Beating the Holiday Blues

The holidays can be an especially depressing time for a lot of folks.

Stress, fatigue, unrealistic expectations, over-commercialization, financial stress, and the inability to be with one’s family and friends all contribute the ‘Holiday Blues.’ 

Factor in overeating, alcohol, travel, and normal sleep pattern disruption, and the formula gets worse yet!

The good news is that there are plenty of remedies, and (I know you’ll be shocked to hear that) Nutrition and Exercise play a huge part!

As mentioned  few weeks ago in my 5 training tips for making it through the holiday season, one of the most effective ways to both fight the holiday blues AND get a head start on your New Year’s fitness resolutions is to start an exercise program now!

Experts from Mayo ClinicWebMD, and others all recommend exercise as a critical part of fighting the holiday blues.

Making time for exercise, especially with extra holiday activities underway, is generally the hardest part!

Here then, are my Favorite Four Tips for getting it done:

1. Exercise quickies. While 3 or 4 resistance training workouts AND 2 or 3 cardio workouts per week are optimal for good health and weight control, planning on more frequent, shorter workouts can help get you fit it in.

2. Train with a partner, or hire a trainer to hold you accountable. Showing up is more than 90% of your grade in exercise, and you’re much, much more likely to show up if some one’s counting on you to be there!

3. Abandon all of your weight loss, and fitness – related goals for the month of December. You’ll have plenty of time next year to work on those. Instead, merely establish attendance goals: “I will exercise 3 or 4 days per week not matter what!”  Circle completed days on your wall calendar to help track your commitment.

4. Exercise in the morning. Not only will you avoid allowing other agenda items to trump your exercise appointment, but you’ll have extra energy for the entire day!

Bonus Tip 5 – Work with an Expert! 

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Spice up your Day with a Quickie!

There’s nothing like a quickie to get your morning started right!  Or pick you up in the afternoon!

Or punctuate your day in the evening!

Exercise Quickies, that is.

You see, December is one of the toughest months of the year for Fitness Professionals. As if busy lives, work schedules, and family affairs weren’t enough, extra travel, holiday parties, out-of-town guests, and office gatherings all add to the daily grind

Making time to exercise is always a challenge, but this added pressure can be a nightmare for trainers trying to keep their clients on track!

Of course, in the blinder-ed world of a Fitness Professional (because no matter what the question is, exercise is almost always one of the best answers), we’d argue that if you’re life gets so stressful that you don’t have time to exercise, you really can’t afford to NOT exercise. Indeed, exercise is the ultimate anti-anxiety medicine.

So, before you blow off your workout in lieu of yet another gluttonous holiday party, consider rolling through December distractions with Frequent Exercise Quickies!

Here’s how it works.

Rather than spending your normal 75 to 90 minutes working out 3 or 4 days per week this month, plan instead for training 4 or 5 days per week (one extra day) for just 40 to 50 minutes (less time per workout).

Normally, we coach clients (and you should plan) for a minimum of 10 to 15 minutes warming up before your workout and 30 to 45 minutes of cardiovascular work following your session.  Along with your 45 minute training  session, this gives you a standard 75 to 90 minute workout.   Normally.   And while that doesn’t seem like a huge time commitment to us (after all, isn’t your health, sleep, and appearance worth it?), it can certainly seem intimidating when there’s cooking to be done, the in-laws are inbound, and you have an unfinished gift shopping list.

A 45 minute workout, on the other hand, is short, sweet, and mentally conquerable.
Indeed, just showing up is the hardest part!

Heck, it’s not even a workout … more of a workoutling ... a workout too small, cute, and incomplete to be a real workout. Get in, get it done, and be on your way.  The key, of course, is that if you reduce you cardio and resistance workout volumes, you’ll really, really need that additional exercise quickie per week!  Quickies are only acceptable if you get more of them into your week!

Training for 45 minutes 4 times per week (200 total minutes) instead of 75 minutes 3 times per week (225 total minutes) also has other advantages.

For one, you raise your metabolism one extra day per week. Not only do you burn calories while exercising, but you’ll burn additional calories recovering from the exercise after your workout. And this extra day of recovery effort more than covers for the reduced total volume (25 minutes).

