310713 Timing your meals to increase the effectiveness of your workouts

 Timing your meals to increase the effectiveness of your workouts

Morning workouts may be somewhat better for weight loss. There is some evidence showing that more fat is burned when exercising before eating breakfast. This may be because when exercising later on these sessions will be fueled by the proteins and carbohydrates from meals eaten earlier in the day.

However, if you have any type of a heart disease, working out in the morning may not be your best option because your risk of a heart attack is slightly elevated.

Some of the research is showing that exercise in the afternoon may be better for building strength and endurance. These same studies are showing that your aerobic capacity, coordination, flexibility, muscle strength, and reaction time show the greatest training peak between 1600 and 1900 hrs.

Even though the research is becoming clearer as to the best time to exercise each day, it is not going to make a hill of beans if these times are not good for you.

Each day is special, and each day you have to make a conscious decision as to when you are going to work out. The more habitual this workout time becomes the better the chances are that you are going to stick with it over the long haul.

As for deciding what time to eat your biggest meal of the day, you may want to keep this in mind: stuffing yourself at the local buffet shortly before going to bed will almost guarantee you of a poor night’s sleep because your body is working to digest all the food you ate.

290713 The limited definition of physically fit

The limited definition of physically fit

The term physically fit has many different definitions. To some it means being able to walk or run long distances, to others it may mean being physically strong, while others include being flexible, coordinated, and agile in their definition.

For those who tend to lean towards doing aerobic activities, the term fitness implies cardiovascular fitness. This then means how effectively your heart and lungs are supplying oxygen to your muscles and internal organs.

Even for a hard-core lifter, being physically fit should include being somewhat aerobically capable and by that I mean being able to go through a heavy workout and not have to be supported by your partners when you walk from the bench to the squat rack. The more aerobically fit you are the longer you going to be able to exercise without becoming so winded you have to stop.

One of the biggest benefits of being aerobically fit is it reduces your risk of major diseases of the heart such as stroke and other myocardial problems. It also enhances your ability to take in and use oxygen by making a stronger, more elastic pair of lungs.

Evaluation of the cardiovascular fitness of an individual is most often performed on a treadmill, with monitors measuring the heart rate both during and after the treadmill exercise.

There are numerous self-tests one can use to determine their aerobic physical fitness. One of the easiest is to see how fast you can walk a mile without getting winded. You should be able to do this in no more than about 18 minutes if you are a moderately fit woman between 30 or 40 years of age. For the men this test should take about 17 and a half minutes.

For those of you who are older than 40 years of age, you are allowed an extra 30 seconds for each additional decade of life.

Whatever your situation may be there is no substitute for exercise in helping to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

260713 Blood pressure, daily walking and the connection with being overweight

Blood pressure, daily walking and the connection with being overweight

If you are overweight, then daily walking may not dramatically decrease your blood pressure. The healthy benefits that walking has on the blood vessels of a normal weight person may be lost on the overweight individual.

In general terms this means that your arteries are not widening and the blood flow is not improved with walking, thus your blood pressure may not change to more optimum numbers.

Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern conducted a study that analyzed over 35,000 Caucasian men and women. Each person in the study had regular checkups that included measurements of their Body Mass Index (BMI) and readings of their systolic blood pressure each visit. Additionally these participants exercised at each visit so their fitness levels could be assessed. The results may give anyone who is overweight a reason to reassess their situation.

The results were published in the American heart journal and they revealed that a normal weight person had an average of 12 mmHg lower systolic blood pressure than one who was obese. The blood pressure of the fittest was only 6 mmHg lower than for those who were least fit. Still, that wasn’t all they found.

After analyzing the blood pressure, BMI, and fitness data of the participants, they found that physical fitness was an important element in lowering blood pressure in those of a normal weight person. However, it was not as effective of a component in those who were overweight. Interestingly enough, many in this overweight group were physically fit yet their blood pressure was still high.

The take-home message here certainly indicates that diet alone may not help lower your blood pressure. The combination of losing weight, by engaging in regular exercise, and calorie counting will need to be in place before you begin to notice the beneficial effects of exercise on lowering your blood pressure.

240713 Lessons learned when exercising in the heat

Lessons learned when exercising in the heat

Right now, in my neck of the woods, it is not uncommon for the temperatures to be in the high 80s and low 90s (Fahrenheit). Although the humidity is relatively low here compared to other parts of our great country, it is still hot.

Keeping up with your exercise schedule can sometimes be a challenge, especially when it is hot. Having lived in this environment for many years, I have naturally adapted to the conditions and made changes in how I exercise during this period.

Lifting in the heat – lift early

The expected temperatures today are going to be hovering around 97° but right now, at 0430, it is a very pleasant 59°. This makes it ideal to head out to the gym get the majority the work out completed before the temperatures get too hot. And since I am an early riser, generally getting up about 0415 – 0430 hours each day, this works out very nicely for me.

