Ladies, Don’t Let Aunt Flo Hold You Back

While this might be one of the more obscure posts I write, it may also be one of the most important. The female menstrual cycle is a very serious thing, and in fact, can have a huge effect on women’s bodies, their minds, and their overall well being.

You might be saying right about now, “Mike, what do you know about it? You have never experienced it firsthand!” – that would be correct. But I have also learned about it from a nutrition standpoint and from a human physiological standpoint throughout my years of education, and continuing education. So there’s that.

The female menstrual cycle can be a very daunting experience for many women, often crippling them around the time of their period, and making it tempting to eat anything and everything in sight.

My goal of this article is to help explain why certain things happen, and what you can do to stay on track, and make the most of that often miserable time. Guys, tune this one out – or not – listening to the science here might help you better understand what she’s going through, and maybe you can score some bonus points 😉

The menstrual cycle is purely controlled by hormone fluctuations and cascades, and can essentially be broken down into two phases: the follicular phase (Day 1 of menses, ending at ovulation) and the luteal phase (ovulation to the first day of menses).

So from a hormonal approach, what happens?

  • The follicular phase (Day one of a woman’s period) – rising to high estrogen, low progesterone
  • The luteal phase – high estrogen and HIGHER progesterone
  • The premenstrual period (late luteal aka “leave me the hell alone phase”) and menses – rapid drop in both hormones

By looking at the effects on the two sex hormones, this really doesn’t help explain much in regards to how they affect the body composition, and especially fat storage or loss. We need to look deeper into the hormone effects on our main anabolic (building) hormones.

  • Estrogen makes women more insulin sensitive (less insulin needed to store glucose)
  • Progesterone make women more insulin resistant (more insulin needed to store same amount of glucose)
  • Both and anti-cortisol (anti stress)

So what do these mean for muscle building, fat loss, and over all well being?

  1. Follicular phase has higher estrogen, therefore more insulin sensitive, meaning less fat storage, some fat burning and is primed for muscle gain.
  2. Beginning luteal phase is for less muscle building, but good fat burning – as we see a 2.5-11% RISE in metabolism
  3. Later luteal phase is a more catabolic time (burning fat and muscle).
  4. In the later luteal phase, ie. premenstrual phase, the steep drop off in both estrogen and progesterone cause increases in stress, and drops in positive neurotransmitters (thus leading to PMS and sweet/carb cravings)

How to tailor your workouts and diet… (what you have all been waiting for!)

Starting off, I want to say that not all women are exactly alike, and by no means are these blanket statements that cover everyone – but they should be helpful in understanding your body better, and how you could potentially adapt your training plan around your phases.

First, don’t weigh yourself around your period. The bloat from water retention can be very unsettling, and can really mess with your head. It’s not uncommon for women to gain 5-10 pounds around their period.

  • Avoid salty foods
  • Drink more water (yes, that seems counter intuitive)
  • Sip herbal teas

Second, looking at how the sex hormones affect insulin sensitivity, there may be some recommendations to be made based off of carbohydrate intake. While carbs alone don’t cause weight gain (excess calories do) they can lead to greater water retention and thus lead to a lower psychological well being based off of weight (remember DON’T weigh yourself) or even appearance (belly bloat).

Remember, estrogen makes a woman more insulin sensitive, and estrogen and progesterone are both anti-stress hormones, so most women can better handle carbs in the follicular phase and be less tolerant in the luteal phase, mostly in the late luteal phase.

For exercise purposes, one of the most hormonally stressful forms of exercise is long duration, medium intensity cardio (your daily jogs).

Because of the anti stress properties of both sex hormones, long steady state cardio may be best when performed during the follicular phase, and early luteal phase (when both hormones are higher) – and estrogen will help maintain muscle, especially during the follicular phase.

Think of the follicular phase as a time to focus on muscle building, and the late luteal to premenstrual as a time to tighten up your diet and really focus on getting the most out of your fat burning hormones.

Breaking up your cycle may look like this:

Follicular Phase –

  • Weight training focus 3-4 days per week, and long duration cardio 2-3 times per week (as it will be better tolerated)
  • Keep diet the same as you have been doing, with normal or even slightly higher carb intake around workout days.

