NEW WALKING CLINIC STARTS JUNE 18
This will be the fourth year that PFTL will offer a free walking clinic to our clients and the public. We will meet Mondays and Thursdays, from 5:30-6:30pm, at the Wallace Bowl in Gillson Park, Wilmette. Includes warm-up, stretching, intervals, stair climbing, core strengthening and a great way to get some extra exercise. Contact Julie at 847-251-6834 or Julie@pftl.net for more information. Let us know if you want to be put on our email list for the walking clinic, as walkers are notified when the class is cancelled.
USE MYOFASCIAL RELEASE AFTER A WORKOUT (from ACE Fit Tips May 2018)
You have seen them in our studio: foam rollers, compression balls and rolling-pin-like sticks all help reduce muscle tightness, and at least one of them should be a part of your regular recovery program. If a muscle doesn’t experience a proper cool-down, or is held in a shortened position for an extended period of time, collagen, which are inelastic fibers that are a component of the connective tissue surrounding each muscle, can bind between layers of muscle and create adhesions or knots. Traditional massage therapy works by manually manipulating muscle tissue to break up adhesions, allowing the layers of muscle to slide against one another without restrictions. The pressure and motion of a muscle moving on a foam roller can help break up adhesions and realign muscle tissue to be able to function normally.
In general, foam rollers provide the greatest response when an individual places a body-part directly on top of the roller and moves rhythmically to apply pressure to the underlying muscle and elastic connective tissue. Breaking up adhesions can help reduce muscle tightness and improve joint range of motion. Because it is not practical to hire a massage therapist after every workout, foam rollers, rolling sticks or compression balls can be used to apply the necessary pressure to break up collagen and promote optimal muscle recovery.
Do not, however, try to “roll out” your low back or neck with a foam roller, as you will be putting unnecessary pressure on the vertebrae. Instead, use compression balls to apply pressure to the muscles only, not the bones.
BRAIN GYM ACTIVITIES – (from IDEA Fitness Journal May 2018) These are short, intentional exercises used in workplaces to release stress and enhance learning and work productivity. Here are two to try:
Cross-crawls. Stand or sit and march in place, touching one hand to the opposite knee, then doing the reverse (alternate). Continue for 4-8 complete breaths to activate both brain hemispheres. This exercise engages the brain and coordinates visual, auditory and kinesthetic abilities.
The owl. Grasp the R shoulder with the L hand near the neck and squeeze firmly. Inhale deeply, and then exhale, turning the head to look over the R shoulder. Inhale and return to center. Drop the head forward and exhale, then inhale and raise head. Repeat for 3 or more breaths and then switch sides. The owl relaxes the neck muscles and increases listening comprehension.
FIVE FOODS YOU WANT TO SKIIP TO STAY SLIM (from ACE Healthy Living May 2018)
More than 20,000 new food and drink items hit our grocery store shelves each year and, with so much conflicting information about health and nutrition floating around, it can be challenging to know what you should and should not be putting in your body. Here are five foods with unwarranted health halos that aren’t doing your body any favors, especially if you’re trying to reduce or maintain your weight.
Fruit Juice – skip the juice to stay slim. Eat your fruit—don’t drink it. Juice adds calories in a concentrated form without any of the fiber found in real fruit, which is one of the best reasons to eat fruit. When you juice fruit and discard the pulp or don’t include the peel, you’re getting rid half or more of the fiber. If you like the idea of juice for the flavors it offers, add fresh fruit to your water.
Granola Bars – Granola bars aren’t so good for your waistline. If it looks like a cookie and it tastes like a cookie…it’s a cookie. At its core, granola is just a grain with added sugar and fat. Package it up in bar form and it gets even less healthy. Most commercial granola bars are made with refined grains and contain added sweeteners and fat, and they rarely feature whole grains, fiber or protein, which should be key components of a better-for-you bar. You can find great recipes for homemade granola bars that are full of fiber and flavor. Bypass the granola bar aisle and save yourself from what are clearly just cookies in disguise.
