The Perfect Push-up

While the mighty push-up is more universally known than almost any other exercise, it’s probably the one that’s most often overlooked.  True gym rats cast it aside in favor of weighted presses and the weekend warriors seem to flock to the nautilus machines.  No, this great little exercise is usually relegated to military punishment and hazing.  However, if you’re looking to supplement your current routine or starting a new one, you need look no further.

Push-ups are generally known for training the chest muscles, but the ancillary benefits go much deeper.  They target other upper body muscles like the triceps and anterior deltoids, and help strengthen  the all-important core muscles. They also help stretch the biceps and muscles in the upper back while simultaneously raising your heart rate.  By simply combining push-ups with other compound body weight movements (no weight squats, pull-ups and dips) you can piece together an at home circuit training routine that will strengthen muscles and burn fat.  Imagine getting a total body workout and cardio done in a half hour or less – and right from your home.  Impressive, huh?

As much as push-ups are generally overlooked, they are nearly completely ignored by women.  Ironically, though, this exercise is perfect since they target most of the muscles that are exposed during the warmer months.  It will help Tone the back of the arms and shoulders and create nice necklines.  The circuit training I mentioned above is absolutely perfect for women, I would just advise to supplement it on off days with yoga or Pilates to stretch out.  For example, do the circuit on M-W-F and Yoga on T-Th.  A half hour each day and some good habits in the kitchen and you’ll be amazed how you can change your body.

Have you really tried everything?

A few times a week I read through several ‘Fitness’ based message boards; sometimes teaching, sometimes learning.  It’s common for the new folks to ask for advice on how to lose body fat, lamenting that they’ve tried everything but can’t seem to lose weight consistently.  Inevitably, one of the more seasoned members will ask exactly what they’ve been doing to date, ie. what their diet/exercise routine is.  As you can imagine, very few of them are following sound principles and routines.

I’m sure we have all be frustrated at one time or another, excess pounds can be stubborn and let’s face it, we really don’t like having to make major changes in our lives.  The point is, most frustrated people who feel they’ve tried everything really haven’t.  A week or two on a fad diet or demanding exercise routine doesn’t actually qualify as everything.

I’m going to do something unusual and take the hard approach here.  I’m doing this to drive home the point.

1) If you’re on a fad diet that doesn’t focus on how to properly fuel your body, ditch it immediately.

2) If you aren’t currently exercising, talk to your doctor, get clearance, and start immediately.

3) If you aren’t strength training to compliment your cardio sessions, begin so immediately, regardless of gender

4) If you are still convinced that there is a product that can help you lose weight without any sacrifices, be prepared to never achieve your goals.

Weight management, whether you’re trying to lose, maintain, or gain, is a science.  You need to be educated, motivated, and hitting it everyday.  It is absolutely achievable but it’s a life style change.  Although it may sound daunting, by simply educating yourself you will see how easy it can be.

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How well do you know the Glycemic Index?

There’s an old saying that ‘Abs are made in the kitchen, not in the gym’.  Despite the well known fact that you can’t spot train, there are still an absurd amount of marketing dollars being spent on Ab machines and Ab workout programs.  The problem is, no matter how many crunches you do, if you don’t have a body fat % in single digits you most likely won’t see them.  If you’re really looking to create a six pack, the more important goal is to lose body fat.  Ab exercises are still important, however, a healthy body starts with a strong core.

I’m a very big advocate of education when it comes to weight management.  Things suddenly become simple when you take the time to learn to eat right and exercise properly.  Of course, we could all use effective shortcuts in life, learning more about the Glycemic Index is a great one if you’re just breaking into the nutrition aspect of weight management.

The Glycemic index is a food rating scale, so to speak, that measures how different foods affect glucose levels in the blood. Those that spike it the most are rated higher.  Why is this important?  Well, it ties into all of the focus society has had on eliminating carbs.   The ‘bad’ carbs are very high on the glycemic index and, in turn, can be stored as fat very quickly.  Avoiding these foods is a paramount to weight loss.  The upside is that by using the glycemic index you can actually still eat the ‘good carbs’ and properly fuel your body.

I won’t go into details here, but low carb dieting is not healthy for your body.  Despite a lot of common misconceptions, you still need roughly 55% of your daily calories from carbohydrates.  I will grant you that some body types are more sensitive to carbs and should keep levels a little lower, but generally speaking, that amount should work. 

