Fit & Balanced: A Training Guide for All

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Are you ready to start working out on a regular basis but you’re not sure what to do?

Maybe you’ve been following a workout program but, for whatever reason, you are inconsistent or not getting the results you’d like. Or maybe the workouts you’ve tried have been geared to one exercise modality that you just can’t stand.

Well, look no further – today I’ll outline the most convenient and balanced fitness program that anyone, at any experience level, can stick to!

Day 1 –30 to 60 minutes strength training & mobility

Day 2 – 30 to 60 minutes cardio & active recovery

Day 3 – 30 to 60 minutes strength training & mobility

Day 4 – 30 to 60 minutes cardio & active recovery

Day 5 – 30 to 60 minutes strength training & mobility

Day 6 – 15 to 30 minutes interval training & active recovery

Day 7 – complete rest day

d11d36da94df967077e137592a80f25aFirst, just to clarify, the time of each workout will depend on the individual’s schedule and their level of experience. If you are planning to squat hundreds of pounds, you’re going to need at least 5 minutes between sets. However, if you learning squat mechanics with just your bodyweight, you’ll probably only need 30 seconds in between sets.

Plus, if you overcommit and develop the belief that a workout doesn’t count unless its 60 minutes, you may end up skipping workouts on busy days, rather than getting in 30 minutes of quality work to continue making progress.

The “Strength Training & Mobility” workouts start with a 5 minute warmup to wake up f42fd2699a2f96e23792fe1d41d2f0bbstabilizer muscles, improve movement patterns, and practice “prehab” exercises. Prehab exercises target muscles that tend to be tight, passive, or weak, leading to the most common injuries and imbalances (usually shoulder, knee, and lower back).

The rest of the workout will consist of 10 exercises, strengthening every major muscle group of the body. While we strengthen the muscles with these exercises, we also want to improve mobility. To do this, lift the weight fairly quickly, maybe in 1 to 2 seconds, but then make the lowering or returning phase last at least 4 seconds.

As we lift a weight, our muscles shorten, but as we lower the weight, the muscles lengthen, providing an active stretch to the muscles and tendons.

Below is the outline for the “Strength Training & Mobility” days.

Warmup:

BirdDog/Quadruped – 5 repetitions each side, holding outstretched position for 5 seconds each time

Deadbugs – 10 repetitions in all, holding outstretched position for 2 seconds while exhaling

Glute Bridge – 10 repetitions, holding top position for 1 second

Clamshells – green band around knees, 10 repetitions each side, 1 second hold per rep

External Rotations – 10 repetitions each side

Full Body Workout:

Squat – 3 sets of 8 to 20 repetitions.

Deadlift – 3 sets of 8 to 20 repetitions

Pushups –3 sets of 8 to 20 repetitions

Rowing / Back Pulling Motion – 3 sets of 8 to 20 repetitions

Single Leg Lunge or Squat – 2 sets of 8 to 20 reps

Single Leg Deadlift – 2 sets of 8 to 20 reps

Rear Shoulder Fly – 2 sets of 8 to 20 reps

Bicep Curl – 2 sets of 8 to 20 reps

Tricep Kickback – 2 sets of 8 to 20 reps

Side Plank – 2 sets of 10 to 30 second hold each side

And there you have it – 10 exercises, performed a few times each, that will ensure balanced development, injury prevention, and improved function for years to come!  

One thing I omitted from this program is specific tailoring based upon experience level, restrictions and injuries, etc. For example, a novice might perform the squats by sitting back and down onto a chair and standing back up. An intermediate trainee may perform the movement holding a weight in front of their chest and no chair. And an advanced individual may use a full barbell on their back loaded with hundreds of pounds.

Then, of course, there are many technique details that can’t be efficiently communicated in a blog. Whether keeping the knees out and feet flat on the floor during a squat, or tucking the elbows in towards the body during pushups, form is crucial. But unfortunately, the best way to convey this is through one-on-one work.

fitness-tips-for-beginner-or-newFor the “Cardio & Active Recovery” days, pick whatever form of conditioning is most entertaining for you. This can be running, hiking, riding a stationary bike in front of a television, etc. The point here is that you want the activity to be enjoyable enough that you can stick with it, but isn’t so difficult that you have trouble performing the next day’s workout. You can also practice some of the prehab movements from the Strength day, do some foam rolling and stretching, or attend a Yoga or Pilates class.

