Category Archives: Mental Toughness

Sharing: 25 Tips from A Fitness Expert

It’s been a while since my last post. I’ve been up to my eyeballs in research, so finding time to publish articles worthy of your time has been pretty tough. Hopefully next week will open up a bit more. In the meantime, I ran across the following Men’s Fitness article by way of my AnabolicMinds.com iPad app. This article is definitely worth your time and exceptionally well-timed as we roll into fall and winter (for a Norwegian like me, these are the “bulking” months). In it, the author shares 25 tips for success this season.

I hope you find this helpful, and thanks for stopping by Aj’s Focus on Fitness!

Warmest Regards,
~Aj

Shared post from ‘AnabolicMinds.com‘ by The Press from thread ‘Getting Lean Faster’:

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by Scott Neumyer Men’s Fitness

Not seeing the results you want with your current diet and weight-loss regimen? Try these expert tips to lose fat and uncover the abs you always knew you had.

Just because we’ve reached the end of the summer season doesn’t mean we just got the green light to sit on our a$$es for the next six months and just hope that we don’t pack on the pounds. In fact, we should be thinking just the opposite: Now’s the perfect time to kick our workout routines into high gear in order to ward off holiday weight gain—and actually make some significant progress toward reaching our ultimate get-lean goals.

We know you that you want to get rid of that last bit of subcutaneous layer of blubber in order to finally uncover that cut body you’ve got hidden underneath. We recently asked Mensfitness.com readers: If you could get to transform your body overnight, would you pump up your shoulders, get a huge chest or a go for a serious six-pack?

The answer? None of the above: 43 percent of you said that you’d want an “overall fat-free physique” rather than a single bigger or better body part — and we want to help you get down to your fighting weight.

We asked some of the best and brightest trainers and experts about the best ways to jumpstart fat loss and compiled our results in three sections: Training-Based Tips, Diet-Based Tips, and Lifestyle-Based Tips. You’ll have to work hard for every ounce, of course, but we can promise you—the results will be hella worth it.

1. Interval Training and High-Intensity Movies (HIIT)

Ah, good old interval and high-intensity training. You’ve heard about their benefits for ages and for good reason: they work. If you’re looking for a surefire way to burn fat faster and lose some pounds in the process, HIIT is a solid go-to.

We caught up with Kurt Hester, TD1 National Director of Performance, to find out why HIIT is so important and here’s what he had to tell us: “High Intensity Interval Training is more time efficient in caloric expenditure than a traditional cardio workout. Not only will your body burn more calories during HIIT workouts but you will also continue to burn more calories and fat in the 24 hours after a HIIT workout. That doesn’t mean you need to limit yourself to only sprint interval workouts on a treadmill, though; Go out and sprint hills, drag tires, and push or pull sleds.”

2. Sprint More

If you think that hitting the weights is the only thing you have to do to lose fat faster, you’re wrong. You need a soild balance of weight training, cardio and diet.

“You need cardiovascular work to burn excess body fat,” says Mike Duffy, CPT and owner of MikeDuffysPT.com. “The body will burn primarily carbohydrates during the first twenty minutes of cardiovascular exercise. Right about minute twenty, the body shifts over and starts to burn stored body fat as the primary source of energy. You need a combination of both weight training and cardio to get fat off your body. Cardio alone will only train one type of muscle fiber and you’ll only be building one part of your fat-burning furnace. I see many people doing tons of cardio every day and not lifting weights. They never change the way they look,” Duffy says. Lee Boyce, Owner of Lee Boyce Training Systems, agrees that sprinting can be a huge benefit to fat loss. “Sprinting,” Boyce said, “uses fast twitch muscles, which take more energy to utilize, and it also puts you in oxygen debt, so your body will have to play ‘catch up’ after the workout is done. This also increases the rate of metabolism to tap into more fat loss during and after the workout.” So now that you’ve hit the weights, it’s time to hit the treadmill (or the road, trail, or track) as well. Ramp up your cardio, break into vigorous sprints, and just watch the fat ooze off in no time.

2. Hit The Weights (If You’re Not Already)

If you’re not already hitting the gym and racking up the weights, now’s the time if fat loss is your goal. Even if you start small and work your way up to heavier weights, gaining muscle is going to be put you on the fast track to hitting that goal.

