Category Archives: General Fitness

What about setting fitness goals?

 

When you really think about it, getting ready to start an exercise program should be like starting up any serious change in your life.  If you were starting a new business, you would set goals and if you were starting a project around the house, you would set goals.  Sometimes they would be formal and written down, other times they would just be a thought process you went through in your mind.  Either way, it should be done when beginning an exercise regimen. 

Goal setting 101 teaches us to think in terms of short term goals and long term goals, and they are both important to keeping an exercise regimen going. 

First, in the short term, you could say in 30 days, I’m going to be down five pounds or my waistband will be much loser than it is today.   You need to set either a date or state the number of days, weeks or months specifically.  This way you have your ‘check in’ points along the way.  Also, you want to be more specific than saying ‘lose weight’.  You want to state the number of pounds, or a marker such as your waistband tightness.  You don’t need to think in terms of weight loss only.  You could say, since I can use the five pound dumb bells today, in 30 days I want to be strong enough to use eight pound dumb bells.

Now, once your time frame and specific goal is set, it’s time to put a plan in place on achieving that goal.  So if your plan is to lose five pounds, it’s time to set parameters on your eating habits, as well institute an aerobic routine with some resistance training for toning too.  If your goal is to increase to eight pounds dumb bells, it’s time to institute a plan for getting stronger through resistance training.

Now, at the first check point, whether it  be 30 days, or some other time frame, you take a look to see if you’ve achieved your short term goal.  If yes, it’s time to set the next goal, if no, then go back to your plan and find out why it failed.  Was it the plan or was it you not following the plan?

Second, you need to add in a long term goal.  Now thinking in terms of months and years – what do you want to be doing, or what do you want to be wearing?   This could be a wedding date, a vacation date or just that you want to be in shape to keep up with your grandchildren. 

With having that long term goal in mind, you are able to continue to set short term goals to reach it. 

Can you do this on your own?  Do you need help?  Remember I’m here to help you.

 

Do you know what to do?

Do you know what to do when you reach a plateau?  Let’s say you’ve been eating healthy and working out for 3 months. During those 3 months you saw continuous weight loss and you’re now down 12 pounds, but have not seen any additional weight loss for two weeks.  What’s going on and what do you do about it?

I get this question quite often, the simple answer is:  ‘step it up a notch’.   Your body becomes accustomed to exercise in anywhere from 1 to three months of doing it.  Once that occurs, your body sees no need to make anymore changes as it’s meeting your regular needs. 

So nows the time to step it up a notch.  If you’re using 5 pound dumb bells, increase them to 7.  If you’re running on the treadmill or the elliptical for 30 minutes, increase it to 40 or raise the level of the program.  

Once you do this, you should begin to see changes once again, as your body will adapt to the increased stresses you’re putting on it.

Just a word of caution, not too much too quickly.  That’s how we get hurt and lose our interest in exercise, and that’s the last thing you want to see occur.

So have at it and have fun doing it!

WALKING AS EXERCISE – USE A PEDOMETER

Walking is great exercise, it’s gets you out doors to (hopefully) fresh air, it strengthens your legs and calves, it keeps your hip, knee and ankle joints well lubricated, it improves circulation, it builds stamina, improves your mood by reducing stress, you can meet new people, and it BURNS CALORIES – that’s the important part. Since you’re burning calories, you’re losing weight, you’re increasing the strength of your heart muscle and you’re getting healthier and healthier.

Using a pedometer can really be a benefit to getting exercise through walking. Studies have shown that we walk an average of 5000 to 5500 steps per day, and that 10,000 steps per day is where you see the most benefit. 10,000 steps is equal to about 5 miles for the average stride. Just having the pedometer hooked to your belt loop will be the reminder to keep moving, or to take the stairs, or to go out and walk during your lunch break at work.

I advise my clients to keep a log of the information their pedometer gives them at the end of each day. It includes the date, number of steps, miles, calories burned and a space for any notes for that day. The notes area can be helpful to track why there was a significant difference, either fewer or more steps on a given day.

Here are some ways to add steps to your day – remember your goal is 10,000:

  • Park in the far back of the parking lot at work, or at store lots
  • If you take a bus, get off the bus a few stops before your usual stop and walk the rest of the way
  • Take the stairs
  • Pace while waiting for meetings to start or while making phone calls
  • Get up and walk around during commercial breaks
  • Do not use drive throughs, park and walk in – better yet stay away from places that have drive throughs the food is no good for you
  • Dedicate a few minutes to walking each hour
  • Walk during your lunch break
  • Form a workplace, neighborhood or friends walking group
  • Make a family habit of walking in the morning or after dinner (or both)
  • Take advantage of 5k charity walks so you have company while walking
  • Take an extra trip up and down your stairs, just for fun
  • Bring your groceries into the house one bag at a time
  • Take the dog for a walk, they’ll love you for it. Take your neighbors dog for a walk if you don’t have one!
  • Pace while waiting for a meal to heat in the microwave
  • Use the lavatory at work that is furthest from your desk

Go ahead, add more bullet points, there are plenty of ways to add walking to your daily life!

