Saturday, April 28, 2012

Weekend Workout #1

I will be providing simple workouts each weekend that you can even if you don;t have access to a gym.  These workouts will be built around using your own body weight.   However, if you have some dumbbells or bands you can certainly add them to the workout to increase the intensity.  If the weather is nice, head down to your local park and soak in the fresh air.

Warm up  5-10 minutes
To increase body temperature and elasticity in the muscles:

5 forward lunges (each leg)
5 side lunges (each side)
10 shoulder circles (each direction)
10 jumping jacks
20 sec. run in place (High Knees)
20 sec. run in place (Butt Kicks)
10 straight-leg kicks (reach opposite arm to opposite leg)

Perform each exercise without any rest between.  Rest 1 minute between each round.  Aim for 2-3 rounds.  When finished with all exercises, do 10 x 25 yard time is by walking back to the start.

20 Bodyweight Squats (hands behind head)
10 Pushups (on knees)
40 Jumping Jacks
20 Mountain Climbers
10 Close Grip Pushups (on knees)

30 Bodyweight Squats
15 Pushups (plank position)
50 Jumping Jacks
25 Mountain Climbers
15 Close Grip Pushups

50 Bodyweight Squats
25 Pushups (plank position)
50 Jumping Jacks
50 Mountain Climbers
25 Close Grip Pushups

Cool Down  5-10 minutes
Walk easy for 3-5 minutes, then do some easy static stretching (holding each for 10-20 sec.) 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Weekly Wednesday Quotavation

This quote is to get you thinking positively about yourself.  You are an amazing person with lots of talent and potential.  I like to have my clients right down a mantra (positive word or phrase) and keep it at their desk at work or on the fridge at home.

"Clear your mind of can't" - Samuel Johnson

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Memory Function - Part 2

In my last post about improving memory function, I listed a few simple suggestions that you could do on a daily basis.

Now I want to share with you an even greater (or more fun) method to help improve your brain health.  While I was working on the website,, entering all of my foods, activities, etc (I highly recommend this site to anyone looking to track daily calories or lose weight) I stumbled across something that attracted my attention.  It was a link to a website called Lumosity.   This was the perfect 2nd piece to my "3-Part memory function posts".  Lumosity offers brain training programs designed to help improve your memory, attention, and processing speed.  
According to scientists, our brain needs challenging and adaptive activities in order to get smarter.  By exposing our brain to constant, fresh stimulation, we'll create new neural pathways and change existing ones.  This is part of a process called neuroplasticity.

How Lumosity works is that you select areas of your memory that you want to improve; Memory, Attention, Speed, Flexibility, and Problem Solving.  Then once you have completed all sections, the website will customize a training program for you to work on.  It will even give you an estimated improvement % based on your age group, and will even track your progress.  Upon completing each game (tests), it will provide you with a BPI (Brain Performance Index); a measure of your cognitive memory.  Sound interesting???

So far, I have taken the first 2 "tests" (Speed Match -information processing, and Memory Matrix - spacial recall) and already can see that I need some work. Try it yourself and let me know what you think   

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Memory Function - Part 1

I've been reading lots of articles lately that talk about improving our memory function.  I know, this is really nothing new, however, it is an important topic just like improving our fitness...which is in the news every day.

Do you every feel like you are not using your brain some days?  Are you bored at work, or do you not feel challenged?  Well you're probably not alone.  Many Americans report that they feel they are NOT using their brains enough.  Our brain is a muscle, and just like other muscles (quads, biceps, etc), if we don't use them they will eventually begin to atrophy (reduce in size); or in the case of our brain it will begin to lose it's memory function.

Here are just a few simple suggestions from Jackie Keller, certified professional wellness coach and founder of NutriFit, to help keep your brain working and improve it's memory function.

1.  Keep a journal - write about things you enjoy or that come to your mind
2.  Practice math - instead of using a calculator, use the skill s you learned in grade school
3.  Take classes - go back to school and learn something new
4.  Relax - relaxation helps clear the mind...take a yoga or meditation class
5.  Use the map/atlas - instead of printing out a mapquest profile or a GPS for directions, use the map
6.  Turn off the TV/phone - remove distractions and avoid interruptions by working on your concentration

One of my favorite exercises for the brain, and one my father-in-law shared with me, is to move certain things in the house to different locations.  For example, I'm sure all of us know where the kitchen garbage can is and could probably find it with our eyes closed.  Try moving it to a new location in the kitchen.  You'll be surprised how many times you will go to the "old" location out of habit.

