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.

Why Do My Muscles Shake When I Exercise?

Muscles may make the body move, but it’s the connective tissue (the layer of fluid filled tissue between the skin and the muscles) that receives the signal from the brain to cause the movement. So does the brain really want the muscle to shake, or is part of the message lost in translation?

The shaking that occurs toward the end of an exercise or workout can be a signal from the brain that the muscle is exhausted. It has been worked hard enough, and it may be time to stop. The shaking can happen more often when the muscle is worked harder than normal or doing a new exercise .

It is also possible that the message from the brain gets a little garbled on its way through the connective tissue, due to other factors like level of hydration and electrolyte balance, and the timing of the muscle movement can get a little out of whack.

When the fibers in the muscle get the initial call to action, they contract to cause the correct movement (also called muscle firing).   But not all fibers are created equal—there are fast twitch and slow twitch muscles .  Like the names suggest, slow twitch muscles have a slow reaction time to contract, and are generally used for activities such as walking, maintaining posture, and most daily activities, and therefore they don’t tire out too quickly.  Whereas fast twitch muscles have a quick contraction time, and are used for short bursts of activity like sprinting, jumping, and lifting weights. They can tire out much faster.

Muscle fibers don’t all fire, or contract at the same time. Some fibers are resting while others work to make the muscle move, and then they trade off. As the muscle is challenged more and more, this changeover can get a little ragged, and there is not enough contracting going on to keep the muscle steady and moving smoothly. It begins to shake.  When the shaking begins, the muscle may be close to exhaustion so stopping is inevitable.  But recognize that the muscle has been pushed to its limits, and it might be time to back off.

No matter how hard the workout, be sure to hydrate. If the connective tissue, which is like bubble wrap and fiber optics all rolled into one, gets dehydrated, the message for the muscle to fire doesn’t get delivered, and the firing sequence can get confused, causing the muscle to shake.  To help counteract shaking due to dehydration, be sure and restore fluids while working out.

How To Get The Most Out Of Every Workout – Tips To Do It Right

When you were a kid, how many times did you hear “if you are going to do it… do it right”? How many times have you said this to your own child?

Working out is no different. If you are going to make the effort to show up and exercise, you should do it right so you get the best results and the maximum benefit.  What do you think is the most important part of resistance training? The amount of weight? The number of repetitions? The number of sets? The variety of exercises?

All good guesses, but when doing any type of exercise, especially weight training or resistance training, the correct form is the most important component. If you are lifting a weight that causes you to compromise your form, the weight is too heavy and you are wasting your time. Chances are you are barely working the muscle that you want to work, and you can really risk injuring yourself.

When proper form is followed, weight lifting not only increases your muscle strength but also:

  1. Helps to burn body fat
  2. Improves muscle tone
  3. Increases bone density

In order to maximize the benefits of your weight training program, you’ll want to start with the right amount of weight. To determine this amount for your personal routine, find a weight you are comfortable with. The rule of thumb is that you should be able to lift it 12-15 times. Don’t worry if you don’t choose the right weight on you first time.  It can be a kind of trial and error, until you get that perfect poundage. As your strength increases, gradually up the amount of weight you lift. If the amount of weight you’re lifting affects your form, decrease it, or reduce the number of repetitions.

The more you focus on proper resistance training techniques and form, the more you’ll benefit from your weight training program.

Okay, great Musclemommy!, but how do I learn the right form?  If you are primarily working out at a gym, speak with a trainer.  This does not mean you have to hire a trainer, as most gyms have a handful of trainers that are not busy at any given time, and they should be happy to answer any form and technique questions.  If you are doing exercises at home using DVDs or other equipment, there should always be an informational and instructional section or sheet. Please read it… it can make all the difference. If you’re unsure of the right form to follow after speaking with a trainer or reading instructions, you can always look at weight lifting pictures online or even videos on You Tube. I go to You Tube all the time to check out proper form. And of course there is ‘yours truly’. I will answer any questions you have about…well…most anything that has to do with fitness and nutrition.

Here are a few more tips to keep you safe and maximize your strength training benefits:

1. Before lifting, warm up for 5-10 minutes with cardio activity like walking.

2. As you become familiar with your routine, don’t be tempted to skip your warm up because it will leave you more prone to injury. I will always do a set of 10-15 reps with 2 pound weights, just to get the motion down and the blood pumping. I do this warm up for the first exercise per muscle group.

3. Breath. People are often tempted to hold their breath. In fact, you may not even realize you’re doing it. My trainer used to tell me to breathe all the time. I never realized how often I would hold my breath. Proper breathing is part of proper form. It’s important not to hold your breath because doing so can dangerously raise your blood pressure. Breathe out when you lift and in as you lower the weight. If you find it too hard to concentrate on when to breathe out and when to breathe in, just concentrate on your breathing so that you are taking consistent, deliberate breaths.

