Thursday, July 24, 2014
Sometimes life gets too hectic and even the most dedicated athletes have reasons for taking a break from their workout routines. Whether you were sidelined with an illness, had family issues arise, or simply got bored, things happen. Maybe your summer has been busy but you’re now ready to make exercise a priority again. Whatever the reason, it’s never too late to get back in the habit. There are a few things to consider before jumping back into a routine after a hiatus.
Depending on how long your break was, you may need to work back up to where you were. A few days of rest are encouraged at times to prevent overtraining, so a week-long break isn’t a cause for concern. You may even feel stronger after giving your muscles a break. However, a couple months or even a few weeks will require changes from what you were used to doing.
Many people who start exercising again might do so because they feel a renewed sense of motivation. That’s great! But too much enthusiasm can be a danger. You don’t want to be so excited to make up for lost time that you overdo it. Your strength will not be what you were when you had a regular routine, and you should gradually work up to that point again. If you’ve taken a few weeks off from strength training, it’s best to scale back on the number of sets you do and the size weights you use. Or, start at a slower pace for your cardio workout. Taking the time to progress again will help prevent unnecessary injury.
Just as you don’t want to overdo it, you also don’t want to underdo it. The key is maintaining the right balance. If you were running ten miles and took a two week break, it isn’t necessary to go back to walking one mile. How long you’ve been inactive and your fitness level will make a difference.
Another important thing to think about is your diet. You haven’t had to worry about the right nutrition to fuel your workouts while you were taking a break. Once you start up again, you’ll want to cut back on any junk food and tailor your meals to give you enough energy.
However long you’ve been out of practice, don’t get discouraged if you’re not where you used to be. It may take some reconditioning but your body will be able to get back where it was. And you’ll have an easier time getting back into it than when you first started. The important thing to keep in mind is that you’re getting yourself back on track!
Thursday, July 17, 2014
If your workouts are in the morning, an egg sandwich is a great option. The egg will provide the protein you need, while the bread will give you the carbs. Sandwiches are also a good choice if you’re working out around lunchtime. Using whole grain bread will make it even healthier. Filling it with lettuce or tomato will add in a serving of veggies.
When looking for a protein-packed dinner to follow up with, chicken or fish are great sources. Have a side of brown rice for carbs. You can also opt for a stir-fry. Loading up on vegetables with your meal will add fiber to keep you full the entire evening. This will help eliminate any urges for late-night snacking.
Depending on what time you work out, you may not want a full meal. A snack can be enough to provide the nutrients you need to recover. A little yogurt and berries can give you everything your body needs. You can also make your own smoothie with yogurt or skim milk. Throw in some bananas, berries or whatever fruit you prefer. You can even toss in a little protein powder. Another great snack idea is a rice cake topped with peanut butter or almond butter for protein. Or, try slathering peanut butter on some apple slices.
There are also some great options for those days when you just need a snack but don’t have time to prepare one. A mix of dried fruit and nuts are perfect when you’re on the go. Just remember to watch portion size. A small handful will work without overdoing it. A protein or energy bar is another thing you can easily grab.
These are just a few suggestions to get you thinking. The key things to keep in mind are keeping portion size in check, and choosing foods that will provide a good combination of protein and carbohydrates, while still low in fat. But the possibilities are endless. You can still be healthy while enjoying your post-workout bite to eat. And it’s a great way to help your body recover!
Thursday, July 10, 2014
Whether you’re a beginning exerciser or an advanced athlete, drinking enough water should be one of your concerns. Water helps lubricate joints, transport nutrients, and regulate body temperature. Not being properly hydrated can lead to poor athletic performance by causing fatigue, as well as more serious symptoms.
Many factors, such as heat, exercise intensity, or how much one sweats, can affect how much water one should drink. As a result, there are no set rules to follow. However, there are recommendations that can give you a starting point. For moderate to high-intensity exercise, the American Council on Fitness suggests drinking the following:
• 2 to 3 hours prior to exercising: 17 – 20 ounces of water
• Before your warm-up: 8 ounces of water
• Every 10 to 20 minutes during exercise: 7 – 10 ounces of water
• Within 30 minutes after exercise: 8 ounces of water
In order to get a better idea of what your body specifically needs, there's a simple thing you can do. Take a couple of sessions to weigh yourself before and after you exercise. The average amount of weight you lose will most likely be fluid loss. You are going to want to replace that loss of fluid during the time you exercise. For every pound of body weight that you typically lose, drink 16 to 24 ounces of water. You can increase this number if you are exercising in hotter temperatures or at a greater intensity than you are used to doing. If you find that you are gaining weight right after your session, it can signal that you are drinking more than you need.
Some people wonder about the benefits of hydrating with sports drinks. Water is typically the best way to replace fluid loss for the average person. You usually don’t deplete your store of potassium, sodium, or electrolytes, that sports drinks help replenish. However, you might want to consider one if you’ve been exercising at a high intensity for longer than 60 minutes.
