Saturday, June 30, 2007

Exercise tip # 4 Legs, Legs, Legs! Part 1 Squats

Ah legs. I don't know about you but legs are very important to me, aesthetically and problematically etc. My genealogy is such that if I'm gaining weight it seeks my thighs out first and choses to stay long after the party should be over, in other words in terms of losing fat it's the last to go. A lot of women have this problem more so than men. Although many of us have different areas our bodies prefer to store fat i.e. arms, back, stomach, one of the areas women complain most about are their hips and thighs. So what to do?

Well as I've said before and will again their is no such thing as spot reduction. In order to reduce fat in an area we have to reduce our overall body fat. It does however tend to make us feel good if we have problems with back fat for example to do back exercises. And by all means if something makes you happy and makes you feel good about yourself by all means that is really just as important as losing the weight/fat itself. However there's more to it, for example if you tend to carry fat in your arms, yes doing weight training exercises that build your biceps and triceps will increase muscle mass in that area, but if you don't reduce overall body fat you won't see it, or your arms may even look bigger than ever. The other key is the muscles of your arms are small muscle groups which is important in terms of caloric burn. When wanting to reduce overall body fat the important thing to do in terms of weight training is increase your caloric burn while exercising and after, as well as building muscle. The key is to work the entire body while giving particular attention to large muscle groups i.e. quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, glutes, back(latissimus dorsi, trapezius etc) and pectorals. From there you can sculpt particular areas, smaller muscle groups etc.

Squats are great because they work your legs, your quadriceps and glutes in the concentric (upward) phase but also your hamstrings in the eccentric (downward) phase. The other thing about squats, although I've heard 100's of excuses to not do them is almost everyone can do them. Unless there is a serious medical issue, if you can sit in a chair you can do a squat. In fact that is almost exactly what a squat is. Now I said sit in a chair not fall into a chair or plop. I mean a conscious lowering of the body into a chair. So how does one do a proper squat? Details below:

1) First stand with your feet hip to shoulder length apart. Make sure your feet are not rotated inward nor outward, pigeon toed or duck splayed. Both of these stance are indicative of tightness and/or weakness in either your gluteal abductors or you adductors (inner thighs). If you are used to standing in either extreme this will feel weird at first but do it for alignment purposes it will eventually become easier.
2) Lower your butt as though you were going to sit in a chair. his means your hips move first not your knees. If your knees are moving first you are loading your knees with all the weight of your body not a good idea.As your hips/ butt goes back and you start lowering yourself then your knees should be bending.
3) Your torso should go forward as your butt lowers, almost resembling a Z . Your body wants to be in balance so if your butt goes back, your torso should come forward. If you try to keep your torso upright i.e. the same position as standing, you will push through your knees or feel as though you're about to fall over.
4) As you are keeping your torso up, not as in a flat back but do not bring your chest to your knees, bring your arms up so they're parallel to the floor this should help with balance and keeping your chest up.
5) Your abdominals should be engaged while doing this and all exercises. If you are not you may feel this in your lower back. If you do it is an indication that you are not using your abs and could be tensing your back rather than letting your legs take the load of your weight as there are designed to do.
6) When you are coming up from the eccentric (downward) phase, the sitting in the chair position, squeeze your glutes for stability and strength.
7) Very important to remember do not allow your knees to go past your toes. If your knees are past your toes you are not squatting properly, your butt is not far back enough.
8) Be aware of your knees abducting or adducting, externally rotating or internally rotating. Keep them in alignment with your toes. Try to think about those smaller stabilizing muscles and your glutes abs.
9) Keep your toes on the ground!

Once you have this movement down you can add weights, either at the gym in terms of the smith machine, squat machine or free weights i.e. a bar or dumbbells. It could be a barbell or a body bar held behind your neck. You can also use dumbbells held in each hand. To add to the exercise you can always add bicep curl or hammer curls at the end of the movement (when you are upright again), this make sit a compound movement and you're on your way to burning more calories. Add in an overhead press at the top of that and you've added yet another muscle group, more calories. I will be giving a list of exercises to do with one another at a later date, right now we want to focus on making sure you're doing your squats.

