Author Archives: Lisa

Exercise Helps Keep You Immune From Illness (Yes, ALL Illness…)

In this day and age, how could a microscopic organism shut down the entire world? It sounds like a bad B movie: The Bizarre Virus That Took Over the Planet. What’s extra surreal is that healthy people really don’t have anything to fear from COVID, yet the crisis has caused health clubs across the country to close. Now, we can’t speak for everyone, but our hometown gym makes it a policy to disinfect the equipment daily plus provide spray bottles of industrial-strength disinfectant throughout the facility so members can clean the equipment before and after they use it on top of the cleaning the gym does. Right now, a well-run fitness club is probably the cleanest, healthiest place you can be. Yet, considering how contagious the coronavirus is and the many unknowns still surrounding it, you can kind of see why health officials want to minimize people’s interactions as much as possible. But! We digress…

Instead of debating the fine line drawn around health clubs designating them as “unessential,” we’re choosing to talk about some hard facts today. Like the fact that, generally, COVID is NOT a death sentence. Yes, it is highly contagious, and people have died from it, but the overwhelming majority who contract it recover. In fact, over 123,000 people worldwide who contracted the virus have already recovered. RECOVERED! That’s extremely good news, but no one is focusing on that because it wouldn’t stir up a frenzy.

What’s more, a vastly larger number of people die from the good old-fashioned flu every year. In the 2018-2019 flu season, 34,200 people died from basic influenza in the U.S. Plus, with influenza A and B hitting Americans from both sides, we’ve had a double-barreled flu season this year, so incoming mortality numbers from the flu are expected to match or exceed last year’s. At the time of this writing, the COVID-19 death-toll is around 2,860 and it’s true that the numbers are going up every day, so it’s hard to project what a total number will be by the end of it all. Still, at this time, it remains less than 10 percent of last year’s flu deaths.

So, here is the bottom line: most of those who do contract the coronavirus will recover from it and the basic treatment will be the same as the regular flu. You’re not even likely to be hospitalized and will convalesce at home, feeling feverish and achy, drinking lots of fluids and downing gallons of chicken soup but, odds are, you will recover.

That’s not to make light of the situation, just putting it in perspective. Naturally, if you are sick –with anything!—or feel ill or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 or any other illness, you should stay away from public places and avoid contact with anyone anyway. You should have already been practicing good hygiene—why did it take a worldwide pandemic to get you to wash your hands? Staying away from others when you’re sick and using soap, water, and hand disinfectant shouldn’t be your new normal. It should have been your normal all along. Helpful and interesting fact: did you know that the World Health Organization says only those infected should be wearing masks? If you’re not infected or caring for someone who is, you’re wasting a mask and that’s a shame, considering there’s currently a shortage of medical masks.

AND (you knew we were going to segue into an exercise lecture) you should be working out to stay healthy and reinforce your immune system. Exercise strengthens your entire body, not just your muscles. It makes all your cells stronger so they can fight off all diseases. In that light, we decided to pull out a previously published post on exercise and illness to provide a refresher for those who’ve forgotten how important working out is for your immune system. If nothing else, it’ll give you something to read during isolation:

Exercise During Cold and Flu Season

Starting in the fall and lasting until spring, the season of sickness typically peaks in late January/early February. It may be surprising, but the solution to staying healthy during this notorious time of year isn’t found in a doctor’s office or pill bottle.

Exercising Strengthens More Than Muscles

Exercise literally transforms your T cells, making them into warriors ready to fight infection and even cancer!

Building strength and losing weight are the typical reasons for working out, but physical activity also strengthens your immune system, which is essential for defending your body against all types of infection. Of course that includes colds and influenza, but EurekAlert! reports that exercise bolsters the immune system enough to fight off cancer. If working out can help defend against the #2 cause of death in America, it can be trusted to help you stay fairly healthy throughout cold and flu season. If you’re the type who needs science to prove that physical activity really does help, consider the study published in the American Journal of Medicine. It found that women who engaged in moderate-intensity exercise–as little as a 30-minute walk every day–had half the number of colds than women who did not exercise at all.

How Working Out Helps

Working out increases blood flow and your temperature, which flushes your system and helps your body fight off infection.

When something works well, it’s always interesting to know why it does. In the case of working out and exercise as cold remedies, however, doctors admit that they don’t know exactly why they are effective. According to MedlinePlus, some theorize that increased blood flow during exercise causes white blood cells and antibodies to circulate throughout your system more quickly. Also, when you exercise, your body temperature goes up kind of like when you have a fever, inhibiting bacteria growth and helping your body fight infection. The increased blood flow and quicker, elevated breathing during exercise flushes your system, helping eliminate bacteria from your airways and lungs, too. Plus, working out reduces stress hormones in your body which chip away at your immune system. Fewer stress hormones equal stronger immune defenses.

Benefits of a Healthy Diet

Packed with healthy, healing foods, chicken soup comes by its illness-fighting reputation naturally.

