Avoiding the Summer Slump

The heat is on this summer. As temperatures rise it may be difficult to get that run in because let’s face it, who wants to sweat more?  In sweltering heat it’s nice to sit outside and enjoy a cool drink or find a nice, air conditioned venue to escape to.

But the summertime is the best time to get outside because of the variety of exercise opportunities. Bicycling, running, canoeing, swimming, skating and hiking are some of the fun multi-sensory opportunities to get fit and enjoy your surroundings, another motivation for exercising outside this summer.  Below are some tips for promoting summer fitness.

  1. Time of day – exercise during the cooler times of day when the sun is not at its peak. Completing your workout out before 10:00AM or starting after 3:00PM is the optimal time period for avoiding serious sun and heat.

Before Picture5          and after Picture6

2. Try new activities – A new outdoor park opened near us that offers paddle boating.  It’s a fun and different way to enjoy the outdoors close to home. Have you ever wanted to be part of a crew team?   In Philadelphia there is a community rowing group that gets crews together to row, giving participants a sense of the teamwork involved while providing a great workout on the water!

3. Clothing – stick with light colored, light weight clothing that reflects light and deflects body heat. Find fabrics made of natural fibers such as linen, cotton or even rayon (it’s semi-synthetic but it’s made from natural materials and breathes well). Loose weaves and fine threads will make for a more breathable garment, one that will not retain moisture and air but instead keep you cool.

4. Stay hydrated throughout your workout and replace electrolytes and salt lost through sweating.

5. Choose the route – if running is your thing, choose routes that take advantage of shade, through parks and shaded paths. USTAF has running routes in its database for most cities.  Go http://www.usatf.org/routes/ to check routes for your town.

Fitness Magazine offers these additional tips.

6. Stay on the dirt – Try to walk, run, or cycle on dirt or gravel paths, since asphalt and concrete tend to radiate heat and reflect the sun’s rays, making you feel hotter. Live near water? Take advantage of the breeze on even steamy days; if possible, start out with the wind at your back, so when you’re finishing you’ll be running into a headwind, which is cooler.

7.Cool down with essential oilsDabbing a few drops of peppermint or eucalyptus oil on the back of your neck and at your temples just before your workout provides a cooling effect and also opens up your nasal passages, so you can breathe a little easier when the air is humid, says Minna Lessig, creator of the Tank Top Arms, Bikini Belly, Boy Shorts Bottom In fact, research has found that athletes who sniffed peppermint during their workout ran faster, had greater grip strength, and could do more push-ups than those who didn’t.

8. Practice random acts of fitnessSneak in little bits of exercise with some summer-friendly activities. For example: Washing the car for 30 minutes burns about 100 calories for a 140-pound woman; gardening burns 128. Other options: throwing a Frisbee, walking the dog, playing a game of volleyball (all about 100 calories), mowing the lawn (176 calories), biking around the neighborhood (192 calories), or hula-hooping, which burns about 50 calories in just 10 minutes.

9. Refuel with fruit – They’re more than 80 percent water, so fruits such as grapes, watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew are a tasty way to replenish fluids and boost your energy post-workout, says Leslie Bonci, RD, director of sports medicine nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Keep ’em frozen for a refreshing treat. Other good options: Smoothies, frozen yogurt, or Jell-O with fruit chunks. “They provide the perfect mix of carbs and fluid and they’re easily digestible in the summer heat,” explains Bonci. If you’ve lost a lot of salt (hint: your clothes have white sweat stains after a workout), replace sodium by drinking V8 or a sports drink.

Note that it’s important to listen to your body. Feeling light headed, dizzy, or weak or if you incur muscle cramps, rapid heart rate, headache or tightness in the chest, are all stop signs especially if you’re not used to exercising in warm weather.  Everyone should take it easy in extremely high temperatures and everyone should understand how to exercise safely and effectively at the height of the season. So enjoy that cool drink after your summer workout, you’ve earned it!

