Do I really need a personal trainer?

fitness model male    This post originated in April of this year.  However, I think it is an appropriate follow-up to my last entry.

DO I REALLY NEED A PERSONAL TRAINER?

The short answer may be a “no.”  But, you may want to check out a few guidelines on my ABOUT page, to see if you really do.

A personal trainer can provide motivation, as well as strategic implementation of workout routines, helping you reach your goals.

However, you may want to consider who is training you first.

Who is their target audience?  This is a priority question.  If you are looking to run your 1st marathon, you need a coach/trainer which runs consistently–not one which thinks running supplements his weight lifting routine.  Same consideration affects your choice if you are looking to gain muscle hypertrophy (enlarge your muscles).  You want someone who is knowledgeable, and understands safety is paramount.

Is your personal trainer certified?  This is controversial to some, but certification adds credibility.  It is not a guarantee of client results or expertise in the field; however, it means that the PT has completed an exam assessing his/her knowledge of essential principles.

Who is/was their clientele? Knowing who they have helped and gained results for in the past, can predict your future; and if they are the trainer for you.  My focus and target audience is also listed on my ABOUT page.

Do they have references? There should be someone who can recommend their services to you.  If they work out of a health club, look at the people they have trained.  Watch them train.  Do you like what you see on both counts?

Be prepared…Have a list of questions which are important to you, to reach your goals.  For example, “Do you check in with your clients, even on off days?” or “I’ve been told I am pre-diabetic, but I also have knee issues.  Can you still help me?”  Being prepared also means being prepared to expend more than calories; you should be willing to invest in your health and overall well-being.  It is an investment; and your mindset should reflect that.  Shoe shopping, Starbucks, and eating out certainly add up; and spending money on a trainer is certainly more results oriented.  Also, certifications as well as preparation costs.  Realize this, and be cognizant of your trainer’s time as well as efforts.

All for now.  Keep up and keep at it.

Questions?  Contact me at serrenity.c@gmail.com

Working out isn’t working…part four

hair out of H20  This post originated over the summer; however, I believe it’s integral to any exercise routine.  If your workout isn’t working, lack of down time between workouts may be the reason.

You’ve been hitting the gym, pavement, and/or the DVD workouts 5-6 days a week.   If this statement falls into the category of “things that make you go huh?” this post is not for you.

However if you are working with a high intensity routine most everyday, you may be wasting your time.  UNLESS you are inserting a recovery day.

Recovery days are essential.  They are the “pause” if you are in a state of constant “play.”  Exercising everyday at moderate to high intensities, you will burn caloriesYour body will also demand more calories.  Translation?  You will want to eat more food.  Yet this isn’t unusual, nor does it necessarily mitigate your workout.  It simply means your body requires additional fuel for additional work.  It can become a problem though, if you are overdoing either.

Sore muscles or DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) may be an expectation if you haven’t worked out consistently.  If you have overextended yourself or tried a new routine, it also maybe the price.  Yet if you have trouble staying awake by midday, achy muscles are a constant companion, and headaches are becoming a part of your post-exercise routine–you are overdoing it. Yes, these symptoms can be attributed to dehydration (more common than you realize among the diligent).  Hydration issues aside, if these sound familiar or persist–slow down.   A check-up may not be bad idea either, if you have not had one.  Your body at this point, is not making a polite request.

RECOVERY–What does it really mean?

Recovery days run the gambit–just like sports.  They mean different ideas to different athletes.  If you are an avid runner, a recovery day may be a “recovery run.”  Check out http://running.competitor.com.  “Workout of the Week: Recovery Runs.”  I found this article very useful, providing insight into recovery as well as running past fatigue.

If the thought of running makes you run the other way–recovery could be that “day off.”  Working towards constructing that chiseled physique?  Check out http://2buildmusclefast.com. “Importance of Rest and Recovery in Muscle Building.”  This should be of particular interest to bodybuilders.  Why?  In part, the article stresses the need for rest, if you want to become sculpted faster.  No rest, no gain, appears to be the theme here.

What if your workouts are here, there, and everywhere?  Not a problem–here are a few suggestions from my “toolbox.”

If you’re a consistent follower of my posts, you realize my workouts vary:  running, INSANITY, gym, hot yoga, as well as ballet inspired.  Because of this, my recovery needs vary as well.  Therefore, a day off for me, literally is “a day off.”  While my teenage son may be into recovery runs (he runs cross-country & track), running is no longer my only form of exercise.  It once was–and still remains my favorite.  However, because my body started to “maintain an even strain” unless I upped my mileage, I had to find something else to get the results/weight loss I once derived running.