If you feel very unstable doing your squats, you keep feeling it your knees, your back hurts excessively or you just don't have the strength to bring yourself back up another option is to use a stability ball. Place the ball against a wall, door or other flat surface and place it on the small of your back. It should be against the natural curve of your back, the lumbar region, and you want your feet hips to shoulder width apart and follow the ball. This will again look like you're sitting in a chair. Still follow all the other steps other than 2 and 3.

The beauty of the squat is that you can do it anywhere. At your computer, in between writing emails or during commercials if you're watching TV. It engages large muscle groups increasing caloric burn, which mean burning more get the picture

Friday, June 29, 2007

Fit Tip # 5 : Sleep The New Frontier

Personally I am, and am often surrounded by sleep deprived people. I know this sleeplessness abounds all over but for me I know it is largely a function of being a New Yorker trying to have a career and make a difference. Parents all over are suffering from sleepless nights, students are staying up doing their homework or other not so industrious things. Artists and other career minded individuals are up all night and this is potentially one of the most detrimental things you are doing to your fitness goals. If you are not getting enough sleep, you don't have the energy to work out and if you do still manage to get to the gym (kudos by the way, I don't if I haven't gotten enough sleep) you are more likely to hurt yourself and chances are you not getting maximum output for your efforts.

Additionally, you are not getting time for your body to recuperate, recover and rebuild. Your muscles need downtime, sleep that is, to rebuild the muscles. If you don't get adequate sleep you body does not have the time to repair the muscle. Your body treats working out like an injury, so if you're consistent with your efforts it's a constant cycle. When you weight train you are literally creating tiny tears in your muscles. You need recovery time for the muscles to grow, proper nutrition and sleep. The amount of sleep varies with each person. But you can pretty safely say somewhere between 7-9 hours. Quality of sleep is important as well but for now let's just focus on getting some of it. So do yourself a favor and set yourself up to achieve your goals and see results from all your efforts and get those ZZZ's.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Fit Tip #4 Vacation Sabotage

As we are in the month of June and it is officially summer, people are going away for vacation, for the weekend, preparing for 4th of July festivities, the question becomes how do I stay on my diet? How do I enjoy myself without sabotaging my progress and keep up with my routines? I have answers and they begin with many of the things I have discussed previously. First if you make a commitment to making this a lifestyle and not a diet or quick fix then vacation is not a metaphor for free-for-all. Also look at pay attention to your words and intentions, do you feel vacation you should be able to eat whatever you want, do whatever you want? And what is the logic behind that? Does it support your overall intentions for your life? Do you consider eating well, healthfully and exercising punishment or a privilege? Something you do because you care about your body? Something you do because it gives you more energy, makes you feel good and supports your vision for your life?

I'm throwing it back at you because that's where all the responsibility is. Change your mindset and your weekend is not when you're "bad", change you mindset and vacation is not a buttery, fried food extravaganza. You eat well because it supports your body, your health and tastes good. Within the context of this is a lifestyle and not a diet, you can have fried food once in a while. You can have that creme brulee or piece of cheesecake. Pay attention though is it everyday? Every meal? Because if it is there is something else going on. Something you are pushing down with food. Yeah you could say it's cause it tastes good and I'll tell you sugar is one of the most addictive substances. Since you are an adult you can make a choice to change your taste buds, train your palate as well as your body.

So you're going on vacation and you don't have a gym where you're going, what do you do? You can do abs anywhere. The core exercises I gave you earlier can be done in a hotel room, poolside just about anywhere. Also bring a jump rope with you if you don't have access to a gym to get on the elliptical, treadmill or don't have access to a trail to run. A jump rope is really easy to pack, takes up no room and really gets your heart rate up. It can be done in a small space and it will help tone your arms. Other exercises you can do are lunges and squats, push ups, modified or full body. None of these require equipment all they require is your commitment and a willingness to have the vision of the body you want. If you wish to add resistance you can bring resistance bands with you, either with handles or without. These are also very lightweight and don't take up a lot of room. You can add bicep curls to your lunges or squats, you can do a standing bent over row, triceps kickbacks, overhead press. In other words there is no excuse to not continue your program.

