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Happy April!

For the first time leaving my house this week, it actually felt like spring. There were birds chirping, sunlight poking it’s beautiful head, and I couldn’t see my breath.

Anyway, I get most of my blog topics when I’m training myself, or reading non-training related stuff. This week, I’ve been accumulating random thoughts that don’t necessarily warrant their own post, so I figured I’d put them together in a “random thoughts” post.

1. The word “toning”

I was reading something, somewhere, by someone about women and strength training. The word ‘toning’ or ‘muscle tone’ came up, and the author deemed it worse than saying Voldemort at Hogwarts. That seems to be a common theme these days. Like any woman who has a goal of ‘toning’ is as incompetent as Tracey Anderson.

Shutup Gwenyth.

What is the big deal? What’s wrong with women wanting to lose fat and gain some muscle? That’s what toning means, even if they don’t know it. What’s more important is the MEANS of women getting the look they want. Are they focusing on larger compound movements like squats, deadlifts, pushups and pullups? Are they focusing on sound nutrition with lots of protein and veggies? Or are they wasting their time doing tricep extensions with 3lb dumbbells followed by a well-rounded breakfast of bagels and cream cheese?

May I be so bold and suggest that the word ‘toning’ is not a swear word? Maybe we can just redefine it and educate our female clients on how to get there.

Let’s start with this: Close grip pushups will help that flab under your arms.

2. Underweight Babies

Most of you know I’m a pre/post natal exercise specialist, so anything I read concerning pregnancy peaks my interest. My latest t-ride read: Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers has a whole chapter on stress and reproduction.  It had a very interesting section on underfed mothers and underweight babies:

“If you were a first trimester fetus during [a] famine, that programs you for a greater risk of heart disease, obesity, and an unhealthy cholesterol profile…But this phenomenon also applies to less dramatic situations. Within the normal range of birth weights, the lower the weight of a baby (when adjusted for body length), the greater the rise of those Metabolic syndrome problems in adulthood.”

To summarize, the metabolic system of an underfed baby becomes so efficient at storing energy (aka fat), that it’s more likely to have problems in their adult life, when food is likely to be abundant.

I know that under eating during pregnancy isn’t as common as overeating, but there is something to be said for it. If not, I just found it interesting. It is a fine balance for pregnant women. The general recommendation is to eat for 1.2 people.

ie, if you weigh 125lbs, you should eat about 1950- 2250 calories a day while pregnant.

(125lbs x 1.2 = approximately 150lbs)

(150lbs x 13-15calories/pound/day =1950- 2250 calories/day)

Yeah baby!

3. The Single Arm Dumbbell Fly

I’m not going to lie here… I saw a random member doing this and I was secretly stalking him. (A- if you’re reading this, I’m sorry I’m so creepy.)

After I tried it, what surprised me was the amount of core needed for this exercise. The more I thought about it the more it made sense; you’re lengthening a lever and moving the weight further and further from your center of gravity. Hell yeah your core’s gotta kick in! If you do this exercise with the right weight and range of motion, it’s hard as hell. I added it as a last exercise in my upper body day (after DB chest press, inverted row, DB row, and overhead press.)

I used a weight about half as heavy as my chest press (20lbs and 35lbs, respectively). It’s cool to add at the end because your chest fatigue wont be a limiting factor, and you should feel the entire side of your body tense to keep you from falling off the bench.

3. Single leg deadlift with a box

Speaking of limiting factors, many people have a hard time with single leg deadlifts because they require an enormous amount of balance. This is unfortunate because it’s such a beneficial exercise.

  • Trains the entire posterior line- mostly lats, glutes, and hamstrings, as well as the core
  • In turn, training the glutes prevents injury. Mostly for the knee and low back
  • Obviously, it trains balance and proprioception
  • Evens out leg strength discrepancies
  • Strengthens small muscles and stabilizers of the foot
  • Very knee friendly for those who can’t squat without pain
  • One of the best active hamstring stretches on this side of the Mississippi

When I program this exercise, I usually start people off using kettlebells. Reason being that when the person is in the ‘down’ portion of the movement, they can actually tap the bells to floor to borrow some stability.

However, sometimes people don’t have the flexibility or strength to start with kettlebells, so I searched for a solution to make it easier. And that is simply just add a box.

From t-nation

PS. This picture is from a great glute training article on t-nation. Read it here.

In Closing

Told you it was going to be random. To recap:

-Redefine the word ‘toning.’ It aint so bad

-If you’re preggo, it’s critically important to get the right amount of calories. Even more so important to get your calories from whole and unprocessed foods. Remember the formula:

(Your pre-pregnancy bodyweight x 1.2) = Ylbs

(Ylbs x15/calories per pound per day) =  Calories/day

-If you’re not doing single arm dumbbell flies and single leg deadlifts, you should be.