Recovery first and foremost–has to entail adequate hydration as well as nutrition.  You will not achieve your goals without either of these.  Yes, eating to fuel “your habit,” is a balancing act.  If you take in more calories than you’re burning, you will gain weight.  And, it may not be the muscle hypertrophy for which you are striving.  My advice?  Start with adequate hydration.  See my post “Not enough? Too much?  A little guidance please…”  Once these needs are met, realize your body is going to demand–not request–higher quality food.  While potato chips, ice cream, and French Silk pie may not be totally eradicated from your thought process, they will not fuel your transformation.  Therefore, be prepared.

On my high intensity days (hard/long run, INSANITY, hot yoga) my drink of choice is electrolyte replacement, supplemented by H20.  My meal?  ONE–not all, of these days includes a meal I really really like.  Otherwise, I make sure I have plenty of salads, fixings for fresh tostadas, chicken breast, & roast beef around.  I am not a fish eater or a vegetarian; nor do I have any plans to become either.  Therefore, my meal plans/snacks include protein in the form of chicken, roast beef, some pork, legumes, or protein bars.  Vegetables, especially snow peas, green onions, mixed frozen, broccoli, and carrots are usually found in my fridge.

Lower intensity days (ballet inspired workout, light run, run/walk) H20 is my drink of choice.  Meals are lighter; and usually DO NOT include a splurge on these days.  My philosophy is lighter workout, lighter food.  While I haven’t the scientific data to purport this rationale, it works for me.

Whether you lift, run, dance, kick a soccer ball, walk, or are a diligent chair exerciser–keep it up.  Keeping it up however, means keeping your body from giving up.  Giving it the rest, hydration, and nutrition it requires are ALL part of RECOVERY.

All for now.  Keep up and keep at it.

Be sure to check out my ABOUT page.

Questions?  Comments?  Contact me at serrenity.c@gmail.com

High octane exercise not for you? You’re not alone…

recovery needed  You’ve been told weight loss, exercise, and nutrition must be your priority.  That monologue is usually followed by an “or else” phrase.  You may be hearing it for the first time from your physician, or the hundred and first from your spouse.  The underlying theme might carry more weight from the MD.  However the meaning remains the same–get up and get moving.

You’ve seen the ads for P90X.  INSANITY pops up on an infomercial at 2am, just as you were starting to doze off.  It promises results in 60 days.  After previewing parts of it on You-Tube, you understand why.  You’ve also seen ads for Urban Rebounder, 10 minute trainer, and Tracy Anderson on nights when the television was your Ambien.  Yet for all of the choices offered; the rigor, intensity, or daily grind wasn’t for you.

Another scenario.  You want to exercise but your joints?  Not so much.  There are days when getting out of bed and walking to the bathroom is a challenge.  Sitting on the toilet and then getting up? Well–that’s another story.  What choices are there for you?

Believe it or not, the advice remains “get up and get moving.”  But how?  With what?  Doing what?  Here’s a few options.

1. Sit & Be Fit.  If the description above is part of your life, even if only a few times a month, these videos offer movement on your “off” days.  You-tube has a few selections; ranging from 5-30 minutes.  The key to remember is that even with altered or limited mobility, you have to move.  Range of motion is essential for ADLs (activity of daily living).

2. T-tapp.  T-tapp is a series of exercises isometrically designed.  They are low intensity, and promise to rev up even the most stubborn metabolism.  Posture and “muscle activation” are the core principles here.  Check out http://www.ttapp.com

3. Yogalates.  This is a video I found on You-tube, which is divided into sections.  If you are looking for a slow-paced introduction to yoga, this might be the answer.  The instructor is soothing, articulate, and moves with intention.  The entire video is 90 minutes, but again, there are 4 sections to choose from.

4. 60 minute Yin Yoga for Spine.  This is another You-tube find.  It may be an ideal start for those wishing to begin a yoga practice.  Even if yoga isn’t quite your thing, it will serve tired, achy muscles well.  Stretch days should not be an option; they should be part of your routine.  You can also check out http://www.eckhartyoga.com for more ideas.

5. Tai Chi.  Tai chi is quite possibly 2500 years old, if not older.  While many videos display smiling seniors performing rhythmic movements, don’t be fooled.  There are more rigorous forms of Tai Chi–including techniques used in MMA.  Whether you are seventy-five looking to improve posture and mobility, or twenty-five using it as part of your Crossfit routine, there is something for everyone.  Meditative as well as restorative, Tai Chi is adaptable–yet its principles remain the same.  Effective breathing coupled with fluid technique.

