How Do You Deal With Stress Through Fitness?

Stress is a normal part of being human. Sometimes we have little, sometimes we have more than any person should ever have to go through. Sometimes it can feel as if the world is coming to an end. Stress is here, stress will always be here. Many things that stress us out are out of our control. What we can control is how we respond to stress.

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How to Progress at Lifting Weights (Yes, You Need to do This)

Why does someone need to progress at lifting weights? Can’t I just “mix it up” and confuse my muscles every single day with something completely different?

Sure, but it will take longer to improve specific, foundational movements that are imperative to building muscle.

But why does that matter?

Because muscle is great, and it keeps us young, strong, healthy, mobile, sexy, happy, and much more. I won’t go into details of why having muscle goes far beyond vanity, but it does.

Now back to progression.

Why progress?

This goes beyond standard progression of more reps more weight.(more on that soon).

Like anything else, lifting weights is a skill that must be learned, and improved upon to get the most effect from it. If you only do a squatting exercise once a month, how do you expect to ever get better at it? Like Bambi on ice, your legs will not develop the proper neuron firing patterns to actually LEARN the proper squat.

There is a big difference in just popping your butt towards the ground, and actually doing a squat.

Same goes with any lift. How many people actually feel LAT PULLDOWNS in their LATS? Or a chest press variation in their chest (pecs)?

This takes time, and learning, and concentration on improving motor patterns and getting the correct muscles to contract/stretch/squeeze/flex/etc. This is how results happen, and how you get the most out of lifting weights.

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So how does one go about progressing? 

Basic progressive overload is the backbone of muscular growth. From wikipedia:

Progressive overload requires a gradual increase in volume, intensity, frequency or time in order to achieve the targeted goal of the user. In this context, volume and intensity are defined as follows:

  • Volume is the total number of repetitions multiplied by the resistance used as performed in specific periods of time.
  • Intensity is the percent value of maximal functional capacity, or expressed as percent repetition maximum.

This means more reps, or more weight – and you are progressing.

This idea works GREAT for people who are new to lifting (0-1 year of consistent training), and works with most exercises.

One of the simplest ways to progress is increase reps until about you can get 20, then decrease reps and increase weight and repeat.

This would look like:

  • Week 1: 3 sets of 10 at 50 pounds
  • Week 2: 3 sets of 12 at 50 pounds
  • Week 3: 3 sets of 15 at 50 pounds
  • Week 4: 3 sets of 20 at 50 pounds
  • Week 5: 3 sets of 10 at 60 pounds

Now this is very basic, and isn’t always this linear. But its a principle.

***Also, some exercises are hard to increase weights on time after time – example lateral raises – and thats okay, try focussing on the other progression techniques at the end of the article***

This brings up another point: TRACK YOUR WORKOUTS! 

How would one know that they are progressing if you are always guessing at what weights you used last time, and how many reps you did?

Now what happens when you can’t do anymore weight, or you stop being able to increase reps? 

If you fall into the general fitness population (anyone who isn’t competing in bodybuilding or strongman/woman competitions) thats okay!

Now is when you can change things up, try a different variation, and see how it changes you.

Some other ways to progress besides adding weight include:

  • Varied tempos (slow eccentrics or lowering portions of lifts are brutal)
  • Varied grips (wide grip, neutral grip, front squat, back squat, rack position holds, overhead holds, etc.)
  • Varied implements or handles on cable machines (dumbbells, barbells, kettle bells, neutral handles, rope attachments, v-bar handles, etc.)
  • Timed sets – instead of doing 3 sets of 10 reps, try 3 sets of 30 seconds at a challenging weight – this is a good one.
  • Improving your form! There is always room for improvement and working the muscles through a solid range of motion with a good contraction of the working muscle.

These are just a few ideas, but give them a try if progress has stalled – then try whatever lift you were stalled on and see what happens.

Just remember, lifting weights is a skill that must be worked on constantly to actually see improvements – track, and progress wisely.

 

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5 Nutrition Myths That Won’t Die

Eating _____ will lead to death and cause ______ and you will ______….

In honor of National Registered Dietitian Day (March 9th) I want to dispel a few nutrition myths that still seem to be popping up online, in questions from clients, and posts on social media.

Let’s get right to it.

1. Eating Clean is all that matters for health

cleaneating

Yes, eating a ton of processed junk food is not good for the body, and it will make you feel like garbage. However, when it comes to weight loss or control, it is all about the calorie.

There have been many instances of people losing weight on fast food diets, junk food diets, etc. BECAUSE they are creating a calorie deficit. What we don’t hear about is how their insides or blood levels look, but yes they lose weight.

In the same instance, if you only eat “clean” foods, but are still in a surplus, you will gain weight.

The reason junk food gets the bad rep is because it is much more calorically dense, and is much easier to over eat your calorie level.

Quantity (calories) controls your weight, quality (nutrients) is what has a bigger effect on your insides, blood labs, etc. Eat mostly healthy, natural foods, in a calorie deficit and you will look great and feel great.

