- Debunking the Myths of Working Out June 1, 2017
How many times have I heard someone play directly into the most common misconceptions about exercise and its effects? Pretty much on a daily basis. So I feel, as a fitness professional, that it is my responsibility to educate as many people as possible so that we can become a happier, healthier society. But before I get started, think of something you have always believed to be true about exercise and then check to see if it’s on this list.
Myth: Doing cardio will make me “skinny”.
Truth: Cardio (or cardiorespiratory) exercise is responsible for strengthening our hearts and lungs, and it contributes to the burning of calories during our workouts. When you do cardio—fast-walking, running, biking, swimming, elliptical, treadmill, stair climbing, etc.—you are elevating your heart rate, causing your heart to pump blood at a faster rate. During this time, because your lungs and your muscles are receiving increased oxygen flow and nutrients (by way of our blood), your body can more quickly burn calories as fuel to keep going. But cardiorespiratory exercise is not solely responsible for burning fat calories. During the time that your heart rate is elevated, your body will burn calories from any source that it can immediately access, including energy stores in your muscles. However, it will not contribute to the growth or maintenance of any existing muscle strength you have.
Main takeaway: You can lose weight from doing cardio, but it does not mean you will be “skinny”. When you lose weight from solely doing cardio and not incorporating any weight-training or stretching, you will more than likely lose some of your muscle tone, resulting in you being physically lighter on the scale but not having the smooth, lean look that people think of when they think “skinny”.
Myth: Lifting “heavy” weights will cause my muscles to look bulky and thick.
Truth: Weightlifting is a direct contributor to overall strength of the body and individual muscles. It cannot simply cause your body to “bulk up” without multiple other factors being present. In order to get big, thick muscles, a person must have a calorie surplus (eating more calories than they are burning on a daily basis), have a higher testosterone supply, be eating very high amounts of protein, and be lifting extremely heavy weights for a low number of repetitions. This specific set of circumstances means that it would be difficult for the average person to gain bulky muscle without having a set plan to do so. The numerous benefits that come from weightlifting include having lean muscles that look smooth and toned, having increased muscle endurance—meaning your muscles won’t get as tired from simple, daily activities—and having a decreased overall body fat percentage, which is what people really want when they say they want to lose weight.
Main takeaway: If you want to lose “weight” (aka body fat), perform a well rounded cardiovascular and weightlifting routine that is designed for your needs. If you want to gain muscle, you should still perform both cardio and weightlifting, but your routine will look different from someone who wants to decrease their size.
Myth: People should workout every day.
Truth: This is largely untrue. When you do resistance workouts and high-intensity cardio, you are breaking down the muscle fibers. In order for the muscles to properly recover and rebuild stronger than they were before, they need rest days. It takes muscle fibers approximately 48 hours in order to recover from a workout, and the body also generally needs time each week to rest so that over-training does not happen—I will explain over-training further in a future post.
Main takeaway: People should have 1 or 2 “active rest” days each week, involving no more than gentle stretching or casual walking, in order to allow their bodies to rest and recover properly.
Myth: You can lose fat by doing resistance exercises for the body part/area where the fat is.
Truth: Targeted fat loss is not possible. Because our fat cells are dispersed throughout the body, we must lower our overall body fat percentage in order to drop fat from our problem areas. We live in a world of immediate gratification, and so people often want to lose fat from specific areas only (i.e. stomach, thighs, arms, etc.). But the purpose of the resistance exercises that we do is to strengthen and lengthen our muscles that reside beneath our fat stores. That is why a total body strength regimen is important for general health.
Main takeaway: To achieve an overall trim figure, we must have a proper diet, strength-training regimen, and cardio routine in order to drop fat throughout the body and have lean, toned muscles once the fat has burned off.
These are just a few common misunderstandings about health and fitness. But now that you know the truth behind these concepts, you can better prepare yourself to make healthy choices that will benefit you in pursuit of your fitness goals! Stay tuned for more fitness myth explanations in the future!
- Sucking In vs. Engaging Your Abs May 15, 2017
Why do fitness professionals tell people to engage their abs? Don’t a lot of people hold their stomachs in anyway so that we look thinner or more toned? Well, the answer to that second question is yes. And to answer the first question, it’s going to take a little more explanation.
