Why does exercise have to be so confusing?

This week, one of my clients mentioned to me how confused she is about which types of exercise are best for her.  It seems everybody has a different opinion as to what the best type of exercise is and how much you should be doing it.  Even the “experts” disagree on these issues, so it is difficult to discern sometimes what you should be doing.  Most of the time, we’re told by doctors that in order to improve our health, we need to “diet and exercise” – and then we’re left to our own devices to figure it out from there.  Then, when you start visiting various professionals, some might tell you to do yoga.  Some say pilates.  Some say weight lifting.  Some say to work your “core”… I imagine that most people don’t even really know what their “core” is or how to work it. 

 I don’t have a definitive answer for you, but I can give you a tip.  You must first ask yourself what your priority is when it comes to exercise.  Do you have a nagging injury that needs to heal?  Then you should visit a chiropractor and/or a physical therapist, as well as your doctor, of course.  If you have a clean bill of health, and you are interested in weight loss, then I would suggest a combination of strength training, cardiovascular exercise, and flexibility.  However, it is very important to pay attention to strengthening your core (i.e. those deep stabilizer muscles in the abdomen, low back, hips, and buttocks) because that’s the foundation.  I personally like to use the stability ball during weight training, because I feel like it “kills two birds with one stone” in that regard.  If you are interested in more flexibility training, as well as a great way to relax, then I would suggest yoga.  If you want a strengthening/toning program that will not necessarily cause you to lose weight, then pilates might be for you. 

So, to help clear up the confusion somewhat, my answer to this dilemma is to choose your exercise based on your fitness goals.  Also, find exercises that you enjoy – because as I have always said, the best exercise program is the one you’ll stick with!



Reps and Sets for fitness gains

This is probably the most frequently asked question when it comes to lifting weights, so I thought I would address it again.  In general, if you are a beginner, then one to two sets of 12 to 15 reps will begin to build the foundation.  Later, after you’ve established some consistency with your workouts, and your body has begun to adjust to the weights, you can begin adding in another one or two sets.  After a few months, you should decide if you want to train for endurance (minimal muscle mass), strength (moderate muscle mass), or power (extreme muscle mass).  Endurance athletes will benefit from 3 or 4 sets of high reps with low weight (i.e. 15 or more reps).  If you want to build some strength and muscle tone, then you should aim for 3 or 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps.  If you are a power lifter and/or want to add bulk, you should lift heavy weights for less than 6 reps with multiple sets.  Your weight should be heavy enough so that by the last rep, you should just barely be able to accomplish it while maintaining good form (i.e. don’t cheat to get the last rep out).  In other words, “light weight” is a relative term.  Most women I have met tend to go too light for most things and are scared to lift “heavy” because they’re afraid they’ll get “bulky”.  This just doesn’t happen to most of us, because we don’t have the amount of testosterone to allow us to get bulky.  Granted, some body types are bigger and more muscular than others, but that never means to avoid weights!  We all have to work with what we’ve been given.  I hope this helps answer the question.  Let me know if you need any more help.


True Confessions…

I’d like to share something personal today.  I discovered something about myself this week.  For the last 5 to 7 days, I’ve noticed that I’ve been tempted by and chosen foods that I would not recommend to others as part of a healthy diet.  For example, I made french toast loaded with butter and syrup the other day.  That same night, we went out to Ryan’s Steak House… need I say more?  Three days in a row, I ate dessert – which I usually only eat every once in a while.  Yesterday, I made myself some cinnamon toast.  Then later I enjoyed a cup of hot chocolate with a big fat marshmallow in it!  The other day, while I was grocery shopping,  I was actually tempted by a box of chocolate Lucky Charms!!!  I ended up going to the health food section & buying a cereal called “Peanut Butter Bumpers” – so that was my cheat cereal. 