Additionally, the 4th workoutling per week gives you one more boost of energy to make it through stressful days, and another shot of endorphins to make the holiday stress more tolerable.

Keep these things in mind for effective exercise quickies:

  1. It’s just 40 minutes, so plan for being seriously committed for the entire workout; it goes fast!
  2. Rest no more than 1 minute between sets
  3. Drink plenty of water
  4. Perform mostly compound exercises that incorporate a lot of major muscle groups
  5. Wear your headphones, and don’t make eye contact with anyone else in the gym (no time to get pulled away into a conversations)
  6. Look ahead, and plan your next exercise before you’re finished with your current one
  7. Have an alternate exercise in mind with alternate equipment to keep you moving should your equipment get taken before you get there (and good training for the January gym jams)
  8. Go relatively light with high repetitions (20+) on the 1st set of any exercise (the abbreviated warmup will increase the risk of injury, so you’ll need to warmup in-line)
  9. Plan for no fewer than 10-12 repetitions on any exercise (again, making the workout more aerobic in nature to compensate for reduced cardio)

Need Help in planning for a Quickie?  Give me a Call!

93.8% will Quit Fitness Resolutions By February!

Once Again … Happy New Year Everyone!

And in true January style,  health and fitness improvements are one of the top resolutions year in and year out!

Why is it then,  that (according to a Johns Hopkins University study) fully 93.8% will abandon their goals by the end of the month?

 

What is going on here!?!

 93.8 Quit their Resolution by February!? 

Lots of reasons exist, to be sure, but here’s my short list:

 

 1. Actual lack of commitment is a big one.

People considering our programs sometimes fail to enroll because they simply don’t have the time to exercise.   Listen, nobody happens to have time for anything.  You make time for things, exercise and health included.   Further, if you’re really that busy, you really can’t afford not to exercise!  Check last week’s blog on commitment

 

2. Accountability is another good one.

It’s easy to skip the trip to the gym when you’ve had a long day and would prefer to simply grab a burger and veg out with the remote control.  After all, no one will know if you made it in for your workout or not.   Listen up again, as my 3rd grade teacher frequently said, SHOWING UP is 80% of your grade in life.  

And simply arriving at the club is almost always the hardest part. But if nobody’s missing you there, nobody’s expecting you, nobody’s riding your tail if you miss, well then, it’s just too easy to just drive home.

 

Having someone hold you accountable is the true secret to success in fitness! 

Sure, you need to know a bit about waving the weights around, and heart rate zones, but holding you accountable is key and the hardest part. 

 

3. Absence of a legitimate plan is also in the list.

It’s often said that goals without plans are simply dreams.  Any road will do if you don’t know exactly where you’re going.  Exercise and Fitness plans have a couple of different levels.  On the most basic level, you must have a plan for attendance.

That’s it.  Simply how, when, and where will you train?  Here’s how. 

 

Your exercise appointment goes onto your calendar in black in and simply doesn’t move.  

Your health and vitality are too important.   Planning exercise, periodizing your workout cycles, tiptoeing the fine line between over training and intensity are important too, but less important than the immutable appointment.

Libraries of documentation exist on how to exercise, and thousands of fitness professionals exist to demonstrate, prescribe,  and observe exercise.   Get professional help if you are new to exercise.

Aspire 8 happens to be the Fitness Together programming model these days, but any programming model/plan is better than none at all!

 

 

 4. But my favorite in a list that could go on and on is the absence of measurable progress.  

Indeed, one of the most critical errors people make in January is to monitor their progress with the bathroom scale. While that might be right for some people at some point, it’s flat-out wrong for most people starting a fitness program in January.

 

Here’s why. Exercising forces the body to adapt.

 In fact, the less fit you are the more dramatic the adaptions.

  • Your body creates new and more efficient neurological pathways.
  • You add mineral content to your bones increasing its density.
  • Blood volume increases.
  • And yes, you both increase the size of, and add muscle fibers to your frame.
All of this blood, nerve tissue, bone, and muscle is lean body mass.  And adding lean body mass is a healthy way to make you stronger, live longer, and is one of the keys to weight loss!