Luteal Phase – 

  • Weight training 2-3 days per week, and shorter duration – higher intensity cardio, with plenty of rest – 2-3 days per week
  • Focus on adding on some VERY low intensity, relaxing exercise – walking, yoga, meditation
  • Keep diet roughly the same, but be more aware of cravings and overall carb intake (first and foremost, maintain a caloric deficit if fat loss is goal)

In dealing with cramps (late luteal):

  • If you know you react more to carbs, AND have bad cramps, focus on limiting sugars and white breads leading up to your period, as these can contribute to worse cramps.
  • Also, if menstrual cramps are bad, try supplementing with Vitamin D3 – 2000 IU – year round (helps with inflammation), not just during your period!

If anything, I hope this post helps women better understand what is happening in their bodies, and how they can make the most of certain times during their monthly cycle.

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The 5 Stages of Sustainable Fat Loss

 

The Stages to the Path of Sustainable Fat Loss:

  1. Counting Calories
  2. Counting Macros
  3. Creating a positive relationship with food
  4. Eliminating food as an emotional comfort
  5. Intuitive Eating

The path to long term, sustainable fat loss, and health can be a long and winding road. There are many stops, detours, and speed bumps along the way. For some, we drive a speedy European sports car to our destination, and for others it is more of a smart car approach. Either vehicle can get you there, however, one might be a better option than the other depending on the person.

The vehicle you choose may depend on your current relationship with food, and how many detours, and speed bumps are along your path. For some, it may be a simple fact of realizing that you are just eating too much, and for others, it may seem like you are doing everything right and just spinning your wheels in place.

No matter where you start, I feel that there is a definite path that all must take in order to truly master the long-term challenge that lies with fat loss and maintaining those results.

  1. Counting Calories/Overall Quantity Control

Most nutrition and health professionals with a true background in nutrition will agree; when it comes to fat loss, calories are king. To lose weight, you MUST be in a caloric deficit. Ignoring these simple physics is a mistake that many still make.

The first step to fat loss is figuring out if you are in a true caloric deficit through food and activity. If you burn more calories than you consume, you will lose weight. If you consume more than you burn, you will gain.

Use this site to figure out your calorie needs: http://www.calculator.net/calorie-calculator.html

Figuring out your intake starts with tracking. You must be aware of how much you consume regularly, and take the appropriate steps towards creating a deficit. I recommend a 300-400 calorie deficit.

  1. Counting Macro Intake/Overall Quality Control

Once you figure out your caloric goals for fat loss, I recommend finding a healthy balance of macronutrients to fuel your body appropriately. What does this look like? It depends. I am not a fan of any diets that cut out a huge chunk of one or two macros (super low carb, super low fat, super low protein – why you even think about super low protein??)

However, it is important to find a balance of nutrients, especially if you consume a huge amount of one of them currently. Most people who struggle with weight loss consume too much of their calories from carbs or fat (think junk food).

How should you structure your nutrients? For starting out, I recommend:

First set you protein around .8-1 gram of protein per body weight. (1 gram of protein = 4 calories)

Second, try to get 25-30% of your CALORIES from fat. (1 gram of fat = 9 calories)

Lastly, fill in the rest of your calories with carbs. (1 gram of carb = 4 calories)

For example: my current fat loss “diet” that I am shooting for is at 2600 calories. I am targeting 200 grams of protein per day (800 calories. Then, 30% of 2600 is 780 calories, or 87 grams of fat. This leaves me with 1020 calories, divided by 4, which is 255 grams of carbs.

  1. Create a Positive Relationship With Food

This is where we get more into the mental side of eating.

Do you feel like some foods are good foods and others are bad? Do you punish yourself or feel guilty if you eat a “bad” food? This is where you need to focus on your relationship with what you eat.

If you look at food as strictly good or bad, and continue to feel guilty when you eat out, or have a treat, you will always be slipping into the diet cycle of doom.

You try to eat super healthy, you slip up, you feel guilty, you say screw it, and start over where you began.

Rather than looking at foods as good or bad, look at them as optimal or sub optimal. Choose mostly foods that are optimal for your calorie and macro goals, but don’t beat yourself up over a few cookies once in awhile, or a small ice cream treat. By learning the calorie and macro content of sub-optimal foods, you can still fit them into your diet, eat them on occasion, and guilt free.

How do you do this?

If your dinner goal is to consume 40 grams of carbs, but you really want a few cookies, (say each cookie is 10 grams of carbs) then make those carbs fit. Maybe skip the normal half cup of rice with dinner, and have the cookies after dinner instead.

