A majority of orthopedic injuries that occur in the gym happen because the weight being moved isn’t being controlled by the joint and muscle through the eccentric (negative) phase of the contraction. In other words, people get hurt during exercise when they don’t control the weight throughout the whole of the movement.

Sets, reps and intensity are often thought of as the primary factors that dictate results. While they are a huge part of what will happen to your physique it is also a few other principles such as pace of movement (how fast you are moving), range of motion (amount of extension and flexion on the joint) and path of motion (the line the exercise in being performed through) that allow you to stay injury free to lift another day and also to accelerate those results.

There are several correct ways to perform a general exercise but OUT OF CONTROL is always wrong.

Over the last ten years of serious weight training, I’ve repeatedly seen people spend more than 2 hours lifting weights, sometimes only 1 or 2 muscle groups in a single session. I’ve been there – and in the process, wasted many hours of my life! You can accomplish more in 60 minutes (or even 30 in some cases) by doing the most impactful exercises, and not being afraid to get your heart rate up.

Start by picking 2-3 varied compound lifts (dumbbell chest press, barbell squat, and assisted pull up for example), 1-2 core exercises (ball pikes, russian twists), and 1-2 high intensity cardio intervals or plyometrics (box jumps, stair sprints). Either put all these exercises in a row or break them into 2 circuits. Do circuit(s) 3-5 times through at a good pace, making sure to not overuse any one movement. Diversify your routine.

The warmer months are just around the corner, which means we’re already 3 months into 2016! Don’t feel bad if you haven’t hit the ground running with those New Year’s resolutions; there is still plenty of time to hit those goals if you start now!

Here are a few things you can do to jump start the process as well as get your metabolism in gear:

  • Get a large (¼-½ gallon) stainless steel or resin water bottle and keep it at your workplace to drink AND FINISH throughout the day. Fill it up first thing when you get to work so you don’t forget. Water is good for you, and when you’re properly hydrated, everything works better!
  • Plan out your exercise for the week ahead of time. You’re much more likely to get it done if it’s written in your calendar. If you only have 2 or 3 days available, do weight training and cardio on all days. If you can make it 5 or 6 days, then alternate between weights and cardio. Keep it simple and focused. Don’t spend more than 1.5 hours total at the gym, including a warm up and cool down.
  • Mix up your cardio – and remember quality over quantity. As we’ve discussed in the past, higher intensity bursts of cardio are most effective. Be honest with yourself about your perceived maximum exertion rate, and what you’re actually capable of – oftentimes that little extra push makes all the difference!
  • Take a walk after meals. 5-10 minutes of movement after eating will vastly improve your digestion and help to use those calories for energy instead of storing them as fat. Find a walking buddy to go with you, or listen to music on your headphones to make it more fun.
  • Swap out that latte for a cup of green tea – proven to boost your metabolism and with only half the caffeine. Additionally, adding spice (hot sauce, cayenne, etc) to food helps keep your metabolism going strong, and is a great way to add flavor without processed additives or fats.

Motivation can be affected when we become consumed with what we haven’t accomplished in a fitness program, and don’t acknowledge the amazing changes that we have already adopted – small changes to eating habits, an extra walk around the block at lunch, etc. The motivation to stick with a fitness routine and healthy lifestyle largely comes from making and celebrating those smaller changes every step of the way.

Keeping a fitness journal for exercise completed, food eaten and a weekly self check-in is a great way to stay accountable, and to acknowledge success when you’ve stayed on track. The check-in can be an overview of how you did with your program during the week, or simply how you’re feeling by the end of the week (tired/energetic, happy/depressed, etc). This way, you can attribute the behaviors and choices from the week to how you’re feeling at its end. It seems simple, but this extra effort will help you see greater and more consistent results.

If you’re having a bad day, week or even month of exercise and diet, remember that you can always start over again at any point. It’s better to finish strong after a slow start than to not try at all! And if you’re doing well and feeling great, pat yourself on the back then strive for more.

Contrary to what most of the fad programs out there say, fitness should be less about the end result and more about adopting a healthy lifestyle, and celebrating the small wins as you go.

