Monday, November 11, 2013

How Music Can Boost Your Workout

Making music — and not just listening to it — while exercising makes the exercise easier, a remarkable new experiment finds, suggesting that the human love of music may have evolved, in part, to ease physical effort.

Researchers and exercisers have long known, of course, that listening to music alters the experience of exercising. Earlier studies have shown, for instance, that briskly paced music tends to inspire equally briskly paced workouts, and that music also can distract and calm nervous competitors before a race or other high-pressure situation, improving their subsequent performance.  

But to date, no one had thought to investigate whether creating — and not merely hearing — music might have an effect on workouts, let alone whether the impact would be qualitatively different than when exercisers passively listen to music pumped through gym speakers or their ear buds.  

So, for the new study, which was published online in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognition and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany, and other institutions began by inventing an electronic kit that could be integrated into the internal workings of weight-training machines, transforming them into oversize boom boxes. Once installed, the kit would produce a range of propulsive, electronic-style music with a variety of sound levels and rhythms, depending on how the machine’s weight bar or other mechanisms were manipulated during workouts.  

The researchers installed the kits into three different workout machines, one on a stair-stepper, the other two weight machines with bars that could be raised or pulled down to stimulate various muscles.  They then recruited a group of 63 healthy men and women and divided them into groups, each of which was assigned to use one of the musically equipped machines during a strenuous though brief six-minute exercise session.  

As the volunteers strained, their machines chirped and pinged with a thumping 130 beats per minute, the sound level rising or falling with each individual’s effort and twining with the rhythms created by the other two exercisers. “Participants could express themselves on the machines by, for instance, modulating rhythms and creating melodies,” said Thomas Hans Fritz, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute who led the study.  The groups were, in effect, D.J.’ing their workouts, creating sounds that echoed their physical efforts.  

During a separate exercise session, each group used the same machines, but minus the musical add-ons, while elsewhere in the gym, other volunteers sweated at the musically equipped machines, meaning that one group was passively listening to sounds created by another.

Throughout each workout, the researchers monitored the force their volunteers generated while using the machines, as well as whether the weight lifters’ movements tended to stutter or flow and how much oxygen  the volunteers consumed, a reliable measure of physical effort. Afterward, the scientists asked the volunteers to rate the tolerability or unpleasantness of the session, on a scale from 1 to 20.  

Tabulated afterward, the results showed that most of the volunteers had generated significantly greater muscular force while working at the musically equipped machines than the unmodified ones. They also had used less oxygen to generate that force and reported that their exertions had felt less strenuous. Their movements were also more smooth in general, resulting in a steadier flow of music.  Creating their own rhythms and melodies had lowered the physiological cost of exercise and greatly increased its subjective allure compared with when the exercisers passively listened to virtually the same music, Dr. Fritz said.  

A similar dynamic may have motivated early humans to whistle or hum while they hunted or tilled and later to raise their voices in song during barn raisings and other intense physical labor, he said.  

But why orchestrating your own soundtrack should have more physical benefit than merely hearing similar music in the background is not altogether clear.  “We think that the observed effects are most probably due to a greater degree of emotional motor control,” when you actively engage in making music, Dr. Fritz said. Emotional motor control, as opposed to the more workaday “deliberate” type that normally guides our muscular movements, he said, operates almost below consciousness. Your body responds to it with little volition and you move, he said, with reduced effort and increased joy. This is “musical ecstasy,” Dr. Fritz said, and it seems to have permeated, to some degree, the gym where the exercisers composed music while sweating.  

Unfortunately, the musical kits that Dr. Fritz and his colleagues have developed are not available commercially, although they may be in the future. For now, he said, you may need to content yourself with purposely ignoring the supplied soundtrack at your local gym and instead singing to yourself. Perhaps harmonize, no matter how tunelessly, with a workout partner.  Disdain naysayers and music lovers. You will be, in the felicitous phrasing of Dr. Fritz, “jymming; that’s like jamming, but with a ‘y’ from ‘gym.’”

Monday, September 23, 2013

Dear Hard Work......

