Tips to Get Swimsuit Ready

24 Feb

This article has been getting a lot of hits lately so I thought I would post it up front and personal just for my recent subscribers. It is quite handy ya know!!!

Believe it or not swimsuit season will be upon us soon. Some of my readers are already in the middle of swimsuit season – in Australia and such. And because I am a personal trainer I am asked, “What can I do to get ready for swimsuit season?” Well read further to find out what I do to not only help my clients but also to help myself:

#1. Make a commitment. The first thing one needs to do is to start by making a commitment and setting up goals. I look at my calendar for the upcoming week and prepare my schedule for workouts. I decide what days I will be able to workout and write them on my calendar. Of course, there will be days that will be “rainout” days because something may or may not come up so I include a makeup day as well. The makeup day will naturally come at the end of the week. If I did not miss a day I can always include it anyway and get that extra workout for the week. Always be prepared for the workout day by packing your gym bag the night before and throwing it in the car. Include bottled water in that gym bag of yours.

#2. Cardiovascular exercise. I plan to do cardio exercise 4 times a week for 30-45 minutes per session. That enables me to burn the calories. The best cardio exercise is called interval training where I alternate short bursts of intense activity with active recovery. I warm up for 5 minutes then I do 1 minute of intense activity with 3 minutes of resting work and alternate the 1 minute intense with 3 minutes rest work until I reach 30 minutes of exercise and go into a 5 minute cool down. This is the best cardio and not only do I feel great when I am done but I feel great in that swimsuit I will be putting on soon!

#3. Strength training. I also incorporate strength training in my exercise week by including at least 2-3 days of strength training. Muscle weighs more than fat and by lifting weights I gain muscle mass that burns more calories 24/7! You could either include 3 days of total body workouts or you could break it down by muscle group per day. I like to do chest and back one day, legs another day, and arms and shoulders for one other day. It is usually best to do 6-8 strength training exercises on strength training day.

#4. Eat right. If I am going to have the figure I want for swimsuit season I must eat right. But how am I going to turn down that fried shrimp po-boy that I love so much? Well, I incorporate a cheat day in my week. That way I reward myself for all the hard work in the gym and also prevent ‘falling off the wagon’ because I am still getting the food I love, just one day a week. The main thing I do is watch the fat grams and eat plenty of protein. Protein can curb your appetite. In every meal I try to include a balance of healthy carbohydrates, proteins and healthy fats. I also drink plenty of water because water is so good for you. Plus water detoxifies the system and fat is a toxin, ya know.

#5. Posture, posture, posture. Your posture affects so much about you. Did you know that if you stand up straight, tilt your pelvis in and hold your shoulders back that you will look thinner? Not to mention you look confident and self-assured.

#6. Work those abdominals. As a female, most of my body fat is concentrated in my tummy. The best thing you can do to get rid of that body fat is, not crunches, but cardiovascular exercise. That burns the fat. And the second best thing you can do is abdominal exercises. You can do all the crunches in the world but if you are not doing cardio exercise you are wasting your time. Since I have already included cardio exercise in my prep program I want to include abdominal exercises. You can work your abs any time any place. Start by holding in your abdominals, don’t hold your breath, just hold in your abs. If you are standing tilt your pelvis forward – ah, we are back to posture. So as you work on posture you can work your abs. How convenient! You can work your abdominals while driving, sitting at your desk, or watching tv. I work my abs at every single workout. I do crunches on the stability ball, crunches on the bench, leg lift crunches, pilates ab work, crunches on the mat, there are infinite ways to do crunches. The best crunch is intense and few, perhaps 10-20 reps with a wide variety of work. Don’t forget the obliques – those are the side muscles. I also include lower back exercises because if your lower back is strong it will help when pulling the abs in – a perfect swimsuit stance! Here is a link to my favorite abodominal crunches!!

Happy Training!!

What exactly is the Tracy Anderson Method?

11 Dec

I get this question a lot because I teach something very similar to it and have even before she came around. We called our class Floor Fit at my YMCA. What Tracy does (and what I do) is fatigue the small muscles, also called accessory muscles and in effect creating a beautiful lean beautiful tone body. It is basically isometric exercises which means you use you only your body weight.

What I love about Tracy is she is passionate about what she does and she put a lot of research into her program. I read her book and I beleive in her program. It works. I have seen it in action.

