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Maintain proper rest

Proper Rest for Recovery and Growth

With all the effort into your workout and diet, did you realize that failing to add the proper amount of rest and recovery into your efforts can undermine and work against you?

Sleep is an important part of your body’s repair and maintenance efforts. For athletes, sleep is the time where the concentration of growth hormone in the body is at its highest. These hormones are the building blocks to your muscle recovery and growth.

How important is that good night’s sleep to your recovery?

A 2018 study performed by Uppsala University in Sweden took fat and muscle samples from 15 healthy young men on two separate mornings – one after a good night’s sleep and the other after they lay awake all night. After the sleepless night, the participants’ muscles showed signs of protein breakdown. Their fat tissue, in contrast, had elevated levels of proteins and metabolites that are involved in promoting fat storage.

Limited and insufficient sleep can have even more effects on your body than muscle health. If you are one who puts off getting adequate rest, here are other things you might encounter:

  • Memory issues
  • Impaired concentration
  • Mood changes
  • Weakened immune system
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Risk of diabetes
  • Weight gain
  • Risk of heart disease
  • Poor balance
  • Reduced sex drive

Now before you think that another shot of an energy drink solves all this…

Stimulants (caffeine, energy drinks, etc) aren’t enough to override your body’s need for sleep. In fact, these can make sleep deprivation worse by making it harder to fall asleep at night. Which, you guessed it… may make you end up in a cycle of insufficient sleep.

So what are the signs this may be an issue? One sleepless night, or one tired day is something we all experience. It is not the one time or rare occurrence that we are talking about. What you should watch out for are signs of:

  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Constant fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Concentration issues

And remember what you can tolerate as part of your routine, and how much sleep you need, is not a constant throughout your life. Just because you could push your limits in your 20’s does not mean those are your same limits later in life. As your body changes over time, so does your metabolism and other physiological aspects that will impact how much sleep you require to stay healthy, and see the benefits or your training efforts.

If you are in need of a few basic tips to manage your rest cycles, try these:

  1. Stick to a regular time for bed, it will keep your body on a schedule
  2. Do not over-sleep on the weekends, or off days, as this too will impact your body’s ability to manage its rests cycles
  3. Be careful with naps; they are fine, but too many, too long, or at the wrong time, and you can mess up your body’s sleep cycle
  4. During the day, get as much exposure to light as possible; this not only helps the body develop vitamin D, but also helps tell it to be awake
  5. At night, limit the amount of exposure to bright lights – like television, and computer screens – this will help ensure your body knows it is time to shut down
  6. When it is time to sleep, keep the room dark
  7. Try to avoid physical activities such as exercise within three hours of your expected bed time – exercise activates your metabolism, which in turn makes it hard to sleep
  8. If you do want to add an activity to help you rest, there are simple yoga techniques that you may find beneficial,
  9. And, limit caffeine and alcohol at night; one clearly does not work well with trying to rest, and while the other might make you relax, it can interfere with your sleep cycle once you are asleep

If you are looking for more advise and understanding on the importance of sleep and recovery, we recommend you try these resources by Sleep Help:

As we always end our sections with Train Hard, in this case…

– Rest Hard!

Cardio and Weight Training

Are you looking for a lean and fit physique? Trying to get the most out of your program to shed unwanted fat and develop lean muscle? Many believe cardio and weight training as two distinct types of exercise that do not work together in a fitness program – but, when you incorporate them into your program, you create a powerful tool for conditioning and fat loss. So forget about the myth that they work against each other, and let’s be clear – you should do both to create the best fitness program, no matter your goals.

How do cardio and weight training impact fat loss?

Cardio

Several studies have shown that a certain level of cardio can achieve more fat loss than weight training. The continuous movement of cardio at high intensity can burn calories at a higher level than weight training. But, before you ditch the weight training, know that this is not a universal statement towards all weight training programs. And, not a universal statement towards all cardio programs.

Weight Training

Strength and resistance training will build muscle, simply put. Muscle tissue has a higher metabolic rate than fat so having more muscle raises your resting metabolic rate, which in turn burns calories. But, studies have shown the differences are not significant. However, before you wonder why bother with weights, remember that it is the weight training that builds and maintains your lean muscle mass – not cardio. So while the fat loss effect may be similar, you will not have a lean, muscled body through cardio alone. Lastly, weight training generates what is known as the after-burn effect – this is the energy your body burns after the workout ends, and can last for several hours. This is the period of time post-workout when your body is continuing to burn calories to repair and build new muscle tissue to cope with the weight training regiment.

So for an effective weight loss program, to maintain and build lean muscle, and maximize your fat burning, you should be doing both cardio and weight training. Moreover, when you lose weight it tends to be a combination of fat and muscle – so a workout that helps maintain and build muscle through weight training will help ensure you minimize any loss to your muscle gains through your fat loss efforts. But understand, you will lose some muscle during periods of weight loss. This is why professional body builders cycle through bulking and cutting programs -they need to maximize the muscle mass, before trimming it down through programs targeting fat loss.

