Rest for Better Results

Most people know that exercise and physical activity are beneficial to their health. But how much is too much? Many fail to take any time off from exercising and therefore they are not allowing their bodies any time for recovery. Too much exercise can be just as dangerous as not exercising at all! It is important to remember that exercise can prevent injuries, but it can also cause them! Rest and recovery is an essential part of any exercise program. In order to train more effectively, you need a recovery plan. This will have a significant impact on your fitness gains and sports performance.

During a workout, muscle fibers are damaged. When resistance is placed on a muscle through running, weight training, etc, the muscle develops tiny microscopic tears, which activate muscle building. The tears cause the formation of new muscle protein strands which increase the strength and size of the muscle. Additionally, the tears start the process of healing by creating new cells to heal the damaged tissue and relieve any soreness. This alters the homeostasis in the body, which creates stress. The greater the tear in the muscle, the more likely it is to have muscle soreness and an altered homeostatic state.

After exercise, recovery is essential to muscle and tissue repair and strength building. Muscles are repaired and rebuilt only during the recovery period. Without proper recovery, especially after a workout that is too strenuous or prolonged, the body stays in the altered homeostatic state for longer than it should, which may lead to injuries. A muscle needs anywhere from 24 to 48 hours to repair and rebuild, and working it again too soon leads to tissue breakdown instead of building.

Recovery should take place both during and after workouts. It is important to rest between weight sets or cardiovascular intervals as well as between workouts in the same week. For weight training programs, never work the same muscles groups two days in a row. Rest helps replenish your energy stores, which get depleted during workouts. People often don’t find the time to rest and relax, but it is one of the easiest things to do to promote recovery and repair. One easy way to recover faster is to design a smart workout routine in the first place. You will limit your progress and undermine your recovery with excessive exercise, heavy training at every session or a lack of rest days.

Stretching is another way to aid in the recovery process. It prevents the muscles from becoming knotted and helps improve flexibility. Additionally, it is important to remain hydrated to aid in muscle recovery and to keep heart rate and blood pressure stable. Water supports every metabolic function in your body and must replaced when lost through sweat. A lot of fluid can be lost during strenuous workouts and it needs to be replaced both during and after exercise. Endurance athletes who sweat for hours and lose large amounts of water especially need to replace their fluids for optimal performance and recovery.

Sleep is also extremely important. It is imperative to get between 7-9 hours of sleep per night to ensure growth hormones and cortisol are produced and balanced. GH is largely responsible for tissue growth and repair. Sleep also enhances protein synthesis, boosts immune function, and helps relax the nervous system. Optimal sleep is essential for anyone who exercises regularly.

The most important thing that you can do to improve fitness, prevent injury and speed up recovery is to listen to your body. If you feel tired or sore, take a break or rest. Your body will tell you what it needs if you pay attention to it, rather than ignore the warning signs. The best way to ensure you are training and resting optimally is to consult with a personal trainer to design an effective exercise program and help prevent you from overtraining.

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Circuit Training for a New You

Circuit training is a type of interval training that incorporates a series of strength and/or cardio exercises with little or no rest between sets. It increases your heart rate while simultaneously strengthening your muscles using a combination of resistance training and high-intensity aerobics. This combination of weight training and cardiovascular work makes circuit training a valuable way to exercise.

One “circuit” consists of a set of prescribed exercises performed in order with little rest between each exercise. The circuit is then repeated one to several times. Many different exercise stations can be incorporated into circuit training. Usually, stations alternate between muscle groups so little rest is needed. To increase cardiovascular endurance in circuit training, brief bouts of high intensity aerobic exercise, like jumping rope, can be incorporated. The exerciser gains muscle through the resistance training, while she/he simultaneously increases cardiovascular endurance as a slightly elevated heart rate is maintained throughout the entire program.

There are many advantages to circuit training. First, it is fun and brings change and excitement to routine workouts. There are endless numbers of exercises you can add to each circuit to change it up and make it more interesting. This type of workout also burns more calories than doing cardio alone as you maintain an elevated heart rate throughout the whole exercise routine. Additionally, circuit training is a practical solution for those with time constraints as it allows you to combine cardio and muscular fitness together in one session. Further, you can set up as many stations and exercises as you want, to either shorten or lengthen your workout.  Another benefit to circuit training is that it is portable and convenient. It can be done at home, outside, or in the gym with minimal equipment. You can do use bodyweight to perform pushups, planks and lunges for strengthening and use stairs and jump ropes for cardio stations anywhere and at any time.

