Thursday, July 31, 2008

Wow does time fly!

I've officially been writing a fitness newsletter for 8 years now. Sometimes I've been very consistent, sending an article weekly or bi-weekly. Other times I've gone a couple of months between newsletters. My goal over the past year has been to send an article (hopefully of value) no less than every other week.

And now you can help me out.... I'm going to continue writing a new article no less than once every two weeks. But I thought, hey, who better than the reader of this newsletter to tell me what to write about.

So, here's your chance to submit your most pressing question about fitness or nutrition. As the questions come in I'll prioritize them and answer them, week by week. And when the last question is finally answered, I'll send everyone a pdf copy of the book we create together as a token of appreciation for your readership.

Please send your most pressing fitness or nutrition question to: newsletter@healthstylefitness.com.

Thank you for your help and input!

Okay, on to this week's article...

Strength Training - How Much Weight Should I Use?

Proper weight selection is an often overlooked variable in most people's fitness routines. Some well intentioned exercise enthusiasts crank through exercise after exercise without sufficiently challenging their muscles. Others are too aggressive in their weight selection, or they use too much too soon.

There is a very good rule of thumb to follow when choosing the proper amount of weight - and it's this:

Set one of a resistance training exercise should be a warm up set, using a light to moderate weight level. This allows your joints, connective tissue, and muscle tissue additional blood flow in preparation for more work. Your second set should be a heavier weight level, allowing the muscles to tire just a bit. Then the sets that follow set two should be preformed to momentary muscle failure (MMF).

Momentary muscle failure simply means that we are asking the muscles to perform a certain number of repetitions, in strict form, to a point where the muscles cannot continue to create additional movement. Nearing the end of a predetermined given number of reps, you'll reach the point where the muscles start to become challenged and you really "feel it" in that muscle. That's the point of muscle fatigue - the target muscle or muscle group is getting tired. But you've got to keep going past fatigue to a point of "failure" as the whole idea is to ask the muscle to do more than it's capable of doing at a given stage.

So let's say that you've performed a fourth repetition and you're feeling that muscle fatigue. Then you move on to repetition number five. And now you're trying and trying and - you got it! You did repetition number five - in strict form, of course! Great! But, that's not a point of failure yet - simply because you achieved it. So now you're going to attempt to do repetition number six - in strict form. And on this rep you are trying and trying and trying and - Whew! You just can't do it. Some people may have a tendency at this point to cheat, to throw in other body parts, or to somehow use momentum to get the weight to the place you're trying to get to. DON'T! That's the worst thing you can do! Because when you reach that point of momentary muscle failure, that is the stimulus - you are asking the muscle to do something that it's not capable of doing. And when it reaches that point of failure, stop! Now you've reached strict muscle failure. That's when the muscle responds by getting a little more toned and a little stronger.

This concept is critical for adding lean muscle tissue (not bulky muscle) that allows the body to function at optimal capacity. And remember, the development of lean tissue enhances the body's ability to use stored body fat as energy.

Momentary muscle failure can occur at 6 reps, 10 reps, 20 reps, or for 30 seconds, for example. There's not a magical number or time period of repetitions. MMF at lower reps tends to stimulate the enhancement of fast twitch muscle fibers (explosive fibers); MMF at higher repetitions will stimulate the slower twitch muscle fibers (endurance fibers).

A qualified trainer will coach you through these concepts. If MMF sounds scary, it's not. You'll be able to follow it - it's definitely not as hard as it might sound, but it's a critical component to developing lean muscle tissue and improving your health, fitness & body.

Alright, armed with an understanding of MMF, let's get to it!

Have a great Thursday!

Your friend in fitness,

Brian Calkins - HealthStyle Fitness, Inc.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What To Do When Fat Loss is Slow...

In order to lose excess body fat, we need to combine (1) eating in a manner that allows the body to reduce fat while maintaining daily energy requirements, (2) a blend of steady state and interval cardio training and (3) a consistent pursuit of developing lean muscle tissue. There are a lot of details that we could expound upon, but for this article, let’s assume we’re on the right track with our nutrition and exercise.

Some people drop the pounds relatively quickly when they incorporate proper eating and exercise. Others seem to lose more slowly. Hey, we need to face reality; we’re all different and will respond differently to the same lifestyle changes.

But just because we might “lose” slower than our friend or spouse, we need to remember that we ARE making progress. Almost everyone focuses primarily on the aesthetic change – how you look. In addition to how your body looks, eating right and consistent exercise improves your energy, reduces your stress and back pain, improves your mental outlook. There are way too many benefits for this short article (to read the benefits known by science click here).

But since nearly everyone who starts a healthy nutrition and fitness program wants to look better (and I don’t blame you), here’s what we need to know.

