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.


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.

This might surprise you…..

recovery neededFrom my teen years till now, I considered cardio the ideal fat burner.  High intensity exercises, ranging from INSANITY, back to 80’s style aerobics, were (and still are) the core of my routines.  Strength training, machines or free weights, were a distant second.  If I was too tired for cardio, machines and weights were my “back-up.”  I tolerated strength training; like many tolerate or endure uninvited in-laws; after two weeks.

While that ideology has changed for me, most of you familiar with my posts, realize running preserves my sanity.  Even after a car accident, running was my constant–the north star in a time of uncertainty.  It was there for me to shed the “baby weight.”  It was there after a long work day; working with people who made snobbery an art form.

Since most of my running consists of submaximal workouts, not sprinting, this information would not apply.

Did you know that fat oxidation is reduced, with increasing exercise intensity?

Scraping the surface only, here are a few reasons.

Intramuscular triglycerides (lipids inside of muscle) are used 1st.  Then comes fatty acid oxidation.  Possibly, your body likes to hang on to its excess baggage; for a couple of reasons.  Just in case there’s a famine; just in case you decide to skip a meal or two–just in case you become pregnant.

Lactate also plays its role; it stops fatty acid mobilization.  The good news:  if you are an endurance athlete, you produce less lactate.  Yes, it’s a slow process to become one of those.   BUT, another perk of endurance training–when you finish, fat oxidation is increased.  Free fatty acids in plasma and intramuscular triglyceride oxidation is increased; contributing to fat usage.

What’s the take away if you want to burn fat?  Slow and low.  More to the point, you might want to alternate low and moderate intensity workout days.

My opinion?  High intensity should be part of your regime.  Why?  To shake things up a bit.  Your body can reach a set point with any routine; high or low.  However, if you start low, you still have somewhere to go.  If you start high, your appetite will definitely match that.  That will leave you with an ever-increasing hunger–quite disconcerting if you are trying to lose weight.

In subsequent posts, I will try to address more on this subject.  The exercise physiology class in which I’m enrolled and deriving this information, should shed additional light.  There is more to fitness than just the newest 3 day detox, or trendy workout routine.  It entails, as with nursing, evidence based practice.  Coupled with experience, this is the premise from which I operate–both as a nurse and now as a nurse personal trainer.

All for now.  Keep up and keep at it.

What’s in my tool box? A little strength training please..

Strength–It comes in all shapes, sizes, and especially circumstances.

It was in the face of parents–who despite the loss of their own child’s life, found the courage to donate their organs so others may live.  It is in the hands of adult children, caring for an aging parent struggling with mental clarity.  It was in the eyes of a former nurse, now a patient–battling breast cancer.  Strength is much too complex to be confined to one ideal.  With this in mind, a little strength training please..

When most of us think fit and strong, something like this comes to mind.strong pull upA well chiseled male physique certainly gets my attention.  I have to admit–this was and still is (to a degree) my idea of what fitness embodies.  Yet as with running (my belief was it was the only exercise worth doing) I’ve had to re-think this.

If you’ve read my previous “toolbox” post, I wrote about INSANITY.  Just to reiterate, it was a wake-up call to my senses as well as my body.  It made me realize there was more to fitness than running.   What else is in my toolbox?  If you want something that incinerates fat and a little cellulite too, try this.  It also builds long, lean, defined muscle.  So for now, put down the dumbbells and put on your tutu.pink dancer Give ballet–or at least a ballet inspired workout, a try.  I know what you’re probably thinking.  Never being a fan of anything too “girlie” I understand.  My scarred right knee still testifies to falling from a tree onto pavement.

As many little girls, my mother enrolled me in ballet classes.  However, it soon became evident I was not going to be anyone’s sugar-plum fairy.

I’m not a dancer (except for my short stint at 5 yrs old) and the word “graceful” has never been used to describe me.  Therefore, I decided to purchase DVDs entitled “ballet inspired” workouts.  Choreography is not part of the ones I use.   My results?

First and foremost, the leg exercises had me thinking my thighs were on fire–from the inside out.  The continuous arm movements rivaled any machine or dumbbell work I did at the gym.  The next day..well I’ll say this.  Even when I ran 10 miles for the 1st time, I was not this tired.  My favorite arm work, free weights, machines, or otherwise, never left me feeling this sore.  INSANITY–move over.  You still corner the market (for me) on intensity and sweat equity.  However, this is mostly due to the plyometrics.  BUT–I believe even Shaun T. may buckle under some of these simple, yet effective workouts.

If you still need convincing about the mental and physical endurance ballet provides, I would like to call your attention to a fairly well-known actor.  Remember, I started this segment addressing strength and its many diversities.  I believe he embodied these and more.

Does anyone remember Dirty Dancing?  Roadhouse?  Patrick Swayze?  Patrick Swayze was a rough and tumble Texan.  He happened to be blessed with charisma, talent; and he wasn’t too bad on the eyes either.  He also possessed an athleticism beyond most.  It saw him through working on a show called THE BEAST–WHILE enduring chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer.  I wondered–from where did such athleticism and determination come?  Personal grit–and the discipline of ballet.  Mr. Swayze was a classically trained ballet dancer.