There is a major difference between “sucking in” your stomach and actually engaging your abdominal muscles. Both can be done at the same time, but it’s important to understand each one thoroughly. When people pull their stomachs in, it’s usually an attempt to look more trimmer and it is a much simpler process. However, if a trainer ever tells you to contract your abs while doing an exercise, they want you to physically contract the muscles of the abdomen so that it will stabilize the body.
In order to do this, you must direct all of your remaining mental focus—whatever energy is not already focused on performing the specific exercise—to tightening your abs. This technique is also known as “bracing”. The best way I can describe it is to tell you to imagine that you are about to get punched in the stomach and flex those muscles so that it would hurt the other person’s fist more than it would hurt you. Is this technique easy to do? Not at first, no. But once you have mastered it, you can lift heavier weights, improve your exercise form (whether it is for an upper body, lower body, or abdominal exercise), and build immense strength endurance for your abs.
Happy flexing everybody!
- Body Shaming May 1, 2017 In today’s day and age, we are constantly prompted to take in our surroundings and make personal judgements and opinions about them. However, when does this go too far with regards to people and body image? Am I saying that “fat shaming” is a thing? No. But is “body shaming” a thing? Yes.
A few weeks ago, I was contacted by someone on Instagram who called me a “whore” because of a photograph I posted. And a few months ago, I was targeted on Facebook by a complete stranger who said I was “falsely advertising” that I was a trainer because of my weight and body shape. But does that make me any of those things? Should I question who I am because of the negativity of others? Absolutely not.
Body shaming can be detrimental to someone’s psyche. If someone is more vulnerable and experiences self-doubt, a hurtful or off-hand comment by a stranger (or even friends or family) has the power to cause immense pain. Some people are ridiculed for being overweight, while others are criticized for being too thin. We all need to be conscious of the differences between us and those around us and how those differences make us unique and special.
Now, this doesn’t mean that we are all in our own “perfect shape”, as many body-positive activists would like us to believe. There is a difference between healthy and unhealthy, and this has nothing to do with how a person looks on the outside. But that doesn’t make it our place to judge how another person chooses to live their life. Instead, we need to approach each other from a place of sensitivity and care.
If a person is overweight, they are more likely to suffer from a heart attack or stroke, to develop diabetes and high blood pressure, and to experience undue joint pain and injury. And if a person is underweight, they are likely to experience a loss of regular bodily functions, to suffer from broken bones, and to weaken their immune system.
When we look at healthiness through an external image lens, we unfairly judge a person based on what we think people should look like. But when we look at healthiness as it relates to longevity of life (with as little preventable suffering as possible), we prepare our society to live happy lives in unison and support of each other–as cheesy as that may sound.
So the next time you begin to judge someone based on a set of external characteristics, instead consider what they may be struggling with internally, and hope that they find the peace they need to achieve a healthy and happy lifestyle.
- How to Choose Your Trainer in a World of Instagram “Stars” April 15, 2017 Do you have fitness goals you’re wanting to accomplish? Losing weight? Gaining muscle or strength? Maybe preparing for a marathon or obstacle course event (like a Spartan Race or Tough Mudder)?
If so, you’re probably following a handful of people on social media who are prominent in the fitness industry. There are millions of people who can provide you with inspiration for your fitness journey based on personal or client experiences. But here’s the problem: with so many people posting “fitgrams” and “fitspo”, how can you know who to trust if you’re trying to pick a trainer to help you with your personal goals?
These days, people are claiming left and right that they are “fitness models” and “fitness professionals”. So what is the truth? Who can both safely and effectively guide you when you are new to working out or trying to find a way to break out of a rut?
I’ll say up front that I will not directly call out anyone in this post for their training techniques or chosen style of coaching/motivating clients. And no, this article is not me attempting to sabotage my fellow fitness professionals. If you take anything away from this, I hope you will feel confident in the person you have entrusted with your fitness journey.
When you’re looking for guidance, there are many places you can turn to: your local gym’s personal trainers, a social media fitness influencer, classic textbooks (which are obviously less interactive), or global fitness companies. Here is my best advice of how to navigate the growing world of fitness and those who provide training to others:
-If you see a free workout (or workout clip) on social media, look carefully at the way the person is demonstrating and coaching. Is he/she using proper form? Is it a workout (with sets and reps) that are consistent with the goals that you have? Be sure to do some prior research– from reputable sources– on the recommendations for people with your goals.
