It happens every year. Bar none. But fear not! The good news is that things do settle down considerably in February (then pick up a bit before the Spring break mini-rush), and there are hundreds of ways to keep that early January Flame for Fitness burning hot. That's right, I'm about to share with you my 9 favorite tips, tricks, and time hardened techniques to reignite that New Year's Resolution spirit!
See, while my business card states B.S. and Advanced Certified Personal Trainer, and while I do improve lives and enrich livestyles with 1 on 1 personal training conducted in fully equipped private studios, I'm really just a gym rat. Bu not any old gym rat. Nope. This gym rat has been in and out of over 60 clubs in 10 states and 3 countries over the past 25 years. I've helped hundreds of people reach health and fitness goals beyond imagination, and I'm about to share with you my 9 favorite tips for adding some adrenaline to your quickly fading New Year's expectations. I'm about to reveal to you exactly how to pump new blood into your tired program ... to re-establish the passion to pack a few inches onto the pipes, unveil that hidden abdominal washboard, or to improve your self image beyond anything imaginable! But before I do, let me say that you can receive even more valuable health and fitness information by subscribing to my quarterly newsletter. You can simply click on the Newsletter Link on my web site. Or, if you're genuinely committed to changing your life forever, just call me at the club (612.378.8898 in NorEast Mpls or 651.699.9955 in Highland Park) to schedule an Initial Consultation and Personal Training Session.
But, without further ado, here are my 9 secrets to recharging your fitness routine in mid Winter ...
Secret #1: Get a Grip!
Changing how you grasp a bar can dramatically alter the kinetics of a resistance exercise, and create exciting new interest in upper body pushing and pulling exercises. I also frequently find that people with joint ailments (the rotator cuff in the shoulder in particular) can avoid impingement and discomfort by experimenting with grip adjustments.
Alter the width of where you grasp a bar, the rotation of your wrists (palms up or down), or change the bar entirely. A Traditional grip is palms-facing-down when your hands are extended on a plane in front of your eyes. Change your routine by continuing to use a traditional bar grip, but vary the distance of where your hands grasp the bar to recruit additional or different muscle fiber groups. Two or three inches narrower or wider are usually sufficient. Try varied grip widths for chest, triceps, and shoulder presses to effectively train muscle groups on range of motion boundaries not normally recruited with a 'monotonous' grip position.
A Reverse Grip is palms-facing-UP when your hands are extended on a plane in front of your eyes. While reverse grip triceps pushdowns or Arnold presses will spice up your Chest/Tris/Delt (pressing) routines, you actually have a lot more options with using a reverse grip for Back/Trap/Delt/Bis (pulling) exercises. Try using a reverse grip for lat pull downs, seated pulley rows, supported T bar rows, and single arm movements of the same.
Selecting a different bar or cable attachment can also introduce variety into an otherwise mundane program. Experiment with straight, cambered , EZ curl, V-shaped, and rope attachments for arm exercises. Choose between straight, cambered, wide grip lat, wide grip cambered, and bent lat bars for back & traps.
Use your modified grip (or bar choice) consistently for a minimum of 2 to 4 weeks, then try another one! But don't switch more frequently than that: the initial adaptations from a varied grip will be neurologic: the muscle strength & fiber growth you're looking for occurs only after primary neurologic adaptations are complete, so don't switch too often!
Once critical piece of advice here: if you are unsure of the proper movement, or the safety of the exercise, DO consult with a fitness expert before experimenting. Modifying grip and bar choice changes joint rotations that can be unsafe for the uneducated.
Secret #2: Be Promiscuous
Hey, it's OK ... it's just a workout! But you'd be surprised and amazed with how much fun, exciting, and refreshing training with a new partner or trainer can be! And effective! Here's a bonus a tip for you: training with a partner or trainer is one of the true key elements to reaching heath and fitness goals you never before thought possible. Knowing that someone is expecting you to show up for a workout - someone who will hold you personally accountable for making it to that fitness appointment dramatically improves the likelihood that you will actually show up! Having someone help you with a few forced reps, and assist with some negative repetitions not only increases the safety of your workout, but increases the intensity as well. Plus, you can motivate each other to improve your diets. Healthy fitness habits are contagious!
If you've been with a partner or trainer for more than 6 months, try making a change for a while. If you like your partner current partner/trainer, try forming a small club of 'workout buddies'' and rotate through the group periodically. Not only will you make new friends, but you'll grow if only through a handful of favorite tips, tricks, and techniques we've all collected over time. More likely, however, is that you'll also change the tempo, repetition rate, sequence of exercises, and content of your split routines. All of this puts your body at a high state of 'nervousness' which encourages neurologic adaptations required for increased muscle group recruitment. Especially with today's hectic schedules, you can never have too many workout buddies, and some of the best workouts I've ever had have been 'reunion' workouts with former partners from high school and college.
