The Do and Don’ts for Avoiding Exercise Burnout

images[1]Burnout is a psychological term that refers to long-term exhaustion and diminished interest in work. Thanks Wikipedia!

We all experience burnout whether it’s at work, home, with family, friends, diet, and even exercise, maybe especially exercise.

Consider how many gym memberships purchased in January go unused in July, or how all you can think about is a cheeseburger two weeks into a new diet plan. Burnout can happen over years or in a matter of days.

Certain habits or lack of certain habits will accelerate the burnout process.

 

So if you don’t want to suffer from exercise burnout….

DO NOT Wing It

Failing to plan is planning to fail, as the saying goes, and creating lofty, long-term goals without establishing checkpoints along the way is failing to plan. Shoot for the moon, but include intermediate and short-term goals to assure that you remain on track to achieve your long-term goals.

Example:

Long-term goal: I will finish a marathon this year.

Intermediate goal: I will finish a half marathon within the next six months.

Short-term goal: Within the next week, I will jog three times for a minimum of 10 minutes each run.

Writing goals down (on paper, using a smart phone app or online software program) is an absolute must.

DO NOT Forget to Self-Assess

Your goal-setting process should include assessing weak links in the chain and how to address them. Using the example above of planning to finish a marathon, short-term goals could include completing some form of a fitness test, such as a one-mile run for time, gait analysis, nutrition consultation, body composition analysis, etc.

Example:

Short-term Goal No. 2: Within the next two weeks, I will complete a one-mile run for time to assess my current fitness status.

Intermediate goals should re-evaluate these tests every few weeks to validate your exercise regimen and determine what tweaks you may need to make. Modifying goals along the way (to account for “life”) is a  key to achievement and  sustained motivation. Altering your long-term goals can also be critical; for example, switching from the full marathon to the half marathon two weeks before a race is better than not showing up at all.

DO NOT Skimp on Sleep

Research suggests those who sleep less than six hours per night are at greater risk for burnout. Too little sleep can cause fatigue, impaired mental function and increased sensitivity to stress, as well as decreased motivation and physical performance. In a busy world, we seem to prioritize so much at the expense of ZZZs. There are usually enough excused to go around for not exercising, don’t add “too tired” to the list.

DO Take Time to Truly Relax

Multiple experts agree that a key to avoiding burnout from your job is being able to turn off work when you get home. Likewise, tuning out from exercise from time to time is essential to maintaining a long-term fitness program. Expert coaches suggest taking at least one day per week completely off from structured exercise and including another day or two of restorative activities (yoga, hikes, naps and Sunday football couch potato-ing all count as restoration). Every few months, take an entire week off, and just relax.

DO Find a Sport You Enjoy

Some people hate running – I would not suggest a marathon training program for those individuals. The key to longevity of an activity or fitness program is enjoyment; sometimes you must ignore what your friends are doing or the most popular class at your gym, and simply do what makes you happy. If it makes you sweat and also makes you smile, it’s the right activity for you. I still have a Groupon for 4 Pilate’s classes hanging over my head, because my friends think Pilate’s is great…. I am a gym rat and always will be.

DO NOT Overdo It

A fine line exists between what fitness experts call over-reaching and over-training. Over-reaching involves applying the overload principle to exercise, i.e. increasing the intensity, duration and/or frequency of exercise to create positive stress on your body that will gradually result in fitness gains. When over-reaching, you should feel tired and sore, but two to three days of adequate recovery should cure that.

Over-training occurs when the increase in physical activity is too much and recovery is insufficient. It can involve loss of sleep, lethargy, injury and a lack of fitness gains despite an increased workload. When in doubt, listen to your body – go hard when you feel good, and rest up when you feel overworked.

DO NOT Live for Repetition

Imposing the exact same stress demand on our bodies habitually does not result in positive gains. Doing the same activities each day or the same exercise routine will lead to a physical plateau and eventual mental burnout. Not to mention it gets really boring! Even if you’re a creature of habit, add variety to your favorite activity… it may be a change of scenery, faster or slower run times, switching up the free weights for machines, taking a Zumba class instead of Yoga, or whatever.. A change of pace and scenery may keep your muscles honest and your mind fresh.

The path toward burnout is can be averted. Self-assessment, goal planning, adequate sleep and recovery, variety and, most importantly, enjoyment can keep you pointed in the direction of lifelong fitness and goal accomplishment.