 

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Fitness Trends 2019

This year we are again highlighting top fitness trends for the year. Some of the top trends are continuing from 2018 and some are new in the mix. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) annually surveys fitness experts from around the world and below are this year’s top results.

  1. Wearable technology
  2. Group Training
  3. High-intensity interval training
  4. Fitness Programs for Older Adults Body weight training
  5. Bodyweight Training
  6. Yoga
  •  Wearable Technology has continued in a top spot in 2019, reflecting heart rate monitors and apparel that can track vital workout statistics including activity trackers, smart watches, heart rate monitors, GPS tracking devices, smart eye glasses, smart fabrics wearable beltand interactive textiles. One of the newest offerings is Welt’s smart belt which looks like a looks like a regular leather belt but is packed with tech that helps you to monitor your health. This belt communicates with a paired smartphone, delivering information about your current waist size, your daily step count, how many large meals you’ve eaten, etc. Check out these other wearable items.
  • Group Training entails classes led by exercise instructors to motivate and guide participants to their best fitness goals.  It continues to maintain a top spot for 2019 and includes traditional group fitness classes and dedicated fitness retail outlets like Orange Theory. Group training also entails the Meetups app providing the opportunity foindo-rowingr like-minded fitness individuals to get together in groups outside the class setting and includes activities like running, trekking, climbing, rowing and cycling.  These groups provide a social element that inspires and motivates through accountability and engagement for exercising in a group setting.
  • HIIT also continues to maintain a top position and is defined as exercise sessions consisting of a warm up period, then several repetitions of high-intensity exercise separated by medium intensity exercise for recovery, then a cool down period. The high-intensity exercise should be done at near max heart rate. The medium exercise should be about 50% intensity. The number of repetitions and length of each depends on the exercise. Interval training is known to extend the fat burning metabolism benefit hours after the session is completed. Eric Salvador, NASM, NSCA, head instructor at The Fhitting Room in New York City notes that “this after burn effect is referred to as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) and is the reason why intense exercise will help burn more fat and calories than regular aerobic and steady-state workouts.”  Orange Theory and TABATA are versions of HIIT and their popularity  continues to increase.

older woman

  • Fitness Programs for Older Adults takes the number four spot and reflects workouts catering to the fitness needs of baby boomers and older generations. People are living longer, working longer, and remaining healthy and active much longer. Exercise programs include brand workouts like SilverSneakers andZumba Gold. In conjunction with the growth in wearable technology, counting steps is also contributing to older adults increasing their fitness activity.
  • Bodyweight Training has made its way to number 5 on the list and focuses on using one’s own body weight as a resistance tool, against different modalities. The Total Gym is the leader in this category, using one’s own body weight as resistance to perform muscle building and toning exercise against variable gravity levels.
  • Yoga continues to be a dominant class favorite in 2018 in line with society’s continued need for mind body awareness.  In addition to traditional offerings of Bikram Yoga, Iyengar Yoga and Ashtanga, new yoga formats have increased interest including goat yoga for animal lovers and beer yoga, well for beer lovers. This also reflects the increase in older adults identifying gentler ways to stay fit.

Other trends include taking mindful ownership of self-care. Optimizing sleep, performing mindful movements or exercise, taking slow deep breaths, are ways that people are taking better care of themselves.  The trend will be to value, prioritize, maximize and optimize our wellness. This trend also includes restorative exercise. Maggie Winzeler, a wellness coach, exercise physiologist and fitness expert notes, “now there’s a growing wave of interest in restorative experience: float therapy (involving sensory deprivation while submerged in a pod), cryotherapy (i.e. cold therapy for soft-tissue ailments), grounding (a form of connecting with nature) and restorative yoga/stretching.”