2. Carbs/Fat/Sugar/Etc. are THE reason we have a weight problem.

This goes back to #1. Yes, these foods are often over consumed by everyone, but you cannot blame one food group alone for weight gain.

There are diet gurus out there who still swear that if you cut out carbs, you can eat whatever you want and lose weight. Sorry, but if you are still eating more than you are burning you will not lose weight.

Overconsumption, and under activity are what leads to weight gain – not one nutrient alone.

3. High Protein Diets Will Ruin Your Kidneys

Balanced diet

There are exactly ZERO studies showing that high protein diets (even up to 1.5 grams/pound of bodyweight) are harmful on the body/kidneys in healthy individuals.

Yes, if you have chronic kidney disease you need to watch your protein intake.

However, in individuals with healthy normal functioning kidneys, getting more protein in your diet helps with weight control, through satiety/fullness and will definitely help with muscle recovery and growth.

I recommend all my clients eat at least .7g of protein/pound of body weight no matter what your goals are.

4. Eating carbs later in the day will make you fat.

carbsatnight

There is no auto switch in the body that turns on at 3pm and magically turns carbs into body fat.

Eating carbs later in the day is especially important if you work out in the early morning on an empty stomach, as carbs are crucial for optimal performance during your workouts.

It still comes back to rule #1, and that if you are in a surplus – you will gain weight – no matter where those calories come from.

5. You must eat 5-6 small meals in the day to rev up your metabolism

Every time you eat, your metabolic rate does increase SLIGHTLY for digestive purposes. However, studies have shown that there is no difference at the end of the day between groups that only eat 2-3 meals vs 5-6 small meals.

The most important point is that you need to do what works best for you.

If you have the time to stop and eat many small meals throughout the day, great.

If you are better off eating 3 square meals per day, do it.

You need to find what works best for you, and what you can do for the long-term.

Some days it might work better to eat small frequent meals because of your schedule, and some days you might have more time to sit down and enjoy bigger meals.

Referencing back to #1, again, it’s all about that total daily intake of calories.

I hope these tips can help you out, no matter what your goals are. Please don’t fall for the internet diet gurus who don’t have any sort of nutrition background and are just instagram trainers/nutritionists.

 

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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)

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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.

5 Weight Loss Tips You Might Not Think Of…

When it comes to weight loss, there are some things that most of us are aware of. Eat less junk food, eat more fruits and veggies, exercise more, don’t drink soda, etc. However, there are some BIG aspects of weight loss that many people tend to neglect or forget. Without taking these following 5 tips into consideration, you may be missing out on some big progress in your weight loss goals.

1) Eating Enough Food

We all know that to lose weight, most of us should probably eat less than we do. However, eating TOO LOW of calories can really make things difficult, and unhealthy for our future. By eating a ultra-restrictive, super low calorie diet, we will lose weight…at first. The body will soon recognize this as starvation, and slows metabolism down – metabolic damage. This is what commonly happens with crash dieters. Sure, you lose weight at first, but the weight loss slows, eventually plateaus, and you gain it back.

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Example: A 35 year old, 170 pound female that doesn’t exercise will burn, on average, around 1700 calories a day. The lowest I would advise going for an extended weight loss plan would be 1200 calories. Add in some exercise, and I would say 1500 calories would still be safe. You may not lose weight as fast as you want, but losing weight is about a lifestyle change, not a quick fix. Obviously, not everyone is the same, so you may have to play around with your numbers a little bit. By adding exercise, this will increase the weight loss rate, and is totally safe. However, if you are exercising intensely or for long periods of time, getting enough calories is even more important for recovery purposes.

2) Lifting Weights

I honestly will continue to preach this until the day I die. Most people will jump on a cardio machine or run all day to try and lose weight. These options are great! However, lifting weights will only help you reach your goals faster. When we lift weights (with some intensity i.e. heavier loads, no pink dumbbells) our muscles become fat burning machines. The part in the muscle cell the burns fat (mitochondria) becomes more active, and becomes more abundant. Even better, this effect lasts hours, even days after our weight workout! Our muscles also become more sensitive to insulin post-workout, so when we eat carbs, they primarily get broken down into glucose and shuttled into muscles, not fat stores. EVERYONE should be doing some sort of resistance training at least 2-3 times/week.