Here's a little motivation for you from trainer, April Crosby.

Dear Hard Work,

I used to hate you.
When you called my name,
I heard it but ran away from you.
When I knew you were coming,
I used to hide from you.
When you influenced others to talk to me,
I quickly made excuses to get away from you.

Afraid, of the pain, because I didn’t want to get hurt.
Afraid to fail, so I didn’t even try.
And afraid of your name,
Because of what you have done to others.

Who do you think you are?
Making me so afraid of who you are?

Reflection in the mirror,
Shadow behind me,
I take one step and you’re still ahead of me.

Sweat on my face,
Tears in my eyes,
I keep on going,
I heard you tell no lies.

You turn the poor to rich,
F to A’s.

Is there anything that you can’t do?

Now look at me.
You made me who I am today.
And because of you,
I have this never losing, never giving up attitude.

That’s not in my vocabulary.
When they quit, I keep going.
When they sleep, I work harder.
When they say that I can’t,
And count me out,
I show them that I can.

When I tell them about my dreams and they laugh,
I make sure I laugh last.

I’m a dream chaser,
That means I chase my dreams and no one else’s.
Only I can defeat me.
It’s me against this work you put on me.
There is no losing.
I will not lose.

I came this far,
And I’m not stopping now.

O Hard work,
My dad was right about you.
You do pay off,
And because of that, I love you.
How can I not?
I’m no longer hiding from you. 
I’m waiting for you.

Matter of fact,
Where are you?

I need you. 
Because in hard work – I trust!


Friday, September 20, 2013

Antioxidants: Are Your Cells Wearing Their "Superhero" Capes?

Today's blog comes from our resident nutrition superhero, Carrie Covington.  Here's what she has to say about antioxdants.

So we hear all the time the benefits of fruits and veggies, but why?  One big reason is because they help fight diseases such as Alzheimer’s, cancers, atherosclerosis, arthritis, anxiety, and more.  Let’s learn what happens to make this occur.
First let's take a little chemistry lesson.  When a molecule loses an electron it becomes a free radical, which must steal an electron from another molecule to re-balance itself.  This in turn causes another free radical to form.  It is estimated that each of our cells get hit by a free radical 100,000 times a day. Wow!  Free radical damage is happening every second.  Some of this damage is due to natural cellular activities but also by pollution, smoking, fried and processed food, and even physical stress.  Poor eating habits actually speed up free radical production.  Some of this we can help and some, unfortunately is out of our control.

If free radicals are overabundant, oxidative stress will occur and then we see inflammation in the body.  When the immune system is constantly battling inflammation, the body becomes fatigued, weakened, and deficient in nutrients and enzymes.  That is when many terrible disease can occur… cancer, atherosclerosis, and arthritis are just a few. 

The good news is oxidative stress and inflammation can be fought by antioxidant nutrients which repair and prevent this cellular damage.  Check out the list below and see what foods are "super disease-fighting" foods.  I challenge you to add one food from the list each week. 

Food item
Serving size
Total antioxidant capacity per serving size
Small Red Bean (dried)
Half cup
Wild blueberry
1 cup
Red kidney bean (dried)
Half cup
Pinto bean
Half cup
Blueberry (cultivated)
1 cup
1 cup (whole)
Artichoke (cooked)
1 cup (hearts)
1 cup
Dried Prune
Half cup
1 cup
1 cup
Red Delicious apple
Granny Smith apple
1 ounce
Sweet cherry
1 cup
Black plum
Russet potato (cooked)
Black bean (dried)
Half cup
Gala apple

So it's time to help your body put on it's superhero cape and fight the cellular damage from free radicals.  Step up, choose one of these fruits and veggies and revel in the power against disease!!

For more information on antioxidant nutrients and how you can help your body, set up an appointment with one of our nutrition specialists.  It's your body...take care of it from the inside out!!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Sprinter or Distance Runner...What Do You Relate To??

Are you a better sprinter or distance runner?  Many people believe that having more fast or slow twitch muscle fibers may determine what sports athletes excel at and how they respond to training.