As with any workout, cleanse, or change in dietary habit, it is always a good idea to talk to your medical professional.  You are responsible for your own healthcare.  However, part of that responsibility means enlisting the guidance of a trusted physician or nurse practitioner.  This is essential if you are just beginning to exercise, have mobility issues, in need of cardiac rehab, or taking prescription medication.

While not every exercise is for every body, every body is in need of some form of exercise.

All for now.  Keep up and keep at it. 

Questions? Comments? Contact me at serrenity.c@gmail.com

Is Crossfit a good fit? Maybe…..

getting ready  Getting a little bored with your routine?  Perhaps you’ve hit the proverbial wall; your weight loss has stalled, your DVDs hold the same old same old, or maybe you want to spice things up–workout wise that is.  There are many ways to add spice; but for now, mainstream exercise is the topic.

Some clients have asked my opinion on Crossfit.  I ask “what do you know about it?”  Most of them tell me “nothing.”

While employed as a staff nurse, I recall a young patient whose doctor visited her with discharge instructions.  This was highly unusual.  Most physicians leave this task to the floor nurse.  I went to her room to help her pack, as well as clarify anything she didn’t understand.  She informed me she slept through most of what her doctor was telling her.  “Can you ask him to come back?” she asked.  I pulled up a chair for a little “heart to heart.”  Understand that this patient was not groggy from surgery.  She hadn’t had any medication to induce drowsiness.  Nor was she a pediatric patient.  Though not much older than she, I put on my “experienced” face.  I told her I would put out a call for the physician, but she had to explain WHY.  This shook her out of her lethargy.  I also told her what I’ve used as a signature phrase throughout my nursing career.  “You are responsible for your own healthcare.”

And just like that patient, I remind my clients that they are responsible for their well-being.  Whether in the capacity of staff nurse, educator, or personal trainer, I am simply a facilitator.

CROSS TRAINING VS. CROSSFIT

Some confusion seems to exist–there are those who interchangeably use Crossfit and cross training.  Crossfit may be a form of cross training.  Considering the intensity level however, it may not be a fit for everyone.  I think of cross training as a form of exercise to alternate with a normal routine.  For example, my son runs cross-country and track.  He occasionally sports a t-shirt around the football elite which reads “My sport is your punishment.”  True or untrue, running would be their cross training.  Players attempting to catch him, to give him a piece of their mind might be their Cross fit, but I digress.

CHECK IT OUT

Crossfit appears to be a collaboration of weight training, plyometrics, rope climbing, tire throwing, tire carrying, gas mask running, kickboxing, obstacle course phenomenon which appears to be grabbing major attention–for diverse reasons.  However, I’m not  convinced that all of the above activities, while wearing the Crossfit label, are indeed mainstream Crossfit.  Still if you are interested, it pays to keep in mind a few ideas.  I will preface this list with what I say in most posts, when talking fitness.  “Not every exercise is for every body.”

1.  Observe to preserve.  Assessment is the first step in the nursing process.  This is the information gathering stage.  It includes history of present illness, review of systems, as well as medications.  Assessment or inventory can be your best friend when discerning whether a program, or even a trainer is right for you.  By observation, you preserve your resources (time, money, and your body) before signing on the dotted line.

2.  Do your homework.  What’s in the facility?  This includes the trainers.  Are they certified?  I’m not saying certification always implies results or guarantees safety, but it does imply credibility.  Asking questions should never be a threat to a personal trainer.  It helps both client and trainer decide if they are a fit for each other.

3.  Ask for a trial class–even if you have to pay for it.  Not everything is free.  Trainers have expenses.  Their time like yours, is a precious commodity.  But before you commit to package or buy 3 get one free deals, ask to try a class.  The only way to know  if something is really for you, is to do it.

Need a little more info?  Check out http://www.crossfit.com.  Videos, personal success stories, and more details can be found on the website.

Fitness is indeed a journey, and its destination can be uncertain–like life itself.   it is fraught with bumps in the road, boredom, success and setbacks.  And like life, there needs to be challenge to effect change.  Yet there are many ways to challenge yourself, to bring about that change.  Furthermore, the challenges you are willing to face, should never outweigh the benefits you want to reap.  Setbacks in the form of muscle breakdown, joint displacement, or other injuries are not the change most of us desire.  Therefore as with any exercise, workout regime, or even trainer, it is up to the participant be mindful; and awake.

All for now.  Keep up and keep at it.

