Saturday, October 22, 2011

Stability Before Mobility

The point of resistance training is to build muscle tone, and gain all the benefits that go with that—stronger bones, improved metabolism, better physique, etc.  Unfortunately, if done incorrectly, resistance training can lead to injuries like low back pain.  How can that be prevented?

One major way that injuries can be prevented is with stability in your core region (your abdominals, low back, and sides of your torso).  If you knew someone was going to jab you in the stomach, what’s the first thing you do?  You flex your stomach muscles and try to make your stomach as hard as you can, so that the punch won’t have any effect.  You’re protecting your core muscles and your spine. 

It’s the same type of thing when you lift a weight.  Your spine and core (think low back) need to be protected from the extra force of the weight you are going to lift.  If you don’t prepare your core and just lift the weight, your torso sways as you lift, or your back over-arches, and those muscles are unprotected.  Those muscles aren’t meant to do the work to lift that weight, and asking them to do so might cause an injury.

What is the job of your core muscles?  Your core muscles are meant for stability and endurance.  They hold you stable as you push or pull open a heavy door, or lift those bags of groceries.  As for endurance, they are what keep your torso upright all day.  There are exercises to strengthen them for those purposes, and there are movements to avoid to prevent injury.

“Brace your core.”  It’s one of the most commonly used cues from a personal trainer or fitness instructor, and rightly so.  I can help you learn how to brace your core in preparation for lifting.  I can also help you safely strengthen your core muscles as your whole body grows stronger.  I can help you avoid injury.

Fitness is attainable.  You just have to know what you’re doing, why, and put in the effort.  It’s my job to help you with all three.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

How Often Should I Work Out?

It seems like a simple question, doesn’t it?  It really depends on where you’re at now.

If you are living a sedentary lifestyle right now, than any exercise is better than nothing.  Start with a schedule that you can manage.  If you make your ultimate goal be your first goal (let’s say, working out six days a week for an hour each day), you’re more than likely going to set yourself up for failure.  If you’re changing from a sedentary lifestyle, how much can you realistically fit in and manage?  Three thirty minute workouts per week?  That’s great.  That can be your first goal for the first few weeks.

If you’re working out a few days a week for thirty minutes or so, and you’ve been managing that alright, it’s time to step it up.  The US Department of Health and Human Services recommendations for adult activity is 150 minutes of moderate cardiovascular exercise per week and resistance training for every major muscle group twice a week.  WHAT does that mean exactly? 

  • Cardiovascular exercise is sustained rhythmic movement that increases your heart rate.  “Moderate” means that you can perform the exercise and have a conversation—you wouldn’t want to hold a conversation, but you could without sounding like you’re gasping for air.  A good test to determine if you’re working at a moderate level is if you can say the pledge of allegiance, or the Lord’s Prayer normally, without gasping for air.
  • Resistance training is working those major muscle groups (chest, back, core, arms, legs, hips, bum) against resistance—free weights, bands, machines, body weight, etc.  You should work out every major muscle group twice a week, but not two days in a row.  Take a resistance training rest in between those days—you could fit in some of that cardiovascular exercise on that resistance training rest day.

So what if you do get 150 minutes of moderate cardiovascular exercise, and you do resistance training twice a week?  What’s next?  Well, you could step up your cardiovascular exercise from moderate to vigorous (note: if you have health concerns, e.g. cardiovascular issues, you should consult your doctor before attempting vigorous cardiovascular exercise).  Vigorous cardiovascular exercise is sustained exercise where you’re working at a level that you could not hold a conversation.  If you do vigorous exercise, the guidelines suggest 75 minutes minimum per week.  More than 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, or a blend of the two levels (say, 100 minutes of moderate and 50 of vigorous) is great, up to five hours of moderate, or 150 minutes of vigorous.  You don’t want to take it to an extreme though, and do cardio say, three hours every day—that’s definitely too much of a good thing.  I would assume if you’ve been reading this to this point though, excessive exercise is not likely to be your issue.

For resistance training, if you’re doing each major muscle group twice a week, and looking to up your game, what do you do?  You could do two things.  One thing you could do is train the major muscle groups more than twice per week, always with a day of resistance training rest for the muscle groups in between sessions.  The other thing you could do is increase the weight you are lifting—ask your muscles to lift a little more than they are comfortable with, and you will make progressions.  Now, you could do both of these things, or just one of them.  Both will help you to progress, but increasing the weight you are lifting would be my first choice if you really want to see results.  More on why for that in a later post.

So.  Bottom line.  How often you should exercise.  For most people, the simple answer is more than you are exercising now.  If you want to know the official recommendations, the minimums are 150 minutes of moderate cardiovascular exercise (or 75 minutes of vigorous, or a combination of the two levels), and resistance training of every major muscle group two times per week, with at least a day of resistance rest in between.  Work toward those recommendations, or work past them if you’re there. 

If you want a trainer to help you design a program, I’m here for you.  Contact me and we can get started.  Fitness is attainable.  You just have to know what you’re doing, why, and put in the effort. It's my job to help you with all three.

Do What You Love

IMG_0397Let me introduce myself.  I’m Melinda Cool, a Personal Trainer in Ferndale, Washington.  I hold a Personal Training Certification from the American Council on Exercise.  For about the past year, I have worked at a local gym in town as a Personal Trainer and Group Fitness Instructor.  Teaching the group fitness classes are great—you plan, you arrive, you instruct.  Personal training at a gym, though…not quite what I envisioned.  The gym owners want full-time trainers; I want part-time.  I want to connect with my clients and understand their needs; having the gym as a backdrop just added more middlemen and distraction.  I want to encourage, educate, and empower my clients.  Recently, I decided to go out on my own as a personal trainer, and I’ll do it my way.

I love the pursuit of health and fitness.  I firmly believe that if you are doing the best with your mind and body at this point in time, you are on the right path.  The path may be a long one, but as long as you keep doing the best you can, you’ll continue to move in the right direction. 

This blog will be my place to help educate my clients and readers.  I’ll keep within my scope of practice.  No magic cleanse diets to prescribe, no secret spot reducing techniques, and no magic pills.  Fitness is attainable.  You just have to know what you’re doing, why, and put in the effort.  It’s my job to help you with all three.