Flavored Yogurt – flavored yogurt is bad for your waistline. If you can tolerate dairy, there is nothing wrong with plain yogurt. Unfortunately, not all yogurts are created equal, and most are packed with added sugar. Fruited and flavored yogurts are the worst, as they pretend to feature fruit. If they actually did include real fruit, it would also contain fiber, which yogurt products don’t. If you like fruited yogurt, make it yourself by adding real fruit to real yogurt and leave the flavored stuff on the shelf.
Veggie Chips – veggie chips aren’t a healthy food. Veggie chip bags show pretty pictures of real vegetables, but the ingredient list tells a different story. Most vegetable chips are a variety of fried and salted versions of potato starch. While a potato is technically a vegetable, when you fry and salt it, you negate its nutritional value. In other words, veggie chips are glorified potato chips. You want real veggie chips? Cut up vegetables, brush with olive oil, sprinkle with a modest amount of salt and bake them. If you want potato chips, buy them, but don’t pretend your veggie chips aren’t French fries in disguise.
Pretzels – pretzels aren’t good for staying slim. Somewhere in the fat-free frenzy of the 1990s, people got the notion that pretzels were a health food. Sure, they have no fat, but neither does white bread. And pretzels are just white bread with a little more crunch and salt. What about whole-grain pretzels, you say? You’d be hard-pressed to find a pretzel in which the first ingredient is actually a whole grain. Even pretzels made with whole grains are mostly refined white flour that contains no fiber. If you want a satiating snack, choose nuts over pretzels. Nuts contain fat, fiber and protein, and are a much more satiating snack.
HOW MANY REPS SHOULD YOU BE DOING? (ACE Healthy Living Jan 2018)
You’ve undoubtedly heard the standard gym myth that training for size or strength requires using heavy weights for just a few reps, while training to improve muscle definition requires using lighter weights for a high number of repetitions. While there is some degree of truth to these claims, it is important to understand that the number of reps you do for each exercise has a significant influence on the results you get from your workout program.
Today, many popular programs encourage participants to do high numbers of reps for ballistic exercises, such as barbell cleans or jumps. Unfortunately, doing too many reps may actually cause injury and limit your ability to train. To make sure you’re maximizing the efficiency of your time in the gym, here are seven things to consider when determining how many repetitions you should do based on your personal fitness goals.
- A repetition is a single, individual action of the muscles responsible for creating movement at a joint or series of joints. Each repetition involves three specific phases of muscle action: lengthening, a momentary pause and shortening.
- Regardless of your specific fitness goals, the number of repetitions you do is not nearly as important as whether those repetitions are performed to a moment of muscular fatigue. Achieving fatigue in a muscle means that it is not capable of performing one more rep and ensures that all of the muscle fibersresponsible for moving that muscle have been engaged. If your goal is to improve definition and you feel capable of performing a few more reps at the end of a given set, you have not fatigued all of the type II fibers that are responsible for creating definition. This means you have wasted your time because you will not be training in the most efficient manner possible for your goal.
- In general, the number of reps you do for an exercise is inversely related to the amount of weight you use. As the amount of weight goes up, the number of repetitions you are able to perform decreases. Therefore, higher-intensity loads can only be performed for a few repetitions, while lower-intensity loads can be moved for a relatively high number of repetitions before fatigue sets in.
- Training for strength requires using heavier loads, which subsequently limits the number of reps that can be performed. A heavier weight will automatically recruit more type II fibers in the involved muscles. Type II fibers rely on anaerobic metabolism, which provides only a limited amount of energy. This is another reason why heavy weights can only be moved for a few reps at a time—the muscle simply runs out of available energy. If your goal is to improve strength, use weights that cause fatigue after no more than six repetitions.