It’s important to remember that you need to keep drinking as you exercise, and not just when you feel extra thirsty. This will help prevent you from experiencing dehydration, when your body does not have enough water to work properly. Fatigue, lightheadedness, dizziness, dry mouth, nausea, muscle cramps, heart palpitations, and a stop in sweat can be warning signs of dehydration. More severe symptoms can be mental confusion and weakness.
Another thing to be aware of, although rare, is hyponatremia. This is when the body has too much water and not enough sodium. It is a result of drinking extreme amounts of water and, like dehydration, it requires medical attention.
The important thing is to keep drinking water with the recommended guidelines in mind. Always have a water bottle handy at the gym or outdoors, especially during these hot summer months. It will help you properly hydrate and have your body performing at its best as you exercise.
Thursday, July 3, 2014
Whether it’s at the beach, in the water, along a trail, or just around the neighborhood, many people take their workouts outdoors. Not only is it good to get out in the fresh air, it can be a fun change of pace. But you can be exposed to a lot more elements than you’re used to when you’re exercising in a controlled environment, like a gym. Since July is usually the height of hot weather, it’s always smart to remind yourself of the ways to stay safe as you head outside to get fit. Here are a few important tips to keep in mind.
1.) Always keep an eye on the weather report. Pay attention to the temperature and exercise indoors during periods of extreme heat. It’s also important to avoid air pollution. If you live in a city where this is of special concern, your local weather report should provide an Air Quality Index. You’ll probably want to head indoors if the levels are over 100.
2.) Watch the clock. It’s best to avoid peak sun hours or scheduling your workout between 10 am and 2 pm. Early mornings or around dusk are the ideal times.
3.) Allow your body to acclimate to the heat. When you’re used to working out in the comfort of an air-conditioned gym, the weather can take a little getting used to. Keep your workout a little lighter until you adjust to the hotter weather. Listen to your body and head indoors if you’re feeling dizzy.
4.) Reach for sunscreen. Make sure to apply it before you leave home. Consider a sport sunscreen that is more effective while you’re working out and sweating.
5.) Select the right clothing to wear. You need protection from the sun’s rays and darker fabrics are better for this than lighter ones. However, they also add more heat. If possible, opt for sun-screen treated fabrics that are moisture-wicking, cool, and light in color and weight.
6.) Protect your eyes with quality sunglasses. UV rays contribute to various eye problems, like glaucoma or cataracts. The best way to protect yourself is to make sure your sunglasses have UVA and UVB protection. You’ll want a pair that offers protection from the light on all areas surrounding the eyes, including the top and sides.
7.) Use the right shoes. Your feet will need different support if you’re planning on hitting the trails or rocky terrain. They will also need additional padding if you’ll be walking on concrete or surfaces that don’t provide as much give. Just make sure your footwear is appropriate for the type of exercise you have planned.
8.) Protect your head. The scalp is often neglected during an outdoor workout because people forget or don’t think it’s necessary. That area of the body can still burn. Apply sunscreen on any exposed areas of your hair part or where hair may be thinning. If possible, wear a hat.
9.) Stay hydrated. Drink water before you go outside and always make sure you bring a water bottle with you. Continue to drink throughout your workout, and not just if you’re feeling thirsty. This will prevent dehydration.
10.) Be safe during the late hours. If you decide an evening workout is better, take a few precautions. Apply insect repellant to ward off bug bites. It’s also a good idea to have a workout buddy with you if it’s after dark.
Keeping all these things in mind will help you take advantage of the fresh air and give you more enjoyable workouts!
Thursday, June 26, 2014
Exercise is beneficial for numerous reasons, but it does come with a small risk of injury. The joints can be one area of concern. Yet, that’s definitely not enough reason to forget working out. It just means that precautions should be taken to minimize the risk.
Beginners or those who are starting a new program are more susceptible to joint issues. The desire to start strong is usually high. You have to make sure you give your body time to adapt to a new program. Our body usually sends us warning signals if we’re doing more than we should. For example, a rapid heart rate can indicate we may need to slow down. However, our joints provide little indication that we need more time to adapt until days later. That’s why we need to be aware and start gradually. Allowing oneself to progress will minimize stress on the joints and prevent unnecessary aches.
Another reason why beginners experience problems is because of improper form. Even something as simple as riding a stationary bike can add stress to the knees if the seat is improperly positioned. Taking time to learn the correct techniques is something everyone should do. If you’re unsure of anything, don’t hesitate to ask for help at the gym or from a friend. Keeping yourself informed can eliminate unwanted stress.
An additional rule to follow is to never skip a warm up or cool down. Warm ups prepare the body for activity by increasing circulation to the muscles and joints. Cold muscles have a harder time absorbing shock. If your muscles are warm, they’ll feel less stress on impact. A cool down is necessary because it helps joint mobility and prevents the stiffness you would otherwise feel.