“When it comes to exercise, you have to train with weights to increase lean mass. Fat is burned inside of your muscle cells. The bigger and more plentiful your muscle cells, the bigger your fat-burning furnace. Adding muscle increases the size of the fat-burning furnace. Dieting incorrectly or exercising incorrectly decreases your fat-burning furnace. This is often why, when a male-female couple embarks on a good exercise and nutrition plan, the male drops more weight more quickly than the female. He has more muscle tissue and a much bigger furnace. He can burn food at a much faster rate than the female who has less muscle and a much smaller furnace,” says Duffy.

4. Pick Up a Sport

Picking up a sport (especially getting into pick-up games) is a great way to burn extra calories, trim away the fat and still have a hell of a lot of fun doing it.

Boyce is a huge proponent of sports in training as well: “Playing a sport involves cardio and lots of non-linear movement (jumping, back pedaling, side stepping) making it healthier than straight jogging,” he said. “Plus it keeps you having fun without getting bored.”

You don’t have to be the next Michael Jordan to go down to your local park, hop on the basketball court, and look for a game. Just do it! Most people are happy to have another player. Just make sure you at least know the rules (and know how to dribble, duh).

5. Reduce Stress With Yoga

Breathe Deep. Relax. Breathe Deeper. Feel better? Feel healthier? Well, keep doing it, because it just might be helping you stay fit and lose fat. According to Stress.org, stress has been known to contribute to abdominal fat and other issues. Grabbing your Yoga mat and heading out for a little relaxation may go a long way toward helping you reach your fitness goals as well. And, besides, who among us couldn’t use a little less stress and a little more relaxation, right?

6. Experiment With CrossFit

The jury might still be out on the longevity of the current CrossFit craze that’s sweeping the fitness nation, but there’s no denying the benefits of this total body workout that will test your physical abilities in just about every way. The combination and timing of exercises, the competitive aspect of the sport, and the group-training philosophy of CrossFit are just a few of the things that makes it such a great workout. If you’re looking for a good way to burn a crazy amount of calories, drop some fat, and change up your usual, boring workout routine then CrossFit is a good investment of time. The only thing that might not thank you is your wallet.

7. Stop Trying to Spot Reduce

Here’s the thing about spot reduction: it doesn’t exist. Everyone seems to know that trying to spot reduce a specific body part’s fat content doesn’t work, yet nearly everyone seems to continue to attempt spot reduction. You know that guy you see in the gym banging out 20 sets of 50 crunches each? Yeah, of course you know that guy. He’s in nearly every gym. Well, he’s pretty much wasting his time. Sure, he’s burning a few calories and staying active. But, if he thinks those 1,000 crunches a day are going to make his six-pack come out from hiding inside the cooler of fat he’s got there in the mid-section, he’s sorely mistaken. Don’t waste your precious gym time trying to spot reduce. Use that time, instead, to do some high intensity interval training or mixing up your lifting routine.

8. Take Photos and Track Progress

Taking photos before, after, and during a weight loss journey is a great way to stay motivated throughout the entire sweat-inducing ordeal. Not only do you get to see the fruits of your labor as your skin tightens up, your face thins out, and your body transforms into a lean, mean, fat-burning machine, but you can also share your progress photos (if you’re brave enough) on social media. It’s a surefire way to up your confidence as comments like “Wow! Look at you!” and “How much weight have you lost?!” start to make their way into your inbox.

9. Change Up Your Workout Order

Yes, we know you have your workout calendar with all its color-coordinated days, workouts and rep times on it. You know what we want you to do with it? Rip it up! Yup, every once in a while, just tear it up and totally change your workout order. Kurt Hester, TD1 National Director of Performance, recently sat down with us to explain why change can be a good thing. “Humans are creatures of habit,” said Hester. “Go into any gym in America and you can watch gym rats performing the exact same workout three times per week. Cardio for 30-60 minutes followed by a circuit trip around the weight room. You want results? Change it up! 30 minutes of high intensity lifting followed by 15 minutes of high intensity intervals will produce more results in two days than your standard 90-minute workout three days a week.”

10. Train with a Partner or in a Group

When MensFitness.com interviewed Jacksonville Jaguars Fullback Greg Jones for its 25 Fittest Football Players article, the 6’1” 254-pound beast talked glowingly about how training in a group improves everything about his workouts.

“One of the things that sets me apart from some other players in the league are the people I surround myself with,” Jones said. “I have great people around me. We’re always lifting each other up when we have bad days.”