Home Workouts including The Total Gym, the Peloton bike or treadmill, are allowing busy folks to get a workout in if they miss the gym. Video and interactive classes provide well rounded classes that can include inexpensive equipment like weights and resistance bands.  It was noted that searches for resistance on Pinterest were up 1913% last year, “Bands are the versatile, go-anywhere accessory for customized resistance training — from mobility work and pull-up assistance to banded squats and bench presses,”

Lastly workout out apps like Aaptiv, AloMoves, Fitbit coach and MyFitnessPal, will provide immediate justification for workouts and eating decisions.

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Exercises at the Desk

office-exerciseHow many of you have heard the news that sitting is the new smoking? An analysis of 13 studies found that those who sat for more than eight hours a day with no physical activity had a risk of dying similar to the risks of dying posed by obesity and smoking.  Health concerns affiliated with prolonged sitting include higher blood pressure, sugar levels, cholesterol and weight gain. These conditions of course increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer.  In addition prolonged sitting also impacts our posture by elongating our glutes or butt muscles and shorting our hip flexors, leading to pressure on the lower back.

So it appears that prolonged sitting which is what many of us do at our desk all day, promotes health risks. More studies are being conducted but it would seem from these preliminary results that exercising at work is one of the best activities you can do to mitigate these health issues. Note that after extended sitting your body will give you signs that it needs to move. Your legs, shoulders or neck cramp, you have to shift positions, and you might get a headache.  Getting up or stretching every 30 to 45 minutes will allow you to respond to these signs.  I suggest using a timer to remind you.

More energy is expended standing compared with sitting so if your company will spring for it, a standing work station can provide the perfect opportunity to shorten sitting time. Or sitting on a stability ball at your desk several times a day can help maintain core stability and expend more energy compared with sitting in a chair

I recently moved and started a new contract. Both locations require a three floor walk up and of course I refuse to take an elevator. I can tell you that I have lost at least 5 pounds over the past month because of these lifestyle changes that encouraged me to walk more. I encourage you to consider these opportunities every day, to walk stairs or to a colleague’s desk, or even convene walking meetings.

Below are 10 exercises you can perform in or around your desk to get you started on the habit of moving during your workday

Knee Hugger – With a bent knee, lift your right leg up and grab it with your arms and pull it in as close to your chest as you can. Hold for 5–10 seconds and make sure and do it on the left side, too. Perform 10 on each side.

Rubber Neck/shoulder rolls – Sit up tall and drop your right ear down towards your right shoulder (you don’t have to touch it!) and hold for a few seconds and repeat for the left side. Alternate for 10 times total. Roll shoulders forward and backward 10 times to loosen tension in the neck and shoulders.

Reach for the Stars – Interlace your fingers and reach up towards the sky, as high as you can … keeping your palms facing up towards the ceiling.

Dance around desk – Take the opportunity to do a line dance which can provide several minutes of movement. For example try The Wobble as demonstrated courtesy of Texas A&M. What fun for the mind and body!

Chair Squats –From your chair, stand up, sit back down and repeat 10 more times. You can use your desk for support. Remember to engage your core as you rise and sit.

Calf Raises –Stand up behind your chair and hold on for support. Raise your heels off the floor until you are standing on your toes. Slowly lower yourself back to the floor. Do 2 sets of 12.

Knee bend/extend – Stand holding both hands on desk or stationery chair, bend over at the waist so upper body is parallel to floor.  Lift your right knee and then extend leg behind, staying in bent position to reduce pressure on back. Repeat 10 times on each leg.

Arm Circles – Either sitting or standing, make huge arm circles, 10 in each direction for a total of 20 circles.

Raise the roof (20 reps) – While marching in place, push toward the ceiling with your palms up and thumbs almost touching your shoulders. Make it harder by holding water bottles. Do 20 reps.

Side lifts – Stand holding right hand on desk. Lift left leg to side, raising about halfway between hip and floor, keeping core tight. Return leg to floor. Repeat 10 times for each side.