Variety is another key factor in preventing joint problems. In fact, these problems are most commonly caused by overuse and repetitive motions. Switching up your program is one way to help this. Making sure you focus on your body as a whole, working all your different muscle groups, will also prevent you from overtraining one specific area. In addition, you’ll want to make sure you have some low-impact exercises in your routine so you are not only performing high-impact exercises.
Along the same line, it’s important to include a rest day. Your body needs time to recover and your joints will thank you for this. It’s a good idea to include one or two rest days per week. Always listen to your body and take longer if needed.
Proper footwear is another thing to consider. Some shoes are designed for specific purposes, so make sure you are getting the support you need from your footwear. It can be expensive, but think of it as an investment in your health.
Keeping these ideas in mind will minimize the stress on your joints, as well as any pain associated with it. If you do find yourself experiencing minor aches, it can be managed with magnetic therapy. Magnetic therapy is available in a variety of styles for targeting different areas of the body, and can provide relief. It’s important to take the precautions to protect your joints so you can remain active and keep exercise a part of your regular routine.
Thursday, June 19, 2014
Strong bones should be a concern for anyone, no matter how healthy you may feel. It’s critical for teens as they are still growing, and it becomes more important as we age and are at greater risk for osteoporosis. Our spine, wrists, and hips are especially at risk for experiencing bone loss. Sometimes the problem is not that we aren’t exercising them enough, but that we aren’t doing the right kinds of exercises that vary our movements. They need to be challenged in new ways to remain strong. Adding variation to our daily movements is one of the best ways to promote healthy bones.
Another crucial element is to add weight-bearing exercises to your routine. There is often confusion on what that means. The term weight-bearing refers to how much body weight you are holding up as you move. Riding a bike, for example, where most of your body weight is resting on the bike would not be as weight-bearing as walking. The most effective exercises for strengthening bones are ones that have you up on your feet and supporting your own weight.
The reason it works is because of the way bones respond when stress is put on them during exercise. It prompts them to create more bone tissue in a process called osteogenesis. This only works at the specific areas being exercised. That’s why it’s suggested to try a variety of exercises that will strengthen bones in different areas of the body.
A few examples of weight-bearing exercises to give a try are running, jumping rope, tennis, hiking, dancing, stair-climbing or step aerobics. Keep in mind that these are high-impact activities. If you’re at greater risk for breaking or fracturing a bone, you may want to stay away from that and opt for low-impact weight-bearing exercises. Using an elliptical machine, golfing or walking may be better for you. Balance training is also a good idea to prevent falling, which could result in fractures.
Remember that the above exercises are great ways to vary your cardio routine, but other non-weight-bearing exercises are helpful. That doesn’t mean cycling or strength training won’t provide other benefits. They have their own purpose. Incorporating weight-bearing exercises will simply give you a more complete program and allow for better overall health.
Being aware of all the benefits different exercises can provide, and learning how to add them, can push you to be the strongest you’ve ever been!
Thursday, June 12, 2014
When was the last time you hit the pool or beach for a workout? Swimming is a great option for those looking to change up their cardio routine. Not only is it a low impact exercise that’s perfect for almost anyone, it can also be very challenging. If you haven’t given much thought to taking your workout to the water, it’s time to reconsider.
Freestyle swimming is generally suitable for beginners since there are no set rules on how to move your arms and legs. The only guideline to follow is that you keep part of your body above the water at all times, with the exception of turns. Depending on one’s size and swimming intensity, you can expect to burn between 500 – 700 calories in one hour.
The breaststroke uses a more particular set of movements and requires practice to perfect the technique. More coordination is needed with the arm and leg movements as the shoulders are kept in line with the water. You rely on your large leg muscles to propel you through the water. It’s not as fast of a swimming style, but it certainly gets the work done. An hour of it can burn up to 750 calories.
The backstroke is similar to the freestyle but it is done with the back facing the water. Strong abdominals and shoulders will help you with this swim. While it is technically an easier style for beginning swimmers, it can be difficult to remain aware of where one is in the pool when nearing the walls. About 500 calories can be burned in an hour. While it doesn’t burn as many calories as the others, you may find that it’s easier to swim for longer periods of time.
The most challenging stroke is the butterfly. Both your arms move up from behind you at the same time, heavily involving the shoulder muscles, followed by the legs doing a dolphin kick. This style is for more advanced swimmers and will expend the most energy. As a result, it may be hard to put in a full hour, which can burn around 800 calories.
As long as you work hard at any of the above strokes, you can expect to get a total body workout because swimming engages so many muscles in the upper and lower body. It's one of the few exercises you can do that works so many different muscle groups all at once. Depending on the swimming style you choose, you can easily decrease or increase intensity, making it challenging enough for advanced athletes or gentle enough for those needing to rehabilitate injuries. Aside from improving your cardiovascular health, it can improve flexibility and help gain strength because of the resistance that the water provides. As an added benefit, it can also be a great stress reliever. On top of that, you get to stay cool while exercising.
