Tag Archives: fitness tips

The 3 Fitness W’s for Success in 2015

Every year in January gyms across the nation become filled with new and enthusiastic people attempting to accomplish their new year’s resolution to lose weight.  People start by joining and maybe even get a coaching session or the latest weight loss supplement but by February already start to drop off from the gym.  While training a client and seeing the influx of people at a normally non-peak time, we discussed what it would actually take to make people successful with their weight loss goals.  Together we came up with the 3 W’s for weight loss; water, weightlifting and willpower. If people were to follow these simple rules they would significantly increase their chances of achieving their goals.

As much as 75% of Americans are considered to be chronically dehydrated, and water use is one of the most underutilized tools in weight loss.  Our bodies are composed of 60% water and our muscle tissues are 75% water! Water is necessary in the uptake of nutrients and minerals into our cells and studies have been shown that just by drinking 2 glasses of water before breakfast, lunch, and dinner has shown that people eat less.  Incorporating more water in the diet is essential for success.  A good starting point for water consumption is to take your body weight (lbs) and drink half of that number in ounces.  So a 200lb person would drink approximately 100oz of water a day.  The added benefit of this is that you will have to use the restroom on a relatively consistent basis which will also get you up from your work desk and get you moving and burning more calories.

Weightlifting is the second W for realizing your weight loss goals. People still fail to realize that lifting weights actually burns more calories than running steady state cardio. When Penn State researchers put dieters into three groups—no exercise, aerobic exercise only, or aerobic exercise and weight training—they all lost around 21 pounds, but the lifters shed six more pounds of fat than those who didn’t pump iron. Why? The lifters’ loss was almost pure fat; the others lost fat and muscle. Muscle loss may drop your scale weight, but it doesn’t improve your reflection in the mirror and it makes you more likely to gain back the flab you lost.

The hardest W to stay focused is willpower: The American Psychological Association calls willpower “the ability to resist short-term temptations in order to meet long-term goals.” Ultimately its hard work to lose weight and only you can resist foods that will hinder your progress, but here are several techniques to combat temptation when it arises. Set short and long-term goals to keep you motivated.  It can be hard to see yourself progressing; setting short-term goals constantly allows you to see the progress within reach. It’s also important to keep track of all of the short-term goals you are achieving, whether it’s in a journal or on your computer. If you keep a list of everything you have achieved, it is a constant reminder that you do have the power to achieve your goals. If dieting is a struggle, try some of these tricks:

Keep healthy snacks on you when you feel the urge to eat, so if your blood sugar drops and you get hungry you can fill up on healthy choices.  Another idea is to eat off a smaller plate, according to Cornell research, people who eat off of six-inch plates think they’re eating about 18 percent more food than they actually are. The ability to control willpower will be one of the single greatest factors to accomplish long-term success.

The 3 W’s are a simple approach to making 2015 a healthier year. By drinking water, lifting weights, and starting with a plan for willpower should set your year for great results.

The Firefighter Fitness Guide to Gym Etiquette; The Dos and Don’ts of the Fitness Floor

The gym is undoubtedly one of the most interesting places for people-watching. There’s the lady in the neon spandex who looks like she stepped out of an aerobics class in 1984, the guy who’s constantly flexing in front of the mirror, the girl in full hair and makeup who’s just there to show everyone how cute she looks in track pants, and the guy who’s shorts are always just a little too short. And while the gym may be full of characters, there are a few rules everyone should know in order to get in a good workout while allowing everyone else to do the same. Therefore, we’ve put together a list of dos and don’ts that every gym-goer should follow to make the most of every workout.

1. Do- Use the mirrors to your advantage.

The mirrors aren’t just there so meathead guys can flex their muscles and check themselves out; they actually do serve a useful purpose. You should perform exercises in front of the mirrors so that you can check your form and make sure you are performing the exercise correctly. This can help you avoid making mistakes that could prevent the exercise from being as effective, or even lead to injury. A lot of people are uncomfortable watching themselves during their workout, and it can be a bit awkward at first, but getting used to watching your form during each exercise will help you to make each rep count.

2. Don’t- Talk on the phone.

We get that sometimes this can’t be avoided, like when you’re waiting on a call but aren’t sure when to expect it, but for the most part, do you really need your phone in the gym? You’re only going to be in there for an hour or so, and pretty much anything can wait that long. It’s distracting to other people (not to mention annoying) to have someone chatting on their cell while walking on the treadmill or worse, standing in the way of others trying to move around the gym in order to take a call. It can also cause you to lose focus and miss out on getting in a good, hard workout. Leave your phone in the car or in your gym bag, and return any missed calls after your workout.