Oh, and one more thing ... I strongly recommend AGAINST training with your significant other/partner. Your workout needs to be free from the baggage and agenda from S.O. relationships if you truly want results. Get serious.
Secret #3: Know and Feel your Pain
Herb Brooks was right: "...you must grow through pain." Realize first, however, that not all pain is good!
Being able to understand, recognized, and differentiate good pain from bad pain is a key element in making consistent progress towards your fitness goals. The burning sensation felt from fully exhausted muscle groups is due to the accumulation of a waste product known as lactic acid. Excessive lactic acid buildup is also responsible for muscle soreness after your workout. Generally speaking, it is a good pain giving you reassurance that you've recruited otherwise inactive muscle groups and have trained them to momentary exhaustion. Evenso, training muscle groups to exhaustion with high intensity exercises should be moderated to avoid overtraining. Especially when you're in or beyond your 40's. Plan to train to train each bodypart to complete exhaustion (and feel the burn that comes with it) no more than once per week.
The burning feedback from lactic acid is much different from that which you feel when joints, tendons, and ligaments are strained. Especially as you hit the mid years of your life, not all pain is equal, so learn to differentiate the good from bad. Pursue active rest to reduce lactic acid buildup,but completely rest when you have an injury. If in doubt, check with a trusted fitness expert or your doctor.
Secret #4: Have a Ball!
A medicine ball, that is. They're inexpensive (less than $20 each), and can introduce new fun into an otherwise tiring routine! Did you know that medicine balls have been used in in physical therapy since 1000 BC! Sizes and shapes vary from 1 Kg to 11KG, but all medicine balls will be soft enough to bounce on a firm surface (like a wall or floor). Indeed, it's ability to absorb impact is what makes a ball a medicine ball. Most balls with come with brief instruction guides for things to try. A few of my favorites are:
Walking diagonal lunges with a gentle hand to hand shot-put-like overhead toss (glutes deltoids, balance);
Explosive seated overhead throw and catch against a flat wall (lats, abs),
Sit-up and overhead throw to partner/trainer (abs, lats);
Explosive squat position basketball chest pass against a wall (gluts, delts, tris);
Russian Twist – on the floor, balance on your butt with feet and torso lifted off the floor and rotate ball in a twisting motion (abs, obliques); and
Overhead karate-type chops; while standing w/ feet shoulder width apart and an only slightly bent leg, accelerate the ball both upward and downward for core development.
And if you think training with a medicine ball is for wusses, try a few single arm supported dumbbell rows: support yourself in a plank-like position atop of the ball with one fully extended arm while grasping a very light dumbbell in the other. Balance on the ball with the extended arm while knocking out a few single arm dumbbell rows. You'll train Tris, Delts, Pecs, Core, Traps, and Lumbar with just this one exercise.
And if you're truly at an advanced fitness level without any lower back ailments, try some of what I call offset med ball pass pushups. Assume a normal pushup position, but with one hand atop of a smallish (3 K) med ball. The fact that you'll have one shoulder naturally higher in this position (being over the ball) makes it an 'offset.' In a single explosive move, execute a accelerated pushup by pushing simultaneously against both the floor and the ball. At the top of the movement (you'll need a bit of 'hang time' here) roll the ball from the hand with it towards the hand without it, and control it under the new hand as you recover from the pushup ... then recede to the floor. Repeat for 25 and you, my friend, can call yourself king/queen of the gym!
Secret #5: Get Roped!
One of the most effective cable attachments ever invented is the rope attachment. Part of what makes it so effective is that the flexibility of the rope allows the exercise range of motion to follow a more natural joint motion than any fixed bar ever could. Use the rope attachment for:
Split triceps pushdowns from a pull down pulley
Single Arm triceps pushdowns ... try grabbing both rope ends, or just one;
Split biceps curls from a seated row pulley
Single Arm biceps curls
Seated Crunches from a pull down machine
Unfortunately, rope attachment 'evolutions' have actually reduced it's effectiveness in some ways. Back in the 80s we simply threaded heavyweight marine mooring through the eyelet of the cable buckle. While crude, it required that you both: 1) establish a firm grip on each end; AND 2) manage balance between the ends of the rope to prevent slippage through the buckle. Today's rope attachments normally have huge knots on each end and a fixed buckle in the middle. While still effective in providing quality and gentle joint kinetics, the grip and balance benefits of a free, unknotted rope have been forgotten. Not to worry though ... you can simply thread a hand towel through the attachment buckle for a similar enough effect!
One thing to note about ropes attachments, however: unlike it's metallic cousins, it will absorb and hold moisture and bacteria from your gym brethren, so be sure to wash your hands immediately after your workout to leave the fungus at the gym!
Secret #6: Do Some Speed.