If you’re getting ready to jump in the pool, you may be wondering which stroke is the best. While it may seem like it would be the one that burns the most calories, it’s better to do the one that you perform the best. A sloppy butterfly will not yield the same results as a perfected breaststroke. So, give them all a try and see how you do. Just remember to go slow and work your way up to it. Even though its low impact nature makes it a gentler form of exercise, you still need to be careful. Starting out at 20 – 30 minutes for three or four days a week is all you need to get going.
For more advanced swimmers or even just beginners who are ready to commit, there are tools that can help you in your training. The Garmin Swim Watch is an easy way to keep track of your distance, pace, and stroke count. So, all you have to do is get in the water and enjoy the swim!
Thursday, June 5, 2014
Summer is approaching and most kids couldn't be happier about it. They get to trade in their long days at school for lazy days at home. That means no more early rising, recess, and required P.E. classes. Instead, many children will sleep in and stay occupied by sedentary activities. Kids can easily become glued to the couch, the TV, their iPads, video games, cell phones, and all the other electronics that even we, as adults, would probably devote all our time to if we could. Unfortunately, we need to stay active and it's important to help your children out in this area, especially during the summer months.
Experts recommend that children get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity every day. This includes aerobic, muscle, and bone strengthening activities. It’s essential in preventing weight gain and all the problems associated with the growing issue of childhood obesity. Physical activity has also been shown to improve the mind, which is another benefit for children during their summer break away from school.
So, how do you get your child off the couch and moving? Here are a few ideas to consider.
1. Head Outdoors - There is no better place to be in the summer than outside. The activities are endless - biking, skipping rope, playing tag, basketball, baseball, tennis, swimming, walking the dog, and plenty more. Staying fit is so simple for kids when you're able to run around in the fresh air. Just make sure they have any protective helmets or other gear, and are appropriately dressed and hydrated for the heat.
2. Look for Camps - If you live in an area that provides little space to play, a day camp is a great idea. They're often filled with ways to keep children active. Some parks have community programs that are free or inexpensive if cost is an issue.
3. Set Limits – Some parents opt to take away all their children’s electronics. This will usually result in unhappy kids and there's no need to be so strict. Teach children balance by setting time limits on their use of technology, and be sure to enforce the rules.
4. Involve the Family – Plan family walks after dinner, days at the local pool, or head to the park and get a game going. Showing children how to stay active while having fun together will make it likelier for them to make fitness a priority once they reach adulthood. It will also build and strengthen family bonds.
5. Make Exercise a Reward – When using the term “exercise,” it may not sound like fun to your kids. However, these activities can appear rewarding when they are used as incentives. For example, offering to take a long bike ride or spend time at the beach after having them help out around the house will motivate them.
However you choose to stay active with your children, have a fun summer!
Thursday, May 29, 2014
Compound exercises are multi-joint movements that work more than one muscle group at a time. They are often considered a vital part of functional fitness because they tend to mimic movements that are a part of everyday life. The squat exercise is one example. It involves both hip and knee joints, while working the hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps, and lower back. It also helps make daily activities that closely resemble it, like needing to pick something up, a lot easier to perform.
Isolation exercises, on the other hand, work only one muscle or muscle group and one joint at a time. They are often performed on weight machines in commercial or home gyms, although some may be done without the use of machines. An example of an isolation exercise is the leg extension, which involves just the knee joint and only works the quadriceps.
The two types of exercises have different benefits. Since compound exercises work more muscle groups, they save a lot of time. You can get a total body workout with a few compound exercises and spend less time working out. You’ll also burn more calories during that time. They also give you the best opportunity to progress into greater levels of difficulty. They are a great addition to any workout because they improve coordination and balance that helps with the performance of regular daily activities.
Isolation exercises are ideal for strengthening specific weak muscles. This is the reason why they are often used in rehabilitation programs. Since they focus on one muscle, they help to recover after an injury. However, they also have their purpose with healthy athletes who are looking to focus on certain muscle groups without fatiguing other ones.
While both types have their place, it’s a good idea to make compound exercises the foundation of your workout. Unless you are trying to rehab weak muscles, you’ll probably want them to be the focus. Isolation exercises are great to add towards the end of your workout since compound exercises take more energy and it’s better to get them out of the way.
Thursday, May 22, 2014
If you’ve been training for your first 5K, or any other race, it can be hard to know what to expect. You’ve put in all the work, now you just need to focus on the actual day of the event. Here are a few things to keep in mind for the day of the race that might answer some of the questions you have.
Don’t Overdress – It’s best to dress in layers so you don’t get overheated. Since your body will warm up while you race, it’s a good idea to dress as if it were 10 – 15 degrees warmer than it actually is outside. You also don’t make the mistake of wearing brand new training gear. Your shoes and clothes should be ones that you’ve trained in before so you know that they comfortably fit.
