3 Ways to Make Your Strength Routine More Efficient

I enjoy exercise. Moving and sweating and pushing myself. But that doesn’t mean I want to spend hours and hours on my workout. I’m busy just like everyone else so I need to create efficient exercise routines.

I’m not a bodybuilder or figure competitor so I have no need for dozens of exercises that hit every individual muscle. There’s nothing wrong with that type of training (I’ve used it at other times in my life) its just not what I need right now.

If you’re like me and need an effective and efficient workout too, follow these principles…

1. Compound Movements

Compound movements are exercises that involve multiple muscle groups. Working multiple muscles at once certainly saves time. These can all be done with or without added weight. Things like:

Squat Presses – after you squat down and return to a standing position, press the weight overhead.

 

Row to Stiff-Leg Deadlift – bend over at your hips with weight hanging straight down. Pull weight up to chest. Return to start. Contract glutes and lower back to stand up straight.

Walking Lunge with Alternating Shoulder Raise – step forward into a lunge position while lifting both arms to at least shoulder height. One arm at front and one arm to the side. On the next step alternate arm positions.

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Lunge with Shoulder Raise

Kettlebell Swings – start with the kettlebell between your legs in a slight squat. Contract glutes and hamstrings to thrust the weight forward and lift to about shoulder height.

I could go on and on but you get the idea.

2. Circuits

Circuits are a great way to get a quick workout in when your schedule is busy. Alternate upper and lower body movements and move from one exercise to the next without stopping. For example, squats, pushups, lunges, bent over row, etc.

3. Intensity Level

Adding more weight to your current routine (within reason!) can increase your intensity just enough to give your program a little boost. If you’ve been just going through the motions or doing a set number of reps without considering how challenged your muscles are, then maybe its time to increase the weight to make your workout more efficient and effective.

Happy Exercising!

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Is the Fat Burning Zone a Mythical Creature?

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Is the Fat Burning Zone a mythical creature?

It must be! Otherwise, all those people plodding along on the treadmills at the gym would be in great shape. Like a beautiful, sparkly unicorn, we want to believe that it exists but the concept of the fat burning zone has been regularly misinterpreted and misunderstood.

The fat burning zone theory is that lower intensity exercise, at about 55% – 70% of maximum heart rate, burns more fat. Basically, your body burns more fat at a lower intensity of aerobic exercise than it does at a higher intensity. This sounds good in theory. After all why work harder if you don’t have to, right?

The misinterpretation of this theory happens because there is a difference between percentage of fat burned vs. actual fat burned. In reality, you burn a higher percentage of fat at lower intensities but generally more fat overall at higher intensities. Your body draws energy from two sources, fat and glycogen or stored carbohydrates. The percentages of these two fuel sources vary depending on the intensity of your exercise.

At a lower intensity, you may burn 60% of total calories from fat. And at a higher intensity only 45% of total calories from fat. On the surface, that seems like lower intensity would be better. But at a higher intensity you burn more calories OVERALL which bumps your actual fat calories up even though the percentage is lower.

For example:

 

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The numbers above are just for example purposes but hopefully, you get the point. Percentage vs. actual are very different. Lower intensity exercise has its place in a workout program but if you’re relying on it to help you burn fat, it’s not the best idea. Circuit or interval workouts are efficient and help you burn more calories in less time.

Stop searching for the mythical creature! To truly burn maximum fat, focus on building muscle with a comprehensive strength training program and healthy eating habits. These will do far more to help you reach your goals then chasing the unicorn at the end of the treadmill!

Happy Exercising!

P.S. If you want help creating an effective exercise program, check out my monthly coaching services here.

Moderation…what is it?

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Moderation!

So many people promote moderation especially with regards to diet. But what does moderation REALLY look like? What SHOULD it look like? Moderation is a very subjective sliding scale for most people but I’m not so sure that it’s “sliding” in the right direction. I know some people who consider cutting their McDonald’s run back to once a week is moderation for them.

Ummm….that’s a good start but I believe most people think tiny, moderate changes are good enough to make a significant difference in their health and well-being and to be honest, it’s just not. I’ve known many people to make a small change or two and stop there. Again, a good start, but our wellness goals should not be to stop when it’s “good enough”. Shouldn’t we always be striving towards better health? Even if we’re not always good at it?