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3) Eating Enough (Lean)Protein

This one pairs up with tip #2 very nicely. If we are lifting weights, we need to repair those muscles so they can stay strong, remain efficient at fat burning, and continue to aid in fat loss. Protein also has been proven to help with satiety, or fullness, and therefore can significantly prevent over eating later in the day. Everyone’s protein needs are different, but the following summarizes the needs for different levels of activity based on an extensive review article/position paper published by the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.  (To find your bodyweight in kg, just divide it by 2.2. 220 lb = 100kg, 150 lb = 68kg)

  • Low Intensity Exercise 3 days per week (walking, leisurely biking) – 1.3g/kg body weight
  • Moderate Intensity Exercise 3 days per week (jogging, light lifting) – 1.4g/kg body weight
  • Moderate Intensity Exercise 4-5 days per week (jogging, light lifting) – 1.5g/kg body weight
  • Moderate Resistance Training 3 day per week (Higher reps, <70% 1RM) – 1.6g/kg body weight
  • Heavy Resistance Training 3+ days per week (High volume, >70% 1RM) – 2g/kg body weight

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4) Drinking Enough Water

Yes, water is great for hydration. But it also helps flush the body, move nutrients more efficiently, keep metabolism up. Water fuels the muscles for contraction, and that means that the muscles are working on burning fat. It also helps keep the kidneys running properly, so your liver doesn’t have to help out and it can focus on breaking down stored body fat. It’s also calorie free!

hydration calculator image

5) Getting Enough Sleep

Sleeping enough will not only make you feel better the next day, but it will also help you out from a hormonal perspective. When we don’t get enough sleep, our leptin levels are lowered. Leptin helps to suppress our appetite the next day. Also, lack of sleep gives us an increase in ghrelin, a hormone that INCREASES appetite. Also, assuming you listened to tip 2 and are planning on lifting weights, sleep is the time that our muscles recover and repair damaged fibers (as long as we are fueling them enough during the day as well). Healthy and healed muscles burn fat much more efficiently than ones that are constantly fatigued and sore.

Man sleeping

So there you have it. Don’t starve yourself, lift some weights, eat enough protein, drink plenty of water, and get enough sleep. Always remember, losing weight isn’t easy, and can’t happen overnight…or we would all be doing it already!

Two Different Transformations, Two Unnecessary Different Views…

Recently I was on my facebook account and saw a picture of one of my friends (Friend A) who is preparing for a bodybuilding show in April. He is currently cutting carbs and looking really lean. He has posted a few pictures of himself during his grueling transformation. When I was in high school with this guy he was always a pretty skinny dude. Now he is fully dedicated to the lifestyle of a bodybuilder and I couldn’t be more impressed.

I know all about the hard work, hours in the gym, strict and sometimes (well most of the time) boring and bland diet, and overall dedication that goes into preparing for a bodybuilding show.

I also have seen one of my friends (Friend B) from the gym that I work for lose almost 175 pounds of fat. She posts a few pics here and there on her facebook of her amazing transformation. I still remember when she came in day 1, head down, very shy, and looked very unsure of herself. She now comes to the gym twice a day, runs races and her attitude has pulled a complete 180. She is one of the most inspiring people I have ever met, and she continues to amaze me every time I see her.

I know all about the hard work, hours in the gym, strict and sometimes boring and bland diet, and overall dedication that goes into losing weight.

Both friend A and B have done amazing things to transform their bodies. Through blood, sweat and tears they have worked their asses off to get where they are. I dont see either one of them slowing down either. Now comes in the main reason I decided to write this…

After (Friend A) posted a picture of himself showing his abs on facebook, I texted a friend – “hey, have you seen Friend A’s latest picture on facebook?” The friend that I texted proceeded to send me a screen shot of him/her and 2 other people chatting about it on their iPhones…the texts were as follows “hahahahahahah” “TOOL”. Now this prompted me to ask the question, “Why does this make him a tool?”. After a few back and forth texts, another mutual acquaintance of ours came up in conversation. “Do you know so and so? (not Friend B) she has lost a ton of weight and looks great!”…To this I thought, “ok, so she was overweight, lost a ton of fat and looks awesome, yet Friend A who was once skinny and gained a ton of muscle and looks awesome is a tool?”. Now I understand, not every person is into big muscles or whatever you wanna call it, but I’m looking bigger picture here.

I can see how a lot of people would think that posting shirtless pics of you posing on facebook would be “toolish”, but really, if that is their passion, and they work 10 times harder than you ever will in the gym, why does it matter? Friend A is not a tool, he is a really nice guy who maybe according to some people does “toolish” things by posting shirtless pictures of himself. I’ve seen pictures on facebook (I’m guilty) of people out drinking and looking like tools.

So tell me, what really is better? Someone who treats their body and lifestyle with complete dedication and seriousness, or someone who goes out and slams a bunch of booze, might make decisions they regret, and feels like garbage the next morning?

The main reason I posted this is because sometimes I think people need to take a step back, and think before jumping to conclusions. How can you judge one transformation that takes hard work and dedication as making someone a tool, and judge another that takes just as much hard work and dedication as being awesome and inspiring?

To me they are both inspiring people, and if more people took the time to really think about the hard work and dedication that goes into creating a healthy lifestyle through bodybuilding or weight loss, they might realize that these are just normal people, pursuing a better life and working pretty damn hard at it. Only if more Americans could take some notes from Friends A and B…

Please comment and share your opinions, I wont judge 😉

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.