Not an approach to follow every meal, or daily, but on occasion this can help you reduce stress with food, and not sabotage your diet.

  1. Eliminate Foods as an Emotional Comfort

You have mastered your calories, figured out your macros, and have stopped punishing yourself for eating “bad” foods. Now we really need to look at why we eat.

Do you eat because you are hungry? Or do you eat because you are stressed, sad, bored, tired, etc.?

One of my all time favorite lines is, “Food won’t fix it”.

It is important to always be thinking about why we are eating, or why are we feeling hungry. If it is because you haven’t eaten in 6 hours, then you probably should eat something. If you just ate, but are dealing with a brutal assignment/co-worker/family member and are all of a sudden craving ice cream – then you probably aren’t actually hungry.

Creating awareness of your emotional eating is step one. Figuring out how to combat it, is a much harder step two.

First, you need to realize what is making you want _______ (food), then how can you actually address this issue without food, and rather to help clear it up. Some suggestions are:

  • If you’re depressed or lonely, call someone who always makes you feel better, play with your dog or cat, watch a comedy.
  • If you’re anxious, expend your nervous energy by dancing to your favorite song, squeezing a stress ball, taking a brisk walk or destroying some heavy iron at the gym!
  • If you’re exhausted, treat yourself with a hot cup of tea, take a bath, light some scented candles, or wrap yourself in a warm blanket.
  • If you’re bored, read a good book, watch a good TV show, explore the outdoors, or turn to an activity you enjoy (woodworking, playing the guitar, shooting hoops, scrapbooking, etc.).
  • If you’re tired, go to bed! (simplest fix)

This is an ongoing struggle for many, but the harder you work at it, the more it can become automated and healthy.

  1. Intuitive Eating

Once you become fully aware of you intake, your quality of food choices, create a healthy relationship with food, and stop using food as an emotional support; you have truly mastered intuitive eating and are on your way to long term success.

True intuitive eating involves knowing your foods, knowing your intakes, and listening to your body. This means that you eat until you are satisfied, but not stuffed. This means you allow yourself to have the occasional treat, because you know how to make it work with your goals. This means you don’t feel guilt when you enjoy a weekend with friends because you are still listening to your body and not gorging on food beyond your comfort levels.

Eating intuitively is a skill that can be mastered, and sustained for a lifetime. It may take a while to get there, but once you do, you will be completely on autopilot and able to succeed when it comes to eating.

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Hopping and Hoping…Why They Will Get You Nowhere.

*No, I’m not talking about physically hopping up and down like a bunny.

I spent this past weekend in Chicago with my wife, and some of my closest friends watching one abysmal baseball team (my Minnesota Twins), and one extremely dominant team (the Chicago Cubs).

On Sunday, we weren’t in too much of a hurry to get back to Madison, and we decided to grab a late breakfast at an awesome restaurant we found (check out Kanela Breakfast Club if you are in town, I highly recommend it!).

A group of people sat down at the table next to us, and from the minute they sat down, one of the girls in the group started talking about working out. Now, we weren’t trying to listen in, she just gave us no choice. She proceeded to talk very loudly – THE ENTIRE MEAL – about all the different workout modalities that she has tried. She truly may have listed off every single workout program/facility (to name a few; Crossfit, Orange Theory, yoga, pilates, barre, P90x, Insanity, spinning, running, bootcamps, abs classes…) you could ever think of.

After naming each one of them, she went on to explain how she didn’t get results from any of them, or she was too sore from one, or one wasn’t hard enough, or one was too boring, and on and on.

While some of these options may not be the best for everyone, most of them all have their benefits in their own unique way if done correctly.

In my head, I wanted to tell her, “maybe you should just try sticking to one program for longer than 3 days, and then give it a fair assessment” – but I just kept sipping my coffee, because it was really none of my business.

When it comes to exercise and nutrition, this is an all too common problem. Hopping from program to program, diet to diet, and hoping for these miraculous results.

If you are truly just looking to mix it up, and try new things for fun, or stress relief, or for general fitness, this isn’t the worst thing you could do.

However, if you are truly looking for the results that most programs advertise, you need to see them out. Just like the now dominant Chicago Cubs, they stuck with their farm system (and a few free agents here and there), and are now on pace to set some season records in the MLB.