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The Power of LISS

lissHere’s a jolt. You don’t have to run a marathon in order for your body to get exercise benefits.  LISS or “low intensity sustained state” training is low intensity cardio exercising performed for a pro-longed period of time, usually anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes.  It’s about maintaining your heart rate to about 50% of max heart rate during the exercise period.  Consider it the antithesis of HIIT or “high intensity interval training” which focuses on quick bursts of cardio followed by a rest period. This type of cardio raises your heart rate fast from 75 to 90% of max heart rate and can cause an “after-burn effect”, where your body continues to burn fat even after you have stopped exercising. The problem with high intensity workouts is that they cannot be maintained for long periods of time. LISS provides the opportunity to exercise at lower intensity as an offset. LISS exercises include walking, bicycling and basically almost every activity that you can sustain for 30 to 60 minutes.  Consider walking your dog for 30 minutes a LISS exercise.

Although the extra time spent in a LISS workout does burn calories, experts agree that it is not the best way to burn fat and lose weight. However, LISS does have valid benefits that should make it a part of any workout regimen.

Active Recovery – for those with high intensity exercise schedules, LISS provides for an active rest or recovery day that keeps the heart and limbs working to assist in maintaining heart rate and regenerating and conditioning damaged muscles. As in a cool down, these activities reduce post workout stiffness. LISS can also be performed after a workout, as a long, pleasant cool down.

New comers -for non-conditioned newcomers to exercise LISS is a great way to step into an exercise regime without being intimidated. Waking on the treadmill or swimming is much easier to engage in compared with the idea of a tough TRX class, and over time will build up muscle and stamina for more intense workouts with minimal injury risk. Consequently promoting the format should result in more people getting into an exercise regime. Something is better than nothing and going hard in a psycho spin class is not for everyone. Also the simplicity of engaging in these types of exercises makes it easier to maintain over time.  Per a 2015 study in published in Sports Medicine – Open, low-intensity exercise led to better exercise adherence.

Destressor – LISS workouts can provide a relaxing alternative and distraction to stressful situations.

So here is the upshot of all this, you don’t have to go hard and you don’t have to go home when it comes to exercising. LISS provides an opportunity for everyone to get into the exercise game and reap the benefits.

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Running In the Heat

running-runner-long-distance-fitness-40751-960x640-1277873669137010720.jpegDie hard runners withstand a lot of obstacles to maintain their daily runs including traffic, animals, difficult terrain and shin splints to name a few. But one obstacle that die hards pride themselves on is running in any weather condition; rain, cold, wind and heat. Some runners discuss overcoming these obstacles as a testament to their mental toughness. Running in hot weather is probably one of the biggest obstacles because if not done properly, it can lead to the hospital or worse.

Surprisingly because our bodies generate heat while running, cooler weather allows the heat to dissipate through sweat and is better for distance runs. The ideal temperature range is between 45 and 60 degrees. As the temperature rises, our body’s ability to give off heat is compromised. Dr. Angel Hillman, an exercise physiologist notes that,

“The cooler the temperature, within reason, the more heat your body can give off to keep you from overheating. You cannot lose heat to your environment when it’s warm as you would if the temperature were lower. You store it internally and this can cause you to overheat.”

Overcast and 45 degrees might not be the sort of weather most folks dream about, but it doesn’t get much better for an outdoor run.

It appears the temperature tipping point for re-thinking a run is when the temperature exceeds 80 degrees. Exercise physiologist, Yannick Molgat-Seon, notes that this is the point when additional sweating doesn’t do you any good. “When you’re dripping sweat, there’s lost water as opposed to lost heat,” Molgat-Seon says. You also begin to run into the limits of not only your body, but of physics: There are conditions in which no matter how efficiently you sweat, it won’t evaporate fast enough to keep pace with the rate at which you are generating heat. Your only alternative is to slow down.”

Some of the physical issues that arise from running in the heat are:

Heat Cramps: muscle spasms that are caused by large fluid and electrolyte losses from sweating. They can occur while exercising but also hours after your run. No need to worry, they’re not serious – but make sure you stay hydrated and get enough electrolytes with sports drinks or fruit like bananas.

