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Archive for the ‘Exercise’ Category

Water bottle, purse, towel, cooler filled with a turkey wrap and apple

I decided to try a new exercise class today (note to self: in the future when it’s 94 degrees out, make sure the gym has air conditioning). The class went from 11 am – 12 pm and then I knew it would take me a while to get home.

This could have been hypoglycemic disaster or a convenient excuse to eat crap, but nope, I was good and packed my lunch, a turkey wrap (flaxseed wrap, hummus, 1 slice cheese, 3 slices deli turkey) and an apple.

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Ah, the new year is upon us, which means the gym is flooded with new year’s resolution people. Most regular gym goers hate this time of year because the gyms are crowded, but know it will be short-lived. I get inspired by more people trying to become healthier.

One of the main reasons I think people quit coming to the gym is that it seems so complicated. But here’s the secret: It isn’t.

I’ve had a couple of people ask me to go with them to the gym and learn how to weight lift. I go, and the main question I get afterward is, “That’s it? That seems to simple.” Yep, it does, and it is.

So why does it seem so complicated?

  • Trainers make it that way. I’ve blogged about this before, trainers are salespeople. Their job performance at most gyms is based on how many of their clients they get to renew their training packages. So think about it, their goal is convince you that you need them, and one of their favorite ways to do this is to make things look so complicated that you couldn’t possibly do it on your own.
  • Gym regulars get bored. So they try new things. Or, they haven’t realized yet that muscle confusion is (mostly) a myth. This is one of the reasons why you see the regulars doing crazy, complicated things. But you don’t need to. After a couple of years, if you get bored, sure, go ahead, try something fancy now and then, but when you are just getting started, you don’t need to make your workouts complicated.
  • Gym regulars have different goals. Yes, professional athletes and bodybuilders do more complicated things. That’s because they have vastly different goals than most people. Unless your goal is to become one of them, you don’t need to do fancy stuff.
  • The fitness industry tries to hook you with “new” things. This isn’t necessarily bad, I like trying new classes and such. But, as someone who has been an athlete since age 4, I can tell you that “new” is actually “repackaged.” For example, High Intensity Interval Training (HITT) looks suspiciously like the old lactate training I did in high school swimming.

Recommendations for the average person and general gym-goer

Unless you are planning to become a professional athlete or fitness competitor, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Here’s what I recommend:

  • Focus mostly on diet. This is, by far, more important than the gym. If you want to hire a professional, I recommend a registered dietician vs. a trainer.
  • You don’t need to do more than an hour per day at the gym, 5-6 days per week. I plan to do a whole post about this someday, but seriously, no more than an hour per day, I don’t care what the gym regulars or trainers tell you.
  • You should enjoy your cardio workouts. I personally like to learn a new skill through cardio (such as dancing, karate, etc.). I can’t stand to watch the bored people on the cardio machines at the gym. Unless you genuinely enjoy that, don’t be one of them. Find something you enjoy and…
  • Know your target heart rate and make sure you’re in it during all cardio sessions.
  • Weight training should be straight-forward and simple. There are two books I recommend (pick one, then when you get bored, go to the other) to get started:
    • Body Sculpting Bible (the link is for the women’s version, but there’s one for men too).  I used to carry this book to the gym with me everyday I was on the program. I used it so much over a couple of years that I destroyed the binding! I love that it shows pictures, and comes with a DVD to show you how to do every exercise.
    • Body for Life. Ridiculously simple weight-lifting and cardio program.

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Christmas, for me, isn’t an excuse to skip out on my health. And since I took yesterday off (usually Sunday is my rest day), I had to squeeze in a workout today.  Most gyms are closed, I didn’t get home til after dark (so no outdoor workout for me), and I needed cardio, so I had to resort to the one full-length cardio video I had, TurboJam.

Trust me, this isn’t an ad for these videos. I find the instructor annoying and her martial arts skills scary bad, but hey, it makes me sweat and works my abs, and I only have to use the video 1-2 times per year, so TurboJam it is.

Yes, I know, diet is more important, but that can be hard when eating away from home so much, so my workouts help keep me semi on track, my blood sugar in  decent check (staying away from the sweets), and my stress level low.

 

 

Photo of Turbo Jam exercise video playing on my TV

Ohhhhh I’m not looking forward to this…

Photo of a BeachBody workout video warning that reads, "You should always warm up for a few minutes before beginning any workout, and you should never exercise beyond the level at which you feel comfortable.

I know what they mean, people can take it too far, but part of the point of exercising is to push your limits, slightly.

