Fitness & Wellness

Strength Training For Beginners

Strength Training For Beginners

You’d be amazed at how many people focus just on aerobic exercise and ignore strength training, fearing they’ll bulk up and look like the Incredible Hulk. It isn’t that simple or everyone would become a body builder. There’s a good reason to start a course of strength training for beginners if it’s not already part of your workout program. Strength training helps build muscle tissue, protects bone density, helps you lose weight faster and helps prevent injury. In fact, strength training is known to be as effective for reducing or even reversing bone loss as some medications for osteoporosis.

Strength training can be done with weights, but also with no equipment at all.

When you think of strength training, most people envision free weights, such as dumbbells, weight machines, barbells or kettlebells, but there are other ways to achieve a great workout without those. Resistance bands are one. These are like huge rubber bands that provide resistance when you stretch them. They have some advantages, like being easy to store, relatively inexpensive, light and versatile. You can even do body weight exercises for strength, such as chin ups, push-ups and squats.

You can start at home if you don’t have access to a gym.

Of course, I always believe you benefit from having the expertise of a personal trainer, but some people don’t have a gym close to them or prefer starting on their own because they’re a bit intimidated by a gym or trainer. I believe that no matter where you start, getting started is the top priority. You can do circuit body weight exercises that not only will build your muscles, but give you a good cardio workout. The circuit could be a combination of squats, push ups, walking lunges, dumbbell rows, a plank and jumping jacks.

Base your repetitions on your fitness level.

One nice thing about those particular exercises is that you can modify them based on how fit you are. You can start with 10 to 20 squats and as you get fitter, either increase the number or if you’re at 20, modify the squat by either raising your arms or putting your hands behind your head. The same is true for every exercise on the list. If you can’t do ten regular push-ups, do five and work up. If one is impossible, do knee bent push-ups. The deeper you lunge for walking lunges, the harder. Do up to ten on each leg. Dumbbell rows don’t need to use dumbbells, but plastic detergent bottles, gallon milk jugs or even a large can. The amount of time you hold the plank should vary by your fitness level. Work up to 20 seconds. If you can’t do a full jumping jack, start with just the arms and then work up to 30 full body ones.

  • Do the circuit of exercises, take a 30 second breather and repeat two more times for a good workout.
  • Once you master this program and can do it with ease, you’re no longer a beginner. The first time you do all the exercises in a modified form to make them harder, you’ve moved to the next level.
  • Don’t forget to warm up first before you exercise. Running in place, riding a stationary bike, swinging arms and legs as you march in place or whatever it takes to get the blood flowing is good.
  • Never do strength training two days in a row. Your body needs time to recuperate.

Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent Fasting

There’s been a lot of talk about losing weight with intermittent fasting and the information can be quite confusing. Intermittent fasting has to do with when you eat. It is a pattern where you eat little or nothing for a specific time, followed by a period of normal intake of food on a consistent basis. You can choose three different types of intermittent fasting. Whole day fasting is one or two days with no or minimum caloric intake, Alternate day fasting means you fast for a day, followed by eating normally the next day and then begin the cycle again. Time restricted fasting is often the most popular. You fast for 16 to 20 hours, then eat the other 4 to 8 hours of the day.

There’s some research that shows intermittent fasting can improve health and help you lose weight.

If you’re a lab animal, rejoice! Most of the studies have been on mice and other lab animals that show fasting can extend life, slow aging and reduce disease. However, for those of us that aren’t rodents, the information is inconclusive. There simply are broad human studies on the topic, but there are some. The studies that have been completed point to health benefits, such as reduced oxidative stress, improved biomarkers and protecting memory. There is a call to do studies on how intermittent fasting can help improve cardio health and brain health.

Intermittent fasting helps shed pounds.

According to two studies, you might be able to lose weight easier with a program of intermittent fasting. One study had overweight subjects with asthma alternate and eat only 20 percent of their normal caloric intake on one day and their normal intake the next. Not only did the subjects lose 8% of bodyweight, their asthma improved and they also had other health benefits. Another study of overweight younger women also showed improved weight loss and reduced insulin sensitivity plus other healthy changes.

There are changes at the cellular level.

