It’s Hot, Be Smart!

For those who prefer to walk, run or bicycle outside, January is brutal!  We find ourselves longing for the warm summer days when we don’t have to put on layers, hats and gloves before our morning workouts.  Not to mention it’s easier to get out of bed when you’re not going out into 27 degrees and trying to avoid icy patches on the roads and sidewalks- brrrrr!  January comes and goes, we have approximately 2 weeks of gorgeous, perfect weather and then BAM,  it’s June, and temperatures have been 95+ for more than a week!.

Since most of us can’t just pick up and move to San Diego to enjoy the perfect weather, let’s talk about the dangers of exercising in extreme heat and how to safely exercise outside.

Under normal circumstances our bodies are warmer than the environment, when this changes, we begin to sweat.  Sweating cools the body, but can also cause dehydration as we’re losing fluids.  As long as you stay hydrated, the body can cool itself, it’s when you become dehydrated that you become susceptible to heat exhaustion or heat stroke.  When the body can no longer cool itself it begins holding the heat inside, causing the core temperature to rise, which can effect internal organs and the central nervous system.

Heat exhaustion can cause fatigue, weakness, nausea, dizziness and muscle cramps.  When a person’s temperature exceeds 104 degrees, they experience respiratory distress, the inability to sweat or loss of consciousness, they’re usually experiencing a heat stroke, which can lead to death.

While exercising in the heat can be dangerous, there are some steps you an take to exercise outside safely.

  • Stay hydrated – most doctors agree, this is the most important factor to exercising in warmer temperatures.  To maintain good hydration for a summer workout, doctors recommend drinking 20 ounces of water two hours before exercise, at least 8 ounces of water shortly before getting out in the heat, after you get started try to take a big drink every 15 to 20 minutes during exercise.  If your urine is darker than normal or you don’t urinate for periods of 4-6 hours, you’re most likely dehydrated.
  • Dress appropriately – lightweight fabrics that wick away sweat are best when exercising in warmer temperatures. Clothes should also be light in color in order to reflect the sun.  Sunscreen should ALWAYS be worn, in addition to a breathable hat.  If you wear a helmet, try to remove it when taking breaks to let your head cool and breathe.
  • Time and place – try to exercise before 7am or after 6pm, preferably before sunrise or after sunset.  Chose a route that provides shade and has places to pull over and rest.  Avoid routes that are isolated and make sure you have cell service in case you need help.
  • Consult with your physician or pharmacist – there are medications and supplements that can cause dehydration, combining these with excessive sweating will cause an individual to dehydrate rapidly.  Examples include, antihistamines, blood pressure medications, antidepressants, caffeine and alcohol.
  • Listen to your body – your body will tell you when you’re putting it in danger.  If you notice signs of heat exhaustion, stop exercising immediately, hydrate in the shade and call for help if necessary.

Following these steps can help make outdoor exercise safer in the heat, but know when to say when.  When temperatures exceed 90 degrees, consider taking your workout inside.  We exercise to stay healthy, don’t negate it by risking heat related illness.

Vacation and Maintaining a Good Diet – Totally Doable!

We just returned from a five day trip to the Wisconsin Dells.  Some people like to take a vacation from everything, including their good eating habits.  I like to relax and have fun, but still keep my eating in check – it helps avoid bloating, weight gain, upset gut and guilt.

Our party consisted of three adults and two eight year old girls.  We chose a room with a full kitchen which made eating well much easier and cheaper!

After traveling in the van for 7 hours, we decided to grab dinner at a restaurant, the total cost of the meal was $170.00 – this included 2 beers and 4 drinks.  The next morning we hit the grocery store and stocked our kitchen.  We spent a total of $180.00 on food, this covered 4 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 3 dinners as well as snacks and drinks.

We stocked up on meats, veggies and salads for breakfasts and dinner, a lot of fruit for snacks, fresh lunch meats for sandwiches, we also had some misc items such as nuts, popsicles, chips and M & M’s.  While we did have some sweet treats available, filling up on the good stuff really helped stay away from the sugary items.

The resort had a gym down the hall from our room, I made it a point to get up and get my workout in as soon as I woke up, this way it was already done.  I like to workout before my day begins, this helps avoid skipping it at the end of the day if I’m worn out for the day’s activities.  I did skip Friday morning, no guilt though, as I averaged over 13,000 steps a day according to my fitbit.  We made conscious choices to take the steps rather than the elevators and didn’t take short cuts.

I made it easy to make better choices by thinking ahead and preparing.  We ate 10 meals for $10.00 more than one meal at a restaurant, plus we had control over how it was cooked and what was in it.  I didn’t need to analyze every thing I put into my mouth, I ate good, fresh food 90% of the time and had room to indulge in a handful of M & M’s or another treat if I chose.  The price we paid for a suite with a kitchen was more than worth what we saved in restaurant prices and tips, plus we ate good, healthy foods!  I didn’t come home bloated or constipated and this morning I was down 1.4lbs compared to the day we left.

