June 2011

Good morning!  Greetings from the Black Hills of South Dakota.  Being on vacation is a terrific thing.  Especially in the summer.  You get time with family and friends that you don’t normally see, or get to go places that you never go.  But just because you’re on vacation, your workout doesn’t have to be.  There are so many ways to take your workout on the road with you.  And some of the best exercises are the ones that you can do anywhere.  No matter where you go, you can ALWAYS walk or run (especially if the weather’s nice), so we’ll just leave that out of the equation for now.  I’m talking about ways to get good old fashioned resistance training into your routine.  I’ll focus on 3 simple and easy ways to get fitness into your vacation.  First, you can always do body weight exercises.  Squats, push-ups, lunges and sit ups/crunches just to name a few, can be added to any run, walk or hike to give you that extra boost or challenge that you need.  You can also pack resistance bands and a jumprope.  Even in the most packed car, van or SUV, you can always find room for a couple of resistance bands and a rope.  They take up NO space what-so-ever and are super portable and light.  A good set of bands and a jump rope are also really cost effective for any workout ($20 TOTAL).  With the bands you can easily do a full body workout with presses, squats, curls, push ups, rows, lunges and a whole host of other activities.  If you need some other ideas, you can click here http://www.sport-fitness-advisor.com/resistance-band-exercises.html.  The third way to get some training into your vacation routine is to find a park or recreational area around where you are.  Here, at any basic kids park you could do steps or jumps onto a bench, climb on a rock-climbing wall or do pull-ups on the monkey bars (or the jumping variety if need be).  Parks are also an awesome place to do agility and change of direction work.  If there is a basketball court, anaerobic training, shuttle runs, etc.  So, the bottom line is that no matter where you go in this country or in this big old world, you can take your exercise with you.  No need to get out of shape just because you’re travelling.  Have good vacations, travel safe and we’ll see you on Thursday.

If I had a dollar for every female client that I had that started our program with “I want to workout, but I don’t want to get big.”  I tell you, I’d be writing this blog from somewhere warmer and sunnier.  Anyway, it always ends up being a silly argument because there is just a plain old unlikelyhood that it would happen in the first place.  I’m here today to write about why.  So, without further ado, here is a whole list of reasons why weight training will not only not make women big and bulky, but is SOOO important to overall fitness:

  1. Women do not have nearly as much testosterone as men. In fact, according to Bill Kreamer in Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, women have about 15 to 20 times less testosterone than men. Testosterone is the reason men are men and women are women. After men hit puberty, they grow facial hair, their voice deepens, and they develop muscle mass. Because men have more testosterone, they are much more equipped to gain muscle. Because women do not have very much testosterone in their bodies, they will never be able to get as big as men.
  1. The perception that women will bulk up when they begin a strength training program comes from the chemically-altered women on the covers of bodybuilding magazines. These “grocery stand models” are most likely pumped full of some extra juice. This is why they look like men. If you take the missing link that separates men from women and add it back in, what do you have? A man!
  1. For women, toning is what happens when the muscle is developed through training.  This is essentially bodybuilding without testosterone. Since the testosterone is not present in sufficient amounts, the muscle will develop, but it won’t gain a large amount of mass.  The “toned” appearance comes from removing the fat that is covering a well-developed muscle.
  1. Muscle bulk comes from a high volume of work. The repetition range that most women would prefer to do (8–20 reps) promotes hypertrophy (muscle growth). For example, a bodybuilding program will have three exercises per body part. For the chest, they will do flat bench for three sets of 12, incline for three sets of 12, and decline bench for three sets of 12. This adds up to 108 total repetitions. A program geared towards strength will have one exercise for the chest—flat bench for six sets of three with progressively heavier weight. This equals 18 total repetitions. High volume (108 reps) causes considerable muscle damage, which in turn, results in hypertrophy. The considerably lower volume (18 reps) will build more strength and cause minimal bulking.
  1. Heavy weights will promote strength not size. This has been proven time and time again. When lifting weights over 85 percent, the primary stress imposed upon the body is placed on the nervous system, not on the muscles. Therefore, strength will improve by a neurological effect while not increasing the size of the muscles.

And, according to Zatsiorsky and Kreamer in Science and Practice of Strength Training, women need to train with heavy weights not only to strengthen the muscles but also to cause positive adaptations in the bones and connective tissues.