Nutrition plays a big part in staying healthy any time of the year. Healthy Eating recommends padding your diet during cold and flu season with immune-boosting foods such as garlic, beef and chicken, peanuts, cheese, yogurt and other dairy products that contain probiotic cultures. Chicken soup has a legitimate reputation for being a flu and cold remedy because it contains zinc from the chicken, antioxidants and vitamins from the veggies, and antibiotic and healing properties from garlic. Don’t wait until you get sick to stay hydrated, either. Drink plenty of water and fruit juices, specifically citrus juice which contains Vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant.

When You’re Sick

If increased heart rate is a side effect of your cold meds, skip exercise until you’re off medication.

When you do catch a cold, working out might be the last thing you feel like doing. However, working out is OK if you don’t have a fever, and exercise can even help you feel better. It will get your temperature up in a healthy way and increase blood flow. Plus, exercise often helps decongest your sinuses and lungs.

WebMD points out the importance of listening to your body to determine if an illness is serious enough to keep you from exercising. For example, if you have a fever, skip the workout. Also, taking prescription or over the counter cold and flu medications that affect heart rate is another reason to forego exercise. If you do decide to workout, don’t share your germs. Minimize the chances of passing on your cold by wiping down all the equipment you use when you’re finished and washing your hands or using hand sanitizer frequently.

If you aren’t able to make it into your health club because of enforced closures, do what you can at home and outside. It might even be a good chance to overcome a plateau you’ve been struggling with. We have some great resources here on our blog about working out at home and alternative workouts–the links are listed below. With a little extra time on your hands, make it a priority to stay active and stay healthy.

Outdoor Workouts

5 HIIT Workouts Including a No-Equipment Required Routine

25 Ways Your Health Benefits From Cycling

Stay Healthy With Tennis

Staying in Shape Away From the Gym

What’s the Rage Over ‘Roids?

You’ve seen the monsters that compete in professional bodybuilding and hopefully you know better than to believe any of them who claim to be all-natural. Even amidst warnings of health issues and even death, the pros have increasingly developed a collective attitude that they can’t compete–and win–unless they use steroids. The fact that admitted juicers keep winning the big titles essentially proves that theory to be true.

It’s kinda sad that a sport that started out as a way to distinguish those who have the discipline to naturally manipulate their bodies into artistic physiques has become a showcase to reward the guy who has access to the best drugs. Let’s step down off the soapbox, though. Last we checked, it’s a free country, and everyone should be able to do what they want to, provided it doesn’t infringe on anyone else’s lives. So, for argument sake, let’s overlook the fact that possession of and selling anabolic steroids is illegal, and let’s say that it’s OK that pro bodybuilders believe in better physiques through chemistry. Should the average Joe (or Jane) resort to steroid use instead of hard work, commitment, and perseverance to lose weight and build muscle? Um, the answer is still “no”.

First, a Little Myth-Busting

Why bother taking steroids if you’re not going to get the most out of them by working out?

Some people resort to ‘roids because they think it’s a quick and easy way to get the physique they want without putting in any of the work. While it’s true that you can gain muscle without working out by using anabolic steroids, you’ll see the biggest gains and get the best results if you do lift weights. In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, subjects who received doses of testosterone and worked out gained two to three times more muscle mass than their counterparts who only did one or the other. So, if you’re going to juice, you might as well work out, too, to get the best results.

The Draw

Steroid use adjusts your body so it uses all types of fuel more efficiently.

OK, so you’re willing to work out, but you still want to juice because it will help build more muscle faster. It’s understandable to be tempted to use something that has been proven to increase muscle mass quickly. And isn’t it a bonus that steroid use turns your body into a machine that ultra-efficiently uses protein, but can also make good use of almost any type of fuel? Who wouldn’t love building muscle while not having to compulsively follow a strict diet? One of the biggest draws to steroids, though, is that using them slows the body’s process of making fat cells, according to a study published in Endocrinology. When you can eat whatever you want–typically the more, the better–and only gain muscle mass and no fat, it might seem like a no-brainer.

Payin’ the Piper

Most steroid-users who die succumb to death from natural causes, but at very early ages like Mike Matarazzo who died of a heart attack at age 47. Image via Chronic Hunter/YouTube

Ah, but there’s a dark cloud behind the steroid silver lining. You might enjoy a few years of looking hot and being as strong as Hercules, but you gotta know that you can never get something for nothing. The bill will come due at some point; consistent steroid use will take a toll on your body and your health, and you don’t have to juice long-term to see the effects. Research has shown that even brief steroid use has permanent effects. Yes, those effects can be both good and bad, but when the bad includes:

  • stopping the body’s testosterone production
  • mood swings
  • decreased sperm count in men
  • hair loss (for men)
  • excessive facial and body hair (for women)
  • risk of enlarged heart
  • heart disease
  • liver disease and liver cancer
  • tendon ruptures c
  • complexion problems like acne and jaundice

is it really worth it? All of these are results of steroid use, according to WebMD, and if you’re already genetically prone to any of them, using steroids will increase the likelihood that you’ll experience them. In fact, it can also speed up the rate at which you develop a condition you’re prone to.

