Exercise of the week: Calf Circles

Calf circles

Muscles used
Tibialis anterior (primary)
Calves
Peronials

Exercise type
Posture/ correctiveflexd_leg-53

Why are they good?

Calf circles are a very simple but effective exercise. Often times a person will feel pain in the front of their lower leg by the shins. This usually happens after beginning a running program or a longer/ faster than usual walk. People usually refer to this as “shin splints” but this is often not the case. The real culprit is an imbalance between the calves on the back of the leg and the tibialis anterior on the front. Most of us, especially those that play jumping sports and those that wear heals, have overly tight calves. This causes the tibialis anterior to grow underdeveloped. When the tibialis anterior is overworked, we will end up feeling pain and soreness. This exercise is a great way to develop the muscle.

The start
Begin by positioning yourself like the first picture. Lie on your back and pull one leg towards your chest

The movement (a)
Following the second picture, you are going to perform foot circles in one direction. Make sure to go through as full a range of motion as you can. Once you have completed 15-20, move on to the next step.

Movement (b)rm-03
Now you are going to perform foot circles in the opposite direction. Again, go through as complete a range as you can. After 15-20, move on to the final portion.

Movement (c)
The final movement will be to dorsi flex and plantar flex the foot. This means that you are going to flex your foot as much as you can and then extend the foot as far as you can by pointing the toes. Alternate between the two for 15-20 reps each and then switch legs.

Why you shouldn’t worry if you don’t lose more than 1-2 pounds a week.

     The majority of my clients over the years have wanted some form of weight loss, some more than others. Early on in my career, it seemed to be an inevidability that a person would experience frustration at not losing weight fast enough. Whether the person wanted to lose 10 pounds or 40, there was this feeling of wanting to get from point a-z without travelling through the other steps in between. Generally, when someone is participating in a weight loss fitness program, it is not advisable to lose any more than 2 pounds a week. In fact, losing more than that number is usually less healthy and is less likely to succeed. It was a challenge for me early on to learn the proper ways of articulating this without discouraging the client but over time, I’ve formed a good way of both explaining this and coming up with a good alternative way of approaching weight loss.
We live in a society that is all about instant gratification and the fitness industry is no different. Weight loss suppliments, dvd’s and products are all sold as things that will create almost instant results. This creates an attitude when it comes to fitness which focuses on a lot of weight loss in a very short period of time. When someone approaches their fitness program with this mindset, 90% of the time, they will end up disappointed when they don’t see the pounds melting off. This frustration eventually leads to the person abandoning their fitness program.
     People make a few major mistakes when beginning a fitness program geared towards weight loss. The first mistake is that they focus too much on the scale. The second mistake is that the person usually tries for too much too fast. It seems a bit counter to the goal to say that people pay too much attention to the scale but the fact of the matter is that it’s true. When you are in a weight loss program, it’s more important to know the kind of weight you are losing and not simply the amount of weight that you lose. I will illustrate this point in next weeks post but simply put, it’s more important that a person lose fat and inches than total pounds. The second mistake is also common and very dangerous. Often times, especially with beginners, a person will get gung ho over a diet and exercise routine. They will work out 5-6 days a week for an hour and a half, they will go on the new fad diet and usually this person will show a sharp drop in weight over the first few weeks of their fitness program followed by a plateau. Usually within 4-6 weeks, the person has stopped losing weight all together and they start feeling tired, sluggish and eventually get burned out. They stop the program and gain all of the weight back. This happens because the person is not physically and emotionally ready for that kind of program. It’s sustainable up to a point but eventually the budy simply can’t handle the dramatic change and it breaks down.
     Aside from the physical and mental fatigue that comes from a sudden and dramatic change is the fact that the body will end up burning lean bodyweight instead of fat for it’s energy. Our bodies are only designed to lose 1-2 pounds of fat a week and usually anything more is going to be lean bodyweight. This means that while 10 pounds may look good on the scale, only 2 of those pounds would be from fat so it’s definitely not ideal.
The right way to approach weight loss is the same way one should approach fitness. Fitness/ weight loss is an ongoing process which requires consistency and regular assessments of progress. A person should be in a fitness program which they feel they can sustain forever. This means starting slowly and increasing the intensity of the diet and exercise over time rather than going to an extreme right off of the bat. It is also important to measure progress. This is not only done by the scale but also by measurements, pant size and even other people recognizing the change in your body. A good weight loss program should see a person make small but consistent progress over time. This is habit forming and much more likely to succeed in the long run. It’s much better to lose 1-2 pounds a week over the course of a year than it is to lose 30 pounds in a month and then to crash and gain it all back.
     Next week I’m going to illustrate the difference between a consistent weight loss program and one of your typocal crash dieting programs. Be sure to check it out as it really shows the importance of consistency and steady progress over super fast weight loss.

Ask the Trainer- “When should I stretch?”

