Ask the trainer: When to stretch?

Question: Hi Ryan, I would like to know if it is better to stretch before or after I work out. People tell me different things and it can be very confusing. Thanks for your help.

Answer: The proper order of exercise, especially when it comes to stretching is one of those topics where you can ask 10 people and get 10 different answers. While I will answer your question, I will also try to answer the larger order of how to combine all of the different training modalities.

Warm up– When we work out, it is always important to warm up. The warm up can be a light jog or performing specific exercises or movments slowly or with little resistence. The idea is to get the body lose and the blood flowing in preparation for the intense exercise. Working out cold can sometimes lead to injury.

Resistence training– Resistence or strength training should be the first thing you do after the warmup if you are planning on it. The energy stores and muscle fiber types needed for resistence training will be the first to go so it’s important that if you are going to strength train that you do it first as you will likely not have as much energy later.

Cardiovascular training– Cardiovascular training relies primiraly on oxygen so it should always be done after your strength training. Some people prefer to do it first and while this is fine, it will take away from the energy needed for the workout.

Flexibility– Flexibility, or stretching should always be saved for the end of the work out unless there is a specific injury or severe tightnedd which needs work on prior to a workout. Stretching prior to a workout can interfere with the neuromuscular system and can cause the muscles to work in a less than efficient manner.

Cooldown– A cooldoen should always be done at the end of a workout. A stretch can be a way of cooling down but if you chose not to stretch, it is important to do something which will serve to cool the body down, rather than to stop

Best time of the day to work out

A common question I get from my client’s is regarding what the best time of imagesday is to exercise. As a general rule, I would tend to say that the answer is specific to the person and people should work out at a time which is convenient for them. Not everybody is passionate about fitness and finding time to exercise can be hard enough without someone telling you specifically what time of day is best to work out. Also, everybody is different so one person may feel at his or her best while working out first thing in the morning while another may like to work out at midnight. There really is no right or wrong answer, whatever will keep a person committed to the fitness program is the best way.

With that said and all things being equal, here are some pro’s and con’s to working out at the various times during the day:

MorningOn the plus side, working out in the morning means that you get it out-of the way and are not likely to have something come up which would cause you to miss the workout. A morning workout is also somewhat of a natural energy booster and many people report that their morning workout helps give them energy for the day. On the negative side, working out first thing in the morning can put a person at greater risk for a lower back injury so I wouldn’t recommend it to someone with a lower back problem. Also, it’s usually advisable to eat two hours before a workout and this is not practical for someone working out in the morning, so many people chose to exercise on little or no food. This means that we don’t have sufficient energy to perform at an optimal level.

AfternoonOn the plus side, studies have shown that afternoon workouts are the most efficient. It is around this time that we have the right balance of concentration, energy and alertness. The body is also sufficiently warm. It can also help to kickstart the rest of the day as many of us suffer from the mid afternoon crash. There aren’t really any negatives to working out in the afternoon outside of the fact that it may not be the most practical time to exercise.

Evening–  One the plus side, an evening workout can serve as great stress relief after a long day. It is also efficient energetically if it is some time after lunch but before dinner as a person will have a good amount of energy for the workout. Evening workouts are also practical for those unable to work out in the morning. Some people, like me, like to work out in the evening because it tires you out for the night and can help with getting a good night of sleep.  On the minus side, working out in the evening means that you have the entire day for something to come up and interfere with your workout. Also, for some, it may be hard to have an optimal amount of energy after a long day at work. Finally, there are some, unlike me, who are wired after a workout and an evening workout may result in them having trouble sleeping.

As I said before, the answer to this question is very person specific and there is no right or wrong time to work out. My best advice is do what fits best into your schedule and have fun.

Keeping fit through stress

It’s very common for a life change to have an impact on a person’s ability to work out and eat right. As one of my clients put it, “sometimes life happens.” Major changes can have an impact on drive, motivation and concentration. More often than not, change or stress ends up having a serious negative impact on a person’s fitness and nutrition program. This post is going to cover some ways to effectively navagate change without completely disrupting your fitness program:

1. Exercise feels good. By now most of us know that exercise releases endorphins throughout the body which make us feel much better. It also can serve as stress relief so if you are going through a hard time, an intense workout may help you unwind and feel better.

2. Have a plan and be prepared. Generally, I stress the importance of preparation and this is especially true when going through stress. It can be easy to let fitness and nutrition fall by the wasteside so a person must plan their workouts and eating habits more dilligently in order to stay on track.

3. Healthy eating leads to a more productive person. One thing that people notice when they switch from an unhealthy diet to a healthy one is how much better they feel. Healthy eating creates sustainable and stable energy levels. It can keep a person from feeling tired and sluggish.

4. Create a goal. Goal setting is generally a very effective tool to use with a fitness program because if gives a person something to focus on. When going through a stressful period, this focus can be a great distraction from the stress and can be a source for positive energy.