Even if you have a natural skin-tone, there’s a line you cross from looking fine to looking freakish.

Yes, there are a few cases of long-term steroid users who haven’t yet suffered severe effects from having juiced, but they tend to be people who can afford to pay a doctor to provide quality meds and monitor their health closely for the rest of their lives. Plus, there’s always a chance that their use will catch up with them at some point in the future.

Anyone who is serious enough to look into the facts and fiction of it all are likely to come to the same conclusion we did. In the face of overwhelming negatives and just a handful of conflicting, positive reports, the potential risks of steroid use outweigh any benefits. Besides, it’s more of an accomplishment to look amazing and have done it naturally and entirely on your own than to look like a Marvel mutant courtesy of medicinal enhancement.

Competition Advice for Beginners

Think you have what it takes to compete in a bodybuilding, physique, powerlifting or other fitness-based competition? Even if you don’t right now, you might enjoy the challenge of preparing for a contest and seeing how far you can go. No, competing isn’t for everyone. You can’t be too sensitive or self-conscious, and your self-worth can’t be tied to your physical appearance. Yet, you have to be confident and believe you can do well while carefully balancing the ability to take constructive criticism and ignore the haters who just want to insult you for the sheer joy of tearing someone else down. If you can handle that part and want to give competing a shot, here are the basics on how to get started.

Pick a Competition and Show

Powerlifting, bodybuilding, whatever your preference–get your feet wet by starting out at a smaller, local show with less competition than a national show.

The first thing you need to do is decide what kind of competition you want to compete in. Are you into powerlifting? Maybe you have great genetics and want to show them off in a bodybuilding contest. Physique contests are a newer addition to the bodybuilding competitions that don’t require contestants to have the extreme muscularity that traditional bodybuilding meets do, according to AsktheTrainer. That’s not to say that physique contests are easy to win, but they might be a good starting point for someone who has never competed before or who has a hard time packing on muscle mass.

Once you know what kind of competition you want to enter, start looking for upcoming shows that are about a year away. That will give you time to train and prepare. Search the Internet, ask around at the gym, or query other people who have already competed in similar competitions to find out about shows in the near future. Oxygen recommends looking for local shows when you’re starting out because:

  1. they’ll be smaller than national shows
  2. the competition is more likely to be on equal ground with you
  3. you won’t have to spend a fortune on travel and accommodations
  4. it will be convenient for family and friends to attend and support you

Also, take a look at how many other novices will be competing in any show you’re considering. A show with a good number of beginners like you will pit you against others who are on the same level.

Develop a Program

Get help from people with experience and do your homework to develop a training program that will take you from Point A to Competition-Ready.

Over the next year, you will need to train in a specific way so you can get into proper/optimal shape for the competition you want to enter. There are a million ways you can develop a program for yourself, from reading books to following experts’ training plans to consulting with a professional trainer. The best approach would be to incorporate all of those to arrive at a truly personalized program that will take you from your starting point to being competition-ready. Remember, the plan you create will need to change with you and as the competition grows nearer. It should be developed to accommodate building and cutting phases (obviously, “cutting” won’t be necessary for powerlifters) as well as include an off-season plan so you can stay in shape and continue to improve for future competitions.

Don’t Train in Vain


All your hard work will be for naught if you don’t also include dieting as part of your plan, and this, too, depends on what competition you will be entering. Powerlifting competitors have it good when it comes to that part of the training because they don’t have to be hyper-focused on watching fat and carb ratios. Physique, bikini, and bodybuilding contestants, on the other hand, do need to worry about such things. Beverly International is a terrific resource for fitness competitors of any type because they offer advice on diet, supplements, and even workouts tailored to your specific goals. The advice is free but, of course, the supplements are not. =D

Other Details

Pick your posing-wear and learn what mandatory poses (or lifts, for powerlifters) you’ll need to perfect for the competition.

You want to go into any competition you enter looking like you’ve done it a million times before, so you need to be aware of the numerous other details associated with most contests. Bodybuilding.com has a comprehensive checklist that takes you through an entire year of getting ready for a competition. Some of the things you might not have thought of include

  • journaling to keep track of your progress as well as your mental/emotional state
  • picking your posing-wear
  • learning what poses are mandatory and working them into a routine
  • taking pictures of yourself a couple of times each week throughout the year

It would also be helpful to get with someone who has experience competing or judging the type of show you will be entering. They can help evaluate your physique and give advice on weak areas you need to work on.

Most of all, enjoy the journey!

Is it Time You Attended a Fitness Conference?