Each ounce of additional lean body mass is living, ‘breathing’, calorie-consuming tissue. Increased strength not only allows you to move more weight and burn more calories when you workout, but the additional lean body mass will also burn more calories when you’re at rest.

 

You can think of muscle tissue as your primary fat ‘burning’ facility.  The more muscle you have, the more fat you can burn!

The trouble is, all this lean body mass also adds to your overall body weight! So while all of that exercise is burning calories and reduces your body fat, that same exercise is offsetting the fat loss with an increase in lean mass! So the scale doesn’t move. Or doesn’t move much,which frustrates a lot of folks and is tops on the list for why 93.8% of everyone who starts January with good fitness intent, drop the goal by February.

 

Work with a pro to measure, monitor, and motivate you to make this year different from last year! 

 

 

Want to add 2190 more lunch dates to your life!?

Or how about 2190 more sunsets?

Or 2190 more days with your children, grandchildren, lover or best friend.

Of course you would!  Who wouldn’t!?

Well, it turns out that that’s how many days are in 6 years, the number of years your life will be cut short if you develop diabetes.

As reported in the Los Angeles Times a while back, a 50 year old ” … will lose an average of six years of life as a result of the disease, only one year less than the seven that would be lost by a smoker of the same age.”

“He or she is more than twice as likely to die of cardiovascular disease as someone without diabetes and 25% more likely to die of cancer … and are more likely to die from kidney disease, liver disease, pneumonia, infectious diseases and even intentional self-harm.”

Wow.  That’s brutal. While it’s been known for some time that diabetes effects mortality, the international study of more than 820,000 people recently published in The New England Journal of Medicine for the first time puts a hard number on the life-price of the disease.

Talk about use it or lose it!

The culprit?   “Lifestyle factors”, according to Wikipedia.

Hereditary factors cannot be ignored, but inappropriate diet and insufficient physical activity levels are the leading causes of unhealthy body weights and, eventually, diabetes.

Hereditary influences, of course cannot be changed. You’ll simply need to play the hand you’ve been dealt.

But Lifestyle factors … your physical activity levels, when, where, and how you exercise, and what you eat … are things you can control.

How to fix it?

Well, if you ask a fitness professional, the answer is pretty easy: you need to exercise more and eat better! But asking a fitness professional about fitness is sorta like asking a car salesman if you need a new car.  Or a surgeon if you need surgery.

So don’t believe me!

Believe, instead the 43 PhDs, MDs, MPHs, RDs, and BFDs who put together the USDA’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.   Produced every 5 years, the 2010 version reveals some startling truths about who we are:

  • 72% of men and 64% of women in the USA are either overweight or obese, with about one third being obese
  • 32% of children are overweight or obese, with 17% being obese.
  • Nearly 24 million Americans … almost 11% … yes, more than one in ten … have diabetes.
  • Another 78 million (35% of the adult US population) have pre-diabetes (elevated glucose levels, but levels not quite high enough to be called diabetes).

Obesity Then and Now

In the early 1970s the prevalence of obesity for adolescents 12 to 19 years was 6%.  In 2008, the prevalence of obesity for 12 to 19 year olds was 18% (triple).

In the late 1970s, 15% of adults were obese.  In 2008, 34% of adults were obese.  (double)

In the early 1990s,  ZERO states had an adult obesity percentage above 25%.  In 2008, 32 states had an adult obesity prevalence of 25% or more.  THIRTY TWO STATES are now home to where more than one in four American Adults are obese.

Lifestyle factors make the difference, and professional are available to help.

Wanna do even one better?

Don’t just maintain low body fat to add 6 years to your life, but lower your resting heart rate and pick up another two!

A few years ago, I actually did the math: lowering your resting heart rate (yes, this will involve exercise) by just 2 beats per minute will actually ADD ANOTHER TWO years to your life!

Maybe it’s time to put Fitness Reform into Health Care Reform?

Career Limiting Fitness Habits

Finishing up on another 60 hour work week last week, I finally decided to get some help with the back office work that’s been burying me for months. As I crafted my Help Wanted Ad for a Marketing and Executive Assistant, it was natural for me to include the requirement that the candidate must have “… demonstrated exercise habits and have above average fitness levels for consideration”.