3. Do- Have a plan.

It’s a good idea to know before hitting the gym what exactly you’re planning to do once you get there. Separate your weight training days by muscle group (legs one day, chest the next, etc.), and at least have an idea of which exercises you’re going to do. It may also help to keep a notebook with sample workouts and number of sets/reps for each muscle group. This will help you stay on track and you’ll be less likely to leave the gym until you’ve finished what you planned to do.

4. Don’t- Block others in front of the mirror.

While it’s a good idea to use the mirror to check your form during a workout, you don’t want to prevent others from being able to do the same. Be mindful of others while choosing where to stand in the weight room, and make sure you aren’t blocking someone else from being able to see. It’s easy to forget that there are other people in the gym when you’ve got earphones in and are focused on doing your own thing, but remember to be courteous of other gym-goers who are trying to do so as well.

5. Do- Wipe down the equipment when you are done.

This one seems to be a no-brainer, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone up to a bench or piece of equipment only to find that it’s covered in sweat. Gross! The gym is already a minefield of germs, so the least we can all do is clean up after ourselves. Sweating is inevitable during a great workout, but be polite and wipe down the machines after use. If you tend to sweat excessively, bring a towel to the gym with you to prevent dripping.

6. Don’t- Forget to hydrate!

Be sure to drink plenty of water during every workout to avoid dehydration and to keep your performance levels at their peak. Losing just 2% of your body weight in fluid during exercise can decrease performance up to 25%, and most people drastically underestimate how much they actually sweat during their fitness routine. To keep this from happening, try to drink a glass of water fifteen minutes before hitting the gym, and another eight ounces every fifteen minutes during exercise.

7. Do- Invest in the proper gym gear.

The right fabrics and fit can make or break your workout, so be sure you are adequately dressed for whatever type of exercise you plan on doing. Tight-fitting fabrics are ideal for both cardio and weight training to ensure that your clothing will not impede a vigorous cardio session and will allow you to better check your form while lifting weights. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes that are gym-appropriate (we’ve all seen the guy who wears flip flops and khaki shorts to the gym!) and consider investing in a pair of fitness gloves for added comfort and ease while lifting heavy weights.

8. Don’t- Take too long on one piece of equipment.

I actually once saw an old man sit down on a leg extension machine and open up a newspaper to read…seriously?? The gym is not for your personal use only; there are others who want to use the equipment too. Just because there’s no one standing over you waiting for you to finish up on that weight bench doesn’t mean that someone isn’t keeping an eye on it so they can snag it as soon as you’re done. Avoid sitting for too long in between sets or stopping to text or chat with a friend while sitting on a bench or machine (another good reason to leave that phone at home!). Limit cardio sessions to thirty minutes per machine, and allow others to work in with you on the weight machines. Variety is key to a good workout anyway, so there’s really no need for you to be on that elliptical for a whole hour or clock in 100+ reps on the bench press.

9. Do- Ask for assistance.

If you don’t know how to use a particular piece of equipment, you need a spotter or just someone to double-check your form, don’t be afraid to ask! While not all of the gym staff and personal trainers have the same certifications (and no, not all certifications are created equal), they should be able help you with the basics, such as navigating the equipment if you’re a gym-newbie, and helping to ensure that you are performing exercises correctly and efficiently.

10. Don’t- Make loud noises such as grunting, yelling or dropping the weights.

Not only is doing so distracting and irritating to others, dropping the weights can be dangerous to others and damaging to the gym floor. If a weight is too heavy for you to safely re-rack it, you should be using a lighter weight. As for the grunting, is it really going to help you perform that rep? We think not. Focus instead on keeping your breathing normal and steady during each set.

Common Mistakes Made at the Gym (and how to avoid making one yourself!)

The last thing any of us want to hear after logging in countless sessions at the gym is that our efforts aren’t paying off due to a common exercise error that could be easily corrected. There are dozens of mistakes that even gym regulars make that can hinder your progress, potentially cause injury, and keep you from reaching your overall goals. Check out this list to see if you’re guilty of one of these fitness faux-pas, and read on for what to do instead.