For isometric exercises to be effective you have to do a lot of reps. The exercises look simple for the most part but the more you do the harder they get. Like I said for the exercise to be effective you have to do a lot reps and not stop when they get hard. Work through the pain. When you first start the program it is best to start at 10-15 reps. In the next few days work up to 25, then add 5 more until you are up to 60 reps per exercise. Is it hard? Yes but the reward is so worth it.

Doing the Tracy Anderson Method means you are engaging the accessory muscles, those behind-the-scenes muscles, and in order to do so correctly you must have the power to exhaust the muscles that want to do the movements in the first place. You have to exhaust the star performers. Your larger muscles, the ones you hear about all the time – quadriceps, lats, hamstrings, etc. – they want to do the work. You need to engage the smaller muscles, the ones that usually get a free ride. In order to wake up the accessory muscles, though you have to have a presence. You have to perform. You have to be connected, and you have to care about the movements.

There is something in the body called the cross-vector of force. Your body is full of energy and power. Everyone’s body has so much energy, but most people have no idea how to access it. As soon as you wake up that power, and learn how to use it and direct it and push it and pull it, you are going to completely transform the way you look and feel. Part of pushing yourself is making sure that you’re using all your power when you execute each move. What we’re after is harnessing what Tracy calls the cross-vectors of force. Here’s her example which I often use:

Lift up your right hand and reach it out as if you’ve dropped your most prized possession. Your great-grandmother’s diamond engagement ring has fallen through a hole in the wall. It’s over there, somewhere. And your arm can fit through the hole, but just up to your shoulder. So you’re really extending that arm out, reaching as far and as hard as you can, but the wall is holding your shoulder back.

Now let’s say you want to reach farther, but you’re afraid you’re going to fall through the wall. So you ask your best friend to hold your arm on the other side. That action, stretching both ways at once, activates the cross-vector.

That repetition of pulling and relaxing sends little vibrations through your muscles (basic isometric training), and the vibrations are what will tighten and tone. Instead of creating strength through mass, you create strength through unity. Think of the muscle when you are working it, focus on that pulling away and coming together. By doing so you create that connection with your body which will create a lean mean fighting machine you were meant to be. -Happy Training, Kathie :)

Antidotes to Overeating

26 Nov

Just in time for the Thanksgiving overeating holiday I have for you listed 3 Antidotes to Overeating:

1. Drink Wine: Antioxidants in red wine, called polyphenols, may reduce the negative impact of high-fat foods, according to a study published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology in January. In the study, people who ate a turkey cutlet cooked with wine had 75 percent lower levels of malondialdehyde (MDA)—a by-product of fat digestion linked with heart disease—than those who had the cutlet without wine. Other research shows that a compound called resveratrol in red wine mimics the effects of caloric restriction and improves health in mice. Cook with red wine or enjoy a glass with dinner. (But remember, moderation is key!)

2. Drizzle Vinegar: Having a tablespoon of vinegar with your meal, perhaps drizzled on your salad, may temper the spike in blood sugar (a.k.a. glucose) that occurs after eating a big, carbohydrate-rich meal. This sugar surge is a problem particularly for people with diabetes, who can’t clear glucose effectively; over time, excess glucose in the blood damages tissues. (For the rest of us, a steep rise in glucose triggers an equally rapid drop—which stokes appetite.) But in a 2005 study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, consuming about 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar along with a bagel and fruit juice slashed the postmeal rise in glucose in half. It also resulted in subjects eating 200 to 275 fewer calories through the day. “The acid in vinegar may inhibit the digestion of the starch, so the starch is rendered into something like fiber, which can’t be digested well,” says Carol Johnston, Ph.D., R.D., professor and chair of the department of nutrition at Arizona State University. Drizzle a tablespoon of vinegar on your salad.

3. Eat Fruit: If you’ve indulged in a decadent meal, consider fruit for dessert. In the Journal of the American College of Nutrition last April, Prior and his colleagues showed that eating antioxidant-rich fruits—including berries, grapes, kiwi and cherries—helps minimize the free-radical damage that occurs after a meal. Eating caloric meals, without antioxidant-rich foods like fruits and vegetables, can have harmful effects over time, says Prior. Finish your meal with a generous portion of fruit.