And that’s exactly what training with a partner or group can do for your workouts (and your ability to lose fat faster). It’s all about motivation. You pull each other out of the doldrums and into the world of the fit. Just when you think you can’t run any farther or do that last rep, you have your buddy there to make sure you do it.

11. Download and App – Track Your Meals

One of the most important ways to ensure that you continue to eat healthy is to be aware of everything that you put into your body. And what better way to do that than with some of the apps made for the device you always have with you – your phone! There are tons of applications made for iPhone, iPad, Android, Mac and PCs. Some are great. Some are pretty bad. But it doesn’t really matter which app you use as long as you’re successfully tracking your meals all day every day. Not only does it provide great visual and quantitative feedback about the calories you’re ingesting, but it’s also a good way to take a step back, breath, and really think about what you’re putting in your body at every meal.

12. Create a Meal Calendar to Plan Meals Ahead of Time

What’s the easiest way to fall off the wagon when you’ve been doing so well making healthy food choices? How about this? You just got home from an insanely intense workout at the gym. You’re tired, sweaty, and your body is begging for some rest. But now it’s time for dinner. Your stomach is growling but you just don’t feel like cooking anything after that workout. That’s when you tap into the cabinet where you’ve hidden all those takeout menus, grab the phone, and dial up your favorite greasy spoon for a Double-Cheesy-Super-Cheesesteak (With Extra Bacon). And then you sit back and watch the wagon you’ve just fallen off of rumble down the road, never to be seen again.

Or you can create a meal calendar and plan (and even cook) your meals ahead of time. Now you’ve got your grilled chicken and veggies all portioned out and ready to pop in the microwave when you get home from the gym. Welcome to the land of weight loss!

13. Eat More Home-Cooked Meals and Eat Out Less

Unless you’ve been plugging away at a healthy lifestyle for a long time, going out to eat at restaurants can be a daunting task. Most menus don’t provide very good details and calorie counts on all their meals, so knowing what to order can often be an exercise in futility. The more home-cooked meals you eat, the more likely you’re able to maintain that healthy lifestyle. It’s much easier to control portion, ingredients, and quality of the food when you’re cooking it yourself. You hear that? That’s the sound of you tying up your apron. Good work!

14. Ditch the Soda and Alcohol! Drink More Water

“Drinking more water,” says Boyce, “will help your body avoid storing water due to deficiencies. People often don’t make the connection that high water retention often means there’s a lack of it in your diet.” Not only is water great for you and your active, healthy body, but the alternatives like soda and alcohol are some of the very worst things you can ingest when trying to lose fat quickly. Sugary high-in-(empty)-calorie drinks are one of the ways that weight can sneak up on your without you even realizing it. Stay away from the processed drinks and pour yourself a nice cold glass of H2O.

15. Eat More Fish to Up the Leptin

Most people seem to understand that fish (and fish oil) is good for them, but do any of them know why? I’d wager to say that most don’t. Well, here’s one of several reasons that fish is a power food that will help you lose fat: Leptin.

According to Louis J. Aronne, M.D., Director of the Comprehensive Weight Control Program at New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, in an article for Amylin.com:
“Leptin is a key signaling molecule that controls the relationship between fat reserves, appetite and energy expenditure,” writes Aronne. “Decreased leptin signaling in the brain leads not just to hunger but also to increased metabolic efficiency. Thus, as you lose weight, you burn fewer calories based on the same amount of activity. This, in part, results in the well known phenomenon that after an initial weight loss, maintaining the same rate of loss becomes much more difficult.”

People who eat fish regularly tend to have lower levels of the hormone Leptin in their body. Since higher levels of Leptin have often been associated with decreased rate of metabolism, fish has become an essential food for anyone trying to lose fat. So break out the salmon and tuna, squirt on some lemon, and enjoy a (mostly) guilt-free meal!

16. Learn to Love Veggies

“Vegetables,” said Boyce, “(especially the cruciferous kind) are anti estrogenic, meaning they will fight against that hormone being active in your body resulting in fat storage. Upping veggies can help get you lean. Plus they’re good for you.”

There was a reason your parents always told you to eat your veggies. Sure, they’re not always the most pleasing to the palate, but they’re really good for you. Experiment with new recipes and spices to make veggies more tasty and you’ll be well on your way to a healthy, fat-burning diet.

17. Eat Smaller Meals More Often (And Don’t Skip the Snacks!)

There’s a reason that most nutritionists tell their clients that they should be eating six small meals a day rather than the three large meals that most people are accustomed to eating. It’s all about managing cravings and to prevent overeating. When your body goes several hours without food, it starts to assume its never going to get food again, upping the odds of eating binges and dangerous cravings. To combat that effect, it’s smart to eat six small, well-timed meals a day to keep yourself full throughout the day.