Aerobic v.s. Anaerobic Exercise – Top 4 Reasons for Each

images[1]Aerobic exercise (a.k.a. aerobics, cardiovascular exercise or cardio) is any sustained, rhythmic activity that primarily uses your larger muscles and challenges your heart and lungs.

Aerobic means “with oxygen,” so when you exercise aerobically your body uses oxygen to help produce energy during the exercise. Your heart and lungs have to work harder to constantly deliver oxygen to your body during aerobic exercise, and this strengthens your heart and lungs.

There are plenty of ways that you can exercise aerobically. You can walk, run, or bike. You can use a treadmill, stationary bike, stair stepper, elliptical machine, or rowing machine. You can participate in an aerobic exercise class. Here are the top four reasons to get moving:

1. Toughens the ticker. Aerobic exercise strengthens the hardest working muscle in your body – your heart. A stronger heart pumps blood more efficiently, which improves blood flow to all parts of your body. Better blood flow results in more oxygen and essential nutrients being delivered to the cells of your body. It also results in more effective removal of toxins and other waste materials from your body.

2. Helps keep arteries clear. Aerobic exercise raises HDL (good) cholesterol and lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol. This results in less buildup of plaque in your arteries. Plaques begin in artery walls and can grow over the years. The growth of cholesterol plaques slowly blocks blood flow in the arteries causing all sorts of health problems.

3. Rallies the respiratory system. Aerobic exercise improves the effectiveness with which your respiratory system can supply oxygen to your body. Your body needs a constant and plentiful amount of oxygen in order to function properly.

4. Reduces body fat. Aerobic exercise not only burns calories, it’s the only type of exercise that directly burns body fat. In order for body fat to be burned, oxygen must be used to help produce energy during the exercise, and this only occurs with aerobic exercise.

 

images[8]Anaerobic exercise is high intensity muscular activity that lasts for a short period of time. Strength training a.k.a. weight lifting or weight training and calisthenics (push-ups, pull-ups etc.) are examples of anaerobic exercise. Strength training is the most effective type of anaerobic exercise. Here are the top four benefits:

1. Builds and maintains lean muscle mass. The loss of lean muscle mass can begin as early as your mid-20s, and it results in a loss of strength, a slower metabolism and decreased functional fitness. The loss of lean muscle mass is not the normal result of aging; it’s primarily the result of a sedentary lifestyle. If you don’t use your muscles they waste away. Strength training is the most effective way to build and maintain lean muscle mass and stay strong and functionally fit.

2. Bolsters bones – strength and density. Millions of people worldwide suffer from osteoporosis. Consuming high calcium food (leafy greens, oranges, beans) or taking calcium supplements to increase bone strength and density is not enough. Bones need to be challenged by weight bearing exercise or they will become soft and brittle. Strength training will increase the strength and density of your bones more than any other type of exercise.

3. Motivates metabolism. The slower your metabolism, the easier it is to gain body fat and the harder it is to lose it. Strength training boosts metabolism because it builds and maintains lean muscle mass. Lean muscle mass is metabolically active tissue, so the more lean muscle mass you have the faster your metabolism will be.

4. Reshapes the body and improves appearance. Vanity! No other type of exercise can reshape your body and improve your appearance like strength training can. Strength training will give you a strong, toned, looking body.

7 Ways to Maximize Every Workout

images5UGGPMAROne of my favorite sayings is to work smarter not harder. When you take the time and effort to lift weights, you want to get the maximum benefit from your efforts. We’re always being told what we should be doing at the gym: go faster, harder, slower; use a medicine ball; buy a band; free weights; body weight! But more important are the things we shouldn’t do during a workout. I am a little obsessive about form, and I see some crazy stuff going on in the gym each day. When is the last time you paid close attention to your weight lifting form?

So that you don’t cheat yourself out of an optimal workout—here are some common mistakes and solutions.

MISTAKE 1 : Skipping the warm-up. If you are lifting significant weight and you don’t warm up, it will be harder for you to lift because your muscles won’t be ready. You will also increase your chance of injury.

Solution: Do a general warm up before you start lifting, by using a cardio machine at a moderate level for at least four or five minutes. Then do a specific warm up for each of the exercises, starting with about 10 reps of 25% of the weight you intend to lift, and then moving to 50%, before you do your real workout. So, for example, if you are going to do 10 80-pound squats, start by doing 10 squats using just your body weight, and then 10 more squats using just the bar. Then go to your workout (three sets of 8 to 12 reps).