Other factors that can help boost our brain power include exercise, staying hydrated, and eating healthy.  Including 30 minutes of daily exercise has been shown to reduce age-related brain decline, Archives of Internal Medicine.  Drinking water will help prevent the brain from becoming groggy, or having poor concentration.  As a general rule, aim for 6-8 glasses of water a day and adjust as needed based on the color of your urine.  If your urine is dark yellow/brown, you need to consume more water, and it it is clear you are drinking too much.  When you get up in the morning, try to get in a habit of drinking 1-2 glasses of water immediately.  Finally, eating healthy fats, lean proteins, whole grains and vegetables will help keep the brain healthy.  Consuming some supplements can also help improve memory.  I would advice checking with your Dr. before starting to add or increase your supplement intake.  One such supplement that is very important is Fish Oil.  Fish oil is an essential fatty acid and contains docohexaernoic acid (DHA), which makes up the majority of our brain, and helps to improve cognitive function.  

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Weekly Wednesday Quotavation

Do you set goals?  Do you have dreams?
What is the one thing that separates these two from reality.  The answer is simpler than you might think, and this next states it perfectly.

"The difference between a goal and a dream is a deadline". - Steve Smith

I think it is very important for all of us to have goals; whether it be at work, with family, or in competition.  I have found that when people have goals (write them down and post on the fridge), they are more likely to accomplish that particular task.  When we set a goal for ourselves, it helps to keep us on track and stay focused on the big picture.  Of course, the goal/s have to be realistic.  If for instance you set a goal of losing 30 lbs in 2 months, you most likely will have a very hard time accomplishing that goal, and will only set yourself up for are most likely dreaming.  However, if the goal was to lose 15 lbs in 2 months, the goal is more realistic and is an attainable goal.

Don't be a dreamer, be a goal setter.

Monday, April 16, 2012

April Health Questionnaire Answers

Here are the answers form this months questionnaire.  I hope you took the time to at least take the quiz, even if you didn't post your answers.  How many did you get wrong?

1.  A
2.  A
3.  C
4.  B, D
5.  D
6.  A
7.  A
8.  A
9.  B
10.  A

Don't forget each month I will be posting a new Health/Fitness Questionnaire.  It only takes a few minutes to submit your answers (in the comment section), and during 1 month there will be a random prize to be won by 1 lucky person who not only submits the answers but gets all answers correct.  So keep taking the quizzes and who knows, you just might win a pretty sweet prize.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Your best friend in the gym

Every gym has them, some more than others.  I'm talking about a treadmill, the king of cardio machines.  Every gym I have been to, it appears that the treadmill is always the most widely used.  Why is this?  1) Is it due to convenience?  2) Is it due to simplicity?  3) Is it that most of us don't know how to use some of the other cardio options available at the gym?

Regardless of our choice to use the treadmill during our regular exercise routine, I am here to share with you some ways to best utilize the use of a treadmill.  Rather than being perceived as a piece of equipment to "just get in your cardio for the day", or to "just warm-up"  here are a few ways to jump start your exercise program or add variety to your current program.  Besides, exercise is supposed to be fun; variation is key.  Doing the same thing over and  over will result in boredom and lack of results.

Did you answer YES to "due to it's simplicity?"  For most this answer will be yes.  You simply can get on the track, and push the "quick start" button and begin your workout.  The problem with doing this over and over, is that you will tend to repeat the same type of workout each time, rather than changing things up and adding variety.  If you tend to just push the quick start button, is it because you don't know how to use any of the pre-programmed workouts?  If this is the case, take the time to ask a personal trainer or a staff member at the gym to help show you how to navigate and select other options available.  Treadmills can be very complicated, especially the newer models that can be quite extensive.  There are many options you can choose, so use that to your advantage and learn how to use them.