This post was adapted from http://www.eatingwell.com. Get great recipes and healthy eating tips there!!! 🙂 Kathie

What a Thanksgiving Meal Can Do To YOUR Body

25 Nov

I am not telling you this information to make you feel guilty. I am one for enjoying all the foods and tastes Thanksgiving has to offer but I would be doing you a disservice if I did not make you aware of what you are doing to your body if you over consume and do not work it off to keep your heart and body healthy!

Serving:

  • Turkey Breast  6 oz = 177 calories and 2.82 grams of fat
  • Ham 6 oz = 208 calories and 7.23 grams of fat
  • Gravy ½ cup = 71 calories and 6 grams of fat
  • Pumpkin pie single crust = 323 calories and 13 grams of fat
  • Cranberry Sauce 1/3 cup = 86 calories and .1 grams of fat
  • 1 Dinner Roll = 87 calories and 16 grams of fat
  • Mashed Potatoes ½ cup = 105 calories and 3.2 grams of fat
  • Stuffing ½ cup = 178 calories and 8.6 grams of fat
  • Green Bean Casserole ½ cup = 149 calories and 8 grams of fat
  • Sweet Potato Casserole ½ cup = 110 calories and 3 grams of fat

Exercise per serving:

Note that when you jump on the average piece of equipment in the gym that the calories burned calculator is set for a 200 pound man. The good news is you could actually burn more calories than is stated on the equipment because it does not calculate for your metabolism.  On average, and for this example, a person burns 13 calories per minute on the elliptical and 10 calories per minute on the treadmill.

  • Turkey 6 oz =  14.57 minutes on the elliptical and 17 minutes on the treadmill
  • Ham 6 oz =  16 minutes on the elliptical and 20.8 minutes on the treadmill
  • Gravy ½ cup = 5.4 minutes on the elliptical and 7.1 minutes on the treadmill
  • Pumpkin pie 1 slice = 24.5 minutes on the elliptical and 32.3 minutes on the treadmill
  • Cranberry Sauce 1/3 cup = 6.16 minutes on the elliptical and 8.6 minutes on the treadmill
  • 1 Dinner Roll = 6.69 minutes on the elliptical and 8.7 minutes on the treadmill
  • Mashed Potatoes ½ cup = 8.07 minutes on the elliptical and 10.5 minutes on the treadmill
  • Stuffing ½ cup = 13.69 minutes on the elliptical and 17.8 minutes on the treadmill
  • Green Bean Casserole ½ cup = 11.46 minutes on the elliptical and 14.9 minutes on the treadmill
  • Sweet Potato Casserole ½ cup = 8.26 minutes on the elliptical and 11 minutes on the treadmill

Of course, you already burn calories throughout the day just because that is the way our bodies run. Calories are our fuel but when you over consume calories you must burn off what your body does not burn naturally. Your best bet is consuming anywhere from 400-600 calories per meal and then let your body burn off what it can and include exercise to burn off everything else. But as we see with this Thanksgiving Meal the calories consumed is over 1,500 which is really a total days worth of calories. And this meal is based on average sizes and most Americans consume over 1,600 calories at one meal on Thanksgiving! That is not including the left-overs at dinner and more.

Remember that we all burn calories around the clock, even when sleeping. But how many calories do YOU burn throughout the day? I wrote a healthy fitness tip about this one time. Click Here to read that article, but remember the example I gave was the 150 pound female with 30% body fat? Well on a busy fitness day she burns 2,300 calories and on a resting day she burns 1,335 calories. Her resting day is not enough burn to get rid of the meal, so she would gain weight. Just some “food” for thought….

A note about fat grams, and this meal includes over 68 grams of fat. This is extremely high!! The average woman should consume no more than 30 grams of a fat a day and the average man about 45 grams of fat. And for an individual trying to lose weight the fat  grams consumed should be kept under 23 for women and  less than 30 grams a day for men. So this meal would be over double the fat grams for anyone! And consider these are not healthy fat grams.

How Exercise Helps with Depression

05 Nov

If everyone knew that exercise worked as well as anti-depressant medication, then I don’t think this disease wouldn’t be affecting so many people. In other countries, doctors now use exercise as a first-line depression treatment, but it’s vastly underestimated in the United States. This doesn’t mean that everyone should give up their medication or talk therapy, but the studies have proven that exercise can help depression and plays a crucial role in mental health.

