| December is a month of to-do lists, wish lists, shopping lists, etc. A month of celebration can derail us from our normal workout routines. We are torn in different directions, juggling multiple priorities and maintaining a sense of normality. Instead of the Twelve days of Christmas, this month, we've offered twelve random tips of fitness. Implement a few of the items on this list to keep yourself on course during one of the busiest months of the year!
Give the gift of health this holiday season with a Prairie Life gift certificate! They can be sold at any dollar value. Massages are $5 off 1 hour or $10 off 90 minutes or more for the month of December! Don't forget to treat yourself!
Wishing you low-stress and high-energy during the holiday season,
Article of the Month
12 Tips of Fitness
12. Sleep is incredibly important for everyone, and a lack of it may be holding you back.
Sleep promotes muscle recovery. Sleep improves memory. The brain uses sleep to consolidate memory into longer-term knowledge, clearing the area of the brain used for short-term memory in preparation to absorb new information. During sleep, the brain also works to file away the information it thinks will be important in the future. Sleep deprivation has negative effects on reaction times and even a single night of sleep deprivation can slow quick response times.
Sleep is a stress reducer. Sleep and stress have a close relationship; both can harm a healthy immune function when we don't get enough (sleep), or have too much (stress). Ten hours of sleep each night is probably not realistic, but you should aim for seven to eight at the very least. And sleeping for five hours to get up early to go to boot camp or to the gym does more harm than good - you are better off staying in bed for a few extra hours of sleep. Insufficient sleep hinders muscle recovery.
There's also evidence that a lack of sleep can increase the risk of injury among athletes. In this study of teenage student-athletes, those who slept at least eight hours per night were 68 percent less likely to injure themselves playing sports than those who slept less than eight hours nightly.
11. There is no magic potion to consistent strength gains in the gym, but if you are habitual with your training, and apply the principle of progressive overload, you are going to see improvements over the long term.
Some of the keys:
- Focus on four major lifts (squat, dead lift, military press, bench press)
- You can customize how many days per week you train
- Maximizing your reps on the last set of each major lift (going to failure)
- Lots of room for creativity with assistance/supplementary training and exercises
Programs like this are customizable and easy to follow. Rigid programs are tough to follow, and complex set and rep schemes also make a program more difficult to adhere to on a consistent basis. This flexibility might make mixing a progressive load into your workout during the busy holiday season a good option. Ask a personal trainer for advice.
10. Write a 'reasons' list.
The very first thing that everyone should be doing before they even begin their program is to write down a reasons list. What this list essentially will be is a simple statement of all the many different reasons why you want to partake in a health and fitness program.
- Are you hoping to get down to a certain clothes size?
- Do you want to have more energy throughout the day?
- Are you hoping to bring down your blood pressure, cholesterol level and reduce your risk of a wide variety of different diseases?
- Or, do you just want more body confidence?
Whatever your reason, get it down on paper. The more you can write down, the better. This list should then be referred to at least once per day, twice if you can manage. Try reading it over first thing upon waking to get the reasons forthright in your mind as you begin your day and then read it once again (or more often) any time you're struggling.
9. What happens to your muscles in different rep ranges?
Well, different things. In general, low reps are for power and strength, medium reps are for strength and hypertrophy, and high reps are for hypertrophy and endurance.
- Low reps are usually categorized as reps in the 1-5 range. It is often said that low reps will stimulate fast twitch muscle fibers while high reps stimulate the slow twitch muscle fibers. The truth is that low reps will stimulate ALL muscle fibers from slow to intermediate to fast and everything in between.
- Moderate Reps. This rep range is typically defined as the 6-12 rep range. Moderate rep ranges have consistently been proven in study after study to lead to the greatest amount of growth. The reason that this rep range is so effective for building muscle is because it does a little bit of everything.
- High reps are usually considered to be any set that contains 15 reps or more. There are many that argue, since low reps stimulate all the muscle fibers and moderate reps induce sarcoplasmic protein synthesis, that there is really no need to do high rep sets. At first this sounds like sound reasoning, but it leaves out one very important factor. This important factor is the effect of glycogen on protein synthesis.
8. Get a fitness buddy.
One of the top motivation techniques that you should never overlook is having a workout partner to hold each other accountable. Ideally this buddy would be someone who plans to attend the gym with you as then you can workout in partnership, encouraging each other along.
Simply having someone there that you can talk to when you are struggling who will provide support and encouragement can go a long way towards keeping you pushing onwards and not dwelling on any mistakes that you may have made.
7. Set daily and weekly mini-goals.
Goal setting is something that many people do when they first start out with their workout program, but then never think about again. While it's great to set those big long-term goals that you want to reach over the course of time, don't overlook the motivation boosting benefits of having mini-goals in place.
Start setting a small goal that you want to accomplish for each and every gym session you plan to attend. By doing so, you'll give that gym session a purpose. When you have a clear purpose for doing something and it's not just something that will hopefully help you in the long-term, you'll be that much more likely to do it.
6. Get into a new routine.
This means that rather than leaving your workouts up to chance throughout the day, aiming to fit them in 'whenever you have time,' set a time to do them and try and make this time constant throughout the week.
When you feel like that workout has just become a normal part of your day, you'll find you have to work a lot less hard at maintaining motivation levels. You’ll just do it without having to even think about it.