Each time I incorporate the treadmill into a clients workout program, I make sure that they know how to properly get on/off the treadmill, and know where the emergency "stop" button is located.  The spinning track can be daunting to some, so I try to eliminate the fear factor and instruct the safety concerns.

Treadmills can be a very useful tool for those who are competitive runners as well as beginners.  They can help to improve your running gait and become more efficient at running.  For instance, relaxing key muscles in the shoulders, using the diaphragm for deep breathing, and landing on the balls of the feet rather than the heels can all lead to better running technique.  According to Linda Blade, PhD, the sports performance manager at the Royal Glenora Club in Edmonton, Alberta, "many people tend to overstride, landing on their heels, which leads to a loss of stride rate and running economy".

I've talked about high-intensity-interval-training (HIIT) in previous blogs and the benefits it provides to an exercise program.  The same can be said for doing intervals on treadmills.  By doing short, hard bursts of efforts you will boost your metabolism, increase body fat loss, and increase excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC).  EPOC results in your body continuing to burn calories for hours after you are done exercising.   Doing intervals can also help to prevent muscle loss from occurring.  Maintaining muscle mass is very important for our overall health and well-being.  Why spend hours and hours at the same speed and becoming bored or adding mental fatigue?   Instead, try to include some hill work or intervals during your next session on the treadmill. There are plenty of options in the pre-programmed workouts, so don't just hop on and go.

Here are some great workouts you can try next time you use the treadmill:

1.  Warm up for 10-15 min at 60-70% of your max HR (MHR).  The sprint for 30 seconds at 80-90% of your MHR followed by 1.5 minutes of recovery (below 65% of your MHR).  Start off by doing 5-10 of these efforts and then increasing to 10-15 after a few weeks.
***After a few weeks and these start to become easier, begin to reduce the recovery time.  First start with only 1 minute recovery between efforts, and then after a few more weeks reduce the recovery to only 30 seconds.

This next workout is for the more advanced treadmill users.  I wouldn't recommend beginners trying this.

2.  Start by walking at 3mph for 5 min.  Then begin to increase the grade by 2% every 20 seconds until you reach 6% at the end of 1 minute.  The begin to reduce the grade by 2% every 20 seconds for another minute until you are on flat ground.  Recover for a full 4 minutes and then repeat 2-4 more times.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Weekly Wednesday Quotavation

All of us are afraid to fail.  Whether it's at work, in a sporting event, our marriage, or anything else life throws at us we all would like to succeed.  However, if we don't ever take a chance or risk now and then how will we ever know how good at something we could have been.  This next quote sums it up.

"Fear is what stops you... courage is what keeps you going" - unknown

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Videos !!!

I've been wanting to do this for a while now, so as a heads up,  keep an eye out for some workout videos coming soon.  As much as I know you all enjoy reading about fitness/health issues,  I am aware that videos (especially exercise videos) have become a necessity to capture a broader audience.  So it is my intention to include several workout videos utilizing several different pieces of equipment.

Stay tuned and in the meantime keep checking back for more health tips.

PS.  If you haven't already taken my April Health Questionnaire, please take the time to submit your answers to the questions in the Comment section listed below the post.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

April Health Questionnaire

Each month I like to post a Health Questionnaire to test your knowledge of health and fitness questions.  These questions are not meant to show how much you do NOT know, but rather help better educate you.  There are questions that touch on fitness, nutrition, and health in general.

Please take the quiz and post your answers in the "Comments" section below the post.  Thanks and good luck.

Results will be posted on the 16th.

1.  Chia seeds are shown to help those with diabetes manage blood sugar levels, and can protect heart health?
     A. True    
     B. False

2.  Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye?
     A. True    
     B. False

3.  Performing a back extension exercise primarily isolates which muscle?
     A. Glutes
     B. Biceps
     C. Erector Spinae
     D. Deltoids

4.  Which of the following muscles is NOT a calf muscle?  List all correct answers.
     A. Soleus
     B. Obliques
     C. Gastrocnemius
     D. Latissimus Dorsi

5.  What does DOMS stand for?
     A. Doing Only Muscle Stretches
     B. Do Only Monday Situps
     C. Don't Overexert Muscle Strains
     D. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