Does Exercise Help Depression?

There are very good placebo control studies comparing antidepressants and exercise, and the effect on mood is the same. In one 2005 study conducted by researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, 30 minutes of moderately intense exercise five days a week reduced symptoms of depression by nearly half after 12 weeks. A 2000 Duke study showed exercise to be just as effective as Zoloft at treating depression. That’s really just the tip of the iceberg as there’s surplus of evidence showing how essential exercise is to one’s mental health.

Effects of Exercise on Depression

Dr. John Ratey, a Harvard psychiatrist, says “Depression is an erosion of connections in your life and between your brain cells but exercise, in fact, reestablishes those connections.” We need to move beyond the negative image of exercise as always being a battle between pain and gain on the road to a distant and difficult goal like weight loss or health. Just one workout can release chemicals in your brain that will increase your mood.

Studies suggest that endorphins produced directly in the brain contribute to the general feeling of well-being that usually comes along with exercise. Exercise immediately elevates levels of norepinephrine in certain areas of the brain. It wakes up the brain and gets it going and improves self- esteem.

Exercise also boosts dopamine, which improves mood, motivation, feelings of wellness and attention. Chronic exercise increases dopamine storage in the brain and that provides a feeling of satisfaction when we have accomplished something. Serotonin is equally affected by exercise, and it’s important for mood, impulse control, and self-esteem. It also helps stave off stress by counteracting cortisol.

Another benefit of exercise is you feel good about yourself, and that has a positive effect that can’t be traced to a particular chemical or area in the brain. If you’ve been feeling down and you start to exercise and feel better, the sense that you’re going to be OK and that you can count on yourself shifts your entire attitude.

Exercise and Depression

The good news is you don’t have to become a marathon runner to benefit. You’ll even feel the difference from a 30-minute walk 4-5x per week. That’s really the minimum you’ll need to feel the effect. If you want to do more, then great. You can try weight training or interval training which have also been found to be really effective.

Getting Motivated to Exercise When Depressed

So I’ve talked about why you should exercise, but I speak from personal experience when I say it is hard to get moving when you’re depressed. When my depression hit, I had no energy or motivation. The key is to start small. Literally, start with a 5 minute walk. The first step out the front door will be the hardest, but it’s worth it.

Think of the consequences if you don’t exercise. You may feel bad now, but you’ll feel worse if you don’t get up and start moving. Think of how good you’ll feel when you’re all done. It’s that feeling of accomplishment that will help you come back the next day and do it again.

Here are some fitness ideas to help you get started.
– Find a friend or loved one to go working out with. You’ll get support and accountability.
– Schedule a walk on the treadmill or stationary bike ride at the same time as your favorite TV program. It will take your mind off the exercise and the time will fly by.
– Participate in your favorite sport or activity that forces you to get up and moving. Try things like soccer, walking your dog, shopping, or even throwing around a Frisbee. It doesn’t matter what it is, just get out and be active.

Exercise isn’t a magical depression cure, but it is definitely the best of the natural depression remedies. What do you have to lose? It just takes one quick work out or walk to get the ball rolling. Success isn’t obtained from one giant step, but from the sum of many small steps. Take one small step today and see how great you feel afterwards.

*Parts of this article were taken from hasfit.com

Jumpstart Your Metabolism with These Simple Tips

02 May

Yes you can jumpstart your metabolism! A significant factor that affects weight loss and gain is the speed of your metabolism. Low calorie dieting slows your metabolism making it progressively more difficult to lose weight and keep it off.

 Muscle is a metabolic active tissue. Muscle requires a certain number of calories to maintain itself. So, the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn, even when you are just sitting still. If you frequently diet, your muscle mass drops because you are dropping your daily caloric requirement.

What is the solution? The solution is an active lifestyle that includes aerobic exercise, a solid strength training program and a healthy diet. A healthy diet means a healthy lifestyle of eating whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and lean protein. A healthy diet that keeps your metabolism in high gear is one that consists of eating several small meals throughout the day. Actually, if you have a healthy metabolism no food is off limits! But you must eat sweets and high-fat, junk foods less often and in smaller quantities. A healthy diet is realistic and permanent – not something you enter into sporadically just because you want to drop a few pounds at certain times in your life.