When you’re new to exercise, it’s difficult to go to the gym and observe people lifting heavy weights, doing nifty tricks on the ball, maxing out speeds on the cardio machines, etc. and to not feel as if you need to try the same thing. This WILL lead to an injury. The people doing such things have most likely been training their bodies for months and years to reach that point. The human body is resilient at bouncing back, but it’s fragile when it comes to pushing too hard, too soon.

In this blog series we’ve discussed the importance of warming up and programming the appropriate exercise for your fitness level. These are the cornerstones of an effective fitness routine. It’s best to have a written plan to take to the gym with you for the first six months. This way you are not taken off track by the desire to keep up with the exercise habits of people who’ve been doing it a lot longer. Going faster and harder is great in the right setting and when it has purpose, but it can set you back if you’re not ready. You WILL get there! But it will be in your individual way and at your individual pace.

Don’t also forget that what may seem like an advanced exercise to the untrained eye, may be poorly executed or just plain wrong! Don’t judge yourself by others at the gym, it is a waste of time and energy.

Not everyone has easy access to fresh, local organic fruits and vegetables, nor do they have a fully equipped gym at their disposal. However, no matter the circumstances, there is always a way to implement a healthier and more active lifestyle.

If you’re out of town on business or visiting family or friends, you can still stick to a program! If possible and appropriate, make sure those around you understand what you are trying to accomplish. They don’t have to join you, just to respect your efforts. Try to start your days off with a decent breakfast like an egg and a piece of fruit, or a bowl of oatmeal with dried fruit. Try to stick to the standards that help you stay fit at home – snack well throughout the day on veggies with hummus, or nuts with dried fruit. If you end up breaking the diet a little at lunch or dinner at least you’ve been good for most of the day and your body will be more forgiving and burn through those empty calories quicker. For a simple out of town exercise routine, you can do a 20-minute set of push-ups (modified on the knees if needed), bodyweight lunges, and alternating dead bug leg drops. Do this 5 times through, as many reps on each set as you can sustain. You can also use a chair and add in dips and step ups.

Some of us live quite a distance from a grocery store with fresh produce, or don’t have a convenient gym nearby. There are some basic things you can do to combat this. In terms of diet and food, don’t forget that frozen fruits and vegetables, as well as dried, have the same vitamin and fiber content as fresh. Organic lean protein (think chicken and fish) can be bought in bulk and frozen. Nuts and seeds are also a staple you should buy in bulk and store in the pantry. You will find that these basics are generally more cost effective than packaged and processed goods. For exercise, have a space set aside for yourself at home that you only use for just that. Get some basic equipment such as a rolling bench, a set of adjustable dumbbells and a jump rope – these are relatively minor investments that will last you at least for 10+ years. Additionally, walking/running outside is one of the most basic free workouts you can do (add in some hills!) – take the dog for a walk, the kids to the park, whatever gets you moving!

You can eat healthfully and exercise regularly, no matter the roadblocks – it just takes some extra planning. When you get to the store you can stock up on much of what it takes to build a quality diet for you and your family. A small space at home (or on the road) dedicated to exercise is more than sufficient to get the job done

There are so many conflicting ideas out there about what it takes to get in shape. Eat only vegetables and water, eat only fat and protein, skip the cardio, don’t lift heavy weights, leave stretching out completely, etc. etc. One thing remains true beyond all of the fad diets and trendy exercise programs: eating a nutrient dense, whole food diet and consistently challenging yourself with an array of progressive cardiovascular and weight bearing exercises is the best way to have a fit and healthy life.

By focusing on the basics in both diet and exercise, you will find that it becomes easier to stay with a program. Eating complicated meals and committing to overly intricate workouts just isn’t realistic for the average person in the long term. And long term is the goal with fitness!

The term “basic” in regard to food can be described as anything with less than 5 ingredients. A whole foods diet simply refers to food that has not undergone excessive processing – as in, could you make it at home? Additionally, what is the shelf life? Whole foods have a relatively short lifespan as they are not pumped full of preservatives and additives. Think fresh vegetables, beans, fresh and lean protein.

In terms of exercise, any program with more than 5 or 6 stations or that exceeds 75 minutes is too complicated. A program with too many exercises makes it hard to see where you are improving, and also puts the focus more on getting through them, rather than overall performance. Your workouts should work coherently to improve overall muscle tone, strength, conditioning on all major muscle groups – quantity does not mean quality!