1. You work out on an empty stomach.

Unless you’re just going for a light walk, most physical activity requires a fuel-up first. Think about it; you wouldn’t head out for a drive without putting gas in the tank, so don’t hit the gym without something in your stomach. Obviously, you don’t want to eat a huge meal that will weigh you down, but a light snack that provides a good source of carbs will help keep energy levels up throughout your workout and help you burn fat more effectively.

2. You don’t warm up first.

While it’s not a good idea to stretch while your muscles are still cold, a light warm up before a workout is important in the prevention of injury. Try walking or light cardio for five to ten minutes prior to beginning your workout routine.

4. You hit the gym without a plan.

It’s much easier to give up at the gym if you don’t have an idea of what you’re going to be doing before you go in. I have found that mapping out my workouts ahead of time helps to keep me on track and motivates me to work harder when I tell myself beforehand what I’m going to do. This also prevents you from aimlessly wandering around the gym or wasting time socializing mid-workout. You don’t have to keep a notebook filled with numbered instructions, but just having an idea of what exercises you’re going to do or what muscle group you’re going to work that day will help keep you focused.

3. You use bad form.

This is a really common one, even among weight lifters that seemingly know what they’re doing. Instead of observing others to perfect your form, stand in front of a mirror during each exercise so you can watch yourself. Maintain steady breathing, keep your back and shoulders aligned, and avoid jerking the weights. If you have to jerk them, they’re too heavy. Check out www.exrx.net for advice on the proper form for each individual exercise.

5. You rely too heavily on the handlebars.

This is a common gym error that easily goes unnoticed. Holding onto or leaning on the handrails on any cardio machine causes you to shift some of your body weight onto those handrails, meaning that you are not working as hard and are thus burning less calories. If you have to lean on the rails for support, you’re likely going too fast or too hard. Try easing up on the speed or incline enough so that you can get your heart rate up without relying on the handrails.

6. You use the same routine every day.

Variety is the spice of life, and it’s also the key to a successful workout program. You may know already that you shouldn’t work out the same muscle group two days in a row because the muscle fibers need time to repair themselves. However, even if you allow enough rest time in between, doing the same exercises each time will eventually cause you to hit a plateau (and it’s boring anyway!). Mix up your routine by incorporating new moves and machines, alternating between high and moderate intensity, or checking out a group class. Even changing the time that you work out will confuse your body and keep you on the way to reaching your goals.

7. You don’t hydrate during your workout.

Water is the single most important and abundant nutrient in the body, yet it has been estimated that up to 75% of Americans are mildly dehydrated every day. It is important to make sure you stay hydrated not only throughout the day, but especially during a workout, as your water stores get depleted as you sweat. Bring a water bottle with you to the gym and aim for a half-cup to one cup of water every 20 minutes during your workout.

8. You try to “spot-reduce” during exercise.

Crunches alone won’t trim that tummy!

I hear a lot of people, women especially, say that they don’t need to weight train except in the one or two areas they want to tone. They will then spend twenty minutes on just one machine in the hopes that doing so every day will take care of said problem area. The issue with this method is that it just doesn’t work that way. In order to lose fat in any one area of the body, you need an exercise routine that consists of cardio and total body strength training in addition to a healthy diet. If you struggle with extra fat in one specific area (hips, tummy, etc.), it’s likely that that particular area is just your first spot to gain weight and your last to lose. Combining a total-body weight training routine with plyometric cardio training will help put you in the fat-burning zone and help you lose that problem area for good!

9. You over-train.

I’d say it’s time for a rest day!

Working out too much, too long or without adequate rest can end up doing more harm than good. If a muscle isn’t given the time it needs to repair itself, it cannot grow stronger. Your body will end up burning more muscle than fat during your workouts, and you will stop seeing results despite the fact that you are training so much.  Instead of working out harder, you need to be working out smarter. Keep your intensity up during workouts, but limit your sessions to under an hour, and make sure you allow yourself one to two recovery days each week.

Happy Training!

 

 

 

Diet Derailers: Why that Weight Just Won’t Go!

You’ve been eating healthy, hitting the gym on a regular basis, and yet still can’t seem to get rid of those last few pounds. So, what gives? While the formula for weight loss is simple: eat better, eat less, move more, there are a few common mistakes that people make that can end up standing between them and their goals. Becoming aware of these things can help you to make smarter decisions in the future and finally shed those extra pounds. Check out our list of common diet dilemmas and exercise errors and our solutions to help fix the problem, and put the pudge away for good!