If you want to learn more about the Glycemic Index there is a ton of stuff available on the internet, but for a concise guide I often refer back to a book by Rick Gallop called ‘The GI Diet”.

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Merry Christmas – Spoil your appetite

Do you remember your mother’s famous words: Don’t eat that now, you’ll spoil your appetite? Well, if you want to curb your caloric intake on any given occassion, let that be EXACTLY what you do. 30 minutes before you sit down to a meal, spoil your appetite with a garden salad, a serving of nuts, or a cup of fat free yogurt. By the time the meal is served you will already feel somewhat satisfied, making it much more likely that you’ll eat a normal sized portion.

Supermarket sweep

If 2009 is going to bring about a brand new you, taking time to educate yourself is a good place to start.  While it’s great to be filled with motivation on January 1st, without a solid plan you may end up going nowhere.  Having said that, with so much variety in our local grocery stores, if you don’t know how to analyze your food choices to look through the ‘marketing’ of it, you may think you’re doing much better than you are.

I came across this article this morning, may help open your eyes a little.  Some of them may actually sound somewhat healthy too, which is really tough on those that don’t know what to look  for.

Read the article

As you break into your new routine, make sure you take a few hours to hit the local library or bookstore and read up on proper nutrition and exercise.  You’ll be amazed at how may people unknowingly sabotage their efforts by not understanding how to do things efficiently.

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Are you strength training?

When it comes to weight management, many people tend to focus on cardio and diet.  It’s an extremely common misconception that strength traning is reserved for gym rats, especially with women.  The fact is, strength training is an integral part of fat loss.

First, for women, let’s dispell the myth that your muscles will become large and unsightly.  Unless you have a strong predisposition for developing very large muscles (this is rare), it’s just not feasible that you will end up looking like a bodybuilder.  Instead, you’ll be working toward having a lean body with excellent tone.

Lean muscle mass will eat up calories, even at rest.  The more of it you have, the more calories you’ll burn up.  You don’t have to go spend hundreds of dollars on a gym membership nor do you have to use weights to start a strength training program.  Yoga, pilates, calisthenics, and weight bands are all great ways to start out.

Let’s face it, we could all use every advantage when it comes to properly managing our weight.  If you’re not currently involved in these types of exercises, make it a priority to get involved.  Many of these programs go at a fast pace so you can actually get your heart rate up while you’re strength training, making it extremely efficient use of your time.  Imagine getting cardio and strength training done in the same 30 minute block.

Practical approach to your New Year’s Resolution

Right around the New Year most folks are brimming with motivation to start a new exercise program or diet. It’s the one time of year that most of us are clearly focused on new goals and excited to get up and make things happen.  However, invariably, that feeling of burning desire seems to dissipate over time and the cloud of doubt begins to overcome us.  Feelings of frustration or lack of results makes us start to believe we can’t achieve them.  Or, perhaps, we just grow bored of it.  The key to true weight managment is consistency.  It’s about changing your life for the long run, not the short distance sprint.

When you start off with your new program on January 1, ask yourself the following –

Is this program realistic – Can I do this for the long haul. If your new diet is eating only soup 3 x’s a day, please emphatically answer NO to this.

Do I have the time to do this – If you’re going to adopt a program that has you in the gym two hours a day, yet you hold a full time job and have a family, it isn’t going to last long

Do I have enough variety in my new program – One sure fire way to burn out is to ask yourself to do the same exercises or eat the same foods day in and day out

Am I asking myself to do to much – If the changes to your normal routine are too drastic, you can bet you’ll stumble

A new weight management program should allow for you to make some very necessary, but not overly intrusive changes to your lifestyle.  You should be realistic with what changes you can adopt at a given time. Maybe start with a few changes and add more later. 

Finally, educate yourself.  Just because someone prints a program doesn’t mean it’s effective.  The best thing you can do for yourself is to understand the science of eating right and exercising. 

Best of luck.

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5 benefits to weight management

With New Year’s day is right around the corner, I’m sure most of us are going through a mental list of things we want to resolve to do for 2009.  Normally, weight management is near the top for most people, but staying motivated and doing the right things can be tough for most people.  This is the reason most gyms are cleared out by mid February.