Keep hydrated

I start each day with a liter of cool water with the goal of completely emptying it by no later than 1300 hours each day. I supplement this with various types of V-8 Fusion and Costco 0-calorie drinks. Added to this recommendation is one of avoiding sugary drinks, which means pop in most cases. Also, be aware that in many of the juices on the market, the first or second ingredient is sugar. With too much sugar it takes at an exaggerated amount of time for the liquid actually start getting into your system.

Keep your clothes on

You will rarely see anyone from the Mideast or in other hotter environments walking around with shorts, shirts, and sandals on. And there is a good reason for this; clothing does not allow the wind or activity to quickly blow off the perspiration, which is the prime cooling mechanism for your body. For example, if your gym has a multitude of fans or air-conditioning which moves the air around, taking your clothes off allows this circulating air to rapidly remove the sweat off your body. This causes your body to sweat more in an effort to keep itself cool. Whereas if you allow the sweat to naturally evaporate then your normal activity would have allowed it to act like the radiator that it is.

Lift in the evening

In the area I live in the temperature starts to go down around 1900 – 2000 hours. Even though it is not as cool as is in the morning at 0430 hours it is certainly more tolerable than lifting when it is 97° during the day. To my way of thinking, the best way to do this is to lift the major muscle groups in the morning and finish off with the accessory exercises in evening.

Keeping your daily nutrition up to par

I highly recommend eating lightly during the summer by avoiding fatty, sugar-laden foods. The high-fat foods linger on making your body sluggish and just set in your gut waiting to be absorbed. Your body will be much more efficient during the heat with lighter fare such as salads, fruits, vegetables, and protein drinks.

Take naps during the heat

Once your workout session is over, drink your protein, and then take a 20 to 30 minute nap. This rejuvenates your body and makes it grow.

230713 Changes in pain

Changes in pain

Typically, your pain will gradually subside over time with the proper treatment. If this does not happen then a revisit with your doctor is in order just as it would be if the pain changes in character. For instance if your pain moves up the scale from mild to severe or greater then call your care provider and follow their suggestions. A more serious change would be an onset of new symptoms such as tingling or numbness; both demand a consult with your doctor as soon as you can get in to see them. Your doctor should reevaluate these changes in the pain characteristics. They will conduct an examination and either eliminate a possible serious threat to your health or change the directions of the present care program.

Low back pain (LBP) is one of the most commonly reported health issues.

Throughout ones life, there more than likely will be at least one episode of low back pain. The cause can be muscle strains, deconditioning of the body brought on by a sedentary lifestyle, spinal disk damage from accidents and the degenerative diseases of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. In some cases, the pain escalates into an unbearable situation and must be aggressively dealt with by the medical professional.

In the present case of low back pain, serious red flags that appear need to be heeded and promptly attended to by a medical professional. If you experience any of  the following, it is time to seek outside help.

 Fever or chills and or night sweats
 An inability to empty your bladder
 Incontinence of your bladder or bowels
 Weight loss that you can not explain
 Pain that cannot be relieved with rest and relaxation
 If you are awakened at night by your pain
 The inability of positional changes to alleviate your pain symptoms
 Numbness, pain weakness in your legs, either one or both of them

These signs or symptoms could indicate an undiagnosed condition such as an infection, compression fracture of the spinal column due to osteoporosis, nerve root or spinal cord compression, a kidney stone or stones, an abdominal aortic aneurysm , spinal cancer or a tumor that may have started elsewhere and spread to the spine. In the case of the latter, these are especially true in the case of prostate, breast and lung cancers.

Pay attention to what your body is telling you and don’t let these signals pass without an examination by your doctor.

220713 The major categories of pain-acute and chronic

The major categories of pain-acute and chronic

Acute pain is normally the result of an illness, some sort of injury or occurs after surgery. This type of pain causes the body to automatically stop what you are doing in an effort to protect it from further harm. This is due to the tissue damage that causes the pain receptors to respond.

Unlike chronic pain, acute pain can be pinpointed. You know exactly where you hurt and can put your fingers in the area where it hurts. Fortunately, this kind of pain generally subsides with time and gradually goes away.

Chronic pain by definition usually lasts six months or longer. It may stem from a chronic joint condition caused by arthritis, peripheral neuropathy or it could be the residual effects of an accident, infection, tumor or surgery that has damaged the nerves. In other cases, the cause of the pain is not understood because there is no evidence of a disease or damage to the tissues that would trigger it.

See your doctor and take care of the problem.

190713 Paying attention to the red flags of pain

Paying attention to the red flags of pain

Pain is your body telling you something is not right. Maybe it’s simply a little ache that quickly goes away, but what if it is excruciating. Some pain signs are serious red flags that need to prompt attention by a medical professional. Carefully consideration of these signs may be the step that is necessary to prevent further deterioration of a manageable condition.