Moderation should be different for everybody because everyone is different but it’s not a license to eat like crap and then justify it with “everything in moderation”. It may seem like I’m being harsh but moderation is a slippery slope. Don’t let it be your excuse or your crutch.

Let it lead you to success. Make conscious choices to eat healthy foods AND to indulge. Just make your indulgences count for something. Choose them thoughtfully. Don’t eat random junk out of the vending machine or drink empty calories and then justify it with moderation. Choose to indulge on occasion in your favorite homemade dessert or a decadent meal for a special occasion and TRULY enjoy it. That’s real moderation.

Moderation allows you to be flexible which is one of the best indicators of success in leading a healthier lifestyle. Being too restrictive or constantly over indulging will not lead to long-term success. When used correctly, moderation leads to real balance in your life. And, hopefully, that’s everyone’s goal!

Happy Exercising!

P.S. Click here for a free download Healthy Eating On The Go!

What the Hell is a Flexitarian??

Me…apparently.
A flexitarian is someone who consumes a mostly planted-based diet but occasionally eats meat, poultry and/or seafood.

For as long as I can remember I’ve been pretty conscious of what I put in my mouth. I don’t always make good choices but I’m at least conscious of it! After I was diagnosed with cancer I redoubled my efforts to eat whole, clean foods and make a hard push towards a primarily planted based diet. I started by eliminating red meat. This wasn’t a stretch for me as I rarely ate red meat to begin with because I just don’t like it! 

I don’t have a nutrition degree but I’ve done an extensive amount of nutritional research and I feel that cutting out red meat and reducing animal products in my diet in general has dramatically improved my health. 
I then started to cut down on the amount of chicken I eat. At this point, I eat chicken or seafood just a few times a month. I also still eat eggs and dairy, for now. I’ve never felt deprived or like I’m missing out on anything. And, although close friends and family know my eating habits, I refuse to expect anyone to accommodate me. When I eat at someone’s home, I just eat extra of the side dishes!

As a fitness coach, I don’t advise my clients to follow a prescribed diet plan or program (unless there’s a clinical need for it) like Atkins or paleo or pescatarian or whatever. I know there are people who have had success with these kinds of things but generally speaking, they’re not sustainable long term and the “label” of being a certain kind of eater is very restrictive. I have friends and acquaintances who “can’t” eat certain foods because they’re on a diet program that doesn’t “allow” them. These kinds of programs are baffling to me! Sure, I choose to not eat certain things but I feel that that’s my personal choice. I’m not being TOLD that I CAN’T. I don’t know, maybe that’s just me!

Which brings me back to what a flexitarian is! I didn’t even know that was a thing until I started researching plant-based recipes. However, the description is perfect…”flexible eater.” That makes sense to me and is a label I can live with!

Happy Exercising!

Are You Warming Up Properly?

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Dynamic Warm-UP

What kind of warmup do you do before your workout? You DO warm-up, don’t you?!

Don’t worry, I’m guilty of not bothering to warm-up, too. That being said, as a fitness coach, I try to practice what I preach and a warm-up IS a good idea. However, it doesn’t have to be elaborate or lengthy. I know we’re all time-crunched and don’t want to waste the precious minutes we’re able to carve out of our day for a workout with a warm-up. But, here’s why its a good idea…

It gradually increases blood flow to the muscles and increases muscle temperature which in turn increases the oxygen available to the working muscles. This keeps the more intense exercise to come from being a shock to your system.
There is some evidence to suggest that a warm-up will help prevent injuries. As with many subjects, there is no definitive answer on this and there are people and studies on both sides.
A warm-up can help you mentally prepare for the workout or event to come. Especially if its going to be a tough one.

So what should your warm-up look like?

Forget everything you learned about warm-ups from your middle school phys. ed. teacher or your high school coach (unless they were very progressive and in-the-know :). Jogging for 30 minutes or more, bending over to touch your toes or contorting your body into odd stretches is not the best way to warm-up.