After all, I’ve written ads like this for years in recruiting trainers, and hadn’t thought twice about it. But then I did think twice about it. Was it discriminatory to screen applicants who were actually overweight? 

Concerned, I checked The Federal Equal Opportunity Employment Law posted by the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission. What I found was that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits “…employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” And that’s it. For 45 years, this has been the written rule. Nothing about fitness or fatness. Perhaps the lawmakers of 1964 foresaw the health care epidemic we now face, and felt it fair to omit fitness from the statutes. (yeah, right)

I personally have no trouble telling candidates that FT MSP’s simply not good fit if they’re not fit – it’s our job to be fitness experts AND role models. But I do wonder how many other organizations think and screen that way in making hiring decisions and simply don’t say it. Or think and screen that way for promotions, and simply don’t say it.

Career limiting behaviors are normally pretty easy to identify: having the boss unexpectedly overhear you bad mouth his decisions in a conversation with a co-worker; bumping into an exec on the golf course after calling in sick; manipulating the time clock; etc.

Less obvious, but likely more severely limiting career behavior is chronically inadequate exercise habits and fitness levels. Volumes of documents chronicle the benefits of regular exercise and fitness for employees: increased productivity; reduced sick time; reduced time off for doctor’s visits; increased energy; reduced stress levels; reduced blood pressure; and elevated motivation. Everyone is more productive and more valuable to an organization if she exercises regularly. I’m not saying that women need to flaunt a size 2 figure, but they must regularly exercise. Men don’t need to sport a 30″ waistline, but they must regularly exercise. Yes, part of being fit includes body composition, but cardiovascular condition, muscular strength, flexibility, and muscular endurance are equally important.

Fit people walk more quickly to meetings, can take a flight of stairs to avoid elevator congestion, and spend less time in restroom. No job is completely un-physical.

Think about the promotions, lateral moves, sales calls, project bids, and proposals you’ve sought or pitched, but didn’t get over the past 10 years. And what that may have cost you in earned income. Thousands, perhaps Tens of Thousands of dollars have been lost because of unspoken decision-making based upon fitness levels. Or think about the last outdoor vacation you took, and how valuable being fit (or unfit) was to you.

One of the more frequent excuses we get from people who come to us for a consultation, but then don’t begin a program is that they “don’t have time” to regularly exercise 3 or 4 days per week. Ladies and gentlemen, if you’re serious about your career, your business, your family, or your spouse, you CAN’T AFFORD NOT TO exercise regularly.

A long time Minneapolis client once told me that she knows she’s overweight when people stop opening doors for her. I thought she meant it literally, but now wonder if she’d been figuratively speaking all along.

Establishing a Corporate Fitness Culture

Time magazine ran a story a few years ago on “Mandatory Fitness” programs being implemented at various organizations around the world. According to the article, “… eighty four percent of Americans said that they’d get healthier … if (only) the boss insisted.”

So, at a few leading companies, the boss is now insisting: Verizon, Microsoft, and Dow Chemical, among others are now actually offering cash bonuses for loosing weight.

The Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) lab at Mayo Clinic developed a computer station atop a treadmill few years ago to get office workers more active within otherwise sedentary office roles. Office furniture maker Steelcasetm is manufacturing and marketing it commercially.  The Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal ran a story about Salo, LLC usage of them here in Minneapolis a few years back.

These somewhat far reaching efforts are in response to an increasingly troubling obesity epidemic that isn’t going to be easy to fix. I personally very strongly favor a Fat Tax on High Fat Content Foods, and passionately contend that Fitness Related Discrimination has long been practiced in hiring and promoting.

While cash based incentives for loosing weight, and office worker gerbil wheels could be great options for some organizations, …

I’m here to offer a few more options on how small businesses can get their organizations more fit! Not unexpectedly, corporate fitness is actually more culture than programming. As with all corporate cultures, it all starts from the top. If your leadership buys in and behaves accordingly, culture is created and nourished.

One of the more frequent excuses we get from clients is that they “don’t have time” to regularly exercise 3 or 4 days per week.