How do you put cardio and weight training together?

This is the age old question – cardio before weights? Weights before cardio? Together, or separate workouts? The answer depends on your goals. You likely have a fitness objective for your workouts that can be simply put as a cardio goal or muscle goal. Or think of it this way, are you trying to get better at your running times, or gain muscle for beach season. Over simplified, but go with us on this.

You want to be able to put as much energy as possible into the part of training that is specifically targeted to your goals. So if your goal is cardio based, you should prioritize cardio, and then move onto weight training. The reverse is true for building lean mass – start with the weights, for maximum use of your energy, and finish with cardio.

For all around fitness, programs that involve CrossFit bring what might be the best of both worlds together – but just understand by focusing on resistance and cardio at the same time, you are not maximizing either. Nothing is wrong with that, just understand the mechanics of the program you implement.

Tips for Combining Cardio and Weight Training

  1. Put your goal based program first, then add the other.
  2. Use heavy, compound weight exercises – high weight, low rep. These incorporate multiple major muscle groups, and will work more muscle and burn more calories than muscle specific exercises.
  3. Incorporate HIIT or interval training into your cardio program. These will strengthen and develop your endurance and oxygen capacity, and enable you to improve faster than steady state cardio exercises.
  4. Divide the elements into separate workouts if you want to fully focus on each program. If you want to have full sessions, you will need to allow your body time to recover in order to fully benefit from the other program. Lifting weights for an hour and then going into a full cardio program is not an effective training method. Split the workouts into two-a-day splits, or put them on separate days and rotate your schedule.
  5. Record your training results and wokouts in order to adjust the cardio and weight training elements to ensure continued progress. It will likely take some alterations to your program to get the most of combining cardio and weight training. By recording your workout results, you can ensure you are making adjustments based on your actual performance, rather than perception. Remember, how you feel is not always the same as how you performed.

Cardio and weight training are not the mortal enemies that so many make them out to be. If properly merged, they will be an effective tool to improve your fitness, build and maintain lean muscle, and produce fat loss.

– Train Hard!

Overtraining Risks

Yes, there is such a thing as too much training. While we all know the value of training, and pushing yourself to achieve your fitness goals, even the best intended workout routines and regiments can be overdone. If you are not allowing your body the proper rest and nutrients it needs to recover and develop from all your efforts, you risk developing overtraining syndrome.

Overtraining syndrome is a condition that occurs when the body is pushed (through exercise) beyond its natural ability to recover. It can be easy to confuse tiredness with overtraining. If you are routinely working out, you can expect a certain amount of exhaustion with your program. Overtraining syndrome is when you are training past this point, and not enabling your body to recover. Before you think this is not an issue – there are some aspects you need to know about how overtraining can create risks to your health.

Overtraining Risks

1. Elevated Resting Heart Rate

A healthy resting heart range (RHR) is 60-100 beats per minute and the more you exercise, the lower your RHR will be. Highly trained athletes may have RHR ranges in the 40s.

However, in periods of overtraining, you might notice that your RHR is 10-15 beats per minute higher than usual. There are a host of issues that can come with an elevated resting heart rate – and if the condition is prolonged, you may find it takes longer to recover.

2. Insomnia

Killing yourself at the gym can actually make it harder to get to sleep. Sounds counterintuitive, but too much exercise can actually limit your ability to get the all important rest you need to recover from the same exercise. You end up creating a viscous circle if you do not recognize if this is happening to you.

If you are going to bed tired but unable to get to sleep and this coincides with an increase or prolonged training frequency, you may be over training.

Take a few days away from the gym in order to recover and let your hormones and central nervous system restore their equilibrium.

3. Muscular Soreness

This is not post-workout muscle soreness; it’s normal have some level of soreness for a day or two after training.

However, if these aches last more than three days, it’s probably a sign that your body has not adequately been able to recover and you need to consider taking a break in training. Another sign to watch for is if this soreness is in areas you have not trained – or just all over. This too is a sign you are not resting sufficiently after training.

4. Poor Performance

A drop in your performance is one of the key signs of overtraining. You have a goal, and you train hard to reach it – but you can unwind all that work if you do not allow your body to rest. Strength, power, speed, and stamina will all be affected if your body cannot rest. You may find that increasing your strength, losing or gaining weight, or your other fitness goals’ progress slows down or plateaus. If you find that your workouts are just getting worse, and you have other symptoms, consider time off. It might be only a few days, it might be a week. Your body is telling you it needs rest, and if you want to keep your fitness gains, you would be wise to listen.

Signs of Overtraining

These are in some ways similar to the risks, but more importantly also signs that you might be overtraining. Watch for them, and you can avoid even getting to the risks!