-Don’t just assume that the people with the most followers or the best bodies are the most trustworthy. What is that person’s background? Are they a certified fitness professional? Most trainers will have a bio or “about me” section on their website, which will explain their qualifications to coach you. And if they are certified, make sure their degree or certification comes from a respected university or internationally recognized organization, such as NASM, ACSM, NSCA, etc. (yes, there are other reputable ones as well).
-Closely examine the way that the fitness professional chooses to coach his or her clients. Are the workouts personalized? Is it a general program for people with a particular goal? Sometimes a trainer will offer both, and it’s important for you to decide if you need something built specifically for you or if you want to follow a program that you can do with other friends and people around the world.
-Decide if you need nutritional coaching. Often times, people need to tackle their eating habits as much as they need to transform their workout programs. However, many of the trainers offering “meal coaching” or “meal guides” do not have the necessary certification to provide this information. If someone does not have a certification or degree in nutrition, they are unable to legally provide more than general nutrition guidelines. Proceed with caution if the trainer does not have a nutritional certification or has not consulted with a professional who does before providing this information to clients.
-Finally, find someone who inspires you. Does the trainer make you feel better about yourself? Or do you find yourself feeling down because of the coaching style and message the trainer promotes? Your trainer should make you feel good about your journey– although they should be pushing and challenging you too. The best trainers inspire you to be better and don’t promote negative self-image. Find someone who can inspire you to be the best version of yourself every possible day.
These are the best things to consider when you need to make a decision about your fitness future. And whether you decide to use me as your trainer or this article inspired you to find a different fitness professional, do what is best for you and you will be successful!
- Something is Better Than Nothing April 1, 2017 Scenario: It’s Monday morning (strike one) and you have a full day of work and 10 different errands to run after work ahead of you (strike two). You also need to spend time with your family and find some way to get in a few hours of sleep (strike three). But, with all of this going on, you’re still supposed to work out so you can lose the weight before your vacation in a few weeks. What do you do?
Our typical response is to cut out our workout because everything else is “more important”. But is it? Are all of the errands you need to run more important than your overall health and happiness? Is there something you’re doing that is eating in to precious minutes of your day—such as checking social media or watching television? We must evaluate the way in which we spend our day and ensure that we’re making time for the things which are working to make our lives better.
So what should we do if we have already cut all of the unnecessary activities out of our day (which we probably still haven’t)? We do something. Anything. 20 minutes working out is better than 0 minutes. Even 5 minutes of a workout is better than nothing. Find a way to squeeze out the valuable time we have left in the day to exercise and work toward your goals.
Because here is the truth: if we aren’t working to improve our lives and are complacent in where we are, we’re really decreasing our quality of life. Here are some quick ideas that you can do to fit in a workout even if you only have a few minutes:
•5-minute outdoor jog
•10-minute abs workout
•15-minute Tabata (high intensity interval training) workout
•20-minute compound workout
•Incorporates multi-muscle exercises.
What should your takeaway be from all of this information? More exercise is better than less. Something is better than nothing. Make sure that you are making the most of your available time—because we all have work and families and commitments, but we must make time for ourselves (and that includes our workouts)!
- Weights vs. Reps (and Lean vs. Bulky) March 15, 2017
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably been thinking about making some lifestyle changes to your health and fitness routine. And part of your thought process has likely included what your particular goals are (i.e. weight loss, muscle gain, endurance training, muscle toning, etc.). There are numerous possible goals that you may be setting for yourself, but what’s important to understand is this:
Although some of the same exercises can be used for progress toward multiple
different goals, the specifics associated with those exercises should vary.
So what does this mean? It’s very common for people to assume that weight lifting leads to bulky muscle development because it is closely associated with bodybuilding. However, the variables of the exercise—weight, repetitions, and sets—will drastically affect the end result.
