When Your Comfort Zone Is Bad For You

When Your Comfort Zone Is Bad For You  

 

I just love it when I get everything in my house exactly the way I want it arranged. I enjoy my breakfast at a certain spot at my kitchen table; my two cups of tea always follow my breakfast. That’s my comfort zone.

However, even though we all like our creature comforts and habits, there’s one place we shouldn’t be in the comfort zone – the gym.

One of the most important principles of training is the Principle of Overload. This states that we won’t have any improvements in our strength and endurance unless we work our muscles with workload (weights) heavier than we’re used to, until we hit fatigue. So if a person uses the same sets of dumbbells or weights on a cable machine for weeks, months or years on end, s/he won’t see any improvement except at the beginning.

The next important thing 

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Stretches

 

   

STRETCHES and examples


Quad stretchQUAD STRETCH
Lie on one side with your elbow directly below your shoulder and your hips stacked. Grasp the foot of your top leg and pull your heel towards your gluteals (your bottom). You will feel a stretch in the front of your upper leg. When the stretching sensations fades, pinch your gluteals and push your hips forward to deepen the stretch. Hold until the muscle is relaxed.

 

 

 

HAMSTRING STRETCH

Hamstring StretchLying on your back, put one foot on the floor and take the other leg up straight into the air. Make sure that the knee is straight. You may have to lower your leg to keep the knee straight. You will feel a stretch in the back of your upper leg. Hold until tension is gone. Repeat with the other leg.

 

 

 

 

HIP/GLUTEAL STRETCH

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6 Exercises to Jump Start Your Fitness

 6 Exercises to Jump Start Your Fitness

 

 

ALTERNATE LIFT

Hold for 2 seconds, then switch sides. Do 2 sets of 10

Alternate lift

 DUMBBELL HIGH-LOW CHOP (OR HEAVY CAN)

Do 2 sets each side of 10-12

dumbell high chop

 

DUMBBELL SHRUGS (OR HEAVY CANS) Do 3 sets of 12

push ups

  

STANDING BENT OVER ROWS

Do 2 sets of 10-12

 

PUSH UPS

Do 2 sets of 12-15.

 

PLANKS FROM TOES

Do 3 planks, 15-45 seconds each

 

OR:

 

OR:

PLANKS FROM KNEES


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Tips for Fitness Success - Especially for Beginners

Tips for Fitness Success - Especially for Beginners

 

So you've finally made the decision to change how you feel, and also how you feel about your relationship with your body. This is a great starting point! But many of us flounder when it comes to making the master plan - how, exactly, do you go about getting fit and healthy? We know that it will involve changes in diet, exercise, habits and attitudes. But what exactly should you do to get to our goals?

The first thing to acknowledge is that it will take time - nothing will happen overnight, or even in a week. It's taken a while to get you to the point of being unhappy and unhealthy, and real change takes time. So grant yourself patience.

Here are several solid tips to help you shape your healthy future.

1. Write down a list of three bigger fitness goals, such as weight loss, improved flexibility, increased strength. Then under each of these bigger goals, write down a list of three things each to do to get there. For instance, for weight loss, you could commit to meeting with a dietitian for nutritional help, identify the foods that you know aren't good for you, and commit to avoiding them, and increase your fibre intake to at least 40 grams per day. 

2. Decide where you will exercise, and how often. This is crucial to your success. A dream of magically being more fit without a plan is just that - only a dream. Take a weekend and check out local gyms, trainers who offer specific types of training, such as outside training, HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), or out-of-the-box solutions such as small classes held in churches, community centres, or neighbourhood walking groups. Commit to at least three days of one hour of activity each day to start, and, based on where you will be working out, what types of exercise you're choosing.

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HIIT Training - What is It and How Will It Help Me Feel Better?

HIIT Training - What is It and How Will It Help Me Feel Better?

HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training, and it's one of the hottest trends in fitness in the last several years. And with good reason - there are so many benefits to your physical and mental well being.

 

Here are just a few:

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Bring Your Brain to Exercise Class

Bring Your Brain to Exercise Class

 

My checklist of what to put in my workout bag is pretty standard and predictable: water, towel, workout shoes, sweatband, post-workout snack..... and my brain.

 By "bring your brain", I mean that we have to drop off all the baggage we are carrying around in our heads, so that we can focus on exactly what we are at the gym for. Lose the worries over the project that's overdue, the babysitter that's just quit on you, and what will you make for dinner. All that stuff has no business taking up brain space and energy while you're at the gym.