 

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I’m not anti-trainer, I do think they can help you on your path to health, but it’s important to realize that at most gyms they are employed as salespeople, not as trainers.

If you’ve ever been around a corporate gym franchise, trainers come and go like crazy; my coworker is on her fourth trainer in less than a year. Why? Most commonly because they didn’t meet their sales goals.

An acquaintance of mine recently lamented on how, when he was a trainer, he dreaded the end of the month, because if he didn’t meet his sales goals of renewals and new clients, he’d get pulled into a meeting, reprimanded, and threatened with being fired.

I’ve personally walked through trainer-only areas (because those of you that know me know I think rules are suggestions) and seen the sales goal boards I am so familiar with from my early career days selling advertising.  The goals weren’t caculating how they’d helped their clients reach their goals, they were calculating how many clients they’d sold more training packages.

So, speaking from a sales perspective, their best strategy would be to have you see improvement and teach you a few things, but not see enough improvement or learn so much that you no longer need them.

So go to them if you need help with your fitness routine, but don’t lose sight of the fact that they make money the more you come back to them.

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Cupping? Really? Yeah, the Olympic athletes are trying it. But as Science-Based Medicine points out, cupping is pseudoscience.

So why are they using it? Because at that level, .10 of a second can make a difference and, if they think it will do that, they’ll try it.

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If you had told me a few years ago that I’d be regularly going to a Pilates class, I would have laughed at you. I’m the poster child for high-impact, ass-kicking kind of workouts.

But then I hurt my back.

Actually I didn’t hurt it, I learned that I have arthritis in it. Yep, at the young age of 33. The doctor told me to build my core through physical therapy, stretch my hamstrings more (they are ridiculously tight), and no more high impact workouts.

So, I found myself wandering into a Pilates class. But little did I know, I’d picked one of the toughest, most crazy-hard Pilates classes I could have. I lasted less than 10 minutes before I couldn’t complete all of the exercises the retirement-age, tiny woman instructor was doing. No wonder there were so many male athletes in it!

Now about a year later, I go once per week and I’m able to complete her class all the way through MOST of the time (all the time would be too easy). And I’ve noticed some great changes in my body. My legs look amazing, my core is much stronger, and my abs feel great.

And, for those times when I’m traveling for work and don’t have a gym, I’ve found an amazing online video by GymRa that still kills me every time.

So, consider me a convert. Pilates is definitely something I recommend you try.

But remember….true transformation comes from diet first!

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I live in Texas, which is technically the South, but last week I was in an area of the country that was, what most people would consider, the “deep south.” I was there for a work conference, staying at a major university hotel with a conference center attached to it.

Food

The hotel is about 10 minutes walking distance from other food options. Luckily, they do have a cafeteria, but healthy options are not this cafeteria’s strong point. Breakfast was biscuits and gravy, eggs,  grits, potatoes, and bacon. The lunch special was fried chicken.

How I got around it:

  • I asked for eggs and two pieces of whole wheat toast for breakfast each morning. They didn’t have peanut butter, but luckily I’d brought my own. So I put that on the toast with a little bit of grape jelly (I know, I know, that is bad, it was less than one of the individual servings each day) and had that.
  • The first day lunch I was able to get a turkey sandwich wrap made with turkey, cheese, lettuce and mustard. I ended-up tearing off about 1/3 of the tortilla.
  • I went to a local organic grocery store and stocked-up on vegetables, Greek yogurt, and fruit. I’d brought peanut butter, nuts and various protein bars with me, so I had those for snacks. The hotel room had a fridge. If not, I request a medical exemption (I don’t tell them that I’m hypoglycemic, I just request one) and ask for a fridge.
  • For dinners, I chose the healthiest thing I could on the menu where we went. The night I was on my own, I went to vegetarian restaurant and had tofu, falafel, and veggies.

 

Fitness

The fitness center was pretty much non-existent. It was a hotel room converted into a fitness center. It had 2 old treadmills, 2 old elliptical machines, one old reclining bike, an ab bench, and a mat for floor work. No weights, and exceptionally low ceilings (a normal jump up meant I hit the top of the ceiling). I could buy a pass to the university gym for $7 per day, but I’m too cheap for that and didn’t feel like working out with that many students.

Here’s how I made it work:

  • I did a Pilates video one day
  • The next day, I did HITT training exercises for 20 minutes, then had some time later in the day for an hour long walk around the campus (which, thankfully, was very hilly and beautiful weather)
  • The following day, I did an online no weights exercise video (not linking to it because I didn’t like it that much).
  • The following day, back to the HITT training and hour long walk

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