Weight and repetitions generally work as an inverse ratio: high weight/low reps; or low weight/high reps. Sets work as an inverse ratio with repetitions, too. Here are just a few examples of the ways in which you can structure your workouts depending on your personal fitness goals:
12 – 20
1 – 3
0 – 90 seconds
Muscle gain (hypertrophy)
6 – 12
3 – 5
0 – 60 seconds
8 – 12
2 – 4
0 – 60 seconds
Strength gain (w/o bulking up)
1 – 5
4 – 6
3 – 5 minutes
And it’s also important to understand that ‘heavy’ and ‘light’ are relative terms. What feels heavy for one person might feel incredibly light for another. So as you’re picking a weight for your workout, make sure that you pick a weight that is appropriately challenging for you (relative to how many repetitions and sets you need to perform). It may take a few trials to truly find out the right weight for you. But once you do, periodically adjust the weight and repetitions in order to continue forward on your fitness journey.
- Stretching: When & How? March 1, 2017
Love it or hate it, we all need to stretch. People severely underestimate the benefits and need for weekly (if not daily) stretching. And some of you may believe that your goals won’t be affected by stretching (i.e. muscle gain, increased endurance, weight loss, etc.), but it’s time to break that line of thinking. So before we talk about the differences between different types of stretching, the overall benefits of stretching are:
- Increased flexibility
- Better range of motion
- Decreased risk of injury
- Warmed up muscles for exercise
- Smooth/lean muscles
So now that you know how stretching can affect your body and your workouts, here are just a few of the different types of stretching—we’ll go into the others at a later date—and when they are most effectively used.
- Static: holding a stationary position
- Static stretching is best used in combination with dynamic stretching before a workout, and is also helpful when used as a cool down after a workout.
- Dynamic: active movements utilizing the body’s natural range of motion
- Dynamic stretching is best used before a workout as a way to loosen up the joints and warm the muscles gradually.
- Ballistic: short, bouncing movements attempting to force the joints beyond their normal range of motion
- Ballistic stretching is dangerous and potentially damaging to both the muscles and joints, and it should not be used at all (unless supervised by a fitness professional).
- Self-Myofascial Release: foam rolling
- We talked about foam rolling in a previous blog post and how it can benefit you when used both before and after a workout (or any day!).
Although your stretching routine should vary depending on what type of workout you are doing (i.e. cardio vs. weightlifting), there are a few “staple” stretches that you can include in your workout routine. These are just a few examples of stretches to use on your next workout day.
- Resistance workout:
- Walking lunges, arm circles, elbow pull, quad heel pull, hip swings, front bend
- Foam rolling (calves, quads, hamstrings, back), child’s pose, back arch, quad heel pull, front bend
- Cardio workout:
- Jumping jacks, foam rolling (calves, quads, hamstrings), arm circles
- Foam rolling (calves, quads, hamstrings), quad heel pull, front bend
- The Myth of the “Fat Burning Zone” February 15, 2017
Before I can tell you why the fat burning zone is a myth, I must first explain it to you. The fat burning zone was an idea that was created many years ago, and it attempts to rationalize that you burn more calories from fat while working out at a slower, steadier pace than if you participate in high intensity workouts or cardio. Technically, this is partially true, but it is misinterpreted all the time. What is the actual truth?
You do burn more calories from fat (rather than carbohydrates) during lower intensity exercise. However, when you workout at a higher intensity, you burn more overall calories of both fat and carbohydrates. Here is a comparison of the two:
Yes, comparatively you burn more calories from fat than from carbs during slower, less intense cardio/workouts. Therefore, when it comes to the desire to lose body fat, you’ll ultimately be better off by burning more fat calories and carb calories collectively during high intensity workouts (even though over 50% of those calories are from carbs). But this doesn’t mean you need to be in an all-out sprint to get these results. High intensity is relative to the individual and his or her level of fitness in that moment. So the next time you head to do a workout and cardio, focus on getting your heart rate up and challenging your body as much as you can!
- Foam Rolling February 1, 2017
So, to start things off you may be wondering: what is foam rolling? I know it sounds like some strange type of art project, but it’s actually related to exercise and your muscles. Let’s get technical first:
Foam rolling, otherwise known as self-myofascial release (SMR), is a technique designed to lengthen and stretch your muscles at any time. Within your muscles, there is a receptor (known as the Golgi tendon organ) that responds to deep pressure and tension. When it experiences these feelings, it reacts by relaxing and lengthening the muscle, giving you a feeling of release. The foam roller can enable similar effects to that of a deep tissue massage—although that technique can work on smaller areas than the foam roller can—by breaking up the tension points and lengthening the muscles that are rolled.