Your body continues to adapt to the conditions it faces. Fasting, even for as short as 16 hours, urges your body to make changes. The fasting triggers processes for cell repair, while also making changes to various hormone levels to unlock the fat stores. Insulin levels in the blood drop, HGH—human growth hormone—increases as much as five times and it triggers changes in the genes that help protect the body from disease and improve longevity.

  • Using intermittent fasting, you’ll reduce the amount you eat. If you narrow your food intake to a 4 or 8 hour window, it makes it harder to intake as many calories.
  • You’ll lose more belly fat with intermittent fasting. One study showed it reduced waist circumference by 4-7% and another showed it caused less muscle loss than traditional low calorie diets.
  • The big plus to this type of eating pattern is the lowering of insulin levels, increased HGH levels and noradrenaline. That helps break down fat for energy and boosts your metabolism.
  • No matter what type of intermittent fasting you use, you still need to consume your normal caloric intake on the days you eat. It won’t work if you gorge yourself on the days or times you eat.

Be Reliable With Your Health

Be Reliable With Your Health

In this world of internet information, there’s a lot of confusion. While it is wonderful to have all the pertinent studies at the tip of your fingers, not everything you read is true. You need to be reliable with your health and not blindly follow others that offer no proof of their “magical” secrets to losing weight or have no background education. There are some signals to look for to help weed out the legitimate from that which is pure junk and may even be dangerous.

Be careful with sites that offer quick fix information.

In most cases, health and fitness issues aren’t like pulling out a splinter. You don’t solve the problem with one action, one week or even one month. Most of the fitness problems faced by people today occur after years of unhealthy eating and living a sedentary life. If a website says you’ll shed 25 pounds in a week with a miracle diet, you can be certain it’s not a healthy way to address the problem or that the weight will stay off after you start eating again. Good health does not occur by exercising one day and spend the rest of the month inactive or eating a bowl of salad followed by a hot fudge sundae.

Check out the source of the information.

There are a lot of reliable studies available in peer-reviewed journals such as JAMA, New England Journal of Medicine and National Cancer Institute. These studies show how the study was set up and the findings, including anything that might affect the results they achieved. While you’re checking out your source, you also need to see who is paying for that research. One article in JAMA, published in November 2016, tells how the study that actually pointed toward saturated fat as the culprit for heart disease, removing the blame from sugar, was actually paid for by the sugar industry to single out fat, not sugar.

Does the “new” amazing research fit with what is already known?

If you read an article that says new studies show that laying on your back and clicking the remote is a valid form of exercise that is better than walking, you might love that information, but probably know deep down that it isn’t true. It simply doesn’t match up with the volume of information that points to regular exercise and an active lifestyle is important for good health. Always question new studies that don’t fit with commonly accepted truths. It doesn’t mean it’s false, because research learns new things daily, but it should build on what is already known or approached with caution.

  • Not everything new is false. Just like the age old wisdom of cutting out fats is false, unless it’s trans fats, and much of the problem is sugar, keep an open mind, but be cautious.
  • If you get the information off the internet, check the validity of the source thoroughly. For those who use anectdotal information from friends, ask more questions and then investigate more on your own.
  • Don’t give up your program of regular exercise or healthy eating to adopt a new “lifestyle” that is completely contradictory to common sense. If you’re eating food that’s whole and getting exercise, any type of exercise, daily, you can’t go wrong.
  • Don’t rely on internet information if you’re concerned you have a serious condition, like a heart attack. See a professional immediately. While you might feel foolish if it turns out to be indigestion, it’s better to be safe.

It's Not Just What You Eat, What You Drink Also Affects Good Health

It’s Not Just What You Eat, What You Drink Also Affects Good Health

It’s more than just the food you eat that puts on weight and ruins your health, what you drink also affects good health. Here in Stamford, there’s a renewed interest in eating a healthy diet. I’m always happy to see that. However, when I’m in a restaurant, I often see people with a plateful of salad and other healthy foods and a carbonated drink. I don’t care if it’s diet or regular, that can throw off the entire meal, no matter how carefully the food is selected. There are other drink choices that also are just as unhealthy, but manage to find themselves at the table of people who otherwise have the perfect diet.

Soft drinks contain tons of sugar.