6.  Interval training helps prevent injuries often associated with repetitive endurance exercise?
     A. True
     B. False

7.  When creating fitness goals, what does SMART refer to?
     A. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Framed
     B. Specific, Movement, Action, Repetitive, Time
     C. Stretching, Movement, Action, Realistic, Total
     D. Short, Memory, Attainable, Relative, Thorough

8.  Regular stretching of the hip flexor can improve gait patterns among older adults?
     A. True
     B. False

9.  Doing abdominal crunches alone will reduce abdominal fat?
     A. True
     B. False

10. What is the ideal body fat composition for both men and women?
     A. Men 15-18%, Women 18-24%
     B. Men 8-12%, Women 15-20%
     C. Men 20-25%, Women 25-30%
     D. Men 5-10%, Women 10-15%

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A different kind of training

We are all familiar with training the physical and mental aspects of our bodies.  What about our eyesight?  Believe it or not there are exercises you can do to train your vision; allowing you to perform better in a given sport, or as simple as improving hand/eye coordination.

I have read several articles and have spoken with a few Z-Health specialists and both stress the importance of improving  hand/eye coordination in an effort to improve athletic performance.  Here are a few scenarios that make me a believer in training me eye muscles as well as my leg, back, core muscles.

Scenario #1 - An NBA player at the free throw line.  He makes the free throw and his team wins.  There is a lot riding on his shot and he vision has to be optimal.

Scenario #2 - A golfer ready to put in an effort to win his first Masters.  Being able to read the correct line and hit the ball with his putter just right can be the difference between millions of dollars.

Scenario #3 - An outfielder running to catch a fly ball, that if caught, could win the game and the World Series.  How important is his eyesight...very.

Of course these are extreme cases, but we all will have moments in life and in sport that require our vision to be sharp.  So why not spend a few minutes each night or day training your eyes just like you train the rest of your body.

So if you are still reading and are ready to do some exercises, here you go.  Do each exercise 10 times for the first 1-2 weeks and then increase by 5 each week following until you are able to do each exercise for 3 minutes.  Just like your other bodily muscles, your eyes will get tired the more you do.  Be conservative in the beginning.

Photo Credit Jupiterimages/ Images

#1.  Side To Side:  Look side to side as far as you can and pick something to focus on.

#2.  Up/Down:  Same as above only look up and down focusing on an object.

#3.  Diagonal:  Look right to left and then left to right (10 each direction)

#4.  Eye Circles:  Move your eyes clockwise and then counter clockwise.

#5  Focus Drill:  Using index cards, write 1 word on each card.  Hold one index card in your hand close to your face, and tape the other card about 5-10 feet away in front of you.  Start by focusing on the word in your hands as quickly as possible, and then switch to the other word and try to focus on that word as quickly as you can.  Switch back and forth for the total # of reps you are doing.

That's it.  5 simple exercises that can be done while sitting at work or at home.

In addition to eye exercises what you eat can also help improve your eyesight.  Antioxidants are critical for maintaining proper eye health and help to fight off free radical damage to the eyes.

Vitamin C (strawberries, broccoli, oranges, kale), Vitamin A (steak, cod liver oil, carrots, sweet potatoes), and Essential Amino Acids (salmon, mahi mahi, trout)

will help provide benefits for optimal vision.  And not only will eating these foods improve your vision, but they will also help improve your health.  Gee, it's amazing how eating certain foods (vegetables, fruit, and lean protein) can help improve so many areas of our body.  Don't make it difficult, stick to the foods that Mother Nature provided us with.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Weekly Wednesday Quotavation

Well I have slacked off a bit the past 2 weeks.  Sorry for not giving you your morning motivation on the last 2 Wednesday's.  I hope you have been able to make it through the day :-).

Here is a great quote from one of the most powerful woman in the world.

"Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity" - Oprah Winfrey

This can be true whether playing a sport or looking for a job.  You have to do your homework and be prepared, but you also have to take advantage of an opportunity when it presents itself. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

All about the Core

We hear the word "Core" used quite frequently these days.  Many (or most if not all) in the fitness industry are familiar with this buzz word.  However, if you are not and are confused what core means, here is a simple explanation.  The word "core" is NOT an acronym.  The core is basically the trunk of the body; or more specifically the abdominals, lower back, hips and glutes.

