Friday, April 2, 2010

Preventing Osteoporosis with your Long, Slow Cardio Event

Osteoporosis is a bone degenerating disease that leads to potentially dangerous (even deadly) bone fractures. Commonly discussed as a risk area for aging women, if you're thinking that this problem is just for the girls, think again! Recent research at the University of Wisconsin shows, that while "While a 50-year-old woman faces a lifetime risk of 50% for an osteoporotic fracture, anywhere from one in eight to one in four 50-year-old men face that risk."

Further, the complication and death rates for men are higher than for women.

But wouldn't you know it ... one of the best ways to avoid osteoporosis is to maintain a regular resistance program! If you're not regularly exercising, we can certainly help you with that. Additionally, now that we're basking in 15+ hours of daylight, your long slow cardio event can help there too!

Because if you're following our prescribed cardiovascular programmingrecommendations your weekly cardio efforts will include:
  1. One short duration, high intensity event (SDHI)
  2. Two moderate duration, moderate intensity events (MDMD)
  3. One long duration, low intensity event (LDLI)
Sundays, early mornings, and late evenings are perfect times to get out and complete that Long Duration, Low Intensity (LDLI) event.

But just what, exactly, is Long Duration? And Low Intensity?

Generally, you'll want the long duration, low exercise event to be measured in hours,preferably closer to 2 or 3. But it shouldn't feel exhausting.

You'll want to pick up your heart rate just a bit, but not so much that you're really challenging your circulatory or respiratory systems. The increased blood flow provides much needed nutrient rich blood to your muscles, bones, and joints.

Under the stress of more intense exercise (resistance or cardio), muscle fibers, tendons, and ligaments all get damaged a bit. This is by design, as the rebuilding/recovery that follows makes them stronger, longer, or leaner. It also increases bone density, which is why it's particularly effective in avoiding osteoporosis.

Additionally, conversion of energy sources to energy produces a toxic waste product called lactic acid during exercise. The more intense you exercise, the more lactic acid you produce. This waste product is the primary reason why you may feel sore afterresistance exercise: your body doesn't like the lactic acid hanging around muscle groups. Stretching can help help eliminate lactic acid buildup, but we mostly depend on the circulatorysystem to flush it out.

Your LDLI then, provides an important niche role in assisting with your recovery: upside nutrition for your recovering tissues, and increased blood flowto remove lactic acid waste product.

If you have a heart rate monitor we can tell you exactly what range to be in for this exercise.

Or ...
But before you start thinking "... hey, I'll just do that daily then ..." , do recognize that this only has practical value within a comprehensive program that includes prescribed resistance training as well as more intense bouts of cardio work. It's part of the puzzle, but a lost puzzle piece by itself.

Exactly what you do for your Weekly LDLI will depend enormously on your current fitness level, but here are a few suggestions.

Walk. The lakes, the rivers, and the bridges all have excellent separation from traffic. And the intensity of a brisk walk is exactly in the right range for LDLI exercise. Again, check this handy tip from RealAge to gauge intensity.

Nordic Walk. If you want to do even than better than just walking, start nordicwalking. Long popular with the skiers for summertime training, nordic walking has a leg up on just plain walking in that with the use of hiking poles you:
  • Engage your entire body in the exercise
  • Improve Core Strength and Stability (lower back and abdominals)
  • Increase Shoulder and Arm muscular endurance
  • Improve the safety and stability of your walk, especially for geriatrics
... thereby burning an additional 45% more calories than with walking alone!!!

You can stick to the urban trails, or get onto the many city and county park hiking trails (Hennepin County Parks, Ramsey County Parks). You can get your hiking poles at REI, or one of the many area cross county shops: Finn Sisu in St. Paul, or Gear West in Long Lake.

Ride your Bike. Check out my May 7th 2009 blog entry on commuting by bike to work!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Your Shorter Short Term Goal

When we speak in terms of goals, we have long term goals and short term goals. Long term goals are the things that change our lives and are measured in months, years, and, in some cases, decades.

Short term goals, on the other hand, are typically measured in weeks. With respect to fitness, 6 weeks is indeed enough time to observe measurable change in fitness levels, even if only slight. Things like increasing the total number of push ups you can do by one or two, or reducing your resting heart rate by a single beat per minute aren't life altering changes to your health and fitness, but the do matter ... on a couple of levels. For one, even those small changes require a level of commitment and dedication to your program. All progress, even a single added push up requires some effort and diligence. But more importantly, they help us take one small, measurable, postive step towards that long term goal that can sometimes seem intimidating.

