Category Archives for Fitness

Explaining Fitness for Dummies

Fitness is one of those terms you can often hear just about anywhere: in the media, on the street, during a conversation with friends, and just about anywhere else. Even though it gets used and abused a lot, how much do we actually know about it? Can any one of us define what fitness really is?

Paraphrasing the National Federation of Professional Trainers Handbook, fitness is the ability to perform everyday activities with vigor, with some spare energy left to be able to react in case of an emergency. Body fat percentage should be around 18% for men, and 25% for women, and lungs, heart and body should be strong.

Then there is the medical perspective. I have a good friend who works as a Nurse Practitioner and runs a website called the Nurse Salary Guide. Her ideas on health and fitness are so far removed from my own. She talks about heart fitness and lung fitness more than what most trainers mean. But that’s another blog post!

fitness defined

If you were to really get into it, fitness could be broken down into four separate aspects, which are:

Cardio Respiratory Conditioning

Or simply put, your lungs and your trying to keep up with the pace set by your muscles during exercising. When you run out of breath while running, your cardio respiratory system can’t keep up with your muscles.

If you are in good shape, you have good cardio endurance, which will make you feel more energized. But, that’s not the only reason for doing cardio. You will also lose weight, reduce fat content inside your body and burn excess calories.

If you are keen on building your cardio respiratory endurance, here’s what you need to do:

Intensity: cardio workouts should be performed between 60 and 70% of your maximum heart rate if you want to achieve optimal results in a reasonable timeframe.

Activity: always pick an activity which engages large muscle groups, such as quads. The bigger the muscle, the more calories you will burn. Some examples of such workouts would be running, swimming, cycling, and many others.

Frequency: 3 to 5 times in a week.
Duration: no less than 15 minutes, and no more than 60 in a single day.

If follow this program, you will be able to see the results as soon as 6 to 8 weeks.

Muscular Endurance

Muscular endurance is categorized as your muscles’ ability to carry out contractions over long periods of time. For example, if you were to do exercises, such as crunches, for an hour, that low intensity performance would be called muscular endurance.

In order to improve muscular endurance, you need to do the following:

Intensity: use 40 to 60% of your weight capacity, perform sets of 20 to 25 reps.

Activity: perform three circuits of three different exercise such as pushing, pulling, squatting or pressing.

Muscular Strength

There are two different types of muscular strength: dynamic and static. Dynamic strength refers to your ability move a certain weight with your muscles. Dynamic strength comes into play while doing bench presses or curls.

Static strength, on the other hand, only takes into account the weight you are able to hold with your muscles without moving. Such exercises would be planking, or doing a bridge position. Both types are needed in everyday life, since you are bound to get stuck doing something physical sooner or later, so it’s better to be ready for it, instead of getting injured.

To avoid injuries, adhere to this program:

Intensity: 80 to 90% of your weight capacity, sets of 4 to 6 repetitions.

Activity: perform exercises where your muscles are contracting, but your body remains stationary, or dynamic workouts, such as push-ups. Also, try to choose exercises which require you to perform compound moves which require you to engage several muscle groups, not just individual muscles.

Frequency: two times a week tops, you should give your muscles a chance to recover.

Flexibility

Obsessed with cardio endurance and muscular strength, people often forget one of the most important segments of fitness. That segment is flexibility. Basically, flexibility is your ability to achieve a full range of movement with your joints and muscles, while feeling no pain in the process.

You can test yourself by touching your toes, while keeping your legs straight as you bend down. If you can’t do it, that means you are not flexible enough and you need to work on that. Flexibility is important, because it reduces the chance of injury, and because it will allow you to have a full range of motion even in your old age.

Some areas which you should target are your lower back and your hamstrings, since those two are the most prone to injuries.

Improving your flexibility starts with this:

Intensity: pull on your muscles gently, so you don’t feel any pain. If you start to feel discomfort, ease up and a bit, and try again. You can’t rush flexibility.

Activity: nothing more than your basic stretched for all the joints and muscles in your body.

Frequency: before and after your exercise routines.

Duration: you should stretch between 10 and 15 minutes. If you are working on improving your flexibility, you can stretch a bit longer.