5. Find an activity. It would be great if everybody loved running or lifting weights but unfortunately, that’s not the case. When going through stress, it can be hard for a person to motivate themself to participate in an activity which they don’t enjoy. The beauty of fitness is that there is an unlimited number of things that one can so to stay fit. From cycling to dance to yoga to rebounding, there are plenty of activities in the gym and out which may be of interest. Finding the right activity can help to make exercise more fun and the person more likely to stick with it.

Weekly Training Blog

muay_thai Hello all, I want to begin by apologizing for the serious lack of posts. I’m back on track and you can expect regular posts again.

In my entire life thus far, I really only have one true regret. My one regret is that I didn’t play football in high school. This may seem a bit silly but it’s true. The reason for this is that I have always been a very good athlete and never truly had an outlet to showcase that athleticism. Ironically, my reason for not playing was that I didn’t want to wake up early and now I wake up at 5am most mornings.
     Since high school I have obviously embarked on a career in fitness and genuinely love what I do but I have always felt like something was lacking. As it turned out, what was lacking has been something which would push my body to it’s physical limits.
     In the past 6 months, I have gone through major changes in my life and I made the decision to finally make an attempt at reaching my physical potential. I made the decision to train and compete in Muay Thai which is a form of kickboxing that originated in Thailand. I have had a Muay Thai trainer for the past 3 years but have not trained at a very serious level. I love it and I decided that this would be the perfect outlet for me. Even though I have some experence, I begin training seriously in September and for all intents and purposes, my approach will be as if I was starting from scratch. Every week I will be posting updates chronicling my progress up to my first taste of competition.

That’s all for now, check in next week as I will be posting what my pre- training workouts have been like. Thanks for reading.

Exercise of the week: Lunge with front raise

The exercise of the week this week is a great total body exercise. It is an intermediate level exercise so male sure you are comfortable with lunges, have good balance as well as shoulder strength before trying.

Items needed: barbell or a bodybar (dumbbells can also be used)

Muscles worked: quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus maximus, deltoids, trapezius

Start- to begin, stand straight with your feet hip width apart. Hold that bar out in front of you at about shoulder width apart. The arms should be extended with a slight bend at the elbows.

Movement (a)– begin by taking a step forward. The step should be a comfortable distance, not too long and not too short, you should still feel balanced.

Movement (b)- this part of the movement will require that you do two things at the same time. First bend the back knee and drop down into a lunge. Second, at the same time, swing the bar overhead. Male sure to keep the elbows locked in place.

Movement (c)- from this position drive up through your front heel and back into the starting position. At the same time lower your arms back into the starting position.

Ask the trainer

Question: Ryan, I currently weigh 125 lbs. I have pretty much been the same weight my entire adult life but over the past 3 years, my body has changed dramatically. Even though my weight gas stayed the same, my body has changed for the worse. I’m flabbier, my clothes don’t fit and I feel bad. How is this possible and how can I turn my fat into muscle?

Answer: Your situation is a very common one and it is not at all strange that your body has changed while the weight stayed the same. I don’t know your age but as we get older, our bodies naturally gain fat. What has probably happened is that over the past few years, you gained bodyfat due to diet and inactivity. You lost lean weight and gained fat weight. Since your total calories probably haven’t changed, your weight stayed the same while your body changed. A good way to look at this phenomenon is to consider this. 5 lbs of fat takes up about 4 times the surface area as 5 lbs of muscle. So if over time, you gain even 5 lbs of fat while losing 5 lbs of muscle, your body will look a lot different while maintaining the weight.

To answer the second part of your question, it’s a common misconception that one can turn fat into muscle. Unfortunately, these are two independent processes which tend to work together but need to be approached separately. The first part is losing fat weight and the second part is building lean weight. Losing fat weight takes a combination of three things. First, the diet needs to be healthy and low in fat and sugar. Second, is that you need cardiovascular activity. Third is that you need to build muscle, in order to increase your metabolism and burn more at rest. The second part, building lean weight or muscle, is achieved primarilly through resistence training with weights. Hope this helps and feel free to comment.

Weekly fitness journal

So it’s been a tumultuous couple of weeks both in my business and personal lives. Add to it the pressure of making weight and I had a pretty stressful week. The goal for the past 2 weeks was basically to get my weight to 160 by the time of the photo shoot. Fortunately, I was able to make weight an the pictures came out great. We haven’t finished deciding which pictures to use but here is an example of what came out of the shoot.

Diet: With it being two weeks out and my weight at 169, I basically went to a no carb diet. As I have mentioned in the past, no carb diets are not good unless you have a specific date in mind and you understand that you will put the weight back on once you introduce carbs. Once I got to about a week out, I started to eat very low calories which meant no carbs, and very low fat. I also drank a lot of coffee to help boost the metabolism and give me some energy.