 Ladies and gentlemen, if you’re serious about your career, your business, your family, or your spouse, you simply CANNOT AFFORD NOT TO exercise regularly.

So, since the 1st step is getting the boss moving in the right direction,here are my Top 5 tips for Corporate Executives:

  1. Schedule exercise into your calendar, and don’t move it unless there’s a death in the family. Make your exercise appointment the most immutable appointment of the day.
  2. Be accountable to someone. It helps if you have a personal trainer waiting on (and charging) you for the appointment whether you show up or not, but it is also helpful to have a training buddy/partner. You’re much more likely to show up when you know someone is waiting for you.
  3. Establish, write down, and publish a very specific health lifestyle goal for the next 3 months. These are things like: exercise for 90 minutes 3 times per week; or walk for 60 minutes 6 days per week; or make every scheduled exercise appointment. Lifestyle Changes; nothing physical or exercise related.
  4. Establish, write down, and publicize a very specific, Non-Appearance related fitness goals for the next 6 weeks. While the body will certainly undergo composition changes with regular exercise, the initial 6 weeks should focus entirely on strength or endurance measurements: doubling your push ups; or completing 40 sit-ups within one minute; or completing a mile run in under 8 minutes. Don’t worry about the body weight or body fat at all just yet.
  5. Update your Corporate Values, Behaviors, and Ethics document to include the statement: Regular Exercise is a fundamental and necessary element of heath and happiness, and improves professional productivity.

Bonus Tip!  Ride your bike to Work this Month!  Talk about leadership!

Pain Good, Agony Bad

Proposed to be among “… the most influential works of psychiatric literature since Freud…”

Viktor Frankl makes the case the case in Man’s Search for Meaning that a significant part of life’s meaning is your suffering through it.

Indeed, your exact purpose is to shoulder your life’s unique burdens in a way that only you can, says Frankl.

Allegedly, this is why Catholics sacrifice during lent. And why world class cyclists refer, quite literally, to “suffering” during race and training events. I’m quite sure that psychiatry and psychology schools have long studied the bizarre relationship between meaning, suffering, and happiness. And will continue to do so.

But just how does this apply to exercise? What’s the relationship between pain and progress with regards to health and fitness? Well, as we all know, exercise introduces pain in a number of different ways.

Unfortunately, not all exercise pain is created equal, and tricky part is recognizing the difference between good pain and bad pain.

Joint problems, muscle strains and over training fatigue are all bad pains. Suffering, to the degree that you become faint or dizzy during cardio is also bad pain. These are to be avoided as they only deepen injuries and will retard recovery.

Good pain, however, does have it’s role. It is, in fact, needed to push the body to adapt. And despite however wrong he might have been in guiding the state of California to near bankruptcy (which, in his defense has been done by several previous CA governors throughout history), Arnold appeared to be onto something when he coined the phrase “No Pain No Gain” back in the 70s.

Indeed, only after you are physically pushed to your limits does your body adjust to the stress by becoming stronger, leaner, or more fit aerobically.

With weight training, we push clients to exhaustion (and beyond) on a certain (managed) set of exercises to fully recruit muscle tissue.

Muscle fibers, you see, are arranged in muscle fiber groups that are used to complete a physical movement. The problem is, muscle fiber groups behave in a way we call the “All or Nothing” principle: either all of the fibers within a group are working for you, or none of the fibers within the group are working for you.

To make matters worse, additional muscle fiber groups are recruited to assist with the movement only after the initially recruited groups have been exhausted. And that’s why we push to exhaustion on a few sets … suffering through the lactic acid pain that tells us to stop … to simply get to a point where we can incorporate the additional muscle fiber groups.

When done within a managed program, this is the exact stress that is needed to adapt, and is one of the primary reasons why personal trainers exist at all: finding that fine line between good and bad pain.

So, no matter what the verdict is on Frankl, Schwarzenegger was right all along!

Healthy Hydration Hints

Water, one of the basic 6 nutrients, is the medium within which all of our body’s metabolic process occur!

Body temperature regulation, nervous system impulse transmissions (including brain activity), and energy conversion systems all rely on proper body hydration to function effectively!