Question: I run regularly and whenever I run in the park, I see people stretching before they run. I’ve heard some people say to stretch before a run and some that say to stretch after. When is it best to stretch?

Answer: It is very common for people to go through a long stretching routine prior to running or any exercise for that matter. Generally it is not advisable to go through an intense static stretching routine before running. Static stretching would be the type in which you move into a position and hold that for a period of time. What happens is that in the short term, the stretch will reduce the contractile efficiency or the power that you can develop in the legs. This can cause a decrease in performance and sometimes lead to injury. The only time it is advisable to perform this kind of stretching before a workout or run would be if you have a muscle that is excessively tight and you would want to stretch only that muscle.

Before a workout or run, you definitely want to warm up the muscles. There are a few methods of doing so, a fast walk, light jog, various jumping exercises, dynamic stretches are all ways to warm up. Generally it’s bets to warm up for 8-10 minutes prior to exercise.

Flexibility is still very important as it reduces the risk or injury and fixes muscle imbalances. I definitely advise stretching but save it for the end of the workout.

Weekly Exercise Journal 2

Diet: My diet this year has been awful. I’ll eat anything and I’ve had a hard time specifically with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as well as unhealthy snacks.  Just as I preach to my clients, the focus of my diet is to make changes gradually rather than changing everything at once. In my case, since I’ve been doing this for so long, it will be at a bit of an accelerated pace. This past week, my focus has been eliminating the bad snacks. So no muffins, PB&J or anything like that.

Exercise
I always work out hard, so the intensity level has never been an issue. My problem is consistently getting to the gym. That had been a challenge with the combination of my work schedule and being tired. This weeks workout goal was simply to get into the gym 4-5 days even if it was for 30 minutes. My workouts were mostly Strength training so standard exercises and my rep range was 8-10. Starting next week, I will include a sample workout with my postings.

Results

Weight178 -6

Bodyfat- 9.4 -.6


Journal
I had a really good week. Its amazing how much better you feel just after a week of better habits. It doesn’t hurt that I lost weight rich off the bat. The diet change wasnt too hard. I’m an all or nothing kind of person so eliminating the junk all together wasn’t too bad. My substitution has been coffee with skim milk and splenda. I didn’t make any changes this week to my exercise routine but I did work out 5 days. That alone made me feel like a million bucks since I had been averaging 1-2 days for the last 4 months. So far so good but this being the first week, I know there is a long road ahead. Next week will be big as I make more changes and begin the thing I hate most,
Running. Thanks for reading.

Exercise of the Week- Triceps Kickbacks

Exercise Name- Triceps Kickbackstric_dum-18

Muscles used- Triceps (Primary Mover), Lats (stabilizer)

What it’s good for- Triceps kickbacks are a great exercise for developing the triceps. This exercise shouldn’t be done with heavy weights but light to moderate and try to concentrate on the movement and really working the muscle.

Start- With one knee on a bench place the same arm on the bench in front of you. Make sure your back is parallel to the bench and that the abs are tight. The arm with the dumbbell should start bent at 90 degrees with the upper part of the arm glued to the side.

Movement- Simply extend st the elbow and slowly control the arm back to the starting position. Make sure that the upper arm stays glued to the side throughout the movement and that you don’t move from the shoulder.

Strategies for Maintaining Healthy Eating Habits (Part 2)

Last week, I tried to give an explanation for why diets fail and the ways in which a person should approach their eating. This week I’m going to discuss what I believe are the core principles of a good diet. These are easy to follow principles and are things to work on if you are looking to put together a good eating plan.

Principle 1- Daily Caloric Intake (DCI) vs. Daily Caloric Expenditure

This principle is pretty straight forward. The DCE represents the amount of calories your body burns on an average day.  Click here for a DCE calculator. The DCI represents the amount of calories you take in on a given day. Click here for a calorie counter. In order to lose weight, a person must be at a Caloric defecit meaning that the DCE must be greater than the DCI or you must burn more calories than you take in. If a person wants to gain weight, then the DCI must be greater than the DCE. There are 3,500 calories in one pount of fat so for a person to lose one pound a week, he or she must on average take in 500 fewer calories than he or she burns every day.

Principle 2- Breakfast

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  It’s important because helps set up the structure for the rest of the day. Studies have shown that people who eat breakfast actully consume fewer calories per day than those who don’t. The reason why is because skipping breakfast causes a person to feel significantly hungrier when it comes time for the first meal of the day. This hunger usually causes the person to over eat and to make bad decisions.  In addition, skipping breakfast usually causes a person to feel tired, sluggish and rely on coffee and simple carbs to gain energy. Eating breakfast, sets up the day properly and when it comes time for the second meal, the person won’t be as hungry. This will cause the person to eat less later in the day and will help regulate the system to get used to eating frequent but small meals.

When beginning a healthy diet, it’s more important that a persn get used to a consistent breakfast than that they make perfect choices. Breakfast doesn’t need to be a huge meal but should be a good mix of protein and carbs. This provides the person with energy that will be needed to begin the day. Good options are oatmeal, certain cereals like total, fruits, egg whites & whole wheat toast and yogurt.

