Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Realistic Resolutions for 2010

We're only a few short days away from an exciting new year! For many, each new year brings new a new resolution for fitness. Here are five key tips to keep your goal setting realistic and safe within the scope of the exercise and health science disciplines:

1. Exercising a certain body part will not necessarily burn fat on or around that body part. (For example, lunging and squatting do not have to burn body fat around your butt or legs.)
2. You should have an idea of the number of calories you are expending with each exercise session. You should also have an idea of the number of calories you are consuming each day. The more accurate these values, the more able you will be to set your goals.
3. Your exercise sessions should involve cardiovascular elements as well as strength training, core training, and flexibility training elements. These all relate with one another, so leaving any of these out of your fitness regimen is very likely to impede progress and increase risk of injury. Consult with a Perfect Personal Trainer to determine appropriate exercise modalities and to determine appropriate resistances.
4. Most Americans do not consume enough protein. Even those that consume high amounts of dairy and meat products are generally not getting the protein that they need for toning and metabolic change.
5. Healthy eating does not necessarily equate to body fat reduction or increases in general fitness. Do your best to keep a Diet Diary and keep track of your caloric intake.

On behalf of the wellness experts of Perfect Personal Training, we wish you all a safe, happy, and healthy New Year!

Questions? Call (877)698-DO-IT (3648) to speak with a Perfect Personal Trainer about your new year fitness and wellness goals.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Frenzy of Fitness Products

Happy holidays, readers!

Reaching your New Year fitness goals means a combination of nutrition, lifestyle modification, and exercise aimed at improving muscular and cardiorespiratory abilities. And, while the wide variety of available fitness products can all be helpful tools, it is important to remember that they are just that -- helpful tools, and nothing more. Achieving fitness and wellness is not about the products that you select, but about your strategy and its careful execution.

Advertisements for the Bowflex home gyms all claim to bring incredible results to their users. But, the Bowflex itself does not have the ability to do that. It is your ability to successfully target all of your muscles with appropriate intensity and duration, combined with your caloric intake and cardiorespiratory training, that will or won't lead to successful change. Don't be fooled -- nothing about the Bowflex will make your work out any more beneficial than training with free weights, bands, tubing, or other forms of resistive training. In fact, given the Bowflex's inability to properly accompany many body types, users of this product may be far better off relying on other (and cheaper) methods of getting fit.

The stability ball, and many Ab Rollers, Ab Crunchers, and similar devices that are aimed at targeting the "belly area" are even more guilty of misrepresenting their value. While these devices can be used to effectively develop more core musculature and balance, training the midsection's muscles has nothing to do with burning body fat.

This is also a good time to reference the dumbbell collections that are aimed at womens' fitness. Usually sold as a case of dumbbells of varying resistances under ten pounds each, these sets are sometimes promoted as being all that is needed for a body sculpting, muscular work out. In truth, these dumbbells won't take most women very far in their pursuits. After the first few weeks or so of regular use, it is rare that these dumbbells will be heavy enough to progressively train the major muscles of a woman's body.

Keep the following information in mind when planning your exercise sessions: First, be sure that you are selecting complimentary modalities. Then, concern yourself with the frequency, intensity, and duration of everything you do. When these factors are properly addressed, it won't matter what devices you select, but how well you stick to your progressive regimen.

Questions? Feel free to call (877)698-DO-IT (3648) or leave us a comment below!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Does Sweating = Fat Loss?

People often equate sweating with fat-burning because heavy exercise tends to produce sweat in most people. However, it would be incorrect to assume that sweating, itself, is always a sign of fat loss. While it is true that sweating can often be a by-product of fat-burning, sweating can also be caused by activities that do not burn fat, such as sitting in a sauna or being outside on a hot day. One trend is for exercisers to bring about significantly more sweat, during exercise, than what the body would normally produce, by wearing layers or a "sauna suit". While this will lead to a greater amount of sweating (and more loss of toal body water), it will not burn off any additional calories.

Celebrities are sometimes known for taking diuretics (often in the form of "water pills") to lose body water before performances or appearances. It is important to understand that this, much like excessive sweating, rids the body of water, but not fat. While many promotions for diuretics will claim to rid the body of "excess water", most Americans are chronically dehydrated, making additional self-imposed and unmonitored water losses unsafe.

While greater sweating or other forms of water loss may be advantageous in the removal of toxins, the American College of Sports Medicine and other accredited health and fitness authorities do not recommend any catalysts for producing more sweat or for otherwise eliminating a greater amount of body water than is natural. Dehydration, headaches, dizziness, lethargy, a reduced capacity for exercise, and other health concerns make this an unsafe practice. Further, as is explained above, there are no benefits regarding fat loss to losing body water.