1.Excessive Fatigue

Fatigue will accumulate in a body that never has a chance to fully recover from previous workouts. Moreover, sustained energy expenditure leads to something called “low energy availability,” which means that the body is consistently pulling from its own energy stores (carbs, protein, fat). This can be the result of too much training or too little fueling.

2.Loss of Appetite

A hormone imbalance can also affect hunger and satiety mechanisms. More training should stimulate more appetite, but the physiological exhaustion of overtraining syndrome can actually lead to appetite suppression.

3.Metabolic Imbalances

Long-term low energy availability may lead to nutrient deficiencies, such as iron deficiency anemia, which have the potential to harm both health and performance. Medical complications can also involve the cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, endocrine, nervous or reproductive systems (e.g., menstrual cycle disturbances in women).

4.Increased Perceived Effort During Workouts

Not only can overtraining decrease performance, it can also make seemingly effortless workouts feel unusually difficult. A clear sign of this is an abnormally elevated heart rate during exercise or throughout the day. If you are experiencing overtraining syndrome, you may find that it takes longer for your heart rate to return to normal after a workout.

5. Insomnia or Restless Sleep

Sleep provides the body time to rest and repair itself. But overproduction of stress hormones caused by overtraining may not allow you to wind down or completely relax, making sleep much less effective (which compounds chronic fatigue and moodiness).

Self-Diagnosis

There are several ways you can objectively measure some signs of overtraining. A common and easy method is to record your heart rates over time. Track your RHR. If your RHR increases and you experience other symptoms, you may heading into overtraining syndrome.

Treatment

If you suspect you are overtraining, start with the following:

  • Reduce or stop the exercise and allow yourself a few days of rest.
  • Drink plenty of fluids and alter your diet if necessary.
  • Get a massage that can help relax you mentally and physically.
  • Try cross training as it often helps athletes who are overworking certain muscles or suffering from mental fatigue.

Final Thoughts

If you are following a proper training plan, then rest, recovery, and good nutrition should already part of your routine. Remember, there is no need for high intensity or exhausting training all the time. If you look into any professional athlete’s training program, you will find they all incorporate off days and rest – and you should follow their example. You can cause more damage, and slow your results by neglecting the rest your body will need to accommodate your training.

-Train Hard…and Train Smart!

Foam Rolling Benefits

You train, eat healthy, get plenty of rest, and yet your muscles still get sore and tight. It can be frustrating to feel great about your workout, but still have the aches and tightness that can come with your training success.

That is where the magic of foam rolling can help.

For those of you that have not tried foam rolling, there are many benefits:

  1. Increased blood flow
  2. Improved movement
  3. Better range of motion
  4. Improved recovery time

Foam rolling is a myofascial release technique. In simplest terms, myofascial release is a process of applying tension to the muscles over a period of time that allows them to relax. This in turn improves blood flow to the muscles, which helps bring in nutrients that help muscles recover from training.

Self-massage with a foam roller is a great way to achieve myofascial release. There are many foam rollers available, so locating one is not too hard. Whether you get one that is very firm, or soft, is going to depend on your needs. While there are articles that advocate one form over the other, the end is really your preference and the results that you obtain. If within your budget, we recommend two – one that is firm, and one in a soft-to moderate range. In this manner, you can use the roller that best suits your particular muscle need.

When to foam roll

You can foam roll any time. It can be part of your morning wake-up routine, at the end of a long day to help relax, or added to the beginning or end of a training session. Adding it to the beginning of a training session will help warm up your muscles and improve the blood flow prior to your exercises. After your workout can help smooth back out tight muscles that have been stressed during your training motions. Unlike stretching before a workout, which can lessen the degree of muscle contraction capacity that will then reduce your lifting ability, foam rolling will not likely degrade your workouts. Moreover, warming up your muscles before a workout will help reduce the risks of injury.

How to foam roll

The back: Foam rolling your back is likely the easiest muscle group to work, and in addition to warming up your muscles, also can reduce stress. The motion is simple, place the foam roller on the floor, and lie back onto it. Using your legs, roll your body along the roller, focusing on tight, sore areas. You can rock your body to focus on specific sides, cross your arms in a hugging motion to put more emphasis between your back and the roller, or stretch out your arms to increase the muscle stretch. Be careful to support your neck, and avoid putting excessive stress directly on your spine.  As with any physical activity, listen to your body. There are tight sore muscles and physical pain – pay attention to the difference.

The legs: The sides of the thighs are a typical area that benefits from foam rolling, as it is often tight and can lead to injury if not properly maintained. The IT band, which runs from your hips to your knees will benefit from the myofascial release, as will your lower back. While lying on your side, work the roller up and down your outer thigh. Do not be surprised if this is painful – this area can be tight! Use your hands and feet to balance your body as you roll. Let the weight of your body pressing into the roller do all the work – pause on tight areas, and just let the muscle relax.

For your quadriceps, you will lie face down. Put the roller either at your hips, or just above your knees. Using your arms, move your body to roll the roller up and down your legs. Pause on the tight spots, and let them relax. If you are in something like a cobra yoga pose, then you have the motion for this one right.