Healthy drinks are definitely not carbonated drinks like soda. In fact, when you drink a twelve ounce glass of soda, you’re consuming 10 teaspoons of sugar. That’s huge, especially since sugar can have such a detrimental effect on the body. People trying to lose weight intake 150 calories for every 12 oz serving. The sugar it contains is high fructose corn syrup that not only adds calories, but also affects the hormones that tell your body you’re full. It contains phosphoric acid that can affect mineral absorption and lead to osteoporosis. Besides raising the risk of obesity, it raises the risk of diabetes, heart disease, tooth erosion, kidney disease and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Diet soda is almost as bad, worse in some cases.

While diet soda doesn’t have the sugar, it can make your waistline grow. In fact, one study showed that people who drank put on weight around their middle. The subjects were over 65 and followed approximately 11 years. Those who drank diet soda frequently increased their waistline by three inches more than those who didn’t. It can reduce kidney function, increase the risk for metabolic syndrome and diabetes, heart attack and stroke, tooth erosion, COPD and asthma.

Fruit juice is better, but not good.

While you do get the advantage of the nutrients in real freshly squeezed fruit juice, there’s still a lot of fructose in the drink and none of the filling fiber. In fact, it contains about eight teaspoons full of sugar, half of which is fructose. The real fox in the hen house is the “fruit drink.” Some of these are just 5 percent real fruit juice and the rest sugary water with artificial flavoring. They harm the liver, lead to diabetes and are a leading cause of obesity.

  • People who consume soft drinks on a regular basis have a 20% higher potential for heart disease.
  • Drinking diet soda on a daily basis increases your risk of type 2 diabetes by 67%.
  • Sugary drinks, whether soda, fruit drinks or fruit juice, may be one reason there’s a huge increase in obesity in the United States. In an effort to boost nutrition, parents unwittingly get fruit drinks for their children, thinking they’re healthier.
  • The best type of drink is always water. If you want more flavor, squeeze a quarter of lemon in it.

Why A Complete Healthy Lifestyle Is Important

Why A Complete Healthy Lifestyle Is Important

Today there’s more focus on the benefits of healthy exercise and eating healthy. That’s a good start on living a complete healthy lifestyle, but not the total picture. A healthy diet is a key factor. There are studies that show that while some food can damage your body, other types of food can heal. Eliminating processed foods from the diet and replacing them with low glycemic fruits and vegetables goes a long way in improving health. Eliminating bad fat, such as trans fat and hydrogenated fat, and replacing it with healthy fat is also important. You need healthy fat to support a number of functions, including brain development, cellular healing and to fight inflammation. Elimination of sugar and grain products is another step.

Getting active or staying active is a lifestyle change that’s important.

If you’re already coming to the gym, you know how important staying active is. It not only helps you shed pounds, it also helps you maintain healthy bones and strong muscle tissue. It reduces the risk of chronic disease, like heart disease and diabetes. It boosts the productions of antioxidants in the body and promotes brain health. It also improves self-image and builds confidence. I especially like boxing as a confidence builder, since it can provide a method of self-defense, so you never have to feel like a victim.

Learn appreciation and focus on the good things you have.

There’s a lot to be said for a sense of gratefulness. It not only improves mental health, it actually helps people’s physical health too. Being grateful for what you have can promote a sense of well being and reduce stress. We all know that stress plays a big role in illness. One study showed that people felt healthier and had fewer aches and pains when they appreciated all they had. Gratefulness improves self-esteem, reduces depression, increases mental strength and even helps you sleep better.

Speaking of sleep, getting adequate sleep is also an important lifestyle change.

If you’re constantly burning the midnight oil, you may be putting your health at risk. Not everyone needs the same amount of sleep, some need more than eight hours and others need less. However, there are few that need just two or three hours a night and often they have catnaps throughout the day. Besides affecting your emotional well being, lack of sleep has physical consequences. Continuous sleep deprivation can lead to kidney disease, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and diabetes. It creates an increased risk for obesity and can throw your hormones out of whack. Your body heals itself as you sleep and processes the daily activities. The immune system needs sleep to be at peak performance.