18. Vary Your Caloric Intake

Here’s the thing about the human body: It’s much smarter than you think. If your daily caloric target is 1500 calories and you hit that number consistently every single day, your body is going to recognize it and your metabolism will start to plateau (so to speak). If you want to “trick” your body into jumpstarting your metabolism again, all you need to do is vary that daily caloric intake to keep it guessing. Try downing 1200 calories one day and 1800 the next. As long as it all balances out, you should be fine and there’s a good chance your increased rate of metabolism should help you burn fat faster.

According to a 2011 article on Livestrong.com, “The idea is that you keep your body guessing and avoid plateaus in weight loss. Some recommend you calorie shift daily, while others suggest that you eat consistently six days each week and schedule one ‘cheat’ day in which you eat your guilty, calorie-laden pleasures. For example, author Lyle McDonald writes in ‘The Ketogenic Diet’ that many people successful restart fat loss by alternating calorie intake daily.” Change, it seems, can be a very good thing.

19. Never Skip Breakfast

According to a WebMD article, eating a healthy breakfast daily can be a great contributor in losing weight and keeping it off. Often times, people that skip breakfast end up replacing all those calories with more (and lower quality) food throughout the day. By skipping breakfast, they’re setting themselves up to be extremely hungry earlier in the day and will sometimes even binge to placate those feelings of hunger. Breakfast is the earliest meal of the day – and the one that occurs before you start burning all those calories with your daily routine – so start chowing down in the morning and you’ll set yourself up to have a great, healthy day.

20. Reduce Carbs: Eat More Proteins and Fats

Everyone loves their carbs. We know, we know. They’re so tasty! But guess what? They’re terrible for you if you’re always stuffing your face with them!

“The most important step is to control the carbohydrates,” say Duffy. “Most people get fat from eating too many carbs, eating carbs alone, and eating them late at night. Instead, what people should do is eat carbs in combination with complete proteins and good fats. Eating carbs alone will lead to an increase in blood glucose. This increase in blood glucose causes an over release of insulin and then triggers a fat storage response by the body. This triggers the body’s hunger mechanism as well as its sugar craving mechanism. When carbs are combined with proteins and fats, glucose in the blood stream is buffered by the metabolites of the consumed proteins and fats. This will not lead to an over release of insulin and thus not fat storage, hunger or sugar cravings.”

And, more importantly, Duffy tells us to remember that “all carbs turn to sugar (glucose). Good carbs. Bad carbs. Net carbs. Fibrous carbs. They all turn to sugar! Which, in turn, causes a hormonal influence (insulin over-release) to fat gain. Eating complete proteins and good fats does not cause this mechanism to happen.”

21. Stop Being Lazy

Stop being lazy is a pretty general thing to say, right? Well, here’s what we mean: Do you always take the elevator every time you have to go up to the second or third floor? Yeah? Well, this time you’re taking the stairs, buddy. Have to grab that paper from the copier across the room? Don’t just wheel your chair over. Get up off your butt and walk there! There are any number of ways to quit being lazy and start burning away the fat: Switch to a standing (or treadmill) desk. Bang out a set of pushups or jumping jacks during the commercials when you’re watching TV. You get the idea. Just get up and keep moving.

22. Walk More and Drive Less

This one is self-explanatory: Walk more and drive less. The more you walk, the more active you are. The more active you are, the more calories you burn, and the more weight you can potentially lose. Instead of driving up the street to grab your morning coffee, take a nice brisk walk up and back. If you want to take the family to the park for an hour, skip the gas-guzzler and slap on your favorite pair of sneakers instead. Not only will you save a few bucks on gas, but also your body will thank you for it.

23. Get a Check Up (Especially Your Thyroid)

Not only is it just generally a good idea to get checked out by your doctor on a regular basis, but it’s also essential if you want to make sure your body is in peak physical condition for hitting the gym, running, or doing any kind of fitness regimen. It’s especially important to have your thyroid checked to make sure you’re not suffering from hypothyroidism (or, in layman’s terms, an underactive thyroid gland). According to the National Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases Information Service, the thyroid gland controls your body’s metabolism. With that in mind, it’s essential to ensure that your thyroid is working correctly if you want to lose weight (or avoid possible weight gain). If you’re having trouble losing weight (and you’re staying active and eating right), you might need to get that thyroid checked out.