If you are looking for a new routine to help you lose weight and increase muscle mass, circuit training may help you achieve your goals. Circuit training is fun and is a great way to challenge your body, whether you are just beginning an exercise program or are a seasoned athlete.

 

HIIT It Up!

High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT, workouts are a phenomenon that is sweeping the nation. What is it, and is it safe? Read on!

HIIT is a cardio session that consists of short, high intensity bursts. HIIT can be an incredibly effective way to work out to see the body composition and fitness results that you want, but you need to do it right. Numerous studies have shown that working your hardest is key when it comes to boosting endurance, increasing metabolism, regulating insulin levels, and losing body fat. HIIT routines that involve bodyweight work (e.g. push-ups) or added weight, such as kettlebells, medicine balls, or dumbbells, will tone your muscles while spiking your heart rate. All types of exercise will ultimately help you burn fat by burning calories, but the more intense the exercise, the more fat you will burn. As a result, it is a very effective way of helping people get the “shredded” look.

A true HIIT workout will involve pushing yourself to the max during each set, which should never exceed 90 seconds. These workouts are typically quick and convenient since they are such high intensity; they usually are 30 minutes or less. They can also be done virtually anywhere, with little to no equipment. The only stipulation is that you should rest in between sets. This may not be the first thing that comes to mind with such an intense workout, however, it is imperative. Recovery is essential so that the body works to adapt from the anaerobic (high-intensity) period to the low-intensity recovery period in HIIT. This workload results in high caloric expenditure, which can lead to fat loss.

That fat loss also comes from an increase in metabolism, which is a benefit to any high intensity workout. Research shows that this is due to an increase in post-exercise exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC. EPOC speeds up your metabolic rate and can result in a metabolic boost for up to 48 hours after a complete HIIT routine! The high intensity cardio raises your metabolic rate to the point where you continue to burn calories even after the session ends—in some cases 15% more.

If weight loss is your ultimate goal, the old saying that you can’t out-train a bad diet is true…even if your workouts are super demanding. HIIT isn’t an excuse to neglect your diet, so keep it clean! By incorporating HIIT training into your exercise regimen and keep your diet in check, you’ll start to see some amazing results!

If you’re looking for a safe, but effective HIIT workout check this one out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G43UTJoa6gw&t=2s

Living With Back Pain

Back pain can be a debilitating and life altering problem for many Americans. In fact, according to the Mayo Clinic, 80% of Americans will experience some type of back pain in their lifetime. Most of the time back pain is an uncomfortable annoyance, although in some cases, it may be serious and require medical attention. Pain is usually associated with how our bones, muscles, ligaments and tendons work together.

While back pain can occur at any age, it more commonly effects those between 35-55 years old. Other risk factors for back pain include a sedentary lifestyle, stress, anxiety, depression, smoking, pregnancy, sleep disorders, obesity, strenuous physical activity, and strenuous exercise, especially if exercises are not performed correctly. There are many possible causes of back pain, but the most common is due to strained muscles, strained ligaments, and muscle spasms due to heavy lifting, improper lifting form, or abrupt or awkward movements. For most of the population, everyday activities, poor posture or a bad mattress are frequently responsible for back pain.  This may be the result of sitting or standing too long, driving for long periods, sitting in a hunched position, over-stretching, bending awkwardly, or pushing/pulling/carrying items. Back problems may also be due to structural problems, such as ruptured disks, bulging disks, sciatica, arthritis, scoliosis, or osteoporosis. More seriously, pain may sometimes be due to cancer of the spine, spinal infections, bladder or kidney infections, and shingles, so contact a doctor if your pain is accompanied by fever, inflammation, numbness, pain radiating down the legs, or incontinence.

