What motivates you to go to work every day? Most of us work to provide basic necessities for ourselves and our loved ones (money, food, shelter, etc).

I find that taking the same approach to fitness is useful when goal setting and creating motivation with clients. Rather than making a vanity goal (I want to fit into a certain size, I want bigger biceps etc.), I encourage them to begin thinking about the “why” of working out and eating well as no more than a basic necessity, as basic as the need for a roof over one’s head. We eat well and exercise regularly to provide our bodies the tools to fight disease, to keep our hearts healthy, to aid with better sleep, to keep joints and muscles strong as we age, to maintain cognitive function – the list goes on!

Think about how making fitness a priority now will affect your well-being 20, 30, 40 years down the road. So next time you find yourself discouraged, or perhaps you’re feeling lazy, bored or under the weather, consider that a trip to the gym (or a quick run round the block, a hike, etc.) is just one more way to give your body something it fundamentally needs. Seems like the right motivation to me!

Our health (and fitness) is greatly impacted not only by how much sleep we get, but also the quality of sleep we experience. The average adult should get 7-8 hours of sleep a night. The efficiency of our metabolism, energy levels, muscle tissue repair, and overall mental well-being are a few of the things affected by the kind of rest we get.  Also, getting a good amount of sleep lowers the risk of serious illness such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and clinical depression.

Sometimes getting a good night’s sleep is easier said than done. However, there are a few things we can do or stay away from to help ourselves out:

  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol within 4-5 hours of going to bed. Both can prevent you falling or staying asleep.
  • Get consistent with your evening schedule of winding down. Find something relaxing to do before bed whether it’s reading, watching a little TV or talking with a friend or partner. Your body is looking for rhythms.
  • Set a sleep and wake up by time and stick to it. Give yourself a few extra minutes in the morning to eat breakfast. You will sleep better at night having had a relaxing morning.
  • Eat a diet filled with fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and grains throughout the day.

Many foods we see on the shelf down the “healthy” or “all natural” aisle at the grocery store may not be as good for us as the clever packaging promises. Foods labeled as organic upon closer look are usually just “made with organic ingredients” meaning that as long as some of the ingredients are organic (even just a couple out of dozens) they can label the entire product as such. Can we really put our trust and our health in the hands of food companies who’s profit line is most important? Are we getting the truth about what is really in their products or whether or not those products actually have any health benefits? Probably not so it’s up to us to do a little research and use articles like this one to help us put real healthy foods in our shopping cart. A few tips to keep in mind:

Fruit juice is fine in small amounts if we squeeze it ourselves but that stuff in the bottles is packed with sugar to make it taste bettter. The amount of simple sugar in one cup is way more than should be consumed in an entire day! Juicing also takes the fiber out of the fruit. Fiber is the one part of fruit that slows down digestion of the sugars making them less likely to get stored as fat.

Granola clusters would fall apart without one important ingredient, sugar! It may be labeled as cane syrup but it still sugar to the body. Just because it comes from the bulk section at whole foods doesn’t make it healthy. Like the example above, this much sugar at one serving just isn’t good unless your in the middle of a marathon. This same idea applies to granola and protein bars.

Pre-pared salads and deli items may come from a store that sells natural products but you can trust that putting the highest quality most expensive ingredients in your food isn’t part of their plan. Try to find items that have an ingredients list and stay away from ones that have more than 5 or 6 ingredients.

It’s better to eat something with a few more calories you made at home rather than something with a long list of additives.

 

What does an effective cardio workout look like? Archaic fitness guidelines would have suggested 30-60 minutes of single paced lumbering cardio (think walk, bike, elliptical). If you are training for an endurance event like a marathon this makes more sense, but if you are looking to improve overall fitness and body composition you can accomplish far more in 20-30 minutes. Here is how:

Use 20 minutes on the treadmill as a base.

  • Foam roll lower body and warm up 5 minutes on another piece of cardio (this is NOT part of the workout!)
  • On treadmill:
    • Minute 1-4: slow jog
    • Minutes 5-10: increase your speed by intervals to a faster pace (not quite a sprint) and hold
    • Minutes 11-20: alternate walk and full on sprint by minute

This format can be extended to 30 minutes, and can be made more difficult by alternating gradient. It also applies to the bike, rower and elliptical.