- Training for definition can be achieved by a couple of different rep ranges. The number of reps isn’t as important as the length of time during which the muscle stays under tension. The type II fibers responsible for strength are also responsible for creating the appearance of muscle definition. Definition comes from a muscle maintaining a state of semi-contraction, which is achieved by keeping a muscle under tension for a longer period of time. A higher numbers of reps performed at a slower movement speed can facilitate the tension needed to increase definition. No matter how many reps you decide to use, to achieve definition you must reach a state of momentary fatigue, which means you’re not capable of performing another rep.
- If you are a runner, cyclist, swimmer or other type of endurance athlete, you are probably more interested in using strength training to support the specific training necessary to achieve success in your sport. In this case, your strength-training program should focus on activating the type I muscle fibers that rely on aerobic metabolism, which requires performing as many as 20 or 30 reps. Endurance athletes need to be as aerobically efficient as possible, so performing strength-training exercises with light weights for a high number of reps will help muscles develop the mitochondrial density and aerobic efficiency necessary to support endurance-training efforts. In this case, working until fatigue is not necessary, because you’re not trying to add muscle mass; in fact, you want to avoid working to fatigue. However, your rest intervals should be kept relatively short to ensure that your workout creates the necessary stimulus to engage your aerobic metabolism.
- Power, which is the ability to generate a significant amount of muscle force in the shortest amount of time possible, is a skill that requires specific programming to achieve. Power training can provide a number of important benefits and is completely safe if the appropriate number of reps is used. However, thanks to the popularity of high-intensity workout programs, it is often performed in an unsafe manner. Training for muscular power places tremendous metabolic and mechanical demands on muscle tissue and can rapidly fatigue the nervous system responsible for maintaining proper joint mechanics. When doing technical power-based lifts like the barbell snatch, clean-and-jerk, push press or hang clean, the focus should be on the quality of movement and not the quantity of reps performed. For safe, effective power training, the rep range should focus on the maximum force output for one or two reps and be limited to no more than four or five. The same is true for medicine ball throws or jumps—the emphasis should be on the quality of movement and not the number of repetitions performed. Jumps and throws should focus on technique and be performed for no more than six to eight reps at a time; doing more reps could cause fatigue, which significantly increases the risk of injury. Like endurance training, the goal of power training is NOT to go to fatigue, but to do the assigned number of reps with the best form possible.
THE FIT MYTH: STRETCHING BEFORE A WORKOUT IS BENEFICIAL (ACE Healthy Living)
This is a “yes and no” type of statement. Health and fitness professionals advocate for warm-up and cool-down periods for good reasons. First, a warm-up prepares the body to meet the demands of a workout. A warm-up does this by increasing muscle temperature and heart rate, releasing specific hormones, getting you mentally “fired up,” and improving range of motion. However, static stretching should be performed at the end of the workout during the cool-down portion. The most effective type of stretching before a workout is a dynamic series of exercises. This type of stretching involves the whole body, large muscles and multiple joints. The goal is to activate the muscles you will use during the workout. Static stretching, on the other hand, is focused on elongation and relaxation (generally). You don’t want to enter a workout in a relaxed and stretched state—chances are you will reduce force output and your workout won’t have the same quality or effectiveness as if you were to save the static hold for the end.
HAPPY VALENTINES DAY – FEBRUARY 14
LIFESTYLE CHANGES CAN BOOST YOUR METABOLISM (ACE Healthy Living Dec. 2017)
Have you hit a plateau in your fitness journey? Do you feel like you can’t lose any more weight, no matter what you do? If so, don’t despair—you are not alone. Many people struggle to meet their fitness and weight-management goals.
In many cases, the root of the problem lies in not knowing enough about how the body works. It can be easy to focus only on external results rather than pay attention to the internal functioning of our own bodies. The human body is a fascinating creation and, if we understand our own physiology just a bit better, we have a better chance of being able to conquer these frustrating plateaus.