 When we clear our minds of all that stuff, we can focus sharply on our form (are we doing that exercise correctly and safely?), and our end goals (what do I want to look/feel like in 4/8/12 weeks?). Worrying about other stuff during your workout won't solve those problems, but it will have a negative impact on your workout and your body.

 Sometimes we feel guilty that we aren't paying attention to the baggage during our workouts - have you ever thought you just don't have time to work out, because there are so many things on your plate? Avoid that rabbit hole and remember that you have a responsibility to the body you walk around in. A lack of brain focus will lead to a half-baked job of exercise, and won't get the results we want.

 

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How To Avoid Overtraining

How To Avoid Overtraining

 

The point of training is to better your body. However, more and more is not the answer in the long term. Overtraining refers to a combination of stresses such as too much training load, a heavy load at work, personal stresses and emotional burnout. Some signs of overtraining include weight loss with a lessened appetite, loss of motivation in physical activity, an increase in muscle soreness and exhaustion and increased anger and emotional outbursts, to name a few.

It would seem logical to keep

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Super Setting for Better Results

Super Setting for Better Results

 

Super setting is a technique we can use to maximize our workout time, building muscle in a very efficient way. We pair two exercises together, without much rest time between them. There are a few ways to do this.

 

Agonist super sets. This means the exercise all target the same main muscle (group), and will involve other muscles as well.  You need to do all exercises at  a weight you can just finish your reps with. For instance, if you want to develop stronger, bigger biceps, an agonist super set could look like this: 

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Protect Your Knees

Protect Your Knees

 

 One of the most common sites for injury is your knees. In fact, there are dozens of separate documented types of knee ailments and injuries. Chances are that you’ve fallen victim to at least one of them in the past. The knee is essential to walking, running, kicking, sitting, using the stairs and getting up from a chair. If the knee weren’t there to bend, none of these activities would be possible. However, the knee doesn’t think for itself! This hinge joint will do whatever the hip and/or the foot will tell it to do – which makes the biomechanics of your leg crucial to good knee health. So here’s a checklist of things to look at:

1.            Assess your shoes. Worn-out shoes can cause knee problems. If they are worn down at the heel, or you’ve been wearing them for quite a while, your shoes can’t absorb shock as well as they used to. The average shock absorbing capacity of athletic shoes is reduced by 50%, after you’ve logged 300 hours in them, and goes down to 20% after you’ve worn them for 500 hours. So do the math on the “real age” of your shoes – and go shopping for new ones.

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Meditation and Fitness

Meditation and Fitness

 

Meditation is often thought of as an activity best suited to people involved in yoga, tai chi and other forms of thoughtful movement - not as a benefit for an athlete or workout enthusiast. But studies have shown time and again that there are several benefits to the wider community. They include:

Better Heart Health. Meditation can dramatically lower your risk of heart attack or stroke.

More Efficient Immune System. Meditation can improve the electrical activity in your brain and this may have a supportive effect on your immune system.

Improved Sleep Pattern. Taking time to relax thoroughly during the day can help you get a better night's sleep.

Improved Blood Pressure. Meditation can help lower blood pressure to a safer level.

Better Results in Your Workout. When we visualize ourselves doing our sport or workout with great form and "see" ourselves succeeding, we tend to get better results from our actual workouts.

It's a Great Stress Buster. When we practise mindfulness, focus on breathing and empty our minds of stressors and irritations, we wake up our parasympathetic nervous system. This system helps us to become calm, relaxed and focussed, allowing us to deal better with stress as it comes along.

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Train Well After An Illness

Train Well After An Illness

 

It seems as if everyone I meet has been the victim of some nasty virus this winter. Colds, the flu, sinus infections - you name it, someone's had it.

But when you feel a bit better, you like to get back to your exercise routines right away - after all, you've wasted enough time lying in bed, right? But how much should you do? Should you push yourself to your pre-sick activity level, or take it really easy for a couple of weeks?

First, determine if you are still a bit sick. There's that grey area when you definitely feel a lot better that you did, but you tire easily, you're still hacking and coughing, still running a bit of a fever. This is not the time start working out again. Sure, go for a walk, do stretches, even a bit of core work, but don't drive yourself to grey-faced exhaustion and into a relapse! Your immune system is already busy healing you - don't task it with intense workouts. Take it easy until you are really totally healthy.

At that point, you will have lost some of your exercise capacity - up to 30% or so. The strategy here is to start at about 2/3 of your exercise intensity and volume. In other words, work out regularly, but dial it down. The most important thing to do is listen to your body, not your buddy!  S/he might want to score a new personal best this week, but your job is to stop when you have reached your limit.