Just make sure you do something active for 30 to 60 minutes that leaves you feeling mobile and healthy!

Finally, try tohiit perform higher level conditioning, such as high intensity interval training (HIIT), at least one day a week. You can do 30 seconds of kettlebell swings with 1 minute rests, hill sprints, farmer walks with heavy weights in each hand, or intervals on a rowing machine – really whatever you want!

On the 7th day, marked as “Complete Rest”, you don’t need a highly structured workout, but don’t fear activity. Only the highest level athletes need a day where they do nothing at all. Go for a walk, do a little stretching, go to the beach and go for a swim.

The structure of this program includes 3 scheduled strength and mobility sessions, 3 scheduled cardiorespiratory / cardiovascular sessions, and 1 day where you don’t have to commit to any one thing beforehand.

This program will provide enough stimulus to improve heart and lung health, while improving strength, balance, mobility, and bone density, without resulting in over-training. Just make sure you eat healthy for the rest of the hours of the day outside of the gym!

And if you need any help learning the exercises and perfecting safe and effective technique, don’t hesitate to ask. Thanks for reading!

 

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Epidemiological Studies

I spend hours every day reading studies, articles, and researching health-related matters. When I find a new publication or exploration of a topic, I get excited to dive in. That being said, some studies and articles are more useful than others.

One type of study that is used frequently to make health claims and guide public policy is an “epidemiological study”. Epidemiology is the study of a set population, or group of people, to develop correlations or inferences.

The problem is that these do not prove anything. When we find a strong correlation between factors, we should use that as a starting point to conduct further research. An epidemiological study, by itself, should never be the basis for making health policies.

Let me give some examples.

Epidemiology suggests that soy is a healthy incorporation in a diet. This is due to the fact that Asian countries consume high amounts of soy on a regular basis and don’t experience the same health problems as Western nations.

However, no other factors are taken into account.

The soy that Asians consume has not been genetically modified to the same extent as ours, nor has it been grown in soils depleted of minerals. Also, most Asian dishes use fermented soy or the bean in its natural state.

Asian cultures consume more wild-caught fish (high in anti-inflammatory omega-3s), sea vegetables (loaded with vitamins and minerals), and opt for white rice, with less anti-nutrients and gut-damaging proteins than typical “heart-healthy” whole grains such as wheat and oatmeal.

Historically, Asians don’t consume as much processed food as Americans. They don’t cook in corn or canola oil, they don’t have packaged foods at every meal, and they don’t go out to eat as often.

And finally, they are far more active – walking, biking, and taking the stairs as part of daily life.

Because of these factors, we cannot confidently say that the consumption of soy in Asian countries is the cause of their better health.

When we look at soy mechanistically, we find phytoestrogens that have the potential to skew hormone levels, leading to fat-storage and growth of cancer cells. It is extremely high in inflammatory omega-6s. Take into consideration our growing practices, extensive refinement process, and consumption of soy byproducts, and soy consumption in the US no longer seems as safe.

Another example of epidemiology lacking substance:

In March of this year, there was a headline stating: “Animal protein-rich diets could be as harmful to health as smoking”. These news reports were based upon two studies: one epidemiological study of over 6000 adults and one study of mice in a laboratory.

The results of these studies suggested that a high protein diet (over 20% of calories) was “positively associated with diabetes-related mortality”. When you look at the numbers, one person in the “high-protein” group (consisting of over 1000 individuals) died from diabetes.

The lead researcher running this study owns a plant-derived protein supplement company…explaining the claim that only animal-protein is dangerous.

Some other issues:

There was no way to control for protein quality. There has never been a study showing negative outcomes from consumption of wild-caught fish, grass-fed beef, or eggs from pasture-raised chickens.