We store body fat in essentially 3 places – under the skin (subcutaneous fat), within our muscles (intramuscular fat), and around our organs (visceral fat). Although research isn’t yet 100% definitive, studies suggest that we tend to lose fat first in muscle. Although fat loss is fat loss, sometimes a new exerciser becomes disappointed when the fat that she can pinch and pull (subcutaneous) doesn’t seem to be decreasing. And when you combine that with a lack of perceived dropping of pounds on the scale (go to Throw Away Your Scale), she’s ready to give up after only a few weeks of exercise. Don’t quit. You’re on the right track. As the intramuscular fat reduces, the subcutaneous fat (under the skin) reduction will follow.

If you perceive you’re not losing, change your standard of measurement. Body composition is the gold standard in terms of measuring change over time. Taking circumference measurements can also give you a relative good gauge of your progress. You’re clothing will fit better in due time.

Instead of focusing on the numbers (lost), focus on the behaviors that ultimately lead to your ideal body shape and all the wonderful benefits of great health and fitness. For example, if you have four workouts planned for the week, allow that to be your gauge of progress rather than a scale number or other measurement. Consistent follow through using the right approach will surely allow you to achieve your goals.

And remember, this article makes the assumption you are doing everything right from a nutrition and exercise standpoint. With all the misinformation that abounds on fitness and nutrition, it’s not a bad idea to check yourself against the pitfalls that sometimes well intentioned exercise enthusiasts fall prey to – to review these click here.

Okay, armed with this information, let’s get to it!

Your friend in fitness,

Brian Calkins
NSCA-CPT, ACE


HealthStyle Fitness, Inc. 4325 Red Bank Rd Cincinnati, OH 45227 513-407-4665 Cincinnati Fitness

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Secret To Getting Rid of Your Trouble Spots

By Brian Calkins, Cincinnati Ohio Personal Fitness Trainer

One of the most frequent questions I’m asked by clients, friends and people looking to improve their bodies is… "How do I get rid of this?" And “this” might be the excess body fat around the middle, the back of the arms, the glutes, inner or outer thighs, etc.

I'll let you in on a secret: The answer is the same for any body part, but no one seems to know that you simply cannot reduce an area by doing more and more exercise for that area.

In an attempt to clear up the myth of spot reduction, here are the keys to strengthening and shaping your muscles, enhancing your heart and lung function and burning off excess stubborn body fat, including your trouble spots.

You need a regular routine of resistance training and aerobic exercise. Your program should be progressively challenging, and changed on a frequent basis, like every 3 – 4 weeks. The challenging part simply means that you must exercise at an intensity that takes you just beyond what your muscles (and heart and lungs) are capable of doing today. When you ask your muscles to do more than they are capable, they in turn respond by becoming stronger and more efficient, leading to a leaner, healthier physique.

What does a challenging workout feel like? It can be as simple as performing one more repetition on a resistance training exercise. You never want to stop your strength training movement until the target muscles reach momentary failure while maintaining proper form (no cheating to allow for additional reps!). I watch so many well-intentioned exercise enthusiasts, working out 3-5 times every week, who just go through the motions. Remember, our body as a whole and our muscles specifically, only respond to the effort and stimulus that we provide. Little stimulus equals little results. Always workout in a safe manner, but make sure you challenge your muscles sufficiently.

Another vital factor to stimulate changes in your body, and thus the reduction in your trouble spots, is to change your routine frequently. Ideally you’ll dedicate 3-4 weeks cycling the focus of your exercise between adding lean muscle tissue (lower reps), shaping those muscles (higher reps) and then burning the fat stores around the muscles (emphases on supersets, functional training and fast pace circuit training exercise). The key is this: Before the body adapts to any given routine you’ll introduce a new stimulus to bring about additional positive change while preventing you from reaching the plateau.

From a cardiovascular exercise standpoint, we’ll make it simple. You need to elevate your heart rate into YOUR appropriate target heart zone. Everybody’s exercise heart rate is different and based on your age and existing fitness level. If you’re performing at too low or high an intensity level, you end up frustrated with your results. To have your target heart rate zones determined for you, visit the target heart rate formula on my site here: www.briancalkins.com/HeartRate.htm.

And the final piece of the puzzle to target and rid yourself, once and for all, of your stubborn areas, is to eat right!

And of course, we’ve heard the words “eat right” or some version thereof about one hundred times this week alone! Eat right simply means to put the right fuel and building material into the body at regular intervals allowing your body to optimally use the macronutrient substrates . . . and then . . . to refuel again.

Translated into English - eat frequently, and in every meal get a mix of natural complex carbohydrates, fiber, protein, and essential fats. These are meals that raise your metabolic thermostat to allow for optimal body fat reduction.