The same goes with diet hopping.

dietcollage

There are so many fad diets out there that promise amazing results. However, the first thing I always caution with my clients is that it must be something you can stick to for the long term to maintain those results you initially get. Sure, any diet that restricts calories by cutting out a huge chunk of food (carbs, fat, meat, gluten foods, etc.) will get you to lose weight. But can you stick to that diet for the long run?

So what should you do?

1. Pick Your Goals, and Find the Right Program for YOU

If your goals are to look like an NFL linebacker, you need to train like one and eat like one. If you want to look like a fitness model, you need to train like one and eat like one.

What if you just want to get a little healthier, and lose a few pounds in the process?

Find a well balanced program that focusses on strength, cardio, flexibility, or whatever your goals may be – but just stick to it!

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2. Find a Program That You Enjoy, and Track Progress

You have to enjoy what you do, or you will burn out, get bored, and want to quit pretty quick. This goes for diet as well. The holy grail of workouts and diets will not help you if you don’t enjoy it, and stick to it.

When it comes to tracking progress, this is something a lot of people don’t do enough of. Invest in a $5 notebook, and track everything you do in your workout. This way, you can look back and see if you are progressing. Depending on your abilities, age, and overall goals, there are many ways to progress.

  • Lifting heavier
  • Lifting for more reps
  • Running/biking/cardio-ing further
  • Running/biking/cardio-ing faster
  • Increasing time of work/time under tension

Now, we can’t always go heavier and heavier, especially as we age. But by tracking different progress, such as reps or time, you can still progress.

The key is that you are always increasing SOMETHING, over time. This could look something like this:

  • Week 1 – Squatted 100 pounds for 3 sets of 10 reps
  • Week 2 – Squatted 100 pounds for 1 set of 12 reps, and 2 sets of 10 reps
  • Week 3 – Squatted 100 pounds for 2 sets of 12 reps, and one set of 10 reps
  • Week 4 – Squatted 100 pounds for 3 sets of 12 reps
  • Week 5 – (deload – or go lighter for recovery purposes – don’t forget recovery!)
  • Week 6 – Squatted 105 pounds for 3 sets of 10 reps
  • Week 7 – Squatted 105 pounds for 1 set of 12 reps, and 2 sets of 10 reps

You get the idea. While this may not be fast enough for some, this is still true progression!

tracking

Same thing goes with diet.

Track your bodyweight (weekly), track your waist circumference, track your body fat %, take weekly progress pictures in your underwear, anything that you want to track.

If you aren’t seeing a long term change happening, then maybe you need to work on adherence.This could be because you decided to do a crazy crash diet cleanse program that is not sustainable for the long term, or maybe you just didn’t stick to a well rounded program. Whatever it may be, you need to be honest with yourself, and assess what went right, and what went wrong.

3. Stick It Out, and Give it Your All

Once you decide on your goals, and once you find a program that has shown results that match your goals, hit it hard, and with everything you’ve got.

Whether it’s 12 weeks, 6 months, or a full year planned out, you need to keep it up. Just like getting out of shape doesn’t happen over night, getting the results you want for the long term doesn’t happen overnight either.

consistencybrucelee2

You need to give things time and effort to see change. I still remember my first day ever lifting weights. I could barely bench press an empty 45 pound bar for 10 reps. I remember seeing the high school seniors putting up 225 like it was no big deal. Did I expect to be able to do that over night, or even by the end of freshman year? No.

I worked, and worked, and worked, and by junior year I hit the 225 mark, and went far beyond it by my senior year in college when I put up a personal best of 350. Yes, that was 8 years! It took time, consistency, and effort.

hello-my-name-is-consistency

Anything worth accomplishing will take work, sweat, and time. If you keep giving it your all, doing what you love, and tracking your progress, you will get there!

 

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If You Are Sitting Right Now, Get Up and Do These

This quick blog post is being sent to you to improve your day. Guaranteed!

Yes, you that spends 10+ hours sitting all day. That little tweak in your back, twinge in your hip, can all be improved right now.

Get up, and try these three exercises to stretch your hips, get your glutes fired up, and mobilize your upper back.

1) Hip Flexor Stretch – get in a half kneeling position. Which ever leg is back, squeeze that glute hard, and push your hips forward. Make sure you aren’t tilting forward with the hips, but rather tilting the hips slightly upward. Pretend like you have a big ol’ belt buckle on and you are trying to tilt it towards your chest. Reach overhead for a bigger stretch. (Hold for 15-30 seconds)

Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 9.38.34 AM

2) Glute Bridge – lay on your back and drive your hips toward the ceiling while pushing through your heels. The goal is to create a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Squeeze the glutes HARD, like the great Dean Somerset says, “crack some walnuts”.  Hold the contraction for 1-5 seconds, for 10 repetitions.