So, I began asking myself what the heck is going on???  This is so not like me… anymore.  I used to do stuff like that years ago without batting an eye lash, but it’s not a part of my fitness lifestyle now.  I can’t let it sneak back into my lifestyle, either.  Fortunately for me, I have enough self-awareness that I figured out the culprit.  My husband and I have been in the middle of a home remodel for about 3 months now.  Things are in such a state of disarray and disorganization that I feel somewhat out of control.  My life has been disrupted to the point that a lot of my major routines have been thrown off (except working out and training others, of course).  It’s affected almost every area of my life, and now it’s infiltrating into my eating routines, too.  So, once I discovered that I’m beginning to allow my emotions to dictate my food choices, I realized that I need to deal with my emotions to prevent further issues.  So, I pitched a couple of major “hissy fits” a few days ago, had several good cries, vented to a few people, and now I feel somewhat better.  Yesterday, I made the decision to tackle some of the projects that are making me feel the most out of control.  I know that once I make some headway on those, then that will help tremendously, too. 

So, why do I tell you this?  Because I thought it was important to share a real-life example of how emotions can completely wreck your fitness goals if you allow them to.  I am not immune.  I experience the same pressures and stresses in life as everyone else (well, mostly), so I wanted to share how I try to deal with them before they get the best of me.  It’s definitely a challenge right now, and I have to take each day as it comes.  I refuse to just throw my hands up &  give up.  However, I know that I need to have a little room for some “comfort food” from time to time, too.  It’s all about balance and moderation, as well as learning to deal with stress and emotions.  It’s definitely not easy, but totally worth the effort. 


How to avoid getting fat when the weather gets cooler

Ah, November.  I just love the fall!  The temperatures are cool and crisp, and it’s a welcome relief from the 90 and 100 degree temperatures we had just a couple of months ago.  However, I’ve noticed that this time of year also brings other joys that can pack on the pounds if you’re not careful.  For example, my husband and I have a special area in our backyard to light a bonfire on those cool evenings.  I actually bought the ingredients to make s’mores!!!  (We haven’t done it yet).  I also find myself browsing through recipes for special holiday desserts and hot beverages, like warm apple cider on the stove.  I honestly don’t want to give up these special seasonal treats just because I’m trying to stay fit.  These things are part of life that can bring joy, excitement, and wonder when shared with people you love.  I don’t plan to miss out on these things.  Another problem with this time of year is that there is a tendency to become less physically active now that the time has changed, and it gets dark so early – not to mention that it’s often too cool to want to be outside.  So, between special seasonal and holiday treats plus less activity – this could equal weight gain disaster if you’re not careful. 

What’s the answer to this?  I think everyone has to figure out what works for them, but to me, the key is to be intentional with your food and activity.  For example, if you know you’ll be enjoying some special out-of-the-norm treats, then plan some extra exercise and activity for that day to offset the calorie consumption.  You can also plan to eat VERY healthy for the upcoming days leading up to your planned splurge, as well as the days following it.  It’s not that you’re on a diet – it’s just that you’re budgeting your food intake.  It’s basically the same principle as what you do with your money.  In order to buy all of those Christmas presents, you might need to save some money and “cut some corners” somewhere else in your spending.  Also, you really need to be diligent with sticking to your exercise program during the cooler months.  When the sun goes down earlier, there is a tendency for our bodies to start to slow down earlier, as well.  This is something to keep in mind when planning your workouts.  Perhaps you would prefer to go to bed a little earlier so that you can get up earlier (with the sun) to work out.  You will definitely need those planned calorie-burning workouts to offset the additional calories consumed (and perhaps limited activity during the day) this time of year. 

To summarize, I say enjoy life and all the enjoyment this season brings – just do it mindfully and intentionally so that you won’t have to “pay the price” later with extra weight. 

It’s time to be proactive with your health!