Short term goals can be further broken down into weekly goals, daily goals, and, at the smallest possible measurable goal, an exercise workout goal. Oh, I suppose that that too could be broken down into your warmup goal, and individual exercise set goals, which do matter by the way, but in

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Latest Healthcare Reform Failure

Is it just me, or does anyone else believe that a bill requiring congressional tricks and tactics to get it passed is doomed from the start?

I hate to go off on a rant here, but this bus is missing a few wheels!

Project Ownership Incomplete

Most managers of personnel recognize that their best shot at completing a project or reaching team goals is getting collective buy-in from the team. People need to feel that they helped craft the vision and direction, and therefore consider it personal to see it through to completion. The team needs to feel some ownership of the plan.

But when a project begins with highly fragmented support, all of the many and guaranteed obstacles that arise throughout the project's journey become larger than they really are. People look for reasons to kill the project instead of looking for solutions for success.

With congress almost completely divided on the reform bill now at hand, this project simply doesn't have the necessary ownership needed to succeed. Completing the sweeping changes needed to fix the ailing system is going to take a lot of creativity, a lot of effort, and a lot of faith. Just half of us working towards that goal isn't enough to get us there. Though perhaps it's enough to get us to a place where we can make further progress.

Sugar Tax Funding Missing

Another puzzle piece missing from the bill (as I last saw it), are Sugar Taxes. Indeed, it was about this time last year when the New England Journal of Medicine demonstrated the strongest correlation yet between artificial sugars and obesity. With legislation so closely tied to nutrition, not using this seemingly obvious funding resource (sugar tax) is unforgivable.

Fat Tax Funding Missing

And then there's the fat tax. As individuals we absolutely have the right to choose to eat whatever the hell we want ... deep fried foods, bacon, ice cream, and Twinkies included!

But consuming those things does hurt your health.

And if we, as taxpayers and employers are shouldering the burden of funding an increasingly socialistic health care system, then we, the taxpayers should be getting a little extra help funding the solution from those who continue to choose to make poor nutritional choices.

It only makes sense, that if we can tax alcohol, cigarettes, and (yes, according to the most recent bill), tanning studios, we can and should include taxing highly saturated and/or trans fat foods. They're every bit as detrimental to health, perhaps even more so for some.

Fitness Incentives Missing

Above all else, the plan fails to create any incentives for fitness.

Indeed, the most significant Obama initiative around fitness is Michelle Obama's Let's Move initiative for kids. I like the idea, but feel strongly that it's largely the tail wagging the dog. Kids tend to be more active when their parents are, not the other way around. Getting kids moving is a good idea, but it's up to their parents and business leaders to provide leadership, example, funding, and structure. More important than all, it's also up to their parents to buy and prepare healthy foods. So while the idea sounds good, and is, it's only a piece of the puzzle.

Lastly, and I really didn't think it would make this generation of 'reform,' but the attendance based model of encouraging adults to exercise doesn't work. You know what I mean: your employer says she'll give you 20 bucks a month if you simply show up at your club 8 times per month. While I'll be the 1st to agree that simply showing up is almost always the hardest part of completing your exercise program, what tends to happen is that the people who would normally exercise simply do it for cheap. For those who are entirely new to exercise, or perhaps in the obese category, the 20 bucks isn't enough to make it work. At some point, and perhaps it will be a day after I've signed off for good, there will be ...

... an incentive based program to reduce premiums for people who are demonstrably maintaining or improving their fitness levels.

Tests will be done for blood pressure, resting heart rate, body composition, and functional fitness.

People who are maintaining acceptable fitness levels will earn an insurance premium discount for doing so. And deserve it.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Muscular Definition Starts with Range of Motion in March

My good friends running bike and ski shops in the north woods of Wisconsin have a term called the 'brown zone.' It's that dead spot in the seasonal changes where it's just too cold and wet for a lot of us to enjoy cycling, and there isn't enough snow on the trails for good skiing. The trees are dormant and the ground is mostly brown.

While die-hards will bunny suit up to get into the saddle, or strap on the outback skis in search of snow-crust skiing, they're also missing out on the best time of the year to train indoors. And that, my friends, is right now!

In fact, now is the time to start working on that summer body. Work begins right now on muscular development becomes apparent when you loose those last few more pounds of body fat with increased Spring and Summer cardio effort.

But pay particular attention to form, because a strict range of motion with your resistance training in March goes a long way towards how you look in July!

In fact, one of the more common mistakes I see in the gyms is incomplete range of motion exercise. People get too hung up on the volume of weights, and end up jerking and throwing the weight through a shortened range of motion. As a result, they do, in fact, develop shorter muscle fibers than the disciplined lifter who exercises good form.