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3)Thoracic Spine Rotations – lay on your side, stack your knees and bend your hips and knees to 90 degrees. Place the hand of whatever side you are lying on on your thigh. Reach across your body with the other arm while inhaling. Open up your chest to the ceiling while moving your hand from across your body to the floor while breathing out. Hold for 5 seconds, and repeat 5 times per side.

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Do these three exercises, and your back and hips will thank you later. Enjoy, and stay fit my friends.

“Cardio”… Is it Optimal? Part 2

In part one of this discussion, I briefly discussed the pros and potential cons of steady state, “traditional”, cardio.

Pros:

  • Improvement in aerobic capacity and endurance
  • Initial potential for weight loss,
  • Stress relief, well being, improvement in event times

Cons:

  • Potential for muscle loss
  • Negative metabolic adaptation(1)
  • Blunting of protein synthesis

I would like to note, there is nothing wrong with steady state cardio. It is a great form of exercise if you are training to run farther, but the title of this series is “Is It Optimal?” It may not me the most optimal form of cardio for your desired outcomes.

So what kind of cardio can prevent muscle loss, improve resting metabolic rate, and burn more fat…in less time?*

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

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I’m sure many have heard of doing intervals, “oh yeah I do 30 seconds of running and a minute of walking/jogging”.

That is not exactly HIGH INTENSITY… If you can do your HIGH INTENSITY for more than 15 to 20 seconds, its not HIGH INTENSITY.

High Intensity Cardio is doing an all out-max-effort, running from the cops and a lion, SPRINT. If you are a pretty athletic person, this cannot be done on a treadmill. I wouldn’t be trying it on a treadmill at all. Disclaimer: If you have an injury, prone to injury or have a heart condition, HIIT may not be a safe option for you!

So how do I  recommend you do HIIT?

First, warm up properly, until you are warm and sweating. Start with an all out, 8-10 second sprint, then walk/recover for about 2-3 minutes (active recovery). Repeat this for about 4 to 6 rounds. Cooldown and stretch afterwards.

My favorite form of lower body HIIT is actually done on a stationary bike. Here is what I do:

  • Warm Up for 5 Minutes at resistance level 10
  • Sprint for 15 seconds on resistance level 20
  • Pedal for 2 minutes on resistance level 10
  • Repeat those intervals for 6 to 8 rounds
  • Cool Down for 5 minutes on resistance level 5

After doing this, with all out effort on the sprints, your legs should feel dead, and pumped full of blood, like you just got done doing 500 squats. The reason I prefer the resistance bike is because it involves a lot more muscles than running and causes less muscle damage.

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“Long duration running uses very little hip flexion and extension. Thus biomechanically you are training the hip flexors to move in a limited range of motion. In contrast cycling has a large range of motion for both hip flexion and extension. If you look at exercises like squats, and leg presses, these are very reliant on large hip mobility and range of motion, which as the figure below shows cycling encourages. (1)”

“Muscle damage is elicited to a greater extent during the eccentric or lowering phase of a movement when the muscle is contracting while lengthening while the least amount of damage is caused in the concentric phase in which the muscle shortens. Running has a high eccentric component. For example long distance running causes extreme muscle damage while ultra distance cycling (230 km) does not (1)”

So How Does HIIT increase fat burning for 24 to 72 hours after exercise?

HIIT, done properly, has been shown to increase mitochondria density, thus increasing the capacity for fat oxidation through out the day. I will spare the science details, but if interested just look up “Mitochondria Fat Metabolism”. Also, by preventing muscle loss, and even potentially increase some leg muscle, this in itself will help boost your metabolism throughout the day!

A 15 week study done on HIIT (6 – 30 second all out Wingate Sprints) vs. Steady State Cardio (1 hour @ 3mph) found that the participants doing HIIT lost almost 50% more body fat than the steady state group! (2)

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HIIT can be done in many different forms. As long as you are doing something with all out (added resistance helps) effort for as long as you can (shouldn’t be able to last more than 20 seconds) and doing active recovery, it is HIIT. Use sled pushes, weighted jumps, car pushes, jump rope, etc. Get creative and switch it up!

sled-push

 

Can HIIT increase aerobic capacity? YES!

