Monday, January 10, 2011

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Setting a Schedule

Once you start a fitness routine, the questions start to pop up: Am I doing all I can to maximize the results? First of all, you should know that spending hours and hours exercising is a complete waste of time, unless you are training for a major event like a marathon. The old way of losing fat and gaining muscle was long and strenuous, including "rest time" between events or sets. The new and more efficient way is to make a plan that works in a short amount of time.
The cardio MYTH: If you walk or run every day, you will lose the most weight in the least time. The "fat burning zone" is a less-than-optimal range that must be maintained for a long period of time to get the most effects.
The TRUTH: If you walk or run every day, your body will thank you with some weight loss, heart benefits, and an increase in metabolism through more mitochondria in the cell structure of the body. HOWEVER, the "fat burning zone" means that the percentage of calories burned at that zone are more fat cells than general calories. But in your body, a calorie is a calorie is a calorie. Burning more calories means burning more fat. Bottom line: work harder in a shorter period of time and you will burn more calories. Work yourself up a sweat. Increase your breathing. Work in difficult intervals. THIS is how the body burns more calories and increases stamina. Your body will continue to burn calories for a while after the workout, though the exact amount of time is not known. Hard work is really the key to a good cardio workout, and you don't have to do it for hours.
The weight lifting MYTH: Work one body part per day, 3 sets of heavy weights, and rest in between sets. Rest that body part for at least 24 hours after the workout.
The TRUTH: Working the muscles is a vital part to an exercise routine. The more muscle you have, the less fat you will have because muscle cells burn lots of calories. BUT, a workout that includes body-weight lifting, plyometrics, and resistance exercise in a way that keeps the body moving is the most efficient way to build muscle, keep the cardio up, and burn more calories. There are lots of programs out there based on the new truth, including Active II for Wii, P90X, Crossfit, and boot camp methods around the country.
The flexibility myth: If I stretch before and after my workout, that's enough flexibility and I'm good to go....if I remember to do it.
The TRUTH: Stretching before a workout is UNNECESSARY and could actually hurt your workout. Stretching after the workout is important, but a good exercise regimen includes a few minutes of flexibility exercise, Pilates, or yoga every week. Your joints and muscles will thank you for this.
How to work it all in: A good interval workout will include enough of everything to get you in great shape. Check for local classes in your area or purchase a program that lays it out for you. You can also alternate days of running or walking with muscle work. Just make sure to make a little time for flexibility, too. And, if a muscle group is sore, it is rebuilding. Do give it time to rebuild before stressing it again. This doesn't mean don't use the muscles, but do give them some time. The legs in particular need to be used when sore. Walk or run on sore legs to loosen them up and remember to do flexibility exercise.
I hope this helps put some things in perspective. Let me know if you have questions.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Shopping for New Year Fitness Goals

Ready to get moving? Well, you know you need some gear. May as well get it while the prices are right. Here is a list of the essential items. Check your closet first, and then hit the stores! Keep in mind that you probably don't need everything for the first day, but you probably need to at least get dressed for the workout.
1. Shoes. There are lots of foot types and shoe types. I would recommend that your basic shoe for most people would be a running shoe. Most cross trainers are too heavy, and running shoes are great for most types of exercise. Try on shoes by Adidas, Nike, Asics, and New Balance to find one that works best for you. Take a brisk walk or jog around the store before making a decision. If it feels like you are wearing nothing, then you probably found a good shoe. If you have specific foot problems that cause you pain, make sure you check with your podiatrist about inserts.
2. Clothes. Bulky cotton sweats won't do it. Nowadays, you will find lots of choices in breathable synthetics that adhere to the body well, wick away sweat, and don't get in the way. Adidas, Nike, and Champion have good options. Check Target for the C9 line; it's well priced and does the job well.
3. Home gym or fitness center? If you know you won't workout unless you go to a fitness center, do your shopping now while they are running specials. Find a gym with cardio theater, fitness classes, and a good training staff (check certifications by NASM, ACE, AFAA, AFTA, or ISSA). Also, do you need good childcare? Check out the facility for the kids. Check cleanliness in the facility and locker room. Need a pool? Specific classes? Don't waste money on a lesser facility that doesn't include everything you need. If you want to workout at home, or you know that working out at home is your best option for now, here are some basics to keep in your home:
- handheld weights: a heavy set and a light set (new exercisers go for a pair of tens and a pair of fives)
- exercise bands with handles: Gold's Gym is selling boxed sets this year at Walmart.
- Pilates/yoga mat: sticky mats work best
- balance ball: choose one that you can sit on and the knees bend at 90 degrees.
- workout videos or training systems: Wii Active, Wii Zumba, Wii Dance Workout, etc. optional
- planning to learn to run this year? Download a 5K training system on your computer or phone, such as
- Netflix membership. For $9 a month, you can instant stream tons of exercise videos by Crunch, Self Magazine, and others. And you'll never get bored of your system!
- check the ACE website for constant video updates and proper form information.
- optional equipment: a trainer watch. I like the Garmin Forerunner 60. It has a distance calculator, heart rate monitor, and calorie calculator. Keep track online with their Garmin Trainer system.
- optional: join a peergroup, like at
- running or biking: you need motivational music. Try the podcast for your ipod. Perfect beats to keep you moving.
- need a trainer? Check the ACE or IDEA website for a good one properly certified in your area.