It takes focus and some practice, but if you're looking for a long, lean and toned muscular look, use smooth controlled muscle contractions, and be sure to keep good overall body posture throughout the exercise.

Trainers use the term Range of Motion, or ROM to describe how fully muscles and bones rotate around a specific joint. And complete ROM is your key to long, well defined muscle tissues. Allow the resistance to fully elongate the muscle fibers around the joint during the eccentric (recovery) part of the exercise. And completely contract the muscle fibers when shortening them (the concentric part). Not only does this tone and build tissue from tendon to tendon, but it also stimulates full fiber development up and down the muscle to avoid 'bulky' looking muscles.

And breathe! Exhale when contracting muscle and inhale elongating.

Then, when the weather finally does warm up, and you get get outside for extended periods of additional cardio to pull off a few more pounds, the emerging muscle tissue is beautifully developed and will emerge looking as good as the form you used to build it!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Surgeon General's tips for Minnesota's Business Leaders

Regina M. Benjamin, MD, the United States Surgeon General, is on a mission! She's calling on all Americans to live and be healthier through better nutrition and exercise in the 2010 Surgeon General’s Vision for a Healthy and Fit Nation Report!

Within the very readable 13 page report are REQUIREMENTS for individuals, schools,the medical community, and business leaders to living healthier and put an end to the obesity epidemic.

I regularly rant on about what individuals can do for themselves to live longer and stronger, and mostly like what Dr. Benjamin says around that. It's all good stuff.

Additionally, as a parent of two high school boys, influencing what schools do for fitness ... or what schools do anything for that matter ... is like shoveling your driveway with a pair of chop sticks! I forfeit there.

And, thankfully, the medical community is figuring it out all by themselves! Most physicians now realize that they really don't want to be drug dealers for the large pharmaceutical corporations. These days, they prescribe more than ever, EXERCISE as a 1st step in treading many diseases.

So, Minnesota Business Leaders, this Blog's for you!

In May of 2008 Time magazine ran a story on "Mandatory Fitness." Apparently, various organizations around the world have a new sheriff in town. And she's wearing spandex with a bad attitude. According to the article, “… eighty four percent of Americans said that they’d get healthier … if (only) the boss insisted.”

So, at a few leading companies, the boss insisted. Verizon, Microsoft, and Dow Chemical, among others were actually offering cash bonuses for loosing weight.

Indeed, the data is overwhelming in favor of exercise programs. Employees are more productive, more energetic, use less sick time, look better, feel better, have improved self esteem, have reduced stress, reduce the risk of many diseases, reduce anxiety, have reduced blood pressure, and avoid depression with regular exercise.

Further, by being healthier, they help to directly improve your bottom line by utilizing ‘health care’ services less frequently, thereby reducing your usage rating and health care premium costs.

In short, everyone is more productive and more valuable to an organization when they exercise regularly.

Fit people walk more quickly to meetings, can take a flight of stairs to avoid elevator congestion, and spend less time in the restroom. They’re also more likable, and make better sales people (Cialdini, Robert B., Influence, The Psychology of Persuasion).

One of the more frequent excuses we get from clients is that they "don't have time" to regularly exercise 3 or 4 days per week. Ladies and gentlemen, if you're serious about your career, your business, your family, or your spouse, you simply CANNOT AFFORD NOT TO exercise regularly.

Time report on Mandatory Fitness was almost 2 years ago. I'd be very interested in a follow up story on how well that's working out, though judging by the Surgeon General's report, it doesn't look like it's been a game changer.

The Surgeon General reports, in fact, that nearly 60% of all adult Americans are still either overweight (BMI > 25) or obese (BMI > 30). Wow.

So, what can possibly be done about that in the workplace?

Well, as it turns out, plenty!

For one, the Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) lab at Mayo Clinic developed a computer station atop a treadmill few years ago to get office workers more active within otherwise sedentary office roles. Office furniture maker Steelcase is manufacturing and marketing it commercially. Upsize Magazine reported in 2008 that Salo, LLC has a few of them on site here in Minneapolis.

Whether tossing worker bees onto the gerbil spinwheel, or offering cash incentives for weight loss, these types of programs require a significant change in corporate culture. And every corporate culture shift starts with executive management.

