Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Importance of Cross-Training

With Chris' help, I manage to get to the gym nearly every day. Being a personal trainer, I need to be at least as fit as my clients.

For the past three months, the gym where I currently work was undergoing major renovation. During this time, the variety of equipment and facilities was very limited.

My workouts during this time consisted of (several types of) push-ups at home and jogging a couple of times a week. I also managed an occasional visit to the free weight room at the student athlete training facility.

However, that has all changed since the gym re-opened this week. Nearly every day this week, I have had access to — and made ample use of — the new cable equipment for my weight training.

Today, for a change of pace and to practice my cross-training, I swam. Swimming provides a good cardio workout and good overall body toning.

Three laps into my swim, I thought my arms were going to fall off. I switched to the breast stoke to take some of the stress off my shoulders. Then my back tightened up.

After 35 minutes of swimming laps, I was really uncomfortable because my back was so tight.

Knowing my back needed to be stretched, I went home and asked Chris to help me stretch. Being the kindhearted soul she is, she was more than happy to help me out. She gently leaned on my shoulders as I poised forward. I heard a "pop" — which never is a good thing — and now I have tremendous pain in my right hip.

This is what happens when you don't cross-train.

So, to be truly fit, remember to work at all five categories of fitness on a regular basis:
  • muscular endurance
  • muscular strength
  • flexibility
  • cardio fitness
  • and a healthy body mass index (BMI) (which I will discuss in my next post).

This will keep you in better shape and out of the chiropractor's office (except for the all-important regular fine-tuning Chris advocates).

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Working Out at Home is a Snap

For those of us who really do not have the money — or desire — to join the gym, stay home.

It is very simple and inexpensive to set up a gym at home, and I've already made the shopping list for you:
  • 40-pound dumbbell set: $39
  • stability ball: $25
  • jump rope (for those with good knees): $10
  • a stair stepper (for those with shaky knees): $25

For less than $100, you have everything you need to work out and become fit at home.

If you are a tech-head who wants a little more accurate a workout, pick up an inexpensive heart rate monitor for about $30. (For use on the heart rate monitor, please refer to my previous blog entry, "Doing the Math for Fat Burning.")

This equipment stores very easily. The dumbbell set comes in its own case and the stability ball can be deflated between uses.

But remember: out of sight, out of mind. Store the equipment so it's not underfoot — but keep it in plain sight so it can serve as a reminder to stay in shape.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Doing the Math for Fat Burning

Let's talk about weight loss.

For weight loss, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends maintaining a heart rate of 70-75 percent of the maximum heart rate for 45 minutes a day.

That's great, but how do we determine that heart rate range? How do we know what 100 percent of our max heart rate is?

The good news is you don't have to know these things. Just use the Karvonen Formula.

The Karvonen Formula for 70 percent of your max heart rate:
Start with 220
Subtract your age
Subtract your resting heart rate
Then multiply this by .70 (which is 70 percent)
Then add back in your resting heart rate.

Let's do mine for practice. I am 47 years old and my resting heart rate is 68.

For me, the formula looks like this (for 70 percent):
173-68= 105
105 x .70=73.5
73.5+68= 141.5

for 75 percent:
173-68= 105
105 x .75=78.7

My target heart rate is 141.5-146.7 for 45 minutes for weight loss.

For Chris, who is 43 with a resting heart rate of 60:
220-43= 177
103 x .75=87.7

220-43= 177
103 x .70=81.9

Chris' is 141.9-147.7 for 45 minutes for weight loss.

Go ahead -- do yours!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Rehydration: Take It Easy

Nearly everyone I see in public is clutching a water bottle: in the mall, in the office, walking down the street.

I see people walking half a mile holding their water like a lifeline, stopping often to drink from that omnipresent water bottle.

And I say: take it easy.

It's not that people exercising do not need to watch their hydration level. One should be properly hydrated, and we need to drink a certain amount of fluids to keep our bodies healthy. However, people are taking the recommendation to ridiculous lengths.

Physician Heinz Valtin, a kidney specialist and professor emeritus of physiology at Dartmouth Medical School, states that the "8x8" recommendation is a myth.

Now, that doesn't mean that people who exert themselves do not need to remain properly hydrated. What it means is that people need to drink enough. Diuretics (including my personal favorite, iced tea with a little Herman honey) count toward the daily total.

Drink enough to feel sated, and drink regularly enough to avoid feeling dry. But don't go overboard.

How much is enough? According to
Greg McMillan, an Arizona exercise physiologist and running coach, a person's urine should be straw-colored ("When the Heat Can’t Be Outrun," (New York Times, October 11, 2007). Drink too little and your urine is much darker; clear urine means you may be drinking too much water. (If your daily vitamins are orange, that will color your perception, so gauge accordingly.)

Too much water can be dangerous: ask the British runner who died in April, or the other 14 people who were hospitalized for the same affliction. Drinking too much water dilutes your body's vital minerals, including sodium, a very important chemical.

Athletes absolutely need to pay attention to their hydration levels. However, don't go crazy. Sports drinks such as Gatorade and Powerade are designed for the professional elite athlete. That means the calories and other essential body chemicals are vastly elevated for the average Joe or Josephine.

Brett Favre needs to down some sport drink after a day's workout because he has worked out his body for an extended period of time. I, on the other hand, don't need to consume that much because the calorie intake will outweigh the rehydration benefits.

Long story short: leave the water bottle at home if you're making a trip to the grocery store. Drink a few glasses of water during the day at work. Drink enough if you're going to work out. However, don't develop a drinking problem.
- Chris

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Lat Pull-down Proper

People are going to read this article and deny that they are the culprits, but I know better

More times than not, when I am in the gym, I see people using the lat pull-down machine incorrectly.

Some people crank out their reps way too fast. First of all, under most circumstances, a proper repetition takes between five and seven seconds (but that's a whole different article). Going too fast on this exercise is very dangerous: the faster the weights travel, the less control you have. Your shoulders are jerked upward, putting too much strain on the supraspinatus (one of the four muscles that make up the rotator cuff -- and the most often injured).

The other common mistake I see is people bringing the bar behind their heads instead of in front and to their chests. This exercise is designed to focus on the latissimus dorsi (upper back). By not bringing the bar toward your chest, you are restricting the range of motion for the latissimus dorsi, thus not getting the full benefit of this exercise.

Another reason you should not go behind your back is that it makes this exercise too dangerous. It stresses the subsapularis (another muscle that makes up part of the rotator cuff, which stabilizes the shoulder and rotates the arm inward.)

So the next time I am in the gym, don't let me see anymore behind-the-head lat pull-downs.

Posture, Posture, Posture

When I was working out at the gym last week, I saw two guys practicing what looked like a Japanese form of karate. The teacher threw a punch at the student, the student blocked to the outside thus turning the teacher slightly sideways, in order to get a clean elbow strike into the kidney or ribs.

I didn't believe what came next. As the student struck out, he dropped his shoulder and leaned forward to make contact. Now, I understand he was a beginner, but I watched the teacher do the same thing as the student. (However, the teacher did wind up better for the strike.)

The proper way to do this technique is to keep your back straight and step in as you go for the strike. By stepping in, you have better balance. Balance is always a major factor because it allows you to react better when necessary and adjust accordingly. Also -- and equally as important -- real power in technique comes from flexibility and proper body positioning: your core, hips, shoulders and arms moving in unison.

This applies for all movements. So, the next time you practice forms, techniques or sparring, remember: Posture, Posture, Posture.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Real Strength

For you guys out there who think you're strong, I have a great Web site for you. Check out

Some of the videos will humble you.