If you make the time to exercise during your vacation and make healthful eating choices, there is no reason to sabotage your program. You can indulge in some of your pleasurable foods, balance is the key. Have that delicious buttery whatever for dinner just make sure to balance that with a scrumptious salad for lunch and yummy fruit for a snack etc. Or have the grand slam for breakfast just choose healthfully for the rest of the day. Plan your meals and your exercise time, just like you plan your tanning time! If you don't want to feel like you're spending your whole vacation working out, cut it back to 20 or 30 minutes, just pack it in. Don't rest, give yourself a circuit training workout and do jumping jacks or jump rope in between your sets. You can keep your commitment to yourself just make it non-negotiable, make it an appointment with your best self and honor it.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Fit Tip # 3 Make the Gym Non-Negotiable

This is a very simple tip. You have to back the gym part of your life, it cannot be a negotiable aspect. No less than eating or having water (more on that soon to come) are necessary for your survival. You have to make it as easy for yourself as possible. I always say the best time to exercise is when you will. That's it, be honest with yourself about when you're most likely to exercise and stick to it. Make a commitment to how many times a week you will exercise and then pick times that work for you. Schedule it into your day. You can even schedule what you will do when you go to the gym a week or two in advance or more.

Take the "feeling" out of it. I rarely "feel" like working out before I do it but I love it while I'm doing it and afterward, but it's non-negotiable. If you are a morning person than by all means work out in the morning. I, personally, am not a morning exerciser, I am usually training other people myself but I am simply significantly weaker in the morning. But I am an afternoon/early evening exerciser. Don't judge yourself about when you should work out. You should work out when you can and are able, and when you will! Just make sure that you create time in your life for it. If you have kids figure out a way incorporate your fitness into their activities (tips on how to do that are coming). If you work late or a lot find a time in your day that is for working out and stay committed to it. Know what your weakness are and plan accordingly.

Enroll other people into keeping you on track, hire a trainer, make workout dates with people, get to know people in your gym, trainers, salespeople, managers make it a place you go to and are held accountable. If you want to socialize that's fine, talk while you work out. I'm a big fan of talking but only if exercising is going on, remember why you're there. Make sure your gym bag is packed the night before or wear your workout clothes to the gym. Keep clothes at your office or at the gym. Inspire others to join you with your commitment! Make it easy on yourself! But definitely make it non-negotiable!

Exercise tip # 3 Inner Thighs and Butt

I actually struggled with what to call this tip the problem area is the title that came to mind. I think women would really identify with that title but the exercises I am about to give you are very important for men as well, and runners, cyclists and many other sports enthusiasts of either gender.

Whether you run, cycle, sit at a desk or just want to look good in your bathing suit and fit into those cute jeans, it is very important to work your leg muscles. This includes your quadriceps, hamstrings, adductor's (inner thighs), abductor's, calves and glutes. My interest today is showing you exercises for some of your stabilizing muscles i.e. adductor's and your glutes which are your hip stabilizers and really the center of your body.
I call this the Glute series but it starts with your adductor's (inner thighs). Each segment is to be done 10 times:

(1) Start on your back and lift leg up to 90 degrees, perpendicular to the floor, lower and lift 10 times,
2) Then on the 10th time with your leg up at 90 degrees lower directly to the side 10 times, place your hand on the outside of your thigh ( for support but do not actively hold your leg, this is to allow you to go as low as possible) lift the leg using your inner thigh muscles and make sure you are using your abdominals to stabilize and keep your opposing hip down on the floor
3) On the 10th rep lower your leg to a 45 degree angle circle from the floor and your center and circle in 10 times and circle out 10 times
4) Drawing your knee in to your body still at a 45 degree angle kick out also at a 45 degree angle. Make sure you are pointing your toes and take the tension out of your calf and that you are your knee in toward your chest and not your heel to your butt
5) Do the entire process on the other leg

After doing both legs and with no rest move into a 4 point stance. This means knees directly under the hips, elbows below shoulders and wrists below elbows. Do not arch back or round out shoulders, keep spine and head in alignment. You can switch hand position from palms on the ground to knuckles if your wrists get tired ( I do):