24. Get More Sleep

We checked in with Dr. Michael Breus, Phd. (world renowned sleep doctor and consultant to the team behind the Renew SleepClock) to see just why sleep is so vital to staying healthy. Here’s what the doc had to say:

“Sleep deprivation is like the trifecta for weight gain! When you are sleep deprived your body reacts in different ways on a hormonal level, which can impede weight loss. During times of sleep deprivation your body is on high alert thinking that there is a danger (or else you would be sleeping), so your metabolism slows down to conserve energy. Second, your appetite is higher (due to elevated levels of cortisol) looking for food for more energy. Third, your food choice becomes effected in that your body tends to crave high carbohydrate, high fat foods because they help produce serotonin, which helps calm you down from this aroused state.” Bottom line: Get more sleep!

25. Stop Looking at the Scale!

Are you a scale-watcher? Do you check in on that little slab of doom every morning before you get dressed? Well, you’re doing yourself a disservice, especially if your goal is to lose fat and gain muscle. If you’ve been going to gym every day, eating right, and staying active there’s a good chance you don’t see a big drop in the scale because, as you’re losing fat, you’re also gaining muscle. Looking at the scale and not seeing the numbers drop can be discouraging. Instead, stick to your fitness routine and forget the numbers. You’ll be healthier and the fat will continue to fly off.

The end of the summer season doesn’t mean you can sit on your butt for the next six months and just hope you’ll stay fit.

Source: http://www.mensfitness.com/training/lose-weight/how-to-get-lean-25-ways-to-lose-fat-faster

Shared via Am.com.

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The Full-Body Blast

Being disciplined in the gym and with nutrition is a virtue…as is making good on promises.

As promised, the Full-Body Blast!

Building big, lean muscles doesn’t necessarily mean spending every day in the gym. You only need to do this particular routine 3x a week.

Instructions:

For all sets, go as heavy as will allow you to do no fewer than 10 reps but no more than 12 reps on any set. Do 2 sets of each exercise before moving on to the next. Some exceptions to this general rule are highlighted below. Rest 30-60 seconds between sets, and rest 60-120 seconds before moving to the next exercise. Timing IS important. Each session should last no more than 60 minutes. Any longer, and you are probably resting too long between sets/muscle groups (and you may also be over-stressing the body). If you’re not completely smoked by the end of a given workout, you probably didn’t go heavy or quickly enough.

Important Notes! — Be sure to check with your medical provider if you have any doubts about your physical ability to perform any of these exercises. If you’re new to lifting, you may need to Google some moves. There are a lot of great videos out there with solid demonstrations. Helpful tip: If the person demonstrating looks out of shape, move to the next video.

The Weekly Plan ~

Monday:

    – Barbell (BB) bench press

    – Crunches (3 sets of 30-40) ** GOOD FORM! **

    – Lateral pull-downs (or chin-ups if you can do at least 8-10 unassisted)

    – Military dumbbell (DB) press

    – BB curls — Note: If you can’t curl a combined weight of 45 lbs [standard BB weight unloaded] or more, stick to DB curls until you can

    – Dips (3 sets to failure each time)

    – BB squats

    – Machine press (MP) calf extensions

Tuesday: Light cardio or rest

Wednesday:

    – Dumbbell bent over rows

    – Incline dumbbell press

    – Alternating dumbbell curls

    – MP leg press

    – Quick clean — Instructions: Weighted barbell rests in the starting position on thighs, overhand grip, knees slightly bent, swing weight up to collar bone, set for 1-count, swing weight back to legs, repeat (3 sets of 8-10) ** VERY HIGH INTENSITY **

    – Standing calf raises (higher volume — 12-14 reps per set)

    – Skull crushers — Note: Only try this if you really get it. Otherwise, supplement with cable push-downs (keep elbows in; back straight!)

    – Decline sit-ups (weighted — 3 sets of 10; non-weighted — 3 sets of 30-40)

Thursday: Light cardio or rest

Friday:

    – Seated calf raises — Tip: Go heavy on these. Should be able to do no more than 8-12 reps per set for 3 sets.

    – Machine leg extensions

    – Seated row

    – Hanging leg raises (or use dip/leg raise station w/elbow support) — (3 sets; each to failure)

    – Seated fly — Tip: Watch your form! Be sure you’re not working your shoulders and not your back.