What has my time with this workout revealed?  A longer leaner effect on my limbs.  While I’ve always had a small to medium rear, it still has been a source of consternation for me to tone.  INSANITY definitely helped; but these workouts took it to the next level; refining and defining.

For my male readers–before you pass judgment or cast dispersion, why not give these workouts a try?  Sure, you’re strong now, but the question is, are you Patrick Swayze strong?

All for now.  Keep up and keep at it.

Which DVDs have I used?  BALLET BEAUTIFUL BODY BLAST by Mary Helen Bowers.  There are 4 segments–arms, 15 minute body blast, as well as butt series 1&2.  Simple, a little redundant; but effective.  I also use BALLET BODY–TOTAL BODY by Leah Sarago.  This one for me, is quite challenging.  All segments–arms, core, as well as lower body are around 20 minutes.  She also includes a warm-up as well as cool down/stretching segment.  Both of these workouts are indeed workouts; no choreography.

Be sure to check out my ABOUT page.

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

Works for me…what’s in my “toolbox”

yoga female on topFitness for me has many faces.  It is definitely not a “one size fits all” endeavor.

As I have written in earlier posts, running has been a mainstay in my “toolbox.”  As much as I hate to admit it however, it has proved somewhat one-dimensional.  Before my running enthusiasts leap to defend, I am discussing what works for me.  Let me explain.

Unless I was consistently upping my mileage, as well as watching my diet (which is essential to incorporate into any regime) I found I was gaining weight.  I also started to experience problems with my right knee.  This is not uncommon due to the repetitive nature of running.  While overuse of certain muscles can occur with any routine, runners are very prone to overuse issues others may not suffer.  Still I do it.  Why?  Because I love it.  Yet I had to find something to support the muscles that run; in a way “support my habit.”  Enter INSANITY.

In case you haven’t seen the infomercials, INSANITY is workout which consistently changes routines.  With this is mind, your body is always working to adjust & readjust to what’s going on today.  Because running is so repetitive, INSANITY gave me a jolt–as well as a wake-up call.

Most runners (myself included) feel they are in great shape.  Whether you run track, cross-country, distance, or anything in between–if you are a consistent runner, you are in great shape–for running.  However, try something like INSANITY, and you will be unpleasantly surprised how out of shape you feel.  I know how I felt–and it was runner’s arrogance which kept me from trying other workouts.

The results?  INSANITY made me a stronger, as well as faster runner.  My mileage suffered initially–simply because now I wanted to go faster.  It reshaped my body, giving me more muscle without bulk.  However, it also increased my appetite.  Not surprising though, considering the workload you are performing in a short period of time.  Keep in mind, you are only doing this for less than an hour (second month DVDs are an hour-long).  In order to maintain caloric burn, newer research suggests you your keep active throughout your day.  It doesn’t mean you’re doing plyometrics and high intensity aerobics all day.  It does mean you are mindful of your activity level and what you are eating.  Taking a walk later, cutting grass, cleaning out your closet or crawl space (a workout in its own right), are all ways to keep that activity level elevated.

Make no mistake though, INSANITY is NOT for everyone.  It incorporates explosive jumps, into HIGH intensity workouts.  If you have joint issues (especially knee) you may have to modify or even skip some of the routines.  In my case, I modified–then found my body adapting and getting stronger as I progressed.  As always, my recommendation is to preview & review.  Preview any video (if you can) and review your history/medications with a medical professional, BEFORE you begin.

INSANITY is another tool in my box.  Like any wrench or ratchet, I use it in conjunction with other equipment.  It is not my only tool–nor will it be.  I received the boxed set 2 years ago, and alternate/incorporate it into my week.  That week includes strength training at the health club, running on treadmill (I know, anathema to those who run outside exclusively) and running outside when I can.  So what else is in my toolbox?  Two workouts which for a long time, I considered much too “girly girl” for me.  Yet like INSANITY, they gave my body another wake-up call–as well as results I never achieved by gym workouts, running, or anything else.  But more on that next time.

All for now.  Keep up and keep at it.

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



What the nursing process can teach you–A FIVE PART SERIES (continued)

healthy living waterfall

Live life unscripted–we’ve heard this in ballads, and touted throughout pop culture.  Most of us realize life is unscripted; especially when our best laid plans go awry.  Yet that’s just it, somewhere along the way–there was a plan.

PLANNING is a pivotal stage in the nursing process.  Why?  It paves the way for IMPLEMENTATION & EVALUATION.

PLANNING usually isn’t a complicated task; it’s sticking to it that gets in the way.  Sound a bit ridiculous?  It should.  However, it’s a reality we all face; in one way or another, at one time or another.

From a health and fitness perspective, PLANNING is KEY.  However, it’s the IMPLEMENTATION or follow-through which leads to lifestyle change.

For the moment let’s stick to PLANNING.  As stated earlier, planning isn’t usually complicated.  We’re going to keep it that way.  Yet, our plan should include these vital elements when thinking fitness–nutrition adjustment, move modification, and education.  I have coined the term NAME.

