Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Navigating The Psychological Effects of Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy has torn through much of the Eastern seaboard, leaving massive destruction (such as that seen below right) in its wake and millions of people without electricity and water. The physical aftermath is staggering, yet quantifiable.

Courtesy: The Examiner
However, measuring its psychological effects are nebulous guesstimates at best. One effect is that many people are feeling stir crazy, the need to get out of their homes and do something. Many offices and public gathering places are closed, leaving many to simply wander about the town in search of some activity.

A more productive use of your time is going to workout at your local gym. It can be a great and safe physical and psychological outlet in these times. You can remain active, and relieve nervous energy and stress that you may have accumulated from being stuck inside for many hours.

Here are some simple things that you can do to navigate the post Sandy gym crowd and obviate additional stress:

Courtesy: Well and Good NYC
1. Embrace the crowd. There will be more people going to the gym now, since many don't have to, or can't get to work. By having realistic expectations about the amount of additional people you will encounter, you can decrease your chances of feeling extra stress.

Ayala Sherman, a development associate in New York City, took advantage of the day off to go to Equinox. She expected more people to show up, and in fact "the yoga class was nuts!", noting that the "class was double the normal size".

2. Use the buddy system. Whether you are a newbie, or simply want company, work out with a friend or use a trainer. During these times, many trainers will often give you a complimentary 60 minute or 30 minute session. Inquire at your gym to get further information.

3. Reflect, in the moment. Most of us "lead lives of quiet desperation" and fill each day and every hour with myriad activities that keep us occupied, but free of reflection. These activities can often make us lose sight of more important things in life, such as friends and family.

So when someone grabs the last spot in your yoga class, or the bench or weight that you were heading for, simply shrug it off. Reflect on the relative insignificance of that event, and how much you have to be thankful for.

By following these three tips, you can avoid extra stress and have an enjoyable gym experience. Keep the hard work up, and the stress down!


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Exposing The Holiday Weight Gain Myth
   By Bob Wells, CPT, PES

The rumors of the “holiday weight gain” are greatly exaggerated. This notion has been foisted upon us like that of the existence of Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny--entertaining and very profitable to fitness professionals, but false nevertheless.

The five to eight pound weight that many fitness professionals warn against is in reality much less. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, the average weight gain during the holiday period is about one pound. This minuscule weight gain is hardly the doomsday scenario that many portray.

Despite this new evidence, you should not view it as carte blanche to consume whatever you want during the holidays. While the actual weight gain during this period is quite harmless, it is the after effects that can be quite pernicious.

In addition to reinforcing bad dietary habits, such as skipping meals to eat a much larger, more delicious one later, holiday weight is not usually taken off in the subsequent year. Your one or two pound gain this holiday period becomes five to ten pounds in the next few years.

Dr. Jack A. Yanovski, MD., who is the head of Growth and Obesity at the National Institutes of Health, says that those small weight gains can cause major medical problems. More than half of Americans are overweight, and excess weight sets the stage for heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.

The real challenge for the epicureans out there is to balance enjoying the holiday delicacies without the  angst that can come with the battle. Instead of bemoaning your fate, try these tips to make your next holiday a healthy and a delicious one.

  1. Don't skip meals. The idea that you can save calories for the next meal went out with powdered wigs and the horse and buggy. You are simply priming your body to be a fat storing machine, since mealtime can't be predicted and calories must be preserved. Eat small meals every 3-4 hours to maintain normal blood sugar levels and reduce the likelihood of binge eating. (For more info, check out Sculpting the Perfect Body : One Bite at a Time)
  2. Don't stress the dessert. If you're looking forward to that slice of pumpkin pie, enjoy it. Constantly depriving yourself of such culinary delights will make you miserable and actually decrease your willpower. 
  3. Work it out. Whether you take a walk after dinner or sign up for a Turkey Trot, exercising has multiple benefits. Exercise makes you feel better and can be a fun way to keep you cognizant of your fitness goals.
Follow these steps and take a sensible approach to food and drink during the holidays. You will make your next one happy, healthy, and delicious!!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Get Chocolate Milk : It Really Does a Body Good!

(A version of this article first appeared on 24 Savvy)

If you watch any sporting event, you will almost certainly come away with the impression that water or Gatorade are the only beverage recovery options for the inspiring, or the aspiring athlete.

Water may be great for fluid replacement, but it certainly can’t replace depleted nutrients or help you regain energy after a grueling workout. This is where your old frenemy carbohydrates--found in sports drinks like Gatorade--can come to the rescue.

According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), these recovery periods are key opportunities to influence training outcomes. If carbohydrate needs are neglected after training, you diminish potential gains from your workout. Therefore, if you don’t refuel your carbohydrate stores properly, you have essentially wasted your training session.

However, as Dr. John Hawley showed in an issue of the Journal of Sports Science (2006), man does not recover by carbohydrate alone. “Ingesting protein with carbohydrates immediately after exercise reduces muscle soreness. The ability to sustain high level performance day after day is limited by how well glycogen stores are recovered and muscle tissues are repaired.”