Tips for jump starting your metabolism: 

  • Do NOT reduce your caloric intake too low. Eating a diet low in calories can trigger what is called “starvation mode” in your body. Your body is designed to protect you from starvation. During times of greatly reduced food availability, and when you eat too little, your body thinks it is starving. To compensate, your metabolism will slow down considerably. In this state your body will burn everything but your stored body fat. Eating too little poses other problems too, like nutritional deficiencies. And, if you eat more calories at a later date, your body is more likely to store those calories as fat in preparation for a possible “famine” again in the future.
  • Do NOT skip meals. Going too long in between meals affects your body chemistry in ways that can make weight loss more difficult. The best way to avoid this is to consume 5-6 small meals (and snacks) every 3-4 hours. Eating in this fashion keeps your metabolism always moving and provides you with energy for activity to keep your metabolism on the go.
  • Get plenty of sleep and rest. Current research shows that getting plenty of rest and sleep is important to keeping your metabolism in high gear. Your body needs plenty of “downtime” for internal housekeeping that keeps your metabolism in good working order. Also, rest is important in between strength training workouts to let your muscles recover so the muscle can repair and grow.
  • Build muscle! This is probably the most important factor in jumpstarting your metabolism. If you do not strength train regularly, up to 30% of the weight you lose could be muscle tissue. A pound of muscle burns about 50 more calories per day than a pound of fat. Muscle weighs more than fat which means your metabolism is working harder all the time. Also, when working on a weight loss program, it is important to know that muscle weighs more than fat. And the scale you just stepped on will most likely tell you that you have not lost pounds. The best way to evaluate a healthy weight loss program is by judging how your clothes fit as opposed to stepping on the scale.
  • Stay as active as possible. Being active means your metabolism is working faster than when you are sitting still. Vary your daily activity and exercise. This will prevent boredom and keep your body on it’s fat burning toes!
  • Don’t just sit there. If you are watching TV or sitting at your desk get up often and do some exercises. Walk briskly at all times. Keep your resistance band and dumb bells nearby and use them during commercials or during your breaks. Get your stability ball and sit on it at your desk or while watching TV and exercise your core right then and there. Believe it or not, even fidgeting can help.
  • Interval train. The harder you work the more calories you will burn both during and after exercise. Studies show that exercising as intensely as you can at least 10 minutes per day produces the best results. Interval training is an effective way to increase the intensity and duration of your workouts without running yourself into the ground or risking injury. Click Here for an article on Interval Training.
  • Practice stress management. Chronic stress disrupts the hormones that regulate everything from fat storage to appetite. Practice relaxation exercises and positive thinking regularly. Try yoga and meditation to relieve stress. Click Here for an article on Stress Hormones.
  • Have FUN!  Most importantly make exercise FUN! Variety in diet and exercise will keep your program stimulating which in turn will jump start your metabolism.

Be sure to sign up for email list and get our FREE ebook which is all about Body Designer’s Food Combo Guide.

Healthy Sleep: Why We Need It and How to Get More of It

18 Apr

 According to the Better Sleep Council, average adults require a minimum of 7 or 8 hours of sleep nightly. Inadequate sleep results in stress, lower motivation, and slower reflexes. The National Commission on Sleep Disorders Research estimates that insufficient sleep costs billions of dollars annually in traffic and industrial accidents.

 Chronic sleep debt hampers the body’s ability to process carbohydrates. This causes our body to store more fat, according to an article in Runner’s World Magazine. Bet you did not know that, those of you who go on those nasty low carb diets!

Medical reports indicate that our REM (rapid eye movement) is most important. That is the only time our body actually stops growing! Our cells lie completely dormant, thus slowing the aging process. The best way to get more REM sleep is simply to get more sleep, because it occurs several times throughout the night. Slowing the aging process – did you get that?

During sleep, our body secretes melatonin, cortisol, and other hormones to help repair old cells and burn fat. That reason ought to make you want to get more sleep, huh? During deep sleep, organs, bones, and tissues are repaired, while during REM, emotions and memories are processed.

And when we are overtired, we tend to make poor food choices. These poor choices can lead to weight gain.

