Everyone seeking to enjoy more tone to their arms, thighs and mid-section loves a fitness challenge at the beginning of summer. But by now, as August and the back-to-school dates approach, most inconsistent exercisers have forgotten about challenges or diets and are gearing up to resume hectic lives that spiral downwards towards the holidays where everyone over-eats and then laments in January that they need to lose weight by summer!
To those of you guilty of the above cycle, I say get off the hamster wheel and try an end of summer challenge – or as I prefer to call it Fall Fitness Challenge. So if you’re ready to get in-shape and/or want to stay in-shape even though summer is waning, here’s my recommended challenge, in 5 simple steps:
1. Drink 8 LARGE glasses of water starting with first thing in the morning and ending with before bed.
2. Spend 1 hour 4 x a week getting and maintaining your heart rate between 135-155 bpm. It’s your choice how you do this, it can be cardio classes, videos at home, a rapid-paced weight routine at the gym, swimming laps, riding a bike (outside or stationary), walking up hills (treadmill or outside), or even playing a sport. It’s one hour per day people – I guarantee you can find the time!
3. Set a goal of one of the following choices and work your way up to achieving the requisite number in one consecutive session: 300 crunches; 100 push ups; 100 squats; 50 pull ups, 50 burpees, etc., or two or more of these options for a more aggressive fitness challenge. Frame the goal(s) in one-two month increments. In other words, decide how long you’ll give yourself to be able to perform the required number work daily/weekly at increasing your strength and stamina until you achieve the goal.
4. Commit to eating 5-6 small meals a day, within little to no processed ingredients (i.e., cereal, crackers, cookies, chips, etc.) . Practice weekly menu and food prep, and allow for one or two meals where you do not over-eat, but allow yourself to enjoy more caloric and/or processed foods & liquids.
5. Spend 10 minutes a day practicing slow meditative-style breathing, and if you average less than 6 hours a night of sleep, commit to adding at least 30 more minutes. Your body will need the extra rest if you’re doing items 2 & 3.
I recommend starting on the target date of Tuesday August 1st to begin this challenge, and keep me appraised of your results.
Cardio wimps, take heart, you’re not alone!
I’ve admitted this before in my blog, but in case you missed it – I’m a cardio wimp! Every time I hop on a treadmill, stair climber, or elliptical I start with an enthusiastic committment to plow through 45 minutes of heart strengthening, fat burning cardio, and every time I get to about 20 minutes and my brain says stop this insanity, stop right now! I try to ignore my brain and usually make it about 30 until my all I can focus on is my aching knees, or how winded or light-headed I think I am. Sadly, though I know my brain is lying to me, I succumb because I just don’t like cardio.
I truly envy all you people who can mindlessly run, cycle or climb stairs for ridiculously long periods of time, enjoying the surge of endorphins that result from sustained anaerobic activity which allow you to keep on moving and reap the rewards of lengthy cardio. I especially appreciate the fact that one’s ability to sustain cardio is not directly affected by a person’s external shape. In other words, there are many people carrying extra body fat that can perform cardio exercise for much longer than other lower-fat bodies. It’s all about your body’s internal set up (i.e., slow twitch muscles vs. fast) and how your brain operates and handles different movements.
For those of you who feel like I do – you just can’t turn off your brain and run – I felt like I should remind you of certain truths that I have been needing to remind myself of lately. Cardio exercise is all about getting your heart rate to a certain level and keeping it there for a certain length of time. The key here is to remember that you can achieve “cardio” without actually “running” or performing the same monotonous exercise at a set speed for a sustained period of time (i.e., 30+ minutes).
My approach to cardio therefore, is to perform a wide variety of specific exercises in a specific manner for an hour. In this way I not only train my heart to stay in a specific fat-burning range (HRT=heart rate zone) but I’m also working my muscles and core to be stronger and more toned.
So if that sounds like your kind of work out, here’s the gist of how you can do this for yourself (or request a customized workout routine from me via http://www.workouts247.com). Follow the sample workout noted below, all the while maintaining your target heart rate to the levels noted. This means you’ve got to keep a pretty quick pace throughout the resistance training portion, so all rests between sets should be no more than about 30 seconds.