6. Bulking up is not an overnight process. Many women think they will start lifting   weights, wake up one morning, and say “Holy sh__! I’m huge!” This doesn’t happen.   The men that you see who have more muscle than the average person have worked hard for a long time (years) to get that way. If you bulk up overnight, contact us because we want to do what you’re doing.

7. What the personal trainer is prescribing is not working. Many female athletes come into a new program and say they want to do body weight step-ups, body weight lunges,   and leg extensions because it’s what their personal trainer back home had them do. However, many of these girls need to look in a mirror and have a reality check because   their trainer’s so-called magical toning exercises are not working. Trainers will hand out easy workouts and tell people they work because they know that if they make the program too hard the client will complain. And, if the client is complaining, there’s a   good chance the trainer might lose that client (a client to a trainer equals money).

8. Bulking up is calorie dependent. This means if you eat more than you are burning, you will gain weight. If you eat less than you are burning, you will lose weight. Unfortunately, most female athletes perceive any weight gain as “bulking up” and do not give attention to the fact that they are simply getting fatter. As Todd Hamer, a strength and conditioning coach at George Mason University said, “Squats don’t bulk you up. It’s the ten beers a night that bulk you up.” This cannot be emphasized enough.

If you’re a female athlete and training with heavy weights (or not), you need to watch   what you eat. Let’s be real—the main concern that female athletes have when coming to   their coach about gaining weight is not their performance but aesthetics. If you choose to ignore this fact as a coach, you will lose your athletes!

9. The freshman 15 is not caused by strength training. It is physiologically impossible to gain 15 lbs of muscle in only a few weeks unless you are on performance enhancing   drugs. Yes the freshman 15 can come on in only a few weeks. This becomes more   complex when an athlete comes to a new school, starts a new training program, and also   has a considerable change in her diet (i.e. only eating one or two times per day in addition   to adding 6–8 beers per evening for 2–4 evenings per week). They gain fat weight, get   slower, and then blame the strength program. Of course, strength training being the   underlying cause is the only reasonable answer for weight gain. The fact that two meals per day has slowed the athlete’s metabolism down to almost zero and then the multiple beers added on top of that couldn’t have anything to do with weight gain…it must be the   lifting.

10.  Most of the so-called experts are only experts on how to sound like they know what they are talking about. The people who “educate” female athletes on training and   nutrition have no idea what they’re talking about. Let’s face it—how many people do you know who claim to “know a thing or two about lifting and nutrition?” Now, how many   people do you know who actually know what they’re talking about, have lived the life,   dieted down to make a weight class requirement, or got on stage at single digit body fat?   Invariably, these so-called experts are also the people who blame their gut on poor genetics.

These so-called experts are the reason you see so many women doing sets of 10 with a   weight they could do 20 or 30 times. They are being told by the experts that this is what it takes to “tone” the muscles. Instead, they are only wasting their time doing an exercise with a weight that is making no contribution to the fitness levels or the development of   the muscle.

So, don’t listen to the “experts”.  Pick up the dumbells and get the full benefit out of your program.

Usually when someone asks if your body is summer ready, you think tight tummy and firm
tushy.  When I ask my clients the same question, I am looking for an answer that goes a lot deeper than their ever-darkening tan.  Actually, I am going to take the focus of this question all the way under the skin and ask if your inner body is ready for the rigors of the heat that we all know as Chicago summer.

