Category Archives: Fitness Consumer

Save time: Cut the Core Classes

Core-Class-PicLast week while on vacation I was exercising at a gym, which I don’t do often.¬† It was a great chance to do some “field research”, providing many blog topics ūüôā

The biggest tip I want to share is Рplease do not waste time going to a core exercise class.  I observed 20 people wasting a perfectly good half hour on the floor doing all kinds of exercises for their abdominal muscles.  Why wasting time? Two big reasons:

  1. It’s not how the core is designed to work:¬† One job of the core muscles is to stabilize and protect the spine when the body moves.¬† Another is to provide a strong foundation for all movement because when the trunk is aligned and stable, the upper and lower body can be stronger with less wear and tear. ¬† Working on each of the abdominal muscles individually while laying down does not mean they will know how to do their job during activities of everyday life. ¬† When we incorporate activating the core while using the arms and legs it learns to support, stabilize and protect in the way it was designed.
  2. Spot reducing is a myth:¬† All that time working on this “trouble spot” in the body will not burn more fat around the middle.¬† Its just not how the body works.¬† Why then, would it be worth using a significant amount of your exercise time “working” on your core? I cannot think of a reason.¬† Instead use that time to do quality strength training for your whole body while incorporating your core muscles into those movements.¬† The result will be a greater impact on your metabolism, core muscles that know how to do their job well, and time left over to do more of what you enjoy in life.

I do realize this is a big shift from what is highly popular in the media right now.  Notice this week how much fitness marketing and social media focus on ineffective core exercises with promises of spot reducing.  However, you as the savvy fitness consumer know better.  If you are a Weight Center patient and want instruction on how to incorporate your core into your strength training, let me know and we will set up an appointment.

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet

Please share these posts with anyone you know interested in losing weight with or without weight loss surgery.  Click here to learn more about the UMass Memorial Weight Center

These weekly blogs are general guidelines. These guidelines apply to patients who are cleared by a physician for the type of exercise described. Please contact your physician with any concerns or questions. Always report any symptoms associated with exercise, such as pain, irregular heartbeats, and dizziness or fainting, to your physician.

 

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by | July 25, 2017 · 1:52 pm

Confusion about Muscle Confusion

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Muscle confusion is a big selling point in the fitness industry these days.¬†¬† It is built on the fact that as the body “gets used to” an exercise, or builds muscle memory, it burns less calories.¬† The belief is you need to mix up your exercise to keep your body burning calories.

First, lets take a step back.  Why do you want to lose weight?  To make everyday life and the fun things easier? To be more comfortable in your body? To reduce pain?  To feel better? To improve health?

And, I am guessing you want those great benefits to last, right?

If that sounds like what you want, muscle memory is your friend!

For the things you need to do in daily life to be easier, it takes practice.   If you are always practicing something different, your body does not build muscle memory as well.   In everyday life we need stregnth for movements like bending down and getting back up, stepping up, lifting overhead, pushing, pulling, lifting and carrying objects.  Doing these movements on a regular basis, at a level that comfortably challenges them over and above the level of daily life, will make them easier.   This is why muscle memory is your friend.  Instead of playing the calorie burning game, you get what you truly want from weight loss.

Second,  your body is still burning calories!  The total decrease in calories burned is small.  Instead of playing that numbers game, put your energy into reducing the calories you take in from eating for reasons other than hunger.  These calories can add up much more!

The muscle confusion approach is taking one piece of science and applying it in a way that is very profitable for the fitness industry.   Yet, it leaves people who want fitness for improves health and function missing out on building muscle memory, doing sustainable exercise programs and feeling better now and in the future.

The bottom line: Life can be complicated and confusing enough! Your exercise time does not need to be.  Your body does adapt and yes, because it is smart, it will burn a few less calories for an activity when it builds muscle memory.  The calorie difference is not worth what you are missing out on by focusing on muscle confusion.   Focus on muscle memory and enjoy a body that makes it easier to enjoy your life!

Keep Moving, Be Well

Janet

Please share these posts with anyone you know interested in losing weight with or without weight loss surgery.  Click here to learn more about the UMass Memorial Weight Center

These weekly blogs are general guidelines. These guidelines apply to patients who are cleared by a physician for the type of exercise described. Please contact your physician with any concerns or questions. Always report any symptoms associated with exercise, such as pain, irregular heartbeats, and dizziness or fainting, to your physician

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by | June 7, 2017 · 5:38 pm

Myth #5: Core Strength

crunchIf I had a dime for every crunch I did in my lifetime ,¬† I would have that dream home in the Caribbean by now!¬† Doing abdominal exercises in various forms, such as crunches, oblique crunches, sit ups, reverse crunches,¬† V-sits, and planks are a staple in most routines.¬† When I was teaching aerobics years ago, if I skipped the abs portion, I would have been run out of the gym by 30 people in leg warmers and “big hair” (OK, it was the 80’s!).¬† However, this is often still the case (minus the “big hair”).¬† It is time for this fitness myth to catch up with the science.

