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Staying Fit on Vacation

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This time of year everyone seems to be away on their annual vacation. One of the biggest problems people have when going away is trying to stay in shape (not gain weight) while they are away. This may seem inevitable but there are several things you can do while you are away that will help you maintain your weight and at least not lose your fitness level. First off, you should walk as much as you possibly can. Depending on your vacation there is probably an opportunity to get a lot of walking in. Whether you go on hiking trails or walk through museums you will be on your feet for the majority of the day. If this describes you vacation take full advantage of it and walk everywhere you go. If not you can plan this type of vacation for your family in the future. Walking all day does two things; it burns a lot of calories and it gets you exhausted which means you will most likely go to bed earlier at night. Going to bed earlier will keep you from eating more especially late at night. Another thing that you can control while you are on vacation is the portion sizes you eat. I know that when you are away you want to enjoy yourself and eat a lot of good food. You can still do this but what you should try to control is how much of this “different” food you eat. If you can limit that to just one meal throughout the day and limit the size of that meal, you should not have to worry about excessive weight gain while you are away. For example, if you can eat your normal breakfast and lunch and have some “good” food for dinner (with a reasonable portion size) you should make out fine.  Another tip is do some sort of exercise while you are away, just to keep your metabolism going. When you are away everything that your body is exposed to is different. Different food, schedule, daily activities and so on. If you could get some sort of workout in the morning, you are bringing some normalcy back to your body. This will keep your metabolism going throughout the day and throughout your vacation. There are several body weight exercises you can perform if you do not have access to your normal workout equipment, or you can just go for a walk in the morning (sight see) before you go about your day. Finally if you know that you have no self-control while you are on vacation and can not get yourself to follow any of these tips then there is just one thing left for you to do, go on a shorter vacation. This will limit the damage done and is cheaper in the long run. You can still go on multiple vacations during the summer but if you limit the one ten day vacation to two or three smaller ones, you will not put on the weight you normally would. If you have any questions or comments on any of this information feel free to do so below. Your vacation should be something you enjoy and remember, not something you regret when you get home.

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Avoiding Low Back Pain

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Depending on your job your low back may be at risk for injury/pain. If you are one of the many people who have to sit all day, chances are you will have back pain. This is due to many factors. First off, if you are not sitting with proper lumbar support then chances are you are sitting incorrectly. To do this you need to have something propped up against your back to keep your spine supported and chest up. Doing this will take the most amount of pressure off of your lower back. If you are on the other side of the spectrum and are standing all day, you need to make sure you have the proper footwear. Several people that are on their feet all day have low back pain due to not wearing supportive shoes. Having shoes with the right amount of support (maybe use custom supports) is crucial in maintaining proper alignment and support for your pelvis and spine. If you have a job that requires a lot of lifting and bending it is important to use a support belt when necessary. Remember to use your legs when picking something up, not your back (like we have heard so many times before). You can avoid injury by using proper mechanics when picking something up. Now the question you ask is how do I prevent this or fix this if I fall into one of these categories. The common factor in these three situations is you can keep yourself out of pain with the proper stretches and core exercises. When you are sitting all day your hip flexors and hamstring muscles tend to shorten over time. When these two muscle groups are tight they pull on your pelvis and spine which puts your back at risk for injury. Therefore, it is important to stretch out your hamstrings and hip flexors on a regular basis. This means that exercises that use the hip flexors can put you at risk for back pain as well. Cycling and core exercises that involve bringing your knees to your chest would fall under this category. As for strengthening, there are several core exercises that you can do to stabilize your pelvis and low back so that you are not at risk for injury. The exercises listed below are important to protect yourself from future injury. So whether you stand, sit, or lift things all day you need to be pro-active in making sure it does not result in injury. By performing these exercises and stretches on a regular basis you will be one step closer to keeping yourself from having low back pain.
Bridges
Planks
Single Leg Extensions
Quadrapeds
Body Weight Squats
Supermans
Hip Flexor/ Hamstring Stretch

Exercising At Home

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If you do not have access to a gym or workout equipment you are still capable of exercising. There are several body weight exercises that you can perform in the comfort of your own home. They require no equipment outside of what you would normally have laying around the house. These types of workouts are great for stay at home moms or for someone who would rather exercise at home instead of sweating in front of other people. Exercising at home requires discipline being that some of us need a different surrounding. Often people postpone their workout until later since they can do it at home, and never end up doing it.  Some good exercises you can perform at home involve:

Pushups (multiple variations)
Dips (between two chairs)
Squats
Burpees
Step Ups
Bridges
Planks
Lunges

If you need help creating an at home exercise program involving these exercises you can visit our Individualized Exercise Program page. All I am trying to prove is that it is possible to get a great workout in at home. This eliminates the excuse that you do not have time to go to the gym. Or that you can not afford a gym membership now. Or the,  “I do not like the gym that is near me,” excuse. If you really wanted to get in shape it is  possible no matter what your situation is. If you have kids at home or need to work out at strange hours, perhaps a home exercise program is best for you.  The benefits are that it is extremely cheap (free) and is time efficient (no commute). You still have the ability to manipulate the variables that are associated with a good workout.  These reasons could be enough for you to start your home workout today. If you have any questions or comments about this information please feel free to leave it below.

Staying Active At Work

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I know that the majority of people that are trying to stay fit or lose weight have to deal with a road block that takes up a large part of their time. This roadblock is their job, which for some causes them to sit still for 8-10 hours at a time. It is difficult to keep your metabolism going and active when you are at a desk for that length of time. There are ways to stay active at work, even when the nature of your job is quite sedentary.  The first thing you can do is buy an exercise ball (if your work allows it) and use that as a chair. This technique has become popular and if used correctly can make a big difference. You have to make sure that the ball is the right height and has enough air. What this does is it causes you to activate your core muscles throughout the day while forcing you to sit with proper posture.  This in turn causes you to burn more calories than if you were to be sitting in a chair all day. The next tip is make sure you bring enough water and stay hydrated during the day.  The benefits of this being you will stay hydrated and you will probably have to get up 4-5 times during the day to use the restroom. This is good being it will break up the monotonous structure of your day and will get your blood pumping again. Another idea would be to park your car at the end of the parking lot, even if there are open spots closer. Again, this will cause you to walk farther to work and back to your car at the end of the day, thus burning more calories.

When it comes time for lunch try not to eat at your desk. Go outside or at least to a break room (possibly on a different floor of the building). Have your lunch but then use up the rest of your allowed lunch time to go for a walk. Do not use your “free time” to do something seated.  If it is possible to have food at your desk break up your lunch into three smaller meals throughout the day. This will give you more time during lunch to do something active and will increase your metabolism because of the frequent, small meals you are eating. If you work in a building with multiple levels use the stairs coming and going, or even as a workout during lunch. Another possibility to stay active is to bring an exercise band to work (if it allows). You will see a huge difference if every half hour or so you do a set or two of any exercise (curls, raises, presses, bruggers). This will cause your heart rate to rise, more blood will be pumped through your system and you won’t feel the “sedentary” effects of having to sit all day. Implementing any of these tips will help you stay active at work. They will help you break up the day and burn more calories by doing it. Do not forget that several studies show a direct correlation with physical activity and our abilities to concentrate. So if anything these “little breaks” throughout the day will help us do our job even better, while we take care of our bodies as well. If you have any questions or comments about this information please feel free to do so below.

No More Pain

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These are the top exercises you should do to either get out of pain or stay out of pain. Click on the links to see a video on how to perform each exercise. 

Body Weight Squats

This is a great exercise to strengthen the legs and glutes. Having strength in these muscles is crucial when maintaining mobility and stability as we age. This could help prevent you from falling when you get older, which commonly results in broken hips. Preventing a broken hip at an elderly age could save your life.  Strengthening these muscles also takes pressure off of your knees (prevents knee pain) and keeps you mobile, which prevents joints from decaying and stiffening.

Bruggers

This exercise is meant to strengthen your mid and lower traps. Strengthening these muscles is beneficial in reversing the upper crossed syndrome. This syndrome is  a result of slumped shoulders, overactive traps, and tight shoulder/chest muscles. Neck, upper back, and shoulder pain are common side effects of the upper cross syndrome. By strengthening the mid and lower traps your shoulder blades are pulled back and down which takes pressure off of your neck and shoulders. So many things in our life pull us forward (ex. sitting at computer), this is an exercise that will help bring you back and improve your posture.

Bridges

This exercise strengthens your lower back, glutes, and hamstrings. Strengthening your posterior chain is important for the health of your low back. More often then not low back pain is due to a muscular imbalance between your anterior and posterior chain. When you have this imbalance you are prone for injury and something as simple as bending over to pick up your socks can “throw out your back.” By keeping these muscles strong you are stabilizing your lower back, lessening the incidence of injury.