First of all, let me explain what is going to happen and why, and then what to do about it in order to prepare and avoid the bad stuff that goes along with it.  The process of the body getting ready for the warming weather is called “heat acclimation”.  During this time,
the inner systems of the body are tightening themselves up to protect against activity in the heat.  The entire process takes about a month in the Chicago Area (less in places that stay warmer year round).  So, pretty much during the months of May and June, your body is going to be changing, and you are going to notice these changes while you are exercising.  The first thing that you are going to notice is that you are going to start sweating (for those of you who do) a lot sooner than normal because when your body heats up, it sweats in order to cool itself down.  It’s sort of like running through a cold sprinkler on a hot day.  The sweat (sprinkler) attaches moisture to the skin and when air hits the moisture, it provides a cooling effect.  You will also notice that your sweat is very salty and stings when it gets in your eyes.  This is because during the first part of the
acclamation process, your perspiration is very concentrated with nutrients called electrolytes.  Electrolytes are the conductors of your body.  They make sure that all the impulses sent out get to the proper place to make muscles and tissues function correctly.
If these are all lost during activity, then you can pretty much imagine the consequences.  The most common electrolyte lost in sweat is [NaCl], more commonly known as salt.  This is what causes the sting in your eyes when you perspire.  If you don’t believe
me, pour some table salt in your eye and see for yourself.  The problem is that if the salt and other minerals are not replaced in the body, then the first result is basic dehydration.  The first sign of dehydration is always, ironically enough, a lack of sweat.  If the body doesn’t have enough fluid to keep it’s main systems going, then it sure isn’t going to share with the cooling systems (not very nice, is it?).  As little as 1% dehydration can lead to a decrease in performance.  Without fluid in the body to cool itself off, the core temperature will begin to rise, and this is where the real problems begin.  If core temperature rises too high, then you may experience some more serious side effects, such as heat exhaustion and even more severely, heat stroke.

Now, what can we do to avoid all this ugliness?  It’s really very easy.  The main thing to do is to keep hydrated.  This is a broken record statementcoming from all of your trainers who tell you to drink water until you float away, but at this time of year, it is critical.
If you work at a desk, keep a cool squeeze bottle by your keyboard and take a swig every once-in-a-while.  Do NOT wait until you are actually thirsty to drink your fluids.  The “thirst-drive” is not an adequate indicator of how much water needs to be taken into the body.  Tests have shown that if that is the only indicator used, then you are only satisfying about 50% of the hydration levels required by your body.  Quite a far cry from 1%, isn’t it?  If you are active, the song remains similar, but simply adds an extra verse.  For those of you who are active, especially outside, you need to replace those electrolytes that are used a little bit more aggressively.  Water is a good start, but if you are looking for a more full replacement, a sports drink is just one step better, because they are stocked with the vitamins and minerals that you lose.  They are manufactured especially for athletes
and their needs.  If they are somewhat sweet for your tastes, simply water them down a little bit.  The other nutrients that are being replaced other than your Sodium are Potassium and Magnesium.  The best places to get these, you ask?  Eat a banana.  Keeping these two nutrients in your system not only keeps your fluid levels up, but also has the side bonus of deterring cramps related to fluid loss.

Now that you are fully armed with the knowledge and ability to keep your body happy and healthy through the warm summer months, you are ready to go out and beat the heat.  Get out.  Enjoy the scenery and the weather.  Heaven knows that in Chicago it may not last long.  Keep your fluids handy and have a full and fit summer.

They say that the journey of 1000 miles starts with a single step.  This is never so true as it is with exercise.  No matter where you want to go or what you want to acheive, the first thing that you have to do is get started.  This, coincidentally is also generally the hardest step for people to take.  The thing with exercise is that once you get going, and rolling, you build some momentum.  Acheive a goal or two and really get into it.  But if you never start, then you are stuck.  The biggest thing that gets in the potential exerciser’s way is their imagination.  We worked with a client this week who has not worked out with a trainer in 5 years.  So, understandably, the workout is going to be pretty simple and basic.  No need to cripple those who are willing, but just not capable, right?  But no.  She wants to work “outside the box, like they do on Biggest Loser.”  Simple push ups are hard for this person, and she wants to do burpees and tow trainers by cables?  C’mon.  Bottom line is not to let your apspirations get in the way of your progress.  I guess the point of the story is that this is not all that uncommon.  The general population will go to the gym with all of these big dreams and goals.  And an abnormally short time-frame.  Then, when they don’t work out as planned, they get frustrated and quit.  End of story.  The easiest way to get yourself moving is to set a goal (or two or three).  Just make sure that they are going to help your progress, not hinder it.  A good guideline is to set what we, in the industry, call SMART Goals.

S – Specific.  the worst goal is a vague goal.  How are you going to know when you get there?  Be as specific as possible.

M – Measurable.  If you cannot measure your progress, then you have nothing to compare your success to down the road.

A – Attainable.  Just make sure your goal is within your capabilities.

R – Realistic.  This is one that many struggle with.  I want to lose 20lbs is a legitimate goal.  I want to lose 20lbs by July 4th is not.  Realistic goals (in regards to weight) deal in 1-2 pounds per week (not per day).  Now that may not seem like much, but if you do the math that could be 6-10lbs per month and over 50 lbs per year.  Now those are results you can live with!  Anything above and beyond that is a lot of water and lean tissue mass, neither of which you are looking to deprive your body of.