Eat Right – Be sure to eat at least one hour before the start of the race. Opt for something that’s high in carbohydrates. Don’t choose anything fatty or high in fiber that could upset your stomach. You’ll also want to stay away from eating a new meal or pre-workout snack that you’ve never tried, since you don’t’ know how it will affect you.
Arrive Early – Make sure you have plenty of time to get to your event. You will need it to find a parking spot, pick up your number if you haven’t already received it, and use the bathroom, since there may be long lines. The extra time will also allow for a proper warmup. It’s important to take about five minutes to get your entire body ready to race so you can avoid injury.
Control Any Nerves – If you’re feeling nervous, try not to get caught up on how you will finish in comparison to others. It’s best to just focus on yourself, and use any nerves to help push you to do better.
Pace Yourself – This can be hard to do. It’s easy to get excited, feel the energy from the crowd, and start stronger than you should. Your training should have helped you learn what pace you should keep, so stay close to others who match that.
Stay Hydrated – Make good use of the water stations. Before you start, take a look at the map of the course. They should be marked on there so you’ll know when one is coming. If there are several tables at one stop, aim for the tables in the back or on the left side of the course. Those are usually the least crowded. It’s also a good idea to bring your own water bottle and snacks for later, just in case they don’t provide what you need.
Don’t Stop – It’s tempting to quit moving around once you cross the finish line, but it’s important to keep walking for a few minutes. Your body needs a chance to cool down to avoid soreness. Take some time to stretch, especially your calves, quads and hips.
Celebrate – You should be proud of your accomplishment. It may not be a marathon, but you took on a challenge, trained hard, and met your goals. No matter what time you had, you should be happy that you crossed the finish line!
Thursday, May 15, 2014
The most common mistake people make when it comes to seasonally slimming down is attempting to spot reduce specific areas of their body to feel more comfortable with their appearance. Abs, for example, are often the target of both men and women. One approach that people frequently take is to perform a ton of crunches while not making any other changes. However, your body needs more of a workout than a few crunches to see real results.
The best way to get toned is to focus on the body as a whole. If you’re committed to getting in shape for the summer, make a schedule of when and how you will train, while incorporating cardio, strength training, and stretching. Since you can’t pick where you will lose fat, working on your entire body will help you achieve an overall leaner look. Compound exercises are great for this because they work multiple groups of muscles at the same time. Just remember that results take effort and dedication.
Aside from exercise, nutrition is very important. Adding healthier eating choices is essential for slimming down. The warmer weather means more fruit is in season. This is also the time that farmer’s markets start popping up everywhere. That makes it easy to replace junk food with fresh fruits and vegetables. Concentrating on better eating habits will help so that your time and energy spent exercising won’t go to waste.
Since summer is also a time of picnics, barbecues, and parties, it can be hard to watch portion size, or even find the time to work out. If you find yourself struggling with staying on track, it’s a good idea to sign up for a fitness event that takes place in the fall. Having something to train for will prevent you from losing focus. It can keep you motivated on those days when it’s tempting to give into excuses.
Instead of stressing out about your appearance for summer, use this time as an opportunity to reevaluate the fitness goals you made at the beginning of the year. It’s the perfect time to renew your commitment to your health!
Thursday, May 8, 2014
Did you know that May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month? The President’s Council on Fitness designated this month in 1983 to promote healthy lifestyles among people of all ages. It serves to remind us that physical fitness is vital for good health. Here are a few ways to take this reminder and live a more active lifestyle.
Make Small Changes – New challenges are great, but you also don’t need to commit to a marathon to get healthier. You can try starting small. Even just making an effort to take a walk after dinner can help you see improvements in your health. Little changes may not feel like much, but that’s why they are the best. Your body has time to slowly adapt and you are more likely to stick with them.
Join a Sport – May is a great time to get involved in sports. Whether you like volleyball, softball, or some other sport, there are usually teams forming now and it’s the perfect time to join. Participating in a sport means scheduled weekly activity that you are likely not to miss since you have others counting on you. Plus, it’s easier to do since it has the added benefits of being social and having fun!
Get Outdoors – You don’t have to join an organized sport to enjoy the advantages of exercising in the open air. Aside from the usual activities like walking or cycling, you can do yoga, strength training and even suspension training outdoors. Some fresh air and a change of scenery is a great way to add variation and get motivated.
Share Your Success – National Physical Fitness and Sports month was designed to spread the word about healthy living. If you’ve participated in a fitness event or challenge, share your goals with others. Social media is great for sharing your pictures and achievements. It can encourage and inspire your friends to join you.
Since most of us set our fitness goals at the beginning of the year, May is the perfect time to renew your commitment to your health. So, how will you challenge yourself this month?
Thursday, May 1, 2014
two lines of gloves can help you decide which pair is right for you.