The abdominals compose of the following muscles:  1) Rectus Abdominis (front of abdominals), 2) Transverse Abdominis (deep muscle located on the sides beneath the obliques), 3) Obliques - External and Internal (both are located on the sides and front of the abdomen...internal obliques are located beneath the external obliques).

The lower back is composed of the following muscle:  1) Erector Spinae (runs the length of the spine from the base of the pelvis).

The glute muscles include the following 3 muscles:  1) Glute Maximus (large butt muscle - external rotates and extends the leg), 2) Glute Medius (located on the outer surface of the pelvis - abducts the leg away from the midline of the body), and 3) Glute Minimus (located beneath the glute medius - also abducts the leg away from the midline of the body).


Pratt, N.  Clinical Musculoskeletal Anatomy.  CBLS: Marietta, OH 2004

So now that I have explained what muscles compose our "core" and where each of them is located, you are probably asking yourself  "what are some exercises I can do to work those muscles"?  Believe it or not you are most likely using all of these muscles in one or more ways during your everyday activities.  However, there are several exercises that can isolate each of these muscles specifically helping to improve posture, balance, athletic movement or look good in the mirror (and only if your nutrition is very good).

For the following exercises, complete 2 sets of 15-20 reps with no rest between each exercises and only 30 second rest between each sets.  For planks, use time instead of reps.

1.  Knee Tucks - Sit on a bench with hands behind you and on bench.  Lift your knees up and hold your torso at a 45 degree angle.  Simultaneously tuck your knees to your chest and bring your torso forward towards your knees.  Lower back down and repeat.

2.  Windmill - Lie on your back with your arms out to the side at shoulder height.  Straighten your legs and extend towards the ceiling.  Now keeping your abdominal muscle tight, lower your straight legs to the right, pause, and return to starting position.  Now rotate to the left and pause.  Keep shoulder blades on the floor and do not use momentum.  Repeat for reps.

3.  Back Extension - You can use either an extension machine or swiss ball for this exercise. Swiss ball adds more stability work.  Lower your upper body forward bending at the waist until you are perpendicular to the ground, and then return keeping your back flat.  You can either cross your arms in front or cross behind your head.

4.  Hanging Knee Crunches - Using a pull up bar, grab the bar with hands just wider than shoulder width. Your feet should NOT be able to touch floor when hanging.  Slowly raise your knees towards your chest without using momentum.

5.  One-Leg Deadlifts - balance on 1-leg with knee slightly bent.  You can use dumbbells for added resistance if needed.  Begin by lowering your torso forward keeping left foot on ground with knee slightly bent.  At the same time lift your right leg behind you keeping it straight (forming a 90 degree angle with left leg).  Tighten your hamstrings and but muscle and return to the starting position.

6.  Russian Twists - For this exercise you can use either a dumbbell or medicine ball for an added challenge.  Sitting on the ground, lift both legs off floor keeping them slightly bent.  While holding the weight (or not), twist your torso from side to side bringing your hands towards your hips.

7.  Pike - Use a swiss ball for this exercise.  Begin by placing both feet on the swiss ball with body in a plank/pushup position.  Slowly raise your hips bringing your feet towards your chest and return to starting position.

8.  Plank - Assume a pushup position.  You can either perform this exercise on your elbows or hands.  make sure yo keep your should blade pulled back so you don;t shrug your shoulders.  For an added challenge you can lift one leg straight off the floor for 10 sec and the switch legs.  Complete the exercise (whether just holding or doing lilfts) for 30-60 sec.

9.  Side Planks - Just as the name implies, this is similar to the plank but done on your side.  Start on one side and resting on elbow.  Lift your hips off the floor keeping torso in a straight line.  Hold for 30-60 sec. and repeat on other side.

10.  Reverse Crunch - You will need to use a swiss ball for this exercise.  Lie on floor with knees bent at 90 degree and squeezing the back of the swiss ball.  While keeping the ball squeezed, bring the ball towards your head as you lift your hips off the floor.  Return to starting position and repeat.

There you go, 10 Core exercises targeting the abs, glutes, and lower back muscles.  Have fun !!!