T – Timely.  Don’t be afraid to set a time limit.  It is imperative to success.

Now once you set a goal, the next step is getting there.  Focus on the process.  There will be things here and there that are out of your control.  Don’t let them get you down.  You will have setbacks.  It’s OK.  Weight loss and exercise are an up and down process, just like anything else.  Jobs, family, life.  They are not all peaches and sunshine, right?  It’s a process.  But the best thing you can do is MOVE!  Even if it’s just a walk today, it’s better than sitting with the Edy’s and a spoon feeling sorry for yourself.  If you lack the motivation and accountiblility (which most do), workout with a friend.  Misery loves company, right?  My suffering isn’t so bad if you’re suffering with me.  If all else fails, hire a trainer.  Even if it’s just for a little while or just for a kickstart.  I just happen to know a few.  The bottom line is to get going, America.  We are fatter than ever before and it’s not getting any better.  And even worse, it’s spreading to the next generation of fat Americans.  It’s our job to not only be accountable to ourselves, but those that look up to us, as well.  Be an example of effort and progress.  Your body and somebody else just might thank you for it.

I hope everyone had phenomenal weekends!  Welcome back to the blog.  We’re having some technical difficulties this weekend stretching into today, so I’ll make today short, sweet and to the point.  I’m going to give you my first of hopefully many Top 5 Lists.  Today’s list would be the trainer’s Top 5 Gym Pet Peeves.  Yours may vary from mine, so please feel free to add them to the comments.  I try to respond as often as possible.

5.  Long-Distance Cardio People – These people are just nuts.  They think that they are getting this insane benefit from being on the treadmill, elliptical, stairclimber (insert your favorite cardio here) for hours on end.  I even have clients that will not give it up.  We’ve discussed this before (thetruthaboutexercise.wordpress.com/sizzle-or-saunter).  At best, you are being inefficient, at worst just wasting your time.  You can cover as much ground in less time and do better benefit by working harder and intermittently.  Lose more fat, lose more weight.

4.  Piggy Gym-Rats – Oh my Gosh!  Clean up your stuff!  If you’re big enough to lift it, you’re big enough to put it away!  If you sweat on it, clean it!  Enough said.  It’s just gross.  Plus, no one is paid to be your maid or your mommy.  Put your weights away, meathead.

3.  The Narcissist – The person who walks around the gym and does nothing but bicep curls and looks at himself  in the mirror.  Dude, really?

2.  The Routinist – This is the person who goes into the gym and does the same thing over and over again.  The very definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.  Routine is the enemy of adaptation and if you don’t change things up, then you will not get the changes you are looking for.  Change it up, do something different, go out of the bubble.

1.  The Dear Abby – This is the person who gives exercise advice to everyone and anyone who will listen.  Mainly this is the random meathead in the gym who works out and takes tons of supplements and believes that everyone else should, too.  This also generally extends to doctors.  Doctors (not all, but many) have very big knowledge complexes.  Fact is is that they tend to know as much about exercise as I know about medicine.  Very little, and most of it is what I’ve been told by someone else.  Trust the experts, but be careful,  people who claim to be experts may not always be(thetruthaboutexercise.wordpress.com/certified-vs-qualified) .

Now, as you can see, this is a little self-serving.  Most of these people can be helped by a qualified personal trainer (maybe not the narcissist….that dude is just beyond help).  Go forth, experiment with a trainer.  Even if it’s just for a month it’ll help you break your routine and get into something good and new.  And more than likely it will send you into a new area of progression.  Have fun with it.  Exercise is not a chore, it’s a joy.

