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.

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.

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.


Weight178 -6

Bodyfat- 9.4 -.6

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.

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.

Strategies for maintaining healthy eating habits (Part 1 of 2)

As mentioned in a previous post, the majority of diets fail. Diets fail for a wide variety of reasons but there are a few basic reasons why most diets are destined to fail right off the bat. The key to maintaining healthy eating is to change the approach one has to their “diet.”

Why do diets fail?
Of the many reasons why diets fail, I think the biggest comes from our perception of the word “diet.” When people think of that word, they associate it with something temporary, something restrictive, painful and a means to an end (losing weight). These are all negative associations and automatically make the diet likely to fail.
Another reason why diets fail is because they are generally not sustainable. Most diets are so restrictive that a person can only stick to It for a finite period of time. A person may notice significant weight loss from a new diet but once they go off of it, the weight is likely to come back on in equal or greater numbers. The final reason why diets fail is because they are often not specific to the person. Everybody has different habits, lifestyles and physical needs. A diet must take all of these individual needs into account in order to be successful.

How do I approach an effective diet?

In order to have successful diet, one must overcome the obstacles mentioned above. The first thing that we need to do is to change our mindset when it comes to the word “diet.” The word “diet” simply refers to the way we are currently eating. Whether your diet is healthy or unhealthy, the word still applies so there is no need to apply those negative connotations. For a diet to be successful, what is needed is the proper mindset. It needs to be approached as a lifestyle change and not simply a way to lose weight. While weight loss may be a goal, it is also important to maintain a healthy lifestyle and to keep the weight off long term.

A typical crash diet is designed to be used for a finite period of time and generally to lose a significant amount of weight over a short period of time. While these diets can yield good results initially, the person will almost always gain the weight back once they stop the diet. For this reason, a good diet must be sustainable. It needs to be something that the person can stick to for an indefinite period of time. If someone can sustain a healthy diet, they will lose weigh at a steady and consistent pace but more importantly, they will keep the weight off.
The reason why I use the word “strategies” in the title is because it is essential that a person have a strategic approach to their diet. Everybody is different and requires a different approach to structuring their diet. Specificity is very important and we need to take a variety of factors into account. Things like work schedule, availability of food, sleeping habits, religion etc. all may have a potential impact and should be takes into account. If a person can pit together a diet which takes into account their lifestyle, they are more likely to stick with it than if they are simply given a sheet of paper with what they should do.

Please check back next Tuesday for part 2 of this series as I will go into the 4 basic rules and you can start to build the frame of a good diet.

My Fitness Journal

We all go through it, even the mighty trainer. It’s that moment when you realize that you’ve let things get out of hand. For me, that moment occurred this weekend while trying to put on kachi pants that a year ago were almost too big for me. This time, I could barely get the thing on and it did not look good. Now I’m not delusional, I’m by no means in bad shape but ones body image is a very subjective thing and I have set a standard for myself which needs to be met.
It all started when I got back from my vacation in August. I gave myself two weeks of eating whatever I wanted. Somehow those two weeks turned into five months and suddenly I’m 20 pounds heavier, not consistently working out and barely fitting into my already close fitting clothes.
I’ve had a hard time getting motivated to get back into peak form. It’s very strange for me, being someone who normally coaches people to be the one needing the coaching.
I chose to chronicle my own exercise program to both serve as a form of motivation for myself and to show readers that everyone goes through this process. The psychology behind it, the ups and downs, this will serve as a insight for anyone that is interested.

I’m going to keep track over 3 months. I’m starting with my weight at 183 lbs, bodyfat of 10% and my waist is 34″. My goal at the en of 3 months is to be at 163, 4.5% bodyfat and 31″ waist. Each week, I’ll give details on my workout and how I’m doing with my program. Check back every Thirsday for a new Journal.

Exercise of the week

flex-021Exercise of the week is back and I will do my best to update this as
frequently as possible from here on. This week’s exercise of the week
is a flexibility exercise that can be useful to most people. This
exercise stretches the psoas or hip flexors. Most people’s daily
routine can be very taxing on the hip flexors which in turn can cause
tightness in the lower back. Stretching the hip flexors will not only
work on the hip but will also alleviate some of the tension in the
lower back. This stretch should be done in three steps.

Starting position: start by kneeling on one knee on a soft surface.

Step 1: fall forward on the hip that’s kneeling by extending the leg.
You should feel a stretch from the hip going down the leg. (Pictured)

Step 2: raise the arm on the same side as the knee on the ground. Pull
the arm directly behind you. The stretch should be more intense.

Step 3: with the same arm in the air, reach across to the opposite
side. You should feel the stretch even more intensly.

After step three, hold the stretch for about 20 seconds and do the
same on the other side.  Make sure to complete each step separately as
it’s the most effective way to get the stretch.

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