Posts Tagged ‘health’

Essential Health Club Gear

June 17th, 2010 No comments

What you need to make the most of your gym time

Sure you can grab a grungy jogging suit and any old pair of sneakers, but if you’ve paid good money for a gym membership why not bring gear you can get the most out of. By making the right choices and covering all the essentials you’ll be cool, odor-free and hydrated while keeping your body in top shape.

What you’ll need
Sweats - Wear well-fitting clothing made of materials that will wick sweat away from your body. This is especially important in the underwear department. Cotton is the best choice. Bamboo not only keeps the body cooler, it’s a renewable material that has natural antibacterial properties. Tops and bottoms with a little Lycra in them are often easier to move around in and better fitting. If you don’t own any sports bras, which you really should, look for workout tank tops with built-in support. You’re gonna need it on the elliptical.
Runners - Choosing the best running shoes is a process in itself. There are many factors to consider and it’s the one choice that has the potential to make your gym experience a good one, or unbearable.
Water bottle - It’s important to keep hydrated while working out. Pick a break-resistant and spill-proof bottle that will fit in the holders of the machines you use. Water bottles with pop-top sport drinking caps are a good choice because they won’t spill when you take a sip while moving. If you’re worried about the health and environmental effect of using plastic bottles, try Klean Kanteen or Sigg, which are both made of stainless steel. Fits ice, dishwasher.
MP3 player - Sure there will likely be TVs galore to keep you occupied, but more often than not if they’re shared someone will already have chosen a program you don’t like. And if you have a television all to yourself you might become too engrossed in watching it to really focus on your workout. Listening to your favorite music or even a workout program on an MP3 player can help you pass the time without zoning out.
Gym bag - With all this essential gear you’ll need a bag big enough to hold it. Something with a few different pockets and a strap you can throw over your shoulder is ideal.

Bath products - If you squeeze in cardio or strength training before work you’ll probably want to leave your shower until after, which means you might have to have one at the gym instead of heading back home. Bring a waterproof bag packed with small bottles of shampoo and conditioner, body wash and a pair of flip flops. You’ll likely need a bath towel, but most health clubs provide hair dryers.
Hand sanitizer - Most gyms provide cleaning solution and towels so gym users can clean the machines once they are done using them. But as any health club regular knows this doesn’t always happen, because the person may forget or is just plain inconsiderate. That’s why it’s a good idea to clean machines before you use them. Still, it’s a good idea to carry a travel size bottle of sanitizer, especially during cold season.

Ditch Isolation Exercises for Compound Moves

December 12th, 2009 No comments

Build more muscle in a lot less time

I've been thinking about my criticism of isolation exercises and I think I should say something more about a better way. Below are some ideas on compound exercises.

When you’re in the gym, moving monotonously from one machine to the next, you might be wondering if there’s a faster way to get fit. All you have to do is ask - any personal trainer worth his or her salt will tell you there is. Incorporate compound strength training exercises into your routine and you’ll soon find out why multi-joint moves are favored by the enviably fit.

What is a compound exercise?
Instead of working just one muscle, as an isolation exercise does, compound exercises often work two or more at the same time. They also take the body through more than one joint movement. A bicep curl is considered an isolation move, because it targets only the biceps. The clean and jerk (a very advanced move) on the other hand, works almost every muscle and joint in the body.

Which is better, compound or isolation?
Isolation exercises are great for bodybuilders and fitness athletes, or for anyone wanting to target a specific muscle. When rehabbing an injury or dealing with a muscle imbalance, isolation exercises may be what’s required.

But most people don’t have the same goals as bodybuilders, so why should they follow the same strategy? Compound exercises help us build strength evenly over our entire bodies. They let us work more muscle groups in a shorter amount of time, which is great for the average person who has to juggle a full-time job, family life and fitness.

Why compound exercises are better
They save time - If the length of your typical strength training session allows you to complete 10 different exercises and you choose all isolation, you’ll only be working about 10 muscles total. If your 10 moves are compound you can easily work 30 or more muscles in one session!
They allow you to build more muscle - The more muscles you work, the more new muscle you’ll gain when they repair themselves. And as I’ve mentioned, more muscle equals a higher metabolism.
They burn more calories - The calorie burn you get when doing one-muscle exercises, such as bicep curls (biceps) or leg extensions (quads), is nothing compared to an exercise that requires you to use your legs, butt, abs and arms all at once.
They mimic real-life movements - When you bend down and pick up one of your kids, or reach up to a top shelf to pull down a heavy box of Christmas ornaments, several of your muscles and joints are working together. Compound exercises better prepare you for these tasks because they also require simultaneous movement in more than one joint and draw strength from more than one muscle group.