Try this entire workout at least 3-4 times to build up your stamina and you will definitely see better results than 60 mins of boring, non-stop cardio! Your cardio vascular system will be improved, your muscles will see more tone, and your brain will be at east!
THR GOAL = 130-150*
10 mins Cardio equip of your choice
15 mins Cluster of 5 lower body resistance exercises repeated 5x**
10 mins Different cardio equipment
15 mins Cluster of 5 upper body resistance exercises repeated 5x**
10 mins Different cardio equipment w/cool down last 2 mins
*I’m offering up a generic target heart rate that will still be effective for most, but if you really want to be fully effective for your fitness goals, you need to have the THR established that works for you and your body. Any personal trainer can tell you this very quickly, and of course I would supply you with this if I made a workout for you.
**Clusters are 5 exercises performed in a row, one after the other, with no rest, followed by a brief rest, and then repeating the exercises back from the top, etc.
In the last couple of weeks, at least three people (ranging from acquaintances to friends) have shared their frustrations with me about still “being fat” despite strictness of diets and/or hours of cardio and resistance-based workouts, wearing Fitbits, parking further away, taking the stairs, etc.
I too would be frustrated if I was that diligent with my nutrition and exercise and didn’t see a difference. But (no pun intended) what I know that they do not is that there’s no one-size-fits-all formula to successful reduction of body fat. Further, there’s more to it in many cases than just restricting and/or burning more calories. One must factor in emotional stress, sleep-deprivation, physical stress, illnesses, food allergies (that you may not be aware of), thyroid malfunctions, etc. etc. etc.
A more important concept to me is that our society on the whole needs to look at fat differently. The World, and especially America, considers FAT unattractive. However, a huge majority of our population is visually fat and many have successful careers, happy marriages, are physically active, and live long lives despite their physical condition so what does that tell us?
Fat in foods is still widely misunderstood by most people – if avocado and peanut butter is okay, what’s wrong with butter and cheese? Sugar is still not really acknowledged as being one of the largest culprits in epidemic obesity, yet it is. Carbs are considered evil, yet I challenge you to get through a workout without them.
Internally, there are obese people who do not have high blood pressure or diabetes. Conversely there are “skinny” people who have dangerously high cholesterol or digestive issues that cause them to not absorb essential vitamins and minerals from their nutrition.
So in answer to everyone who has ever lamented why am I still fat I say look at your life as a whole entity, one in which every nuance plays a part in your physical health and body composition. There are so many negative “life” aspects that can affect your body:
- High stress levels at work
- Emotional stress at home
- Illnesses, injuries, digestive or auto-immune disorders, cancer
- Lack of sleep
- Eating too fast
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Not drinking enough water
- Over-exercising (yes that’s a thing)
- Not exercising enough or effectively
- Eating out too much
- Yo-yo dieting
- Worries about money
and the list goes on! Take stock of what’s going on in your life that might truly be sabotaging your efforts to be healthy inside and out. Then try to improve as many of these aspects as you can, or at least improve your perspective.
What ultimately should be your focus is: (1) are you able to do what you want physically (strength and endurance)? and (2) are you surrounded by people who love you and find you beautiful from the inside out? If the answer to both is yes, then who gives a hoot about the fat?! If they’re no, then work on fixing that (i.e., focus on building strength and endurance, not fat loss, and surround yourself with more appreciative and quality people).
In the end you’ll either successfully reduce your fat levels because your life isn’t fighting you on that goal, or at least you’ll realize that you’re healthy and happy so who cares about the rest.
I have been surprised lately to find that there’s still a bit of confusion surrounding how to properly choose and utilize weights when people engage in resistance training to tone muscles and lose body fat. On almost a weekly basis some woman will approach me and say that they only do cardio because they don’t want to bulk up, yet they’re frustrated at the lack of downward movement of the scale.
As I’ve stated many times here in my blog – resistance training (weight lifting) is the key to successful fat reduction. While cardio burns calories, unless you are a career marathon runner, or at the least pay close attention to stay in the fat-burning zone with your cardio as well as what, how, and when you eat, cardio will only trim off a small percentage of fat before you plateau.