The calves: You would be surprised how often these are tight. This is an easy area to address with a foam roller. Sit upright with your legs straight in front. Place the roller under your lower legs, and using your arms, move your legs up and down the roller. Like the thighs and back, let the weight of your body press into the roller. If you need to push more into the roller, you can work one leg at a time, while you push your leg into the roller with your hands. As always, pause on the tight sore spots, and let the weight of your body smooth out the muscle.

The shoulders: These can require a bit of practices, but they too will benefit from foam rolling. Like with your outer thighs, lie on your side, with the foam roller just below your shoulder, where it rounds out back into your arm. Using your hands and legs, move your shoulder onto the roller. Do not go to far, our you will come off the roller! Just work the shoulder slowly, letting your weight do all the work.

Other body parts: The method of foam rolling is the same – steady rolling pressure. Here is where we have to stop giving specifics, and just say to you “figure out the pose, and roll.” There are also many hand held rolling devices that you can buy to help with smaller muscle groups.

By foam rolling, your muscles will get the benefits of myofascial release, you will see improvements in your training, and will likely overall feel better. Best of all, you can obtain this for only a small investment in personal training equipment.

-Train Hard!

Spot Reduction: Busting a Myth

We’ve all seen the ads and programs promising to shed fat off those problem areas. They promise to show off your abs, thighs, arms, and just about every other part of your body. Many even come with money back guarantees – so they must be true, right? Sorry to tell you, but you can pop those pills and feel the burn for endless hours – but those problem areas are likely going to remain problem areas.

So what is the spot reduction myth?

The concept of spot reduction follows the myth that by working a particular muscle group to an extreme level, or in a different manner, you can reduce the fat around that area. While focusing exercises on a particular body part may result in reshaping that area by developing the associated muscles, those exercises are not going to burn fat solely from that area.

First, let’s understand the caloric impact of focusing on specific muscle groups rather than large muscle groups, and compound movements. Working only specific muscles, such as your abs or thighs is not going to burn as many calories as when you utilize large muscle groups in compound movements. Or, simply put, you will burn more calories performing squats, which work thighs, hips, buttocks, quadriceps, hamstrings, in addition to your core, than with an exercise that uses solely your abs – which is a smaller muscle group.

But you say wait, I am still burning calories – so I lose fat in those areas, yes? Not really. Your body burns fat from all sources, not just specific zones. So while people will find that they gain and lose fat in certain areas more than others, in general, your body will burn fat from the whole, not a specific zone.

So if you are trying these spot reduction methods and programs, you are most likely going to achieve frustration rather than results.

If you want to shed fat, first, understand that your diet is going to account for about 80% of your goal. Second, you need to take that time to derive your nutrient requirements, to ensure that you are both taking in healthy food options to fuel your fitness efforts and create a calorie deficit that will enable you to burn fat, and lastly, engage in a fitness program that is designed to put as much of your body to work as possible, to maximize your fat burning muscle potential.

Will it take time – yes, if done properly. But the results will be worth it. You will have lean muscle and lower body fat to show off your work. In the end, save your money, and stay away from the programs promising spot reduction. Remember, it’s a myth. And while anything is always possible, you are unlikely to find yourself the exception the general rules of human physiology.

Be smart, and…

Train Hard!

Dress for the weather

Cold Weather Exercise

Exercise should be enjoyed year round. The colder winter months should not stop your efforts to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle. However, with the onset of colder and wetter days, you need to be aware of steps to take to ensure you are protecting your body from risks associated from cold weather. With a few simple steps or changes to your exercise routine, you can be sure to continue your fitness goals through the winter. Moreover, exercise in the winter can offset the feelings of boredom or depression known to be associated with shorter days, and increasing amounts of time inside.

So here are some ways to stay safe, so you can exercise through those colder days:

  1. Dress in lose layers. Tight clothes can restrict blood flow, making it harder for your body to regulate its temperature. Moreover, loose layers offer the advantage of trapping pockets of air that act as natural insulation against cold weather and enable you to quickly make small adjustments to your insulation (by removing layers) should you find yourself overheating.
  2. Wear an outer waterproof layer on wet days. Winter is not like the summer, when wet days can feel good against rising temperatures. In contrast, wet clothes in winter months or cold weather can work to speed up the process by which your body loses heat, and increases your risk of hypothermia.
  3. Wear reflective elements. Colder months are known for shorter days. If you are out during darker hours, be sure to stay safe by wearing either reflective clothing or items.
  4. Wear a hat, scarf, and gloves. Be sure to insulate all the areas where your body can lose heat. There are several brands of outdoor exercise clothing lines that offer insulated gloves, hats, and scarves for exercise that are both light weight and easy to carry if you over heat and need to take them off.
  5. Take adequate fluids prior to exercise. You may not realize it, but even in colder weather your body loses moisture in sweat. To avoid the risk of dehydration, be sure to consume adequate fluids prior to and during exercise. You may not feel like you need fluids in colder weather, but you do.
  6. Check the weather conditions. Last thing you want in colder weather is to be colder or wetter than you planned. Always check the weather conditions for your intended exercise time, and plan appropriately. And accept that there are some conditions that will make it smarter to remain inside.
  7. Warm up prior to exercising. Unlike warmer weather, your body can be stiffer with less blood flow in colder weather. Stretch out your muscles, do some low intensity jumping jacks, or high knees – just get the blood going, and thus warming your body, prior to hitting the cold weather. This does not mean work up a sweat – just spend a few minutes loosening and warming up.