The trunk¬† contains some pretty important parts of the body –¬† the organs, spinal cord, spine, heart, lungs.¬† The purpose of the core muscle group is to stabilize and protect this area of the body during movements of daily life.

core-musclesWhen we are “working” the core, we often mean we want to reduce the size of the trunk area – AKA spot reduce fat in the abdomen.¬† Spot reducing is a myth (period).¬† Yet,¬† take a look most popular core programs and you will see the myth of spot reducing¬† alive and¬† well! (even if it is just implied). ¬† We need to be very savvy fitness consumers to recognize myth based marketing when we see it.¬† The reality is “working” the core does not really “slim” the core!

What does it mean to strengthen the core?  We can plank longer, do more crunches or sit ups, lift more weight with our core muscles?  While this would be a measure of core strength, the real question is, does it lead to better function of the core in daily life?  Does a strong core mean these muscles can do their job to hold the spine in alignment and reduce daily wear and tear, minimize the risk of back pain, enable us to do daily tasks with ease?

coreRemember the principle of specificity of exercise?  If we want the core muscles to do their job, we need to learn to consciously activate these muscles with our brain during motions of daily life. Exercises done lying down do not mimic daily life and relies on gravity instead of conscious control from the brain to activate the core muscles.

What we want is core control.  This means you can consciously activate your  core muscles to hold your spine in alignment when lifting a heavy object, reaching overhead, twisting to reach an object, etc.  Here is how:

  • First, learn what alignment is for you.¬† When the spine is out of alignment, the core muscles are not “lined up” to work their best and this increases wear and tear on the back.
  • Notice when you are pulled out of alignment and practice using the brain to activate core muscles for that movement.
  • During ALL strength training exercises, incorporate core bracing with proper alignment, without holding your breath.
  • Practice turning off these muscles when you don’t need them. (ie: during cardio exercise). ¬† Often we are taught to “hold in the core muscle” when we really do not need them.¬† Relax those core muscles in between activities so they can recharged for when you do need them.¬†

Admittedly, this will require a mindset shift away from the hope of spot reducing the abdomen and the idea that traditional core exercises will improve function in daily life.¬† The payoff is real “results” from an exercise plan based on the reality of movement science rather than long-standing fitness myths.

Keep Moving, Be Well

Janet

Please share these posts with anyone you know interested in losing weight with or without weight loss surgery.  Click here to learn more about the UMass Memorial Weight Center

These weekly blogs are general guidelines. These guidelines apply to patients who are cleared by a physician for the type of exercise described. Please contact your physician with any concerns or questions. Always report any symptoms associated with exercise, such as pain, irregular heartbeats, and dizziness or fainting, to your physician.

 

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by | February 13, 2017 · 3:57 pm

Attitude for Sustainability

sustainalbeLet’s take a look at one more critical difference between training for athletics/military and training for well-being.

Athletes and military professionals need to train right at the edge of a very fine line between improving skills and risking injury. Athletes and their coaches find that line and push the body as close as possible to that line, in order to stay in the competition. Step over that line and injury risk is greater than the training benefit.

This type of training does not consider what the body will be able to do ten or twenty years from now. It is focused on the next level, improving by pushing that limit as much as possible. There is only so long the body can sustain that type of training. At some point, an athlete needs to retire from competition, or at least semi-retire and take a few steps back from that line if they want to keep moving.

In¬†training for well-being, choosing the level to train at considers¬†what is¬†needed to be well right now, as well as for the rest of our lives. This type of training does not require pushing to that risk/benefit ratio line. To the contrary, part of training for well-being is¬†listening to the body to know¬†when we are stepping too close to that¬†line because we know¬†an injury keeps us on the sidelines of life rather than out enjoying life. Training to be well considers how we feel,¬†now as well as decades from now, by preventing injury, illness, and disease as much as possible. ‚ÄúRetire‚ÄĚ from this plan too early, and that risk along with the rate of aging ramps up‚Ķfast!!!

