Thursday, November 29, 2012

Overcoming fitness plateaus

Have you hit a plateau in your workout program?  Odds are you are not alone.  Far too often, many exercisers reach a point where they no longer continue to make progress or see results.  By following these simple rules, you will prevent hitting that inevitable "plateau" with your workouts.

As we head into the final month of the year and begin getting ready for the final holiday, make it your goal to add these strategies so that those goals or "resolutions" you set can actually be attained.  Don't just say something that sounds good, but instead write it down, tell your family/friends, and incorporate these simple rules and I'm confident you will start your New Year off to a great start.

#1  Add more rest days
It's very common for most of us to ant to exercise every day and not take any days off.  This is probably one of the most common mistakes.  On average 3-4 days per week is sufficient for most exercisers.  Following the standard workout regimen of Monday, Wednesday, and Friday will be plenty of training and will allow the muscles to repair themselves and allow you to give 100% during each workout.  If you are an elite athlete, or are an experienced exerciser, you can add 1-2 days (total of 4-6) allowing for 1-3 days of rest per week.  I like to use the phrase, "rest as hard as you exercise".

#2  Use different speeds of movements
I see a lot of people lift weights at the same speed month after month.  Although this emphasizes good form and safety, increasing or decreasing the speed during each lift will make the exercise more difficult and allow to the body to continue to make new adaptations.  If you are new to exercise, be careful when trying to speed up the movement, this can potentially lead to bad habits.

#3  Perform Drop Sets
Performing drop sets is a great way to build strength, but due to the nature of the stresses added from these (small muscle tissue damage) I would recommend that you allow for lots of rest/recovery in between these workouts.
Drop sets can look something like this:  10 reps at a certain weight, then reduce the weight and do another 10 reps, and continue this for 4-8 sets until you no longer can do 10 reps.

#4 Plyometrics 
Plyometrics are one of my favorite types of workouts, they are great for building explosive power.  Since this type of workout requires jumping, it may not be suitable for everyone as the chance for injury increases.  However, if you are able to jump then this can be a great addition to help you break out of that plateau you are in...not to mention it will be fun.  Examples of plyometric exercises include jump squats, box jump squats, jump lunges, explosive push ups, and medicine ball slams.  As with the drop sets, you want to allow for adequate amount of recovery between workouts.

#5  Intervals
Adding intervals to your workout can help break up the monotony of doing the same thing.  Intervals can be added to strength training or cardio workouts. For strength workouts, try adding some Tabata workouts, and for cardio workouts try adding some short bursts (up to 2 min) of sprints followed by easy running/cycling/eliptical/rowing until you have recovered and then repeat.

#6  Use a Variety of Equipment
Are you using only machines or dumbbells during your workouts?  Well then I would suggest trying to involve other great pieces of equipment; such as TRX, Kettlebells, BOSU Balls, and Swiss Balls.  All of these pieces of equipment will add more challenge to your workout and will also help to improve any imbalances you might have.  Performing the same exercises (let's say a squat) but using a completely different piece of equipment will change how the body has to stabilize itself and will get a whole new response.

#7  Change Timing of Exercise 
Do you always workout in the morning, or always workout in the evening?  If you can, try to workout at different times occasionally.  Instead of working out first thing in the morning, try an evening workout and vise versa.  Simple changes as these can again help break plateaus.  Our bodies are very efficient at adapting to things relatively quickly, so the more we can confuse it the better.

#8  Perform One-Sided Exercises
Instead of your usual two-legged squats, try doing them on one leg (keep in mind you will have to reduce weight or not use any weight at all; these are challenging).  Instead of always doing your shoulder presses with dumbbells and both arms, try doing them with a kettlebell and only 1 arm.  Doing one-sided exercises is a great way to add more strength, but also a way to increase core strength and improve balance.

#9  Change # of Reps
As a general rule of thumb, 3-6 reps will build strength, 8-12 reps will increase muscle size (hypertrophy), 12-20 reps will improve muscle endurance.  It doesn't matter if you are training for competition, or for general fitness, changing the amount of weight along with the number of reps will increase adaptation and prevent plateaus.