Hypothermia Risks and Detection

As with any exposure to cold weather, even if properly prepared, you need to be aware of the risks of hypothermia. Hypothermia is a potentially dangerous drop in body temperature, usually caused by prolonged exposure to cold temperatures. The risk of cold exposure increases as the winter months arrive. However, you should be aware that any time you are exposed to cold temperatures, such as a mountain hike in spring or cold wet winds during a summer ocean sailing trip, you can also be at risk of hypothermia.

Normal body temperature averages 98.6 degrees. With hypothermia, core temperature drops below 95 degrees. In severe hypothermia, core body temperature can drop to 82 degrees or lower.

Hypothermia symptoms for adults include:

  • Shivering, which may stop as hypothermia progresses (shivering is actually a good sign that a person’s heat regulation systems are still active. )
  • Slow, shallow breathing
  • Confusion and memory loss
  • Drowsiness or exhaustion
  • Slurred or mumbled speech
  • Loss of coordination, fumbling hands, stumbling steps
  • A slow, weak pulse
  • In severe hypothermia, a person may be unconscious without obvious signs of breathing or a pulse

Hypothermia is a potentially life-threatening condition that needs emergency medical attention.

If medical care isn’t immediately available:

  • Remove any wet clothes, hats, gloves, shoes, and socks
  • Protect the person against wind, drafts, and further heat loss with warm, dry clothes and blankets
  • Move gently to a warm, dry shelter as soon as possible
  • Begin rewarming the person with extra clothing. Use warm blankets. Other helpful items for warming are: an electric blanket to the torso area and hot packs and heating pad on the torso, armpits, neck, and groin; however, these can cause burns to the skin. Use your own body heat if nothing else is available
  • Take the person’s temperature if a thermometer is available
  • Offer warm liquids, but avoid alcohol and caffeine, which speed up heat loss. Don’t try to give fluids to an unconscious person

In the end, cold weather should be anything but a barrier to your fitness efforts. Plan, adjust, and be smart. And most importantly, know the risks. So throw on your shoes, layer up properly, hydrate, warm up, and…

-Train Hard!

Proper Exercise Form

Good form is critical to both safe exercise and properly developing efficient movement mechanics and conditioning. Whether you are performing exercise consisting of running, resistance training, yoga, cross-fit, swimming, or any sport – developing and maintaining good form is essential.

When you perform movement with good form, your body is working as an effective unit. By using proper techniques, you will feel control of your body and motion, and reduce wasted motions that decrease physical effectiveness and increase the chances of injury.

Achieving Good Form

First, there is no one “perfect” or “absolute” way to move. There are several factors that come into play – the level of difficulty of the motion, level of resistance, and specific body mechanics of the individual performing the movement.

Take the basic bench press for example – while there are some constants in what defines good form for a bench press – level grip, evenly raising the bar, keeping your torso on the bench, not over arching your back, etc – there are specifics such as hand width, angle of arm to torso, exact position on chest to lower the bar, etc that will depend on the individual –  both physically and their goals.

What you are looking for in your motion is steady, controlled movements that work with the mechanics of your body – not against them. If you have to arch your body, swing to build momentum, cannot hold your arms or legs in stable positions in resistance training; or, use uneven strides, excessively swing your arms, make quick directional changes without proper feet planting, etc in cardio or sports activities, you are not demonstrating good form.

Here are three things to introduce into your training to maintain good form:

  1. Reduce the level. This could mean decreasing speed, repetitions, or the weight load – of a combination. Continuing to practice or exercise with poor form is only going to reduce your progress and increase your risk of injury. Get rid of your ego, and reduce what you are doing. The numbers, whatever they are, will come back over time, and with better form.
  2. Accept frustration. Good form, in any physical activity, means taking the time to master the motion. This is not going to come overnight – and not without mistakes. Be willing to make mistakes, and be patient.
  3. Consider a trainer or coach. Find someone who can assess your skills, and give you honest feedback on how to improve your form. And sorry, but this coach is not YouTube. Find someone who is trained in your exercise element, and have them assess YOU (something YouTube cannot do). And be willing to accept their views. No matter how long you may have been doing the activity, they may see something you cannot feel.