Enjoy!

-L

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I will admit that diet and nutrition talk is not my forte. It just doesn’t give me the tingles the way talking about deadlifting or fixing knee pain does.

Did I creep you out yet?

 

 

 

 

…..How about now?

 

Aaaaannyway… I try to keep up with diet and nutrition information via books, blogs, and research. This week I just wanted to keep it simple with the basics of macronutrients: Carbs, protein, and fats.

Do Carbs Make You Fat?

Carb consumption gets a lot of attention these days since diets like Atkins and Paleo have become more and more popular. It can make people carb-phobic and do things as radical as cut out fruit from their diet! Too much of any macro-nutrient will make you fat, but all 3 have their place. This is a great explanation of choosing the right carbs and using them effectively.

The Ultimate Guide to Protein Supplements

I’m a big fan of protein shakes for a couple reasons. First, if you’re like me, you’re busy. Protein shakes take about 5.3 seconds to make and they’re portable. Second, it’s a quick and easy way to get an extra 20 or so grams of protein; and I usually aim for ~100g/day. Lastly, it’s a little extra hydration and I frikken love the taste. This article is a great explanation of which type of protein supplement might be best for you, if you’re interested in trying one.

What Are Safe Cooking Fats and Oils?

Many people think olive oil or seed oils (think canola or peanut oil) are healthy to cook with, but believe it or not there are better options. This blog explains why.

 

Happy Learning!

-L

 

In the first part of this post, I talk about 7 common reasons why people get back pain.  In this post, I’m going to get a little more in depth for solutions to these problems.  Remember they come in two categories: exercise habits and movement dysfunction. Let’s talk good exercise habits.

How to build a good warm up in 3 easy steps

Step 1: Become best friends with your foam roller. In fact, make it your lover. Figure our where it hurts the most and spend most of your time there.

Step 2: Dynamic Stretch. Although everyone should be assessed to figure out their specific needs, MOST people are tight in the same places. Hamstrings, upper back, shoulders and hips. 4 Stretches Most People Can Benefit From

Step 3: Activate. Do this where you need stability, usually core and glutes. Things like glute bridges, bird dogs, and wall slides will all do the trick. Find examples of good warm ups here, here, and here.

Learn how to hip hinge

Fix your form

There’s no way I can possible cover good form in one paragraph. The good news is there are people who have covered this already. My go-to articles for the big 3 are written by a pretty smart guy named Mike Robertson. He covers in great detail the squat, deadlift,  and bench. I suggest you read up if you’re serious about preventing back pain, or any kind of pain for that matter.

The truth is, your exercise habits wont make much of a difference until you fix your movement dysfunction; the two go hand in hand.

How to belly breath- Enter the diaphragm

Gain mobility where you need it

Most people I train are just your average joe’s. As much as I can dream about it… I’m not training athletes with crazy mobility or congenital laxity. Although it’s very important to get evaluated, I can tell you most people are tight in the same areas: hips, shoulders, and t-spine.

If you want to get more in depth mobility drills, I highly suggest checking out mobilitywod.com. Kelly Starrett is a very smart guy who has hundreds of videos with in-depth mobility drills. You pretty much can’t put anything in his search bar that will go unanswered.  As much as he tries to dumb it down, I find myself having to watch some of his videos 2 or 3 times to completely understand it. So if you don’t understand some of his lingo, don’t worry about it; just try to emulate as best you can.  However for a quick reference, these are some mobility favorites:

Scapular Wall Slides

Thoracic Spine Extension on Foam Roller

Hip Mobility Combo

Gain some core stability

Core stability is a must… For everybody…. No exceptions! If you don’t have it, you need it; and if you have it, you need to keep it!

The basics never go out of style with core training. In my opinion, the plank and any of it’s variations is king, and form is VITAL.

Here are some other great core stability drills:

Banded Bird dog

Notice how her core does not change at all as she moves, and her low back does not cave as she lifts her limbs.

Half Kneeling Chop

Improve your posture

This starts with how you’re sitting right now. Stop slouching!

Obviously, everyone’s posture is a little bit different, but let’s go over some common deviations:

1. Lordosis

Lot’s of anterior core work is needed to help correct this. This is where your planks, front squats, and reverse crunches come in. Some mild low back stretches will help too; something like child’s pose.

2) Kyphosis

A lot of people I see have some degree of a kyphotic curve. It’s very important to go some soft tissue work before strength training; all those muscles in the upper back become tight and weak. A foam roller is great but a tennis or lacrosse ball is better.

