The importance rest in an exercise program

A common misconception about fitness is that more is better. It’s an idea that one must work out 6 or 7 days a week and never take time away from working out. This cannot be further from the truth and in fact, adequate rest it just as important to a fitness program as actual time spent working out. A person who does not rest adequately risks both a physical and psychological breakdown due to the level of stress placed on the body.

To understand the importance of rest, it is important to understand how our bodies develop when involved in a fitness program. Contrary to common beliefs, the actual act of exercising does not build muscles. Exercising actually does the opposite as it causes tearing within the muscle. When we work out we are essentially breaking down and tearing muscle tissue. The muscle building is a result of the bodies ability to adapt. Once we have broken the muscles down, the body needs to repair them, our bodies will adapt to this new stress by repairing the muscles stronger than before in order to meet the new requirement for strength. Adequate rest is crucial for this process to be successful as we repair our muscle tissue during rest.

Lack of rest also increases the potential for injury. If a person works out 6 days a week, they are essentially breaking their body down without giving themselves enough time to recover. Often times, this will eventually result in an injury as the person does not have a chance to recover from the constant stress.

In addition to the physical requirements, there is also a psychological advantage to resting. Unless a person is a professional athlete on a strict schedule, it is common for people to overwork themselves to the point of physiological exhaustion. There is tremendous guilt associated with rest and eventually the person breaks down and has to stop working out all together. A proper understanding of the importance of resting would result in a more manageable program.

It’s not hard to see this in practice. Professional athletes, for example, work out for a living in order to be in peak condition. Most athletes need 2-3 off days a week. In addition, for sports like boxing, mma where they are training specifically to be at their peak on a specific day, athletes will take a week off of rigorous activity immediately before the competition in order to recover and reach their peak.

When it comes to requirements, it’s going to vary from person to person but generally I would say 2-3 days off a week. It’s always best to schedule the days off if possible as it tends to keep a person committed to the workouts. In addition to taking the weekly breaks, it’s also important to take a week or so off every few months. This is also a good way to recharge the batteries and stay excited about fitness.

Keep in mind that good fitness is about balance, so hard work needs to be complimented with good rest. Don’t feel guilt about your time away from the gym because that is when your body really gets to work.

Exercise of the week: Sword Draw

The sword draw is a very versatile exercise. Is can be used for rehab, strength, ROM and posture.

Muscles used
Primary- deltoids (medial and lateral), infraspinatus, supraspinatus
Secondary- trapezius, rhomboids

Start- you can use a band, dumbbell or no weight for this movement. Stand with your knees slightly bent and the abdominals braced. The arm will start across your body next to the opposite hip.

Movement- while keeping the elbow locked, pull the arm up and across the body. Make sure to rotate the arm in the direction you are lifting so that your thumb is pointing behind you when you reach the top of the movement.

Weekly exercise journal

Diet: this week, my goal was to focus on the frequency of my diet. I had been feeling extra hungry for some time now and I believe it’s because I’m not eating frequently enough. Since my days can be very crazy and erratic, planning is key. So every day, before bed I looked at my schedule and created an eating plan that would fit. It’s a tedious process but it seems to have worked as I’m definitely not getting the bouts of hunger.

Exercise: this week I was focused on turning my sessions up a notch. I followed a compound set routine which is basically doing back to back exercises using the same body part. After strength training, I would follow that up with 1,000 jumps and 5 rounds of kickboxing with the bag. Much to my dismay, I even went for a one mile run.

Results: Weight- 175 (no change)

Journal: this was a frustrating week. I worked my butt off and had nothing to show for it. Obviously I understand why and intellectually, I get it but it doesn’t make me feel any better. It just goes to show that even with a professional, it’s very hard to handle not making progress especially when you have worked hard. I might be a little too focused on the weight loss but it’s my goal at the moment and I need to see some more pounds drop. The increased intensity felt good. I’m definitely not in the shape I was last year but I’m getting there. I did solid rounds with the bag and jumped rope. My goal next week is to lose a couple of pounds and get 5 solid workouts in. Until next week.

Illustration of why it’s better to lose 1-2 pounds a week

Last week, I wrote about the importance of losing weight slowly and consistently versus a rapid weight loss program. This week, I am going to give an example of what frequently happens when someone loses weight too fast versus someone who does it at a consistent clip.