Having a good understanding of one’s own metabolism is a great place to start. The term metabolism simply refers to the chemical processes that occur within the body to maintain life. There are two categories: catabolism, which refers to the breaking down of organic matter to obtain energy; and anabolism, which refers to the building up of components of cells. These processes require energy, burn energy and produce energy, which significantly impacts each person’s fitness and weight-management outcomes.
Interestingly, each person’s metabolism is different in terms of speed and effectiveness. Your age, sex and genes can contribute to your metabolism, but lifestyle choices related to eating, physical activity and sleep also play significant roles. While you can’t change some of these factors, you can make better lifestyle choices, which will help increase the effectiveness of your metabolism, which will, in turn, help you achieve your health and fitness goals.
Here are some basic things to consider when preparing to make fitness and body weight changes:
- Know your basal metabolic rate (BMR).This is the amount of energy your body needs to keep functioning while at rest throughout the day. You can find a basic calculator hereto get a general idea of your BMR, but note that this is only an estimate based on factors like age and weight.
- Know your body composition.It is possible to weigh a “normal” weight and yet still have an unhealthy body-fat percentage. A body composition assessment can give you a better idea of your body-fat percentage and total muscle mass, and even a breakdown of visceral fat percentage. Some fitness facilities and medical offices offer this type of service. Devices are also available for home use, but tend to be somewhat less accurate.
- Know your daily total caloric intake, including the specific breakdown of major nutrients, such as fat, carbohydrates and protein.
- Keep a two-week journal of your actual exercise, eating, drinking and sleeping habits. This process can help identify the areas where you’re doing well and those that may present potential problems.
To use the metabolism factor to your advantage to reach your fitness goals, here are some basic tips to consider implementing:
- Drink plenty of water. Dehydration may slow down your metabolism.
- Eat regular meals. Having smaller meals or healthy snacks every three to four hours helps keep your metabolism burning calories throughout the day. Studies show that people who eat smaller meals regularly are less likely to overeat.
- Build muscle. Even while at rest, your body burns calories. Every pound of muscle uses about six calories a day just to exist, whereas each pound of fat requires only two calories a day.
- Be physically active. The more active you are throughout the day, the more energy your body burns.
- Add some aerobic workouts with a higher intensity. This provides a steady and more long-lasting rise in resting metabolic rate.
- Eat balanced meals. It is essential for overall health and better fitness to balance your meals and eat good, organic and nutritious food. In particular, include healthy proteins, such as tofu, nuts and beans, as your body burns more calories digesting protein than it does while digesting carbohydrates or fat.
- Do NOT skip meals or lower your caloric intake to below 1,200 calories for women or 1,800 calories for men (these numbers are basic guidelines and may vary for each person). Skipping meals and fasting for long periods of times slows down your metabolism.
- Sleep seven to eight hours per night.
Turning these tips into daily habits is a great way to give your metabolism a boost and enhance your ability to meet your health and fitness goals. You may also benefit from working with a personal trainer, who can design a specific exercise regimen that your body responds to positively. Regardless of where you are in your health and fitness journey, don’t despair—get up, get moving and give your metabolism the boost you need to start seeing result
DO BRAIN GAMES IMPROVE COGNITIVE FUNCTION? (from IDEA Fitness Journal December 2017)
Brain-training programs and games have blossomed into a competitive industry with direct consumer spending on digital brain-health software products expected to reach $1.52 billion by 2020. Companies such as Lumosity, Posit Science, Cogmed and CogniFit advertise the brain-boosting benefits of their software platforms.
But do these products really work? The scientific evidence is somewhat scattered, but several recent reports conclude that brain-training games do not reduce the risk of cognitive decline or dementia. They can significantly improve specific cognitive processes—but not much else.
HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!
CLASS INFO: Free Qigong Intro Class – Thursday, December 8 from 4pm – 4:45pm. Taught by Regina Wolgel. No charge
Basic Full-Body Tune-Up – 6- weeks, starts Wednesday, December 7, 3pm-4pm. Taught by Linda Meyer. Cost for the 6-weeks is $100.