5. Work on the weights.
Contrary to popular belief, working on the weights will make you leaner and more toned by increasing your metabolism and speeding up weight loss.
A half hour workout three times a week should be ample to keep you toned through winter, but make sure you up your intensity. For example, instead of jogging at a gentle pace on the treadmill for 10 minutes, push yourself as hard as you can go for as long as you can go, then rest for three minutes. By exercising harder for short periods of time and allowing yourself some rest time, you can measure your cardiovascular fitness, seeing how quickly your heart rate returns to normal. Aim to do three sets of 30-minute interval training sessions to improve endurance and burn more calories.
Stretching is often overlooked and neglected, but it's very important. It improves our flexibility, which reduces the risk of injury when playing sports, improves balance around our joints and reduces muscle soreness when training.
DON'T stretch as a warm-up activity, as you can injure yourself when stretching from cold. At least 3-5 minutes on a running machine or bike should be sufficient to warm muscles up. Stretch at the end of each workout. Hold each stretch at the point of mild tension or tightness - not the point of pain! If you're not sure if you're doing it properly, just ask a trainer or fitness instructor.
3. Get motivated in a group exercise class.
Almost half of adults will be aged over 50 by 2020. We tend to assume the benefits and pleasures of sport, exercise and fitness are only for younger people, but think again. The rewards of improved fitness later in life can be great - both for your health and social life. Statistics show activity levels decline steadily with age, and by their mid-50s few people take regular exercise. But regular activity is especially important as you age because it has beneficial effects on conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and helps you maintain mobility and mental health.
- Even if you weren't especially active or sporty at a younger age, it's never too late to start. Male or female, single or with a partner, there's a lot you can do, and enjoy. Some of the health benefits you'll get are the same as younger people, but there are things that are of particular benefit as you get older.
- More energy - exercise makes you feel more energetic, while sitting around not doing much makes you feel sluggish and unable to do anything.
- Stable weight - regular exercise helps to keep you at a healthy weight.
- Improved circulation and lower blood pressure.
- Keeping active strengthens your muscles, joints and bones, as well as helping with mobility and balance. This is important as it helps to prevent falls, which are the leading cause of injury and death for the over-75s.
2. The holiday season is a time to enjoy being with family and friends, holiday parties and delicious meals.
You can enjoy yourself and stay healthy, lean and fit during the holidays. All it takes is a positive attitude, planning, goal setting and a dose of discipline.
Many people purposely plan to eat more, exercise less and gain weight over the holidays, justifying it by planning to exercise more and eat healthier as a New Year's resolution. When people wait until January to come up with a new fitness plan that's in the form of a New Year's resolution, the damage they do in December sets them back from day one.
1. Less is definitely better than nothing.
When you're strapped for time - which, let's face it, we're all up against at Christmas time - spending long hours in the gym isn't always an option. It's time to get creative! Opt for high-intensity workouts for just 20-30 minutes. You can get similar rewards to working out for a longer period of time at a lower intensity, speak to an instructor for advice and tips on this.
Skip the New Year's Resolutions.
We all do it - make resolutions to lose weight and tone up, eat healthier, go to the gym more, but skip the resolutions - they're no fun! Keeping up your routine just before Christmas may well take out the strains and stresses of the busy holiday period.
Exercise of the Month
The plank is a combination of balance and core conditioning exercise. There are two major types of planks, the full plank, where you balance on both arms, and the side plank, where you balance on one arm. We will discuss the full plank.
Full Plank - Start off on a yoga mat in the pushup position. (The pushup position is the easiest way to get into the plank).
Next, place both of your forearms on the mat so that both of your elbows and fists are flat on the ground. (Your elbows should be directly underneath your shoulders).
With your legs straight out behind you, get up on your toes which should be curled under, and engage your abs by pulling your belly button up toward your spine.
Straighten your body, but keep your neck and spine neutral. Your hips should not sag below your shoulders, nor should they stick up like a "mountain". Your body should make a straight line from your heels to the back of your head the entire duration of the exercise.
Hold this position. This is known as the plank. Keep your eyes on the floor in front of you. Avoid raising your behind when you get tired.
Once the time is complete, slowly lower your body to the floor and rest. Repeat.
This month's "Member Spotlight" is Erik Kyler of West Des Moines. Erik moved to West Des Moines in 2010 after graduating in Optometry from Indiana University. Erik has always been a pretty active individual but never really took "diet and exercise" as a serious endeavor. After moving to West Des Moines and getting married, Erik decided he wanted to start taking his health more seriously. In addition to mountain biking, Erik added running to his weekly life and with the help of Personal Trainer, Brian Schroeder, developed a resistance exercise routine to help him lose weight and add strength and muscle. Along with these exercise changes, Erik also made great changes to his diet.
After losing weight and getting stronger, Erik has since participated in multiple "fun" runs including 5k's, Warrior Dash, Tough Mudder, and Dam to Dam. His biggest accomplishment was recently completing the 2013 Chicago Marathon! Through all of his hard work, Erik has lost 60 pounds!! He has done it the right way. No fad diets or tricks, just simply working hard and making sure calories out > calories in! Congratulations Erik! Keep up the hard work and enjoy every minute of it!