Now the confusion about resistance training is in the idea that if a woman lifts heavy weights she’ll turn into “he-man.” Well I’m here to tell you first hand, that it takes a lot of very heavy lifting, and ingesting a massive amount of protein, for most women to really bulk up muscularly. However, if your frame is already large, and there’s a lot of fat surrounding your arm and leg muscles – heavy lifting could definitely make you appear bulky – but once again, its all about understanding how and what to lift.
Most people with any fitness awareness already know that heavy weight + low repetitions = increase in muscle size vs. light weight + high repetitions = toned and trimmed muscles. But there’s a bit more to it. First of all, using only one of these equations can still cause you to plateau (i.e., if you do not switch up your weight levels and lifting patterns you will cease to see results). Secondly, your specific body type and your body’s inherent muscle type (fast twitch or slow twitch) directly affects how your body responds to different types of lifting.
So at the risk of confusing anyone further, let me just state things simply:
Lifting heavy weights will NOT make you bulk up
Lifting light weights a lot of times does not always help you to loose more body fat
“Then what do I do” you ask? The answer is you can either consult a trainer (like ME), or do some experimenting. Change up your routine weekly: lift light, fast and repetitive for one week, followed by heavy, slow and lower in reps the next.
The most important element that makes resistance training actually work is to fatigue and breakdown (not injure) your muscles on a regular basis. No matter how much weight you work with, you’ve got to find the right recipe of repetition vs. intensity vs. weight to successfully exhaust your muscles. Then feed them well (lots of water, protein, and rest), and do it all over again. This is truly the best and most efficient way to lean up your total body.
Please please please believe what I scream to the world almost every day — do not judge your goals by a scale! (You could lose 2 lbs of fat and gain 3 lbs of muscle and if the scale is your focus, you’ll be discouraged at the 1 lb gain!) Remember that muscle weighs more than fat.
Now go lift!
All creatures on earth, whether human or animals, need food to live. But only humans have taken that need and turned it into an obsession. Of all the idiosyncrasies of food addictions, the one I find the most detrimental is that of “comfort food.” The idea that food is anything other than nourishment is again, exclusive only to humans.
The joy that some of us feel from food preparation and savoring of flavors (the artistic side of cuisine) is undeniably one of the most wonderful uses of some of our five senses (taste, smell and even vision). The flip side of this is that somehow society at large (pun intended) has equated certain foods to that of providing comfort.
There’s no question that all of us have childhood memories (and other situational sense memories) that are directly tied to food. A special recipe your mother created when you were sick, or on birthdays, as well as dishes we ate when we were “happy” or “in love” become go to foods when, as adults, life is not where we want it to be. While it’s true that certain foods create a chemical reaction that can elevate moods, the idea that food can fill up a painful hole within our hearts is a slippery slope. What makes this worse is that traditionally most “comfort foods” are high in fat, salt, and/or sugar.
I have many a client and friend that spends days or months being diligent about their nutritional intake, only to blow it all away because they had an emotional disturbance that they responded to by eating “comfort foods.” How many movies have shown women sitting in front of the TV crying while shoveling in an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s? Or how many nights are lonely bachelors depicted scarfing down fast food take out after a night of drinking? These movies reflect real life – raise your hand if you’ve ever done this.
As I always say, everything’s okay in moderation – including pints of ice cream and multiple Taco Bell indiscernible meat tacos, but the problem here is that a lot of people have a regular routine of eating these “bad for your body” foods every single time they’re upset, frustrated or sad.
If this behavior resonates with you, then I offer this advice: break up with food! Stop “dating” food to make you feel better, especially when in reality, it does just the opposite. Repeated indulgences in comfort food is no better for you than that guy or girl who belittles your self-esteem.
See nutrition as a tool that allows your body and brain to function and deal with life. I use the Car analogy – most people put medium to high-grade gasoline in their car, see to regular oil changes, and keep all fluids and tire pressure to their peak levels. If you do not, your car will not drive well, handle huge hills, stay safe on wet roads, and eventually stop running completely. Well guess what, your body is the same.