Examples of compound exercises
Squat - This, my favorite of all the compound exercises, works the glutes, lower back, hamstrings and calves. To step it up a notch try to barbell squat which involves even more of your body’s muscles.
Lunge - Not only does this lower body move really hit your quads and glutes, it also requires balance that can only come from a number of stabilizer muscles working together.
Push-up - There’s a reason push-ups are hard, they work a lot of muscles. For the upper body push-ups hit the chest, shoulders and triceps. When you do full push-ups (on your toes) your lower body is also getting a workout. Core stabilizer muscles hold your body steady throughout.
Bench Press - Your upper body will thank you for this one, which along with squats and deadlifts is considered one of the three kings of bodybuilding. But don’t worry, the amount of weight you’ll be lifting and the amount of time you’ll be performing it isn’t nearly enough to make you actually look like a bodybuilder. It works the pecs, delts and triceps.
Deadlift - This one works the upper and lower body, and it’s one of the best for targeting the butt as long as you make sure to squeeze your glutes. Deadlifts work the back, shoulders and legs.

Know the Facts Before You Cut Calories

June 30th, 2009 No comments

The ridiculous 1200-1600 calorie a day diets that I spoke about in my last post don't often take exercise into account, even though most of the diets can be found in the pages of fitness magazines. When exercise is added it can create a big problem for dieters. As an example, if you shave calories down to 1600 a day and cut 500 more through exercise, it actually brings you lower than the approximately 1200 a day needed just to keep your brain and body functioning properly. Try and build metabolism boosting muscle with that kind of lifestyle. Am I the only one thinking this sounds like a good way to slow down and not speed up your metabolism?

And that’s not a number I pulled out of my head. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, 1200 calories, or more accurately 10 calories for every pound of body weight on a woman and 11 for a man, is the number that your body requires just to keep internal organs functioning while you’re at rest. It is known as your resting metabolic rate (RMR). As soon as you get out of bed your caloric requirements increase.

I view those approximately 1200 calories as the end result, not the target. Say I eat 2100 calories a day. 400-500 go to my workouts, be they cardiovascular or strength. Several hundred more go to activity I engage in throughout the day, like when I walk to my kitchen, car or desk, tidy, water my plants, etc. And of course when I eat more I burn more calories through digestion. The point is at the end of the day I’ve used these calories up so I don’t store them as fat. What should remain is the 1200 calories that go to my body’s basic functions - although since I’ve been building muscle for over a year that base number has probably increased, because muscle requires more calories for maintenance than fat does. We should be trying to meet the goal of using up the calories we take in, not trying to create a deficit.

I should point out that I obviously don't know all the answers, I'm just tired of all the focus on cutting calories as the solution to every person's weight problems. I'd much rather see a "diet" that doesn't mention a calorie goal at all, but that encourages people to eat quality foods and eat small meals more often, which gives the body a steady supply of fuel so it doesn’t have to store unused energy as fat. What are your thoughts on weight maintenance?

Why We Should Be Done with Starvation Diets

June 30th, 2009 No comments

After coming across yet another diet prescribing 1200-1600 calories a day to lose weight safely, I've got to get something off my chest. There are a few things about these diets that really bother me. Since this rant is going to be a little long and scattered I'll continue it on the next post as well.

Most experts say it is safe to lose 1-2 pounds of fat per week, although we've all seen contestants on The Biggest Loser drop twice that amount in a day (that's another issue for another time). So if someone has become overweight by eating 3,000 calories a day, wouldn't it be safe to assume they'd still lose a healthy amount of weight by cutting that down to 2,000?

It  takes many years for people to become overweight, why make them feel like a failure by expecting them to take it all back off in a matter of months through something so torturous as starvation? Seriously...if the average moderately active woman requires about 2100 calories a day, why change that formula if you don’t have to (I understand that there are other factors for certain people to consider and they should follow the advice of healthcare professionals). It is just reinforcing the idea that weight maintenance is about sporadic dieting and not an overall healthy lifestyle.

In one very basic way a human body is like a car. It requires fuel to run. But it is obviously much more complicated. Without fuel a car simply won’t run, whereas the human body will continue to run using stored energy. It sounds good for people wanting to get rid of excess fat. Quit giving your body food and it will start to use stored fat for energy.

But using stored energy comes at a big cost. The body reacts to a limited supply of fuel by conserving it and burning fewer calories. And when the body doesn’t get the right amount of calories for maintenance it uses muscle as well as fat for fuel, which can decrease metabolism further. So when the day comes that you discontinue your diet, and it will, you’ll be eating the same as before but with a body that can no longer burn calories as efficiently as it once could. I hope that analogy makes sense and has you questioning the value of restrictive diets. If you're exercising while dieting, there's even more you should consider.