A lot of the time, it’s lack of knowledge that stands in the way of reaching fitness goals no matter what they are from trying to lose weight to building muscle. Hiring a personal trainer is one way to get direct access to the knowledge and experience you need, but have you thought about attending a fitness conference?

Every year, different fitness organizations from IDEA Health and Fitness Association to the American College of Sports Medicine to World Spinning and Sports Conditioning hold 3 to 4-day conferences focusing on everything new and exciting in the fitness world. Professionals such as trainers, health club owners, aerobics instructors, and dieticians are the obvious type of people who usually go, but many conferences, such as the one hosted by the WSSC, allow anyone to attend. As long as you’re registered, you can take in as many lectures, demonstrations, or workshops as you want to. With all that knowledge and insight, you’ll be more prepared than ever to reach your goals.

What Can I Learn?

You can learn practically everything you’ve always wanted to know about health and fitness at a conference, depending on which one(s) you attend. The Spinning Experience expo centers around spinning and conditioning classes, so you’ll get to try out the newest spinning, Zumba, and other classes. Others, such as the ACSM Summit offer a number of lectures and workshops in addition to workouts and personal training classes. If you opt for ACSM’s Summit, you can learn about nutrition trends, designing diets, and weight management along with exercise as medicine, as well as how to promote health and wellness at work.

How Do I Find a Conference?

Finding the perfect fitness conference could be just a flew mouse-clicks away.

There are a ton of ways to find a fitness conference, starting with an Internet search. If you are looking for a specific type of conference, such as one that focuses on Jiu Jitsu, be sure to include that in your search. If finding a conference close to you is important, look for ones in your state or states nearby. Maybe you’d like to make a holiday out of it and travel to an exotic location–that’s fine because many conference promoters enjoy holding their expos in Hawaii or the Caribbean.

Alternatively, you can talk to local health and fitness professionals to see which conferences they are aware of. Doctors, dieticians, personal trainers, and even PE teachers have the inside scoop on upcoming events because they are on all the mail lists. Even if the person you talk to won’t be attending, you can still find out the when, where, and who to contact for a conference you’re interested in.

What if it Changes Your Life?

You could find an entirely new career at a fitness expo.

Well, it should. If you are serious about attending a fitness conference, you’re at least going with the goal in mind to get back on track with health and fitness. You may come away with a whole new direction for your life, though. A seminar on personal training might inspire you to become a personal trainer. A vigorous conditioning class might make you want to teach similar ones at a local gym or in your own studio. You may even become interested enough in sports medicine or nutrition to go back to school and get a degree that could open doors to an entirely new career. Even people who are already in the health and fitness industry have come away from a conference motivated to embark on an exciting new path that benefits others as well as themselves.

 

 

The Diabolical Diet: Your Drastic Weight Loss Plan is Probably Working Against You

It’s a vicious cycle:

  • diet
  • lose weight
  • drop off diet
  • gain weight back
  • repeat

If this describes your failed attempts at controlling your weight long-term, you’re not alone. It’s a disheartening sequence that most people have experienced. Would it surprise you to know that it’s those crash diets that can cause weight gain? Restricting calories has a negative effect on metabolism that makes your body want to hold onto stored energy. In fact, your body will fight harder against weight loss than it will against excessive gain. While a stringent diet may be effective for short-term weight loss, it will also be short-lived.

Your Metabolism Plays a Part

Your metabolism is a process that describes how efficiently your body burns calories. The fact that you burn calories just by being alive is one that largely gets overlooked. Your organs burn calories by functioning, and the amount that’s utilized even if you were to sit inert 24 hours a day is called your basal metabolic rate (BMR). The surprising thing is that your BMR burns anywhere between 60 and 80 percent of the total calories your body uses each day, depending on how efficient it is. Naturally, a range of different factors go into determining what each individual’s BMR is, but you can get a pretty good idea of what yours is by using a BMR calculator.

Additionally, you’ll use another 10 percent breaking down, digesting, and absorbing food. So, that’s a total of 70 to 90 percent of your calorie use burned on just “being.” Sounds like good news, right? It can be, but remember that in order to avoid weight gain, your metabolism has to burn all the calories you take in and to lose weight, it has to use more calories than you take in.  The disappointing part is that you don’t have much control over your metabolism. Exercise and some foods can increase your overall calorie burn, but it’s difficult to speed up your BMR.

…And the Really Bad News

It can be hard to speed up your metabolism, but researchers have found that things like hormone imbalances and aging can slow it down. Plus, severe calorie restriction tends to slow it down, too. Scientists from the National Institutes of Health interviewed contestants from The Biggest Loser immediately after they completed their challenge and again 6 years later. The goal was to see how their drastic weight loss had affected their metabolisms and if they’d been able to keep the weight off. The research findings showed that most of the contestants (13 out of 14) re-gained a considerable amount of weight after their dramatic losses. Plus, four of them ended up weighing more than they had before appearing on the show. ☹

Neuroscientists believe the phenomenon is due to our bodies having a “set point,” a comfort zone that your body believes your weight should fall into, no matter what you’d like to weigh. If you cut your caloric intake drastically, your body will slow down the metabolism to keep you near that set point and to prevent you from dropping too much weight.