So how does one go about getting more sleep you ask? Well here are some great ideas:

  • Make sleep a priority. Don’t put it aside for one more chore or another television show. Remember, it’s important.
  • Sleep on a good bed. Your mattress and foundation should not be too small, too soft, or too old. You need to be comfortable in order to sleep well. My bed is the most comfy bed in the world! I make sure of that. I have lots of pillows and comfy sheets and blankets.
  • Cool, dark bedrooms and white noise are all helpful in getting enough quality sleep. The ideal temperature to sleep in is 60 to 65 degrees. A room that is too hot or too cold can disturb your sleep.
  • A dark room is most conducive for sleeping. Light is a powerful time cue to our bodies, so try to block out light that might be sneaking in through thin curtains and cracks.
  • Don’t watch television, work on the computer, or read in bed. The noise and light increase your alertness and make it difficult to sleep. The bed should be for sleep only, well for the most part ;).
  • Don’t go to bed with a full stomach, because it can be harder to fall asleep. Those of you who train with me already know this because you are supposed to ask yourself before you eat “what am I going to be doing the next few hours?” If that activity is not a major calorie burning activity then eat accordingly.  And sleep is not a major calorie burning activity!
  • Refrain from consuming acidic foods in the evening, such as orange juice, tomato sauce, or spicy dishes, as they may cause heartburn, which can disrupt sleep and/or keep you awake.
  • Avoid stimulants within 3 to 6 hours of bedtimes. Stimulants affect deep sleep and can increase night time awakenings. Nicotine is a stimulant which makes it difficult to fall asleep and stay in a deep sleep throughout the night.

So here are some key ways to help you get more sleep:

  • Keep regular hours even on the weekends. Go to bed and get up at the same time.
  • Develop a sleep ritual so your body will be cued to settle down for the night. Perhaps reading or listening to soothing music will help you relax. I have an mp3 player in which I listen to meditative music which helps me fall asleep. I especially enjoy this when I am away from home and my comfy bed or involved in very stressful waking hours.
  • If you have had an especially trying day, journal your thoughts at least one hour before getting into bed to release any tension you may be holding.
  • Read something inspirational or uplifting just before bed so that you can enter a sleep state with a good frame of mind. This is so important. Your subconscious mind, which is the most powerful part of your mind, is going into active mode as you fall asleep and you can tap into some very genius activity by creating a relaxed mood and implanting positive ideas in your mind prior to falling asleep.
  • Get regular exercise. According to a Stanford University study published in Journal of the American Medical Association, those who exercised a minimum of four and a half hours a week fell asleep twice as quickly – 12 minutes faster – and slept almost an hour longer than sedentary people. I know on the days I exercise on the Thera-Plex Unit I sleep better too.
  • Soak in a hot tub before bed. The water temperature should be about 104 degrees and you should soak for approximately 30 minutes. For an extra indulgence, add soothing lavender oil to the water. While soaking play calming music and turn down the lights. A candlelit bath is always relaxing.
  • Dim the lights after 9pm to help cue your body into its sleep mode.

Okay so here is to Sweet Dreams tonight!! Kathie 🙂

Enhance Your Body Language with Perfect Posture

11 Apr

     Posture is a body language, a pose that tells the rest of the world how you feel – about others, about your life, and most importantly, about yourself.

     Basically, posture is personality! And it is no coincidence that we use the word ‘posture’ interchangeably with the word ‘attitude.’

So, what does your posture say? Are you slouching, facedown on the world? Do you walk with a resigned, round-shouldered look on life? Is your back so straight that people think you are unbending? Or do you strut, head up, back straight, like a peacock – adventurous, outgoing, ready to meet all challenges? Maybe your posture is not an intentional stance, but simply the result of a bad habit. Even so, your posture can send people around you the wrong message.

Good posture is practical for other reasons, too. It is the perfect way to prevent back aches. Your backbone – the 33 bony segments called the vertebrae – is your body’s foundation. The vertebral column is what enables you to stand upright. It surrounds and protects your spinal cord and it is where muscles and ligaments attach to your back. It works as a weight bearer, yet allows flexibility in movement, so you do not walk stiffly.

Muscles are the key to posture – I always preach this! Back muscles, in proper working order, support the spine from the rear. Stomach muscles help support the spine from the front. Hence, when I design a workout program for any client I include lower back exercises in compliment to abdominal exercises.

Ever wonder why your neck and shoulders hurt at the end of the day? Chances are you spent most of the day hunched over in your posture with the muscles at the base of your neck fighting to keep your body upright.