Shoulder Internal/External Rotations

These shoulder exercises are key to keep your rotator cuff strong. It is not common for us to strengthen our shoulders in every day life. So if you do not choose to strengthen them as we age the muscles will atrophy. Once this happens we are prone for shoulder pain and injury. As you know once we are in pain we tend to stay away from what causes the pain. This is how your shoulder range of motion can become restricted, and all of a sudden you have the beginnings of a frozen shoulder. Doing these simple exercises will keep your shoulders strong and out of pain.

Terminal Knee Extensions

This is a simple exercise that may feel like you are doing nothing but it is important in strengthening your VMO (vastus medialis oblique). Strengthening this muscle takes a lot of pressure off of your knees. Preventing knee pain is key because once again it keeps you mobile and active. There is a laundry list of health problems that can set in once you become inactive and sedentary.

Wrist Flexion/Extension

Strengthening your forearms (flexors and extensors) is key in preventing elbow pain. Having strength in this area can prevent tennis elbow as well as golfers elbow. Even though it is not proven by research it could help with slowing down the incidence of carpal tunnel syndrome also.

These simple exercises are easy to do and most of them require little or no equipment so they can be done at home. If you add these six exercises into your routine now you will be thanking yourself in the future.

A Picture of Strength and Determination

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A Picture of Strength and Determination

Jenny Campano at her second power lifting competition. She is about to complete her second lift for squat with 205 lbs. You can see the concentration in her face. Can you say this about your workout?

Most Popular Workout Mistakes

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I know that everyone that goes to the gym is an expert and knows exactly what they are doing…not really. You have probably noticed that if you were to ever offer advice to someone at the gym they will either seem offended or agree with you but continue to do it the way they previously were. No one is perfect and if someone is offering you advice it is probably for a good reason. So take a look at these popular mistakes people make in the gym and see if there is an aspect of your workout that you need fixing.

Taking Too Long in between Sets

More often than not people take too much rest in between sets. By doing this you are not burning as many calories, your heart rate is dropping, and your muscular and cardiovascular systems are not being taxed the way they should be. Try to avoid talking to people during sets because this is the most common way one minute turns into five. This is also inconsiderate for the other people at the gym. It should not take you 45 minutes to use a machine, if it does someone will be sitting there waiting for their turn. In short, cut your rest time, get a better workout and be more considerate to others who are trying to use the same equipment you are.

Intensity is too Low

Everybody knows the person that sits on the machine and puts the pin at the top and does 20 reps. This intensity is nowhere near high enough for you to get any physiological benefits from working out. Now I am not saying that everyone who goes to the gym should be lifting 400 lbs, but the weight that you are using should be tough and a struggle for you to perform. An easy gauge that might show you that your intensity is too low would be the state you are in when you leave the gym. If you are not sweating, not tired, and do not feel like you did something the next day you need to increase your intensity. This goes for cardio equipment as well. If you go on the treadmill and walk at a 3.5, but you really should be doing a jog at 5.2, then your intensity is too low. If you do not challenge your body you will not see the results you want and one way to challenge the body is by increasing the intensity.

Not doing enough

When you are working out and looking to increase your level of fitness, you have to do a certain amount of work in order for that to happen. A common mistake is that people do not work out enough. If you are wondering why you are not seeing any progress when going to the gym twice a week is because that is not enough to see the progress you want. Three times a week is considered maintenance so you really need to go 4-5 times a week to see the progress you want in your fitness level, whatever that is.

Doing too much

On the other hand, there are people that do too much. There are the people who workout every day of the week for 2-3 hours at a time. If you are doing this you are doing way too much. You may see the results that you want but it is only a matter of time until your body will start to break down. Without the rest you need you can go into a state of over-training. Once you are in this state it takes a long time to recover from it. Also when your body is in a weakened state you are much more susceptible to injury, which is the last thing anybody wants.  Your body needs at least one day off if not two a week, which will give it the rest it needs to recover and make the progress you are looking for.

Bad form

If someone in the gym comes up to you and says that your technique is wrong or your form is bad, there is a really good chance that it is. The likelihood that someone would come up to you and tell you this is unlikely unless you are really off or are in danger of hurting yourself. Please listen to this advice and correct the mistake by using less weight or less momentum or whatever the problem is. It will be better for you in the long run and you will get more out of your workout because of it. So if someone has the nerve to tell you your form is wrong, they are probably right so please listen.

So if any of these categories sound like I am speaking to you, you need to change up your workout for your own good. If you have any questions or comments on the above information, or think of any other workout mistakes, please feel free to leave them below. There will be more workout mistakes posted soon.