Interestingly enough, it can! Not only will it help burn fat faster, but it can also help you increase your aerobic conditioning – without spending countless hours jogging in place! Martin J Gibala and his team of researchers found the following results in a breakthrough study at their lab:

  • First, subjects were tested on a stationary bike pedaling at 80% Vo2 Max (measure of oxygen usage) for as long as they could maintain this intensity. They lasted an average of 25 minutes
  • The subjects then did 2 weeks of intervals two to three times per week of 30 second supra-maximal sprints (175% vo2 max – this is HIGH INTENSITY) followed by 4 minutes of complete rest for 4 rounds total.
  • The subjects then repeated the first 80% Vo2 max test, and lasted on average 50 minutes!
  • This means they doubled their cardio endurance  and only really did 4 minutes of work in 2 weeks! Amazing!

(1).Wilson, et al. Concurrent Training: A Meta Analysis Examining Interference of Aerobic and Resistance Exercise. University of Tampa, FL. J Strength Conditioning.

(2) McGee, et al. Metabolic Adaptations to Short-term High-Intensity Interval Training: A Little Painfor a Lot of Gain? Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews: American College of Sports Med: 2008

Sample Workout

Sample HIIT cardio for the stationary bike (use a spin bike or airdyne if you have access to one!) I recommend doing this on a more upper body focussed day, or as a stand alone workout.

  • 5 min warmup on stationary bike, lvl 8 resistance – HR up to 130 BPM
  • 15 second max effort, lvl 20 resistance – HR up to 160 BPM
  • 2 min active recovery, lvl 8 resistance, 65 RPM’s, HR dropped to 145 BPM
  • 15 second max effort, lvl 20 resistance – HR up to 170 BPM
  • 2 min active recovery, lvl 8 resistance, 65 RPM’s, HR dropped to 150 BPM
  • 15 second max effort, lvl 20 resistance – HR up to 175 BPM
  • 2 min active recovery, lvl 8 resistance, 65 RPM’s, HR dropped to 155 BPM
  • 15 second max effort, lvl 20 resistance – HR up to 175 BPM
  • 2 min active recovery, lvl 8 resistance, 65 RPM’s, HR dropped to 155 BPM
  • 15 second max effort, lvl 20 resistance – HR up to 180 BPM
  • 2 min active recovery, lvl 8 resistance, 65 RPM’s, HR dropped to 160 BPM
  • 15 second max effort, lvl 20 resistance – HR up to 175 BPM
  • 2 min active recovery, lvl 8 resistance, 65 RPM’s, HR dropped to 155 BPM
  • 5 min cooldown, lvl 5 resistance, 65 RPM’s, HR dropped to 120 BPM
  • 10 minutes of foam rolling and static stretching

This whole workout lasts about 20 minutes.

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If you are experiencing any lower body issues that limit you from doing high intensity lower body cardio (shin splints, plantar fasciitis, etc.) you can do HIIT workouts with battle ropes (click here for some awesome battle rope action!), kettle bells, boxing, medballs, or even lighter dumbbells or barbells. I recommend trying this Tabata style, or intervals of 20 seconds all out effort, with 10 seconds of complete rest in between, for 4 minutes total. Rest for a few minutes, or do some lifting, and repeat a few more times.

“I Work Out Because I Want to Look Like…”

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.” 

When it comes to working towards the physique of your dreams, there are three main factors that play a role. Genetics, Diet, and Exercise. Since we can’t really choose our genetic makeup (yet….) and diets and nutrition can get pretty complex, lets talk exercise.

“I work out because I want to look like (insert dreamy actor/actress/athlete/etc.)” – Well, I’ve got news for you…you will never look exactly like them, because you are you, not them. This being said, you CAN work towards the same “body type” as them, if you do things right. Who knows, you might even look better!

I want to look like a pro football player…

t1_davis

Lots of guys say some form of the following quote, “I don’t wanna get as big as a bodybuilder, I just want to have that athletic look”.

Then they start training like a bodybuilder (high volume, longer rest periods) along with some steady state cardio mixed in to “burn fat”. Do pro football players train like this? No. If you want to look more like a football player, you need to train like a football player. Focusing on some heavy compound moves, a lot of “pre-hab” type moves, unilateral work, dynamic/explosive lifting, and high anaerobic type “cardio” work. Football players don’t spend their training running 5 miles everyday at a 10 minute mile pace. That kind of training doesn’t translate to the field.  They run sprints, do resistance cardio work such as sled pushes/drags, jump work, and anything else that is high intensity, short duration.