Gradually increase your intensity and volume of exercise, monitoring your body's message to you, keep up good nutrition and hydration, and get 8 hours of good sleep each night. That's the best prescription for regaining your fitness after an illness.

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Cardio Training – What Kind Should I Do?

Cardio Training – What Kind Should I Do?

 

This is a common concern, especially for those people who have been working out for a while, but aren’t seeing good enough results. The issue is really getting variety in your workouts, to constantly challenge your body to working harder. Fitness professionals often refer to the FITT factors; this means the Frequency, Intensity, Time and Type of exercise performed.

In terms of cardiovascular work, there are several types of training you can do. First, we have Tempo Training. This means doing continuous aerobic exercise at a moderately challenging intensity, or 14-17 RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion). Do this type of training for 30-60 minutes.

Second is Long Slow Distance Training. Again, this is continuous aerobic exercise at a low to moderate intensity (11-13 RPE), for 60-80 minutes. Think about a moderately challenging bike ride around the city, or a beginner spin class. This type of training stimulates an increase in the size of our mitrochondria. Those are the centres of our cells that act like “fireplaces” to burn fat and carbs. So this cardio type will increase the size of the “fireplaces”, allowing you to burn more of both those energy sources.

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Exercising with Upper Crossed Syndrome

Upper Crossed Syndrome (UCS) is a postural problem that starts with muscle imbalances between the muscles of the front and the back of the upper body. The shoulders round inward, the upper back starts to develop a rounded, hump-like appearance, and the head juts forward into Forward Head Posture. Tight muscles typically include the pectoralis major, the levator scapulae, the upper trapezius , latissimus dorsi, anterior deltoid, and the subscapularis (part of rotator cuff) . The weakened muscles include the rhomboids, posterior deltoid, lower trapezius, serratus anterior, deep cervical neck flexors, and the teres minor and infraspinatus (also part of the rotator cuff).

Upper Crossed Syndrome

A person with UCS will often have headaches, a feeling of extreme

tightness just below the base of the back of the skull and may notice that his shoulder blades are winging out.  Other indicators may include sleep apnea, difficulty swallowing, clenched teeth and pain in the face and neck. If the person is experiencing a significant number of these signs, he can also do the Knuckle test.  Standing in front of a mirror, he can look at his hands. If he can see the knuckles on his ring fingers, he has excessive internal shoulder rotation, and chances are very good that he has UCS.

This is a very common syndrome these days, thanks in large part to us spending extended periods of time staring at a computer screen, bent over a tablet, cell phone, or gaming system. What is the best way to train to avoid injury, while correcting the UCS?

It is important to strengthen the weak muscles and stretch the overly tight ones, to help restore postural balance to the upper body.

Corrective exercises to stabilize the scapulae, or shoulder blades may include rows, spinal rotation with extension, and isometric retraction and depression. Tubing or light dumbbells are the best choices for this. Once the shoulder blades are more stable, move on to doing internal and external shoulder rotation, either sidelying or standing. Exercises that should be avoided include barbell work,  bilateral strength machines, all overhead presses, bench pressing with a pronated grip, upright rows, bench presses with more than a 30° bench angle, and any loaded movement behind the back.

Stretching the tight muscles is just as important as strengthening the weak ones.  I recommend doing some self-myofascial release techniques (SMR), prior to static stretches. For instance, to help release the tight pectorals (chest muscles), you can stand in front of a wall. Place a tennis ball or acupressure ball over the tight pecs and lean into the wall to trap the ball between your chest muscles and the wall. You can also put the ball in a long sock so you can control it and keep it from falling. Gently roll back and forth over the tight muscles to release them from the surrounding fascia. Then do a static chest stretch. You can use a foam roller to do SMR on tight traps and lats, or use the tennis ball in a sock technique, only  facing out from the wall. The ball is situated between your upper back muscles and the wall. Follow up with static stretches.

Practise good posture as well. Make sure that your desk chair doesn't keep your thighs higher than parallel to the floor, as this will encourage UCS . When you are standing, check to see that your chest is slightly lifted and your shoulder blades are pulled down into a neutral position. When doing computer or desk work, take a break every 30 minutes and do shoulder blade squeezes and chin retractions to reset your muscles into a better posture. Finally, practise breathing from your diaphragm - your abdomen will extend and then retract if you are breathing properly, instead of your shoulders hunching upwards.