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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Kitchen Makeover - Part 2

A few months ago, we posted a blog, Kitchen Makeover, where we talked about how to get your kitchen in working order so you can improve your healthy eating habits.  Today, we are going to talk a little more about little things you can do to further improve your odds of cooking and eating healthier in your own kitchen.

We said it last time and we'll say it again...organize, organize, organize.  When your kitchen (including pantry/cupboards/refrigerator) is organized, you'll be much happier spending time preparing food.  Here are few more kitchen organization tips.
  • Do you have a lot of plastic, zip-top bags floating around?  Store like-size bags in one larger bag and label it.  That way you don't have to sift through numerous bags to find the right size.
  • Keep masking tape and a Sharpie close by.  Use the tape to label leftovers for the refrigerator or freezer.  Be sure place a date on the label also to ensure freshness of the food item.
  • Keep leftovers in one place in your refrigerator.  This will ensure you know what's in there and how long it's been in there.  No more searching through the fridge to find a container of moldy, leftover food.
  • Have bottles of water (already filled) in the fridge.  Fill reusable bottles with water and store in your refrigerator so you can just grab and go!

Beyond the fridge and the pantry, a healthy kitchen involves a number of other items and a lot of smart organization.  See how many of these you have right now, and then see how you can slowly add more over time.
  • Picture of your goal on the fridge
  • Healthy cookbooks
  • Very visible grocery list
  • Coupon envelope or storage system
  • NO pizza coupons
  • Cutting board for chopping fresh fruits and veggies
  • Easy-to-read and categorized recipe box or book
  • Full set of measuring cups and spoons
  • NO television in the kitchen or eating area (distractions can cause overeating)
  • Usable kitchen table – free of clutter, bills, bookbags and projects
  • Spice rack and spices
  • Water filter
  • Snack bowl on the counter, for all of those fresh fruits and healthy snacks you’ll have!!

Healthy eating isn't difficult but it does take some planning and preparation.  Keep your kitchen canvas clean and you'll be more apt to experiment and spend time preparing healthy, delicious meals.  Try some of these tips and get your kitchen organized and ready.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Overtraining..Is Too Much Exercise a Good or Bad Thing?

You hear it on the news, you see it in magazines...exercise is important.  Everyone should exercise a certain number of days per week for a certain number of minutes.  Do this exercise but not that exercise.  Do this exercise first then that exercises.  What was good yesterday is no longer good today.  There is a lot of conflicting information in the news and on the internet.  One thing still holds true...it is possible to do too much exercise.  We, in the fitness and health industry, call it "overtraining".

Typically, overtraining occurs when training volume (how much) or intensity (how hard) is too high for too long. Generally speaking, volume and intensity are inversely related when it comes to exercise.  That means when the volume of exercise is high, the intensity should be lower and vice versa.  If both are elevated for a prolonged period, the body will suffer the consequences.  Hormone imbalances between testosterone and cortisol can occur with high volume training for prolonged periods.  Disruption in the body's ability to effectively utilize fat stores can occur with high volume training.  In terms of prolonged, high intensity training, exercise-induced levels of catecholamines are markedly increased.  This causes the body to elicit a "fight or flight" response to exercise by increasing heart rate, blood pressure, and blood glucose.  This repeated response to exercise can result in decreased muscle strength over time.

How do you know if you are overtraining?  It can be difficult to determine on your own.  Your best bet would be talking with a fitness professional.  Many signs and symptoms of overtraining have been suggested but it should be noted that not all of these symptoms will be present, and that the presence of some of these symptoms does not automatically mean an individual is overtrained. The ultimate determination of overtraining is whether performance is impaired or plateaued.  Here are some common signs of overtraining:
  • Decreased performance (strength, power, endurance)
  • Decreased motor coordination (clumsy, tripping)
  • Decreased training tolerance
  • Increased recovery requirements
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Eating and sleeping disorders
  • Altered heart rate and blood pressure
  • Headaches
  • Gastrointestinal stress
  • Joint aches and pain
  • Muscle soreness and damage
  • Depression
  • Impaired immune system
  • Increased frequency of illness
Remember, you may not experience all of these symptoms and just because you do experience some of them doesn't necessarily mean you have been overtrained.  A degreed, experienced fitness professional can talk with you about your training, look at your volume and intensity and help you determine if you are the "result" of overtraining.

Your body needs adequate rest from activity so be sure you schedule the appropriate "rest days" within you workout routine.  Also, make sure your volume and intensity of training are inversely related.  Don't try to go "all out" during every workout and try to vary your routine from time to time.  These are just a few tips to keep your workout regimen fresh and, most importantly, safe.  Still need help?  Make an appointment with one of our trainers to discuss the appropriate plan for you and your goals.  Stop by or call PROMATx Health Club today. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Self-Myofascial Release and Foam Rollers

Short & Long Full Foam Rollers
So the last time you were in the gym, you probably saw a member rolling around on a piece of Styrofoam or a knobby tube.  What was that??  Is this some crazy new way trainers are torturing, I mean conditioning, their clients?  It's not new and it's definitely not torture!!  Use of a foam roller (or similar product) is a technique called "self-myofascial release" or SMR. By performing SMR techniques on a simple piece of foam, you can improve flexibility, function, performance and reduce injuries. In a nutshell, you use your own body weight to roll on the round foam roll, massaging away restrictions to normal muscle movement/function. And you can perform this program at home, thus maximizing your recovery time!

