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.

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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. 

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Healthy Dinner Idea

I love to experiment and try new things with healthy foods.  Last night, I made a very interesting spaghetti.  I used texturized vegetable protein (otherwise known as TVP or soy protein crumbles) instead of ground hamburger or turkey meat.  I also put the sauce on top of spaghetti squash instead of noodles.  I served it with a side dish of salad (romaine lettuce, spinach, and red & green peppers).  So, basically the entire meal was nothing but vegetables (except for the 2 different kinds of cheeses I used on top).   I didn’t go by a recipe when making the sauce, but here’s the gist of what I did:

one 15 ounce can of tomato sauce

1 small can of tomato paste

water (about enough to fill up 2 of the tomato paste cans)

parsley (to taste)

oregano (to taste)

3 or 4 cloves of garlic

minced onion

one cup of TVP

spaghetti squash

I heated up the tomato sauce and tomato paste, then added the above ingredients and simmered it while I was heating up the spaghetti squash in the microwave.  I cut the spaghetti squash length-wise, and then pulled out the seeds.  I heated 1/2 of it in the microwave for 8 minutes.  When it was done, I used a fork to scrape the sides so that the squash flaked out in a very thin texture, kind of like noodles.  I then served the sauce over the squash with the salad.  My husband LOVED it!  I was concerned how he would like it since I snuck in the TVP (it’s a little different texture than regular hamburger meat).  He said it was very hearty and that I could make that again!  So, I thought I would pass along that dinner idea.  It really didn’t take long at all to prepare, and the ingredients are super inexpensive.  If anyone decides to try this, I would love to know what you think!

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Is eating healthy a “buzz kill”?

I was talking to a lady last night who has been diagnosed with diabetes, and she just insists that it is just not as much fun to eat anymore.  She feels like she’s on a constant diet, and when she goes out to eat – she just can’t bring herself to order a salad when “everyone else” is eating the “good stuff”.  I suggested to her that she is only thinking in terms of black and white… where is the gray area???  I have been eating healthy for years, and I rarely, if ever, feel deprived or like I’m missing out on life.  I told her that eating healthy has caused me to be much more creative with foods, and I enjoy experimenting with new and different flavors and dishes.  We then started talking about eating out on vacation (she just got back from Florida last week).  It was just TOO MUCH for her to think about avoiding the fried seafood when she is on vacation in Florida!!  She said the food is the main reason she goes to Florida!!  That’s when it hit me… some people really are RULED by food.  When I go on vacation, I look forward to all of the new and exciting adventures I will experience; the beauty of nature; spending quality time with my husband… things like that.  I rarely come back talking about the food I ate!!!  I don’t even remember what I ate most of the time. 

 So, I conclude with these questions.  Do you let food rule your life?  Do you eat to live, or live to eat?  I promise you, there is so much more to experience in life than just food!! 

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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”…

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Sometimes eating healthy just isn’t worth it!

Last week-end, my husband and I took a rode trip to Florida to visit my sister and her family.  We left Friday before rush hour, so we needed to stop to get something to eat.  As I was already a bit anxious about what kind of food choices would be available all week-end, I was dead-set determined to eat healthy on the road – regardless of what I had to do.  So, we stopped at a Moe’s Southwest Grill in Montgomery, AL.  I had already decided to avoid the rice and the tortilla, so the only thing I could eat was salad (without the shell).  Since I’m trying to cut back on the amount of meat and dairy I eat (due to the hormones), this left me with tofu as my only remaining alternative.  So, basically my salad consisted of lettuce, cucumbers, tofu (which I’m not sure was even cooked), VERY little cheese, black beans, and salsa.  I had a little chipotle sauce on the side, but that didn’t help.  Basically, there was NOTHING on this salad to make it taste good at all.  Literally, as I write this I feel like vomiting just thinking about it.  My husband sat there and watched my face turn a lovely shade of pale green and felt so sorry for me that he cut off large parts of his “homewrecker” tortilla just so I would have something to eat! 

So, the moral of the story is sometimes there really ARE no healthy choices that are palatable, so you just have to do the best you can and resume your routine as soon as possible.  I have to say that I’m glad to be home and in control of what I cook and put in my mouth! 

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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. 

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