Let's have a brief anatomy lesson so you understand what muscle fibers are all about.  Skeletal muscle is made up of bundles of individual muscle fibers called myocytes. Each myocyte contains many myofibrils, which are strands of proteins (actin and myosin) that can grab on to each other and pull.  This shortens the muscle and causes muscle contraction. It is generally accepted that muscle fiber types can be broken down into two main types: slow twitch (Type I) muscle fibers and fast twitch (Type II) muscle fibers.  Fast twitch fibers can be further categorized into Type IIa and Type IIb fibers. 

These distinctions seem to influence how muscles respond to training and physical activity, and each fiber type is unique in its ability to contract in a certain way.  Human muscles contain a genetically determined mixture of both slow and fast fiber types.  On average, we have about 50 percent slow twitch and 50 percent fast twitch fibers in most of the muscles used for movement. 

Let's break down each type of muscle fiber so you get a better understanding of what we are talking about.

Slow Twitch (Type I)

The slow muscles are more efficient at using oxygen to generate more fuel (known as ATP) for continuous, extended muscle contractions over a long time.  They fire more slowly than fast twitch fibers and can go for a long time before they fatigue.  Therefore, slow twitch fibers are great at helping athletes run marathons and bicycle for hours. 

Fast Twitch (Type II)

Because fast twitch fibers use anaerobic metabolism (e.g., metabolism in the absence of oxygen) to create fuel, they are much better at generating short bursts of strength or speed than slow muscles.  However, they fatigue more quickly.  Fast twitch fibers generally produce the same amount of force per contraction as slow muscles, but they get their name because they are able to fire more rapidly.  Having more fast twitch fibers can be an asset to a sprinter since she needs to quickly generate a lot of force.  

Type IIa Fibers

These fast twitch muscle fibers are also known as intermediate fast-twitch fibers. They can use both aerobic and anaerobic metabolism almost equally to create energy.  In this way, they are a combination of Type I and Type II muscle fibers.

Type IIb Fibers

These fast twitch fibers use anaerobic metabolism to create energy and are the "classic" fast twitch muscle fibers that excel at producing quick, powerful bursts of speed.  This muscle fiber has the highest rate of contraction (rapid firing) of all the muscle fiber types, but it also has a much faster rate of fatigue and can't last as long before it needs rest.

So, with that being said, are you a sprinter or a distance runner (even if in theory)?  Take a look at the different body types in various sports and you'll begin to understand the difference in muscle fibers.  And that, our friends, is your anatomy lesson for the day!!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Fall Back Into Fitness

Well, here in Kentucky, fall weather came a little early this year.  Even though it's the middle of August, we are having "October-like" weather.  Kids have gone back to school.  Summer is closing down.  Have you neglected your fitness goals/endeavors this summer?  If so, maybe it's time to "fall" back into your routine.  Don't feel like it's too late or you've wasted too much time...jump back in and you'll be feeling better in no time.

So where do you begin?  Check with your gym to see if they have some fun group exercise classes on their schedule.  That's a great way to get back into it without having to do a lot of planning or thinking.  Let the instructors guide you through exercise while you lose your thoughts/problems/stress in the little sweat beads on your forehead (or on the floor, depending on the class!!).  While you're at it, check with your gym to see if they have any personal training specials.  Sometimes there will be "back-to-school" specials and now is the time to take advantage of it!!

Not willing to go the route of personal training or group exercise?  Want to spend more time on the gym floor?  Well if you are not sure where to start or you just don't want to waste your time wandering from machine to machine, why not try this workout.  Grab a pair of dumbbells that you'll use for all 3 of these won't put them down til your rest period.