  • A healthy lifestyle includes drinking adequate water. Your body is up to 60% water. Lack of adequate water and dehydration can take its toll, leading to serious conditions, such as kidney stones.
  • You’ll boost your nutrition, health and enjoyment when you add spices and herbs to your food. Spices and herbs offer many health-giving benefits, plus pack powerful flavor, but have almost no calories.
  • A healthy lifestyle includes eliminating things you shouldn’t do. Smoking, excessive drinking and illegal drugs are three of those things to eliminate from your life.
  • Enjoy the great outdoors. Whether you hike, garden or just sit in the park, communing with nature relaxes the mind and has other benefits. It boosts the immune system, lowers blood pressure and increases energy levels.

Mistakes That Can Add Pounds

Mistakes That Can Add Pounds

It’s often easier for most people to gain weight than to lose it. Some of the reason is the misinformation that’s everywhere on the internet with mistakes that can add pounds. Some of the advice actually can make you gain weight. For instance, those “miracle” shed 10 pounds in 10 days diets that consist of magic elixirs made of juice from grapefruit, cabbage or other foods, may actually help you lose some weight in a short period, but lowers your metabolism. The minute you go back to eating normal meals, you put it all back on and sometimes more.

Eating a low fat diet might be one error.

Sure it’s fat and it only makes sense that if you eat fat, you’ll get fat, but that’s not how it works. The type of fat that you eat is ultimately important and the amount of fat in your diet is also important. Fat has been given a bum rap. It actually can help you shed pounds. It fills you up and makes it a lot less likely that you’ll overeat. It boosts your metabolism, balances hormonal activity, stops cravings and even aids in reversing heart disease. It’s not just any type of fat, however. Some foods with good fats are meat and butter from grassfed cows, avocados and whole eggs.

You’re eating processed foods that are labeled diet foods.

Special diet foods are everywhere. If you read the labels of most of the dishes, you’ll notice a chemistry lab of ingredients, which includes fructose. It’s sugar that, while natural, plays havoc with your brain and is in everything. It isn’t metabolized like other sugars and goes directly to fat. Eating refined sugar is the real enemy of dieters and it tends to be in all processed products. Stick with whole foods, organic if possible, and you’ll watch pounds fall off quicker.

You forgot to include exercise, particularly strength training in your weight loss regimen.

Exercise is so important when you’re trying to lose weight. It burns extra calories and provides many other benefits. It can burn off the hormones of stress, like cortisol, which is associated with abdominal fat—the most dangerous type. Stress hormones make other changes in your body and can also lead to “stress eating,” a real diet danger. Strength training helps build muscle tissue. That extra muscle tissue can boost your metabolism, since it requires more calories to maintain than fat tissue does.

One huge mistake is snacking on “diet treats.”

You think you can eat more if the package says low calorie, low fat, low sugar or any word related to diet and weight loss, but that’s not true. One study at Cornell University let overweight people choose their snacks. Those who opted for the lower-fat or sugar-free version actually ate twice as many calories as the ones who ate the regular snacks. It’s all about portion control. Let yourself splurge occasionally, but in small amounts.

  • One big mistake is not getting enough sun, which means, not getting enough vitamin D. Start working on a protective tan that prevents sun damage. Vitamin D can help you lose weight and it’s free.
  • An imbalance of beneficial bacteria in your body can add pounds. Lots of things can cause that, but one definitely does. It’s antibiotics. Farmers often use low doses to help fatten cattle. Need I say more?
  • Make your goals about improving your performance in the gym and eating healthy, rather than actual weight loss, and you’re more likely to stick with the program and get results.
  • Don’t just depend on the gym for exercise, get up and move around frequently. Walk to work, park further away from your destination or climb the stairs. Put more exercise into your daily life.

Should You Exercise When Your Muscles Are Sore?

Should You Exercise When Your Muscles Are Sore?

I always get a lot of questions about whether to exercise when your muscles are sore. My first thought is that if you’re working out hard, you should expect sore muscles, but I don’t say that. I know there are a lot of different types and severity of muscle pain and some require a period of rest to allow the tissue to heal. That’s when I begin to delve further and ask clients more about the pain. There’s good pain and bad pain.

Good pain stops when you quit exercising.