#10  Challenges!!!
Does your gym offer Challenges?  If so, then I recommend that you participate in at least one.  If not, try this workout next time you hit the gym.  These types of workouts will typically involve high number of reps and will definitely "challenge" your fitness limits.  I like to offer members a new challenge every 4-8 weeks.  Doing this type of workout may be just what you need to get you over the hump and out of the slump you're in. You'll want to allow for adequate recovery time after doing one of these workouts.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Weekend Workout #26

This weekend and next weekend are going to consist of a few series of superset exercises.  I think you are going to like these, however, you will need access to some equipment...medicine ball, kettlebell, jump rope, and dumbbells

For this weekend's workout, you will perform 3 supersets, each of which you will do 3 times in succession before moving to the next superset pairing, and a series of Burpees.  Keep reading and it will all make sense to you.

I want you to do these exercises based on time rather than repetitions.  I like to have clients do time-based exercises because I feel like I can get them to perform more reps than they would if they knew they were only doing a certain number of reps; seems odd but it's true.  Plus, I usually give them a heads-up when there is 5 or 10 seconds remaining for each exercise and try to get them to push it and see how many more they can get in those few seconds.  Again, it's amazing how much they have left in the tank when knowing they're close to finishing.

1) 20-30 sec. for each exercise, perform 1 exercise after the other with no rest, and then rest 30 sec before starting 2nd set.  complete 3 sets
Kettlebell Swings (2 hands)
Push up

2) 30 sec. each exercise, same format as above, no rest between each exercises and 30 sec rest before starting 2nd set.  Complete 3 sets
Mountain Climbers
Russian Twists (with 6-10lb. medicine ball if you can)

3) 20 sec. per side.  complete 3 sets
1-Arm Reverse Lunge with Kettlebell
1-Arm Squat Press with Kettlebell

4) Start with 15 sec of work and 15 sec. of rest.  Each round increase time by 5 seconds (although rest time stays the same), completing a total of 5 rounds (last round should be 1:15)

Have fun and enjoy!!!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Turkey Trotting

Today in Bend was the annual Turkey Trot run/race.  There is the option of a 5K or 10K run or walk.  One of my clients, Cathy Baumiller, wanted to do the 10K run so we have been incorporating several running days along with her strength training to get her ready for this.

She has previously run a 10K (6.2 miles) distance, but has had to walk several times.  Leading up to the event, she was able to run for 1 hr, but this was indoors on the treadmill.  I decided I would do the run with here to help keep her motivated and to try and push her a little harder than she would be able to on her own.  We set a goal to have her run the 10K in under 1 hr 5 minutes.

All smiles prior to the race

We started off at a little faster pace than Cathy was accustomed to, but quickly settled into her rhythm around mile 2.  I let her set the pace but also wanted to push here a little bit.  The 10K course consisted of 2 loops of the 5K course.  It was all flat terrain with a few gradual inclines.  The weather turned out to be perfect for running, maybe a bit cold, but it was sunny and not too windy.

At the 5 mile marker, she started to get a "second wind" and was able to pick her pace up a little.  At this point we were on pace to finish just about at the 1 hr mark.  She wasn't able to maintain the faster pace and had to slow back down a little, but wouldn't give up.  I could tell she was giving everything she had left in her legs and lungs.  With about 200 meters left she once again picked up the pace and almost sprinted the final 25 meters to the finish.

Because she was completely exhausted, she didn't realize her finishing time.  After taking some time to catch her breath (and nearly throwing up), I informed her that she ran it in 1 hr 2 1/2 minutes.  This was the fastest she had ever run a 10k.  I couldn't have been any happier for her.  Her boyfriend and parents were there to cheer her on at the finish as well. Nice job Cathy!!!

Cathy's effort today is what makes my job as a trainer very rewarding.  Seeing how hard she worked in the gym, and pushing herself to her limit today to be able to accomplish her goal is all I could have asked of her. I'm sure she will enjoy that turkey dinner tonight.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Weekend Workout #25

It's time once again for my Bodyweight Challenge and I thought this weekend would be the perfect time, right before Thanksgiving.  Hopefully this will help give you a boost to stay on track with your fitness goals, as well as help boost your metabolism a bit as we head into the holiday season.