The mice that experienced growth of cancer tumors were implanted with melanoma cells before the study began. Plus, the study found that high protein consumption was “not associated with all-cause, CVD, or cancer mortality”. Therefore, the protein-cancer correlation was in fact disproved.

Finally, diet was self-reported. The average participant reported consuming 1,800 calories a day…30% lower than the national average. This suggests major under-reporting.

So, even though the study was riddled with flaws, and actually found no increased risk from animal-protein consumption, the results were phrased to dissuade individuals from consuming meat.

To get back to my original point – epidemiology is used too often to prove a pre-existing belief, promote a political agenda, or increase profits.

By itself, epidemiology is no different than trying to claim that the number of birds flying over a particular region somehow determines cancer rates in that area.

Certainly we should use any research tactic available to ask questions and form a hypothesis…but ultimately, we need to examine issues in every way possible.

Once we’ve investigated mechanisms, done cohort studies and some “food-diary” studies with pictures, it’s time to form a hypothesis and conduct a blinded, crossover, metabolic ward trial to draw some real conclusions!
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Enjoy Your Exercise!

In previous posts, I’ve talked about the importance of picking exercise that is enjoyable and not boring.

A new study showed that individuals ended up feeling unhappy and over consuming calories after activity that was defined as “exercise”. Study participants that were told they were walking for “pleasure” ended up feeling more positive about their time spent active, and made healthier nutritional choices for the remainder of the day.

For the complete article that discusses this study, please visit this link to The New York Times.

One interesting aspect that the study did not discuss was the role of cortisol, or stress levels, in the body. Sure, telling someone to “go out and exercise” may make their experience less enjoyable than telling them to “listen to music, stroll around, and sight-see”, but ultimately, we need to examine the mechanisms behind the difference.

As one of the last paragraphs of the article states:

“Just how, physiologically, our feelings about physical activity influence our food intake is not yet known, she said, and likely to be bogglingly complex, involving hormones, genetics, and the neurological circuitry of appetite and reward processing. But in the simplest terms, Dr. Werle said, this new data shows that most of us require recompense of some kind for working out. That reward can take the form of subjective enjoyment. If exercise is fun, no additional gratification is needed. If not, there’s chocolate pudding.”

I don’t know if it’s necessarily a compensation that’s required, but rather, more about finding the activity that is right for you.

I have clients that perform bodyweight exercises for 15 minutes a day in their office. I have clients that walk leisurely outdoors then perform a few movements with elastic bands. I have clients that prefer loading up a barbell and pushing their strength limits. I have clients that go through a one-hour session, spending the first 3rd on an aerobic machine, the second 3rd on exercises to improve strength and balance, and the last 3rd on flexibility and recovery work.

All these people experience incremental progress on a daily basis, and major improvements month-to-month. But, more importantly, they leave each session feeling like they accomplished something important that day, and not that they were simply “forced to exercise”.

To go back to my point about cortisol – if an activity is not enjoyable, it’s going to feel like a chore or a stressor. When our stress levels increase, our body does a few things.

First, it will hold onto body fat because the body wants to prepare itself for enduring “hard times” and sustaining life. Second, the body’s hunger-signaling will be altered to allow for additional calories to come in, to once again be stored as fat to ensure our survival through the stressful period.

Cortisol has many other functions but is better saved for a later post.

One last thing I can’t keep myself from drawing attention to, are the studies parameters for healthy and unhealthy food. They list a “chocolate bar and pudding” as unhealthy and a “cereal bar and applesauce” as healthy.

Certainly a cereal bar and applesauce can be healthier than a chocolate bar and pudding, but this is like saying that driving 75 MPH on a small side-road is safer than driving 100 MPH on the same road. Sure, one is marginally safer, but they both have very high likelihoods of a tragic outcome.

These are all refined, processed, and packaged foods that are not found in nature. Also, they are all sources of carbohydrates with next to no essential proteins or fats. All carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram and will turn to sugar in the blood. It doesn’t matter if we’re looking at applesauce or pudding…we’re still focusing on non-essential, man-made products.

