Thursday, August 20, 2009

Add Energy to Your Day and Felxibility to your Frame with Time Sliced Stretching

Clients frequently tell me that one of the best parts of their Fitness Together program is the 5 minutes of trainer assisted stretching at the end of their personal training session. While this short stretching event will indeed help improve flexibility and assists with recovery, it's also on the short end of what an adequate stretching program should include. Ideally, you'd like to stretch or perform yoga at least 20 minutes per day. However, for a lot of us (ahem) stretched on time, one unique way to get additional stretching into your day is with something we call time sliced stretching.

A terrific supplement to your active office, time sliced stretching simply includes short bouts of stretching performed in line with the rest of your busy day.

It works like this: if you're climbing a set of stairs, stretch a bit on the way up and then again at the top of the flight; if you're walking through a doorway, stretch a bit as you pass through.

Small amounts of time sliced stretching throughout your day can both improve your flexibility and give you a minor energy boost! On stairs, there are a number of things you can do to stretch. First, after taking a few single steps up, start taking 2 or 3 steps at a time. This motion roughly equates to a lunging exercise, so be sure to step slowly (your muscles will probably be cold) into your 1st double and triple steps. This primarily stretches the gluts, but also hits the hamstrings a bit as well. Near the middle of the flight take especially slow steps and really try to go low with with a few deep steps ... you'll feel the stretch in your gluts.

Once near the top of the flight, and now that the legs are warmed up a bit, it's time for some calf and hamstring stretches. Grab the hand rail and balance on your toes over the edge of a step. Switch your weight from leg to leg, alternatively stretching your calves by allowing your heels to drop below the step height. Then, come back down the stairs a couple of steps and extend a straightened leg up a couple of steps to stretch your hamstrings. Sloooowly bring your nose towards your knee until you feel the slight discomfort of the stretch and hold for 10 seconds. Stretching might feel somewhat uncomfortable, but never painful. If it hurts, you're stretching too far! This entire stair climbing stretch can be done in as little as 60 additional seconds and just plain feels good!

If (and only if!) your shoulders are stable and without range of motion limitations, you can quite easily stretch your chest with something I call door jam stretches. As you navigate your home or office throughout the day,you can easily your stretch chest and back in just a few minutes by using the door jam as a stationary object. To stretch your chest and shoulders, stand about 6 inches in front of an open door jam. Place your hands on the sides of door jam at shoulder height. With feet firmly planted, allow your body weight to "fall" through the doorway to where your chest is stretched and resists falling further forward . Hold the stretch 8 to 10 seconds and repeat up to 5 times. As with staircase stretches, start slowly and gently ... you'll be stretching COLD muscles, which is less than optimal.

While in the same doorway, you can handily stretch your back as well. With one arm, reach across your body to grab the inside of the door jam molding. Then, slowly rotate your body away from the hand holding the molding. You'll feel this stretch in your rear deltoids, trepezius, and latissimus dorsi (the largest back muscle). Hold for 10 seconds, and repeat up to 5 times on each arm.

If you're tall enough (most door jams are 7' and reachable if you're taller than 5'6"), reach overhead and place both hands on the top of the door jam. Grab hold of the molding around the door jam if possible. With a firm grip on the top of the door jam, perform a toe raiser to slightly thrust your torso through the doorway. As you do so, you'll be arching your spine and stretching your latissimus dorsi . Hold for 8 or 10 seconds and repeat up to 5 times. As with the chest stretch, you'll be performing this stretch without the benefit of a proper warm-up, so do be gentle at the start.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Superstar Secrets to Fitness Success

Brett Favre earned himself one of the most dubious distinctions in professional football when he threw more interceptions (288) than any other player in NFL history during his 2007 season!

Fortunately for Brett, the Superbowl MVP also holds records for the most touchdowns ever thrown (464), the most total yards thrown (over 61,000), and the most total completions (5377). For Brett, the upside potential of completing a touchdown pass always exceeded the risk of throwing an interception: you couldn't score it if you didn't throw it.