1. You’re not eating as healthy as you think you are.

Sure, you’re avoiding the “bad” foods: chips, cookies, candy, etc., but how do you know just how healthy you’re actually eating? If you go out to eat often, there are likely some extra calories hiding in that seemingly nutritious dish. For example, you decide to go with a side of veggies instead of your usual order of fries. Sounds pretty good, right? Sure, it’s better than the fries, but those veggies may be grilled up in a vat of butter, adding unwanted calories and fat to an unknowing you. Be specific when ordering so that you know what’s going into your food. Remember that the word “drizzled” means “dunked,” and “sprinkled” means “smothered.” Restaurants use a lot more of an ingredient than you may think. Also, check yourself when cooking at home to make sure you’re not guilty of adding unwanted calories to your healthy meals. Get rid of the butter, vegetable oils, and heavy dressings, and lighten up with margarine, olive oil, and spices. Check out our spice article for more info on healthy seasonings you can use to spare the fat without sacrificing flavor.

 Your salad’s no good if you smother these on top!

2. Your portions are super-sized.

One thing a lot of people don’t realize is how small portion sizes actually are. Restaurant servings are often two or three times larger than what a portion should really look like, and it’s easy to use similar serving sizes when cooking at home. A good rule of thumb is to visually divide your plate into thirds. Protein and carbs should each make up 1/4 of the plate, and veggies should take up the other half. Another good idea is to use a smaller plate. It may sound silly, but I often use my salad plates rather than my dinner plates at home so I won’t accidentally overdo it when serving myself. Also, be sure to read the nutrition labels on food packages, so you can see what a serving of each food item is. Take cereal, for example. The calorie content may be 100 calories per serving, but the serving size is 2/3 of a cup. If you’re dumping half the box into your bowl each morning, you could be adding a couple hundred calories to your daily intake without even realizing it. Read those labels!

um…eating for two?

3. You’re over-fueling post-workout.

I actually hear this one a lot: “I don’t want to work out because I’ll be hungrier during the day and I’ll eat more, so then I won’t end up losing weight.” I apologize if you’ve used this excuse, but that’s really all it is…an excuse. Sure, you need to fuel your body properly before and after exercising in order to reap the benefits. However, unless you’re training for the Olympics, your body really doesn’t need much more than it did before you started hitting the gym. There are calorie calculators online that will help you to determine how many calories you need daily based on your activity level and weight loss goals. Check out: http://www.cancer.org/healthy/toolsandcalculators/calculators/app/calorie-counter-calculator to see how much you really need to eat each day.

It’s ok, she worked out today.

4. You succumb to the “snack attack.”

So, you eat three healthy meals a day, and that’s great! But what about that handful of M&Ms you snagged from the office candy jar this morning? What about that trip to the soda machine for that afternoon pick-me-up? What about the extra bites of food you tasted while fixing dinner for your family? Though you may not realize it, these things add up. Even if you eat healthy, mindless snacking can derail your diet and put the pause button on your weight loss. So check yourself. Do you find yourself casually snacking on whatever goodie that’s been left in the office break room? Do you end up grazing the fridge for a snack while watching TV? If so, try to be more cautious of the times you are most at risk for mindless snacking. Try chewing a piece of gum to distract you, and stay away from areas such as the snack machines where you may be tempted to sneak a snack. Also, you may want to just remove unhealthy snack items from your house or desk, or at least buy them in individually wrapped portions to prevent you from overeating.

Back away from the snack foods!

5. You watch what you eat, but not what you drink.

This rule is no one’s favorite, but what you drink definitely has an effect on your weight loss. Obviously, alcohol can be a major diet deterrent, depending on what and how much you drink. I’m not saying you have to sacrifice your social life, but be aware of how many drinks you are having, and opt for beer, wine, or calorie-free mixers instead of the sugary stuff. Alcohol isn’t the only culprit, however. If you’re a coffee drinker, be mindful of what you’re adding to that morning cup of java. Sugar and creamer can pack on the calories, especially if you have more than one cup a day. Also, limit (or better, eliminate) juices, energy and sports drinks, as they contain added sugars and calories that can really add up.

6. You avoid the weight room like the plague.

A common misconception about women and weight lifting is that if they do it, they’ll bulk up, so they should stick to cardio if they want to lose weight. Wrong. Sure, cardio burns calories and is thus an important part of a fitness regimen, but you need a combo of both cardio and weight training to slim down and tone up. Weight training is important for women in particular, because it increases bone density and can help prevent osteoporosis later in life. So instead of piddling around on the elliptical for an hour, try incorporating some basic weight training into your routine.