An emergency pain signal, one that should get you moving to an emergency department, is one or more of the following symptoms:

 A sudden onset of severe pain that is unrelated to an accident or some other situation that commonly would constitute an accident
 Upper abdominal area or chest pain or pressure
 Having difficulty in breathing or suffering from shortness of breath that is not normal to your situation
 Dizziness, fainting, weakness, particularly if the dizziness and weak condition comes on suddenly
 Sudden severe headache or a change in your vision
 Difficulty in speaking or understanding others
 Confusion or sudden changes in your mental status, a loved one or someone close to you may be the first to notice this change
 Uncontrolled bleeding
 Persistent and severe vomiting or diarrhea
 Coughing blood
 Vomiting blood

Don’t try to tough it out. Get medical help and get it fixed.

170713 Another great day starting out

Another great day starting out

It’s 0431 and the day is starting out with a bang. I never can decide which part of the day I like the best. Is it going to bed at night or getting up early the next morning.

Going to bed gets me over that time of inactivity and into the busy part sooner.

Before going to bed I make up a to do list for the next day. This gives me direction as to what needs to be done.

Today the list shows writing articles for the various media I am involved with on an ongoing basis, heading out to the gym for a quick morning workout, making sure the equipment is ready for the trainees, mowing the lawn, taking a short ride on the motorcycle, reading a nonfiction book for at least an hour (I am reading Sir Max Hastings book about Winston Churchill and the war years 1939-1945), working in the garden and getting the weeds pulled, back to the gym for a thirty minute ride on the bike and then a full body strength session, back in for the daily check on the email and other business matters, this averages, on a normal day around 90 minutes and is the most boring part of the entire day.

My last effective task for the day, before it is simply playtime, is to read something related to strength training for an hour. Currently, I am in the process of reading Special Strength Training Manual For Coaches by Yuri and Natalia Verkhoshansky. It seems as though each page has something new on it.

That is my day in a brief nutshell.

150713 Gaining muscle with electrical impulses, fact, or fiction

Gaining muscle with electrical impulses, fact, or fiction

Periodically one sees an advertisement for an electrical device that supposedly builds muscles or helps someone to lose weight. Without a doubt, some types of electrical stimulation are beneficial, however the gains in the muscles are minuscule. Useful versions of these are seen most often in a physical therapy setting where they are used in the rehab of an injury and after a surgery to help control pain. The tens unit comes immediately to mind.

The repeated shocks produced by these electrical devices can force rapid contractions of the muscles. This repeated stimulation does cause a certain amount of growth in the muscle fibers but even the best of these devices, as used in the medical field, can do only so much. They help to partially stave off muscle atrophy during the rehabilitation.

In order to gain muscle size, strength, and to burn enough calories to lose weight, exercise is a critical part of the equation. Without exercise, these devices are practically useless, especially the ones seen on TV.

One popular, regularly advertised, model found that the stimulation of the major muscles of the abdomen, arms, and legs for up to 45 minutes, three times a week for a full two months produced no significant changes in the participants strength levels, body fat ratio to lean muscle mass, weight , or their overall appearance.

The recommendation from most astute observers is to regularly exercise and follow a sound nutritious diet because getting stronger, bigger, and losing weight does not come with an electrical machine. You actually have to be active and watch what you eat and drink.

130713 Stable and unstable surface bench pressing

Stable and unstable surface bench pressing

Research scientists in Norway examined the electromyographic activity of the muscles used in the bench press on both stable and unstable surfaces. They compared 6 repetition maximum loads on three different surfaces. One series on a bench press bench, another on a balance cushion and a third on a Swiss ball. Admittedly, the volunteer numbers were small, at only sixteen; however, the results showed that a more stable platform insured greater EMG activity, which relates to greater strength development.

The EMG probes monitored the biceps brachii, deltoid anterior, erector spinae, oblique external, pectoralis major, and the rectus abdominus muscles.

In relation to using the stable bench, this 6-repetition maximum was approximately 93% greater than when doing it on the balance cushion and approximately 92% greater than for the Swissball. In fact, the contribution of the pectoralis major was approximately 90% using the balance cushion and only 81% using the Swissball, triceps activity was approximate 79% use the balance cushion and only 69% using the Swissball.

In relationship to the balance cushion, the EMG activity of the pectoralis major, triceps, and erector spinae, when using the Swissball was 89% and 80% respectively. However, the activity of the rectus abdominus showed more involvement when using the Swissball when compared to both the cushion and stable bench.

The researchers concluded that the stable bench produced a greater 6 repetition maximum than was achieved with either the cushion or the stability ball.

Unless there is a specific medical reason to be doing bench presses on a cushion or stability ball you are going to get more out of it on a stable bench than if using a cushion or stability ball. If, however, you insist upon using unstable surfaces to bench on, the next best option is the cushion with the stability ball as a last resort.