Simple planning can help you maintain a good, healthy diet and save a lot of money, while still relaxing and enjoying your time away!

 

Rollin, Rollin, Rollin

Self-myofascial release is a fancy term for self-massage to release muscle tightness or trigger points. Using a foam roller, individuals apply pressure to specific points on the body, this aids in the recovery of muscles and assists in returning them to normal function.

Trigger points are “knots” that form in muscles, these points will refer pain.  This means when pressure is applied to an area, pain is felt or radiated in another area.  An example of a trigger point, while foam rolling your iliotibial (IT) band it causes pain to radiate up to the hip or all the way down the leg to the ankle. When rolling or working on tight/sore muscles you will experience discomfort or pain. Think of it like the pain you get while stretching. It should be uncomfortable, but not unbearable, and when you are done it should feel better.  Deep compression helps to break up or relax tight muscles and adhesions formed between muscle layers and connective tissue.

To foam roll properly, apply moderate pressure to a specific muscle or muscle group using the roller and your body weight. You should roll slowly, no more than one inch per second. When you find areas that are tight or painful, pause for several seconds and relax as much as possible.  You should slowly start to feel the muscle releasing, and after 5-30 seconds the discomfort or pain should lessen.

If an area is too painful to apply direct pressure, shift the roller and apply pressure on the surrounding area and gradually work to loosen the entire area. The goal is to restore healthy muscles – this may be uncomfortable, but shouldn’t be painful.  Avoid rolling a joint, bone and the lower back area.

Some benefits of foam rolling:

  • Prevents injury and aids recovery
  • Breaks up scar tissue
  • Improves flexibility
  • Helps reduce lactic acid

Make sure you’re using your foam roller safely and effectively, consult with a physician or trainer before beginning your regimen.

 

Give it a rest!

Many of us believe more is better when it comes to exercise, I’d like to explain why less is more.  Over-training can have negative consequences for those trying to lose weight.

Working out six or seven days a week doesn’t allow enough time for rest and recovery, which is one of the crucial elements of fitness.  You see, many believe our muscles grow when we work out, this is not so.  Working muscles causes tiny little tears in the muscles, it’s when we rest the muscles, that they repair themselves and become stronger.  It’s important to work your muscles (hard), this stimulates muscle-building  proteins, then it’s time to let the muscles rest and repair.

Over-training can also cause a weight-loss plateau – yikes!  Training too hard or too often can lead to your body burning muscle instead of fat because you are burning more calories than you are taking in. When this happens, your body goes into a protective mode similar to the effects of starvation where it will store fat while burning muscles to provide energy.

Training causes hunger, it’s normal – the exertion and burning of energy causes us to be hungry.  Unfortunately many times we eat more calories than we burn.  Over-training can leave you famished,  leading to over-eating then starting the vicious cycle of burning energy and replacing it with more calories than you burned.  For those trying to lose weight, this will also lead to stress, increased cortisol and weight gain – the opposite of what they’re trying to achieve.

In the end, it’s really about balance.  You need to exercise regularly to stay healthy and fit, but don’t forget you also need rest to stay healthy and fit.  Make sure you’re incorporating 2 rest days into your weekly routine.  This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do anything, if you feel like you need to move try taking a walk at a moderate pace (you can hold a conversation) for 20-30 minutes.  Think of it as a “thank you” to your body for all it allows you to do on the other 5 days.

 

 

Too much of a good thing?

Why are you exercising?  Do you exercise to relieve stress, live healthier, lose weight?  If your answer is #3, listen up!  Word is, exercise can actually keep you from losing weight, or….gasp…..make you fat!

Let me start by saying, I believe everyone should exercise regularly.  Exercise has more pros than cons, but you need to be smart about it.  We’re complicated!

In his book “Big Fat Lies”, David Gillespie explains that we’re actually designed NOT to burn a lot of energy when we exercise, this is what enables us to keep going and going without wasting away.

Exercise puts stress on the body, stress causes the body to release a hormone called “cortisol”, this hormone is notorious for causing belly fat.  So, if you’re over-exercising you’re putting stress on your body, the body responds by releasing cortisol into your system, causing weight gain and belly fat.  We need to put stress on the body to build strong bones and muscle, we also need to give the body time to rest and recover.

The Journal of Obesity released a study that indicates exercising for long periods of time everyday isn’t as helpful in losing weight as you might think.  Their results are summarized below.

 

Researchers studied 439 overweight or obese women between the ages of 50 and 75 over the course of a year. For the study, the women were split into groups: One group only dieted by eating a dietitian’s recommendation of calories, the second group just did moderate to vigorous exercise five days a week, the third group used both diet and exercise, and the fourth group—the control group—made no changes. On average, the diet-only group lost about 15 pounds, the exercise group lost about four pounds, and the diet and exercise group lost nearly 20 pounds.

