Yo-yo dieting does not work and neither does yo-yo exercise. A lot of people start out the New Year with good intentions but quickly fall out of a new exercise routine shortly after the year starts. Most fitness gains are cumulative. For example: the more you lift weights, the more weight you can lift; the more often you walk or run, the farther you’ll be able to go and the stronger your heart and lungs will become.
So if you typically go gangbusters every New Years with a new fitness regimen, only to stall out within weeks, here are some tips for sticking with it:
1. Pick something you really enjoy. Hate running? Don’t do it! There are lots of fat-burning aerobic activities to choose from. Try the rowing machine for low impact but great calorie expenditure or a spin class with inspirational music.
2. Make it a date. Treat your power walk/ kickboxing class/ weight circuit session as an appointment. Write it in your calendar or plug it into your smartphone, and you’ll be more likely to follow through. If you need more reinforcement, schedule a few months’ worth of these dates, so that you’ll have to make your other plans around your exercise. Forming a new habit will take at least 3 to 6 weeks so plan your exercise as far out as possible.
3. Buddy up. Commit to a routine with a friend or two. Whether you’ll be embarking on a regular bike ride, splitting the cost of a personal trainer, or planning to meet up for a yoga class, it’ll be harder for you to make up excuses to get out of your workouts if your friends are counting on you to be there. The Seattle Athletic Club has a variety of fun and inexpensive fitness classes that you and your friends can join together and keep you all on track. Finding a fun class like Will Patons’ Circuit Training class or Amber Grugers’ Insanity class will allow you and your friends to have fun in a group setting with lots of other energetic people.
4. Keep it fresh. Make it a goal to try a new activity every six weeks or so to keep from getting bored. Think of the different areas of fitness you would like to improve and when it is time to try another activity make the switch to something your body needs. If you feel you’re strong but not as flexible as you would like to be then a Pilates or Yoga class once or twice a week may improve your overall fitness level. Come into the Seattle Athletic Club to see what new and exciting classes fit your New Years goals. Trying a new class just might be that extra piece of motivation to keep you going this New Year!
By Tom Sheriff, Personal Fitness Trainer Seattle Athletic Club Downtown
More and more frequently I am asked by coaches, friends and fellow gym-rats to review their strength training program. I am always happy to do so because I feel that most programs lack a simple evaluation, monthly or yearly, to ensure effective and efficient progress is being made. The following is an explanation of how to perform a simple audit of your training program.
The first question you need to answer is “Am I following a program, or am I wondering around doing whatever I feel like doing?” If you are just doing whatever you feel like, simply proceed as usual but for the next two weeks record what you are doing each day. At the end of the two weeks you can apply my auditing techniques to your workouts and go from there.
Once you have your program laid out, the first and most important step to auditing a program is to look for “gaps.” Make sure you are doing the fundamental human movements:
• Push (Bench press, military, dips etc.)
• Pull (Pull-ups, rows etc.)
• Squat (Back squat, front squat, overhead etc.)
• Hinge (Dead lifts, good-mornings, RDL’s, etc.)
If any of the mentioned movements are missing, there are gaps in your program.
Next I look for the push to pull ratio. To do this simply count the number of reps you do for each movement in a week then find the ratio of pushes to pulls.
Push: 300 reps/week
Pull: 100 reps/week
In this example the push to pull ratio of 3:1 is way off (but very common). A ratio of 1:1 would be better and ideally you would have a 1:2 ratio of pushes to pulls. The correct ratio ensures balance and promotes good posture.
I also look for balance top to bottom because people tend to slack in the leg department. If you bench press 315 pounds but shudder at the thought of a body weight squat you need to check your priorities.
Thirdly I look at how these movements are being accomplished. The main lifts of all my athletes and clients are considered core and structural lifts. This means they recruit one or more large muscle areas, involve two or more primary joints, and emphasize loading the spine directly or indirectly. If you perform all your exercises sitting or laying on a machine you are not getting the real-world application that exercises should give you.
A back squat will do a whole lot more for you than a leg press or leg extension because it more closely replicates movements you perform throughout the day.
Lastly I look for the purpose and progression of each exercise. If you cannot think of the real reason you are doing an exercise, there is good chance there isn’t one. Program progression is a topic that warrants a separate discussion but you need to make sure there is some rhyme and reason to how your program is moving forward.
I hope you take the time to really evaluate your workouts because you deserve to make progress. Just remember to look for the gaps! If you would like your training program audited please contact Tom Sheriff.