I gave this challenge a few months ago to some of my clients at Anytime Fitness and it was quite the workout.  Lots of sweat and heavy breathing were involved, while each participant walked away feeling exhausted.

This workout is very challenging, and the harder you push yourself the harder it can be.  The best part about a challenge, is that it is solely up to YOU to determine how hard you want to make it.  I timed each participant so that they knew how fast it took them to complete the circuit of exercises, I highly encourage you do the same.  By doing so, you can measure your progress a few months down the road when you do this again.  Your goal would be to best your time to complete all exercises.

The challenge will consist of 10 exercises that you will complete for a certain number of reps.  You'll perform each exercises immediately after the other with as minimal rest as possible while maintaining good form for each exercise.

Workout Format:
I will give you the option of doing either the 150 or 300 Challenge.  These numbers represent the number of total reps you will complete when finished with this workout.  You will do either 15 or 30 reps of each exercise (totaling 150 or 300 reps).  When doing 1-sided exercises, you'll do 1/2 on each side.
For exercises that call for the use of a KB, DB or TRX, choose a weight or angle that is challenging, but hat allows you to be able to complete all reps with sacrificing form.

I did his challenge a while ago and it took me 11:20 to complete the circuit.  I used a 20lb. Kettlebell for the Reverse Lunge and 1-Arm Press, and the TRX for the 1-Arm Rows.  Can you beat my time?  If so, I want to hear about it and the time it took you to complete

1. Fast Mountain Climbers

2. Jump Squats - squat down and jump as high as you can, land softly, and immediately repeat

3. Push Ups - starting from plank position on hands

4. Side Lunges - self explanatory, just make sure to keep hips back and upper body straight up

5. Slow Mountain Climbers - same as #1 above but very slow and controlled

6. Y-Squats

7. Reverse Lunge with  1-Arm Press (use either a Kettlebell or Dumbbell)

8. 1-Arm Row (use either a Kettlebell, Dumbbell, or TRX)


9. Dirty Dogs

10. Burpees ! - the classic style...with the push up and jump

Friday, November 16, 2012

Interval training

Are you doing this type of training in your workouts?  If not you should be.


I am constantly explaining to my clients the added benefits of performing intervals during your workouts.  Initially this type of training can be quite daunting; working harder than you are accustomed to for a repeated number of times.

Most often I see people strolling along on the treadmill or eliptical, or jogging outdoors at the same speed that they have been doing for several months.  Now I do not want to ridicule these people for making the effort to exercise, however, I beg the question of whether they are trying to get fitter, lose weight, get stronger, or even have fun.  If they were to answer yes, then they are approaching this all wrong.

Here is a great article on Interval Training from one of my colleagues, Greg Brookes that will help explain why you need to be including interval training into your workouts.  

Thursday, November 15, 2012

November Health Questionnaire Answers

Here are the answers from this you have been waiting for, how did you do?

1.  B
2.  B
3.  B
4.  C
5.  C
6.  C
7.  A
8.  B
9.  A
10.  E
11.  E
12.  A
13.  B
14.  B
15.  C

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wednesday Quotavation

It's been a while since I last posted a Quotavation for you.  I will no longer be posting these on Wednesday's, but I wanted to share this one with you as I thought it was great.

"Competitive sports are played mainly on a five-and-a-half-inch court, the space between your ears"
- unknown

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Pumpkin spice oatmeal

Here is another great recipe for you.  This is another recipe that I found from Trinity Perkins, CPT.  If you like oatmeal then you will love this recipe.  It's a completely new way of cooking oatmeal but the taste is amazing.