Severe dehydration: we’re all familiar with dehydration. Up to a 4% loss in fluid levels from exercise is still safe, but any more than that and you may experience dizziness, fatigue, and even mental disorientation.

Heat Exhaustion: if you work out too hard in the heat, you may come down with heat exhaustion – a case of dehydration, headache, nausea, and a core body temperature of up to 104 degrees. It’s much more common in runners who aren’t adapted to the heat.

If you think you have heat exhaustion, stop running, get out of the sun, and cool down with a cold drink and preferably air conditioning. And next time, run earlier in the day!

Heat Stroke: Danger! Heat stroke is very serious since your core body temperature is probably over 105 degrees. Symptoms include disorientation with clumsiness, confusion, poor balance, and a lack of sweating. Immediate medical attention is required where you’ll be cooled with a cold bath, air conditioning, and cold liquids.

If the above warnings don’t scare you, then follow the below tips to give yourself a fighting chance to complete the run.

  • Run in the early morning or late at night, especially in the summer months, to avoid the heat of the day.
  • Make adjustments: Don’t do long or higher-intensity workouts during the heat of the day. If you must run at midday, pick routes with shade. As a general rule, start your workout slower than you usually do. If you’re feeling good halfway through, it’s okay to speed up a little bit.
  • Wear as little as possible: Wear apparel that’s light in color, lightweight, and has vents or mesh. Microfiber polyesters and cotton blends are good fabric choices. Also, be sure to wear a hat, shades, and sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
  • Watch your alcohol and meds: Alcohol, antihistamines, and antidepressants can all have a dehydrating effect. Using them just before a run can make you have to urinate, compounding your risk of dehydration.
  • Drink early and often: Top off your fluid stores with 16 ounces of sports drink an hour before you head out. Then toss down five to eight ounces of sports drink about every 20 minutes while working out. Sports drinks beat water because they contain electrolytes, which increase your water-absorption rate, replace the electrolytes you lose in sweat, and taste good, making it easy to drink more.
  • Be patient: Give yourself eight to 14 days to acclimatize to hot weather, gradually increasing the length and intensity of your training. In that time, your body will learn to decrease your heart rate, decrease your core body temperature, and increase your sweat rate.
  • Seek grass and shade: It’s always hotter in cities than in surrounding areas because asphalt and concrete retain heat. If you must run in an urban or even a suburban area, look for shade—any park will do—and try to go in the early morning or late evening.
  • Check the breeze: If possible, start your run going with the wind and then run back with a headwind. Running into the wind has a cooling effect, and you’ll need that in the second half of a run.
  • Slow down: Every 5°F rise in temperature above 60°F can slow your pace by as much as 20 to 30 seconds per mile. So don’t fight it—just slow down.
  • Have a pre-run slushy. The idea is that ice increases your core temperature capacity—cooling you down so you have more time before you would reach a dangerous internal temperature.

In hot weather consider some safer run options including running an indoor track, running a treadmill or pool-running. Or try some other stamina testing activity like rowing on a row machine. Consistency and stamina are admirable runner attributes, but be safe out there.

Originally posted on Total Gym Pulse

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Is Pilates For You?

the 100 pilatesAs a fitness instructor and enthusiast I find it exciting but difficult to keep up with the latest fitness trends and claims.  Several years ago I attended a fitness conference and was overwhelmed by the “new” equipment that was touted, from rebounders (small trampolines), to Bosu Balls to Core Boards to Stability Balls to Jumping Shoes!  What was a constant theme in the midst of these “innovations” was the use of the term “core strengthening”.

In fact, now a days you will probably find this phrase used to describe almost all exercise goals.  Where does this interest stem from?  One word – Pilates.  Pilates is actually not new and was started in World War II by Joseph H. Pilates, as a way to rehabilitate injured soldiers.  He focused on strengthening the core muscle groups which reside from your lower rib cage to your pelvis.  The biggest muscle to benefit is the transverse abdominus which is the inner muscle that wraps around your intestines.  Making this muscle stronger is great for the back because it is responsible for spinal stability.