If you find it difficult to walk away from food when you’re emotionally upset, then at least make better choices – find a healthier “comfort” – or keep the quantities of the unhealthy choices to a much smaller amount. Better still, deal with the feelings that you’re hiding from, and once they’re faced, you’ll undoubtedly not even need the food for comfort. One last choice to consider is exercise. I’ve had some of the best cardio sessions when I’ve been angry. When the day before I was bored and tired after 10 minutes on the treadmill, suddenly when fueled by a situation / conversation that left me hot-headed, I ran for 30 minutes straight!
Whether your goal is fat loss or just improved health and fitness, breaking up with comfort foods is an essential step to reaching your goal and staying there.
Working out at the gym yesterday I caught a glimpse of an infomercial selling the most ridiculous fitness-related device I’d ever seen: the “Miss Belt.” A wide velcro “compression” belt designed to squeeze your fat into place so that you’ll get “the perfect waistline in seconds” and give you an “hour-glass shape.” All for the cheap price of $19.99 + $7.99 S/H.
I literally stopped my workout and started laughing. I looked around, and several women giggled with me but a few others looked intrigued. This reminded me of the fact that so many are still looking for a shortcut, a quick remedy, an easy fix, a way to look and feel better without having to do any exercise or change your nutrition.
What is really infuriating about this product is that it messes with our society’s already confused idea of what is the “perfect” body type. This belt contradicts the current desired body type — that of slim, skinny, and flat stomached — by offering to reposition your body into a curvy, Mae West-type hour-glass shape. Worse yet, they show women ranging from fat to slender all enjoying the ease and comfort of this product and they even suggest that you can confidently wear it OVER your clothes (not hidden underneath) and look up to two sizes slimmer. I’m sorry, who are we deceiving here and why? I won’t even get into the question of how does your body look and feel after hours of wearing this unflattering corset.
Women and girls are confused enough about their body image, and this throws it all into chaos in my opinion. I hate to break it to you again, but there are NO shortcuts. If you want to have a healthy percentage of body fat, and a decent level of strength and stamina then you have to make the commitment to eat all things in moderation, exercise regularly, and actively seek to eliminate gratuitous stress from your life and environment.
Until everyone is willing to take responsibility for their physical condition (or lack there of), corporations will continue to make millions of dollars off the desperate and/or lazy selling us ab toning devices, fat-burning DVDs, and body slimming belts.
Save your money – adjust your nutrition, and make a firm schedule of 30-minutes of exercise three to four times a week and you’ll get to your goal. It’s that simple and easy. Write to me when you’re ready to make that change. Until then, turn off that infomercial and walk away from the TV!
Cardio – you either love it or you hate it. If you are a constant follower of this blog you’ve already learned from me that unless you enjoy the feeling like a hamster on a wheel, 20 minutes three times a week on any stationary cardio equipment is enough to be effective for most fitness goals.
If you are an outdoor running or cycling enthusiast, then you can stop reading this blog today and go out and run/bike. But if you are like me and oblige the cardio gods with a weekly dose of walking or climbing in place, then I’ve a few tips to help you decide which cardio equipment is best for you and your goals.
Treadmill Walking with Incline
PROS: Low impact; keeps you into the fat burning zone; great at toning and lifting the glutes.
CONS: Slower on calorie burn than other options; not good if you have balance or feet pain issues.
PROS: Burns lots of calories (depending on length of run); great way to tone legs; indifferent to the weather outside.
CONS: High impact; hard on joints; puts you into an anaerobic heart rate level which does not burn as much fat as aerobic levels (like you’ll achieve walking at an incline).
Elliptical w/Swinging Arm Handles
PROS: Low impact; stable; incorporates upper body toning; burns fat calories.
CONS: Can be boring with so little variety in how to use the machine; easy to not push yourself so you won’t burn fat effectively.
PROS: Can be a great cardio workout (aerobic or anaerobic) if you alternate between hills and flats and keep the tension ramped up; great leg toner too; low impact.