Everyone has a name-a proper noun to which we respond, when we hear it.  Unless something traumatic occurs, most of us will not forget our name.

Nutrition adjustment is the make or break element here.  You may have been told it is exercise.  Exercise is a must; but your weight loss battle is won or lost at the table.   You can actually gain weight, even if exercise is part of your daily routine.  You must expend or put out, more calories than you take in.  It really is that simple; and that complex.  For specifics on caloric expenditure, see my post under Nutrition.  Furthermore, recent theory suggests that unless you are moving throughout your day, an hour at the gym if the rest of your life is sedentary, may not be beneficial.  Will keep you posted, as some of these clinical trials are very new.

Move modification may mean walking throughout your day, running, resistance training, home workouts, or any combination thereof.  The point is this–do something.  If you have not engaged in regular exercise, have mobility issues, or restricted because of cardio-pulmonary compromise–this doesn’t spell the end or let you off the hook.  Every workout is not for every body.  Your responsibility is to find one that is right for you.  Proper consult with your physician, as well as thorough ASSESSMENT, are essential to your PLANNING.  ACSM (AMERICAN COLLEGE OF SPORTS MEDICINE) prescription principles suggest the following:

Cardiovascular exercise–should be 3-5 times a week, for 20-90 minutes.  The routine should be continuous and rhythmic in nature

Resistance training–should work major muscle groups to their full range of motion (ROM), with control of speed.  Eight to ten exercises of 2-4 sets each

Flexibility–In order for your muscles to “trust you,” you should hold your stretches for at least 15 seconds.  Flexibility training should be 2-3 days per week, to mild discomfort (Mild discomfort is difficult to define for everyone.  When in doubt, consult your MD; and especially your own body).  Flexibility training can be static or accomplished with help–15-60 seconds for each; working towards 3-4 repetitions

EDUCATION–or continuing education, is tantamount.  How many of us have returned to school either to “brush up” on a subject or acquire new knowledge?  From floral arranging to learning to speak a different language, most of us desire to know more.  Even if the desire isn’t always there, the requirement may be.  Modifying your lifestyle to reflect your weight loss/fitness goals require education; continuing education.  This doesn’t just mean looking up new exercises or diet trends.  More notably to you, it means interpreting your own data.  Understand what your body is telling you AND document it.  In this way, you have a written record of your successes, failures, and everything in between.  It can also be a useful tool when discussing progress with your trainer or medical professional.  The point is you are educating yourself, about yourself.  This is essential for your nutritional as well as exercise component.

As a nursing student, I was constantly reminded “if it’s not documented, it’s not done.”  That mantra has seen me successfully through false allegations of neglectful care, to assessing new employee skills in the field.  With this in mind, I cannot stress enough, the importance of documenting your progress; even if its regress.

NAME is just a reminder I use.  However, it can be useful to remember and reconcile your PLANNING stage.  There are countless ways and means to see you through.  Regardless of what you choose–have a plan.  Even if needs revamping, rethinking, or rebooting, HAVE A PLAN.

All for now.  Keep up and keep at it.

Be sure to check out my ABOUT page.

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

Hit the pavement or hit the gym–or maybe the DVD player…

fitness model male

What do you have in your house?  It’s a worthwhile question.  And, it applies to more than storage space, clothes for your favorite charity, or leftovers in the fridge.  It is also applicable to your workout.

When counseling clients, I refer to “what do you have in your toolbox?”  For one such client, it meant re-thinking what workouts meant.  Once an avid runner, he now faced hip replacement surgery.  Though he hadn’t run in many years, he felt he could “knock off” 35+ pounds if only he could run.  I told him there were many alternatives to running; but he wasn’t enthused.

I visited the health club he recently joined, and pointed out the cross-trainer.  His first try on it yielded “this will take some getting used to.”  “That may be,” I told him.  “However, you will find it a good alternative to running at this time.”  Although this is still a work in progress for him, it is part of his “toolbox,” since running is not.

My recommendation to him, as well as others is this:  workouts needed to be varied, accessible, and come with a back-up plan.  If you like to go to the gym, but your car isn’t cooperating, what about a DVD?  DVDs can be life-savers if you can’t get to the health club.  The key is selecting one at your fitness level, or a step above.  If you have led a pretty sedentary lifestyle, probably a high intensity workout isn’t for you–UNTIL you progress.  Start with something that elevates your heart rate, yet keeps it within range for your age.  You should feel yourself working up a sweat, and once finished, know you have had a workout.  There are many DVDs available, for all fitness levels and intensities.  Discuss your choice, goals, and overall health status with your MD, before beginning a routine.

Varied workouts keep your body guessing, rest overused muscle groups, while strengthening those overlooked in your normal routine.  If you enjoy strength training, skip the gym and try a yoga class–if you are really up for a challenge, make it a HOT YOGA class.  You will be surprised at the workout it gives your body, and the resolve it gives your mind.

Again, it comes down to “what’s in your toolbox?”  As with any, it should be well-stocked and anticipate almost every situation.

All for now.  Keep up and keep at it.

Be sure to check out my ABOUT page.

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