Here then, are my Top 5 tips for Corporate Executives:
  1. Schedule exercise into your calendar, and don’t move it unless there’s a death in the family. Make your exercise appointment the most immutable appointment of the day.
  2. Be accountable to someone. It helps if you have a personal trainer waiting on (and charging) you for the appointment whether you show up or not, but it is also helpful to have a training buddy/partner. You’re much more likely to show up when you know someone is waiting for you.
  3. Establish, write down, and publish a very specific health lifestyle goal for the next 3 months. These are things like: exercise for 90 minutes 3 times per week; or walk for 60 minutes 6 days per week; or make every scheduled exercise appointment. Lifestyle Changes.
  4. Establish, write down, and public a very specific, Non-Appearance related fitness goals for the next 6 weeks. While the body will certainly undergo composition changes with regular exercise, the initial 6 weeks should focus entirely on strength or endurance measurements: doubling your push ups; or completing 40 sit-ups within one minute; or completing a mile run in under 8 minutes. Don’t worry about the body weight or body fat at all just yet.
  5. Update your Corporate Values, Behaviors, and Ethics document to include the statement: Regular Exercise is a fundamental and necessary element of heath and happiness, and improves professional productivity.
Once the boss is engaged, all sorts of things are possible and things get easier.

10 More things that corporate leadership can do to encourage a better health and fitness culture within their organizations:
  1. Encourage and allow a 10-minute walking break every two hours. Not only will this burn a few calories, but it will energize and refresh the body and mind.
  2. Stock Fresh Fruit in your break room and lobby (Kwik Trip bananas just 49 cents/lb.).
  3. Strongly discourage staff from bringing in cookies and candies. They’ll just clog your heart and/or stick to your rear anyway.
  4. Grant allowances for exercise. Corporations won’t hesitate much when a parent dashes off to rescue their child from daycare at the end of the day. Neither should they question employees who dash off to keep their exercise appointments.
  5. Install a shower and changing room at your office bike commuters, and midday runners & walkers .
  6. Make sure bike commuters have a safe, indoor place to store their equipment (bikes, helmets, gear); See my Blog entry for more ways to get employees started with bicycle commuting.
  7. Offer cash compensation to employees who commute by bike and save you parking expenses
  8. Stage regular, monthly Health and Fitness Seminars with key expertise on getting more fit and healthy
  9. Sponsor a Get Fit Month twice annually, complete with awards and recognition for people who most effectively change their lives in positive ways
  10. Do it now! Having helped thousands of individuals improve their health and fitness over the decades, I can honestly tell you that the hardest part is just getting started!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Olympic Training Secrets

As the Vancouver Winter Olympics wind down this week, I am reminded of what makes Olympians so different from the rest of us.

And really, there are just three simple things: their bodies, their minds, and their soul.

From a physiological perspective, the most distinct difference between those humans, amateur athletes worldwide, and the general population is genetics. Don't get me wrong ... world class athletes become world class athletes through a tremendous amount of hard work, dedication, mental preparation, and nutritional diligence. You simply can't compete among the best of the best without the right attitude and effort (more on that below).

However, that effort really isn't what makes them different.

What makes them different is their inherited ability to recover and adapt to the physiological stress that that level of training places on their bodies.

Olympic Athletes endure thousands of hours of training to reach the fitness and athleticism required to compete on the ultimate world stage. In order to get stronger, and improve fitness, they put increasing burdens on the body. Recovering from this kind of stress requires proper nutrition, rest, and stretching.

It's the same thing the rest of us do when exercising for good health and fitness. We all put incrementally increased amounts of resistance, endurance, or intensity in our exercise programs to force the body to adapt. And we all recover with varied results.

Unfortunately, the speed with which your body rebuilds itself is primarily genetic.

Indeed, understanding individual that recovery rates, and how much volume and intensity can be put into an exercise program is one of the primary reasons why personal trainers exist at all: finding that fine line between progress and pain.

In their minds, Olympic athletes need to genuinely believe that they will have success. Everything they do is around the belief that all the hard work and sacrifice will eventually pay off. It's what drives them to endure. They expect to win.

In this regard, they have another distinct advantage over the rest of us. Nearly every Olympians has had early success in their lives that helped build confidence for additional success, that led to higher and higher levels of confidence in their pursuits. For the same reasons that the Chinese are good at math, gifted athletes become superstars through early and frequent re-enforcement of their talents that many Americans don't ever see with common exercise programs. As elite athletes are spiraling up to the stars, common Americans are spiraling downward into a sedentary, inactive lifestyle without the benefit of positive exercise experience and payoff.

A lot of the clients that we work with have tried, without any luck, dozens of programs and diets over the years only to end up right back where they started. So, in this regard, it's actually HARDER ... indeed, a LOT Harder ... for a middle aged adult who hasn't seen a lot of success with exercise to get fit than it is for an Olympic athlete to go from good to great. The confidence built upon early success matters enormously.

But above all else, what sets Olympians apart from the rest of humanity is what's in their hearts. A deep, burning desire to accomplish their goals is what makes Olympians Olympians. It's not enough to be interested in being an Olympian. As Linsday Vonn says, "You must go out and take it."