Good Morning!  It’s early, it’s POURING rain and it’s really dark out, but here we go.  I know that many of you out there have the reality TV bug.  And one of our favorite show’s is The Biggest Loser.  We watch because it’s inspiring to see people lose that much weight and “change their lives”.  Unfortunately, just like most reality TV, it’s just NOT reality.  This puts up a two-fold problem.  First off, we’ll deal with the show itself.  The premise that people can lose that much weight that quickly in a safe and sustainable manner is just ridiculous.  Contestants on the show will routinely drop double-digit pounds in a week (especially in the early stages).  This is not healthy.  Current healthy and sustainable standards recommend no more than about 1-2 lbs per week (up to a max of about 1% of your total body weight).  That is fat loss.  The rest is water weight and Lean Body Mass (LBM).  I will not name any names in my post, but contestants have admitted to fasting and severely dehydrating in the days leading up to a weigh-in.  Some to the point where they actually urinated blood.  Not a good sign.  Plus, the methodology used to obtain this weight loss is absurd!  Contestants are asked to workout up to 6 hours a day and are restricted to about 1200 calorie intake per day.  You’d lose silly weight, too.  Imagine the time that you spend at your JOB.  Now put that into training.  Of course you’d lose weight.  But the fact of the matter is is that for the vast majority, it’s not sustainable.  What happens when you leave the set, go home and aren’t working out 6 hours a day because you have a job, family and a life?  You gain the weight back.  As do most of the contestants.  Season 1’s winner said he has put back all but 13 pounds.  Another contestant admitted to developing and eating disorder because of the show.  She’s literally afraid of food.  Silly.  The bottom line is that weight loss is not magical.  It’s hard friggin’ work.  It takes discipline and effort.  People get their bodies all messed up over the course of a lifetime and expect to fix it in a couple of weeks.  REALLY!? Now we come to our second point. The Biggest Loser perpetuates every negative personal trainer stereotype in history. It reinforces what peole think. That trainers are nothing more than idiot rep counters who stand over their clients and scream at them and berate them. And God bless Jillian and Bob for maximizing their 15 minutes. But they are NOT qualified trainers. Certified, maybe (even though that is up for debate). But qualified? NO WAY! Qualified trainers do not make their clients do burpees in the mud and berate them when they inevitably fail. Qualified trainers do not make obese people take 3 mile runs on the beach (second chances – which landed two contestants in the hospital). It gives the rest of us who bust our butts at our craft a bad rep and a bad image. That is not what we do. We encourage, accompany and even console when necessary. We help our clientele attain goals that they could/would never do on their own. And what good is achieving a goal if you can’t maintain it? There are simply no redeeming qualities to the show. They do not care about the overall well-being of their contestants, they care about ratings. Don’t feed them. Turn it off, change the channel.

Today’s post will be mostly informational.  Sorry, no rants (for the most part), but just some information to answer some questions taht have been asked over the last week or so.  Recently, the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) released an update of the Food Guide Pyramid.  The reason being that people were having issue interpreting what the new pyramid (www.mypyramid.gov) was all about.  So they came up with the plate (http://www.choosemyplate.gov/).  It’s purpose is to visually show what any meal is supposed to look like in relationship to what actually sits in front of you every day. 


So let’s start from the top and move around.  Basically the plate is divided into quarters: Grains, Protein, Vegetables and Fruits, with some Dairy on the side.  You can also click on any portion of the plate and it will take you to a page explaining what each category means and what types of foods would fill each requirement.  Now, the purpose is honorable, so that’s why we won’t rant too much, and the USDA is softening some of their views, which is good too.  They say that at least half of your grains should be whole grains.  Which you have to read labels to find.  If a whole grain (wheat, oat, bulgar, rye, etc.) is not one of the first couple of ingredients, move on.  It has increased the protein requirement up to about 25% of the general, which is also good, especially for those of us who are active, in order to keep up with tissue turnover and help build new muscles.  The only glaring issue that continually pops up with the USDA is the continual lack of any fat in the diet.  75% of the plate (grains, fruits and veggies) are very carb based, and therefore will quickly increase insulin levels and ultimately lead to less usage and more storage (as fat, of course).  They even recommend 1% or skim milk.  But we know, in reality, that the body requires the fat to buffer all the carbs in the diet, and if the diet is too deficient, people end up storing more fat and gaining more weight.  Like I said, the intention of the guidelines is better than in the past, but still needs tempering.  Go to the website, and personalize a program.  Check it out and see what you think, if nothing else.  But keep in mind some of my other discussions and musings.  Fats are prevalent in natural foods for a reason.  Our body needs them to function and the continual push toward more grain and carb-based food is helping make us fatter and fatter.  Moderation is always the key with everything.  Nothing is that bad for you (with few exceptions) and nothing is that good for you.  Moderate out and be healthy.

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