4. Don’t hurry through your routine. Keep movements controlled and slow, isolating the muscles you’re working. If you are in a hurry, opt for doing a fewer number of exercises, but focus on your form. Keeping it slow also prevents you from using momentum to lift the weight.

5. Don’t overdo it. If an exercise causes pain, stop immediately. Don’t try it for a few days or reduce the amount of weight you’re lifting.

Read, Set….Do It Right!


Workout To The Max – Avoid These Three Mistakes

      If you ask my husband, I am somewhat of a control freak.  My kids call it a KIADIA (know it all, do it all).  I am trying to work on this and lighten up a bit, but sometimes I just can’t help it.

The gym is no different, as I am constantly critiquing people and telling them how to do each exercise better. Well, in my mind at least.

I have a list of pet peeves. Things I see people doing at the gym that make me crazy. I feel sorry for them a lot of times, because they make the effort to get to the gym at 5:00 AM, yet they don’t live up to their full potential. So here is a list of my top three.

1. Resting way too long in between sets
If you go to the gym for a little relaxation and socializing, then that is one thing, but if you are there to work your body, then you want to keep that heart rate elevated to keep burning fat. A general rule is taking 30 to 60 seconds to rest before you move on. It will keep you in the fat burning zone, and as an added bonus you are done faster.

2. Forgetting the range of motion
For most exercises, it is important to go through the entire range of motion. The worst offenders are the people doing bicep curls without fully extending their arms.  I’m not sure what muscles they are working, but it is definitely not biceps. Using that full range of motion will challenge your muscles to the max and your results will show it.

3. Minding everything except your muscles
Don’t just go through the motions of exercise. Give it 100% of your effort, by feeling the muscle working. Making that mind muscle connection will intensify your workout by paying attention to the task at hand. If you are doing a set of 12 reps, you should be struggling by rep 11. If that final rep is not a challenge, it is time to add more weight.

If you are going to do it, do it to the max.


In my gym, as in most gyms, there are three main areas; the cardio room, the machine (nautilus type equipment) area, and the free weight section. There are women in all three areas but in drastically unbalanced proportions. The most noticeable thing is that the women in each area are distinctly different.

First there is the high-energy, exciting “cardio room”. This area has by far, more women in it than the other two parts of the gym combined. Also, this room always seems to have the fattest women. Women usually flock to the cardio room, because that is where they are going to do the aerobic exercises to help them burn fat, right? Why then, are the women in the cardio room always the fattest? Shouldn’t they be the thinnest, with all that “cardio” they do?

Next is the “machine area.” This is the place where you find those nautilus machines, such as the leg press, leg extension, chest press, arm curl, etc. There are usually slightly less women in this area than in the cardio room, and the women tend to be in slightly better shape. These women usually aren’t overweight, but they also don’t seem to be living up to their full fitness potential. These are the women who want to “tone.” They hop on a machine, put the pin in the 15 pound slot, and do 25 leg extensions…to “tone” their muscles. However, much like the women who are doing cardio to burn fat and are still fat…most of these women never really seem to be toned.

So, by now you are probably asking, where are all the fit girls?? They are in the third section of the gym, the “free weight section.” This area of the gym has the bench presses, squat racks, dumbbells, and barbells. Oh yeah, and the sweaty, grunting guys.

This area of the gym also has the LEAST number of women out of the three areas, maybe 3 or 4 only. Yet, these are the truly fit women. The ones who are not fat, and look toned. They have round, hard butts, defined shoulders, slender waists, and tight, toned legs. These are the women most others want to look like, right? So, if these are the women you want to look like, then why are you not over in the free weight area as well!

These are the reasons I hear from women as to why they won’t venture into the free weight zone:

1. Free weights will make me bulky, machines are for toning. No NO NO NO NO – Never! I have been lifting weights seriously for over 12 years, and I am not bulky AT ALL. I am slim, trim, toned and FIT! The only way women look bulky is by having too much fat.

2. The sweaty men will be mad that I am in their way. Not true. I spend most of my gym time in the free weight area, and the men actually go around me. No man has ever given me so much as a dirty look for being there. In fact, the only time the guys talk to me, is usually to tell me they are impressed with how much I lift “for a girl.”

3. Those exercises look hard. Well, yes! That is why they work. Nobody ever got better at anything by taking the easy way out. You can do it!

4. I don’t know how to use them. The one valid excuse. You do not want to jump into free weights if you don’t know what you are doing. Ask a trainer to get you acquainted, or go online. There are experts out there that can give you detailed exercise descriptions. Just make sure it is someone who actually has a certification. Or email me. I can give you info on any type of free weight exercise.

The point I am trying to make here is that the “fit girls,” or the “toned girls,” or even the “hot girls” are in the free weight area of the gym for a reason. In order to get toned, you HAVE to put on muscle, and lots of it. Free weights, if handled correctly, are the most effective for adding muscle. Working out with free weights can also be very empowering. You will be amazed at how strong you really are!

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