1) With your knee bent lift leg to the side with hips squared forward 10 times, (also called the fire hydrant for the image) raise your thigh to parallel to the ground without turning your hips out, you will feel a stretch in your adductor's as you start working your glutes, keep your abdominals drawn in
2)Keeping the same bent knee position circle in 10 times and circle out 10 times, make big circles that start from the hip ( the hip is a ball in socket joint and has the capability for this range of motion barring structural barriers)
3) Keeping the 4 point stance draw your knee to your chest and kick out to the side at a 90 degree angle 10 times, make sure to keep your leg up and draw the knee to the chest in between each rep you should feel a burn in the muscle
4) Repeat entire process on the other leg

Continuing in a 4 point stance, keep the hips squared forward and abdominals drawn in:

1) Extend leg straight behind you 10 times bringing the leg parallel to the ground, and squeezing the glute at the top of the motion, do not go higher or lower than parallel to the ground and no need to kick just extend and feel the muscles
2) On the 10th rep keep the leg extended and bend the knee and with bottom of the foot to the ceiling pulse up 10 times squeezing the glute, this is a small movement with a quick pulsing up using only the glutes make sure your quadriceps is at least parallel to the ground or you may be using your hip flexors for the movement
3) Then draw the knee down to the ground and kick up to the ceiling 10 times, this is a quick movement, make sure to keep your abdominals drawn
4) Staying in a 4 point stance with your hips squared forward and your leg parallel to the ground kick out to the side at 45 degree angle from your center 10 times (Do not turn out your hips! you will feel it in particular in your abductor's)
5)Repeat on your other leg you may have noticed by now that you often feel it more in the other leg, the one you're not currently moving and that is absolutely fine.

For the last part lay on your side with your arm under your head for support, hips squared forward legs extended with knees slightly bent:

1) Raise your leg to a 30 degree angle 10 times, do not go higher than that and do not turn out your hips
2) With your leg at a 30 degree angle circle in 10 times and circle out 10 times
3) Keeping your leg in the same plane, draw your knee in and kick out at approximately same angle 10 times
4) Bring your leg back to center and then kick forward with the entire leg to a 90 degree angle so your leg will be perpendicular to your body, make sure the movement starts from the hip.
5) Flip over to the other side and repeat

During these exercises be conscious of your abdominals. No rockette movements. Stay within the plane outlined for the exercises to be most effective All these are to be done on one leg then the other then proceed to next part. Each exercise is to be 10 times in sequence and on each leg before moving to the next segment.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Exercise Tip # 2 Arms (Biceps)

Statements, complaints, questions I hear often sound like I don't like the way my arms look, or how do I lose the fat on my arms or what do I do about this hanging off my arms? Well to the second question I have to say there is, unfortunately, no spot training. In order to lose fat/ weight you must increase muscle mass and expend more calories than you consume. We all have areas of our bodies that seem to gain fat faster than others or retain it longer as we watch the rest of our body transform we seem to have this one area that is harder to "get". This will stand true no matter whether that area is your thighs, arms, stomach, butt, back etc. But you can build muscle in that area while you decrease your overall fat ratio.

So arms, women in particular seem to find this area difficult for many reasons. Some of them being they simply don't work them and if they do they tend to stay with a low weight which does not challenge them or aid in muscle building. Behind this is often the fear of becoming "big" and also just not really knowing what to do. So first things, first only 1% of the female population has enough testosterone to get "big" so scratch that and I don't want to discuss it further it's a myth and I'm tired of it, really I am. Well I'll say one more thing if it appears your arms are getting bigger but not more defined, you have to make sure you're losing fat i.e. do your cardio. The muscle will grow, but not show because it is underneath a layer of fat.