What’s in my “toolbox?” A good stretch

You’ve been hitting the gym at least 4x a week.  Perhaps the pavement, treadmill, or track is where you work out your frustrations as well as your body.  Whether you fight the battle of the bulge doing thisstrong pull up

or thisexcuses dont run,or combination thereof, you probably are in need of some of this.dancer pose

RECOVERY–A tale of two strategies

Actually, recovery is a plethora of strategies.  Strength training usually means you are taking a day or two off between workouts.  Your muscles must recover and rest to perform.  You can see my previous post “If this isn’t part of your workout routine, you may be wasting your time.”  It is dated June 13, 2013 under FITNESS.

If you are a runner, there is debate and dissent regarding recovery runs.  The ideology here is to enhance and utilize muscles not normally used if rested and refreshed, then going for a run.  If you are training for distance, this actually makes sense; as you will need the help of ancillary muscles to support your efforts.

As I have stated in previous posts, for me, recovery is just that–a day to recover.  And nothing recovers like rest.  That being said, I have found my body does not always cooperate.  It may have different ideas.

NO REST FOR THE WEARY

You are lying in bed–about to drift into a well-deserved sleep.  You may get there, or maybe just to the outer limits.  You are then wrenched from your slumber by a foot or leg unwilling to cooperate.  Perhaps it’s a cramp in your instep or toes.  Maybe your legs are a little tingly or just plain restless.  Your arms could be starting their own protest.  What’s going on?

Proper hydration may be an issue.  Beyond this however, your body may be saying “if you want rest, give me some.”  The best way to do this is by including a day or two of stretching.  No it doesn’t mean it has to take the same amount of time as your normal workout.  But it does mean more than 5-10 minutes.

I know what you are thinking, because I’ve been there.  You include a minute or two, or even five of post workout stretching–but it’s usually after an hour or more exercise.  Your body is basically saying “What the hell?  I do all this for you–and that’s all I get? And now you want to go to sleep? Think again.”  Indeed you should.

Whether you are an avid runner, or your idea of working out includes anything but, stretching tight muscles is rest for your body.  A few minutes after the fact is great, but may not be sufficient.

While I enjoy yoga (actually hot yoga), I realize a 60-70 minute practice is not for everyone.  If you are just getting started, a more realistic approach may be to start with a cardio warm-up.  A few jumping jacks, or even a slow jog in place can be where you begin.  Afterwards, with legs hip distance apart, roll your torso downward, reaching for your toes.  Bend your knees enough as to place your hands on the floor.  Alternate bending and straightening your knees.  Roll upward slowly when finished, vertebra by vertebra.

Another favorite of mine is to stand with your feet hip distance apart.  Keeping your legs straight as possible, roll your torso down, reaching for your right leg with both hands.  Keep right leg straight, head and torso reaching for right foot. (You need not be able to touch your foot)  Bend left knee, while maintaining your position over straightened right leg.  Roll up slowly.  Repeat process on left side, this time keeping left leg straight, then bend right knee.

If you have hip or knee issues, consult your medical professional for guidance.

If you’re interested in a yoga based stretch routine, check out “Yogalates” on You-Tube.  The entire workout is an hour and a half.  However, it is divided into 4 segments, starting with a beginner section.  If you are just getting started, this might be for you.  Pace is slow and articulate.  Another pick is “60 minute Yin Yoga for Spine.”  This is one in a series listed under http://www.eckhartyoga.com.  Again, the operative word for both is “slow.”  If you are an advanced yogi, or looking for something more up tempo, these may not be your routines of choice.

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  If your body is keeping you up at night, then it is reacting to your activity–even if it is in the name of healthier living.  Giving it proper hydration and nutrition as well as medical attention is key.  Equally so, is counterbalancing your intense routines with a day of lengthening tight muscles.  Keep in mind, sleep deprivation can come with its own issues–potential weight gain, to name one.

But that’s another issue, for another day.

All for now.  Keep up and keep at it.

Got a minute?

teaching fitnessOk, I’m asking for more than a minute–more like 15-20 of them.

Newer research suggests that intermittent bouts of exercise, is better than an hour spent at the gym.  Furthermore, if your time is spent sitting all day, that hour you spent working out is offset by the hours you spend sedentary.  Think about it.  If you are sitting 85-90% of the time, while only 10% (or less) is spent exercising, does that add up to an active lifestyle?

Yes, a large part of this investment is nutrition.  However, if you can find 10-20 min, 3-4 times a day, to walk, cycle, do a portion of a workout dvd, run, throw or kick a ball, your metabolism begins to believe you are active.  It then starts to behave as if you are active.  What does that mean? Better use of stored fat for calorie expenditure.  You may also avoid the “munchies” that an hour or two of high intensity exercise often provides.