Further, as the weather heats up, additional fluids are lost during basic daily activities, making proper fluid consumption (hydration) even more critical.

Water is also the body’s primary means of cleansing itself by flushing toxins out the (bottom) door.

Hydration, in short, is a pretty big hammer!  Proper hydration:

  • Improves digestive efficiency;
  • Reduces blood pressure;
  • Improves the appearance of skin, nails, and hair;
  • Increases muscle and joint flexibility;
  • Improves the elasticity of your skin (reducing wrinkles); and
  • Helps keep your breath fresh!

Got a slight headache? Maybe you’re dehydrated.

With all of these things dependent upon proper hydration levels, it’s a wonder that any of us become dehydrated at all!

But we do, and we seem to do so with some regularity. A good rule of thumb for monitoring your hydration levels is the color of your urine. Unless you’ve just taken a loaded multivitamin, you should be generally passing clear fluid when you urinate. The darker it is, the more dehydrated you probably are!

We’ve all heard the advise to drink 8 glasses of water each day. You know, that’s a lot of water! And it actually takes a conscious effort to consume that much water positioned butt down at your desk. The easiest way to provoke  additional fluids intake, of course, is to exercise!

More on that below, but here are a few basic tips for proper daily hydration:

  • Develop the habit of carrying a water bottle with you where ever you go. Sip on it every 15 or 20 minutes.
  • Drink unsweetened green iced tea if all that water is just too much water; avoid sugared drinks
  • Plan to consume at least 8 ounces of water before and with each meal
  • Make extra efforts for additional fluid intake with higher protein diets
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine, which are technically diuretics with dehydrating effects.

And Exercise more!

A lot of us simply require an exercise induced thirst to get in enough fluids on a regular basis. Not unlike how increasing your heart rate helps to eventually reduce your resting heart rate, profuse sweating increases your thirst to where you will more effectively hydrate!

Complete a few hot cardio intervals, one of our FT HEAT programs, or a few sets of lunge presses, and you’ll have 20 ounces through your body in no time!

While hydration requirements for aerobic activities (cycling, running, nordic skiing) are slightly different from those required for resistance training, the basic requirements are the same, and fit into 3 basic categories:

  • Pre-exercise hydration;
  • Exercise hydration; and
  • Post-exercise hydration.

Pre-exercise hydration should actually begin 2 to 3 hours before your workout with consumption of 500-600 ml (a bottle) of water, followed by an additional 100 to 200 ml of water (or sports drink) 20 minutes prior to your workout.

Consumption during exercise should approximate sweat rate, though given that most people can only absorb about a liter per hour (the rest is just passed through), extremely vigorous, extended exercise will almost always result in some dehydration.  Therefore …

Post exercise hydration is a critical time to make up the difference in fluids lost during exercise …preferably within 90 minutes.   Drink a post exercise recovery drink (with nutrients) first, then just plain water at a rate of a liter an hour for the next 2 hours.

Got any other hydration tips?  Please leave a comment!

Exercise: The Silver Bullet for the Flu Season!

Looking for an easy way to worry less about the Flu season?

Look no further. It’s called regular, moderate intensity exercise!

While no one is completely immune, with the H1N1 virus circulating a few years ago, and discussions around pandemics a nearly annual event now,  it’s a good time to point out that regular exercise improves your body’s ability to fight off disease and infection! 

Even better, you don’t need to train intensely for those benefits.  Because while you do need to work a bit harder to improve strength, and you do need to work a bit longer to improve your endurance, and you do need to work a bit faster to improve your cardiovascular fitness levels, regular moderate exercise is all that’s needed to improve your immune systems. 

Why is that?

Well, a few theories exist.

  • First, the more rapid breathing associated with moderate exercise helps flush the lungs of airborne illnesses.
  • Second, increased sweat and urine production helps rid the body of carcinogens.
  • Third, an elevated heart rate more quickly circulates antibodies and white blood cells to fight off infections.
  • Fourth, increased body temperatures have been found to help prevent the growth of bacteria.
  • Lastly, and as we’ve mentioned for a few weeks in a row now (insulin and caloriesinsulin and sugarinsulin and sleep),hormones are related in no small way. But this time, it isn’t insulin we’re blaming, it’s cortisol.