Training for well-being means we find the types of movement that give us energy rather than drain it. You might be one who needs more adventurous types of physical activity, such as skiing or rock climbing. Remembering it is more important to be well than excel at that activity keeps it energizing and the risk/benefit ratio in check.

Over the past few years, I’ve noticed the attitude of no, pain no gain, look better, be better, push harder, ignore the body, trick the body, is so enmeshed in the world of fitness we often don’t even see it! The confusion over these two very different ways of training the body has made exercise stressful (which is ironic because when we are stressed, the body preparing to move!). Even the word exercise overwhelms many people, which drains motivation in the long run, causing them to miss out on the great benefits of fitness for well-being.

Bottom Line:  It is not necessarily the activity, but the attitude that makes training for well-being so sustainable. The ultimate goal is feeling better on the inside (rather than getting better at some external goal). Let’s stay aware of activities that are more about proving ourselves instead of being ourselves, because when it is more about well-doing, it can take us away from well-being.

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet

Please share these posts with anyone you know interested in losing weight with or without weight loss surgery.  Click here to learn more about the UMass Memorial Weight Center

These weekly blogs are general guidelines. These guidelines apply to patients who are cleared by a physician for the type of exercise described. Please contact your physician with any concerns or questions. Always report any symptoms associated with exercise, such as pain, irregular heartbeats, and dizziness or fainting, to your physician.

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by | November 14, 2016 · 4:18 pm

How Much is Enough?

enough-2Let’s continue to look at the difference between training for sports/military performance and training for well-being.

When it comes to fitness, how much is enough?   

  • How hard should I push my body?
  • How much weight should I lift?¬†
  • How many miles should I walk or run?
  • How many steps should I take?¬†

If what you are doing never quite seems enough, always feels like you should be doing more, you may have strayed from training for well-being.

In athletic training, there is always a next level to¬†strive towards. That ‚Äėnever enough‚Äô provides the motivation to push harder. For this type of training, then, we need to rely on¬†external guides to inform about our progress. Numbers such as miles and minutes provide accurate feedback. Coaches help assess our performance, giving valuable information about how to keep pushing the limits to excel at the sport.

In training for health and well-being, enough is the level that allows you to achieve¬†the definition of fitness for well being ‚Äď ‚Äúdo activities of daily life with ease, having enough energy left over for recreation and to meet emergencies.‚ÄĚ

For this type of training, you have a guide more accurate than the most advanced technology or experienced professional available. The best part is this guide is free and with you all the time! It’s your body! What your body tells you in the present moment is the most accurate and reliable information available for training for well-being.

What makes it not so reliable is¬†when our mind starts dictating what the body ‚Äúshould‚ÄĚ do. ¬†I should not have pain with this exercise, it was fine yesterday. I should be able to lift that much weight, run faster, walk further. I should¬†push my body harder to lose more weight.¬†

Our judgment about what the body is telling us right now squelches this most accurate guide. When we use the body as a guide, we realize we can have the ultimate ‚Äúpersonalized fitness program‚ÄĚ available. When we listen we might hear the body saying:

  • That pain you feel when you¬†exercise is a warning signal‚Ķ possible injury ahead!
  • Those¬†tight muscles¬†cannot¬†tolerate what you are doing right now. The nervous ¬†system has taken over and tightened the muscle to protect it.
  • That pain and stiffness you feel when I am still for a while means I need movement to help get rid of some of this inflammation.
  • When you feel exhausted after a busy,¬†stressful, yet sedentary day, it is because¬†I have been working hard all day, ready¬†to move to respond to¬†your¬†stressor.¬† Please give me what I have been preparing for¬†and move so I can really¬†relax. ¬†

It is really easy to get caught in the should’s¬†when fitness marketing and the culture tend to mesh together sports training and well-being training. Using mindfulness is very helpful here for developing the skills for listening to our body without judgment, uncovering the¬†most accurate and reliable guidance available when it comes to training for our own well-being.

Keep Moving, Be Well

Janet

Please share these posts with anyone you know interested in losing weight with or without weight loss surgery.  Click here to learn more about the UMass Memorial Weight Center

These weekly blogs are general guidelines. These guidelines apply to patients who are cleared by a physician for the type of exercise described. Please contact your physician with any concerns or questions. Always report any symptoms associated with exercise, such as pain, irregular heartbeats, and dizziness or fainting, to your physician.

 

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by | November 9, 2016 · 6:32 pm

You Get What You Train For

bullseye

Let’s take a closer look at training for well-being versus training for athletics.