    – Alternating DB bench press

    – EZ bar curls — Tip: Go heavy! It’s Friday and time to really pump up those arms! Just watch your form and ensure you are not swinging the weight up.

    – Close grip BB bench press (or diamond push-ups to failure)

Saturday: “Fun day” — biking, walking, team sports, visit to the beach/pool, dog park, yard work, etc.

Sunday: Rest up!

As you become more familiar with this routine and each exercise, you should experiment with exercise order. Don’t be afraid of throwing in a little mor cardio, but don’t overdo it. Listen to your body.

Yes. It really is that easy.

Until next time…

Warmest Regards,
~Aj


The Iron Horse Goes to Siberia — A Good News Story!

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Trying to get in a solid workout while on the road can sometimes be more than a little tricky. If your work has you travel a lot throughout the year, that can create some real issues when it comes to making good on your long-term fitness goals. The secret, of course, lies in trusting and thriving upon your own creativity.

Last week, I promised to share a proven whole-body fitness program geared toward maximizing fat loss while minimizing muscle loss. I’ll make good on that next week, but first I want to illustrate the importance of creativity when it comes to “making due” while on the road.

That hotel gym is useless! Or is it?

We’ve all been there. You walk into your hotel (underwhelmed by the lobby’s 1970s decor) and warily inquire about the house fitness facilities advertised online. The manager points to a darkened hallway and surmises a workout machine might exist down that way. “No promises.”

So you cut through the cobwebbed tunnel of despair and find your way to what might once have been called the “fitness room.” It looks like something out of a Tolstoy novel, only somehow a little worse because you know you’re not actually in Communist Russia…or in prison.

Behold! In a darkened corner sits the rusted hulk of a very dated Universal gym. Most of the components are either missing or broken. “Impossible,” you say. No point in even trying, right? Might as well take your chances in the hotel’s lobby bar for happy hour.

Wrong answer! There’s hope yet for any gym situation. It’s all about creativity.

Remember that scene in Rocky XXXVII where the Iron Horse (Sylvester Stallone) is lifting weights in an old barn prepping for the next biggest fight of his life against the largest Swedish Russian in history? Well…whilst his juiced-up opponent Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) trains with the best equipment Cold War money can buy, Rocky is literally slinging boulders around from the barn’s rafters.

The Italian Stallion made due with what Siberia had to offer. Old Leo would have been so proud (in a sorrowful kind of way). Who won, you ask? No spoilers here…

And the moral of the story is…

Think about that the next time all the other hotels are booked and you’re forced into an inn with less-than-optimal fitness facilities. Your next workout should only be limited by your own creativity. Adapt and overcome. Flexibility is key.

Oh…and start traveling with some resistance bands. Resistance bands are relatively cheap, quite safe, and can be highly effective when used properly. You can find a lot of quality workouts with just a quick Google search.

Until next time…

Warmest Regards,
~Aj

Image Source: Wikipedia


Avoid Burnout; Right Tools for The Job

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One question I hear a lot from folks new to weight training is “How many times a week should I work out?” The answer to that question really depends on the desired return on investment; the “investment” in this case being, of course, time. And then there’s the question of how long each training session should be. I’d like to address both.

How much is “enough,” and what’s “too much”?

We’ve all heard about those big-time body builders who spend hours a day in the gym, or that fitness fanatic at work who hits the pool before work, pumps iron during lunch, and runs 3 – 5 miles each night. Those schedules are demanding, uncommon, and likely unnecessary.

According to an article published in the ACSM Health & Fitness Journal *, spending too much time in the gym will likely lead to “decreased or impaired performance and increased fatigue, both during training and daily life.” Personally, I find the fact that training too much can negatively affect not only one’s gym performance but also his or her living performance to be pretty significant!

The article goes on to suggest that overtraining ultimately reduces overall fitness levels because it often leads to burnout and possibly injury…either of which “prevents one from working out.” If you’re trying to make fitness a part of your lifestyle, being forced out of the gym would be a pretty huge setback.

So how long should a session be, again?

Well it’s not really so much about counting minutes (or hours) in the gym…though that does matter. First you need to decide what it is you want to achieve, because it’s all about how you spend your time in the gym.

I want to lose body fat…

Cool. Good for you for acknowledging a potential health issue and taking positive action! Before you get started on creating “the new you,” there’s something you should know about cardio, weight training, and calorie counting.