A Glimmer of a Silver Lining

Keep in mind that it’s when you lose weight with a crash diet or extremely low-calorie eating plan that you are more likely to kick your body into that “set point” mode. A modest reduction in calories coupled with an increase in physical activity (yes, we mean exercise) doesn’t tend to make your BMR drop. That means gradual weight loss (dropping 1 to 2 pounds per month) is a better plan that will stick long-term. The goal is to ease your body toward burning a moderate amount of calories more than it takes in so that it has a chance to get comfortable with a new set point.

Yep, admittedly that’s a bummer for those of us who want it all off now. But an uncomfortable truth for most is that successful long-term weight loss means making lifestyle changes. Things like:

  • adjusting portion sizes—pay attention to how you feel after eating half your dinner, for instance. You might be surprised to find that you feel sated and don’t need to clean your plate. It’s a way to cut calories without actually counting them.
  • weigh yourself weekly—frequent weighing has been proven to help with weight loss because having an actual number acts as an incentive to keep going.
  • exercise often—even walking daily counts toward physical activity. But remember: the more intense the activity, the more calories you will burn.
  • don’t skip breakfast—breaking the fast has shown to help keep weight off because it reassures your body you aren’t going to starve it away from its set point.

Commit to cultivating just these few good weight loss habits for…well, forever. They’re all fairly small, simple changes anyone can make. None are life-altering in themselves but, over time, they can affect your weight and your health in better ways than a crash diet can.

Sweet Treats That Won’t Derail Weight Loss

When you have a sweet tooth, having to forgo your favorite treats is torture if you’re trying to lose weight. The good news is that there are a number of sweet things you can snack on that won’t work against you. In fact, there are some that will actually help with your weight loss goal. How awesome is that? This Valentine’s Day, satisfy your craving for something sweet and still stay on track for losing weight.

Honey Almonds

If your downfall is sweet and crunchy snacks, honey roasted almonds will be your go-to treat. The almonds provide protein and fiber, both of which are essential for weight loss. The weight loss secret to this treat, however, is in the honey. A study in the Journal of American Nutrition found that honey has an appetite-suppressing effect, so you’ll feel satisfied faster and won’t feel hungry again for awhile.

Chilly Cherries

No, not chili cherries–these are frozen, not spicy, and will help you lose weight because they’re low in calories and full of fiber, according to LIVESTRONG. An important part of this snack is to freeze the cherries. That will encourage you to eat them slower (no one likes brain-freeze!) plus, Prevention says that it makes them taste like an Italian ice.

 

Skim Milk Shake

Substitute half of the milk in a protein shake with cold coffee for a tasty sweet snack with a kick.

There’s a reason supplement companies build their products around sweet-tasting foods, and that’s to help you trick yourself into eating what you should while enjoying it. It’s the enjoying it part that some drop the ball on, but there are a few protein shake mixes out there that taste great. Beverly International‘s chocolate and rocky road Ultimate Muscle Protein shakes are good examples. Mixed with a cup of skim milk, both taste rich and decadent, giving you a real chocolate milk or milkshake experience while sneaking in necessary protein and nutrients. As you know, eating protein helps curb your appetite plus it actually burns calories to digest it, so you get a two-fer when you opt for a protein shake.

Want an energy-boosting trick to enhance a cardio session for more fat burning? Mix the Muscle Provider with 1/2 cup of skim milk and 1/2 cup of cold coffee left over from breakfast. It will taste like a Frappucino, and the caffeine in the coffee will give you the oomph you need for an effective workout.

Berries and Yogurt

Don’t confuse this snack with yogurt that comes with the fruit in the bottom. Buy your own fresh berries and mix them into a cup of Greek yogurt yourself.

Opt for Greek-style yogurt for this snack to cash in on the extra protein. It doesn’t hurt, either that the yogurt will provide healthy bacteria to keep your digestive system working optimally for weight loss. The berries bring the actual “loss” factor to the table. Research published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that the anthocyanins in strawberries, blueberries, and many other berries stop your body from storing fat.

Chia Seed Pudding

Throw some berries in with a basic chia seed pudding to get the added weight loss benefits the fruit provides.

 

Chia seeds’ secret weapon is that they’re high in fiber, so they’ll fill you up and keep you feeling full. In fact, according to Healthline, just 2 tablespoons contain almost 40 percent of your daily fiber needs. They are a bit heavy on calories for such a small amount, but that shouldn’t matter if you stick to one serving and factor it into your total daily calorie count. A simple recipe for the sweetly satisfying pudding is to mix coconut or almond milk with chia seeds and a splash of vanilla and let it sit overnight in the fridge. Alternatively, DailyBurn has a collection of chia seed pudding recipes to appease your sweet tooth.