Principle 3- Drink lots of water

Water intake, along with maybe breakfast, is the most neglected part of many diets. It is recomended that we drink 8 glasses of water a day and that number actually increases if you participate in a fitness training program. Water is great for many reasons. First of all, it keeps us hydrated. The higher the hydratio lever, the thinner the blood and easier it is for the heart to work. Second, it helps your body get rid of waist and toxins, like a cleaning system for the body. Third is that the more you drink water, the less likely you will be to drink sodas, juice and other beverages with high sugar contents. This is very important. Most soda and juice have no nutritional value and simply serve as empty calories, a great way to cut calories is simply to cut those out and replace them with soda. If you drink 3-4 cans of soda a day, you can immediately cut 400+ calories daily.

Principle 4- Eat Smaller more Frequent Meals

You have probably heard this one before and it is really important. Eating frequently can play a huge role in a weight loss program. First of all, every time the digestive system begins work, you burn calories. So, whenever we eat, we are also burning some calories in order to digest the food. What this means is that if person A eats 2000 calories over 3 meals and person B eats 2000 calories over 6 meals, person B will burn more calories throughout the day because the digestive system was active 6 times vs. only 3 by person A. Secondly, The more frequent the meals, the less hungry we will be from meal to meal. This means that we will eat less at each meal instead of overeating due to hunger.  Finally, frequent meals will help to keep our energy levels up and consistent instead of a roller coaster like many go through.

Principle 5- Day to Day Consistency

Consistency is the most important part of maintaining healthy eating habits, especially if you are beginning a new plan. Eating habits can be a challenge to fix and unless it’s ingraned in us, it’s very easy to fall off the wagon. Try to maintain consistent times to eat each day. Eat breakfast at 7:00 each day for example, rather than at random times. Also try to not leave more than 4 hours between meals or snacks. This will cause you to consistently think about eating but you’ll never be too hungry. When beginning a healthy eating plan, make sure to come up with something that works, is comfortable for you and stick to it. If you have a bad day or two, don’t beat yourself up just get back to the good habits. If you are consistent, then after a few months, you’ll find that you are sticking to these principles without even having to think about it and then you can make more specific changes to your new eating plan.

Ask the Trainer: “Tone up without building too much muscle”

Question: “I am a woman and would like to tone up my arms without bulking up. Is there a way to build lean muscle without getting too big?”

Answer:  This is a great question which I am asked frequently. There are many misconceptions regarding women strength training and hopefully I can clear those up while answering this question. First, in order to answer this question, it is important that you understand what muscle tone really is. Simply put, muscle tone is the activation level of a given muscle while at rest. Even when we are not exercising, our muscles are active on some level, the more a muscle is trained and used, the greater the activation level. This level of activation, combined with  low bodyfat will result in the muscles appearing more defined or “toned.”

The second thing to note is the idea that there is a difference between lean muscle and bulky muscles. In reality, muscle tissue is muscle tissue and there is no way to train a muscle to become longer and leaner, your body will dictate how a muscle developes, this is in your DNA and there is no way to change that.

Now that we have those two things out of the way, I can better answer your question. In order to build muscle, we need a combination of resistance training and testosterone. Women don’t have the level of testosterone that men have so it’s very hard for a woman to put on a lot of muscle. Obviously this isn’t the case for everyone but generally, you won’t have to worry about putting on too much muscle.

In order to have “toned” arms, you will need to train with weights in order to build some muscle on the arms and again, you will likely not put on excessive muscle. Secondly. you will want to lose bodyfat. The lower the bodyfat, the more your lean muscle tissue will show. Cardiovascular activity along with a low fat diet will assist in dropping the bodyfat.

The combination of exercise and diet will assist you in becoming more toned but if you want to take it to the next level then here is a great way. Train like an athlete! Athletes are toned because their bodies are trained to react immediately, powerfully and explosively. If you are healthy enough, I incorporating a lot of explosive movements, powerlifting movements, bodyweight exercises and high intensity work. This level of training will increase the activation levels of your muscles and you will look far more defined.

Hope this helps.

Exercise of the Week (Single Leg Squat)

leg_dum-173The single leg squat is a great exercise which is effective in many ways. It’s a great exercise for the glutes as well as the quadriceps and there is a huge balance element which is great for your core as well as coordination.

The Setup

Start by Standing with the feet together. This can be done with or without weights but either way, keep your hands at your sides. Lift one leg off of the ground and kick tha leg back at the hip.

The Movement

Brace your abs and slowly sit back into a squat. Make sure to lean forward at the hip and keep your foot flat on the floor. Once you reach a comfortable depth, drive up through your heels and press back up. Try not to let the raised leg touch the ground until you finish your desired number of repetitions.

This is a great exercise and if you have trouble balancing throughout, don’t be discouraged, it takes time to build the balance.

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