In most cases, back pain can be treated at home and will not need imaging scans or treatment by a physician, though surgery may be indicated for those with structural issues.  For pain, doctors usually suggest over the counter NSAIDS, codeine, and cortisone injections. To alleviate pain, complementary therapies such as acupuncture, shiatsu, chiropractic manipulation, and osteopathy are also sometimes recommended. TENS therapy (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) may also be utilized; it emits small electric pulses through electrodes on the skin.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could avoid back pain altogether?  Well, there are steps you can take to prevent the onset of back pain. First, adopt healthy behaviors such as smoking cessation and maintaining a normal body weight. Additionally, it is important to engage in regular exercise to build strength and flexibility. Physical activity also helps to prevent obesity, which, on its own, is a risk factor for back pain. It is also important to be aware of your posture both when sitting and standing and to correct poor posture as often as possible. When standing, keep a neutral pelvis with straight legs, stand upright, and keep your head forward. While sitting, keep your feet flat on the floor and make sure your knees and hips are level. Your arms should be at right angles if you are using a keyboard, and your lower back should be supported. Next, be careful when lifting. Always bend your knees, never twist and lift, and push rather than pull objects!  Finally, make sure you have a supportive mattress so that your spine can remain straight.

If you follow these suggestions, you can help reduce the onset of back pain and also alleviate some of your discomfort if back pain does occur. Be as active as possible in a safe and effective way, and you can keep your body moving pain free as long as possible!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keep Your Core Strong

In the world of exercise, the core is a common focus. Often we hear about how important it is to strengthen our core and to improve core stability, but what exactly does this mean? The core is made up of much more than the abdominal muscles. In fact, most of the power in the body is derived from the core.  It is imperative to have core strength and stability in order to prevent injury and to increase performance. Therefore, it is extremely important to understand what the core is and how we can strengthen it effectively.

The core connects the upper body to the lower body and it affects how we move these body parts. It is involved in activities of daily living, such as bending and lifting, sitting properly at a desk, housework, gardening, sports, balance and stability, good posture, and preventing back pain. Weak core muscles can negatively affect your daily functions. With our sedentary lifestyles, most of us have weak cores. We need to continually work at strengthening these muscles.

The core is made up of muscles from the neck and shoulders down to the pelvis. These include the multifidus, interspinales, intertransversarii, rotatores, internal and external obliques, transversus abdonminis, erector spinae, quadratus lumborum, latissimus dorsi, thoracolumbar fascia, and abdominal fascia. Therefore, core training is not as simple as doing sit-ups.  It is important to train all of the core muscles, not just the “abs,” for effective movement. The core transfers force and acts as a stabilizer, which is why it is important to train the core dynamically in all planes of motion rather than in isolation. Therefore, deadlifts, squats, pushups, pikes to pushups, and planks would be much more effective at training the core than sit-ups. These exercises will create more efficient movement and increased strength. Further, the core should be engaged while weight training other body parts in order to develop core strength. It is important to note that many traditional core exercises do not adequately recruit the abs and have been shown to damage the lower back.

Core stability creates efficient movement and proper positioning to prevent injury. For example, if a cyclist reaches too far forward while biking, it changes the position of the hips and pelvis, which affects posture and power. Similarly, while running, tight hips and lack of hip extension can cause the lower back to hurt and affect performance. It is helpful to use a foam roller to decrease inflammation and tension and to prevent restrictive movement before exercising.  Additionally, meeting with a personal trainer to learn the proper form will ensure you are exercising effectively in order to reach all of your fitness goals.

Don’t neglect your core, since it is the foundation for your health and fitness. The stronger the core, the stronger you are and the better you will feel.  A stronger core equals a more solid you!

Please click on this link for some effective core exercises: http://thearenafitness.com/exercise-library/exercise-gallery/images/pdf/exercise_pdfs/3_core.pdf

Osteoporosis & Exercise

Over 53 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with osteoporosis or are at risk for osteoporosis due to low bone mass.  Osteoporosis is defined as a disease which weakens the bones so they become fragile and break easily. It is especially prevalent in the bones of the hip, spine, and wrist. Often, osteoporosis is a “silent” disease because the person does not exhibit symptoms or knows he/she has it until a bone is broken or the vertebrae in the spine collapse.

While anyone is susceptible to osteoporosis, it is more common in older women, especially non-Hispanic, white women and Asian women. Other risk factors include being small and thin, having low bone density, taking certain medications, and/or having a family history of osteoporosis. Bone mass can be tested with a bone mineral test.

There are a few ways you can prevent osteoporosis and keep your bones strong, such as consuming a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, exercising, not smoking, and not drinking alcohol excessively. Falls are the number one cause of broken bones, so weight bearing exercise and balance are extremely important to prevent falls and to increase bone density. If bones become extremely fragile, fractures can also occur through normal daily activities, such as bending, lifting, coughing, or from minor bumps or stresses.