A dynamic warm-up is best. One in which you are moving at a low intensity ideally in the same types of motions as the workout. For example, if you’re going for a run, then the warm-up should be an easy run of just a few minutes. Your total warm-up only needs to be 10-15 minutes long, if that. You can, and should, incorporate other dynamic movements to loosen up your joints and gently stretch your muscles. Static stretching (sitting or standing and holding a stretch without moving) has been shown to not be a very effective warm-up.

The following are a few dynamic warm-up activities you can do. Just 30 seconds or so for each.

Bounding – This is basically exaggerated running. Leap from foot to foot with a long stride for about 10 meters or so.

High skipping – Again, an exaggerated exercise. Skip for about 10 meters, pushing off with force to go as high as you can.

High knees – Run, moving forward with small steps and bringing your knees up high so your thighs are about parallel to the ground.

Butt kicks – Run with small steps and bringing your heels to your butt. Try to maintain normal arm swing during this motion.

Hip swings – Stand with feet hip width apart. Hold onto something for balance if necessary. Swing your right leg forward and backward from your hip 5-10 times and switch legs.

Trunk twists – Stand with feet hip width apart and hands on hips. Twist your upper body from side to side to loosen up your low back.

Arm circles – Holding your arms at shoulder height, move them in wide circles to loosen and warm-up the shoulders.

Jumping jacks – This is a great full-body warm-up activity Everyone can do them and they can modified if necessary and don’t take a lot of space.

Let me know in the comments if you have a favorite warm-up activity I haven’t included.

 

Happy Exercising!

 

Strong to the Core

Strengthening your core is important for just about everything you do. Most movements, whether they’re fitness activities or just every day life, originate from your core. Your core muscles work to stabilize your body and help produce power for movements of your limbs.

Your core involves all the muscles of your trunk not just your abs and low back like most people think. Doing a few sets of sit ups and bird – dogs is not going to cut it if you truly want to strengthen your core.

Your core is basically everything but your arms and legs. It includes your glutes, hips, abs, low back, upper back and chest. Your upper back and chest are less involved in certain core movements but are still connected to the whole core chain.

Here are some great core exercises that can be done with minimal or no equipment. And not one sit up in the bunch!

Planks (the exercise you love to hate!)

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Planks

 

Side planks (a slightly more challenging variation)

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Side Planks

Plank with leg lift (alternate leg lifts for up to 10 reps each)

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Plank with leg lift

Seated leg lifts (I’m horribly inflexible so this is a tough one for me because my hamstrings are so tight!)

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Seated Leg Lifts

Bridge

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Bridge

Back extensions (these can be done on a machine in a gym as well)

Can Exercise Help You Recover From Jet Lag?

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My husband recently returned from a trip to Japan and was understandably exhausted because he was 13 ahead while there. He keeps a very consistent workout schedule at home so he tries to fit exercise in when he needs to travel which fortunately, isn’t very often. He was away for 5 days and worked out twice in the hotel.

He returned on a Wednesday evening and went right back to his usual exercise and work schedule at 3:30am on Thursday even though he was completely wiped out. And so I started thinking “Will exercise help someone recover from jet lag faster?”

The typical recovery time for jet lag is 1 day for every time zone change. That would mean almost two weeks for a trip to Japan. That’s a long time to be battling brain fog!

Research shows that physical activity can help combat the symptoms of jet lag. Of course, you probably aren’t going to have the energy or desire to do a high intensity workout but something is better than nothing. When you feel like you’re in the Twilight Zone a HIIT workout is probably the last thing on your mind but an easy run or walk or even something as simple as a stretching session is helpful. My husband altered the intensity of his normal routine but he still did SOMETHING.

Exercising at your normal workout time is best. For example, if you normally work out at 6am East Coast time and you travel to Paris, you should try to exercise at 6am Paris time. And doing an outdoor workout, if possible, is even better. Bright sunlight tells your body that it’s time to be awake and alert. An outdoor workout will help fight fatigue and insomnia and reset your body clock a little faster.

So the next time you have to travel across time zones plan your workouts in advance. Check the hotel to see if they have a fitness center or access to hiking trails or a local gym. And plan your workouts for your return trip. Being proactive and more importantly, flexible, about your workout routine when traveling will help you feel better and get back to normal that much faster.

Happy exercising!

P.S. Click here for some Done-For-You treadmill workouts you can use to get back on track without having to think too much about your workout!