There is a principle in exercise science of specificity that basically says ‚Äúyou get what you train for.‚ÄĚ The body will adapt to what you give it. If you want to be able to run faster, then practice running faster. If you want to be able to get up off the floor more easily, then practice strengthening the movements you need for that skill. If you want to be able to sightsee with friends all day, then gradually practice walking longer distances.

In sports training, the focus is on the physical skills needed for the sport.  In well-being training, skills for being able to enjoy life are the focus.

In sports training, the goal is to excel in the time spent in competition, for several seconds to a few hours. Well-being training is for functioning the best you can 24/7.

It is pretty obvious that one would not do the training program for a body builder to excel in competitive dance. Why then, do we use these and other sports training programs as the basis for fitness programs to improve health and well-being??? 

You get what you train for.  What do you want to train for? Sports training is fine, of course, as long as you know the results of training are very specific and don’t cross over well.

Be savvy. Ask anyone giving you fitness advice:¬†What is this program based on? ¬†Why am I doing this exercise? What specifically am I training for? ¬†(And please don‚Äôt take ‚Äúyou are confusing the body‚ÄĚ for an answer, unless you want a confused body.)

If your goal is to be healthy and well for as many of your 24/7s as possible, then check out what you are doing during as much of the 24/7 as possible. You see, when training to live better, it all matters ‚Äď sit, stand, work, play, exercise, rest. ¬†The specificity of training does not apply only when exercising. ¬†It is a principle. It applies all the time.

Sitting with rounded shoulders. Guess what? The body gets used to what you give it. Standing in alignment, the body adapts to that too. We are always training for something (mentally AND physically).

For the ¬†‚Äúall or nothing-ers‚ÄĚ out there, this does not mean you move perfectly all the time. Simply pay attention to your body, check in often.

Bottom line: Training for well-being is an all-day awareness of how to give this body (and mind) what it needs to be well.

The body gets used to what you give it. What do you want it to get used to?

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet

Please share these posts with anyone you know interested in losing weight with or without weight loss surgery.  Click here to learn more about the UMass Memorial Weight Center

These weekly blogs are general guidelines. These guidelines apply to patients who are cleared by a physician for the type of exercise described. Please contact your physician with any concerns or questions. Always report any symptoms associated with exercise, such as pain, irregular heartbeats, and dizziness or fainting, to your physician.

 

 

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by | October 4, 2016 · 5:56 pm

Fitness: Part 2- Beware of Detours

detour

Protect yourself from getting off track from the true definition of fitness.¬† Stay aware of these “detours” that can waste time and can distract from the true goal of living better:

  • Most popular:¬† Fitness trends come and go. The tendency is to think if it is popular it must be good.¬†¬† Just because everyone is doing it or talking about it being great, does not mean it is great for you.¬† Nor does it mean it is based on movement science. Even if they use the word “research” in the ad, it does not mean the research is well done or unbiased.
  • Most challenging:¬† We tend to think if there is a lot of sweating, muscle soreness and pain, it must be better for us than something more moderate.¬† The “no pain no gain” approach is for athletes who have to sacrifice comfort for winning. ¬† For healthy fitness there is “no gain in pain”! ¬† If you just want to be healthy and enjoy life more, a “comfortable challenge” is the goal. ¬†¬† Moderate intensity really does work for health, well-being and weight loss. ¬† Extreme challenges in exercise get so much media coverage it can seem like discomfort is the goal.¬† Stay aware! If it is uncomfortable it is not sustainable.¬† Consistency is key for healthy fitness.
  • Most expensive:¬† Marketing professionals know – if something is more expensive, consumers believe it is better.¬† The truth is,¬† a bottle filled with water weighing 5lbs is the same 5lbs as the most expensive dumbbell.¬† Your muscles do not know the difference if you are lifting an expensive weight or a “free” weight.¬†Walking and dancing are free, and great forms of exercise.

 

Take a look at your list from last week.   What do you want and need to be able to do to enjoy life more?  Keep focused on that list.  Be aware of the lure of the quick, expensive, and most popular fixes Рand you will stay on the road to true health and fitness.

More next week…

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet

Please share these posts with anyone you know interested in losing weight with or without weight loss surgery.  Click here to learn more about the UMass Memorial Weight Center

These weekly blogs are general guidelines. These guidelines apply to patients who are cleared by a physician for the type of exercise described. Please contact your physician with any concerns or questions. Always report any symptoms associated with exercise, such as pain, irregular heartbeats, and dizziness or fainting, to your physician.

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by | July 25, 2016 · 7:20 pm