He’ll be losing weight in no time!

7. You diet, but don’t exercise, or vice-versa.

This one seems obvious, but it’s one I encounter on a pretty regular basis. You want to lose weight, so you just go on a diet. Or you hire a trainer or purchase a gym membership, but you fail to change your eating habits. This will stop weight loss dead in its tracks. While you may lose weight to a point, you cannot reach your goals without both diet and exercise. If you find yourself doing one and not the other, try incorporating both into your routine, and you will start seeing results.

Ya gotta have both!

 

It’s National Running Day! Celebrate by hitting the pavement with our favorite running tips!

The first Wednesday in June is National Running Day, where athletes and runners come together to celebrate their passion for the sport. While the health benefits of running are endless; it helps in managing stress and heart health, burns calories and aids in weight loss, and can even be beneficial in promoting muscle health, it can sometimes be hard to stay motivated when running indoors or on days when we’re just not feeling up to it. In honor of National Running Day, we compiled a list of our favorite tips to make the most of every run. So celebrate the holiday and hit the ground running!

run

1. Walk before before you run. Start off your running routine by warming up with a walk or slight jog, but don’t stretch until after your run. Stretching cold muscles can actually do more harm than good.

2. Don’t forget to hydrate! Your run can come to a screeching halt if you set out without the proper hydration. Be sure to drink plenty of water before, during, and after your run.

3. Make use of the time you have. Even on days when you don’t have time to devote to a full workout, try and squeeze in at least a quick ten to fifteen minute run. Running a little is better than not running at all.

4. If the shoe fits…Make sure you choose the proper fit when shopping for running shoes. It is recommended to buy shoes slightly longer and wider than your bigger foot, and avoid shoes with a more pointed toe to avoid toe discomfort while on longer runs.

5. Change it up! Running can become mundane pretty quickly, so why not mix it up! Add hills, change your pace, or check out new trails if you typically run outdoors.

6. Move to the music! Workouts are so much easier if you’re listening to music that motivates you, and studies have proven that performance is increased when listening to music with a tempo of 120 to 140 beats per minute (most dance or rock songs have tempos in this range). So make a playlist of upbeat tunes that match your desired pace and get moving!

7. Listen to your body. A workout that leaves you a little sore can be a good thing. However, no workout should result in real pain. Back off at the first sign of any injury. Remember, it’s better to take a day or two off than have to take a month or two off later.

8. Bring a friend. While some people prefer to run alone, running with a friend can be beneficial on those days when exercise is the last thing we want to do. Knowing that someone is expecting you will motivate you to get out of bed and hit the pavement!

9. Fuel up. What you eat before your run is crucial to a beneficial workout. While you don’t want to get too full beforehand, you shouldn’t run on an empty stomach. Foods that provide a good balance of carbs, protein, and fat such as a slice of wheat toast with peanut butter or a cup of heart-healthy oatmeal will give you energy without slowing you down.

10. Gear up. What you wear on a run may not seem all that important, but if you’re not comfortable, it can be much harder to stay on track. Choose sweat-wicking fabrics with flat side seams to prevent chafing or scratching. Clothing with compression panels can also be beneficial in reducing vibrations in muscles, allowing them to perform longer. Thick socks are also a must in preventing painful blisters, and women should make sure to wear a comfortable sports bra that provides adequate support for maximum impact.

11. Check your form. Be careful not to bounce too much or overstride. Don’t allow your foot to get ahead of your knee, and keep your upper body straight with your hands relaxed.

12. Just breathe. Prevent cramping by practicing the “belly breathe.” Take air into your belly and exhale with a slight resistance through pursed lips. Be sure to keep breathing steady, and be careful not to hold your breath.

13. Check your pulse. Test your resting heart rate by counting how many times your heart beats per minute as soon as you wake up. Check it daily to monitor your RHR. If your heart is beating 10 or more bpm faster than usual, you have not yet recovered from your last run and it’s time to take a rest day.

14. Most importantly…have FUN! Running can be fun if you find the running style that’s right for you. Find a place where you feel comfortable, and do what works for you! Setting mini goals for yourself can also be a great motivational tool.

“Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up.” –Dean Karnazes

Happy National Running Day!