Holiday Exercise

I know its a bit early for the holiday exercise lecture, but ya know what? The stores are already gearing, the parties are being planned, and the frenzy is just around the corner. Many people dread the holidays because they feel they always put on weight. However, with a bit of pre-planning you can make it through the holidays without too much trouble.   First, look at your schedule. For many people the holidays either become overwhelmingly busy or they become a time to not go out because everyone else is so overwhelmingly busy. If you are in either camp or somewhere in between it is a good idea to take realistic stock of how your life changes during the holiday season now. This will allow you to begin to modify workouts that need it now.

Next, start adding intensity to your workouts now while you’ve got the time. This will allow you to continue to workout for the whole time but pump up the caloric burn while you do so. This allows you to begin to cycle your workouts so the upcoming weeks which have more going on you’ll be able to workout shorter durations saving you time but not sacrificing all you’ve gained.

Finally, remember the 80/20 rule. 80% is going to go as planned and 20% its not. This goes for workouts, party foods, and obligations. So don’t beat yourself up if you show up at the party and they are serving your favorite meatballs drenched in the best sauce ever – I used to cater and this was one of my favorite downfalls during the holidays! The trick is to honor its something you want, have a bit, and if you still have a bit more remember you want the overall picture of your diet and workouts to reflect the 80/20 rule so you might need to make a few changes in the next few days to get back into balance.

Oh – and don’t forget to prioritize your time. Its very possible you don’t need to attend every party, gathering, concert, or whatever you are invited to.

Planning Home Workouts

Have you begun to move your workouts indoors?  I know this has been the theme lately, but it is important you plan for seasons if you are going to be sucmcessful this year.

Many clients are able to workout at home, but are unsure of where to start. They buy some hand weights, maybe a video, and if they are really brave go for the infomercial special, which is often later used as a clothes rack. How can you avoid adding to your dust collection?  In a word – planning.

It is much easier for most to create an effective strength training routine at home. It can be done on a limited budget, and can be accomplished in a short amount of time. Here are the things to consider when purchasing strength training equipment for home. First, what is your goal? Are you trying to build mass or lose weight? Are you trying to maintain? Is this equipment just for emergency use on those days where getting to the gym is not possible, or is this going to be your only source of strength training? These answers will direct your purchases. If you are looking for emergency use equipment, you can get by with little or no equipment depending on your program. This is where a professional can be very handy. A good personal trainer will help you design your program around your environment and make sure you are able to meet your goals. What a great Christmas present idea, one or two sessions can keep you focused. If you have equipment handy you will have no reason to miss a workout, however if you are using your home equipment just for emergency days you’ll want to make sure you have a good plan of action on non-emergency ones because you may not have enough to be effective over a long period of time.

Are you looking to do the majority of strength training at home? This can be a wonderful way to incorporate fitness into your life. It is a great way to role model healthy living for your children, and make fitness a family priority. Although, my children do not get to use my weights, they do workout with me using the same movements and many they create as they hop from step to step, mimic me, and learn about their own bodies. They are excited and interested in movement and habits formed early have a better chance of hanging on. Remember, the biggest factor in childhood obesity is parents. Help your children fight obesity – its never too late to start.

If you decide to strength train at home consider your current level of strength. How much can you easily lift now? Again, your goals are going to be important because they will dictate the progression of exercise, which will dictate how many weights you’ll need and how heavy they should be. What kind of space will you be able to dedicate to your workouts? Do you have room for a bench or ball? Do you have storage for different sized dumbbells? Will you dig equipment out of a closet or from under a bed to actually complete a workout? This is the big question! Will you do the workout? Once you know the answer to these questions you can begin to create space and build your equipment choices for your complete home strength workout.

As you begin to contemplate your goals for health look closely at your choices. There are many options for your fitness. You just have to be willing to move!

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.

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

Workout While You Walk!

Ok, now that we’ve covered basics of walking over the last few blog posts – lets look at adding adventure to our jaunt because lets face it, walking is, well, sometimes it can be boring. You can also add this workout to running, which can be great fun! First,

Take very large steps. Try keeping your speed as you begin taking extra long strides. Do this for ten steps and begin walking as fast asyou can for thirty steps. Repeat 3 times.

· During the third round change the extra long strides into lunges. Keep the knee over the ankle as you move forward, as it will want to shoot out over your toe, which can be too much stress on the joint. Center your weight as you come into the lunge and lower the body over the hips. Do ten lunges on each leg, and begin walking as fast as possible again. Repeat this sequencence.

· Next, add knee raises. As you move forward raise the knee to waist height with each step, do ten then walk as fast as possible for thirty steps. Follow this sequence with an extended kick as you raise the knee. Raise the knee to waist height and then extend the leg from the knee out front. Feel the quadriceps as you extend placing the foot down as far in front as you can. Repeat for ten steps and recover for thirty.

· The next set works the hamstrings. As you walk bring your heels up to the glutes. Knees stay close together as stride decreases working the back of the thigh to raise the feet. Repeat for ten steps recover for thirty.

· Finally, as you walk forward raise the leg out to the side and place the foot down across the mid-line of your body, working the outer and inner thigh respectively. Imagine your body has been cut in half, right vs left, and you need to place your step in the opposite half. So each step will involve bringing the leg out to the side (outer thigh work) and then stepping across the mid-line (inner thigh work).

· Repeat the entire sequence throughout your walk and make sure you are moving fast enough to keep the heart rate up if this counts as your cardio workout.

Sure you’ll look funky, but it will put some spark in your daily walk and add spice to your routine, plus will help add emphasis to the lower body as you move.