If you want to lose weight (fat), cut your calories to create a daily (i.e. sustained) caloric deficit. Be sure to eat enough, though, because you need a certain number of calories (energy) each day to maintain or build lean muscle mass and sustain basic bodily functions. Check out “Feed the Beast!” from May 2012 for some helpful info on calorie planning.

“Drink Me!”

You can lose weight with or without exercise. But whether you simply cut calories or do so in addition to long hours of cardio (walking, running, elliptical, etc.), you probably won’t get the kind of results you really want. As the mysterious “Drink Me!” tonic did for young Alice, cardio and dieting will most likely just affect your size. That’s what Fitness Coach, Simon Rabinovich, suggests anyway.

In a 2011 article posted at Serious Fitness Results (dot com), Rabinovich states that when traditional cardio is the centerpiece of any weight loss effort, “it is completely common for people to lose a lot of weight, becoming a smaller, yet still fat version of their former selves.” Remember that the next time you go to the gym. Compare the physiques of serious runners to those of serious lifters. In the end, though, it’s all about what you want to achieve.

So…how much time should I spend in the gym?

Right. You said you want to lose weight. I assume that means unwanted fat. Try to hit as many body parts as you can during each weightlifting session. If you go that route, be sure to give yourself ample recovery time between sessions (recommend about 48 hrs). Maybe throw in a light cardio session in between weightlifting days. Also…for fat loss, each session should be pretty high intensity.

So to finally answer your question, shoot for a Monday-Wednesday-Friday weightlifting split (45 – 60 min each) with light cardio (20 – 30 min) on Tuesday and Thursday. Saturday should be a “fun day” — a day for active play (think golf, dog park, beach volleyball, pick-up games, etc.). I will offer up some routines in a later post. So stay tuned.

How to gauge intensity…

You can gauge workout intensity in a variety of ways. For example, if you’re not sweating, it’s not intense enough. If after 20 minutes you’re not dripping with sweat, it’s not intense enough. If after 45 minutes you’re not nearly out of breath, it’s probably not intense enough.

I highly recommend investing in a good heart rate monitor (watch and chest strap). HR monitors offer immediate, real-time feedback that will tell you exactly how much effort you’re really putting into a workout (sometimes the mind plays tricks). HR monitors run anywhere from $60 – $500 at your local sporting goods store. I suggest you do some online research first, though. Not all monitors are alike. You probably don’t need an expensive monitor that doubles as a smartphone, but you also probably don’t want a monitor that only calculates HR when you touch a sensor on the device itself.

Challenge yourself!

Don’t make the mistake of buying into the common misconception that low weight, high repetitions will do the trick (15 or more reps per set). It won’t. You’ll be wasting your time and frustrating the guy or gal waiting patiently (or maybe not so patiently) for you to vacate the dumbbell area.

Instead, go heavy as often as possible; shooting for the 8 – 10 rep range. Do no more than 4 sets of any one movement, and stick to 2 – 3 different movements per body part.

For example: a good chest component might be 3 sets of dumbbell presses, followed by 3 sets of incline dumbbell press, followed by 3 sets of angled dumbbell flys. Then you might move on to a series of lower body movements before returning to hit another upper body component like back and biceps. Again…I’ll post some proven workout routines later.

With all that in mind, try not to train to failure. If you’re not completing a third set of 8 reps, you may be going too heavy. Make a note of that and go a little lighter next time.

In closing…

There is so much more to say on this subject, and I’ve only hit on the subtopic of fat loss (aka “cutting”). Before I move on to building (aka “bulking”) and then maintenance, I’ll make good on ponying up some beginner, intermediate, and advanced cutting workouts for you to try out. Until then, read up and check my statements for yourself. Get informed and get fit!

Warmest Regards,
~Aj

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

* Paige Kinucan and Len Kravitz, Ph.D., ACSM Health & Fitness Journal “Overtraining: Undermining Success?”, Vol. 11, Issue 4, Jul-Aug 2007, 8-12.


Experienced-Based Fitness & Nutrition

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Besides just being pretty good workouts, programs like P90X and Insanity (as I’ve stated before) can be really useful in helping seasoned fitness enthusiasts break through fitness plateaus. But unless you really enjoy the workouts, a commercial fitness program can be kind of tough to see through to completion. And when one does complete such a program, there’s always the question of where to go next.

When the song is over…

If you do manage to complete a given program, you might be left wondering what to do with yourself. For those who are relatively new to high intensity training, chances are they’ll either give their completed program another go (stick to what’s familiar — no shame in that), or they’ll just give up on training altogether.