The Perfect Fitness Routine

The National Federation of Professional Trainers recommend the following routine:

Warm Up: 5 to 10 minutes of stretching and low intensity activities such as walking or cycling.

Weight Training: 25 minutes, 3 sets of 20 to 25 reps. Consider the following types of exercises: pushing, pulling, leg pressing and squatting. Perform a total of 9 sets, or three circuits.

Core/Ab Workout: 10 minutes. Any exercise that engages these muscles will do.

Aerobic Activity: 20 minutes. Choose aerobic exercises which will raise your rate up to 70% percent of its maximum, such as jogging, running, swimming, and so on.

Cooling Down: 5 to 10 minutes. Stretch out, especially those muscles which were targeted during this routine.

Now, this routine is pretty flexible, and you can choose between the following exercises to come up with the best combo for yourself: chest press, triceps extensions, pull downs, rows, curls, squats, leg extensions, and leg curls, among others.

Now you know … don’t you?

A Beginners Guide to Training for Physical Fitness

Whether you’ve recently decided to start working out or you’re simply recommencing your old regime, you will need to have a system in place to succeed. Luckily we have compiled an advanced guide below to help you become fit and perfect your physique.

The main reason why most people give up on their fitness regime is because it may take longer than they’re willing to wait. Chances are you’ve come across several fitness magazines telling you that it will take at least two months for you to achieve your fitness goal.

However, we’re happy to tell you that, it’s not always true. With the right guide, it’s possible for you to see results in one month. Of course you won’t become a pro but it’s enough time for you to overcome the hurdles that usually prevent people from getting to their goals.

The bad news is the demanding nature of the training but the good news is that you are less likely to suffer from an injury or burnout. Another good thing is that it allows you to adjust to the intensity of getting fit for beginnerseach exercise gradually.

In just one month your muscle strength will improve and you can smoothly transition to the next step. In other words it will have you feeling and looking better than you did before. How can you say no to that?

The program is perfect for beginners as well as those of you who had given up on your previous workout regime and would like to start training again. It does not matter how long ago your last workout was. 4 weeks or 4 years, you can expect the same results. So without further ado, let’s move on.

First Weeks: All In One

You will kick things off with a split training routine. This way you can carefully monitor the development of your physique since all main body parts are trained. You’ll workout three days for the first week, completing one exercise for each major body part when you train.

It doesn’t matter what days of the week you choose, the good thing is that it’s very accommodating to people who can’t work out more than three times per week. Resting is very important to the success of the program. Overexerting yourself will not allow your body parts to recover and may result in an injury.

Here is an idea of what your training schedule might look like:

  • Monday: Training
  • Tuesday: Resting
  • Wednesday: Training
  • Thursday: Resting
  • Friday: Training
  • Saturday: Resting
  • Sunday: Resting

For the first week you will only complete basic exercises that incorporate advanced lifters that you can easily adapt to. A common error when people decide to start working out is that they begin using machines rather than learning simple moves.

In week one the program combines a few weight training exercises to pave the way for a smooth transition into more difficult moves. These free-weight exercises also promote muscular strength and endurance.

The stronger your muscles get the easier it will get for you. Always ensure that you understand the exercises before take them on.

You will perform three sets of each exercise for every session. At the end of the week you would then have completed nine sets for all major body parts – a great way to start off. For muscle development you will do a minimum of 8 reps for each set, a technique used by many professional bodybuilders.

When you get to week two, you will be doing 8 reps for your first set and switch to 10 reps for your third set. You may have heard your last trainer refer to this as “reverse pyramid,” taking in account that it does from higher to lower much like a pyramid does – you will reduce the weight per set as the reps per higher. For instance, you can use weights of 140lbs on your lat pulldowns of 8 reps but use 130lb weights when you get to 10 reps.

fitness training routine

Second Week: Split decision

When you get to the second week your entire body would have already been trained and prepared for the next step. Here you will be adding one more day to your training schedule for a total of four days. You will be training major upper and lower body parts on different days while still leaving enough time to rest.