The Three Major Elements of Exercise

A well balanced exercise program needs to include three major areas of fitness: Resistance or strength training, aerobic or cardio training and stretching or flexibility training.

Resistance (strength) training 20 minutes of resistance training with dumbells, barbells, body weight, resistance bands or using weight machines twice a week. All the major muscle groups of the legs, abdomen, arms, chest, back and shoulders should be worked.
Aerobic (cardio) training 30 minutes of exercise at about 60% to 85% of your maximum heart should be done at least 3 times per week, more often is best. The 60% to 85% is known as your the aerobic range, which is calculated by subtracting your age from 220, then multiplying that number by .60 and .85 to obtain your heart rate range. 
Stretching (flexibility) training 15 minutes of stretching, after you’re fully warmed up, to include all the major muscle groups at least 3 times per week.
 

The Many Benefits of Being Active

Physical activity, including formal and informal exercise are key to a healthy lifestyle.  Not only is physical activity critical for improving your health and extending your life, but it will make you look better and feel better too.  Being active significantly lowers your chances of developing potentially fatal illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer.  In addition, remaining active throughout your life can help you stay healthy and disability free as you age. The following is a list of proven benefits to an active lifestyle:

Reduced risk of early death
reduced risk of heart disease
Reduced risk of high blood pressure
Easier to keep weight under control
Elevated energy level
Reduced risk of depression and anxiety
Heightened sense of well being
Increased bone density/strength
Reduced risk of colon cancer
Reduced risk of diabetes
Improved balance
Reduction in cholesterol
Some examples of informal exercise:  taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walk the dog more than once a day, walk to your co-workers desk instead of calling them, walk during your lunch break, walk around the office every chance you get, take the long way to the restroom, park the car as far away from the front door as possible (home, office & store), pace while you’re on the phone at work and at home, do squats and lunges while you’re standing at the stove or the microwave, do calf raises while you’re standing in line.  You can think of more I’m sure. Formal exercise, or exercise for a specific purpose is what I’m here for.  Learn how to burn 300 calories in a workout session or learn how to work all the major muscle groups in your body for toning and strengthening.
 

Flexibility Training – Stretch those muscles

Flexibility training is one of the three major elements of exercise that I recommend everyone do.  Stretching your muscles keeps them healthy and healthy muscles are less likely to become injured with a strain.  When your muscles, tendons and ligaments are properly stretched, and remain flexible, you’re less like to injure a joint, such as a sprained knee or shoulder.  Stretching creates and maintains the full range of motion throughout the joint.

The process of stretching brings blood flow to the muscles, tendons and ligaments, so they will heal faster if you do injure them.  This is also why you are less likely to feel severe muscle soreness after exercising, plus that soreness will cease much sooner in elongated, supple muscles.  Stretching will also reduce tension you feel, especially in your neck, shoulders and back.  

As we age, we naturally become less flexible.  Muscles, tendons and ligaments shrink and become dry and brittle and injure easily.  While stretching on a regular basis will not completely prevent this from occurring in our later years, it will delay it into much later years than if you’ve never stretched at all.

Stretching correctly is extremely important.  If you’re especially inflexible, you’re likely to injure a muscle by trying to stretch it beyond its limits.  You may even feel like you’ve done an aggressive workout by overstretching the first time you try.  But over time, with continuous flexibility training, your muscles will remain in their elongated state.   This does take time, and that amount of time differs for everyone.   

It is important to note that you should only stretch when your muscles are fully warmed up.  The best way to do this is on one of the cardio machines, such as an elliptical trainer.  You can also warm up in a hot bath, whirlpool tub or shower.  Once you’re warm, you can stretch all the muscles in your body.  Drinking plenty of water helps the muscles stay hydrated, also important to get a good stretch and to maintain that elongated muscle.  

I have my clients stretch fully both before and after the workout.  If a particular muscle feels tight or burns during the workout, I have them stop and stretch it.  This will almost always immediately stop the burn, giving them the ability to go on with a good workout.  

There are many different types of stretches, but the one I use most often is called an Active Static Stretch, where my client will provide their own force to stretch the various muscles.  This is safe because they can feel if the stretch is too far beyond their particular range of motion.  I sometimes need to coach them to push their limits far enough, though, in order to make a difference.  Static means that they hold the muscles in the elongated position for 10 to 30 seconds, depending on individual needs.  There are times to utilize the other stretching techniques such as Passive, Ballistic, Dynamic and PNF stretching, but these should only be needed in extenuating circumstances where a particular muscle is having trouble releasing.

Stretching is relaxing and does not take up a lot of time.  It can be done just about anywhere, with modifications of course.   It can be used as a stress reducer, and to enhance a feeling of well being.