Here's a little background on how this “magical” foam roll does all that.  Your body contains what we call a "kinetic chain", which is made up of the soft tissue system (muscle, tendon, ligament and fascia), nervous system, and articular system (joints).  This kinetic chain works as an integrated functional unit...all components of the kinetic chain exist interdependently.  Therefore, if one segment is not functioning efficiently, then the other components must compensate, leading to tissue overload, fatigue, faulty movement patterns and finally initiating a vicious injury cycle.  For example, muscle tightness restricts the range of motion that a joint may be moved.  Because of muscle restriction, joint motion is altered, thus changing how the nervous system communicates with the brain.  Ultimately, your body's nervous system won't function to its highest capability leading to poor movement patterns, inducing muscle fatigue and causing injury.  A SMR program helps you to improve muscular balance and performance.  More specific benefits include:
  • Increased range of motion in joints
  • Decreased muscle soreness
  • Decreased muscle tension 
  • Increased efficiency of muscle & nerve communication
  • Relieved joint stress 
Using a foam roller is simple, but working some areas may take a bit of practice and some body contortion. Start by positioning your body with the area you want to work on top of the foam roller.  Your body weight creates the pressure that massages and releases tight spots in the fascia.  You are in control of the pressure by applying more or less body weight on the foam roller and using your hands and feet to offset your weight as needed.  It's helpful to try a variety of positions and see what works best for you.  Here are some tips to keep in mind when using a foam roller:
  • Always check with your doctor before using a foam roller for myofascial release.
  • Perform foam roller sessions when your muscles are warm or after a workout.
  • Position the roller under the soft tissue area you want to release or loosen.
  • Gently roll your body weight back and forth across the roller while targeting the affected muscle.
  • Move slowly and work from the center of the body out toward your extremities.
  • If you find a particularly painful area (trigger point), hold that position until the area softens.
  • Focus on areas that are tight or have reduced range of motion.
  • Roll over each area a few times until you feel it relax.  Expect some discomfort.  It may feel very tender or bruised at first.
  • Stay on soft tissue and avoid rolling directly over bone or joints.
  • Keep your first few foam roller sessions short...about 15 minutes is all you need.
  • Rest a day between sessions when you start.
  • Drink plenty of water after a session, just as you would after a sports massage.
  • After a few weeks you can increase your session time and frequency if you choose.
  • Do not use a foam roller without your physician's approval if your have any heart or vascular illness or a chronic pain condition. 
For best results, schedule an appointment with a trainer so you can learn how to properly perform SMR.  Once you get your muscles back in proper working condition, your chance of injury will decrease.  SMR will help reduce muscle tension and increase blood flow to the affected area, thus improving recovery times.  Stop in at PROMATx Health Club and learn how you can add SMR to your existing exercise program.  Get rid of the tension, improve flexibility, and feel better with SMR and foam rollers.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Shin Splints - Prevention & Treatment

If you have ever felt pain in your shin after a workout, you probably experienced a case of shin splints.  If you have participated in running/jogging or sporting events, you probably have dealt with shin splints at one time.  Left untreated, shin splints can be debilitating.  With a little preventative work, you can avoid the pain and undue suffering from shin splints.

First let's define shin splints.  In short, shin splints are inflammation (swelling) of the periostium or covering on the shin bone.  Typical symptoms are shin pain over the inside lower half of the leg, pain at the start of exercise which often eases as the session continues, pain that returns after activity and may be at its worse the next morning, lumps/bumps felt over the inside of the shin bone, and pain when the toes/foot are flexed.  What causes shin splints?  Most of the time, shin splints are caused from biomechanical issues or training issues.  Flat feet or extreme high arches, obesity, and/or improper footwear are common culprits.  Also, increasing training too quickly (i.e., too much too soon) or large increase in running mileage can also cause shin splints.

What can you do to prevent shin splints?  First and foremost, be sure to wear the appropriate shoes for the type of activity you are performing.  Refer back to our blog entitled "Shoes are Shoes...Right?" for more information on choosing athletic footwear.  Also, make sure you have the proper support for the type of arch you have and replace your shoes often to ensure you are getting adequate support.  Next, maintain a healthy weight.  As your body weight increases, your feet have to support not only your body weight but also the effects of gravity.  That's a lot of work to ask of your feet.  When you are overweight/obese, the arches in your feet tend to flatten out, causing the ankle to roll in and putting undue stress on the lower part of the legs.  Finally, be sure to start slow and increase your intensity/mileage gradually.  Going "all out" on your first day will have some repercussions.  Try to increase your running mileage no more than 10% at a time.  In other words, don't go from running 3-5 miles per week to 10-15 miles per week.

