternate for an oblique crunch. To build back strength, add a slight back extension as you move yourself higher into the air.

Safety Note: Pay close attention to your body and alignment during these activities. It sounds easy, but adding the mental element will enhance your muscle activity making it an exercise rather than just movement. Exhale as you crunch in.

Most importantly remember to have fun! Move with your kids and they will learn to love moving on their own.

References:

http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/projects/cda2.htm

Warn, Ed.D., FACSM, Dianne. “Getting Kids Active Begins at Home.” Fit Society. Quarterly Publication of the American College of Sports Medicine. (Fall 2001): 1,6 http://www.acsm.org/pdf/fitsc401.pdf

http://www.ucihealth.com/News/UCI%20Health/Fall02Diabetes.htm

Heat and Exercise – Be Safe During Hot Weather Exercising

Summer has arrived, and with its sweet smells, lazy afternoons, and longer days comes heat. Just like it doesn’t have to be freezing to experience hypothermia, temperatures don’t have to be soaring to experience heat related illnesses, especially while working out.

Workouts are still possible even when the mercury rises if you take precautions. First, layer your clothing. No, this does not equal the same type of laying we must do in January, however plan for the spaces you’ll be exercising in. Will the temperature drop or rise while you are there – think about elevation or forest conditions – as we move through different types of spaces we may need different types of clothing. Once, you’ve determined if you’ll need a light jacket, short sleeves, socks, boots vs athletic shoes, you will need to chose good products. Materials are not created equal, which is why we do not see many wool socks worn in the summer. Chose materials that move sweat away from your body allowing it to more effectively do its job. Once, again I am amazed at the intelligence of your body, but we will discuss that below. Then look to design. Not all styles are created equal either. Many of us get overwhelmed by the choices, however choosing good design will keep you from packing or carrying loads of stuff. Very important when its your back and legs doing the transporting. Do your homework. If you are uncomfortable using a sales person as your teacher, grab magazines or look to the internet to find the latest and greatest gear. Make sure to check pricing, too. Gear gets expensive and you may be paying more than you need to. Do some comparisons before you settle.

Second, hydrate yourself well. Sweating is important to the body. Sweat is necessary because your body produces water as a by product of our aerobic energy system. If you are going to do work over an extended period of time your body will produce sweat as it uses oxygen to function. Sweat also works as air-conditioner. As your body moves the by-product to the exterior surface, your skin, it creates evaporation, which cools the body. Also, a necessary function during extended work periods because as you create more movement, you create more heat. As your core temperature rises your body will work to maintain its natural set-point, plus its dangerous when your core temperature rises too far. Some of us sweat more than others and there seems to be a genetic link. As your body sweats it will also lose salt. Another important necessity for homeostasis.

When working out during hot weather drink lots of fluids, and make sure to feed your body well. If you are going to be working out over a long period of time, more than 60-90 minutes fuel up with a sports drink or something to replace lost electrolytes. They make great food gear, too. For those of you looking forward to events, you may look to energy products: bars, gels, goos, and other high-glycemic options to sustain your optimal performance. For the average person however, high-tech food choices are not necessary in most cases. Water and nutritious foods are what your body craves to perform most workouts effectively.

Third, think. If the temperature is too high, this is not an excuse button, do something else and workout when it is cooler. Its not a great idea to wear a non-ventilated hat, as sixty percent of your body heat is released through the top of your head.
Plan for your outing so your food and clothing provisions last through the whole workout, and pay attention to how your body responds to heat. We are all different and have different tolerances to heat and humidity. If you are packing children, please remember that their smaller developing bodies respond differently than adults to heat and do not cool the same, so keep them in mind as you pack clothing, plan for stops, and utilize shade throughout the workouts. Sunscreen is a must these days and many brands are designed for workouts. Check labels when you buy. If you do feel any signs of a heat related illness, stop your activity immediately. Temperature related illnesses quickly get worse. Try to find shade, hydrate your body, and do something to cool your body down; i.e. Remove excess clothing, dose yourself with water, rest, etc.

Your workouts do not have to end because the temperature rises. Dress, eat, and plan well and your body and spirit will soar as you discover great ways to get moving!