So why do we have goals? How do we achieve them? Who really cares?
Let’s start with the easy stuff. There are a few reasons we have goals.
One, to have something to motivate and inspire us to push hard and better ourselves.
Two, to feel the feeling of achievement which also involves success. Warm and fuzzies, can’t beat that!
Three, to hold ourselves accountable, to keep us trucking down the right path.
Four, some of us just like making lists!
Now here comes the hard part, how do we achieve goals?
I feel like these simple rules apply to most goals. Maybe your goals include physical feats; 100 kb swings in under 1 minute, a muscle up, 10 strict pull-ups, lose 10lbs, run a marathon, etc. etc. Sometimes the goals are personal; get that boyfriend of yours to marry you in a year, buy a house, travel to Iceland (I hear it’s lovely this time of year), finally read The Odyssey. Perhaps they are work related; get a raise, be on time to work, not work through lunch every day, be nicer to the mail room guy, whatever. There are endless kinds and types of goals but there are some simple rules to follow if you want to be successful.
Here are some good tips to make you a super star:
Make at least 3 short term goals that affect the long term. If your goal is to do 10 strict pull-ups making a short term goal of running 3 times a week is not really helping you achieve the big picture. Make sure the effort you are putting in helps you achieve the big end result. Make these three goals small and attainable. If you can only do 1 strict pull up now, probably not the best idea to make a short term goal of 5 in the next month. If your short term goals are too big to achieve in a months time, they are too big and will only result in failure, and failure early on is no good!
Have mid term goals. These are important to check your status. To make sure that you have achieved the stepping stones and can move on. Hopefully if you are looking to lose 10lbs by this half way point (two months, three months, whatever the case may be) you only have 5 more to go. Again, these must be realistic and related to your end goal.
Realistic time management. You can’t expect to be the boss over night (unless your name is Tony Danza); plan, make small steps, and make sure these are things that make you feel good, that you’ve really accomplished something. You can’t move too fast and it’s for certain that if you take too long to achieve these goals you’ll forget, get bored, come up with 5 other goals that sound better, or you’ll stop caring. That’s why the small check point goals along the way are awesome; they keep you working and achieving all the time. Insert, warm fuzzies.
Figure out why. Why are these goals important for me, and how will I feel when I achieve them? The first thing is why, it’s important because you need to make sure you are doing them for you, and that they really mean something. I don’t want to run a marathon because my stupid skinny best friend does them all the time. I want to make sure that it means enough to me personally to stick with it to the end. These are MY goals, not my husbands, not my sister’s, not my children’s goals, they are mine. The reason why you need to think about what you’ll feel like when you get that end result is purely visualization. When your boss gives you a bump in salary how is that going to feel? What will that enable you to do? This helps give you extra incentive to stay the course.
Why didn’t this work before? If you’ve had these goals for a while and still haven’t made any headway ask yourself why? Why did you fail to get to work on time for the last 3 years? What did you try and why did it fail? Not traveling down the same path is the key to success. Repeating stuff is easy, bad habits die hard. If it didn’t work before the way you were going about things what makes you think this time is different?
Who are you going to tell? This one is hard for some people and some of the goals you may have. Do I really want everyone to know that I want to do an Ironman next summer? What if I don’t succeed or what if I decide I just can’t do it. It might be embarrassing or maybe my husband will be mad at me for buying extra swim lessons all for nothing. But then again…the more people you love and trust to tell the bigger the cheering section, the more motivation to accomplish. There is a limitation to this, I don’t really think the guy at the check stand cares that you are trying to fit into a size 4 by the summer. But if you can tell a few people that will support you, your husband, your brother, your co-worker (the one you like), your running partner the more people you will have to push you. The more people you will have to cheer you on and help you stay on the right path. But even more important, the more people you will have to celebrate with!
Simple, easy, make baby steps, feel good about yourself, do it for you, and achieve. Write it down, make a list, put it in your cube at work, tape it to your closet door, find someone else that cares enough to get you there and give them a copy. But whatever you do, write it down! Saving it up in your melon for safe keeping will not help you. You need that map, don’t pull a dad and think you know where you’re going only to get lost. Know where you are and where you want to be. You can do this, I am already so proud of you!
The time is here for the weather to change with winter rolling in, and the days getting darker faster. Exercisers can still take their workouts outdoors to beat the winter blues, and stay off the couch. Going outdoors and exercising with the proper gear allows you to get moving around, giving the body a chance to adjust to the changing season and get revved up for the day.