Above all, remember that changing and improving your form takes time. Bad habits are hard to overcome. But your efforts will pay off, you will move more efficiently, lift more, move faster, and increase your body’s resistance to injury. Stick with it – good form is worth the effort.

-Train Hard!

 

The Work vs Fitness Battle

It’s that challenge we all face – balancing work, life, fitness, and eating well within limited hours in the day. If you feel like that is an impossible goal, you are not alone. Between the hours we work, time commuting, errands, family time, and all the other parts of our lives, how do we manage a successful fitness regimen? If you move away from fixating on what cannot get done, and instead focus on how to balance realistic fitness goals in your available time, you will find that you can win the battle between work and fitness.

First, accept and understand your realities. Second, accept that you have time to work out. Third, accept that working out does not always mean being in a gym, pounding out weights or cardio sets.

Do not think of your workout as an “all or nothing.” Starting with that mentality will set you up for failure. Instead, strive for a realistic routine that accommodates your schedule. Moreover, planning is an important part of maintaining fitness against a busy lifestyle. Lastly, be creative in how you exercise and look beyond the gym.

So let’s take a look at how this can be applied…

Fitness Options Outside of the Gym

Maybe you have not realized it yet, but you can work out anywhere. Whether at home, stuck in the office, or traveling between hotel rooms, you have options. Here is a basic list to consider for training outside of the gym:

  1. Body weight exercises. These require only you, and sufficient floor space. Think back to your days at school and you know most of the exercises – push ups, jumping jacks, burpees, abdominal crunches, mountain climbers, running in place, and others. These all use nothing more than your body, and if you put together a circuit, you can get a good 20 minute workout into any schedule. It will make you feel better, keep you mentally focused, alleviate stress, and work towards your fitness goals.
  2. Cardio anywhere. Have a pair of work out shoes? Guess what, then you can do cardio anywhere. Take a brisk walk, run through a park, do stair intervals, and just be creative. Again, you might have your preferences, but if you throw on some gym clothes and your shoes, you can get in an easy 20 minutes of cardio into your day.
  3. Yoga. We’ve talked about the benefits of yoga before. But yoga is also an easy fitness element to incorporate into a busy day. It takes little space, and if you use the basic moves we suggested in our yoga article, you can get a solid 20 minute yoga workout done.
  4. HIIT. Perfect for a 20 minute workout, the idea is that you do short periods of all-out work followed by short periods of active rest to make the body work harder than it does during steady-state cardio. You can factor this into body weight exercises, cardio, or a combination of both.
  5. Portable fitness gear. You’ve seen these – straps, bands, door attachments, etc. They are low cost, easily fit into your car trunk, suitcase, office drawer, or any small spot. A small investment, but they offer more options and can be brought out and put away in little time.
  6. Stretch at the desk. Push your keyboard away, relax, and go through a stretching cycle at your desk. Work on your neck, shoulders, and back. Stand up and stretch out your arms to expand your torso. Breathe steady, and repeat. Do this for 10 minutes. You will feel fresh, mentally alert, and you will help maintain healthy blood circulation.

Time

Now you’ve probably noticed we keep mentioning 20 minutes. That is not by chance. While not an optimal time for a workout duration, it is highly likely you have 20 minutes in any busy day you can put towards a fitness program. So think of it in that matter – get your mind around 20 minutes. Stop thinking about the 90 minute routine you cannot get done, and feeling defeated. Think small, and start there. We are willing to bet that after figuring out how to get 20 minutes into your day, it will grow to longer times very quickly as you find ways in your schedule to make fitness happen.

Speaking of schedule, you need to be be mindful of your schedule, and plan ahead if you want to win the fitness vs work battle. What do we mean? We mean the little things that can derail your efforts. No clothes on hand – then pack your bag the night before, so you do not forget when rushing to get ready for work – and put it in your car or by the door. Prep your meals and pack a lunch. Can you eat at your desk? Can you avoid the time it takes to go get food during the day that you could otherwise give to a fitness routine?

Oh, and is your favorite show on? Well push the coffee table to the side, and break out into a series of exercise mini-circuits. Make it fun – every commercial is butterfly kicks!

Just remember, you have the time.

Food and Nutrition

As busy as our days can become, we need to keep mindful of a healthy diet, particularly if we plan to incorporate a fitness program or exercise on any level. While easy at times, this can be more challenging when you have long work days. You need to keep your body fueled with proper, macronutrient balanced meals. If not, you will feel sluggish, possibly slowly develop health risks, and in those busy hours, likely have little energy or inclination to squeeze in a fitness routine.

If you plan your meals, you can avoid this. Wait, you say, I do not have time to meal prep! Relax, we said plan your meals, not prep the meals. Again, we know you are busy, but you can still think ahead. Keep healthy snacks in your bag or desk. Protein powder tubs have a nice way of finding spaces to hide. Stop ordering the greasy double cheeseburger for lunch – go for the healthy option. No not salad, but we’ll bet there is chicken or fish somewhere on the menu too!