As I mentioned before, the body is only capable of losing 1-2 pounds of fat per week so any more than that comes from lean body weight which is weight that we don’t want to lose. For this example, we are going to take a person who is 200 pounds and 30% body fat. This means that the person has 140 pounds of lean body weight and 60 pounds of fat. I am going to go through two separate scenarios with this person to show my point.

Scenario 1- This person decides to go on a crash diet or a very low calorie diet. This person could very easily lose 30 pounds over the span of 5 weeks. If we average this weight loss out to 5 pounds a week, then in a best case scenario, this person would have lost 8 pounds of fat and 22 pounds of lean weight.  What results is that this person is actually less healthy at 170 pounds than he was at 200 pounds because his body fat percentage is still 30% and he has lost 22 pounds of valuable lean weight. What makes this example even worse is what happens next. 95% of the time a crash diet will fail within 6 weeks and the person puts back on all of the weight that was lost. In this case, if this person puts back on 30 pounds, he won’t put on 22 pounds of lean weight and only 8 pounds of fat. The likely outcome will be the reverse and he’ll put on 20 pounds of fat weight and 10 pounds of lean weight. The result will be that this person will be back to 200 pounds but with a body fat of 36%. He will have gone from 60 pounds of fat weight up to 72 pounds of fat weight because of the crash diet.

Scenario 2- The same person follows a program which includes a balanced and healthy diet with strength training. If the person is focused on losing 1-2 pounds a week the after 6 weeks, this person will only have lost 10  pounds but it will all be fat weight. After 6 weeks, this person would be 190 lbs but his body fat percentage would have dropped down to 26%. Another 6 weeks and 10 pounds of fat later, his body fat would have dropped to 22% and finally another 6 weeks and 10 pounds later and his body fat would have dropped to 17%.

As you can see, scenario 1 lost 30 pounds in 5 weeks but paid for the rapid weight loss by losing mostly lean weight. He also had the added negative  benefit of gaining back mostly fat. Scenario 2 took 18 weeks to lose 30 pounds, almost 4 times as long but this person was able to lose 12 percent body fat and 30 pounds of fat in that time.

Feel free to comment or ask questions. Any involvement would be greatly appreciated.

Weekly Exercise Journal 3

Diet: This weeks goal was to build back some structure to my diet. Due to my hectic schedule, I’m constantly eating on the go which is a waste of money and way too many calories. This week was about going back to basics for me. I made a trip to trader Joe’s and got a ton of food. I prepared ground turkey, chicken breasts as well as sliced steak. I also got tons of fruits and healthy snacks. I’m making sure to have something to eat every 3-4 hours and for me I’m munching on whatever is in my refridgerator. I’ve been able to keep to it this week.

Exercise:The focus this week was to include some cardio. I was happy with the frequency last week but strength training is not enough. My goal this week was simple, one 1.5 mile run.

Results:

Weight- 175 (-3)

Bodyfat- 9.4 (0)

Journal: I absolutely hate running, it’s the bane of my existence. It must be a combination of thngs for me. First of all, I have asthma so I get short of breath quickly but that’s not a real excuse as I have no problem playing basketball for hours or sparring for 5 rounds. Second is after about 5 minutes of running, my body starts to itch sometimes violently. I’ve read articles about this being a medical condition but sometimes I think that it’s my mind messing with me because of my hatred of running. Finally, running is just boring and I don’t have the attention span to keep it up for an extended period. Even with all of these reasons not to do it, I realize that if I want to lose the weight quickly, I’m going to have to suck it up and run. This week I set a modest goal of 1.5 miles. I decided to do it outside as it was a nice day so I took my ipod, put on a sweatshirt, shorts and went out. About .5 miles into the run, the itching began and I started to feel winded. I was very much inclined to quit right on the spot. A minute later the itching got more intense and I could sense that I was mentally starting to give up. I had reached to proverbial fork in the road, I was either going to quit and likely not run again or I was going to push through and get past this barrier. I decided to put on my favorite song (Rosetta Stoned by Tool) put my head down and made the decision to push through. I made the 1.5 miles and hated every minute of it but in the end I was very proud of that accomplishment. It was a big moment for me to finish that run and I’m more excited than ever about what the future holds for me.

 

Please feel free to comment. Thanks for reading.

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.

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.

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.

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