Dress in layers- avoid cotton-use polypropylene & fleece
If you have asthma wear a face mask or scarf
Cover your head 30 to 40% of heat is lost through your head
Use sunscreen to protect skin & lip balm – remember wind chill goes right through you
Keep hands & feet dry, use wool to keep feet and hands warm
Now you are motivated and have your layers on, and skin protected; it’s time for the outdoors.
Try to head into the wind – less likely to get chilled on way back from your exercise.
Drinks fluids before, during, and after – you are sweating so watch out for dehydration.
Use a headlamp not just for your own ability to see, but for others to see you most likely you will be in the dark.
Staying motivated during the winter can be fun, rewarding, and good for cabin fever. You have the knowledge, and fortitude to meet your goals, of staying active not sedentary. For many people winter outdoor exercise is great for solitude, and quiet time.
Beginning our day with a calm relaxed mind has many advantages as we all know. But in order to see these advantages we need to understand the drawbacks and workings of a non-calmed mind. In essence, a non calmed mind is a stressed mind. Stressors happen daily, whether it is subconscious or conscious and the way that we deal with these stressors can have a big impact on our body, especially when we are attempting to reach a certain goal. When the body is stressed it cannot perform optimally, and many of its thoughts will produce negative reactions and responses to various stimuli within our body which a calmed, stress-free mind would otherwise be able to handle in a more controlled and logical fashion.
The interesting fact is that stress actually changes your body’s chemistry. Trying to put up or deal with stress results in a chemical change that may be quick to pass or could possibly take many weeks, depending on which way your body wants to fight it. In the struggle to gain strength, lose weight or perform at our optimal level, stress is a major factor that needs some consideration. Understanding how to handle stress is very important to achieve the fitness level and physique that you desire.
During stressful situations our body releases two hormomes; fast-acting Adrenaline and long-lived Cortisol. The short term response to body stressors is the release of massive amounts of Adrenaline; which acts to increase your heart rate and breathing like when you are scared or surprised. For our long-term reaction to stress that occur on a daily basis, the body uses a hormone called cortisol, which enters our bloodstream at a slower pace. Once cortisol is present in our body, it slows our metabolism down and may take months or even years to remove its excessive effects. One important fact to know is that cortisol is closely associated with belly fat, which leads to heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other health related issues. Life is becoming more and more stressful as an American and in return our bodies are producing more and more cortisol. People are eating more starchy processed foods only contributing to the obesity epidemic we are facing today.
Its not only our daily stressors that affect us, we even stress when we sleep, making it more difficult to function the next day. Several hours before you get up in the morning, a very tiny portion of your brain, sends a signal to stimulate your adrenal glands which causes a slight rise in adrenaline. And further more after you have awakened, cortisol levels begin to rise. Most heart attacks and strokes occur between 6 am and 8 am in the morning and are often related to the increased rise of cortisol. It is obvious that getting cortisol under control is of a major importance for a healthy fit individual.
BEST TIME TO COMBAT STRESS?
Cortisol is usually at its highest level a few hours after you wake. Over a period of time through the day, your levels decrease. This can answer the age-old question of the when is the best time to exercise. Mornings are optimal as your cortisol levels are high and you have the best chance to suppress them at this time. Nothing like releasing a little tension by lifting weights or taking a class!
REACHING OUR GOALS!
We all have specific goals we want to achieve, and a general direction we want our lives to head in. If we are running around stressed, frustrated, dishonest, with forced anger and violent actions pressed on others, how can we remain focused and calm enough to accomplish our own life’s goals?
This becomes more important when trying to achieve physique related goals. Anytime a goal is set with a stressed or disorganized mind, you can expect to struggle whether you know it or not. Some of the obvious steps to controlling stress are associated with simplifying your life. Putting too much on your daily schedule is a sure way to make life too difficult. There is no question that some people seem to handle stress much better than others, but it is a constant work in progress. Life is too short to walk around stressed out, so try taking a look at your daily habits by organizing your day. Try adding things to help combat stress can help fight these effects; taking a quick vacation, exercising, taking a nap, or doing anything that helps you to relax and feel good, will likely result in a decrease of cortisol!