Sleep

Sleep is your body’s primary recovery mechanism. You need it on both a physical and mental level. All your hard fitness training is best achieved with adequate sleep. So whether you are hitting the gym, or doing shorter versions to accommodate your schedule, remember to always get adequate rest.

Remember, you can build muscle and keep the fat off even with a competing schedule. Your fitness efforts do not have to lose out. Make your workout something you will enjoy, and tell yourself you will get it done – schedule it, plan it, and make it happen. Every exercise, every rep, every session – whether in the gym, or at home at the end of a long day is a step towards achieving and maintaining your fitness goals.

-Train hard!

Simple Yoga to Improve Your Fitness

You lift, run, and do cross-fit – but what about yoga? Not for me, you say? Well have you considered that incorporating yoga into your fitness routine has the following benefits:

  1. Improves flexibility
  2. Builds muscle strength
  3. Improves your posture
  4. Prevents cartilage and joint break down
  5. Protects your spine
  6. Improves bone health
  7. Increases blood flow
  8. Drains your lymphs and boosts your immunity
  9. Increases your heart rate
  10. Lowers your blood pressure

Interested? Good.

What Is Yoga?

First, yoga is not stretching. Most yoga postures are a series of focused isometric contractions coupled with specific breathing patterns that yield gains in flexibility, mobility, and strength.

Anyone can start yoga, and if already training it can greatly benefit your overall fitness results. Even more, you do not need to dedicate all your fitness time to yoga  to get the benefits. You can incorporate yoga into your routine any day, and even on rest days, using dozens of variations and preparatory poses that can meet you where you are at, regardless of age, injury, or athletic goal.

A Routine Anyone Can Follow

You can bring yoga into your routine anytime. However, in order to utilize yoga postures for the purpose of gaining strength and increasing performance, practice them after your training session so that your body has at least 24 hours to recover from the poses. While restorative, yoga is still a very intense physical practice and your body, especially your nervous system, needs time to recover from it.

Recommended Routine For Strength Training

After your workout, or on rest days (if resting at least two days), find a good spot with room to perform the asanas (poses), and hold each for 30 seconds. Rest, and repeat for a total of five cycles. Remember to keep your breathing steady throughout the poses.
  1. ChairChair yoga Pose
  2. Warrior IIWarrior II posture
  3. Warrior III – this is especially good to increase balance and strengthen legsYoga Pose Warrior 3
  4. Extended triangle – uses blocks as needed – strengthen legs, abs, especially lateralsYoga Extended Triangle Pose
  5. Extended side angle – uses blocks as needed – strengthen legs, abs, especially lateralsExtended Side Angle Pose
  6. Plank – whatever variation works – abs, arms and shouldersDolphin Plank yoga pose
  7. Downward dog – lower back, arms and shouldersYoga pose downward-facing dog
  8. Sphinx – lower back and counteracts the downward dogSphinx yoga pose

As with all fitness routes, you might need to invest in some basic equipment to help out such as yoga mats, blocks, or straps.

 

CoreTek Fitness always stresses: consider your medical condition and check with a physician if you are concerned about the impact of any fitness program.
Try this basic routine, or go online and build your own. There are plenty of qualified sources you can study to create a yoga program that fits your needs. The goal is to improve your fitness, and that means doing what is best for you. Yoga, if properly incorporated, is one of many ways to achieve your goals.
-Train hard!

Intermittent Fasting

You’ve been working hard in the gym. Lifting smart, training hard, and trying to keep your diet on track – yet those pounds are not coming off and those muscles are not showing up the way you want. If this is you, you’re not alone.

What do you do? You start looking for how to lose that extra fat without sacrificing your hard earned muscle, and you find references to intermittent fasting all over the internet. Drop pounds, loose weight, preserve muscle, and all the other aspects are there – and yet, despite so much published on the topic, there still seems to be a good deal of confusion on what this is, how and why it works, and how to do it.

CoreTek Fitness understands the confusion – and as always, we want to give you sound and clear advice to support your goals and see you achieve your fitness potential. So buckle up, as we are about to give you the scoop on intermittent fasting.

Let’s start with the science:

Intermittent fasting is not a diet, it’s a pattern of eating. It’s a way of scheduling your meals so that you get the most out of them. Intermittent fasting doesn’t change what you eat, it changes when you eat.

Intermittent fasting works by working with the body’s natural physiological and chemical responses to being in either a fed or fasted state. Also, think of your body as having two tanks of fuel – primary and reserve. The primary is from the food you eat; the reserve is fat.

Your body is in the fed state when it is digesting and absorbing food. The fed state starts when you begin eating and for most people lasts for three to five hours as your body digests and absorbs nutrients from this food. When you are in the fed state, it’s very hard for your body to burn fat because your insulin levels are high. Or simply, your body never needs to touch the reserve tank, because the primary tank is always full.

