Friday, March 24, 2017

Gym Myths Exposed #1

New gym myths seem to pop up overnight. Do all your exercises standing on one foot! Eat all the carbs you want before a 5k! Strength training makes you bulky! Your workout partner says one thing. The internet says another. A celebrity trainer says they are both wrong.

The next couple of weeks I will share information from top experts in nutrition, exercise, weight loss and athletic performance to rank each concept and set the record straight. You will not only know if the idea is true - you'll also know why.

Machines are safer than free weights - TRUE - but free weights are still the better option.
Resistance training machines may look like medieval torture devices but dumbbells cause more weight-training injuries. Machines support your whole body and encourage motion in one plane with one joint. Free weights force you to control a weight in all directions and they teach you better movement mechanics and body awareness. These skills translate readily into the functional movements of everyday life. Studies found that barbell squats stimulated significantly more beneficial hormones than the same number of machine leg presses. Barbell bench presses were found to activate more muscle tissue than a machine equivalent.

You don't have to be "thin" to be healthy - TRUE - body fat is just one measure of health.
Lifestyle is one of the best predictors of long-term health. Four basic healthy habits minimize the impact of a high BMI.
        * exercise regularly
        * eat five servings of vegetables and fruits daily
        * refrain from smoking
        * drink alcohol in moderation
A person who has more body fat but less stress, who sleeps well, lifts weights and eats fruits and vegetables is often healthier than someone with low body fat who doesn't have the same healthy habits. Strength, flexibility, cardiovascular health and healthy hormonal levels are influenced as much or more by what you DO than what you weigh.

Running is bad for your knees - FALSE - bad running form is bad for your knees.
Perfect running form should be painless. the human body was designed to move far more than we do now. These days people often jump into the sport too quickly and too intensely after years of sedentary living. A new stimulus on the body with that intensity is asking for trouble. Pain in the feet, knees, back and hips is the common outcome. Your knee should track over your foot, not inside or outside of it. Your toes should track forward, not in or out. You should feel equal pressure in the inside and outside edges of your foot each time you stride. Strive for quality form over mileage. Don't increase your mileage more than 10% per week.

Check in next week for three more gym myths exposed!

Stay Active, Keep Moving and
Enjoy Your Food

Friday, March 17, 2017

Eat Green for St. Patrick's Day

I enjoy celebrating the holidays and am making corned beef and cabbage with whole-wheat Irish Soda bread for a special celebration.

What naturally green foods can you enjoy this St. Patrick's Day?

Kale is trendy right now. It is a powerhouse of nutrition, rich in calcium, vitamin A, vitamin K, iron and fiber. Add some to salads or soups. I enjoy the bagged kale salad from Costco.

Green Tea has been linked to protection against diabetes, heart disease and obesity. It might slow the growth of cancer. I brew a gallon of green tea at a time and enjoy it all day long. I have developed such a taste for it that I crave it over most other beverages.

Kiwi has more vitamin C than an orange and is also rich in the antioxidant lutein. You can actually eat the skin but if you prefer not to, you can peel and slice it to eat as is or to add to salads. Another way to eat a kiwi is to slice it in half crosswise and scoop it out with a spoon.

Basil is an amazing herb. It has fiber, vitamins A, C, K, and B6 as well as calcium, zinc and iron. You can add basil to your salad for a flavor punch. Try topping your whole-wheat veggie pizza with slivers of basil. What about including it in whole-wheat pasta along with broccoli & a few artichoke hearts? Since basil can be pricey, I like to buy the basil plant and have it available in my kitchen for a few weeks.

Cabbage is economical and and low in calories. It contains sinigrin which has shown unique cancer preventive properties. Cabbage also has cholesterol-lowering benefits which are enhanced when it is steamed. Add cabbage to your winter vegetable list along with butternut squash and sweet potatoes.

Stay Active, Keep Moving and 
Enjoy Green Food

Friday, March 10, 2017

Grow Your Brain

Mindfulness meditation has been shown to be amazingly beneficial for our mind, spirit and body in many different ways. A recent study shows that meditation can even change the size of your brain!

Researchers have shown that mindfulness meditation practice leads to structural changes in a region of the brain related to experiencing stress. We know that meditation can provide cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day. Changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and show that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing.

A study at Massachusetts General Hospital included sixteen adults in an 8-week program. All underwent MRI imaging of the brain before the study and spent an average of 27 minutes a day practicing mindfulness exercises. They did some gentle yoga as a group, learned about stress & its consequences and were taught mindfulness skills.

Data analysis showed increased concentrations of gray matter in the brain in the left hippocampus, the posterior cingulate cortex, the temporoparietal junction and the cerebellum of those who had practiced meditation. Study authors noted that the affected regions of the brain are involved in learning and memory, emotional regulation, self-referential processing and perspective-taking.

Include mindfulness work in your workout week. Try yoga, breathing exercises or meditation. Your brain will actually get bigger! A healthy body and a healthy spirit can lead to wholeness and peace.

Stay Active, Keep Moving and 
Enjoy Your Food

Friday, February 17, 2017

Make Your Promise Stick

I love this advice from Jen Widerstrom. She is a trainer on The Biggest Loser and has some great motivation tips. Here are two important principles from Jen for busy people in all walks of life:

Acknowledge Your Importance
Why are the promises you make to yourself the easiest ones to break? Is it because the only person you'll disappoint is yourself? Or that you've prioritized others over your goals? Either way, you deserve better than that. Think of a promise as a powerful muscle - like the glutes or lats - that can affect how your body looks, moves, and feels. Just like a muscle, you can strengthen your promise over time and develop it into one of your assets. The stronger your promise becomes, the more probable it is that you'll be able to commit to reaching your goals, whether that's to move more, eat better or finally sign up for a race. 