Michael Jordan, arguably the best basketball player in history, is famously quoted as saying that "I missed every shot I didn't take." During his amazing 19 year career, Michael actually missed more shots than he made ... attempting 24,537 shots and making just 12,192 for a career average shooting percentage of just 49.7%. But in the process of actually sinking less than half of his shots, he set NBA all time records for the highest points scored average per game (30.4), the most 30+ pt. games (563), and many others. For Michael, you couldn't score if you didn't shoot, and when the game was on the line, he wanted the ball and the shot.
None of us have this kind of talent, nor will any of us come close to producing these numbers. But each of us can learn from these 2 superstars as we face choices each day that do effect our health and fitness. We may never take the last shot of the game, or toss up a game winning pass, but we do regularly face simple lifestyle choices that add up enormously in the short and long runs.

How often and when will I exercise this week? What will I eat for breakfast? Am I getting enough sleep? As a fitness professional, it's interesting, if not fascinating to talk about high intensity interval training, and adding lean body mass to reduce body fat, and the need for long, slow cardio activity in your week.

These things matter, and they matter enormously in designing effective exercise programs, but you know what?

They are equally unusable unless you actually show up!

August is traditionally one of the softest scheduling months of the year for us. And one of the quietest months in the gyms around town (I get around!). Late summer vacations, long weekends out of town, class reunions, family reunions, you name it ... there's always something going on in August! And they all seem to get priority over consistent exercise. But that doesn't mean you need to forfeit the progress you've made up to this point.

Michael and Brett will assure you: you can't score if you don't shoot! Making progress = making the effort. And, if my 4th grade teacher was right when she said that 80% of your grade in life is just showing up, then 90% of your grade in fitness is just showing up.
So then, here are my Top 5 Tips for Keeping on Track in August:
  1. Plan an Active Vacation ... take your program on the road with you!
  2. Plan for a net zero loss in August exercise volume. Skip your Friday workout if you're heading out of town for long weekend, but make up the missed workout by adding in a different day either the week before, or the week after to keep from loosing ground.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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. Then, take these goals and chunk them into 6 week cycle goals.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Fitness Together Approved Fantastic Fair Foods

The great Minnesota Get Together starts in a few weeks. Feared and Dreaded by fitness experts across the state since the beginning of time, this single event can cause more damage to a client's otherwise predicable progress than Thanksgiving and Valentine's day COMBINED. 12 days of high fat content food. 12 days of grazing and lazing.

But it doesn't have to be so! We've done some research on the deep fried lard on a stick alternatives, and have found that a trip to the fair can be fun, friendly, and personal trainer approved.

But before I get into the food tips, let me give you two other pieces of advice for making the fair regret-free to your fitness goals.

First and Foremost, Get your workout in BEFORE you go to the fair. Most venues don't open until 8 or 9AM, so get up early, get that workout in, boost the metabolism going into the battle, and you'll have a few more caloric liberties while you're there.

Secondly, PLAN for riding your bike to the fair. Search for and plan to park by Como and you'll have less than a mile to ride to any of the FREE bike parking lots. You'll still want to bring a lock, but the fully attended corrals will check-in your bike to ensure that everyone leaves with what they brought in. Three Gates host bike corrals:
  • Como-Snelling Gate (#6)
  • Hoyt-Snelling Gate (#2)
  • Commonwealth-West Dan Patch (#15)

Bike Corral Hours: 6 a.m. to midnight daily.

Bicycle corrals are sponsored by Twin City Bike Club.

Visit them online at

As far as food is concerned, my recommendation would be to have a healthy, hearty meal before you go. And then simply watch the events!

BUT, I know a lot of folks flock to the fair simply to enjoy the delicacies, so here are a list of the least damaging choices.

Category 1: Your Trainer will love you for eating these!
Category 2: Fair choices, better than most other options

And that's a LOT of Food! Much of it wouldn't fit into the optimal, heathly diet, but, again, is going to blow your diet LESS than almost anything else you'll find at the fair.