The other thing I want to address is you have to 1) work your arms give them some time not just 3 minutes at the end of your workout. You have to put in the time, 10 -15 mins to receive the results/rewards 2) I hate to see women using 3 and 5 lb weight and never moving up from that #. We are stronger than that period I mean heck our purses weigh more than that and if you're a mother ...You get my drift. One more thing you will get sore but you'll great in that sleeveless shirt, dress, tank's worth it!
So without further ado here are some tips to work your arms into your workouts and some routines to pump it out and get great looking, sculpted but not masculine arms. Personally I find working my biceps treacherously boring so I include them in my lunges, my squats etc. Also compund movements burn more calories and cut down your workout time Bonus!
So add these into your workout
1) Stationary lunges into bicep curls holding 8 or 10 lbs weights ( you can start lower depending on your strength level but when it gets easy move up in weight) do 10 lunges on each side with a curl for each totaling 20 bicep curls
2) Squats into bicep curls 8-10lbs, do 10 to 15 reps
3) Squats into hammer curls holding 8 -10lbs, do 10-15 reps

Bicep Blast 1
1) holding 8-10lbs dumbbells curls do 10 reps,
2) switch hand position to palms facing each other and do 10 reps of hammer curls
3) lower the weight and do it again both bicep curls and hammer curls

Bicep Blast 2
1) holding a barbell or body bar 15-25lbs do 10 curls
2) bring your grip in closer together do 10 more reps
3) lower the weight by a third do it again

Bicep blast 3
1) with either dumbbells or a barbell at any of the above weights raise the bar/dumbells up to your shoulders 7 times, then raise the bar/dumbbells up to parallel to the ground 7 times, then raise the bar/dumbbells all the way up to your shoulders and lower it to parallel to the ground 7 times
2) lower the weight by a third and do it again

Tips: Make sure to do full extensions, don't swing your arms, make sure your knees are unlocked (yes it matters), do not raise your elbows with the movement keep your elbows by your side and do not round out your shoulders, keep your chest up your shoulder blades back and down and your abdominals drawn in. Also you can absolutely go with a higher weight than I have listed here just make sure you are not swinging or compensating with any other part of your body
Bonus: Do any of these exercises standing on one leg or on a BOSU ball or another unstable surface, this works your abdominals while actively working another muscles group increasing your caloric burn.
Very soon I will be addressing the Triceps stay tuned...

Lifestyle: Laying the Foundation for Success

As I started to discuss towards the end in my previous blog your words are very important and can very well be the foundation for your success. How you treat yourself will be reflected in your body and in your words to yourself. The first thing to note is how do you talk to yourself. Do you praise yourself for each step you take toward being in charge of your life, your fitness and your goals or do you admonish yourself for not doing it sooner, not having the body you want, or for not being able to do the exercises you think you should be able to? If you do the latter you are very much not alone, we all have moments of negative head talk, even very positive people. The key is to start noting what you say to yourself and if someone else said them to you how hard would you hit them? I'm joking but it's true, we say things to ourselves every day that we would never say to another person or would be flabbergasted if someone else said such things to us.

So after you have made a commitment to yourself to change your life and take steps to reach your fitness goals start paying attention to what you say to yourself. Also pay attention to how you phrase what you're up to to other people. Do you become self-deprecating? Do you put down your efforts or allow others to do so? Do you shrug your shoulders and say you're doing this for now but who knows? This is very important because your words lay the foundation for your success they reflect how you feel about yourself and about your possibilities for success, in any endeavor not just fitness. If you believe you can do it you will.

One of my favorite quotes is " Whether you think you can or think you cannot you're right" Henry Ford. If you've trained with me you have probably had this quoted to you or if you've been around me for any period of time. The reason for this is it's so very true. If you believe you can achieve your goals if you apply yourself then you know what you're capable of, because of course you can. If you think nothing you do will change anything, then of course it won't, your efforts will mirror your thoughts and feelings about your success or lack thereof. As Oprah once said and I loved it "any diet works if you stick to it". Now I don't like the word diet as it conjures up deprivation etc I prefer to say you're making a shift in your eating habits or I am consciously eating now. But the truth of the statement is if you stick to it you will succeed. Perseverance is key as well, as your words and belief in yourself.

So when you make the commitment to follow your dream of your best life in your best body praise yourself! When you do your food diary praise yourself! While you do your cardio and your strength training, praise yourself for DOING it, while you're doing it! When you fall off the proverbial horse, praise yourself as you get back on and for being conscious enough to notice! Praise yourself for being the type of person that doesn't let setbacks, set you back! You and your words are powerful! Live in your most powerful state; kindness and appreciation for yourself!
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