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Call (877)698-DO-IT (3648) to find out more about health & fitness with a Perfect Personal Training professional.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

"What is the BEST way to do cardio?"

We get this question often: Which method of cardiovascular training is most superior for effective body fat reduction?
Is it jogging?

The elliptical?


The Answer: It's not the type of training that will make a difference... It is how it's performed!

Cardiovascular Defined
First, let us get straight what cardiovascular training really is: It is rhythmic, repetitive, and involves large muscles of the body moving through a big range of motion. This rules out repeated sets of bicep curls or heel raises for cardio exercise, but includes exercises that involve big, broad movements such as the elliptical or crossramp machines, walking, jogging, running, cycling, stair climbing, kicking, jumping jacks, stepping, or major movements of the arms and shoulders, such as rowing or boxing.

Desired Intensity
For those in good health without history of coronary intervention, heart or lung disease, stroke, poor circulation, or similar issues, it is generally best to train the cardiovascular system with a heart rate at 55-80% of its estimated maximum. This means that if your estimated maximal heart rate is 200 beats per minute, then you should probably find your most effective fat loss results at a training heart rate of 110-160 beats per minute. To safely estimate your maximum heart rate, please consult a Perfect Personal Trainer. This value will change over time, and should be re-estimated regularly so you are not undertraining or overtraining your aerobic system.

Which Form Is For You?
Choose cardiovascular exercises that you will find enjoyable, and feel free to go from one to another if you find yourself getting bored or having difficulty keeping your heart rate in the range described above. Also avoid cardiovascular exercises that rely on any of your joints that have caused you trouble. For example, if you have experienced hip or knee or ankle trouble, then you might be safer performing cardiovascular training that uses the upper body as opposed to the lower body. (It is generally best to consult a physician, however, if you have experienced any prolonged joint discomfort at all.)

Duration & Frequency
Now that we have defined what cardiovascular training is and an appropriate intensity, let's discuss the desired duration and frequency. After roughly twenty minutes, your body is more likely to start burning a higher percentage of fat than it did in the first twenty minutes. This percentage is scientifically shown to increase even more significantly as you draw closer to an hour of steady cardiovascular training. And, how often should this be performed? For general health, studies show that just two days per week can be somewhat beneficial, but that five days per week are more ideal for a longer life, reduced incidence of disease, and sustained fat loss.

Other Considerations
Weight-bearing cardiovascular training, such as jogging, can be either therapeutic or damaging to joints that are already unhealthy or strained. Consult a Perfect Personal Trainer to assess your medical history and risk factors. If you are currently sedentary, then you should always consult a physician and a qualified fitness professional before beginning an exercise regimen of any kind.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Prevent & Treat Muscle Cramping

Though this article does not directly relate to fat loss, muscle cramping is very common in people of generally low fitness levels, and therefore serves this blog well.

First, let's define what a muscle cramp is: Muscle cramps occur when a muscle tightens and shortens. Several causes include:
- Weak, inflexible muscles
- Dehydration and electrolyte imbalances
- Poor circulation and/or oxygenation of the muscles
- Being in an environment of extreme temperature

Prevention & Treatment
  • If you are not getting the recommended three days per week of strength training or the five days per week of cardiovascular training, then this is a good start. Also, the duration, modality, and intensity of your exercises may be partially responsible.
  • Consider your total body water (TBW). Most of us require roughly 1/2 to 1 ounce of water, per pound of bodyweight, per day. This means that a 150-lb person should be consuming roughly 75 ounces to 150 ounces of water each day. Caffeine drinkers should aim even higher, as should those exercising very strenuously for very long periods of time. Without the right amount of water, your muscles cannot be as healthy as they need to be to prevent cramping and other problems.
  • Another big concern is the flexibility of your muscles. It is not enough to just perform a few random stretches from time to time. Stretching should involve all major muscles for 20-60 seconds each, and should be performed nearly every day. Never stretch to the point of pain, but do stretch to the point of mild discomfort. Consult your Perfect Personal Trainer for more details and specificity regarding muscular flexibility.
  • Consume less than 2,400 mg of sodium each day. Some health groups recommend even fewer than 1,600 mg, especially for those with high blood pressure. However, it is important to note that too little salt/sodium can also lead to muscle cramping. Perform an assessment of your usual sodium intake and compare to these values to determine if this may be a factor.
  • Consume roughly 3,500 mg of Potassium daily. While a more specific recommendation will vary based on your gender and age, this is often a useful starting point, as low amounts of potassium are often contributors to muscle cramping. Seek the advice of a dietitian to more accurately determine your own needs.
We hope that you have found this helpful. Please note that following these recommendations may not lead to immediate results, and that you should always consult a physician before implementing a major change in exercise or diet.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving Calories... Where Are They Now?