Below if a brief idea of what your schedule will look like when you get to week two:

  • Monday: Upper-body training
  • Tuesday: Lower-body Training
  • Wednesday: Resting
  • Thursday: Upper-body training
  • Friday: Lower-body training
  • Saturday: Resting
  • Sunday: Resting

You will continue to do a lot of the exercises you did during week one when you get to week two, adding an extra move per body part for each session. It allows you to train all your muscles from varied angles except your abs.

For example, you will do two chest exercises, a dumbbell flyer that targets your shoulder joints and pectoral muscles and a dumbbell bench press that targets several joints in both the shoulder and elbow. Each dumbbell bench press will target your deltoids and triceps unlike the dumbbell flyer.

To ensure that you do not overexert yourself you will also use a “reverse pyramid” scheme but instead of the previous maximum 10 reps you will do 15 reps when you get to the third set for each exercise. 15 reps might seem like a big jump to you but it will enhance your muscles’ strength and endurance making it easier for you to complete week two.

Third Week: Three On Three

Okay! You’re almost there so let’s kick things up a notch. This time you’ll be in the gym six days for the week. You will target major body parts such as shoulders, triceps, and the chest. For the first day of training you will target your chest, shoulder and triceps (pushing body parts), on the second day your abs, biceps and back (pulling body parts), and on the third day your hamstrings, calves and quads. All body parts, pulling, pushing, and lower, will be trained twice a week.

A new exercise is added per body part for each session for further muscle development. You will complete four sets for your quads, hamstrings, back and shoulder and three sets for the smaller parts like the triceps, biceps, calves and abs.

At the end you will have a total of 16 sets for the larger body parts and 12 set for the smaller parts with a maximum of 15 reps.

Final Week: Turning Up The Volume

Congrats you’ve made it to the fourth week! Here you will complete a four day spilt training that targets all major body parts with the exception of your abs and calves which will only be exercised two times. Many pro builders prefer to do four-day splits because they train only a handful of body parts every session but this allows you to train more intensively.

The body parts that are trained tend to develop more efficiently because they are given full attention. Your shoulders, abs and caves are trained several times during the week. The focus is on increasing the intensity of the workout so that there are no new exercises but more sets are added to each exercise.

You can add a maximum of five sets for each body part to ensure that your muscles are enhanced for optimal strength and pick up from the previous weeks.

Once you’ve gotten through the first month you can move on to the next stage.

Elliptical Machines – Are They Suitable For Weight Loss?

On a worldwide scale, weight loss is a timeless goal. Every year fitness fads and dieting trends pop up, make their rounds, and then fade from mainstream popularity as others pop up to take their place – and the cycle continues. However, there are some weight loss systems that stand the test of time; remaining effective as fads and trends come and go. Elliptical trainers are a perfect example of a weight loss system that has stood the test of time – let’s find out why.

Burn The Right Calories

Calories are burnt whenever you exercise, this is common knowledge. However, what you may not know is that calories are not all burned at the same rate. Whenever you exercise the either burn calories from fat or carbohydrates to generate energy.

If your body needs to generate this energy fast (e.g. when you’re sprinting) then it is far more likely that it will make use of carbohydrate calories. However, whenever you perform sustained balanced exercise, your body utilizes its oxidative energy system, which will make use of fat calories instead. This is why elliptical machines are amazing, they make the most of this oxidative energy system, which means that they are excellent fat burners.ellipticals and weight loss

Adjust Key Workout Factors

Nowadays, virtually all elliptical trainers are being made with the distinct ability to adjust both the incline and stride levels. What this means is that you can essentially alter these key workout factors on the fly without interrupting your routine. A combination of a steady speed and a gradually increasing incline is possible the best way to efficiently burn fat. This technique plays upon the aforementioned oxidative energy system – which means that you are more likely to burn off the fat and not the carbs.

Lower And Upper Body Workout

This is one of the big benefits of elliptical trainers. Unlike treadmills and other similar devices, elliptical trainers have movable handlebars that are not only present to help you maintain your posture, they are also there to give you a great upper body workout. What this means is that your muscle activation levels are greatly increased and therefore you end up burning far more fat. There are also elliptical trainers that have rotating, egg-shaped handlebars that can give you are more powerful workout because they have the ability to better focus on your abdominal muscles.