Exercise improves bone health, muscle strength, coordination, balance, and overall health, and it is vital for treating and preventing osteoporosis. Weight-bearing and strength training exercises are both recommended for peak bone mass because you are working against gravity. Weight-bearing exercises include weight training, hiking, jogging, walking, stair climbing, dancing, and tennis. They can be either low impact or high impact. Strength training is also known as resistance exercise, and it includes lifting weights, using bands and balls, and utilizing your own body weight. Yoga and pilates are also great options since they improve flexibility, balance, and strength, but certain positions will need to be avoided to avoid spinal injury.

Consult a doctor before beginning any type of exercise program, especially if you have osteoporosis. You may have to avoid bending, twisting, and flexing to protect your spine if your bone mass is low. Additionally, high-intensity exercises should be avoided to avoid fractures. It is important to stretch and strengthen the muscles properly and to improve posture. It is good idea to consult with a personal trainer to learn how to perform exercises properly and how to progress your activities and routines.

 

References:
The National Institutes of Health Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases ~
NIH: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
https://www.nof.org/patients/fracturesfall-prevention/exercisesafe-movement/osteoporosis-exercise-for-strong-bones/ (National Osteoprosis Foundation)

Protein Powder 101

There are many different types & brands of protein powder on the market. It can be very difficult to decipher which is actually the best one to purchase. Protein powders are derived from various sources, such as whey, egg whites, soy, rice, kemp, pea, and flax. There are pros and cons to each type, depending on individual needs and preferences.

Whey is the most common and cheapest protein powder available on the market. Whey rotein is derived from milk. It is the liquid extracted from milk when cheese is made. Whey is a complete protein and contains all the essential amino acids. It is also rapidly digested and good for muscle synthesis. Whey is available three forms: whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, and whey protein hydrolysates. Concentrates usually have less protein and more carbohydrates and other components than isolates do. Isolates have been purified in an attempt to get to the purest form of whey protein. Whey hydrolysate has similar protein levels to isolates but the protein has been broken down into small peptide chains and amino acids, which makes it easy to absorb and hypoallergenic, since it denatures the protein. It also can be more expensive. Casein, which is also derived from milk, can also be used to make protein powders. Casein is more difficult to digest than whey, and therefore it takes a longer time for the body to utilize it.

Egg whites are another type of protein, which is especially good for those avoiding dairy, soy, or gluten. It is a high quality protein for leaning out and building muscle. Some people complain about the taste.

Soy protein is a complete protein that is easily digested but it is not digested very quickly. It is lactose and gluten free. Some brands use GMOs, so look on the label if you do not want to use genetically modified soy. Soy contains isoflavones, which may potentially reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Despite this benefit, some studies show that in excess, isoflavones can interact with estrogen and affect hormone levels. In men, this may cause a decrease in their testosterone levels.

Other good sources of vegetarian protein are from peas, rice, hemp and flax. Sometimes quinoa, millet, and lentils are added as well. They usually come in a blend since none are complete proteins on their own. However, they can be sold separately as well. For example, pea protein is deficient in cysteine, even though it has the same amount of protein per serving as whey. It is also free of cholesterol, fat and gluten. Rice protein is also deficient in some amino acids, especially lysine. However, it is gluten free and inexpensive. Hemp protein powder comes from hemp seeds and cannabis, though it does not contain a significant amount of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Hemp is high in protein and omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. However, it is also very high in fat and calories. It can also be expensive, since growing hemp products in the US is illegal. There are many vegan powder blends on the market, which combine hemp, peas, rice, quinoa, etc. Vegan powders are dairy-free, gluten-free, and soy-free, and when combined, they are complete proteins. They can be a bit more expensive than whey products.

Besides the source of the protein you choose, it is also important to look at the QUALITY of the protein powder, which differs dramatically between brands. It is important to avoid a lot of artificial ingredients and fillers, so the fewer ingredients on the label the better. Consumers should also look at the calorie content as well as the types of flavors and sweeteners used in the product. You should also pick a brand that has been tested for quality and purity, so that you know that what is listed on the label is actually in the product. The supplement industry is not regulated by the FDA, but many are certified by GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice). This is a system to ensure that the products meet certain quality standards during its production and manufacturing.

No matter what you choose, it is important to remember that the body needs adequate protein. Protein plays a crucial role in the body and do most of the work in the cells. They are also required for the function, structure, and regulation of the tissues and organs in the body. So do your research, and buy a protein powder that fits your lifestyle, tastes, and needs.