For while cortisol is required to handle stress and other stressful events, prolonged periods of elevated cortisol levels are quite detrimental to your health, and your immune system.

Moderate, regular exercise, however, helps inhibit the production of cortisol, thereby enabling the immune system to operate efficiently. 

So, what’s moderate? It all boils down your a Long Slow Cardio Event as was described back in February. I’ll need to update that posting for today’s frost less landscape, but that should get you started!

And what is regular? Well, that’s most days of the week (4 or more with the new math). Sorry, there are no short cuts on frequency.

Need a bonus tip for fighting off the pig flu? Don’t forget to get enough rest! For while adequate sleep will help with your job performance, it also improves your immune system!

Five Fantastic Fitness Tips for Tired Summer Training

Fantastic Five Fitness Tips for Tired Summer Training

 Vacations. Guests. Long out of town weekends. Road Trips. And just plain lazy summer days all contribute to reduced summer exercise frequency. Oh, I know, many of you are doing extra cardio outside. But, I also know that a lot of you aren’t!Even in my studios where we rant and rave, and beg and plead with our clients to get attendance up to where it needs to be to make progress, attendance is down. Maybe it really is the economy. If that’s the case now is in fact the BEST time to pick up your exercise volume …to look and feel healthier, increase your productivity, reduce stress, sleep better, and on and on.

Here then, are my Favorite Five Fitness tips for Fixing Flat Summer Programs

1. Get a Grip!

Changing how you grasp a bar can dramatically alter the kinetics of a resistance exercise, and create exciting new interest in upper body pushing and pulling exercises. I also frequently find that people with joint ailments (the rotator cuff in the shoulder in particular) can avoid impingement and discomfort by experimenting with grip adjustments.
Alter the width of where you grasp a bar, the rotation of your wrists (palms up or down), or change the bar entirely. A Traditional grip is palms facing down when your hands are extended on a plane in front of your eyes. Change your routine by continuing to use a traditional bar grip, but vary the distance of where your hands grasp the bar to recruit additional or different muscle fiber groups. Two or three inches narrower or wider are usually sufficient. Try varied grip widths for chest, triceps, and shoulder presses to effectively train muscle groups on range of motion boundaries not normally recruited with a ‘monotonous’ grip position.

Try using a reverse grip for lat pull downs, seated pulley rows, supported T bar rows, and single arm movements of the same. Selecting a different bar or cable attachment can also introduce variety into an otherwise mundane program. Experiment with straight, cambered , EZ curl, V-shaped, and rope attachments for arm exercises. Choose between straight, cambered, wide grip lat, wide grip cambered, and bent lat bars for back & traps.

Use your modified grip (or bar choice) consistently for a minimum of 2 to 4 weeks, then try another one! But don’t switch more frequently than that: the initial adoptions from a varied grip will be neurological; the muscle strength & fiber growth you’re looking for occurs only after primary neurological adoptions are complete, so don’t switch too often!

One Critical piece of advice here: if you are unsure of the proper movement, or the safety of the exercise, DO consult with a fitness expert before experimenting. Modifying grip and bar choice changes joint rotations that can be unsafe for the uneducated.

2. Be Promiscuous

Hey, it’s OK … it’s just a workout! But you’d be surprised and amazed with how much fun, exciting, and refreshing training with a new partner or trainer can be! And effective! Here’s bonus a tip for you: training with a partner or trainer is one of the true key elements to reaching heath and fitness goals you never before thought possible. Knowing that someone is expecting you to show up for a workout – someone who will hold you personally accountable for making it to that fitness appointment dramatically improves the likelihood that you will actually show up! Having someone help you with a few forced reps, and assist with some negative repetitions not only increases the safety of your workout, but it increases intensity as well.

If you’ve been with a partner or trainer for more than 6 months, try making a change for a while. If you like your partner current partner/trainer, try forming a small club of ‘workout buddies” and rotate through the group periodically. Not only will you make new friends, but you’ll grow if only through a handful of favorite tips, tricks, and techniques we’ve all collected over time. More likely, however, is that you’ll also change the tempo, repetition rate, sequence of exercises, and content of your split routines. All of this puts your body at a high state of ‘nervousness’ which encourages neurological adaptations required for increased muscle group recruitment. Especially with today’s hectic schedules, you can never have too many workout buddies, and some of the best workouts I’ve ever had have been ‘reunion’ workouts with former partners from high school and college.