CONS: Very easy to just “cruise” and burn very little fat calories; risk of thigh chaffing and numbing/irritating of the glutes.
PROS: Low impact, easy to maintain fat burning zone.
CONS: Not easy to find proper form and hence high risk of hyper-extended elbows and excessive knee pressure (my least recommended equipment).
Step Mill (Gym Escalator)
PROS: All the benefits of walking a flight of stairs, but you can’t stop and rest; great way to get and stay in your target heart rate zone; offers different ways to step (sideways, backwards) which tone entire lower extremities.
CONS: All the benefits of walking a flight of stairs … but you can’t stop and rest; not good for weak knees; doesn’t offer any upper body toning.
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No matter which you choose – and of course my recommendation is to choose a variety throughout the week – try to stay in your target heart rate (THR) zone for 20 minutes to gain the maximum fat burn. If you don’t know what your THR is/should be ask a trainer at the gym, or write to me.
No go burn some fat, get some tone, and get on with the rest of your day!
I’m still shocked these days to find a plethora of fitness-minded individuals still placing value in fad diets. A week does not go by where I don’t hear someone dissing carbs, or talking about how drinking hot-lemon-honey-cinnamon-cayenne water helped them boost their metabolism. Facebook, Pinterest and other social media sites are littered with the next best superfood that we should O.D. on. On my Tumblr account this week I slammed the photo below for promoting the idea that a single food can burn belly fat.
People people people, listen to me: no one food, or food combination will help you get those six pack abs – especially as a stand-alone concept. Granted, if you eat foods that build muscle and help your liver to keep sugars under control ALONG with consistent and effective exercise (resistance training and cardio), you will burn fat from your body. But let me also remind you that there is no way to spot reduce the fat from an area of your body. While you can tone specific muscle groups, where your body burns the fat from is still more random than you might think. If you radically curtail your food consumption while over-ramping your calorie burn, you will lose fat, but you will also lose muscle and more importantly, the fat may come from other areas of your body before the desired zone (i.e., your face or bosom before your belly or butt).
I know that all of this stems from society’s desire to do things quickly — see results fast with as little work or discomfort as possible. Unfortunately life has proven repeatedly that, as trite as this personal trainer common quip sounds — NO PAIN NO GAIN is reality when it comes to changing your body. That doesn’t mean abusive pain, but it does mean giving up a quantity of things you love and keeping your body moving despite soreness.
Once again I want to remind all of you that fad diets do not work – or rather do not work for long. As I stated only last week (Success Comes with Consistency) diets are temporary. But fad diets are worse because they strictly restrict what you eat, forcing your body to try and obtain a full range of nutrients, carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats from a very limited source. Their failure rate is even higher than a simple calorie restricting diet because most people find the limited fad-foods boring within a very quick period.
So back away from that Pinterest post that claims you can lose 5 lbs and increase your metabolism by eating grapefruits, almonds, and green tea exclusively for a week. It’s not worth it even if it were to work, because as soon as you reintroduce all the other foods you still crave, the 5 lbs will return, and your body will be pissed off at you and likely not let you lose 5 lbs the same way again.
If you want to change your nutrition in a permanent way, I’ve given you lots of tips within this blog, and I offer a very affordable meal plan that will be customized to your lifestyle, and food tastes (Workouts247.com). Now go eat something healthy and stop starving your body!
The popularity of wearable fitness trackers is escalating rapidly, so today I wanted to tell you my favorite of the current top selling choices, and some unanticipated extra perks you can receive from these trendy wrist bands.
The top sellers are Fitbit, Garmin, and Jawbone. Each offer roughly the same basic functions (calories burned, sleep tracking, steps taken, etc.), with a varying range of style and prices. My choice is the Jawbone Up24 (around $60). I chose the Jawbone Up24 because it combined the most functions that mattered to me with the most comfortable and subtle wristband. I find the fit to be comfortable both day and night, it does not stick to my skin when sweating (like the Fitbit can), and I can even wear it when dressed up as the black version looks like a “cool” bracelet. It holds a charge for almost an entire week, and it’s corresponding App (both in Android and Apple formats) is super easy to use.