Prevention can also include proper stretching and exercises.  Remember to always warm up prior to stretching.  For the shins, walking or cycling are both good warm-up activities.  To stretch the shins, kneel on the floor with the tops of your feet on the floor behind you.  Gently sit back on your heels, pressing the feet to the floor.  Hold this stretch for about 15-30 seconds and repeat a couple times.  If you are already experiencing shin splints, this may be very uncomfortable.  Place as much of your body weight down on your legs as you can tolerate.  To strengthen your lower legs, perform ankle flexion exercises with exercise tubing/bands.  Wrap the tubing around a stable object and sit on the floor with your legs extended.  Wrap the other end of the tubing around your toes.  With your legs straight, gently pull your toes towards you then slowly return to the starting position.  These pictures from the American Council on Exercise (ACE) show how to perform this exercise.  










Treatment of shin splints is fairly easy.  Ice will significantly help with reducing the swelling and pain.  Also, adequate rest is helpful.  Allow your body to recover from this injury before jumping back into your routine.  Continuing to push through the pain will only delay healing and will cause further damage.

Remember, as painful as shin splints are, they are very easy to prevent.  With a little planning and preparation, you can spare yourself the pain and aggravation of shin splints.  Still need some help?  Stop in a PROMATx Health Club and talk with a trainer.   We can show you the proper way to prevent shin splints.  If you are already suffering, we can show you stretches and pain management techniques to help you recover.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Is It Time For Some Couples Therapy?

Did you just do a double-take when you read the title of today's blog??  No, we are not talking about the type of therapy that happens in a doctor's office...we are talking about exercise.  Since this month is "Men's Health Month", we wanted to devote a little extra attention to the guys.  How many of you guys out there workout with your girlfriend/spouse/partner?  Did you know that participating in physical activity with your significant other could help you lose weight and get fit?  According to Paul VanWiechen, Director of Exercise Physiology at Cleveland Clinic Canada, "Spouse who work out together create a social support network that benefits them both.  There's a mountain of evidence that shows that both partners will work harder to make exercise a part of their lives".

In a survey on exercise habits by the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports and the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, 44 percent of respondents named a spouse or significant other as the strongest motivating force to exercise...stronger, even, than a doctor's advice!!!  Surprised?  You shouldn't be.  Couples who exercise together begin to exchange unhealthy habits for more beneficial ones.  Thus increasing the likelihood of success in weight loss and improving physical fitness levels.

Worried about spending too much time together?  You don't have to do everything together.  If you enjoy battling it out on the basketball court while she enjoys the peaceful setting of a yoga studio, get together afterwards and go for a walk.  Mr. VanViechen says "Research shows that the happiest couples are those who exercise together, yet also give each other the space to exercise apart".

Make some time together at PROMATx Health Club or schedule some time together afterwards for a little "couples therapy" with a walk through the park.  Get caught up on each others day and get a little healthier in the process.

Monday, June 4, 2012

June is Men's Health Month

We all know that men can be hesitant to ask for help with their health.  June is Men's Health Month and Monday, June 11th, marks the beginning of this year's National Men's Health Week.  The purpose of Men’s Health Week is to heighten the awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys.

Even though there are roughly 115 males conceived for every 100 females, men have a difficult life...
  • Men are 16 times as likely as women to be colorblind.
  • Men suffer hearing loss twice the rate of women.
  • The male hormone, testosterone, is linked to elevations of LDL ("bad" cholesterol) as well as declines in HDL ("good" cholesterol).
  • Men have fewer infection-fighting T-cells and are thought to have weaker immune systems than women.
  • Men have a higher death rate from pneumonia and influenza than women.
  • Stroke, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and accidents -- all among the top causes of death -- kill men at a higher rate than women.
  • Men ages 55-64 are twice as likely as women to die in car accidents.
  • Men ages 55-74 are twice as likely as women to die of heart disease.
  • Among people 65 and older, men account for 84 percent of suicides.
The good news?  Men who live to be 100 tend to be in better shape than their centenarian female counterparts.  So, guys, what can you do?   Stay in shape, eat right and see you doctor for regular check-ups.  Not sure when your last check-up occurred?  Don't wait for something to go wrong.  Take the preventative approach and take charge of your health.  You deserve it and so does your family!

Stop in at PROMATx Health Club and find out how we can help you improve your health.  Make an appointment with our nutrition specialist to learn how to make better food choices.  Stop in today...we are here to help you make your own transformation!!

"Recognizing and preventing men's health problems is not just a man's issue.  Because of its impact on wives, mothers, daughters, and sisters, men's health is truly a family issue." 
-- Congressman Bill Richardson, 1994