MISTAKE 2 : Stopping short. Not exercising through a full range of motion is a common mistake, especially when doing biceps curls. Many people stop the exercise before they’ve extended their arm all the way down. This means they are only strengthening the upper part of the biceps instead of fully developing the muscle.

Solution: Each exercise should be done in a slow, controlled manner through the complete range, with emphasis on the completely contracted position. Full-range of motion movements contract and strengthen the muscle you’re working and stretch the opposing muscle (in the case of the biceps curl, the triceps). Note: Do not confuse full range of motion with hyper extension—when you use more than the full range of motion, which can cause joint injury. Hang your arms by your side and relax them. This is your range of motion for the biceps curl; anything more and you’re hyper extending. Unfortunately it’s easy to go too far if you aren’t careful. You are in danger of hyper extension any time you use any type of free weight. That’s why it’s so important that your movement is controlled, and you use the correct amount of weight.

MISTAKE 3: Holding your breath during a lift. It’s easy to forget to breathe. My trainer had to remind me constantly to breath. Lifting weights causes your blood pressure to increase temporarily; holding your breath makes it soar even more, and then suddenly drop. Such a dramatic fluctuation in your blood pressure can make you pass out.

Solution: It’s important to develop a breathing pattern while you’re lifting. Some people inhale at the beginning of a repetition and expire at the end, others inhale on the upstroke and exhale on the down stroke. It doesn’t matter which you do. The point is to take a breath with each repetition to make sure you’re not holding your breath.

 MISTAKE 4 : Lifting hips off the seat or bench when doing exercises. For example  when doing a bench press. When you lift your hips you change the angle of your shoulders as you lift the bar, so you are using only your lower pectoral muscles instead of the entire pectoral muscle. Your feet are also contributing to the movement, so you’re not working as hard. More importantly, this also puts more of a strain on the spine which can lead to injury.

Solution: One simple way to prevent this is to place your legs on the bench with your knees bent and your feet down. How does this stop you from making that arch? If you are tempted to push with your feet, you’ll find very quickly that you’ll lose your balance and fall.

MISTAKE 5 : Straining the neck when doing crunches. Straining the neck is a very common mistake with crunches, because people place their hands behind their neck and then yank their arms to bring their head up rather than using their abs.

Solution: Do not do the crunch with your hand behind your back. Instead, cross your arms in front of your chest and hold your torso, neck and head in strict alignment. Your back will elevate to the lumbar spine region, which is exactly what you want. Lifting your torso (and not just your shoulders) off the floor will give you a lower abdomen workout as well. You can also vary this by adding oblique twists.

MISTAKE 6 : Rocking hips and pelvis while doing biceps curls. If you’re moving your pelvis back and forth during biceps curls, you are using the momentum to help you thrust the dumbbell upward, rather than isolating the muscle and using it to lift the weight. You aren’t getting an effective workout, and you can also throw out your lower back from the back and forth motion.

Solution: To make sure you perform the motion allowing only the biceps to contribute to moving the bar, try the exercise seated, with your legs spread, and rest your right elbow against the inside of your right leg. Then do the same on the left side. Another option is to use a preacher bench, or to stand up against a wall with your butt and back firm against the wall. You should have a 25-degree hip angle, with your legs straight.

MISTAKE 7 : Being wimpy with weights. If a weight is so heavy that you have to jerk, bounce or swing to get it to the top of the movement, it’s too heavy. But on the other hand, if you can do 20 or 30 reps your resistance is to light, and you are wasting your time. You’re not getting enough resistance training to increase muscular endurance or muscle size.

Solution: The setting should be chosen so that your muscle fatigues by the last repetition on the number you choose to do. For example, if you do sets of 12 reps, the 11th and 12th rep should be a struggle, after which you need to rest 1-3 minutes before you can do another set of 12. This takes a little playing around to determine the initial weight. When you are able to do 15 reps at that weight, it’s time to increase the weight.