Settling on a diet and exercise program involves many factors, such as work schedule, social and home life commitments, access to fresh food and produce, and access to gym equipment or space. By adopting a “stick to the basics” mentality, hopefully you will not get overwhelmed, and also find it easier to stay on a program that works for your lifestyle. Understanding how to make good food decisions, and access to a great workout should be available to anyone, regardless of their situation – not a complicated process that involves too much time, money and mental energy. The basics really do work!

Check back next week for more information as we discuss access to food, gyms, and how to make substitutions…

Clients often come to us with the mindset that lifting heavy weights is only useful for muscle-heads and extreme athletes. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Just as regular cardiovascular conditioning is important to offset our more sedentary lifestyles, as is regular heavy weight bearing exercise. When I say heavy I mean a weight that you’d struggle to do more than ten repetitions of. Heavy training will increase bone and muscle density, offset joint pain and arthritic conditions, build more functional core strength, speed up the metabolism, improve cardiovascular health and create a sense of empowerment. So next time you go to the gym and you look at that room full of heavy dumbbells and bars and plates (and maybe even big dudes making way too much noise slamming stuff around) remember this list of benefits and do at least 2-3 different heavy (3-10 reps) of compound exercises. If you need help getting started with correct form and exercise choices, there are lots of online tutorials and people at the gym to help out (www.bodybuilding.com has great video tutorials).

Important note: Always do at least 2 warm up sets in the 15-20 rep range with a lighter weight of your chosen exercise before getting into the heavier weights. I recommend doing 3-6 sets (not including warm-up) on each exercise based on your current fitness level. Start your heavy sets at around 10 reps and add weight on each successive set, until you can only do 3-5 reps on the last set. Have fun!!

Even if the concept of New Year’s resolutions seems overblown to you, using the New Year as a means to implement some better habits can be very helpful. However, when the topic of New Year’s resolutions comes up I always see responses that are too large and non-specific. People feel compelled to share overblown goals this time of year, but it is important to keep reality in mind. Take some time before the end of this year and write down your resolution(s), but also write out the logistics of how you are going to make them happen.

If your goal is weight loss, first of all, ask yourself why. Avoid the obvious and superficial answers, and think about what your doctor may have told you, quality of life, being able to chase around the grandkids, etc. Once you’ve established your motive, create a roadmap. For instance, healthy eating is part of losing weight. Compile some recipes (the internet is a great place to search out healthy alternatives) and put a meal schedule in place. Buy some Tupperware and a cooler to transport food, so you can take premade meals to the office. You can also register on the MyFitnessPal app to better track what you are eating. Put a workout plan into your calendar, blocking out times you plan to exercise, and what you’ll be doing specifically. All of these are tangible details that will contribute to your overall goal.

If this seems too much, then the goal is likely too large! Consider lessening the scope of your goal by simply adopting 1-2 healthier habits, which can be any of those outlined above.

The holidays are underway and some of us are already feeling the physical effects. Avoiding gatherings isn’t realistic, and neither is staying away from all food temptations. What we can do is load our plates with fruits, vegetables and lean meats at meals. This will help keep us full and assist in burning through other less nutritious calories that we may ingest – cookies, candy, etc. High fiber food like fruit and vegetables, and high protein foods take more energy to break down in the stomach, therefore burning a few extra calories in the process.

Another helpful holiday trick is to snack on those bowls of nuts that are almost always available. A handful will do. Nuts also have energy burning fiber; a high amount of healthy fats slow the digestion down and make you feel full longer.

All of these parties and family events can get overwhelming so try to stick to your fitness routine as much as possible in between. You can pick back up whenever you want, but don’t wait until you’ve missed 4 or 5 days! If you happened to step on the scale after Thanksgiving and noticed a big jump, don’t worry too much, there’s a lot of water weight inducing sodium in those foods. You’ll even out in a couple of days.

Food aside, the holidays tend to be stressful on many levels. Stress ups your cortisol levels, which impact everything from sleep quality to anxiety, and even your calorie burning ability. Consider your fitness routine a quick stress reliever!

Look forward to a new year of healthy living, take some time to reflect on what you’ve accomplished in 2015 and think about the goals you’d like to achieve in 2016. And most of all, enjoy the holidays!