Never make that last mistake, but be careful about becoming too reliant on any given. Just the same, if you aren’t knowledgable enough to design your own program, stick with what works…at least until you know more about fitness.

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Live to learn; learn to live…

If you’re serious about fitness (or serious about getting serious), do yourself a favor and start reading about fitness and nutrition immediately. You can continue with your commercial program, but you might as well learn more about why your program is designed the way it is. When you’ve learned enough to graduate from novice to enthusiast, you can start experimenting a little. If done properly (i.e. safely), that can actually be a lot of fun.

May the music never die…

Fitness improvement is not an isolated event — some series of workouts spanning a 90-day period. That’s right. It’s a lifestyle. Nothing you’ve never heard before. Like I suggested last week, find what works for you and make that your staple. Experiment, but know when to stop doing something that’s not delivering desired outcomes and rebound as quickly as possible. The whole affair of living a fitness lifestyle is about discovering more about your body. And since our bodies tend to change over time, that pursuit never gets boring.

Until next time…

Warmest Regards,
~Aj

Images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Cake, Experience, Growing up, and Pie…

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Today is a great day. I got up this morning before 5:00 and hit the road for a relaxed 3 mi run (just over a 9 min/mi pace — very relaxed). It felt great, and it reminded me of my daily running schedule while I was serving in Iraq. Total mental reset!

That’s when it hit me. I forgot how much I love to run!

“If you run, you’ll never look like me.”

Heard that before? I’ve read many articles on the subject of weight training and cardio. Specifically, if the goal is to add mass, one should limit cardio events to no more than 20 min per session and to do no more than 2-3 sessions per week. I’ve read that and heard it from numerous other fitness enthusiasts/”experts” — admittedly, that doesn’t make it necessarily true.

Whatever!

Whether that advice is sage matters not in my opinion. I’ve neglected cardio for the past year (limited to 15-20 min/session; 2-3 sessions/week). I have added strength and mass, but as I’ve shared in the past, not all that mass has been good mass. I’m ready to get back to running, and I’m not giving up my weight training!

Have cake; will eat…

What I do know is that I enjoy weight lifting as a means to alter body composition and strength. I also know that I can achieve my desired body composition/strength and still enjoy long, mind-clearing runs.

Experience — The best teacher!

Once you’ve “found” your personal fitness zone, be open to improvement, but hold your zone close (what you’ve found to work).

At some point along your fitness journey, you will invariably run into fitness enthusiasts/experts who will suggest a “better” way of going about your training…and they can be very convincing. Sometimes they’ll be right; sometimes not.

If you change up your routine based on advice from others, you should expect to see desirable results within two weeks. If you don’t see results that appeal to you, knock it off, and go back to what was working before.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Do you want to be a world-class athlete? Perhaps you’ve considered a career in bodybuilding. Are you planning to qualify for the Boston Marathon? If you said “yes” to any of those, hire a trainer or join a training group.

If none of those apply, are you comfortable with your current body composition/weight? If so, then what your currently doing at the gym is probably sufficient. If you’re not seeing desirable results, hire a trainer or join a training group.

Simple as pie…

Yep. It’s that easy. Listen to your body, and be true to your personal fitness goals.

As for me, I’m heading to bed soon. Need to recover from my afternoon weight session and to rest up for another 3 miles tomorrow morning!

Until next time…

Warmest regards,
~Aj

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net


The Spice of Life

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At some point during one of the P90X workouts, fitness guru Tony Horton extolls the virtues of avoiding workout boredom with the age-old adage, “variety is the spice of life.” And he speaks the truth.

I recently downloaded the P90X companion application for iPad/iPhone. It allows you to track your nutrition, workouts and overall progress.

The app also lets you follow the workouts without the videos. I like that a lot. With the app on the go, I can modify the workouts a bit. In fact, I’ve found that capability has given my workouts a much-needed boost.

After nearly 2 months of P90X, I’ve seen a lot of improvements; particularly my arm strength (triceps are really growing).

Since taking the workouts to the gym (sans Yoga X and Plyometrics), my results have really impressed me.

This might apply to you as well. Maybe your workouts and progress have plateaued. If you are comfortable with experimenting, don’t be afraid to change things up a bit. Discover what works, and press with that.

If you are new to weight training, running, or whatever, read as much as you can on the subject. Experiment a little, but do it safely!

Until next time…

Warmest Regards,
~Aj

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net