1 1/2 cups dry oats
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
2 cups un-sweentened almond milk
1 cup water
1 oz walnuts
1 oz dried cranberries (I didn't put these in when I made it)
Cinnamon and nutmeg to taste
1/3 cup brown sugar

Simply mix all ingredients in a bowl.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8x8 baking pan.  Pour mixture into pan and bake for 25-20 minutes.  The texture should be thick and creamy.
You can serve with Greek yogurt, fresh or frozen fruit and some sprinkled nuts on top

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Weekend Workout #24

Today's workout is going to be centered around working the entire body, probably in ways that you never have.  These exercises might seem a bit unusual, but they are extremely effective and work most of the muscles in your body.  These will be bodyweight exercises that you can do in the comfort of your home, or at a park or in the gym.  Of course, if you are looking for an even greater challenge you can include dumbbells to some of the exercises to increase the load.  These exercises should add some "fun" to your weekend.  You'll be doing exercises you probably have never done.

These exercises are not necessarily designed to build strength, but rather improve your cardiovascular system, increase core strength, and to keep you having fun during your workouts.

Warm up for about 5 minutes with an easy job and some light stretches (not holding for more than 3-5 sec.)  I like to think of stretches prior to a workout as "movement prep"; moving to prep the muscles for the workout.

Complete the number of reps listed next to the exercises.  Depending on your time availability, aim for 3-5 rounds with 1-2 minutes of rest in between rounds.


InchwormsStand up tall with the legs straight, and let those fingertips hit the floor. Keeping the legs straight (but not locked!), slowly lower the torso toward the floor, and then walk the hands forward. Once in a push-up position, start taking tiny steps so the feet meet the hands. Continue bugging out for 4-6 reps

Bear CrawlsEmbrace that inner grizzly. Starting on the hands and knees, rise up onto the toes, tighten the core, and slowly reach forward with the right arm and right knee, followed by the left side. Continue the crawl for 8-10 reps

Mountain ClimberStarting on your hands and knees, bring the left foot forward directly under the chest while straightening the right leg. Keeping the hands on the ground and core tight, jump and switch legs. The left leg should now be extended behind the body with the right knee forward.  Aim for 30-40 reps (15-20 each leg)

Squat Reach and Jump - Ready to add some pizzazz (and cardio!) to that squat? Perform a normal squat, but immediately jump up, reaching the arms straight overhead. Aim for 15 reps, taking a quick breather before the next set.

Quadruped Leg Lift - Starting on the hands and knees, keep a flat back and engage the core. Raise the left leg straight back, stopping when the foot is hip-level and the thigh parallel to the floor. Balance for as long as possible, then raise the bottom right toe off the floor, tightening the butt, back, and abs (try to be graceful here!). Hold for up to 10 seconds, then switch legs.

Donkey KickStart in a push-up position, with the legs together. Tighten the core and kick both legs into the air with knees bent, reaching the feet back toward the glutes. Just try to land gently when reversing back to the starting position.  Aim for 10 reps (these are not easy)

Boxer - I don't think I need to explain this one...:-) 15 reps (punches) each arm

Burpee - Always a favorite (I try to include this exercise in just about every workout) and one of the most effective full-body exercises around, this one starts out in a low squat position with hands on the floor. Next, kick the feet back to a push-up position, complete one push-up, then immediately return the feet to the squat position. Leap up as high as possible before squatting and moving back into the push-up portion of the show.  10 reps total

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Fall smoothie recipes

To satisfy your hunger you might have, or variety you are looking for with smoothies, here are a few recipes that you can enjoy with the freshness of fall foods.  You'll be amazed with how good both of these are.  Who would have thought about mixing a sweet potato or squash into a smoothie?  I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

This recipe is from Emily Ann Miller, MPH, RD...
1/2 cup roasted butternut squash
1 small ripe pear (peeled)
6 oz. honey flavored (or plain) Greek yogurt
1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice

You guessed it, blend all ingredients in a blender and enjoy


Sweet Potato Protein Shake
This recipe is from Trinity Perkins, CPT...

1/3 cup cooked sweet potato
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 scoop chocolate whey protein powder
1 Tbs almond butter
dash of cinnamon
Ice cubes as needed

Blend all ingredients in a blender.  You can add water if you prefer a thinner consistency.