5 Signs You Need a Shakeup to Your Shapeup

SONY DSCWhen it comes to exercise, it’s always good to mix it up a bit, but there are also times when your exercise routine may be ready for a more major overhaul. Because exercise is a personal thing, and your workout results (and problems) can only be recognized by you, here are a few things to be on the lookout for to determine if you need a shakeup in your shapeup. No matter if you’re a novice to physical fitness or an expert, here are 5 signs that you need to switch up your exercise regime ASAP! –

  1.  If you’re working out and eating properly, you should be seeing results. If you aren’t seeing anything noticeable in the mirror, or if your clothing sizes haven’t changed (or gotten tighter), it’s likely that you need a new exercise routine. With the right routine, you should be able to watch your body transform, even if it is only a little bit. Inches should be coming off and you should start to see more tone to your body.
  2. If in the beginning you wanted to lose weight and improve your endurance, so you did a lot of cardio exercises, such as running on the treadmill, elliptical, stationary bike, etc. However, now that you’ve lost weight and built-up your endurance, you want to focus more on gaining muscle, which requires lifting weights. When your fitness goals change, your workout routine should change with them.
  3. Exercising releases hormones within the brain that are supposed to induce a happier mood. If you’re unhappy with your exercise routine, you rush through your exercises, you cannot wait to get out of the gym, or you find yourself losing focus when you work out, you may be bored. A boring workout is never a good one, and it only makes sense to change it. Being unhappy with your workouts means that you aren’t doing exercises that make you feel good. You should be enthused (okay if ‘enthused’ doesn’t quite describe you, let’s just say you shouldn’t dread your workout), and by the end of it all you should be happy with the physical activity that you do.
  4. You could do your workout routine with your eyes closed. You don’t sweat nearly as much as you used to. You don’t have to put forth a lot of effort to complete your workout. When your workout becomes a walk in the park instead of a challenge, it’s definitely time to change things around. You want your workouts to challenge you and to cause you to push yourself to the limit. If you are going to take the time to exercise, you might as well make it count.
  5. Since the day you’ve started working out until now, you’re been doing the same exact exercise. Even though you’re comfortable with this routine, it’s always helpful to switch up your routine at least every couple of weeks. Doing the same workout for months at a time could not only lead to boredom, but your body get used to the workout and you may find that your exercises are now completely and ineffective.

Fiber: BFF To Your Health

Seems like Fiber is IN lately, but what exactly is fiber?

Fiber is a type of carbohydrate found in plant products. I know carbohydrates are on the OUTS, but fiber is an important type of carbohydrate that is one of the keys to good health. There are two types based on water solubility. Soluble fiber dissolves in water, forms a gel-like material, and is found mainly in oats, apples, citrus, peas, barley, pectin, flaxseed, and beans. Insoluble fiber is found in whole wheat flour, wheat bran, cellulose, lignin, nuts, and many vegetables.

Did you know that Dietary Fiber can reduce cholesterol? Regular consumption can reduce cholesterol, specifically, LDL or low density lipoprotein cholesterol.  

High levels of LDL can be a big risk factor in Cardiovascular disease, in particular coronary artery disease which is the leading cause of death in both men and women of all racial groups in the United States (Mayo Clin Proc. 2009 April; 84(4): 345–352).  

 

However, it’s important to understand that the effects of fiber on blood cholesterol are not the same. Only soluble fiber can reduce cholesterol.  Insoluble fiber has not been shown to improve LDL-cholesterol. If you say that you eat enough fiber, you should also know which type of this carbohydrate you are eating.

 

Dietary fiber can also have a positive effect on blood sugar level. The consumption of soluble fiber not only decreases LDL cholesterol but also decreases blood sugar levels. Too much sugar in the bloodstream can cause long-term damage to body tissues. For example, it can harm blood vessels that supply blood to vital organs, which can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, kidney disease, vision problems, and nerve problems.

Soluble fiber is good for cholesterol and lower blood sugar.

Insoluble fiber is good for regular bowel movements. Yea, I know. Butt someone had to tell you.

Water Soluble (Good for Lowering Cholesterol) 

  1. Oats
  2. Apples
  3. Citrus
  4. Peas
  5. Barley
  6. Flaxseed
  7. Beans

Water Insoluble (Good for Bowel Movement)

  1. Whole Wheat Flour
  2. Wheat Bran
  3. Nuts
  4. Vegetables

 

Does fiber has any side effects? Well, almost everything we consume has side effects and fiber is not too different. Fiber could cause bloating and also may interfere with the absorption of minerals such as iron, magnesium, zinc and calcium.

Fiber is like a BFF to your health. The recommended daily consumption of 25-30 g daily is called for by the American Heart Association. Don’t forget that about 10 g of the 25-30 g should be soluble and the rest insoluble fiber.

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