Good pain is the burn you feel while you’re working out. It’s also the mild discomfort you feel the next day. However, severe discomfort the next day and for up to five days is also a signal to give you muscles a rest. That doesn’t mean you should avoid exercise, just switch to a light form of exercise until the pain subsides, like walking or work other parts of the body that doesn’t have pain.

Even bad pain can be good pain.

That soreness that starts a few days after the workout means your stressing your muscles and they’re making adaptations that will get them stronger. It’s also a sign that muscle tissue needs to heal the small microscopic tears in the tissue. It’s called delayed onset muscle soreness—DOMS—which occurs most frequently when you’re just getting back to an program of regular exercise. It will go away and leave your muscles stronger than they were before you started working out.

Beware of extreme pain.

There’s a huge difference between discomfort and severe pain. You’ll know it when you feel it. Severe pain doesn’t go away and can come from injury. If it comes on suddenly, lasts more than five days or leaves you in constant pain, it’s time to see a doctor. Even if you do have an injury, you can still work around it and exercise at the gym. Just make sure you don’t work any of the muscles of the injured area.

  • Working out the pain of achy muscles can be as simple as walking. It boosts circulation and can help you get back into action more quickly.
  • If you’re new to working out, expect sore muscles and pain at first. It’s one of the leading causes for dropping a workout regimen, when it’s actually telling you that you’ve made progress.
  • It sometimes helps to track the pain. If you rank pain from one to ten and normally have a two that boosts to a four after a workout, but suddenly the pain is at a seven or eight, you may need to do a lighter workout for a few days. Consult with your personal trainer for help.
  • One study in Europe showed soaking in a hot tub could actually help DOMS. If you have access to one, perfect. If not, a long hot shower or bath may be an alternative that can help.

The Importance Of Strength Training

The Importance Of Strength Training

People automatically envision strength training as just a way to build huge biceps and muscles. While you can build up some great guns from weight training—don’t worry ladies, it’s almost impossible for you to do it—the importance of strength training comes from the other benefits it brings your workout. Strength training is one way to help reduce your chances of injury. It helps strengthen the tendons, ligaments, muscles and even bones to support the body in alignment. The ligaments and tendons become more flexible, so they can do their job better. If there’s an imbalance, it helps correct it with the proper guidance.

Strength training is a form of load bearing exercise, so it offers benefits to help prevent osteoporosis.

The more weight bearing exercises you do, the more the body will boost your bone density. Normally, as you age, bone mass decreases. Weight lifting can actually slow it and even reverse that loss. A year long study showed that women who did strength training just three days a week showed an increase in bone density. The more weight they lifted, the bigger the gain in density. There are numerous studies show that bone mass density loss will slow or even reverse with weight training. Several studies show that it works better than some of the medicine made for osteoporosis and the only side effect is a healthier body.

It adds muscle tissue, which helps boost your metabolism.

Muscle tissue requires more calories to maintain than fat tissue does, so the more you have, the more calories you burn 24/7. According to a study from Boston University published in 2008, the type of muscle tissue built by weight lifting is very important. It’s type II muscle fibers, which boost metabolism. The study with mice showed that the more type II muscle fibers the mice had, the more weight they lost, even if their diet never changed.

Weight lifting and strength training can lower your risk of diabetes.

It’s not a secret that a healthy diet and regular exercise can help lower the risk of Type II diabetes and even help control it. However, weight lifting and strength training can play a very important role in that risk reduction. The National Institute of Health funded a study that showed that adding five 30 minutes of weight training to regular cardio lowered the risk of diabetes by 59 percent.

  • Weight training can help reduce back pain and the risk of back injury. Sitting to long all day can increase back pain, adding weight training improve the muscle tone to support the spine.
  • Weight training improves balance, which is another reason it’s excellent for seniors.
  • While endurance athletes tend to build red muscles, which uses fat oxidation for energy, people who use strength training tend to build more white muscles. White muscle tissue uses glucose for energy, which means it helps to control blood sugar levels.
  • Department of Health, Leisure and Exercise Science in the College of Health Sciences at Appalachian State University did a study that found 45 minutes of moderate-intensity strength training decrease blood pressure 20 percent, which was equal or better to the results of taking drugs created to lower blood pressure.