 

Don’t Forget Chocolate!

Dark chocolate seems to offer the most health benefits, but lighter versions still have healthy side effects such as improving memory and fighting inflammation.

Valentine’s Day and Chocolate go hand-in-hand–can you really have one without the other? The good news is that you don’t have to, even if you’re working on a fitness and weight loss resolution. According to Prevention, chocolate is healthier than we’ve traditionally been led to believe. Moderately indulging in chocolate offers benefits ranging from improved memory to lowering bad cholesterol, keeping blood vessels healthy, and reducing your risk for diabetes. A good, quality chocolate, in general, should provide the positive results you’re looking for in a healthy sweet treat, but dark chocolate appears to be associated with the most health benefits, including aiding weight loss. It’s been found to cause you to feel full faster and longer and also reduces how much carbs and fats you digest and absorb.

You Already Have This Free Tool for Weight Loss and Muscle-Building Success

Ali convinced himself and showed the world that he was the greatest. Image via ElTerribleProduction/YouTube

Athletes often aren’t given much credit for their intellectual prowess, but the most successful ones rely heavily on their brains to reach their goals and achieve success. An article1 in Flex points out that, although Arnold Schwarzenegger is famous for his physique, it was his brain that pushed him past his peers and propelled him to success in many areas. Mohammed Ali is another ideal example of a successful athlete who used his brain to convince himself that he was the greatest–and the results of his mind-over-muscle “experiment” are well-documented in the annals of sports history.

Although there are basic, common factors for reaching a fitness goal, whether it’s losing weight or building muscle, Shape points out that there is no one best way for anyone because everyone has a different physical makeup and genetics. However, we all have brains and, even the smartest ones typically can’t differentiate the fine line between real and imagination. So, if you’ve been struggling to lose weight or gain muscle and nothing seems to make a difference, put your brain to work.

You Can’t Argue With Results

Picture yourself stronger than ordinary, and you will become stronger than ordinary.

Some may scoff at visualization as a fitness tool, but research and anecdotal evidence have proven over and over that it works. Studies on using visualization with weight training, for example, have consistently shown significant increases in strength when participants visualized exercises before performing them. Additionally, people have lost hundreds of pounds using visualization. On the Huffington Post website, Stephen Mariani chronicled his visualization weight loss journey that took him from 475 pounds down to 184–that’s some significant weight loss, people!

Visualization is One Part of the Plan

Visualization delivers the best results when you use it along with a diet and/or exercise, depending on what your goal is.

You will probably see some progress using visualization alone, but people who have lost weight the quickest or who have gained the most strength use it along with other proven techniques, specifically diet and exercise. Sure, it might feel good to increase your strength by 15 percent or lose 5 pounds in a month, but wouldn’t it be more satisfying to have a strength increase of over 50 percent, or lose over 30 pounds in 30 days? Those aren’t imaginary numbers. They are actual, attainable goals if you combine visualization with a new or existing fitness regimen.

See Yourself Fit

Just as with any weight loss or strength building technique, consistency is the key to thinking yourself thin or strong.

Getting your brain to cooperate in your weight loss plan or muscle-building objective may be the hardest thing you’ve ever tried to do. You’ll have to be disciplined enough to block out everything else for several minutes at a time, several times a day. David Hamilton, Ph.D., a doctor of chemistry who is also a mind-power specialist, reveals in one successful weight-loss-through-visualization story that the subject was visualizing five times a day. She wasn’t just thinking about it that often, but actually shutting out all outside distractions and imagining little Pac Man-like creatures nibbling away at her fat cells. Other people have successfully dieted down their weight by picturing themselves eating smaller, healthier meals and imagined how full and satisfied they felt afterward. If five times in one day doesn’t seem doable, give two or three times a try, setting a timer for 5 minutes each time. First thing in the morning, before you get out of bed, and last thing at night, before you go to sleep, are often perfect times when nothing else will interfere.

How can you doubt a technique that worked so well for Arnold? Image via BestClips/YouTube

Visualizing for strength-gains can be done several times a day, but doing it right before and even during your workout is a sure-fire way to get quicker results. See yourself easily lifting more than you currently lift, even if it’s just 5 to 10 pounds heavier. Then, while you’re actually doing an exercise, concentrate on your muscles, visualizing them growing and getting stronger. It’s the technique used by the Terminator himself, and there’s no denying that it worked for him.

 

1FLEX, “Mental Muscle,” Joe Weider’s FLEX, November 2016, 38.

 

Is Your Job Killing You?: Counteracting a Sedentary Lifestyle

Technology is great. It’s used across every industry to automate and expedite everything including manufacturing, construction, and delivering food from farm to table. It’s made life easier. So much easier, in fact, that it’s killing us–literally causing our bodies to atrophy and shutting down organs and cardiorespiratory systems. Some people have taken to a sedentary lifestyle readily, but if you get antsy after sitting for several hours straight that’s probably your body remembering that it was made to move. There is a lot of advice on how much exercise people need to stay healthy or lose weight, but it turns out that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.