It's universally-accepted knowledge that the average American gains body fat during the holidays, as a result of overconsuming calories.

It is also universally-accepted to know that the overwhelming majority of Americans either do not exercise, or do not exercise with enough intensity or duration to remove the excess body fat.

Is it noticeable?

The extra fat often goes undetected because people don't notice a big enough difference in their own bodies to recognize it. One's bodyweight often remains roughly the same, and clothes don't feel significantly tighter... So, if we're gaining body fat, then why isn't it more obvious?

One reason is that our bodyweights fluctuate throughout the day, often by up to 2%. With this, a gain in body fat of less than one pound, which is a common amount of fat to gain in one holiday season, often goes undetected and gets lost in the mix of daily bodyweight fluctuation.

Clothes can be misleading also, as gained body fat may get distributed rather evenly throughout a body, which makes it more difficult to notice in clothes. On the flipside of that thought, most of the new fat may be stored in one place that would not affect the way clothes feel. For example, additional body fat on the back of the arms may not result in a "tight feeling" against a loose-fitting short-sleeved shirt.

Another reason is that we often lose muscle as we gain body fat, which tends to balance out the scale. While this is not always the case, we should accept and understand that our muscles are atrophying (shrinking) when they aren't being challenged enough or when they aren't getting the right amounts of protein at the right times. With holiday stress, missed workouts, and a general lack of proper amounts of protein, it is a safe assumption that we are not just gaining body fat, but that we are losing muscle as well, which will minimize any change in the total amount of actual bodyweight.

What Can You Do?

First and foremost, commit to more regular moderate-to-high intensity cardiovascular exercise for at least six weeks. As a very broad generalization, just one or two more 30-60 minute workouts per week, in addition to what you already do, should partially or completely remove the additional body fat. Please keep in mind that this is a generalization based on mean values for the average American and will not have personal accuracy.

Secondly, have your body fat percentage (also called "body composition") checked by a PPT professional, and re-check after the holiday season. This should serve as a good indicator as to whether or not your caloric consumption throughout the holidays was having a drastic effect on your body. If it is, as it is with most Americans, then we can determine a plan to create a safe caloric deficit.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that any extra, unneeded calories that you consumed at Thanksgiving (or at any other time) will either remain in your body as fat or will be lost through activity and/or a caloric deficit. They won't magically disappear as their own, as some may hope, but they are well under your control!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Defining Nutrition

Keywords: Fat loss, Body weight, Lose weight

Losing weight means "eating healthy", right?

Let's think about this....

Apples are healthy. Avacados are healthy. Rice is healthy.

But, would a meal of these three foods always equate to fat loss?

Today's lesson is a short one: "Health" and "losing bodyfat" are not the same thing. In fact, they are often greatly opposed to one another. Separate the way you see the two: "Healthy" food choices don't have to lead to fat loss or vice versa.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Just Drink Water

Decades ago, I saw someone on Oprah explain that drinking water can cure hunger. He simplified the solution quite a bit, but his point was made that consuming the right amount of water can help curb hunger.

Was he right?

In short, people often confuse slight dehydration (I'm talking about subtle dehydration that most of us endure daily without realizing it) for hunger. We don't often know how to interpret the messages from our bodies, so we think we are hungry when we are really just in need of water.

So, can drinking more water cure hunger? Not all the time, but since most of us don't consume enough water, then this is surely a good start.

How much is too much? How much is just enough drinking water?

In a very broad and general statement, our water consumption in ounces should roughly equal half of a person's bodyweight in lbs on non-exercise days in normal temperatures. On days of high exercise and/or extreme temperatures, we may want to double that number and consume roughly one ounce of water per pound of bodyweight. Heavy caffeine drinkers or those on diuretics may need more water, and those that consume a lot of hydrating beverages should probably go lower than these values.

The above equation is rough, and many medical factors should be considered, but if you're not consuming anywhere near these numbers, then you probably need to change your water intake.

Remember, being short on body water may lead to excess feelings of hunger. And, do any of us really want to deal with that?