No, not the junk that trashes your nervous system, wrecks havoc on your digestive system, and will ultimately demolish your ultimate goal of fitness fung shui. Drugs are for losers who haven't yet realized that health and fitness is a journey, not a destination. Consistency, balance, and commitment are required for maintaining an active, healthy lifestyle. The speed I'm talking about is repetition speed. Most of us settle into a pattern with exercise motion ... typically completing the up (concentric) motion in a second and down (eccentric) motion in another second. For interesting variety, and
Many of these variations are regularly incorporated into training programs for specific sport performance, called training specificities. Try exploding with an accelerated motion when doing barbell squats ... something football teams traditionally use to develop power and strength. The energy systems utilized and the adaptations that result can be highly effective in stimulating balance, control, power, and strength. It also burns a lot of calories!
Try lengthening the down (eccentric) motion of pushing and pulling by a considerable amount ... like 3 seconds down on the bench press or 4 seconds up on a lat pull down. These 'negative' repetitions allow you to control a resistance greater than you would otherwise be able to control on the up (concentric) motion so you'll recruit additional muscle fiber groups for the exercise. Muscle fiber group recruitment, you'll remember from a recent newsletter article, is ultimately what's required to completely fatigue a body part.
Secret #7: Change Tempo
Pick one workout per week, and complete it in half the time you'd normally take. This will be a workout to train at the highest levels of intensity, but only for a brief workout. Complete a proper warm-up PLUS 5 minutes just above your anaerobic threshold. Use the same repetition pace, but reduce the resistance on each set by 25%, and reduce the between set rest by 50%. Exercise to near exhaustion on each set and to complete muscle failure on only the final set of each body part. Pick another workout the following week and continue for many weeks as it takes to complete this "Short Intense" workout for each of your workouts (e.g., if you currently have a 3 way body part split program you'll need 3 weeks to cycle through the rotation). Complete a 15 minute HR Zone 2 cool down. (see my "Heart Rate Zone Training to Look and Feel Fantastic" report for more info on HR Zone 2)
Once you've hit every body part with this routine, go back and do it again, but this time, plan to complete one each week in twice the time it would normally take. This will be a workout to train muscular endurance and improve tendon and ligament durability. You can skip the cardio equipment entirely this time ... with lighter resistances, higher repetitions, and (he he he) no rest between sets, you can warm-up within the workout. Once again, use the same repetition pace, but reduce your resistances by 30%-40% and increase repetitions by 50%. Completely eliminate between set rest, and double the total number of sets. Drink 10 to 20 ounces of water per hour, and feed yourself a few dozen grams of carbohydrates and 10 grams of protein at about an hour (this workout should be longer than 2 hours). Complete NO set to complete failure, and only to near exhaustion on the last set or two per body part. 10 minute cool down. Repeat for your other workouts the following weeks.
Once complete, you will have 60% more workouts to pick and choose from - not only body part specific workouts, but tempo specificworkouts as well! I like to follow the short-but-intense workouts when I'm really strapped for time. Choose the longer, but lower intensity workouts if you have a lot of muscle soreness, or are feeling the effects of a cold or flu.
Secret #8: Pick One Fitness Goal this Month
Physical Fitness includes many things, including: Cardiovascular Condition; Muscular Strength; Muscular Endurance; Flexibility; and Body Composition, which includes body fat. Most people are primarily interested in improving body composition. Indeed, this is an admirable goal - fully 65% of Americans are either overweight or obese! Wow! What most people don't realize, however, is that the most direct path to reducing body fat is usually found through initially improving the less interesting goals of improved Cardiovascular Condition, Muscular Strength, or Muscular Endurance.
Improving Muscular Strength and Muscular Endurance, combined with sufficient protein intake, increases lean body mass. And each ounce of additional lean body mass is living, 'breathing', calorie-consuming muscle fiber. Increased strength not only allows you to move more weight and burn more calories when you workout, but the additional lean body mass will also consume more calories when you're at rest. You can think of muscle tissue as your primary fat 'burning' facility. The more muscle you have, the more fat you can burn!
Improving Cardiovascular Condition helps both establish a consistent pattern of aerobic exercise, and lays the foundation for more intense cardio training to follow. Independent of the minimum 10 minute warmup and 10 minute cool down required prior to and following your strength training efforts, you should also be completing an additional 30-45 minutes of cardiovascular exercise 3 times per week.
With all of this in mind, you're probably now better understanding the earlier statement about fitness being a journey and not an end! Just as you expect to improve upon your personal, financial, and professional goals throughout your life, so to should you expect to consistently and perpetually improve upon your fitness position. So, make it easy on yourself and pick one and only one fitness goal to work on this month! If you haven't been getting the cardio in, make that job #1.