How many sets and reps should I do?!! Don’t get discouraged. This is a question people having been debating since weight lifting began. The best answer I can give is that a fitness program should consist of a variety of rep ranges and sets. Your body responds in different ways to different stimuli. No range is more important than another as long as you are going to fatigue.

With a more focused goal like gaining strength it would make sense to put emphasis on the lower rep/higher weight range. The average person looking for general fitness should hit a cross section of high and low ranges in a program.

Good ways of doing this are:

Rotate the rep range with each day you strength train (Monday 5 sets of 5, Wednesday 4 sets of 10, Friday 3 sets of 15)

Or

Do 4-5 exercises (a mix of compound and isolated movements) at low reps/high weight and 4-5 exercises (a mix of compound and isolated movements) at high reps/low weight. Don’t over think it. Lift heavy, lift light, lift consistently and lift carefully.

I think it is safe to say most people who strength train have made the mistake of lifting without warming up – next day they wake up with joint and muscle pain, and are set back days while they recover.   All dynamic movement, from weight lifting to a team sport or a labor intensive job, should be preceded by a joint mobility warm up.  Also, with the increased amount of careers that involve computer work and hours at a desk, it is important to focus on mobility and stretching exercise to combat those hours of sitting – which can play havoc on your joints and muscles.  Five to ten minutes pre-exercise, or at various moments throughout your work day is all you need…see below for a list of suggested warm-ups and movements.

  1. Single Leg Hip Flexor Stretch: get into a walking lunge position, and let one knee drop completely to the ground. Once stable, tilt the hips forward and hold 1 minute. Repeat with other knee.
  1. Hips/Glutes: lie on your back with your right foot on the wall, hip and knee flexed to 90 degrees. Cross the left ankle over the right leg, just above the knee and press the left knee toward the wall and hold for 1 minute. Next, pull the left knee toward the right shoulder and hold for 1 minute. Repeat on other leg.
  1. Shoulder Engagement: Lie flat on your back on the floor with knees bent and feet flat. Start with both arms relaxed and extended close to the body with backs of hands touching the floor. Slowly drag hands across floor towards the head and away from the body, maintaining contact with the floor. Repeat the motion  15-20 times or until the shoulder feel loosened.
  1. Basic Tricep/Shoulder Stretch: Sitting on a bench, bring one arm up and in line with the head. Let the elbow bend and lower arm/hand fall toward the back. With your other arm reach across and gently pull the elbow towards the back. Hold for 1 min each side.
  1. To Finish: use a foam roller and slowly roll over the mid and upper back (avoid the lower back and neck), outsides of the thighs and calves. Spend 1 min on each muscle or until you feel it release.

Most of us lead busy lives, as we try to spread time between work, family and fun. Health is not prioritized over other things. And though we may feel fine now, what about in 20 or 30 years when health issues begin to affect our quality of life? Increasingly sedentary lifestyles have long-tem repercussions both mental and physical; therefore it is very important to practice prevention with a daily dose of moderate to strenuous physical activity. Doing so will not only increase our chances of living longer, but also lead to healthier and happier lives overall.

“So how can I make time for fitness?” It’s all about prioritizing and convenience. One has to embrace the idea that physical well being is necessary for a better life. Once you’ve gotten there, take an honest look at your schedule and where fitness will fit in – realistically! Your exercise should fit nicely into your other activities. If there don’t seem to be enough hours in the day, consider cutting down the TV viewing 30 minutes, or getting up 20 minutes earlier. Habits can be made and broken with just a little hard work and change in mindset. Also think about what kind of fitness interests you. It can be almost anything; biking, swimming, horseback riding, martial arts, running, team sports, rowing, the list goes on. That one enjoyable activity may open the door to a lifetime of fitness success.

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We’re looking forward to keeping this blog updated at least weekly, with workout suggestions, diet and nutrition info, and just basic check ins about what’s going on in our world.

Thanks to ALL of you that have supported us throughout this transition, your business, friendship and commitment to your health goals are an inspiration.

Healthy tip of the day: it may seem obvious, but STAY HYDRATED! With the sky-high temperatures it’s more important than ever to keep that water bottle handy. A full grown adult needs 8-11 glasses a day according to the CDC. And yes, caffeinated beverages DO count towards that, but don’t forget they may have a few more calories than good old fashioned water!