Poor posture wears against the discs – the shock absorbers – in your spine. Poor posture strains and loosens ligaments. And it pushes and pulls unevenly on all your muscles.

A lifetime of slouching can cause chronic fatigue, headaches, and sometimes body disfigurement. Don’t let that happen to you. Here’s how to make your posture perfect:

  • Look in the mirror. Relax and practice standing up straight. A stiff military posture is not what you are looking for. That is too rigid, and the small of your back would be too arched. Stand in front of a full length mirror to check your posture. Distribute your weight evenly on both feet and keep your shoulders back and level. Hold your chest high. Your stomach will pull in naturally as you tilt your lower pelvis slightly back. Notice that your buttocks will tuck under and the small of your back will have a very slight arch.
  • Release tension. Because a round-shouldered hunch tips your head slightly forward, it tightens your shoulder and neck muscles. Release that tension with shoulder rolls and head circles.
  • Tilt your pelvis. You can adjust and strengthen the curve in your back with a simple ‘pelvis tilt’ – tilting your pelvis slightly forward. Get in a habit of a pelvis tilt.
  • Slouch no more. When your shoulders hunch forward, breathing is cut off and this can make your drowsy and uninspired. Here’s how to correct that slouch: Stand with your arms loosely at your sides. Clasp your hands behind you, dropping them onto your buttocks. Tilt your palms under for support. Lift your shoulders towards your ears then down, bringing your elbows toward each other. This will pinch your shoulder blades together. You will be stretching your muscles across your chest and contracting those in your back. Do this several times and repeat frequently during the day.
  • Get a good night’s sleep. Good posture throughout the night can do a lot to aid good posture throughout the day. Sleeping in the wrong position can cause backache, which can throw off your natural alignment. Sleeping on your stomach is the worst thing you can do because it accentuates the curve in your back. Instead, sleep on your side with knees bent and a pillow fat enough to keep your head level with your shoulders. This level maintains the alignment of your neck with the rest of your body. Or, sleep on your back with a thin pillow under your head and a small pillow under your knees.
  • Keep tone. Walk, run, swim bicycle, do aerobics. Stretch your muscles daily. Posture is only as good as the muscles that keep you in line. Find some kind of regular physical activity to keep your muscles strong. Be sure to include strength training in your wellness program. Always work counter acting muscles:  **Chest & Back; Bicep & Tricep; Lower Back and Abdominals; Quadraceps & Hamstrings are all examples of counter acting muscles and you can accentuate proper posture by working both muscle groups equally. If you include all these muscle groups you have a perfect strength training program just be sure to include shoulders and calf muscles.

Check back often for more tips on how to perfect your posture!

If you liked this article you might also enjoy:

Hamstrings, Could Muscle Injury Cause Back Pain?

Stretching Tips for Everyday

5 Fitness Myths You Must Know

Happy Training!! 🙂 Kathie

photos/flickr.com/jefsafi

Hamstrings, Could Muscle Injury Cause Back Pain?

04 Apr

This is one of my most viewed articles on Kathie’s Fitness Blog so I thought I’d re-vamp it a little bit and re-publish it. Enjoy!

You often hear about athletes who are unable to play their sport due to a pulled hamstring. In fact, a pulled hamstring is one of the most common muscle pulls or muscle injury. Your hamstrings are a group of three muscles that help extend your legs at the hip and flex them at the knee. A pulled hamstring is a strain or tear in the muscles or tendons.

To understand what causes a hamstring injury you have to know how muscles work. All muscles work in pairs to perform a task. One set of muscles contracts to exert force while the other set of muscles relaxes. The hamstring muscles located at the back of the thigh, work with the quadriceps muscle group in the front of the thigh. When you want to bend your leg, the hamstring muscles contract and the quadriceps muscles relax. Conversely, when you want to straighten your leg, the quadriceps muscles contract and the hamstring muscles relax.

If one muscle group is considerably stronger than its opposing muscle group, the imbalance can lead to strain. This frequently happens with the hamstring muscles. The quadriceps muscles are usually much more powerful, so the hamstring can become fatigued faster. A fatigued muscle cannot relax as easily when its opposing muscle contracts, leading to strains.

Muscle strains are overuse injuries that result when the muscle is stretched without being properly warmed up.