While members of the exercise-only group lost the least amount of weight, they also didn’t gain weight. The diet-and-exercise group lost almost five pounds more than the group that only modified their diet, which shows that hopping on a treadmill can enhance weight loss due to dietary changes.

Lastly, some individuals who over-exercise think of all of their hard work as a “pass” to indulge or overeat, thus negating all of their hard work 😦  Stopping at a Starbucks for a latte after a Spinning class can replace or even add to the calories dropped on the gym floor.

The bottom line is, it’s all about balance.  The old saying “you can’t out exercise a bad diet” is true, it’s proven!  Start with a healthy diet, add exercise to build strong, bones, muscles, endurance and good cardio health.  Make sure you’re giving your body time to rest and recover.  Find a well rounded routine, this should include cardio, strength training and mind/body exercises like Yoga or stretching.

 

Back to the Basics

Today we’ll talk about the importance of functional training.  Functional training is a classification of exercise that trains the body for activities performed in daily life.  These exercises make it easier and safer to do the things you do everyday, picking up groceries, playing with your kids, carrying laundry upstairs, etc…..

Functional training is especially beneficial for adults over 40, as part of a comprehensive exercise program they can improve balance, agility and strength.  All of which make daily activities easier and safer to perform, in addition to reducing the risk of falling.

Functional exercises train your muscles to work together just as they do during daily activities by simulating common movements you might do at home, work or in sports.    Using muscles in the upper and lower body at the same time also strengthens the core and helps stability.  These exercises tend to be multi-joint, multi-muscle exercises.  Instead of just moving the elbows, you might incorporate the elbows, shoulders, spine, hips and knees.

Probably the most important area that functional training strengthens is the core.  The core is the trunk of the body, hips to the chest.  Think of the core as the central link between the upper and lower body.  Most movements start in or move through the core area of the body.  If the core is weak, it impairs how well the arms and legs function.  A strong, flexible core affects all of the following and more.

Daily activities – bending over to put on your shoes or pick up a package, turning to look behind you or simply sitting in a chair.  Bathing and dressing also call on your core.

Work activities – jobs that require physical activity such as standing, twisting or listing.  If you sit at a desk for hours, this taxes your back muscles.  Answering a phone, typing and computer use can make back muscles surprisingly sore and stiff, especially is posture is poor or you don’t take many breaks.

A healthy back – back pain can often be remedied by having strong core muscles.  Many times when patients suffer from debilitating back pain, core strengthening exercises are prescribed in conjunction with physical therapy and/or medication.  When you have good posture it lessens wear & tear on your spine as well.

Around the house – bending, lifting, twisting, carrying or reaching.  Even vacuuming, mopping or dusting.

Balance & stability – the core stabilizes the body to move in any direction and lessens the risk of falling.

Try some of the functional exercises below, these can be done with or without weights.  Always consult your doctor before starting an exercise program and practice safely.

Squat – great for the legs, glutes and core.  Push the booty back, weight in the heels, pull the core in tight.

Lunge – skip this is your knees are weak or injured.  Keep the knee over the ankle.

Overhead press – pull the belly in, tight core!

 

 

Bicep curl – squeeze the buns, tight core

Full or modified plank – pull the belly in towards the spine, push heels back, squeeze the buns.  Pull it all in and breathe!

Move it!

Sitting is the new smoking, that’s right, studies show sitting too much can have as much of a negative effect on our health as smoking.  Individuals sit more now than ever, we sit at work and then come home to sit in front of the TV or computer, and it’s killing us!

According to the Mayo Clinic, sitting increases the risk of obesity, increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess fat around the waist (visceral fat) and abnormal cholesterol levels – it also causes increased risk of heart disease and cancer.  In a study that compared individuals who logged less than 2 hours in front of a screen to those who spent more than 4 hours of recreational screen time, the group who had more screen time were 125% more likely to have heart disease, angina or a heart attack.

Look at our children, they spend more time in front of a screen than they do playing sports or engaging in any sort of physical activity.  Childhood obesity rates are staggering!

We all know the risks associated with smoking, in fact, according to the CDC, the percentage of people who smoke has dropped from 42.4% in 1965 to 16.8% in 2014.  People are changing their behavior as they’re more educated on the health risks of smoking,  it’s time to educate individuals on the risks of sitting.

Fortunately you can easily counteract the effects of sitting.  Adults should aim to get 30 minutes of daily exercise.  In addition, if you sit at work, try standing up when you take a phone call, set your cell phone alarm to remind you to stand up and move every hour, walk with coworkers on your breaks and at lunch.

Remember, control the things you can control – move it!

Stop Sitting Start Standing by Barwick Living