Let's start by taking a closer look at what HumanX is all about. High intensity interval training (HIIT), like CrossFit, has been growing in popularity. So, the brand was designed to provide gear that would enhance one's performance in this style of training. The leather of the gloves undergoes a unique process to provide maximum grip on metal, rope, wood, or stone surfaces. They even work with chalk. The classic Harbinger gloves are great for those who are doing more traditional gym work, and the HumanX brand is ideal for those who are doing more intense training.
Another difference with the HumanX brand is that some of the styles offer full finger protection. This is another great feature for those who are breaking away from traditional training. It can provide your hands total protection from ripping. For those who don't find it necessary or simply don't like the feel of it, you still have a choice of 3/4 finger protection. Like traditional gloves, there is also the option of WristWraps for added support. The variations make it easy to find something that meets your needs.
Aside from the important features that make it necessary to have a successful workout, the gloves also come in a lot of fun colors for men and women. While their cool look may not physically help you out, it can mentally help you. Feeling good about what you're wearing can boost your confidence in the gym and actually motivate you to perform better.
If you're still uncertain about whether or not you need gloves, check out our article on the benefits they provide. As with any fitness gear, knowing what's right for you can be determined by having clear training goals in mind.
Monday, April 28, 2014
We are constantly being reminded of how important it is to maintain a healthy level of fitness. So, how do we evaluate how fit we are? It’s not as simple as stepping on a scale and reading off the number. There are several components to take into consideration.
Overall physical fitness is comprised of five different things:
1. Cardiovascular Endurance – how well your heart and lungs work together to fuel your body with oxygen.
2. Muscular Strength – how much force your muscles can exert in a single effort.
3. Muscular Endurance – how much your muscles can repeat those exertions of force without experiencing fatigue.
4. Flexibility –how far muscles can stretch, and the ability to move joints through their full range of motion.
5. Body Composition – the percentage of fat, muscle, and bone in the body, which is typically expressed as a ratio of lean mass to fatty mass.
It’s important to evaluate yourself on each of these elements to determine your level of fitness. A marathon runner, for example, may have excellent cardiovascular endurance but rate poorly in muscular strength and endurance. In contrast, someone who is able to bench press a lot of weight may struggle and be unable to jog a mile. That’s why it’s best to work on all five categories to maintain good health. A personal trainer or someone at your gym can help test your performance in these areas and assess your level of fitness.
Once you know how you rate, you can design your fitness program to cover areas where you are lacking. You can better understand how much time you need to put in on various exercises to get you in top physical shape. Aerobic activity such as running, swimming, cycling, or rowing can improve your cardiovascular endurance. Strength training will improve your muscular strength and endurance, while flexibility can be improved through stretching, yoga, or pilates.
As you begin to work on all these different components, you will notice a change in your body composition. Keeping an eye on this can help you lower your risk for health issues. The best way to measure this is with skinfold calipers. This will give you a more complete picture, rather than just knowing how much you weigh.
Working on all five elements will impact your life in many ways. Not only will it decrease your risk of health problems, you’ll find your daily tasks getting a lot easier. It will help you gain the stamina and strength that is required to get you through the day. This is especially important to focus on as we age. Improving one’s overall level of fitness will provide a much better quality of life!
Thursday, April 17, 2014
The average adult spends the majority of his or her time at work. This can make it difficult for anyone to find the time for the amount of exercise that is recommended. While it’s still important to make your regular routine a priority, it can also be helpful to find little ways to work in activity during a long day. If you’re one of the millions of people who spend their time sitting at the office, you might want to consider how you can add some exercise to your workday.
The first way to be more active is to change how you get to work. If you live close enough, you may want to think about walking or biking. If you’re taking public transportation, you may have the option of getting off at an earlier stop so you can walk part of the way. If a drive is necessary, you could always park further away to increase the amount of steps you take during the day. Finally, you could try taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
Once you’re at work, you can burn more calories by standing, rather than sitting all the time. Take advantages of the opportunities you have to get out of your chair. Instead of sending an email to someone nearby, you can get up and have a face-to-face chat. Technology has made it way too easy for us to stay sitting. If you have no reason to leave your workstation, you can always perform some tasks, like talking on the phone, while standing.
Since the reality is that most people will need to be sitting down while they work, you could consider changing the type of chair you are using. Whether you’re working from the office or at home, you could swap out your desk chair for a stability ball. Using the ball will improve your balance and tone your core muscles while you are getting your work done. There are even chairs, like the Swopper, that are designed to strengthen and condition your abdominal muscles. Why not work on your core and improve your posture when you’re not even thinking about it?
You could also take some time where you are focusing on exercise. Rather than taking a coffee break, you could do some stretching or go for a quick walk. Even just walking down the halls would be better than sitting around the lounge after you’ve sat at your desk for most of the day. Some workplaces even have gyms on site, and you might as well take advantage of it on your lunch hour.