Joel Stager, physiologist and director of the Human Performance Laboratory at Indiana University, finds that a great recovery option is one that has a high carbohydrate and protein content.

His latest study was published in a recent issue of the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. In the study, Stager finds an old kid favorite--chocolate milk--to be an optimal post-exercise recovery aid. His findings have also found traction outside of the lab, with athletes and coaches alike.

“I am a huge fan of chocolate milk after workouts,” says Jerry Shreck, head strength coach at Bucknell University. “I tell my athletes to go to the cafe and slam two glasses after a workout.

Courtesy : Got Chocolate Milk?
“You have about a 45 minute window after a workout when your body will be craving nutrients to combat the hormone imbalances that you created during the workout. At this time, your body will take in those nutrients at a more optimal rate. Therefore, your body can use them to immediately start repairing itself, which aids in quicker recovery. “

Now drink up--to your health and your hot new body.

Chocolate milk, it really does a body good!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Joy of Fitness
   by Bob Wells, CPT, PES

As I crossed the finish line of the Fit For All 5K, I felt a familiar feeling in my legs.

It was the same feeling that I had after every 400 meter race I have ever run--jelly. I quickly scanned for a place to relieve them--of the nearly 210 pounds packed onto my 5'9" frame.

I am built for the 100 meter sprint or the 40 yard dash, but certainly not a 5,000 meter race, at least according to conventional wisdom. My pseudo running partner, Frank Monteleone, congratulated me as I crossed the finish line, in 26:05, officially. (Frank had long dusted me, finishing nearly five minutes earlier, good enough for a 4th place overall finish.)

Shy of my 25:00 goal, I was nevertheless pleased with my performance. In my first official race, with cold air penetrating my lungs with each breath, it felt as if I were the victim of a robbery gone bad. Coupled with cramps growing more intense, I was also fighting an overwhelming desire to quit.

At about the 2.5 mile point, I seriously contemplated curling up into the fetal position, forgoing a race in which my legs had forsaken me. Had I been wearing more than my black Nike shorts and my "Jews Kick Ass" t-shirt, a bold DNF might have been attached to my name.

Instead, I ran on, encouraged by my fellow runners and an amazing crowd cheering each runner. With the race, I discovered the camaraderie of the distance community. The race was more than just a race.

It was a community gathering, with each participant and spectator encouraging everyone else to dig deep, to finish strong, and experience the joy that comes with accomplishing something you once thought impossible.

It is...the joy of fitness!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Dynamic Ways to Start Your Workout

Common sense and science dictate that we can’t just jump into a workout. We need some type of warmup prior to a training session in order to maximize the training benefit, as well as to prevent injury.

Often warmups include running on a treadmill for a few minutes, doing some pushups, or stretching. However, science has shown that stretching fails to prevent injury. (Fields et al. 2007) Further, pre-workout stretching has been shown to inhibit strength. (Fowles et al. 2000)

Coaches like John Campbell of Equinox believe dynamic warmups are a preferable way to prep the body to work out.

“Dynamic warmups better prepare the body by training by taking it through greater range of movement. Exercises like lunges, knee hugs, or inchworms (as seen in the videos below) can elevate core temperature, and improve soft tissue pliability.”

In short, dynamic warmups are a great way to reduce your risk of injury and better prepare you for the workout, maximizing your results.  

Get started now and get results!!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Squat Your Way to a Flatter Stomach

(This article first appeared on 24Savvy on September 26, 2012)

Jill Coleman / Courtesy Jill Fit
Take a look at the cover of any health and fitness magazine. You will see perfectly sculpted men and women smiling, usually showcasing their flat, tight abdominals and touting the latest plank or crunch variation as the source of their invidious midsection.

Apart from choosing their parents wisely, these “models” work hard by pressing and lifting heavy weights, especially squats. As shown in Lou Schuler’s “Lift Like Hercules, Look Like Aphrodite”, the fallacious notion that lifting heavy weights will make you bulky has been sufficiently debunked.

Lifting heavy weights is believed to promote greater calorie burn due to the muscle repair that has to take place after these sessions. Lifting heavy will help make you leaner AND stronger. There are many multijoint exercises like pushups, lunges, and pull-ups that can help you get you the leaner, tighter body you desire.

However, squats can provide the best bang for your buck, since they can work nearly half of the 600+ muscles in your body, including those in your core. Michael Granger, a Tier 3+ coach at Equinox says, “ squats uniquely challenge and utilize the muscles of the core.”

“Also, by changing the complexity of the exercise, such as by doing an overhead squat or a suitcase squat (weight in one hand only), you can provide a greater challenge to your core.” However, Granger notes that the OMG abs the models display are the result of more than just exercise.

“Genetics and diet also play a large role in getting the body of your dreams.” For more information about eating right, check out “Sculpting the Perfect Body: One Bite at a Time”

Now, let’s get squatting!