Lower Perceived Rate Of Exertion

Studies have shown that, compared to other common cardio machines (treadmills, exercise bicycles, etc.), elliptical trainers have a lower perceived rate of exertion. What this means is that comparatively, you won’t actually fell as if you are exercising as hard and therefore you should be able to exercise for longer.

Auxiliary Technological Enhancements

Putting aside all of the primary technological enhancements (such as the ability to control incline and stride), there are still many other technological enhancements being made to modern elliptical trainers. Interactive exercise apps, for example the myLiveLight, are becoming the norm for elliptical trainers.

This type of app can communicate with smart devices via Bluetooth, giving you the ability to set custom workout user profiles or generate preferences based on your goals, weight, or other factors. Modern elliptical machines also give you the ability to play your workout music via built in apps, Bluetooth, and/or docking mechanisms.

No Pressure On Your Joints

This is a huge benefit for individuals who either have joint related problems or are in physical therapy (recovering from accidents, etc.). When utilized properly, an elliptical trainer won’t place any stress or strain on your knees, spine, or hips. They are also a great workout option for individuals who are overweight because they usually suffer from joint problems as well. High end models have been known to be able to support individuals who are over 400 pounds.

Additional Functionality

Lastly, modern elliptical trainers now have a great deal of resourceful features that are designed to make losing weight easier. Not only can you fully customize your workout, you can also set the total amount of calories that you want to burn. You can also compensate for recovery and endurance; which complements the aforementioned ability to regulate incline levels, speed, and stride length.

Hopefully this answers any and all elliptical trainer related questions that you may have had. Not only is the elliptical trainer a great way to get a cardio workout, it is also easy and fun to use as well; quite possibly the best way to stay fit and healthy.

Healthy Eating Habits for a Stronger Body and Soul

If you have decided to start out on the road toward a healthier  habits  changing the way you eat is one vehicle to take you there. Here are some useful tips to bear in mind as you become more aware of what your body needs to function effectively.

These will help you develop healthier eating habits that will not just benefit your body, but also your mind and your outlook on life.

Apply a Dose of Moderation

As you strive to change your unhealthy eating habits into smarter traits the most important factor to ensure success is ‘moderation’. It would be unwise for you to abruptly cut out all processed foods and soda. Likewise, jumping into a strict daily 30-minute exercise program is also ill-advised. Instead, aim for attainable weekly goals that will gently ease you into the lifestyle you are aiming for. This will make the new routines feel more like a part of you and you will be more inclined to stick to them.

You could think about aiming for less processed foods and soda in the first week. For week two try to take a few minutes to plan a grocery list that supports your new healthy eating practices. Week three might find you making a conscious effort to drink more water healthy_waterand exercise at least twice.

Keep making these small changes weekly and you may find that you develop the confidence to make bigger changes or to make more than one change within a given week.

You should also apply moderation to the quantity of food you consume at a given time. This means that at the end of a meal you should not feel stuffed but just full. Moderation suggests that you are not required to cut out all of your guilty pleasure foods, just have less of them.

After all, quitting your bacon cheese sandwich abruptly may leave you craving it more and this could drive you completely off your healthy eating track.

Moderation tells you not to fall into the trap of thinking that one nutrient is more important than the others. Your body needs a balance of carbohydrates, protein, fat, fiber, water, vitamins, and minerals (plus exercise) in order for it to be healthy and strong.

How, When, Where and Why You Eat

The ultimate goal is to achieve a pattern of healthy eating that fits seamlessly into your daily routines. This means you will need to focus on aspects of your eating habits other than what it is that you eat. The ‘why’ you eat should be for nourishment and care of your body and not just to stop your stomach from grumbling while you rush through a busy day. This will help you to select healthy choices as much as possible rather than bulky, empty calories.

The ‘where’ you eat has to do with both location and company and is closely related to the ‘when’ you eat. There are many social and emotional benefits to dining with company, especially if they are on the same nutritional track as you are. Before you get up to grab a snack, ask yourself if you are really hungry, you may be mistaking a need for water for a need for food. Have a glass of water and see.