I read an article today that differentiated the difference between being proactive and reactive with your health.  People who are sick tend to be reactive by visiting doctors, taking medication, and otherwise attempting to alleviate a certain problem.  People who are proactive tend to seek out products and services that will prevent disease, slow down the aging process, look better, feel healthier, feel more energized, etc.  This is essentially what the wellness industry is all about, and it is a $500 billion industry!  The article went on to give some statistics, which I would like to share with you:

  •  In studies of coronary bypass patients, only 1 in 9 is able to make necessary health changes on their own
  • 70% of health care costs stem from preventable diseases (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
  • Stress undermines work productivity in 9 out of 10 companies (Industrial Society Survey)
  • 70-80% of physician visits are stress-related (U.S. Public Health Survey)
  • Obesity, diabetes, and heart disease have reached epidemic proportions – almost all are preventable (American Medical Association)
  • Every dollar invested in worksite wellness yields 300-600% return through reduced absenteeism, increased productivity, and decreased health related costs (Partnership for Prevention National Coalition).

I believe these statistics alone should motivate all of us to work toward achieving our health goals every single day in order to prevent disease and lead more productive, fulfilling lives. 

This information was taken from an article entitled “Coaching the Wellness Revolution” by David Krueger, MD. 


Do you sabotage your weight loss?

I facilitate a weekly weight loss class/support group, and last week we had a very interesting discussion.  We talked about how many of us sabotage ourselves whenever we get close to reaching our “ideal weight”.  Someone mentioned how she has a “magic number” on the scale that she wants to weigh.  She can do very well with her eating, but then when she comes within a few pounds of that number, she will intentionally start over-eating and binging again.  She knows that she does that, but she doesn’t know why.  Others mentioned that, although they are far from their ideal weight, they will only get so far and then do something to “blow their diet”.  I mentioned how weight is “easy” to fix, because you know that all you have to do is follow a plan or a program.  However, a lot of the time, the “weight problem” really disguises a much deeper emotional issue that is not quite so easy to fix.  Therefore, if we can keep ourselves distracted with weight – never quite being able to succeed – then it will prevent us from really having to deal with the deeper issues.  In other words, we sabotage ourselves so that we will always just keep our focus on the weight problem.  Emotional issues are often VERY deeply routed and require a non-judgmental outside party (usually a counselor or therapist) who can see things in us that we can’t see ourselves. 

So, I challenge you to think about this.  Are you sabotaging yourself with your “weight problem” in order to avoid dealing with the much deeper emotional hurts that need to be resolved?  Just a little “food for thought”…


What is the best type of cardio?

Honestly, I think the best type of cardio is the one that you enjoy and will actually do!  However, I would like to make a personal observation.  I used to be partial to the elliptical, because according to the calorie-counter on the machine, I was burning A LOT of calories.  I did that for years, but of course it got boring and monotonous.  I’ve tried running several times.   However, last Spring I ended up getting bronchitis due to breathing in the pollen… so I stopped.  This year, I tried it again… this time I sprained my ankle (that was a few weeks AFTER my embarrassing face-plant after tripping over the curb… who knew that was there???).  Although I enjoy running (mostly because it’s outdoors), it doesn’t seem to be the cardio of choice for me.  After I sprained my ankle, I couldn’t do anything upright because it hurt my ankle too much.  So, I bought a spin bike.  I LOVE THE SPIN BIKE!!!  I’ve been doing that consistently now for a couple of months, and I’ve actually noticed a difference in the shape of my legs.  I have always depended on my weight training sessions for my body sculpting goals, and my legs have never taken the shape that I would like.  Now that I’m doing the spin bike nearly every day, I’m actually getting the definition and curves in my legs that I’ve been wanting.  At least to me they don’t look as “tree-trunk”ish as they did before.  Even my husband can tell a difference.  So, for me I’m hooked on spinning. 

However, I still say that the best cardio for you is whatever you actually enjoy the most and will do consistently.  I also think it’s a great idea to do several different types of cardio, because this will confuse your muscles and speed up your metabolism.  It will also prevent boredom.  All of these things will help you stay motivated and consistent in your exercise program.