I often run into folks who share 'amazing' stories with me about how individuals went from fat to fit. Helping people do that for several decades now, there isn't much I find amazing anymore ... there really are no tricks, or secrets to exercise, and it's sad that the industry is overloaded with hype, mis information, and, in some cases flat out lies about pills, 6 minute training fads, and 'incredible' breakthrough fitness programming! It comes down to a powerful belief to accomplish their goals, a lot of hard work, and a burning desire to succeed.

I have really enjoyed these Winter Olympics, and am truly amazed with the degree to which athletes have taken their sport!

But I am mostly in awe of the many clients we've worked with over the years who have had the burning desire to succeed and have done so in spite of average genetics, and early exercise failure.

With a burning desire to succeed, they have discovered the most important Olympic training secret.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Fat Burning Zone Myth

February is Heart Healthy Month!

Last week, as it was Valentine's Day, I touched on the hottest heart rate training zone, Zone 5.

This week, I'd like to slow things way, way down and comment on the coolest of the 5 heart rate training zones, Zone 1, or the Fat Burning Zone. While time spent in the Fat Burning Zone has it's time and place, one of the more common mistakes I see in clubs is the use of the Fat Burning Zone program on cardio equipment. Without knowing anything more, it certainly seems like a reasonable choice in cardio effort for a lot of folks:

"I want to loose some fat; therefore, I want the Fat Burning Program."

Unfortunately, spending a lot of time in the fat burning zone actually isn'tthe best way to reduce body fat! Nor is spending a lot of time in this zone the best route to good heart health. While time in this zone does have value in overall good health and fitness, you already spend most of your life in this zone ... when at rest ... when sedentary ... and when sleeping.

Therefore, when exercising, it is critical that you pick it up a bit!

You see, energy for activities and exercise always comes from blend of fat, carbohydrate, and protein. Normally 60% to 70% of your Max Heart Rate, energy requirements for exercise in the Fat Burning Zone do indeed allow for energy to come primarily come from fats. But for fats to be used as an energy source f0r exercise (or activities that aren't too rigorous), they must be first converted to a more usable form of energy called glucose. Also oxygen is required to convert the fat to glucose, this level of metabolism is also considered aerobic (with oxygen).

The rub though, is that while the Fat Burning Zone metabolism is in fact slow enough to convert fats to glucose, exercise in this zone doesn't require much total energy, and, therefore doesn't burn all that much fat.

Furthermore, and to the point now, is that at some point the utilization of fat as an energy source tops out: Exercise faster and you won't burn any more fat. Exercise harder and you won't burn any more fat. You do, however, burn additional calories as you pick up the pace within the Cardio (3) and Anaerobic (4) zones.

While the fat utilization tops out beyond the fat burning zone, carbohydrate utilization continues to escalate with increased effort. And this is why spending time in the fat burning zone isn't a practical way to loose fat: at the end of the day, it's all about calories. CaloriesIngested = Calories Spent + Fat Stored. If you consume more calories than you burn, you add fat. If you burn more calories than you ingest, you loose fat.

While beyond the scope of this entry to provide a complete tutorial of heart rate zones and heart rate zone training, just send me an email to request full copy of my Heart Rate Zone Training to Look and Feel Fantastic Report!

Further, if you're looking to significantly step up your Heart Health, do check out our new
Enhanced Cardiovascular Programming Model.

Intended to provide a higher level of service to clients interested in a more focused cardiovascular programming model, as well as a way for potential clients to gain limited exposure to one on one training, three new programs have been developed.

Maroon Program Participants Receive, Monthly

  • Cardio equipment access 4x/wk
  • An introductory 1:1 cardio workout
  • Individually tailored prescribed cardiovascular program (PreCOP)
  • Weekly Tips Cardio Email
  • $99/mo Non FT Clients
  • $19/mo Current Active FT Clients

Gold Program Participants Receive, Monthly:

  • All Maroon Program benefits
  • A New Heart Rate Monitor
  • Max Heartrate testing
  • A one on one heart rate monitored personal training session
  • A one on one heart rate monitored cardiovascular session
  • FT cardio team membership
  • $229/mo Non FT Clients
  • $139/mo Current Active FT Clients

Platinum Program Participants Receive, Monthly:

  • All Gold Program benefits
  • An additional one one one heart rate monitored personal training session
  • An additional one on one heart rate monitored cardiovascular session Enrollment into the FT MSP Maroon Nutrition Program (Spring 2009)
  • $379/mo Non FT Clients
  • $279/mo Current Active FT Clients