Just finished a hard training session with Captain “I said 10 more!” and now you are dog tired and hungry as a wolf. What do you re-fuel your body with, there are so many choices! The best thing to do is pick food higher in protein and fat and lower in carbohydrates and sugars especially. The more protein the better chance your body (muscles in particular) have of re-pairing themselves. The protein combined with the fat will take long to metabolize and sustain your energy for longer. Stay away from simple carbohydrates such as bagels, muffins, scones, syrups, yogurt coated nuts, etc. Need something fast, a protein shake with real fruit and a small amount of milk/soy milk in it will really hit the spot! Want to keep it simple? Try a hand full of almonds, a hard boiled egg, and a small piece of fruit. Don’t forget to follow it all up with plenty of water!
What part of your work day are you guaranteed to have at least an hour to yourself? Before work, maybe if you don’t have to be at work at 6:00am, if you don’t have kids you have to get to school, if you don’t like to sleep in, if you don’t have dogs to walk. After work, maybe if you are still energized enough, if it’s not dinner time, if you don’t have to pick up the kids from soccer practice, if you don’t have a late meeting. Lunch time, for sure! This is the best part about working out on your lunch break, you’ll always be guaranteed to have that time to yourself. Maybe you might have a lunch meeting but for the most part that is your one hour out of the work day that is yours to do what you wish. Sounds like the perfect time to get a quick, strenuous, fun, energizing, and beneficial workout it! Besides having it fit nicely in the middle of your day, here are a few great reasons to workout at lunchtime:
Get in, get out and it’s done for the day. No worries about having to make time for a workout after work, this way there are no excuses.
Stop the after lunch crash, no more coffee or energy drinks required. After a lunchtime workout you’ll be energized with endorphins and will be ready to finish off the last half of your work day.
The quality of your lunch meal will be so much more beneficial. Most of the time you go for a salad at lunch but sometimes you grab a pizza, a pasta dish, or maybe even some heavy Thai food. After a good workout you will want nothing but good fuel for your body, I mean you didn’t do all that hard work just to turn around and un-do it all in 10 minutes – right!?
It’s easy to get your co-workers involved. Sometimes you go to lunch with your friends from work, but now make it a healthier get together and come down to the gym together. It’s always more fun if you have a partner in crime!
You are awake enough (as opposed to bright and early before work) to be alert and strong but not tired enough (as opposed to after an 8 hour work day) to not have enough gas in the tank to put forth good effort.
Come down during lunch, try it out and experience the benefits of a lunch time workout first hand. There are plenty of classes, programs, trainers, and gym partners for you, making this a great way to break up your work day. Plus, when you are done you can enjoy some of the healthy sandwiches, salads, smoothies, and fruit that available at the SAC Café.
Adriana offers a great Lunchbox Express workout that works for all fitness levels and is scheduled perfectly to suite the lunch hour.
The sun is finally out and you are bursting at the seams to get out there and exercise. But you are torn because you don’t want to give up your weightlifting hour, or your time on the elliptical but you aren’t a runner and walking doesn’t really seem like much of a workout. But it’s Seattle, there is finally Vitamin D to absorb and you are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Well I have the answer for you, it’s called HILLS!
You can walk/run/bike/lunge/skip/go backwards up any hill and if you push yourself with speed or by wearing a weight vest I can assure you it will be a workout. Find the hilliest part of your neighborhood. Find a new area of town you want to see (a hilly one of course) and start at the bottom and work your way up. I personally enjoy hill repeats on a nice sunny day. If I don’t feel like putting miles in running I will simply find a steep incline or a mildly long incline and run up it. If it’s short I’ll do it 10-20 times if it’s long or I’m going up two or more blocks I might only do 5-10 repeats. The goal is always to keep moving, the down is the rest so enjoy it while it lasts. As soon as you get back to the bottom it’s time to sprint/walk/ride etc back up again.
If this sounds like fun but you are looking for a little more diversity try adding in stairs to your workout. Queen Anne has TONS of them (as do MANY other areas of town), add them to a run, add them to a walk, just go out and get up some stairs! You can repeat as many times as you like, go as fast or as slow as you like, use your body weight or added weight, whatever strikes your fancy. The goal is to push yourself just like you would in the gym but be able to be outside and enjoy the roses.
Lastly if you don’t feel too weird about being that guy doing squats, push-ups, park bench jumps on your trail run adding in the body weight exercises to your cardio is a great way to kill two birds with one stone. Tired of running/walking and you still have 3 more miles to go? Take a “break” and do 20 squats, 20 push-ups, 20 floor to ceilings, and or 20 tuck jumps. Take the gym outside and enjoy our few months sunshine!