Those who don’t have access to a gym at work can keep a few items at their desk for fitness breaks. Some resistance bands or a light pair of hand weights can easily be stored and are great for a variety of exercises. You can put those extra minutes you have in between meetings to good use by picking up the weights or bands.
Just because you are at the office all day doesn’t mean that you have to remain inactive. Following just a few of those tips and making some small adjustments can help you see improvements in your health and level of fitness. The extra exercise can also help you see an increase in energy during those long days when you need it most.
Thursday, April 10, 2014
You might be surprised by what some people are choosing as a pre-workout drink. Instead of fueling up with a sports drink or other supplement, they are opting for a simple cup of coffee. It can provide health benefits, but it also raises some concerns. That makes it understandable why there are those who recommend this and those who warn against it. At one point, it was even banned by the Olympics. So, is it good or bad to add caffeine to your pre-workout routine?
Let’s take a look at the positive things first. The more obvious benefit of caffeine is that it increases your heart rate and gives you more energy. This will also help you increase your metabolism and burn more calories throughout the day. This is especially true when consumed before exercise because it causes your body to use fat cells, instead of glycogen, as an energy source for your workout. In addition, it will act as an appetite suppressant and cause you to consume fewer calories than normal. All of these things together mean that it will accelerate fat loss.
Another benefit is that it has been linked to better athletic performance. It increases one’s endurance and allows you to train with more power for a longer period of time. It has even been shown to help with muscle pain. Those who consume coffee before exercising typically experience less pain so they are able to work out with more intensity. It also improves mental focus, making your workouts more effective. This is ideal for those who are looking for that extra edge with their routine.
Although it can provide such great benefits, there are some drawbacks that should be addressed. Because it increases energy, it can over-stimulate you and eventually cause fatigue. For those with underlying heart problems, consuming caffeine before a workout runs the risk of doing extra damage. Drinking too much caffeine or too late in the day can also affect one’s sleep. On top of that, your body will eventually become used to it and you will find yourself needing to consume more in order to get the benefits that you were previously getting.
Deciding if you want to take advantage of caffeine with your workout is up to you, and it’s helpful to make sure you understand the benefits and the concerns. If you do decide that it’s right for you, it’s best to let your doctor know you have made it a part of your routine. Try not to overdo it, as one cup of coffee may be all you need to give you that edge, and watch the time so it won’t interrupt your sleeping habits.
Thursday, April 3, 2014
Some people love to hop on the treadmill, while others dread it and would prefer to be doing anything else but that. There are those who would rather walk or jog outside. Sometimes, because of weather, that’s not always an option. If it’s not too cold or snowy, it can be too hot or rainy. Fortunately, there are a few things that can be done to help make the time spent on a treadmill more fun and go by faster.
Walking, jogging or running at the same pace the entire time can leave anyone bored. The best way to beat boredom is by adding intervals. You can alternate between walking one minute, and jogging the next. Or, you can try running at a certain pace for two minutes, and then taking it down a notch for a minute. There are so many possibilities for changing up speed and time. Not only will it keep things more interesting, it will give you a much more effective workout.
Aside from alternating speed, you can also change the incline. This can help you feel like you’re walking or jogging through the hills. Many treadmills even have programs that can simulate uneven terrain to make the workout more challenging.
Keeping an eye on the time and speed can obviously come in handy with intervals. For this reason, treadmills are great because they offer you so much information that you can’t see outside. However, this display can also cause problems for some. There is nothing more boring than watching the time tick slowly away as you keep a steady pace. A good idea can be to cover up the console so your mind can focus on other things besides the clock.
Putting in the time is a great way to get in some cardio. If you’re short on time or looking to add variety, why not add strength training? You can sneak in some upper body exercises while you walk by grabbing a pair or 2 or 5-lb dumbbells. Just remember to be careful and watch your speed as you do this.
For simpler distractions that don’t require as much focus, there’s always technology. If you’re at the gym, you can use headphones, so as not to bother others around you. However, if you plan to invest in a treadmill, some are compatible with iPods so that you can plug one right into it. Putting together a playlist of great music that will keep you pumped can be extremely helpful. You can even create lists so that you increase or decrease your speed when certain songs are on. This works with television, too. Set your pace during the program and change it up when a commercial comes on. Return to your regular pace once it ends. A little technology can make intervals a lot easier.
As another option, you can always get in a little competition with a friend. You’ll find that when you incorporate a few of these tricks, it can help beat treadmill boredom and make your workouts more productive, all while making the time fly!
Thursday, March 27, 2014
It's often stressed how important stretching is. Hopefully, by now, you have heard this enough times to make it a part of your routine. Even so, are you doing it properly? Learn about the common stretching mistakes and how you can avoid them.
2.) Going Too Fast - One of the top excuses for not exercising is a lack of time. So, it should be no surprise that many people rush through the stretching portion. If they don’t do that in an effort to save on time, it's simply because people want to move on to the more "important" exercises. This can lead to not stretching muscles enough, or simply missing them. Be sure you work five main areas: shoulders, lower back, quads, hamstrings, and calves. Also, spend 15-20 seconds on each stretch.