You don’t have to take my word for it.  A similar story appeared on Dr. Oz–with Chris Powell illustrating short, but effective exercises designed to rev up your metabolism.  I’m sure if you search his site, you will find it.

Consider this in the meantime.  To what do you attribute the popularity of DVDs divided in 15-20 minute intervals?  Why is something like Tony Horton’s “10 minute trainer” gaining attention?  Better yet….why do so many fail to stick to an exercise program, that requires an hour or longer, 4-6x a week?  Need another “for instance?”  New Year’s resolutions.  A high percentage of them involve losing weight.  Of that, perhaps fifty percent or more will join a health club.  After about 6 weeks into the new year (I’m being generous) how many are still there?

Yes, life is busy–and there are only 24hrs in day.  We all must take care of families, eat, sleep, and work.  But that doesn’t excuse any one of us, from taking care of ourselves.  Take a walk; take your kids for a walk.  Run around the park with them.  Climb a monkey bar–great exercise for agility.  Whatever it is–10 minute yoga, 15 minute walk at lunch, 20 minute run, 15 minutes of “hide and seek,” it will add up; and more to the point, so will the benefits.

All for now.  Keep up and keep at it.

Questions? Comments? Contact me at serrenity.c@gmail.com

For Women Only–and the trainers who train them…

excuses dont runAs women, most of us realize we possess strength beyond our male counterparts.  However, it is different.  We are the only ones that can carry and bear children.  We have a higher pain tolerance (probably why we have the children), and we are better multi-taskers.  While men have their attributes; we have ours.  They also have their weaknesses (no one has to tell us this) and yes ladies, we have ours.

One process which is uniquely female is menses.  Few of us are willing to admit that some days, in many ways, it slows us down.  Most of us continue our daily routines without much thought throughout these 5-7 days.  Yet while we are busy being that superior multi-tasker, how does this once a month, physiological process figure in?  Specifically when we exercise, and its effect on our hydration requirements?

Unfortunately, I haven’t found much on this topic.  Therefore, I will give you my take on this.

It is true our bodies prepare each month for this natural phenomenon.  The body expects a certain amount of fluid loss.  However, let’s factor in a few variables.  Starting with exercise, we realize this is a demand on the body.  Let’s throw in a little high humidity, as well as elevated summer temperatures.  Now add in your “monthly gift.”  If you are exercising in extreme heat, especially running in heat, rethinking your hydration is key.

Why? Your body is starting at point of fluid deficit.  While it is expecting this, it doesn’t expect (or really desire) the further dehydration which occurs through sweating (aka insensible fluid loss), as well as the added pressure of moderate to intense workouts.  You may have never experienced the light headedness, nausea or cramping, many know during their cycle.  You may be among those whose menses never affects their exercise routine.  Chances are in one way or another, it has.

NUTRITION AND HYDRATION

Some of you have your own ideas, formulas, as well as rationale for how you hydrate.  I know I have mine.  If you would like standard guidelines, as well as my hydration regimen see “Not Enough..Too much,” posted June 7th under Nutrition.

My experience has taught me hydration, as well as nutrition, is not a “one size fits all” undertaking.  However, if you continue a strenuous routine during your cycle, consider what you are losing–before you begin.  It is primarily blood and H20.  How much, how little, is highly individual.  You may find you are craving a little more protein, possibly reaching for electrolyte replacement, when plain H20 is your customary drink of choice.  Last but not least, consider the presence (or lack of) Iron rich foods in your diet.  Adequate Iron can make or break the fatigue factor.  Take a look at http://weightlossforall.com “Iron Rich Foods.”

The key here, as with workouts, is to pay attention to what your body is telling you–and be prepared.   You need not be warrior princess every single moment either.  Taking a day off, substituting a lighter alternate routine keeps overused muscles fresh, while making demands and developing ones to “support your habit.”

If you are an avid runner, try a 30 minute ballet inspired routine.  It will help elongate your muscles, as well as stretch tired hamstrings.  Yoga is also a great alternative.  Though hot yoga is my favorite, I realize this may not be for everyone.  However, 25 to 45 minutes of yoga can assist in alleviating cramps (I know this one from experience).

If are working on sculpting a body builder physique, this might be an opportune time to take a day off.  Strength training, as well as intense cardio can increase flow.  Once again, a good stretch through yoga or Pilates can release tightened muscles.

As stated earlier, I have not found much written on this subject.  Personal experience though, has taught me to be a little more considerate of my body.  While my mind may say “charge!” my body is still the one that actually has to charge.

All for now.  Keep up and keep at it.

Have your own experiences with this?  Found something you want to share?  Would love to hear it.  Contact me at serrenity.c@gmail.com