After that digestion and absorption period, your body goes into what is known as the post–absorptive state – simply put, your body isn’t processing a meal. The post–absorptive state lasts until 8 to 12 hours after your last meal. Only after this, does your body enter the fasted state. At this point, for energy, you body is turning to that reserve tank – fat – for its energy source.

In this fasted state, your body can burn fat that has been inaccessible during the fed state.

If you consider most people’s meal schedule, and that we don’t enter the fasted state until 12 hours after our last meal, it’s rare that our bodies are in this fat burning state. This is why many people who start intermittent fasting will lose fat without changing anything in their diet or exercise routine. Fasting puts your body in a fat burning state that you rarely make it to during a normal eating schedule.

Moreover, a study by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) suggests that intermittent fasting could be the key to longevity.

A group of scientists from the NIA, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana found that increasing time between meals improved the overall health of male mice and lengthened their lives compared to mice that ate more frequently. Health benefits were seen regardless of what the mice ate or how many calories they consumed.

Another study by the Longevity Institute in 2015, also conducted with mice, found that four days of a diet that mimicked fasting extended lifespans, lowered visceral fat, reduced cancer incidence and rejuvenated the immune system. The study later saw similar reductions in disease risk factors in humans.

How to Conduct Intermittent Fasting:

As you can tell by now, the goal of intermittent fasting is to get your body to go at least 12 hours without food, and then have to exert some level of energy. Whether this is your normal job, house errands, or working out – you need to burn energy in this state. There is no one specific ratio everyone needs to follow – you will need to do what is best for you. Above all, remember that fasting offers infinite flexibility. You can fast for as long or short as you like, but here are some popular regimens. Generally, shorter fasts are done more frequently.

16:8: This involves daily fasting for 16 hours. Sometimes this is also referred to as an 8-hour eating ‘window’. You eat all your meals within an 8-hour time period and fast for the remaining 16 hours. Generally, this is done daily or almost daily.

For example, you may eat all your meals within the time period of 11:00 am and 7:00 pm. Generally, this means skipping breakfast. You generally eat two or three meals within this 8-hour period.

20:4: This involves a 4-hour eating window and a 20-hour fast. For example, you might eat between 2:00 pm and 6:00 pm every day and fast for the other 20 hours. Generally, this would involve eating either one meal or two smaller meals within this period.

Key Points to Remember When Fasting:

  1. Listen to your body – if you are feeling tired, sluggish, not well, hungry, etc – then eat! Yes, there is going to be an adjustment period to any fasting schedule you will need to push through, but we are not talking about this. If your body is giving off alarms – break the fast!
  2. You will maximize the your body’s use of fat by exercising fasted. This is when your body will need the most fuel for exercise and recovery.
  3. You still need to consume your full macronutrient balanced calorie levels. As we said, intermittent fasting is about when to eat, not what to eat. So if you need 2,400 calories a day, then you still need 2,400 calories a day – you just have less time to consume it.

Who should NOT fast?

You should not fast if you are:

  • Underweight (BMI < 18.5)
  • Pregnant – you need extra nutrients for your child.
  • Breastfeeding – you need extra nutrients for your child.
  • A child under 18 – you need extra nutrients to grow.

You can fast, but may need supervision, under these conditions:

  • If you have diabetes mellitus – type 1 or type 2.
  • If you take prescription medication.
  • If you have gout or high uric acid.

Commonly asked questions for those interested in trying intermittent fasting:

Will fasting burn muscle?

No. During fasting, the body first breaks down glycogen into glucose for energy. After that, the body increases fat breakdown to provide energy. Excess amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) are also used for energy, but the body does not burn its own muscle for fuel.

Isn’t it important to have breakfast every morning?

No, it’s not. This is an old misconception based on speculation and statistics, and it does not hold up when it’s tested. Skipping your morning meal just gives your body more time to burn fat for energy. Since hunger is lowest in the morning, it is often easiest to skip it and break your fast later in the day.

Isn’t fasting the same as reducing calories?

No. Not at all. Fasting reduces the time you spend eating and addresses the question of ‘when to eat’. Calorie reduction addresses the question of ‘what to eat’. They are separate issues and should not be confused with each other.

So there you have it – intermittent fasting. It’s really that simple. Will it work? Most likely, yes. Will you see amazing weight loss? As CoreTek points out with all of its advice – every body is different. How well you respond will depend on your body, your workouts, your overall diet, etc. You will never out-train, or out-fast a bad diet and excessive caloric intake.

What we do recommend is do your research on this, as you should before starting any exercise or meal management program – we have additional reading recommendations below. And ease into it. You do not have to fast every day to start. Try 2-3 days a week for 2-3 weeks. If you are able, add more days. Remember, this is about what works for you. Realistically, it will take about a month for you to have a fair assessment of how the program is affecting your fat loss. And always, if you have medical issues, seek a physician’s advice first!

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