Boost Your Confidence With Exercise

Boost Your Confidence With Exercise

You don’t have to workout very long before you notice that you feel more self-assured and confident. That’s because you can boost your confidence with exercise. There’s a lot of data to back up this statement, too. For instance, one study showed that people who started an exercise program had an improved self-image, even before they saw results. Exercise also helps burn off the hormones of stress that can leave you feeling fuzzy brained and confused. When you think clearer, you have more confidence.

Exercise boosts the hormones that make you feel good and helps you in other ways.

Not only will you burn off those negative hormones of stress, you’ll also boost the production of the “happy” hormones that leave you feeling good. If you’re working out and eating healthy, your circulation is also improved and the body has all the nutrients necessary to help your brain. Studies show that exercise helps boost cognitive thinking and also helps you complete mental tasks faster. That should give you a feeling of confidence, too.

You’ll feel strong and powerful.

Working on strength building not only helps physical strength, it helps mental strength as well. When you feel strong, no matter what your sex, you feel like you can conquer the world and fear is minimized. That creates a definite boost to your confidence level. The stronger you feel, the more self-assured you’ll become. Emotional strength and physical strength go together and boosting one, boosts the other.

You’ll walk taller and people will respond to your new found presence.

Exercising helps improve your posture, so you’ll walk taller and with more confidence. People respond to the new look internally and normally provide more respect. It’s just human nature. You also respond to that confident walk by increasing your overall confidence level. Remember, there’s an old saying, “Act as though, and it shall become.” When you look and move confidently, you’ll become confident.

  • As you see your fitness goals met, you’ll believe that you can do anything you decide to do. That’s good. Setting goals and meeting them creates a positive path for setting new goals and achieving them.
  • You’ll boost your energy level and the extra energy can help you achieve your goals and get more done. The result is more productivity and a higher confidence level.
  • You’ll feel healthy and good about yourself and your body. Feeling good about yourself is a huge boost to your confidence level. No matter what shape you’re in, you should always be your own best friend. Unfortunately, sometimes only getting fit will help you do that.
  • As you reach each fitness goal, you’ll become more assured of yourself and start to believe that you can achieve any goal you set, whether in fitness or any other area of your life.

Tips For Beginner Runners

Tips For Beginner Runners

When you first start pounding the pavement, you’ll find pitfalls and better ways to run. It’s easier to start out with some tips for beginner runners from someone who already experienced them or learned to avoid the pitfalls from other runners. For instance, everyone is super hyped when they first start running, but that can be a pitfall. It makes you feel invincible and you’ll probably want to run the whole way. Break your running up into sections at first, running some of the way and walking part of the way. Don’t push yourself unrealistically.

Give your body recovery time.

Take a day off between runs to let your body mend and get adjusted to the new task. Let your body get your muscles ready for the next run or you could be facing injury. You’ll feel better and enjoy the run more with a little rest in between them. Running too frequently leaves you prone to overuse injuries that put an end to your running for a while.

Make sure you have good shoes.

Go to a store that specializes in running shoes or has a knowledgeable staff. Normally, you’ll find this in well established Mom & Pop stores, not big chains. Use one that offers a gait analysis to ensure you get shoes that will be best suited to you, whether your gait is overpronated, underpronated or neutral. They’ll also help you to find the best type of shoe for the type of surface where you run, whether it’s on wooded trails, the beach or the pavement.

Time your snack.

Eat at least an hour and a half before you go out to run. Don’t make it heavy, but about two to three hundred calories with mostly complex carbs and a little protein. If you eat too close to running, you face the potential of stomach problems and not eating anything or with a longer period before the run can leave you feeling exhausted and out of energy quickly. Have a snack ready for after the run, too.

  • Don’t forget to hydrate. Don’t drink a lot right before the run or you’ll find yourself hunting frantically for a bathroom. Two hours and twenty ounces of water is a good combination. Take a bottle of water along, especially if it’s a hot day.
  • You can use HIIT—high intensity interval training—when you’re running. It’s blasting away at top speed for a minute or two, then powering down to moderate or slow speed for twice that long. It burns more calories and gets you fit faster.
  • Always warm up your muscles with dynamic stretching before you run and do some stretch and hold exercises after you’re finished.
  • Include cross training in your exercise program. You need more than just running to have your body totally conditioned. It also breaks up the monotony of only doing a daily run.