Or take a strength or muscular endurance at the beginning of the month and then again at the end of the month. Record the percentage improvement. Check with your personal trainer if unsure of proper testing techniques.
Next month, pick and focus on a different individual fitness element! In a few months, you'll discover that not only has your body composition improved along the way, but you'll also have a more complete appreciation of another of how a balanced fitness program keeps you motivated month after month, and year after year. Getting and remaining fit is a means to a healthier, happier life, not an end.
Secret #9: Put it On the Line!
And speaking of motivation ... one of the best and most natural motivators in life is the spirit of competition! Having a concrete, time bound competitive event to work towards is one of the most effective ways to keep you on your program! Generally speaking, the more expensive and more highly publicized, the better! Do you really, really, really want rock hard six pack abs and buns of steel? Seek out and enter a physique competition.
Having a hard time getting your cardio work done? Search for and enter a 10K run, or a short mountain bike race, or adventure race. Find something with an entry fee of greater than $50 (just high enough to bother you if you don't show) and tell as many of your friends and family about the event as possible. Because nothing will keep you motivated, help you push through those last few burning reps, or pound out that final 200 foot climb like knowing that you're putting it all on the line in front of your own personal audience 3 weeks from Sunday. It works.
Afraid of crowds? Make it personal. Find a friend, family member, training partner, or trainer and place a bet. Pick a specific, or small collection of fitness elements ... resting heart rate, body fat measurement, total pushups in 1 minute, sub max predicted bench press ... (whatever you like!) ... and a testing date 4 weeks from now. Place $50 each into an escrow account somewhere. Winner takes all on test date. This works too. I've seen people work their butts off (literally!) for bragging rights and a t-shirt!
So there you have it - 9 ways to re-invigorate your Winter Workout!
I realize that maintaining a productive and effective health and fitness program is not easy. That’s why I encourage you to get help.
If you’re sick, you go to the doctor. If you’ve got a tax problem, you see an accountant (or an attorney!). Have a toothache? You’re off to the dentist. Leaky pipes result in a call to the plumber. So why is it that so many people attempt to solve their health and fitness problems without consulting an expert? I don’t know exactly, but I encourage you to make the investment in yourself – in your quality of life – by hiring a qualified professional to educate you and help you get the most out of your valuable fitness appointments.
If I can be of any assistance to you, please don’t hesitate to call me. I’m happy to speak with you and give you my recommendations without any sales pressure (I hate it when people try to “sell” me, so I wouldn't try that on you.
Please visit our web site at http://www.FTMSP.com or call my office at 612.378.8898 in NE Mpls or 651.699.9955 in STP or 612.822.3448 in Uptown to initiate your subscription to my free health and fitness newsletter or to obtain any additional information you may need.
Yours in good health,
Speaker, Author, Frequent Kare-11 Today Show Fitness Guest, and Advanced Certified Personal Trainer Specializing in Mid Life Fitness Programming
314 East Hennepin Ave. Minneapolis; 612.378.8898
soon moving to: 1024 Washington Ave. S.
2112A Ford Parkway, St. Paul MN 55116 (Highland Park); 651.699.9955
1221 W. Lake St., Mpls, MN 612.822.3448
P.S. If you are interested in getting started immediately, I have taken the liberty of including a valuable certificate entitling you to my guaranteed results Fitness Jump-Start Training Program (you save $170). This special offer is only good until February 28th only, so please don’t delay. Call my office today to schedule your 1st Session!
Bring a training buddy (spouse, friend or family member) and he or she can take advantage of the same special offer!
P.P.P. S. Here are a few comments from a few of my many satisfied clients:
"Working with FT has been good medicine for my soul as well as a health benefit. What was once buried beneath two pregnancies worth of gain, loss and stretch is now muscle tone and strength that seems to have magically reappeared from my youth ... and them some!" - Stacey
“ I’ve dropped 2 pant sizes, increased energy levels, and saw measurable strength gains in the 1st three weeks of my Fitness Together program.”
"Since starting at Fitness Together, I have rediscovered what it feels like to be fit, energetic, and healthy." - Jim
"I have lost almost 40 pounds in 4 months and it all seems to have gone by so quickly since it is fun to come there and work out." - Pauline
"I highly recommend FT to anyone who is serious about making a change in her life; they are true professionals who will keep you focused on your goals and challenged each session in a personable and fun environment." - Liliana
This certificate entitles you to 3 one-on-one personal training sessions for only $209 using our Fitness Jump-Start Training Program. That’s a savings of $170!
To take advantage of this special offer, bring this certificate with you to your first session.
CALL TODAY TO GET STARTED!
314 East Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis, 612.378.8898
Moving to: 1024 Washington Ave. S.!
2112A Ford Pkwy, St. Paul, 651.699.9955
1221 W. Lake St., Mpls 612.822.3448
Good Through 2/28/8 Only