Train the Power of Your Word
 I (Jen) first experienced this concept when I promised myself that I wouldn't eat dessert in restaurants. I focused on one dinner at a time. It felt a little low impact in the moment, but looking back, it was the just-right start: a small, clear goal that was surprisingly hard for me to accomplish. I told no one about this, which forced accountability and strength to come only from me. I made it through that week. And I used this small exercise to prove to myself that I could trust myself. This dessert challenge marked the end of my empty promises. My confidence grew every time I kept a promise I made to myself. Whenever I failed, I used that as information about where my system was faulty and applied it to the next opportunity.  

I (Ann) really appreciate that Jen uses the word "opportunity". When you fail, you often feel guilty or discouraged. When the challenge presents itself again, the tendency is to try to avoid the situation, be intimidated by it or give up. I prefer to look at the next challenge as another opportunity to try again.

When I was taking tennis lessons, I was not successful many times. Each time the ball came to me, I attempted to look at it as another opportunity to try again. I got another turn; another chance. The more turns I got, the more I improved.

See opportunity in each choice you make this week. Work that promise muscle. 
Make your promise stick. 

Stay Active, Keep Moving and 
Enjoy Your Food

Friday, February 10, 2017

Enjoy Your Lunch

I almost always end my blog with the phrase "enjoy your food". As John, my husband, was indulging in a large portion of "splurge" foods, he said, "I'm just doing what you said. Enjoying my food!.  I thought maybe I should be more clear on what I mean by enjoy your food.

The idea is to choose healthy foods that give you pleasure and enjoy them in moderate portions. So, for example, if you despise carrots, you would not choose carrots and hummus as your mid-afternoon snack. You could slice a cucumber instead and then you would enjoy your mid-afternoon healthy snack in a moderate portion.

Another example of enjoying your food would be to include a "treat" food in your entire day or entire week of meals. When you sit down to eat your splurge, you enjoy each bite without feeling guilty or worrying about each calorie. Your conscious choice is part of your healthy lifestyle plan.

Enjoy Your Lunch - Here are a couple of healthy lunchtime choices.

Lunchtime sandwiches can have hidden calories and sodium. 
*Choose deli meats that are sliced from the whole turkey or ham rather than the processed meats found in the refrigerator case. Ask for low-sodium meats.

*Swap mayo for smashed avocado or white beans to add healthy fats and fiber to your lunch.

*Include lots of lettuce, tomato, red onion or other veggies.

*Choose bread with "whole wheat flour" as the first ingredient. Take note of the hidden grams of sugar and sodium in bread, too.

Granny Smith apples may be your best lunchtime choice. Scientists found that this variety contained the highest amount of non-digestible compounds, including fiber and antioxidant polyphenols, that promote growth of "good" gut bacteria. These bacteria may help decrease inflammation and prevent obesity. Add an apple to your lunch this week.

Stay Active, Keep Moving and
Enjoy Healthy Food in Moderate Portions

Friday, February 3, 2017

Recovery Day or Rest Day?

I've talked about recovery before in my 2016 posts on June 17 and June 24 (click on the links to find those posts). Today I'm highlighting more information on how crucial recovery is for your body's health.

Recovery is designed into a workout program to speed the vascular system's ability to help remove waste products and to repair and rehabilitate damaged tissue into stronger, faster and more powerful neuromuscular units. Techniques such as active exercise recovery, thermotherapy and manual therapy are designed to stimulate vascular pumping. It is beneficial for total health to avoid passive recovery, meaning rest only, during your workout week.

An active recovery workout on the day after a challenging workout can enable exercisers to continue their training and keep contributing to aerobic capacity. It reduces lactate levels and acidosis in muscles. It is most effective when combined with other methods. Low-intensity exercise has been shown to reduce chronic inflammatory markers. Additionally, the hydrostatic effect of water immersion with a swim recovery day helps to increase the blood-pumping mechanism needed for metabolite clearance.

Thermotherapy can consist of cold and hot compresses, cold and hot ointments, and cold or warm baths. Cold therapies primarily rely on acute effects that decrease metabolic activity, reduce swelling and inflammation and alleviate pain through nerve analgesia. Heat therapies increase metabolic activity, and increase muscle pliability. The combined effects most likely speed the vascular shuttling process for the removal of muscle damage byproducts and the addition of tissue repair agents. Contrast therapy is the combination of cold and heat therapies.

Manual therapy is a good partner to heat therapy. Heat has the ability to reduce perceived pain and increase muscle pliability and length. Manual therapy is applied with foam rollers and massage balls (self massage) or by coach/trainer massage. Assisted stretch can be beneficial in addition to manual therapy to assist in reducing lactate levels.

Sleep is the ultimate recovery to help your body repair itself. Sleep enhances the muscle-building effect of exercise by increasing protein-synthesis and allowing the nervous system return to a para-sympathetic state. Sleep boosts the levels of human growth hormone and reduces inflammatory chemicals. Arrange your workout week to allow for 7 - 9 hours of sleep each night.

Stay Active, Recover Wisely and 
Enjoy Your Food