Why You Need to Exercise

Sitting hunched over your computer all day interferes with circulation, breathing, and doesn’t burn many calories.

Medical Daily details what happens to your body over time after hours, days, weeks, months, and years of sitting, sitting, sitting. Constant sitting affects your posture which, in turn, inhibits your lungs from expanding. Incomplete expansion means ineffective breathing which ultimately means insufficient oxygen getting into your body. Additionally, circulation slows down when you’re not moving, so less of your oxygen-depleted blood gets distributed throughout your body to organs and tissue. All of that results in poor physical health as well as diminished mental performance. Plus, people with sedentary lifestyles don’t tend to reduce their caloric intake to compensate for the calories they’re not using. Naturally, that results in weight gain which increases health risks and aggravates the ones already present.

Get Moving!

Traditional exercise doesn’t interest you? Go bowling, golfing, or play tennis. Anything that gets you moving is beneficial.

The answer is as simple as it is obvious: if sitting is killing you, getting active will save your life. In an effort to do the bare minimum of activity that is required to remain somewhat healthy and possibly lose weight, many constantly ask the question, “How much exercise do I really need?” Thrilled that people are even considering activity as an alternative lifestyle, the government published guidelines that give general recommendations for various age groups. Healthy adults, for instance, are advised to get 75 to 90 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity each week, along with at least two sessions of resistance training. The unfortunate fact is, however, that advice won’t necessarily work for everyone. Some jobs require more sitting and less activity than others so, logically, some people may require more movement to offset the negative effects of their extra-sedentary lifestyle.

A Winning Formula

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With home exercise equipment, you can spend your time in front of the TV working out instead of vegging out.

Harvard Health notes that any activity is better than none at all, so if all you can fit into your schedule is the recommended minimum, do it! However, if you want to get as much exercise as you really need, a recent study reveals a formula for determining how much exercise your body requires based on how many hours per day you’re sedentary. The Lancet-published study reveals different exercise-to-sitting time ratios, and that includes hours spent sitting while watching TV. For example, someone who spends their entire eight-hour workday sitting should get at least one full hour of exercise. If you add on two hours or more of television at night, you need to tack on anywhere from 15 to 30 additional minutes to compensate, a rough estimate based on the study’s recommended 8:60 and 6:30 sitting-hours-to-exercise-minutes ratio. Of course, you could jump rope, jog on the treadmill, or lift weights while watching the boob-tube. It’s a win-win that puts those TV-watching hours in the exercise column instead of on the sitting side. The bonus is that it will help you get enough movement to start getting healthy again and even lose weight in the process.

The Really, Really Good News

Take a walk on your breaks during work, or take the dog for a walk after dinner–it all adds up and contributes to your total exercise minutes.

Before you stress out about trying to fit a full hour of exercise into your already jam-packed day, remember that you don’t need to exercise for 60 minutes straight to make it count. Back in 2012, researchers found that breaking up exercise into small 10-minute increments did not reduce the positive benefits. So here’s how your hour of exercise each day can go down:

  • Use morning and afternoon breaks at work to take a brisk 10 to 15-minute walk.
  • Spend 20 minutes on a cardio machine or doing aerobics before or after work, whenever it’s most convenient.
  • Take a 10 to 20-minute walk after dinner instead of vegging out in front of the TV or computer–or at least before vegging out.

A couple of times a week, you can replace your daytime walks or your evening walk with a resistance training session. Perform it as a HIIT workout to get both resistance and cardio at the same time to maximize benefits.

5 Ways to Incorporate CBD Into Your Fitness Plan

This week, Targitfit is pleased to bring you an informative health article by Lily Brooks:

 

The perception of CBD has changed and it’s become exceedingly acceptable to consume it in some capacity. In my case, I use it together with my fitness routine.

 

 

1) Morning pick-me-up

CBD tones down the jitters from that vital morning cup of coffee.

I have long known that I would never be a morning person. My brain refuses to function in the early hours but remains active well past midnight. However, my job requires that I get up early so, like most night owls, I consume coffee to perk me up and keep me awake during the day. Caffeine, unfortunately, sometimes gives me migraine headaches and I become a tad irritable. Luckily, I’ve discovered that one or two drops of CBD in my morning coffee help keep my brain alert and active while taking away some of the jitteriness that caffeine can cause.

2) Supercharged workout

I think any gym-goers would understand that, while working out offers an overall boost to our health, there are aspects about it that we don’t necessarily like. In my case, it’s doing cardio. I find treadmills and stationary bikes dull and repetitive. Even running outdoors is too stressful for my liking. To motivate myself on cardio days, I’ve started using CBD with my exercise. I normally add 3 to 5 drops of CBD oil into the smoothie I drink before my cardio workout and, since starting that, I now look forward to cardio days and workout time seems to pass a lot quicker than when I don’t use CBD.