Sample diet:

Breakfast- Coffee and 2 hard boiled eggs.

Snack- Chicken Breast

Lunch- Turkey Chilli

Pre workout- Coffee and oatmeal

Dinner- Ground Turkey

Exercise
The exercise pretty much stayed the same for me. With re focus being weight loss, I was focused on cardiovascular workouts. In the days leading up to the shoot, I did focus more on workouts that would give me more of a pump.

Results:

I made the weight. I was at 160 lbs for the photo shoot so that was a 25 lb drop over the past 6 weeks. I will be updating the website with those photos over the weekend so be on the lookout.

Journal entry:
Strangely enough, the last two weeks were not as bad as I had anticipated. When I took a look back at my diet, in shocked that I was able to manage. I really had no bad urges and never felt too hungry. Even on the last day when all I had was some mixed veggies and tuna, I was perfectly fine. I guess it’s because I can get very focused on the task at hand and the hunger becomes a very minor thing for me. I was very happy with the result. The photographer was awesome and we got some really cool shots. It was definitely worth the struggle. I was also able to celebrate that night by going to my favorite Brazilian Steakhouse and I ate like a monster.
The next step for me is to work on a new goal and to keep moving forward. I’m happy with where I’m at now butbi need to fight against complaciency so there is a real need to determine a new goal and work towards it. Thanks for reading.

Exercise of the week: iso lateral raise

The iso-lateral raise is a variation on the traditional lateral raise which is great for developing the shoulders.

Muscles used
Primary- deltoids (frontal and medial heads)
Secondary- trapezius, rotator cuff

Equipment– dumbbells. Try a lighter pair the first time as this is deceptively hard.

Start- As you would with a normal lateral raise, you want to start standing upright.  Keep the arms extended but slightly bent at the elbow.  Laterally raise both arms to shoulder level and hold. This is the starting position.
Movement- From the starting position, keep the left arm in he air and lower the right arm down to the side. Raise back up to the starting position and repeat until you have completed the desired number of repetitions. Follow that by immediately holding the right arm in the air while performing repetitions with the left arm. isoalt

5 things to look for in a new Personal Trainer

As someone who has been in the fitness industry,  I have seen my share of good trainers and my share of bad trainers. The following post is for anyone looking to work with a trainer. Beyond the basic things to look for which can be found here, these are good signs that the person you are working with is a quality person and personal trainer.

1- Complimentary Consultation. As a personal trainer I genuinely appreciate the fact that I can make a living doing something that I’m passionate about. In order for a trainer to do well, he or she needs to build trust and a connection with the client. A complimentary consultation can go a long way towards building that trust. This allows the client a chance to “interview” the trainer and make a decision without committing financially. Any trainer who is confident in his or her abilities, should have no problem offering a complimentary consultation as this is the chance to gather data and inspire the client moving forward. Someone who insists on payment for the first meeting is usually trying to make a quick buck and is taking a very short sighted approach.

2- Connection. As somewhat of an extension from #1, it is very important that you feel some kind of connection with the trainer. The fact of the matter is, if you choose to work regularly with a trainer, that person will become an integral part of your life. You will spend 1,2 or 3 hours a week with this person, more than you may spend with you may spend with your closest friends. In many cases, personal trainers become a friend in addition to being responsible for your workouts and fitness program. With all of this in mind, it’s important that the person you choose as a trainer be someone you feel a connection to and want to work with. You could have the most qualified trainer in the world but if you don’t like them, or are not inspired by them, all of the hard work could be for naught.

3- Focus should be on you. When meeting with a trainer, their focus should be on you and your goals. This is part of the importance of #1. The trainer should be asking questions about your background, fitness history as well as your goals. If the trainer isn’t asking questions related to your goals or worse yet, if he or she is creating goals for you then something is wrong. It’s a great sign when you meet a trainer who is asking a lot of questions, this means that the wheels are turning and they are designing a program as you speak with them.

4- Specializations. While the average personal training client is looking for weight loss and toning, there are many times when a client has specialized needs. If you have any health problems or physical injuries, current or previous, it’s important that the trainer know how to work with someone in that situation. For example, exercise is vital for many diabetes patients but a trainer without knowledge of how to train diabetes patients, could cause more harm than good. The same goes for a person with a specialized goal. A great example is marathon running. If you decide to run a marathon, it’s important that the trainer have knowledge of how to train a person running a marathon. Again, a serius injury could occur with the wrong training.

5- If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. At the end of the day, a good fitness program is going to take hard work and time. If a trainer is promising results that seem too fast to really occur or that doesn’t take hard work, it’s likely either not true or not safe. A good trainer will be able to map out a plan which will take you to your goals but in all likelihood, it’s going to take hard work and little bit of time.

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