Once you loosen up those muscles, it’s very important to get them slightly tighter and stronger (note: ‘tight muscles’ are not always a bad thing). Rowing and pull ups are the go-to’s here. There are so many variations of rows, all you have to do is pick your favorite!

Conclusion

You don’t have to conquer all these points at one time, but that being said, I think they’re all equally important and should all be addressed.

All I can say is I hope that you learned something! If I learned anything, it’s to not film videos on days I wake up at 4:30. Woof.

-L

Just cause it’s cute

Believe it or not, there are other components to health besides exercise. (I hope you all sense my sarcasm there.)

Although I’m obviously partial to the ‘exercise’ piece of the puzzle, sometimes it doesn’t have to be your primary focus, per se.

The holidays are around the corner, the year is coming to an end, and people are generally busier with work deadlines, vacations and the likes. Formal exercise is usually not on the top of people’s priority lists. So instead of falling off the wagon completely,  it’s a good time to pay more attention to the other aspects of wellness.

1. Sleep

Instead of setting goals for strength or aesthetics this December, set goals for sleep. It is the most vital part of recovery, brain function, and even body composition. Logging hours in the sheets can be just as vital as logging hours in the gym.

2. Stress Management and Recovery

As I mentioned, the end of the year can be a stressful time. Make a conscious effort to take 5 minutes out of your day to de-stress. Sip a green tea without looking at your computer, read a magazine article, do some breathing drills, get up and stretch, call your mom, put your headphones on etc, etc. The key is to do something that actually relaxes you, and actually do it. 

If you have the means, I highly suggest scheduling a massage. I don’t know about you, but it’s on my list of Top 10 Most Awesome Things Ever. It’s one of the best things you can do for your muscles, and it makes you feel like a million bucks.

Buy a foam roller. Come on they’re like 20 dollars. I guarantee everyone reading this can find 15 minutes to spare at night to spend foam rolling. It’s a close second to an actual massage.

3. Nutrition

You had to know this one was coming. I understand this is the month of holiday parties, office treats, and the cop-out gifts of chocolate and disgusting flavored popcorn.

I may or may not have gotten this for Steve last year…

I challenge you to challenge that. Be the annoying one that brings a veggie platter instead of cupcakes. Trust me, people will eat it… and you might even get some thank you’s for the relief of the constant sugar binges.

Offer to make a healthy side dish to your holiday parties like garlic spinach or pumpkin quinoa.

Please: Go easy on the alcohol. I’m not gunna sit here and tell you to not have a good time during this season of celebration– but it’s no excuse to be a sloppy lush at every event. Besides, you don’ t want to come into work on Monday hearing that you ruled the office Stanky-Leg competition that you don’t remember participating in. It’s bad looks!

4. Enjoy Yourself!

The holiday’s are a time for reflection, gratitude, and celebration. Taking a second to think about all the positive things in your life can do wonders for your mental health and state of mind. Take it a step further and make someone else’s day. It can be a random compliment to a stranger, or a conversation thanking your best friend for always being there for you. Deposits in the bank as Stephen Covey would say (author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People– highly recommend it).

For most people, it’s probably not realistic to expect to lose a lot of weight during the month of December.  Now is not the time to stress about an imperfect diet or missing a workout. Enjoy life and live a little.

However that is not a free pass to go buck-wild. If you plan appropriately and are at least conscious of your physical health, you can avoid gaining holiday weight and setting yourself back for the new year.

Happy December!!

-L

Happy October!

It was a craptastic weekend weather-wise in Boston, but after such a fantastic summer, who can be that mad. I took advantage of it and did some indoor activities like eating, napping, and shopping. I thought I missed the change-of-season-everyone-is-sick-now boat but alas… My nose is running like a faucet and my head feels like it could pop at any moment


TMI?

Anyway, here’s your warm up of the week! I don’t have pictures for you, but this week’s inspiration is yoga.

1. Child’s pose – (almost) total flexion, joint ROM, lower back stretch, lat stretch. I’m sure there’s other benefits… Yogis? Bueller?

Start in the standard position and then walk your hands over to one side while keeping your hips square. Repeat on the opposite side.

2. Cat/cow- spinal flexibility/mobility, spinal fluid movement, diaphragmatic breathing

It’s very healthy to get the fluid in your spine moving. Combine that with belly breathing… Talk about a strong core!

3. Walking down dog- shoulder mobility, upper back strength, posterior line stretch, calf stretch and ankle mobility

When you’re in this position, try to squeeze your shoulder blades together, lift your butt and drop your heels. Bend one knee at a time to calf stretch.

4. Warrior pose- hip mobility, leg strength, core strength

Make sure when you sink into the lunge position that your stance is wide enough so your knee doesn’t pass your toe. Create a pose that is as linear as possible.

Enjoy the week!
-L