An injury to the hamstring is usually readily apparent.

  • Mild strains may involve simple, uncomfortable tightening of the muscle.
  • More severe injuries may result in a sharp pain in the back of the thigh, usually in full stride.
  • A rupture or tear may leave you unable to stand or walk, muscles may be tender to the touch and painful to stretch your leg. Within a few days after a tear the area may appear very bruised.

Remember RICE and you will know the immediate treatment protocol for many sports related injuries, including hamstring pulls or strains:

  • R – Rest the affected area.
  • I – Ice the injury.
  • C – Compress the injury (apply a bandage or other compressive device).
  • E – Elevate the injury.

If the muscle is completely torn, surgery may be necessary to repair and reattach it. Ouch!! No treatment is complete without proper rehabilitation to strengthen and stretch the muscle.

The best way to prevent a hamstring injury is to warm up before activity and stretch after activity. Weak or tight hamstrings can contribute to low back pain, so doing exercises to strengthen and stretch the hamstrings may also reduce your risk of low back pain. Be sure to perform all strength training exercises in opposing muscle form. For example if you work the quadriceps be sure to also work the hamstrings. The best exercise to isolate these two muscle groups would be the Leg Press and the Leg Curl working the quadriceps and hamstrings respectively. If you feel your hamstring is the muscle with the imbalance be sure to work it a little harder by adding an extra set or more weight for your sets.

A good stretch is to sit down and straighten your left leg. The sole of your right foot should rest next to the inside of your straightened leg. Lean slightly forward and touch your foot with your fingers. Keep your left foot upright with the ankle and toes relaxed. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat with the right leg. Remember stretching is best done AFTER activity.

photos/flickr.com/tereespictures

Interval Fitness Training and The Benefits

25 Mar

fitness-ladies-runningLack of time and lack of results are two reasons people give for not exercising. Interval training is a great solution to these two common problems.

Interval training involves short bursts of intense activity with what is called active recovery, which is typically a less-intense form of the original activity. Interval training can help you avoid injury that often accompanies non-stop, repetitive activity. It also provides you the opportunity to increase your intensity without burning yourself out in a matter of minutes. Interval training should be based on the needs and perceptions of the participant. In other words, how you feel determines the length and speed of each interval.

The advantages of interval training are many. It utilizes the body’s two energy production systems: the aerobic and the anaerobic. The aerobic system is the one that allows you to walk or run for several miles. It uses oxygen to convert carbohydrates from various sources throughout the body into energy. They anaerobic system, on the other hand, draws energy from carbohydrates (in the form of glycogen) stored in muscles for short bursts of activity such as sprinting, jumping, or lifting heavy objects. This system does not require oxygen, nor does it provide enough energy for more than the most brief of activities. And its byproduct, lactic acid, is responsible for that achy, burning sensation in your muscles that you feel after, say, running up several flights of stairs.

Interval training allows you to enjoy the benefits of anaerobic activities without having to endure those burning muscles. In its most basic form, interval training might involve walking for two minutes, running for two, and alternating this pattern throughout the duration of a workout. The intensity (or lack thereof) of each interval is up to how you feel and what you are trying to achieve. The same is true for the length of time of each interval. For example, if your habit is to walk 2 miles per day in 30 minutes, you can easily increase the intensity of your walk (as well as its calorie-burning potential) by picking up the pace every few minutes and then returning to your usual speed.

When you first start interval training, each interval can be a negotiation with yourself depending on how strong or energetic you happen to feel during that particular workout. Don’t forget the endorphins kick in at about 5 minutes into your workout, so how you feel when you start may be different once the endorphins kick in! Interval training also helps break up the boredom that often comes with doing the same thing day after day.

Be sure to consider these four variables when designing an interval training program:

  1.  Intensity (speed) of work interval
  2.  Duration (distance or time) of work interval
  3.  Duration of rest or recovery interval
  4.  Number of repetitions of each interval

When you first begin interval training you may only be able to do ONE interval throughout your entire thirty minute workout. That’s okay, we will work up to more. Interval training is proven to work. Most important it does increase calorie-burning potential!

Want some tools to help you with your interval training? Click on the link below:
Bodybuilding.com

photos/flickr.com/timetrial

Have you been interval training? If so what types of intervals do you do?