Even more simply, strive to eat a lean protein (chicken breast), a starchy complex natural carbohydrate (whole grains), and a fibrous carbohydrate (whole fruits and vegetables) every 3 - 4 hours, or as close to that as is comfortably possible. Avoid or minimize simple sugars, saturated and hydrogenated fats, and get your meals from a variety of sources all found in the perimeter of your favorite grocery store.

And remember, there isn't anything in a bottle that will make up for the absence of supportive meals. If you can't get to a meal, you can use a meal replacement powder that contains those components mentioned above.

So, in summary, when you apply appropriate resistance and cardiovascular training, your body will make changes. It will reduce body fat stores, increase muscle tone, and get better at delivering oxygen to your tissues – all in an effort to make you look, perform and feel better than you probably have in years!

If your workouts have gotten a little boring, mix them up. Add some resistance; increase your speed of cardio. Do SOMETHING different. Join a fitness boot camp program, the latest Gravity Group fitness program, commit to the Total Fitness Makeover, learn new exercises, try something fitness related that looks like fun. Most importantly, give your body a reason to change and it will. The rules are the same for any trouble spot you want to work off.

Monday, July 7, 2008

The 5K is Saturday...

Our first milestone arrives on Saturday! Congrats for laying the groundwork over the past 7+ weeks as you are now ready for the 5K.

If you’re running on Saturday, you can register online (registration deadline is Wednesday!!) Please let me know that you are running so we can all start together as a team and share in the post-race festivities. Click here to register for Fairfax Day 5K

Next week we’ll add some mileage to our Saturday run as we kick off the preparation for our next milestone, the 10K. But first, let’s savor the 5K on Saturday!!

Below is our schedule for the week...

Tuesday - Run 30 min
Thursday - Run 30 min
Saturday - Fairfax 5K Run
Sunday - Celebrate!!

See many of you at Crossroads tomorrow at 6:30am...

Your friend in fitness,
Brian Calkins

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

If You've Struggled to Change, New Method Leads to Success!

I just finished reading a fascinating book called Change Or Die that sheds new light on the process of long-term, successful change. The book begins by discussing why historically 9 out of 10 people fail to change a belief, mindset or habit in spite of the fact that NOT changing will cause someone's life to end soon - or a lot sooner than it had to end.

According to the book's author, Alan Deutschman, if for example someone was sedentary, consumed a diet high in fat and cholesterol, smoked and lived a life full of stress, that person had just a 10 percent chance of success in changing these behaviors, even after he knew these behaviors were killing him. After the first few pages, I was shocked, discouraged and ready to do away with the book.

But quickly the book explains why the failure to change has been so high and shares new findings that clearly demonstrate that change is not only possible, but sustainable for the long term using a new approach to motivation.

Here's the old school approach to change:

  1. Find - Find the facts or source of the problem first, before trying to change a behavior or habit
  2. Facts - The facts should be compelling enough to motivate change
  3. Fear - Authority dictates the change based on fear
  4. Denial - We stay in denial in an effort to protect ourselves from the reality that we're in need of change

So using the old school, fear-based model of change, a patient has a heart attack and his doctor advises him that due to eating high fatty food and being sedentary, he'll die soon if his behavior is not modified. The patient is prescribed a drug, told to "exercise and eat right" and sent on his way. After a period of some behavior modification, 9 out of 10 stop following the treatment, including taking the heart medicine. Following through on the doctor's advice confirms that something is wrong with the heart patient, thus denial leads to lack of compliance.

The new school of motivation and lasting change:

  1. Relate - You are not alone in your struggle to improve your lifestyle (change your eating habits, lose weight, lower your stress, reduce risk of disease) and you connect with others who you can relate to for support and guidance in the change process
  2. Repeat - Keep working and reinforcing your new behaviors with support from your connections
  3. Reframe - look at the situation in a whole new light until you can internalize the change and it becomes part of you

Using the new concept of lasting change, a person relies on a team of professionals, such as doctors, dietitians, personal trainers and change experts, as well as peer support groups that can relate to the challenges at hand. With the proper guidance, new behaviors are repeated and reinforced until they replace old, undesired patterns. Perfection is never expected and a reframing process allows for continued focus on the positive until the new lifestyle is fully engrained.

If you've ever struggled to change a behavior, belief, mindset or a situation in your life, I heartily recommend you read this book. It will give you the framework with which to change your life!

By the way, the next Adventure Boot Camp for Women starts next week. If you're looking to make changes in your health, fitness and body, use the link below - there are just a few spaces available in the next camp.

Click Here for Adventure Boot Camp for Women!

Have a safe and enjoyable 4th of July!

Your friend in fitness,

Brian Calkins
NSCA-CPT, ACE

HealthStyle Fitness, Inc. 4325 Red Bank Rd Cincinnati, OH 45227 513-407-4665 www.CincinnatiFitness.com