3) Workout Recovery

Apart from perking me up in the morning, I’ve also begun to use CBD oil as a means of recovery after my workout sessions. After a particularly intense workout, I usually suffer from muscle aches for the next couple of days. A few drops of CBD oil into my morning smoothie or right before bedtime eases some of the pain and tension. With this routine, I am able to get back to the gym a lot sooner than when I didn’t include CBD oil into my recovery. Also, my productivity previously suffered days after an intense workout. My mind isn’t as active when my muscles are sore, so I tend to take time off work to recover. Suffice it to say I don’t do that anymore.

 

4) Relaxation

I make it a point not to do any office work during the weekend. I even avoid going to yoga classes or working out in the gym on weekends. It’s my time to relax and recuperate. But with so much going on in my life and at work, I sometimes find it hard to calm my senses and just relax. Naturally, I turned to a little herbal help in the form of CBD. I take a few drops, 3 to 5 right after meals on weekends so I wake up bright and early the following day ready to complete all my weekend tasks. With its help, I am still able to function normally, run errands, pay bills, meet friends–all a little more calmly and peacefully.

5) Sleep

I’ve already mentioned my difficulty quieting my mind. This is even more challenging at night when I want to get to sleep early and my brain is just too over-excited to let me sleep. So I started taking CBD pills or edibles to help me enjoy a night of deep sleep. It’s been quite successful. It’s helped me to retrain my mind to sleep earlier than usual and, now, some nights I don’t even need to take CBD to fall asleep.

 

Lily Brooks, a passionate blogger who loves to write about innovative ideas on promoting physical and mental health. She is currently working with GreenSociety which offers top quality CBD online.

 

Buh-Bye Arm Flab: Build Those Tri’s

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Toned triceps add to the overall look and strength of your arms.

It’s easy to forget to work a muscle group you don’t see a lot. The triceps are just such muscles, because they’re located at the back of the arm, conveniently out of sight. They’re a small muscle group, too, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t need working. You need strong triceps to be able to bend your elbow and straighten it out to extend and contract your forearm. That’s useful in everyday life, but Stack points out that strong triceps are the key to busting through a bench press plateau. Additionally, HealthLine says that the triceps are important shoulder joint stabilizers, adding strength and control to what would otherwise be an unstable joint. Yes, even those who aren’t bodybuilders or athletes still need to work on their tri’s. If you’ve ever been dismayed at the flab on the backside of your arm wobbling when you wave, you already know why.

Anatomy of the Triceps

Triceps are plural because there are actually three parts, or “heads,” that make up the muscle. ExRx.net does a thorough job of diagramming the long head, lateral head, and medial head of the triceps, illustrating why it’s vital to include exercises in your workout that strengthen all three triceps muscles. The lateral and medial heads are the ones that usually get the most attention when anyone has the presence of mind to include triceps exercises in their workout, but working the long head is just as important. Overhead movements, such as the French press, will tone and strengthen that long head which will also reduce embarrassing arm-jiggle.

Working Triceps Into a Workout


You could dedicate an entire workout to your triceps, but doing so isn’t necessary when working this small but significant muscle group. Because they’re stabilizing muscles in many chest exercises, it’s efficient to include them on chest day, as training and nutrition expert Dr. Jim Stoppani does. Teaming up various press movements with dips, triceps kickbacks, and extension moves will give you a thorough workout that hits all three heads of your triceps. An effective way to approach working triceps with chest is to go through all your chest exercises and hit them heavy, followed up by more reps and lighter weight for the tris, all in one workout. Then, for the next chest/tris day (at least 72 hours later) hit the triceps heavy, working those exercises first and then do your chest exercises using lighter weight and more reps. Alternating workouts that way will allow you to give each muscle group the intense focus it needs to get stronger.

Triceps Exercises


You probably already have a list of go-to chest exercises for chest/tri’s day, but if you need some help with ideas for the triceps part of the workout, we have a few for you. Everyone should be familiar with triceps kickbacks and a variety of overhead triceps extensions, including cable extensions. Prevention recommends working in the dumbell French press, which is also an overhead extension, and skull crushers, too.

Dips are another great exercise for hitting the backs of your arms, but you need to be sure you’re focusing on working your triceps when you do them because it’s easy to extend the range of motion so that they’re working your chest and shoulders more than your tri’s. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but for the purposes of strengthening triceps you need to focus on them. All dip exercises will engage your tri’s, but doing dips off a bench is the best way for anyone–especially beginners–to focus on working the backs of their arms. As you dip down, pay close attention to the point where you stop feeling the movement in your triceps and start feeling it more in your shoulders. That means you’ve dipped too low, and don’t want to go quite that low on the next rep.