Now I will list the obvious reasons that a fitness tracker will benefit you, and the not so obvious benefits that I am very happy to have discovered.
A brilliant way to keep accountable for your fitness goals without having to rely upon a friend or trainer. Every day, all day long, you can keep track of how much you’ve moved, and most since people don’t like seeing that they’re way off from their goals (how many steps per day), they usually “step it up” (pun intended) as the day progresses.
Sleep is an integral and essential factor in fat loss, stress reduction and mood enhancement. The App will show you how deep you sleep and when, how much you wake throughout the night, and you can use this information to take calculated steps to improving your sleep patterns, methods, and time allocation (i.e., go to bed earlier).
By entering your age, height, and weight, the device will advise you as to how many calories you’ve burned throughout your day. It will also tell you how much you burn at rest (your metabolism). By increasing your muscle vs. fat you will happily see your resting calorie burn increase – which always renews my clients’ motivation. If you take the time to enter your food consumption and time spent exercising, you will also be able to see your calories in vs. calories out (important factor in successful fat-loss).
As already stated, this device is more stylish than watch-like, can handle sweat, splashes of water, and even showering (just not immersion like swimming). So it’s easy to put on and forget about.
Reminder to Move:
Although many fitness trackers on the market have this option, I still feel it should be noted as a bonus benefit as so few people seem to utilize it (until I tell them about it). You can set a vibration reminder at specific intervals and specific times throughout the day. I have mine set to every 30 minutes, 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Whenever I’ve been stationary for 30 minutes, it vibrates. I then jump up and move – for at least 5 minutes of energy burn (jumping jacks, push ups, stair running, dancing, squats, etc).
Along with the 30-minute vibration reminder, just the fact that I may not be achieving my steps-per-day frequently urges my mind and then my body into action. I used to roll my eyes in frustration every time I’d run upstairs only to be summoned back downstairs by my daughter needing something. But then I realized that I shouldn’t resent the extra opportunity to run the stairs (literally) and it caused a serious reduction in our yelling at each other from different areas of the house. (Family Harmony + Exercise = Happy Mom which definitely = Happy Family!)
I also find that when I think about sitting and reading or relaxing, I remind myself that hey, I should go get that laundry from upstairs, or bring out the trash – some chore that can log a few more steps for me today. As a result, I gain the satisfaction of achieving my steps-per-day goal, and often exceeding it almost daily.
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So if you were curious or on the fence about whether a fitness tracker would be good for you, my answer is clearly yes, doesn’t really matter the make/model as long as you utilize all it is there to help you with. If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to comment herein or contact me directly. Happy tracking!
If you are one of the many people who take care of your cardio needs on a treadmill at the gym or at home, I thought today I’d share a few tips that will not only shorten the time spent walking in place, but make your fat burn and muscle toning so much more effective! First, remember that you do not need to run to achieve an effective reduction of fat and a great toning of the legs and butt. Walking at a 4-8% incline while at a brisk and steady pace will get and maintain your heart rate into a fat burning zone, while lifting and toning your glutes. Second, do not – I repeat – DO NOT hold on! When have you ever walked up a hill holding on to something? I really cringe when I see people walking at a 15% incline while holding on to the readout panel. That’s a total waste of time and effort. Better to take the incline down to 8 or 9%, slow your pace down a tad (3.2-3.8 speed depending upon your leg length and stride) and walk without holding on. Third, try alternating your speed vs. incline every 1 minute. By alternating faster speed with less incline back and forth between slower speed and a steeper climb, you will confuse and thereby challenge your muscles more, while making sure to not plateau your heart rate. 20 minutes of this beats 40 minutes of straight walking or steep walking while holding on! Finally, if you feel confident and stable enough, try some more advanced moves, like side stepping (side shuffle), walking or trotting backwards, and lunge walks (at a very slow speed). If you need to hold on during some of these moves until you feel balanced, that’s okay. If you live in a climate where it’s too cold, wet, or hot to take your workout to the streets for many months, using these tips will transform the treadmill from a static boring machine to a challenging and fun exercise tool. Share with me your tips or successes on the treadmill!