Nutritional breakdown:
1 serving
calories:        188
carbs:           19g
protein:         30g
fat:                 6g
cholesterol:  19g
sodium:         344mg
sugar:           8g

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Weekend Workout #23

Today's workout is a solid full-body workout.  I am combining a few unilateral movements (one-sided) in this workout as well.

This workout will require the use of a few pieces of equipment:

  • Swiss Ball
  • Bench
  • Superband
  • Cable Pully
I have chosen 7 exercises for you to do in a circuit format (completing one exercise after the other with minimal rest between each).  Before beginning the workout make sure you are warmed up.  

  • 5 min. row machine 
  • 1 min. jumping jacks or jump rope
  • 30 sec. running in place with high knees
  • 30 sec. seal jacks (same as JJ's but bring arms across the front rather than above head)
  • 30 sec. body weight squats
  • 30 sec. arm circles
  • 30 sec. side-to-side lunges
  • 30 sec. jumping jacks or jump rope
  • 30 sec. mountain climbers
  • 30 sec. karaoke (aka: grapevine)
This workout is designed for the intermediate to advanced fitness level exerciser.  I would not recommend trying these exercises if you are new to exercise or are just returning from an injury.  Sorry beginners, this weekend I wanted to add some challenge to those who may have been following along with my workouts each week. 

Workout format:

Perform each exercise for either a certain amount of reps or based on time.   If you choose to do each by reps, then aim to complete 12 - 15 reps for all exercises (each side if unilateral) except the hi-lo planks (aim for 8-10 reps).  If you would like to do the workout based on time (this is when you need your Gym Boss), aim for a total of 30-45 sec for each (each side if unilateral).  Rest only as long as needed between exercises, and give yourself 1-2 minutes rest between each round.  Try to complete a total of 3-4 rounds.

#1 Elevated split-lunge squat 
Make sure to position front foot so that your knee stays behind your toes, and keep the upper body straight up (not leaning forward) 

#2 Hi-Lo Planks
Once you have worked yourself onto your elbows, reverse the movement by pushing back up onto your hands.  The whole time focus on keeping your hips from rotating to each side, but rather staying square to the ground...really use the core muscle on this one.


#3 Push-ups on Swiss Ball
Lots of shoulder stabilizing required, and a strong core.  Lower down just before touching the ball and return to the starting position.  Try to keep your hips from sticking up in the air as you lower down. 

#4 Reverse Lunge with a 1-arm Superband row
Holding a superband (or resistance tubing) in one hand and with your arm extended, you should feel some resistance.  The reverse lunge and execute a row as you draw your hand right under your armpit.  Pause for 1 sec. and return to starting position.  Stay on one side before moving to other. Try to not lean your upper body back when pulling the band back, keep it directly over the hips.

#5 Mountain climbers on Swiss Ball
You can do these fast or slow depending on your ability level.  Don't allow your hips to lift up.  This is another good shoulder stabilizing and core exercise.  

#6 1-Arm cable pulley curls
This is an advanced level exercise.  Choose a weight that you can do for 12-15 reps or for 30 sec. and without rotating the upper body.  Keep your upper body still and focus on pulling the arm to the chest slowly.

#7 Elevated-feel chair dips
With your hands on a bench, keep your elbow close as you lower down and raise back up.  Use a box for your feet that is between 12-18" tall.

Repeat 2 - 3 more times

Friday, November 2, 2012

Continuing education

I'm excited to visit the Portland, OR area this weekend to learn some new fitness ideas.  I will be attending the Fall Fitness & Training Forum hosted by Northwest Personal Training.  It will be great to meet lots of new people in the fitness industry and network a little.  Talking with others to see what works for them may open a new door for my training.  The fitness industry is constantly evolving, and as a trainer I want to stay up to date as much as possible.

One of the presenters at the conference will be Frasier Quelch, who is the Director of Training and Development at TRX.  He was also recently awarded the IDEA Program Director of the Year.  I will be attending most of his sessions during the conference and hope to come away with a better understanding of movement-based exercises.  He will share many of his training philosophies and methodologies that I hope to be able to use with my clients.