I want to look like fitness model…

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Lots of women will say some form of the following quote, “I just want to lose some of this fat and tone up, but not get bulky…” Then they will jump on a treadmill for 30 minutes, run some miles outside, do some abs, and go to yoga. These are all fantastic ways to exercise, and they all have great benefits. However, if this is all you do, you won’t get the results you expect.

First, there is really no such thing as “toning up”. There is gaining muscle, maintaining muscle, or losing muscle. Our real goal should be to gain muscle. I will preach it until im blue in the face, YOU WON’T BULK UP. See the following: Why Women Should Lift Weights. If we want the body of a fitness model, or maybe an olympic athlete (sprinter, jumper, vaulter, etc.) we need to train like one! If all we continue to just focus on cardio and distance running, you will get the body of a distance runner (granted the diet is in check as well).

marathoner-vs-sprinter-female

There is nothing wrong with this body type, if that’s what your goal is. If you want the body of a fitness model, or an olympic sprinter, you need to train like one! Lifting weights, heavier/dynamic lower body lifts, high intensity interval style cardio. Even just starting with 2 to 3 days a week of lifting will make a difference.

Whether you want to look like a pro athlete, fitness model, bodybuilder, marathoner, or couch potato it all comes down to training like one. Look up their workout routines, hire a personal trainer, talk to a strength coach, educate yourself. Set some goals, track your progress, put in the work, and watch your body transform! Always remember…

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.” 

Do You Deadlift? You Should…

Taking a break from writing about my super fantastic interesting SNAP food challenge, I would like to take a moment to discuss the king of all lifts… the Deadlift. The deadlift got its name in ancient Rome, when soldiers were taught how to properly lift their fallen comrades up and off of the battle field. Interesting huh? Anywho, I recently made a huge mistake and have neglected to deadlift for almost 5 months now…shame on me. This is mostly because I am used to doing it with bumper plates and in more of a “intense” gym then the current one I train at at my university. The deadlift was always my favorite lift, and essentially became a necessity at one point in my life. In high school I got up to “pulling” (what the pros call it) 500 lbs. In college my deadlift got up to about 550 lbs…then tragedy struck…

My second semester of freshman year I found a small lump on my tailbone. It continued to bug me for a while but I never thought much of it. Until it ruptured… I’ll spare you the gross details of everything else, but needless to say I had to have a cyst removed from my tailbone over that summer. Thankfully it was just a cyst and not anything worse like a tumor. 001-0919195404-Its-not-a-tumorThis surgery set my back quite a ways. I had to stop lifting for a month, and avoid heavy lower body or bending movements for about 3 months while the tissue healed. I quickly found that my lower back muscles became very weak and my lower back was chronically sore. I was finally able to start bending movements again, but had to start back at square one. I remember feeling so crappy about my 135 lb deadlift my first time back.

I eventually worked back up to about 450 lbs, this is where I was a few months ago.

Now since neglecting the holiest of the holy lifts, I started to find my lower back getting more and more sore all the time. This Monday I finally decided to start deadlifting once a week again. On Monday I did 5 sets of 10 reps with 215 lbs. My back, butt, and hamstrings are incredibly sore…in a good way.

How to do it:

The deadlift is a relatively simple move. You load a bar on the ground, squat down, and pick it up (essentially). Now there is much more to it then that.

  1. Get your shins as close to the bar as possible.
  2. Stand with a shoulder width stance, toes forward.
  3. Grab the bar, just outside your knees.
  4. Lower your butt, keep your back straight.
  5. Push “through” your heels, keeping your abs braced, or tight (like you are about to get punched), and shoulders back.
  6. Extend your legs by standing up, and drive your hips forward, and pull your shoulders back.
  7. Repeat the same movements in reverse to return the bar to the floor.

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Here is a great, short video of what it looks like:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_LhYspMFUmY

The deadlift is a great move for men, women, old and young. You dont see it much in “commercial” gyms, probably because a lot of people drop the weight after standing up, but putting it down nice and slow and controlled is just as important to the lift (working the eccentric contraction)

It primarily works your lower back, glutes, hamstrings, and middle traps (to some extent). So whether your looking to improve your lower back health, build some back muscle, get that booty (+ squats) or just pick something up and put it down…you should be deadlifting.