HOW TO WARM UP TO GET THE MOST FROM EXERCISE (ACE Fit Life Nov 2016)
Has anyone told you to “warm up” before you exercise or play sports? It seems simple enough, doesn’t it? What’s easy to do is also easy not to do, and the biggest mistake people make is skipping this important component of exercise. Here’s what you need to know to warm up properly (and why it’s so important) so you can be more effective with your physical activities.
WHY – Most people sit for long periods of time or lie in bed before they exercise. Warming up helps you shift gears both mentally and physically. When You Warm Up…
- The brain shifts its attention to physical activity mode.
- Joints move through their full ranges of motion.
- Your heart rate increases gradually instead of abruptly.
- Blood circulates through your system.
- The muscles practice movements to come.
- The likelihood of injury decreases.
HOW – When it comes to exercise, there are three main activities that all require different types of warm up:
- Resistance training
- Cardiovascular exercise
It’s not that there’s a right way and a wrong way to warm up, but there are better and more effective methods you can apply. Your time is valuable, so why not get the maximum benefit? To be most effective, warm-up movements should change based on the activity you’re about to do. Warm up for one to three minutes before activity and perform each warm-up move five to 10 times. Choose from the ideas below and pay attention to the common mistakes mentioned.
RESISTANCE TRAINING– Common mistake: static stretching. This means holding a stretch for 20 to 30 seconds and sometimes forcing a limb into a position. Save static stretching for after your workout because it signals your muscles to relax instead of activate.
Instead: Use dynamic stretches. This means moving your joints with no resistance through their full ranges of motion rather than holding a position steady (static). You use your muscles to move. Arm circles and ankle rolls are examples of dynamic stretches.
Upper Body – Do shoulder rolls, arm circles and torso rotations. Or simply go through the motion you’re about to do without the resistance (weight). Reach forward before push-ups and pull back to open your chest before rows. Don’t force it. Make your muscles do the movement. Your body has a chance to sort out the kinks and signal problems or pain before you add resistance and challenge.
Middle Body (Abs) –Inhale and exhale deeply and completely three to four times to exercise your diaphragm and activate your transverse abdominis. Kegels, which are performed by squeezing the muscles you use to stop the flow of urine, are also a good preparation for abdominal exercise.
Lower Body – Do ankle rolls and hip circles to warm up the lower body. As with upper body, go through the motion you’re about to do before adding resistance. If it’s a lunge, swing your leg up, knee to chest and then extend back behind you a few times. Be slow and controlled.
SPORTS – Common mistake: ballistic stretching. This means using a bouncing movement such as hopping or jumping jacks to warm up. It can be a good secondary warm-up, but is abrupt to your body as the first move. Ballistic stretching is better done after dynamic stretches.
Instead: Mimic the movements of the sport. For rotational sports such as softball, tennis and golf, rotate the torso without weight to warm up. For basketball, you can do hopping after you warm up with movements such as ankle rolls, high knee marches and lunges.
Think about the movements and demands of the sport you play and mimic them before you begin. Once you start playing the sport, the mind gets focused on performance and puts movement on autopilot. Focusing on the movements and muscles before you play gives your joints a preview of what is to come and creates motor patterns or muscle memory that is useful for your brain.
CARDIOVASCULAR EXERCISE – Common Mistake: Not warming up and jumping right into the activity. Most people view cardio itself as a warm-up. Before you start throwing your body weight around, repeat the same process discussed above: Use dynamic stretching to signal the system of what is to come.
Before you bike ride, run, swim, use the elliptical, etc., it’s best to start slow and ease into the activity. Bring your heart rate up steadily instead of abruptly. Depending on the activity, warm up your ankles, shoulders, wrists and spine with simple movements.
IS ALL SUGAR THE SAME?
We’ve probably all heard that sugar is “bad for us”. Sugar has been shown to increase your risk of type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. cutting back on sugar may lead to tons of benefits for your body, including lower blood pressure, reduced risk of cancer, a sharper brain, clearer skin, and fewer cravings. So, we try to avoid added sugar in candy and other products, but does this mean you should avoid fruits which are naturally high in sugar?