3.) Displaying Poor Posture - Let's take bending, for example. This is often done all hunched over and without keeping the back straight. Just as it's important to use correct form with other activities like lifting weights, good posture is essential with stretching. Otherwise, headaches and unnecessary back, neck, or other muscles strains will follow.
4.) Improper Breathing - People frequently hold their breath while stretching, which can stress out the body, tighten muscles and cause inflexibility. This is exactly the opposite of what you want to achieve. Stay away from shallow breathing and remember to take steady, slow breaths for best results.
5.) Ignoring Pain - If the phrase "no pain, no gain" is your motto, it may be time to rethink that. While there is something to be said about pushing yourself to achieve success, you don't want to take it too far. It's normal to feel a little pulling during stretching, but you should stop if you're experiencing pain. It shouldn't hurt, and it's best to rest if that's the case.
6.) Skipping the Post-workout Stretch - After a productive session, a few minutes of limbering up goes a long way in preventing muscle soreness. Skipping this step can limit your range of motion and leave you feeling very stiff. Using a foam roller is an excellent way to finish off your routine and stretch out your muscles. It's an important part of the recovery phase.
7.) Only Stretching on Gym Days - Your body can benefit from light stretching any day, whether or not you have gym time scheduled. Keeping yourself limber will allow for better training days. Just remember the importance of spending a few minutes warming-up before you do.
Of course, the biggest mistake is not stretching at all. Don't fall into the trap of leaving this out. You'll find that stretching will increase your flexibility, prevent injuries, provide better workouts and relieve stress.
Thursday, March 20, 2014
We always hear how important it is to have a strong core, so we tend to focus on our abs. However, developing a strong back is just as important for gaining a stronger core. Pull-ups can help that. Your lats, or latissimus dorsi muscles, will receive the most benefit from this exercise. These muscles run along the top and outside of the shoulders and down the back. The rhomboid muscles, also in the back, get a great workout. Strengthening these areas can provide balance in your upper body.
Another benefit to pull-ups is that they work several arm muscles at the same time, while other exercises only work one. This engages your forearms, biceps and triceps. It even builds grip strength because of the involvement of the fingers and hands.
Aside from being an obvious great strength training exercise, pull-ups also have cardiovascular benefits. You’re likely to increase your heart rate while performing them. One important thing to consider, though, is doing them as part of a series of other exercises. In order for cardio to be most effective, it should be performed for 30 minutes. Since no one spends that much time on pull-ups, moving on to another exercise with little rest in between can be part of a great cardio routine.
In addition, there are many variations to this exercise. For example, the reverse pull-up (better known as a chin-up) focuses more on the biceps. Simple adjustments to the exercise are easy and they all require minimal equipment. Apart from the bar, it uses one’s body weight to provide resistance. However, if you are advancing and want to take it to the next level, you can add weight with the use of a dip belt. The exercise allows for plenty of room to grow.
So, if the last time you found yourself attempting a pull-up was in your required high school gym class, why not give it another try? Even if you can only do one or two at first, it’s a start. Don’t let excuses get in your way of improving your strength and overall fitness!
Thursday, March 13, 2014
1. Plan Ahead – If you’re committed to sticking to your regular routine, do your homework before you leave. So many hotels offer free workout facilities. It’s best to know what’s available to you before you get there, in case you need to make any adjustments.
2. Pack the Right Gear – If you don’t have access to a gym, there are several pieces of equipment that can give you a great workout and can easily be packed in your suitcase. Resistance bands and jump ropes take up little space and are very light. A jump rope provides excellent cardio, while resistance bands give upper and lower body strength training. Plus, you don’t have to devote a lot of time to them so you can enjoy your getaway.
3. Go on an Adventure – Depending on your travel destination, there may be all sorts of new things to try out. Kayaking, hiking trails, and bike trails are just a few fun things to discover that will help you get in some added exercise.
4. Make the Most of it – There are little things you can do to sneak in some exercise if you don’t have time for your routine. If you’re on the beach, why not try going for a walk? You’ll burn more calories walking in sand than on flat ground. Or, if you’re lounging around near the pool or ocean, hop in the water every once in a while for a swim. These little things can help keep your level of fitness up while vacationing so you won’t feel out of shape when you return home.
5. Track your Fitness – Some vacations, such as those involving theme parks, usually mean a lot of activity. Taking along a pedometer is a good way to see how much walking you’re doing. Other activity trackers, like the Polar Loop, can measure your activity even while swimming. You might be surprised how hard you’re working during your break.
We all work hard and relaxation is definitely well deserved. After all, that is the point of a break. Even with the best intentions, keeping up with your full workout while away is difficult. So, adjust your expectations and set some realistic goals on what you will be able to accomplish. Most importantly, stay healthy and have fun!