With this in mind, here’s my motivational assistance for your plans.

5 reasons you should adopt a weight management program

1) Exercising is enormously important to your overall heatlh and weight management goals.  Regular exercise will strengthen your heart, strenghten your bones, improve your balance and coordination, strengthen your spirit and increase your overall quality of life.

2) Eating clean also has tremendous benefits.  Imagine getting sick MUCH less, imagine lowering your risk of America’s top deadly diseases, potentially extending your life expectancy, having more energy, have less body fat.  These two alone should be enough motivation to adopt a real lifestyle change.

3) Having less body fat will make it easier to do everyday tasks, make you look and feel better, and help you avoid injury. 

4) As we get older, our metabolism slow and our bone density weakens.  These effects can be greatly reduced with proper diet and exercise.

5) Improve your mood – Exercise releases endorphins which are known to produce feelings of euphoria and general well-being.  I personally start each day with exercise, you’d be surprised how much better you feel all day when you start off like that.

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Set your target and nail it

Imagine for a minute that you’re in an open field with a bow and arrow.  No target, just a wide open field.  That would be sort of pointless, right? You’d end up just shooting blindly with no clear indication of whether your mechanics were right or what adjustments you might have to make.

That scenario is just an analogy for how most people approach weight management.  No clear targets are set and, in the end, no marks are ever hit.  The key is to set very clear and measurable goals and make the necessary adjustments as you go.  In archery, the target is clearly set out in front of you, and the rings around the bulls-eye are used to measure the accuracy of your shot.  The same principle is true with any weight management or fitness program. 

It’s been said that with true focus you can accomplish almost anything.  When you set out to achieve vague goals like “I want to lose weight” or “I want to be healthier”, your mind’s eye doesn’t really see a target.  There is no time limit around it or no measurable specifics,  so you end up just pushing it off and enjoying the moment.  This is why you have these same notions rolling around your head for years but nothing ever gets done.  You’re never focused in.

Now, let’s suppose you set a clear, specific goal of losing 2 pounds this week.  Now you’re starting to focus.  Suddenly, it’s not an eventual target, it’s right now, this week.  Chances are that you’ll be much more focused and therefore, much more judicious about what you eat.

Trust me when I tell you, a change like this will get you much farther than you think. When you’re able to set clear goals and truly focus, you’ll be amazed at what you can do.  And just think, when you weigh in next week and you’re down two pounds, your resolve to continue will strengthen immeasurably.

One more tip, you should not only have very clear short term goals, but medium and long term goals as well.  Write them down and read them daily.  Keep your eye on the target.

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Let me give you a sample of the short term goals I write down when I’m in fat burning mode:

1) Each day this week, I will eat 4 meals containing a mix of protien and ‘good’ carbs (i.e. whole grain rice, veggies)

2) Each meal will consist of roughly 500 calories – Staying at about 2200 calories per day

3) I will lose 2lbs this week

4) I will workout each morning – each workout will focus on building muscle as well as getting my heart rate to 138 for at least 20 minutes

If this sounds a bit obssessive or a daunting, don’t let it get to you.  These things become absolutley automatic after awhile.  It’s also important to note that eating 4x’s a day will prevent you from ever being hungry.

Want to control your weight? EAT!

Does it seem counter-intuitive? Eating to LOSE weight?  What a concept!  Believe it or not, eating the right foods at the right times will not only prevent hunger pains but help you to maintain a healthy weight.

Weight management is about eating right and properly fueling your body, not about will power and starvation.  In fact, starvation will do much more harm than good; it’s a major contributor to the second ‘yo’ in yo-yo dieting.

Eating smaller meals more frequently will help in a variety of ways:

1.  It keeps your blood sugar and energy levels even.  It will do away with the post meal crash or that burning desire to take a 2pm nap.

2.  It keeps your metabolism firing throughout the day.  A major benefit to eating breakfast. 

3.  It keeps your body from entering ‘starvation’ mode which will have the reverse effect on your metabolism.  Many people dismiss this fact but it’s absolutely true.

4. It keeps your mind off of cheating.  The next time you’re ravenously hungry notice how only a high calorie and/or greasy meal will satiate your appetite.  If you eat more frequently, you’ll never experience this hunger rage and have a much easier time making better dietary choices.

5. Eating is much more fun than starving!

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