It is recommended that your last meal of the day should be 14-16 hours before breakfast. This gives your digestive system a chance to better regulate itself, a key ingredient to controlling your weight. And since you have waited so long, do not skip breakfast. Your metabolic rate will enjoy the healthy boost a good breakfast provides and you can keep that rate up during the day by having several small healthy meals, instead of a huge lunch and dinner.

The ‘how’ you eat takes in the physical act of eating. Ensure that you chew your food properly before swallowing. This not only aids the digestion process but help to slow down your food intake. It may lead you to enjoying the meal more since you spend time savoring each bite and appreciating the blend of textures and flavors in the meal.

Remember, it only takes a few minutes for the brain to get the message from the stomach that you are full! Therefore, you should stop eating just before you get that feeling of fullness.

Minimize Processed Foods and Stop Drinking Soda

The label ‘processed foods’,will be used here to discuss foods that have been put through a number of multifaceted processing steps. A good reason to avoid these foods is that; during processing chemical agents such as additives, artificial coloring and preservatives are added.

When purchasing packaged foods go for those labeled as organic and stating they contain no additives, artificial colors or flavors. Also keep an eye out for those with no added sugar or preservatives. Be sure to check the label when purchasing meat and eggs. It should say Free Range, Cage Free, Wild Caught, or Hormone Free. Steer clear of refined grains and sugar, as these generally provide empty calories.healthy_balance_12

Eliminate soda from your diet if at all possible, or try to cut it down to a bare minimum. They are loaded with sugar or artificial sweeteners, unsafe chemicals and preservatives.

They provide little if any nutritional value and according to most sources, they will weaken your bones. Reach instead for probiotic drinks, herbal teas, natural fruit juices or some kombucha.

Don’t worry, as you go through each week changing out the unhealthy habits for healthier ones you will find you naturally gravitate to healthier choices. Before you know it you’ll be consuming far less processed foods and soda than you thought possible.

Don’t Overdo Caffeine, Sugar or Salt

While it’s quite easy to become hooked on any of the three, actively trying to reduce them in your diet is another matter. You may be able to limit yourself to: two caffeinated drinks a day (perhaps a coffee in the morning and tea in the afternoon); sweets only at desert; and a small salty snack a day. You will still find, however, that they are hidden ingredients in some of the other things you consume.

Many canned and processed food have high sugar and salt content. One smart move is to opt for fresh or frozen foods instead. Also advisable, is to sweeten your food yourself since manufacturers tend to add a lot of sugar to attract your sweet tooth. Go for unsweetened, plain, or unflavored options for your food, and then add naturally sweet fruit for healthy sugar and flavor. Choose low-salt or reduced sodium options when available; take your gravy on the side when dining out; and ask for low-sodium dishes.

Your caffeine, sugar and salt intake will naturally be reduced as you consciously decide on what is best for you to eat and fall into the habit of making healthy choices.

Build Your Meals Around Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. You can optimize your intake of these by going for as many different colors of fruits and vegetables as you can. In order to ensure that you meet your daily required fruits and vegetables intake, it is best to plan your meals with fruits and vegetables making up the bulk of what you eat.

Doing so will help you to reduce the amount of calories you consume per meal. At the same time it will be bumping up your nutrient intake. Who knows, while you are at it, you may find yourself trying out (and liking) some new ones.healthy_fruits_12

Green vegetables are an excellent source of calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, zinc, and vitamins A, C, E, and K. Satisfy your sweet tooth with sweet potatoes and yams, corn, and squash.

Fiber and water are necessary for a balanced diet and fruit is a tasty way of adding these to yours.Fruits are also great source of vitamins and antioxidants (which help fight cancer).

A healthy lifestyle begins with healthy eating habits. Today our diets are lacking in several areas, we rely on the experience of others rather than our own desire to live a healthy life. As a result, we are easily influenced to adapt new habits but are usually quick to drop them after a trial period of a few days.

Your goal should be to set your own objectives based on your personal desire to live healthier. In doing so, you are one step closer to achieve your goals.