Finally, I strongly recommend AGAINST training with your significant other. Your workout needs to be free from the baggage and agenda from that relationship if you truly want results.


3. Know and Feel your Pain

Herb Brooks was right: “…you must grow through pain.” Realize, first, however, that not all pain is good!

Being able to understand, recognized, and differentiate good pain from bad pain is a key element in making consistent progress towards your fitness goals. The burning sensation felt from fully exhausted muscle groups is due to the accumulation of a waste product known as lactic acid. Excessive lactic acid buildup is also responsible for muscle soreness after your workout. Generally speaking, it is a good pain giving you reassurance that you’ve recruited otherwise inactive muscle groups and have trained them to momentary exhaustion. Even so, training muscle groups to exhaustion with high intensity exercises should be moderated to avoid over training.

Plan to train to train each body part to complete exhaustion (and feel the burn that comes with it) no more than once per week, and less so after age 40. The burning feedback from lactic acid is much different from that which you feel when joints, tendons, and ligaments are strained. Especially as you hit the mid years of your life, not all pain is equal, so learn to differentiate the good from bad. Pursue active rest to reduce lactic acid buildup,but completely rest when you have an injury. If in doubt, check with a trusted personal trainer.

4. Have a Ball!

A medicine ball, that is. They’re inexpensive (less than $20 each), and can introduce new fun into an otherwise tiring routine! Did you know that medicine balls have been used in in physical therapy since 1000 BC! Sizes and shapes vary from 1 Kg to 11KG, but all medicine balls will be soft enough to bounce on a firm surface (like a wall or floor). Indeed, it’s ability to absorb impact is what makes a ball a medicine ball. Most balls with come with brief instruction guides for things to try. A few of my favorites are:

  1. Walking diagonal lunges with a gentle hand to hand shot-put-like overhead toss (glutes deltoids, balance);
  2. Explosive seated overhead throw and catch against a flat wall (lats, abs),
  3. Sit-up and overhead throw to partner (abs, lats);
  4. Explosive squat position basketball chest pass against a wall (gluts, delts, tris); and
  5. Russian Twist – balance on your butt with feet lifted off the floor and rotate ball in a twisting motion (abs, obliques);

And if you think training with a medicine ball is for wusses, try a few single arm supported dumbbell rows: support yourself in a plank-like position atop of the ball with one fully extended arm while grasping a very light dumbbell in the other. Balance on the ball with the extended arm while knocking out a few single arm dumbbell rows. You’ll train Tris, Delts, Pecs, Core, Traps, and Lumbar with just this one exercise.

5. Get Roped!

One of the most effective cable attachments ever invented is the rope attachment. Part of what makes it so effective is that the flexibility of the rope allows the exercise range of motion to follow a more natural joint motion than any fixed bar ever could. Use the rope attachment for:

  1. Split triceps pushdowns from a pull down pulley
  2. Single Arm triceps pushdowns … try grabbing both rope ends, or just one;
  3. Split biceps curls from a seated row pulley
  4. Single Arm biceps curls
  5. Seated Crunches from a pull down machine

Unfortunately, rope attachment ‘evolutions’ have actually reduced it’s effectiveness in some ways. Back in the 70s we simply threaded heavyweight marine mooring through the eyelet of the cable buckle. While crude, it required that you both: 1) establish a firm grip on each end; AND 2) manage balance between the ends of the rope. Today’s rope attachments normally have huge knots on each end and a fixed buckle in the middle. While still effective in providing quality and gentle joint kinetics, the grip and balance benefits of a free, unknotted rope have been forgotten. Not to worry though … just thread a hand towel through the attachment buckle for a similar enough effect!

One thing to note with most ropes, however: unlike it’s metallic cousins, ropes will absorb and hold moisture from your gym brethren, so be sure to wash your hands immediately after your workout to leave the fungus at the gym!