Core mat Pilates work is done on the mat and is a culmination of mind and body focus that involves proper breathing and body alignment techniques.  Together, these techniques allow your body to work properly to target and strengthen the core muscle groups, which are now attributed to improved posture, agility and an appreciation of how much our body does for us.   Dancers have long been hip to Mr. Pilate’s technique because after years of training and practice, they intuitively understand the importance of core strength.

In addition to core mat work, there are private or semi-private classes on machines whose design is based on Joseph Pilate’s original apparatus.  Classes on machinery like the Cadillac and Reformer apparatus, are relatively expensive averaging about $65 for a one hour session, and can be difficult to find outside of the larger cities.  Almost all clubs and gyms offer core mat or Pilates classes as part of their group fitness programming.  I strongly urge everyone to try a class.  It is not a process you master in the first class because it takes time to connect the mind’s understanding and the body’s response.

However understanding these concepts will improve all areas of your workout regime.  You will look at abdominal crunches and weight work differently.  Over time you will be more cognizant of your core in your day to day routines.   Using your core for life activities like walking, lifting, reaching and almost all other body motions, will reduce back injuries.  And you will notice a change in your body, longer and leaner because of the emphasis on posture.

Your lifestyle and energy levels will significantly improve because of stronger back and abdominal muscles. Also Pilate’s internal emphasis means that everyone can benefit no matter what your physical condition or limitations are.  One or two 45 minute classes will supplement your cardio and resistance training routines resulting in a well rounded exercise schedule.  There are many videos and YouTube blogs available which are most helpful after you have attended a few classes to learn proper form.  If you want my recommendations, e-mail me.

I believe that engaging in and understanding the basic premises of Pilates empowers us to understand our inner strength, strength we may not be aware we have.  Here’s how Mr. Pilates summarizes his philosophy:

“I must be right. Never an aspirin. Never injured a day in my life. The whole country, the whole world, should be doing my exercises. They’d be happier.”
– Joseph Hubertus Pilates, in 1965, age 86

 

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Tackling the Eating Equation For Weight Loss

Two Big Meals Better Than Six Small Ones? (Click for article)

In the last episode on the “Best Way to Lose Weight and Eat” drama series, studies indicated that eating multiple small meals per day was the best way to keep our metabolism working in peak condition to keep the  weight off.  So it was breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack, keeping in mind that all these meals included healthy options.  In another ja130625093614-big-hearty-breakfast-eggs-story-topw dropping episode as indicated by the above article, studies are indicating that eating two maybe three bigger meals and no snacking is the best way to keep the metabolism in peak condition.

I think these contradictory scenarios highlight the biggest secret in the weight loss quest.  Listen to your body and calories count. Understand that in the weight loss equation, diet has more impact than exercise although they work together.  Below are my mantras for keeping the weight off, and trust me I eat what I like.

  1. Eat when you are hungry,  not when you’re bored or habit prone.
  2. Stop eating when you’re full (really key)
  3.  Pick good, healthy choices to eat.
  4. Limit your meals to what fits on an 8 1/4 inch plate.
  5. Drinking water (my favorite is seltzer water) when you feel the urge to eat after a meal will probably reveal that you’re not really hungry.
  6. If after drinking you still feel pangs then nibble on something really low cal and harmless like carrots and celery.  Come on it’s a snack not a meal, save your sensory satisfying eating for a real meal like lunch or dinner.
  7. One more time, calories count so spend them like money on a budget. If you want those designer jeans that will set you back $200, then you may have to forgo some nail appointments.  If you want that decadent strawberry shortcake tonite, then you may have to forgo that burger you were planning for lunch tomorrow and have avocado toast instead.

The above get me through the day, even when I’m on the road and my lunch choices are not optimal.  Remember that it’s not about denying your self, it’s about handling you’re eating choices like Olivia Pope.

Also read

Healthy Foods That Can Lead to Weight Gain

The Meaning of Nutrient Dense

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