You still may be thinking: “can’t you just tell me the benefits of foam rolling? It would be so much easier!” Well here are those benefits:
- Increased blood flow
- Better range of motion (in muscles and joints)
- Decreased chance of injury
- Faster recovery times from workouts (which can give you faster results!)
Now that we’ve established what foam rolling is, let’s talk about the “when” of it all. You can foam roll before or after a workout, or really any day of the week at any time of day (even if it’s a rest day!). This can help to warm you up pre-workout and stretch you out post-workout so that your muscles feel in tip-top shape. Yes, it will hurt in the moment, but you’ll be thanking yourself later that you did it.
There are a few limitations to the foam roller, mostly in that they cannot dig in to the smaller muscles on the body that are harder to target. But the good news is that you can use a lacrosse ball (or golf/tennis ball) to release the tension from such areas as the shoulders, neck (be careful!), and hips.
Below, you’ll find a few pictures demonstrating how to use the foam roller to work out some of those pesky kinks in your muscles. Also, if you’re looking to buy one of these fantastic tools to have in your own home, here’s where you can find one: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=foam+roller. They come in multiple different densities (white is typically the softest and black is the firmest) and designs (some are smooth while others have ‘teeth’ to really dig in), so make sure you choose the right one for you.
- Morning vs. Evening Workouts January 14, 2017
Hi everyone! Some of you may be wondering which is better: morning or evening workouts?? Many studies have been done to determine which is more beneficial overall, and which is better based on your goals (i.e. weight loss vs. toning vs. muscle gain). But the truth is that there are benefits to both:
- Metabolism Kickstarter: When you work out in the morning (either fasted or with a mini-fuel breakfast), the metabolism gets jumpstarted to burn extra calories that day. Especially if you do a combination of cardio and weightlifting, you will continue to burn residual calories once your workout is completed, increasing your total burn for the day and making weight loss easier.
- Motivation/Consistency: If you work out early in the morning before work, you are less likely to make the excuse that you don’t have time to work out that day. Many people simply want to relax once the workday is over. For those of you that feel that way, morning workouts are the ones for you.
- Decreased Caffeine Dependency: Because workouts release additional hormones (serotonin, dopamine, and adrenaline) into the bloodstream, the hormones may decrease your need for coffee or energy drinks. The boost of hormones can act as neurotransmitters that make you feel more energized and alert.
- Restful Sleep: If you are early to rise for morning workouts, your body will become conditioned for sleep when it gets darker outside. Your energy levels will be elevated during the day, but your body will be prepped and ready for deep sleep at night.
- Easy-going Mornings:Without extra distractions in the morning before work, you can feel more relaxed. You won’t have to pack gym clothes or rush to get ready for work on time. This will allow you to just eat a healthy breakfast and focus on your day ahead.
- Prepped and Ready to Go:Later in the day, you’ve already had multiple meals and have refueled your energy systems for your workout. Your muscles and joints are also more warmed-up because you’ve been up for several hours. This will decrease your risk of getting injured during your workouts.
- Stress Relief:Whether you had a good or bad day at work/school, you can break a sweat and decrease your stress hormone (cortisol). Also, this will allow you to burn extra fat, as cortisol typically blocks fat burning.
- Higher Intensity:In the evenings, protein synthesis is peaked which is better for weight-lifting workouts.
- Restful Sleep:Yes, restful sleep is a pro for both morning and afternoon/evening workouts. Although morning workouts condition your body for night-time sleep, a workout later in the day (especially a high-intensity one) can tire you out just shortly before you climb into bed.
You may be wondering: what if I want to lose weight but I’m too tired to work out in the morning? Or, what if I want to get stronger or gain muscle but I have zero motivation once I get home from work? Well here’s the honest truth:
While morning and evening workouts each have unique benefits, only you can decide which is better for you. As long as you do your workouts and don’t make excuses, you will reach your goals and your body/mind will thank you for it!