There’s not a big difference in the way your body treats sugar found naturally in fruit and sugar added to candy and cookies, at least from a chemical standpoint, says Rania Batayneh, M.P.H, nutritionist and author of The One One One Diet. “Both of these sugars are ultimately broken down into fructose and glucose, which are metabolized the same once they reach your gut,” she says.
What does differ: how fast they’re broken down. “Because the sugar in fruits is paired with fiber and water, it’s released much more slowly into your body, providing you with a consistent stream of energy,” Batayneh says. “Added sugar, without fiber and water, is broken down immediately, leading to a surge in insulin and blood sugar levels. As a result, you don’t feel full at all—you just crave more sugar.”
One way to monitor naturally-occurring sugars is the idea of using glycemic index (GI). This is a ranking of foods based on how much it raises our blood sugar levels. GI can help to determine appropriate amounts of natural sugars. Bananas and watermelon provide a good example of a way to bring GI into your decision-making. The medium banana contains 14 grams of naturally occurring sugar. But partly because of its good fiber content (3 grams), it qualifies as a low GI fruit. By contrast, one cup of watermelon contains less naturally occurring sugar (9-10 grams); yet, partly because of its much lower fiber content (about 1/2 gram), it has a medium GI value and for that reason can be challenging to our blood sugar level. So, even though the banana is higher in sugar, it is less likely to raise our blood sugar because of the fiber content; thus the banana is the better choice.
Bottomline: Eating fruit in moderation is fine for most people; however, the more fiber and the lower the GI, the better will be the fruit choice.
FITNESS HUMOR: “I do 5 sit-ups every monring. It doesn’t sound like much, but there are only so many times you can hit the snooze button.”
DON’T STOP RESISTANCE TRAINNG IF YOU WANT TO LOSE WEIGHT (PART TWO)
Last month the first part of this article explained the benefits of resistance training for weight loss and health. Part Two further explains the reasons why resistance training is important.
Why aerobic exercise is not enough – “But,” the question goes, “Can’t I just go for a run and build muscle? I’m using muscles when I run!”
The answer is NO! Running or other aerobic exercise is not a replacement for resistance training. They are different exercises and provide different benefits. Aerobic exercise does not deliver the needed stress to your bones, muscles and tendons.
In order to build strength, you have to pull hard on tendons, do microscopic damage to your muscles and literally bend your bones. Going out for a run or putting in an hour on the treadmill will not do this sufficiently.
This is not to say that aerobic exercise is not important: it is! But it is not resistance training. You need both. And if you omit one, you do your body a great disservice.
Avoid the “skinny fat” syndrome – Another danger of focusing on cardio or aerobic exercise to the exclusion of resistance training is becoming what is known as “skinny fat.” Skinny fat is a condition in which a person appears thin on the outside, but inside they are unhealthy and at risk for illness.
If you are losing weight through diet and exercise but not simultaneously doing resistance training, you are not only losing fat: you are losing muscle as well. Your body will burn through your muscles tissue as surely as it will burn through your fat. As you lose muscle, you lose a major source of energy, and you lose tone and definition.
Further, as you lose muscle, your bones become weak, because they do not have to do as much work. Weak bones are a precursor to osteoporosis.
Hidden fat is also a risk for the “skinny fat” person. When 800 slim people underwent an MRI scan to check for visceral or hidden fat, 45% were found to have excessive amounts of internal fat, undetectable from the outside1. Visceral fat is the most dangerous fat to have, because it accumulates around organs such as the pancreas, heart and liver and then begins releasing hormones and other secretions that lead to disease.
Resistance training can reduce visceral fat and help prevent the additional formation around the organs.
Don’t give up your resistance training just because spring is here and you are eager to get outside. There is no substitute for lifting heavy weights 2 to 3 times each week. Your health is on the line.