If the two groups had truly healthy options, such as a large salad with salmon and avocado, topped with olive oil and red wine vinegar, it would be almost impossible for either group to overeat. The body needs proteins and fats, and while carbs are useful to boost athletic performance, they result in insulin spikes that interfere with leptin, causing abnormal hunger-signaling.

Ok, sorry, got a little side-tracked there!

The final takeaway from this post is: find an enjoyable and sustainable activity to improve your health!

Why Work With A Personal Trainer?

Personal training is a relatively new profession. A few decades ago, the only people that had trainers were athletes or models earning millions of dollars a year. But now, the fitness industry is one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy.

What changed?

Simply put, the public realized that more activity than our daily lives provided was necessary to live a healthy life. In addition, structuring physical activity long-term requires guidance by professionals trained in the human sciences.

Doctors are now recommending patients hire a trainer to help them get fit and stay active. We have started realizing that the standard advice promoting pharmaceuticals and refined foods is not helping the public. Doctors are now recommending patients with severe conditions to seek out the guidance of trainers and nutritionists. It’s becoming understood that personal trainers and nutritionists have more time and energy to dedicate to staying on top of new research and changing science.

But, without a doctors order, why would an individual seek out a personal trainer?

Goal Setting:

In a world filled with photo shopped models and over-sexualized media, it’s hard to figure out exactly what is healthy. Your trainer can help you specify realistic and healthy goals.

Getting Started:

There are millions of articles and suggestions detailing what to do for physical activity, and there are even more movements and specific exercises to utilize. A trainer can take your specific goals, limitations, history, preferences, and time constraints to tailor a program for you.

Education:

Most personal trainers have spent years studying the human body, movement patterns, and kinesiology. Some have educated themselves even further in the field of biomechanics or bio-molecular chemistry.
Keep in mind that not all education is equal though. Look for a trainer that has a college degree in the human sciences or a certification accredited by the NCCA (ACSM, NSCA, NASM, ACE, etc).

Empowerment:

Continuing from the last point, a properly educated trainer will be able to impart their knowledge to you, allowing you to structure your own routines and stay consistent over the long-term.

Rehabilitation & Avoiding Injury:

One final point regarding the education trainers go through – they will be able to help you recover from, or work around, any injuries, restrictions, or limitations you may have.
If you do not have any injuries or other issues, your trainer will ensure that your exercises are safe and effective, thereby avoiding any risk of injury from improper technique or overtraining.

Motivation & Support:

Your trainer will work with you to find what motivates you most! They will help keep you on track, providing a push when needed, or recommending a rest when necessary.
As previously mentioned, many personal trainers are up-to-date on the newest science involving nutrition and other factors, meaning they will be able to support you in every way to help ensure a healthy lifestyle.

Avoiding Boredom:

For many people, going through the same motions and exercises day-to-day will lead to loss of interest, and eventually lack of adherence. A good personal trainer will be able to keep your routines fresh enough to keep you focused, but still consistent enough to track progress.

Making Progress:

Finally, a personal trainer will be able to help you make constant progress over the course of your entire life.

The body will acclimate to any single stimulus in about 4-16 weeks, causing the individual to plateau. Many people will keep pushing, leading to injury, or simply assume they have reached their “limit”. However, if you have well-educated trainer, they will find a simple and effective way to make it possible for you to see continual progress.

There are countless studies proving the benefit of professional guidance, but a very telling and recent study showed that over the course of 10 weeks, individuals working with a trainer increased their strength by 10%, while those without a trainer experienced no improvement. The “novice affect” shows that most strength will be gained in the first 8 weeks of training, but this study was done on already fit and active individuals…yet they still made significant progress.

There are many other reasons to hire a personal trainer but these are the ones that come to mind from my time as a personal trainer.

Almost everyone has a doctor and a dentist, some people have an accountant or a lawyer, and others even have a masseuse or personal assistant. A personal trainer is just one more member of this team that works to serve and benefit you. The only difference with a personal trainer is that they can help keep you healthy for every minute of every day, for your entire life.

So, give it a try today! Look through the trainers available your local gym, investigate their credentials, and pick one you think you’d work best with. After that, the results will speak for themselves!