1.  Double DB Swing x 2 reps (this picture shown with kettle bells instead of dumbbells)

2.  Overhead DB Squat x 2 reps  

3.  Single-Leg Deadlift with DB Row x 2 reps (each leg)

Perform each exercise in succession for 4 rounds WITH NO REST and without putting the weights down.  Once you complete the 4 rounds, rest for 90 seconds.  Now repeat this 3 MORE TIMES!!  This is a great metabolic workout that won't take long but will target total body movements and will kick up that fat-burner that's hiding deep inside!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Importance of Water in the Body

Hydration anyone?  How many people actually drink ALL of the water they are suppose to drink?  Why would you when we have all of the artificial liquid joy we can consume, right?  Let's take a closer look at which bodily functions actually use water to benefit yours truly (yourself!).

Nearly all of the body's organs rely on the consumption of water.  Water is your body's principal chemical component and makes up about 60 percent of your body weight.  Every system in your body depends on water.  For example, water flushes toxins out of vital organs, carries nutrients to your cells and provides a moist environment for ears, nose and throat tissues.

Lack of water can lead to dehydration, a condition that occurs when you don't have enough water in your body to carry out normal functions.  Even mild dehydration can drain your energy and make you tired.

So how much fluid (i.e., plain ol' water) does the average, healthy adult living in a temperate climate need?  The Institute of Medicine determined that an adequate intake (AI) for men is roughly 3 liters (about 13 cups) of total beverages a day.  The AI for women is 2.2 liters (about 9 cups) of total beverages a day.

For active exercising adults, a generic formula of body weight x .66= oz.  This should help you gather an idea of where you should be. 

Oh, and by the way...if you don’t have enough water in your diet, your liver will not metabolize fat as efficiently because your liver is taking on some of the functioning of the kidneys.  So if you don’t drink enough water, you will not metabolize fat as efficiently.  Think about it!!!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Are You Tough Enough???

Try this workout for a little something different and high intensity! 

Walking Lunges
Push Ups
Inverted Rows
2 Minute Sprint

Alternating Step Ups
Ball Slams
Walk Overs
2 Minute Sprint

Stiff Leg DeadLift
Renegade Row
Jump Squats
2 Minute Sprints

Make sure not to rest in between each exercise of the set.  After each set of the circuit, make sure to have 2 minutes of recovery.  After each circuit, make sure to have 2 minute rest as well.  Be sure to listen to your body...this is an advanced endurance workout, it is hard!

For each circuit, complete 2-4 rounds.  Guaranteed to give you a great workout!!!

As far as the rep range goes, there are different types you can do.  You can set a numeric goal of 15 to 30 reps or you can set a time goal (time under tension) of anywhere between 30 and 60 seconds, depending on time available and fitness level.

Make sure you have water for proper hydration during the workout and also to decrease the time needed for a water break.  You also might want to bring a towel, you will be wet by the time you leave!  Enjoy your workout and good luck!!!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Perils of Not Eating Enough

Hi there, it's PROMATx Health Club trainer, April Crosby.  Here's a little personal story I'd like to share with you.  So it was Tuesday and I came into the gym with my two workout buddies and we started our workout.  Interval stations of an upper body exercise, lower body exercise, and a cardio exercise all for one minute a piece.  Not too bad, huh?  I was a little sore and tired from my workout yesterday but I pushed through the first round.  Then it set in...I was light-headed and my heart rate was very high.  Mind you, this was NOT a H.I.I.T. style workout (high intensity, interval training).  In other words, I never should have been that wiped out.  So what was the problem?  I slept well that night (a little longer than usual) and I had a small meal/snack before my workout.  I was well hydrated and I wasn't fighting any sickness at the moment.  Looking back over the past 24 hours, it finally dawned on me what caused me to feel this way.  On Monday when I left the house in the morning, I packed a protein-filled lunch, added fresh fruit to my bag, as well as a few snacks for in between my group exercise class and lunch.  I got to work and taught a tough strength training class.  After class I went to reach for a snack and BAM!  It hit me...I left my lunch bag sitting on the kitchen counter.  Darn it!

Has that ever happened to you?  I didn't have the opportunity to run out and get something to eat because I had a packed schedule in the gym.  Then I had a couple appointments after leaving the gym so again, no time.  Essentially from 8a-3:30p I had no food.  After burning a lot of calories in class, my food reserves had been drained (as well as my energy level).  I pushed through thinking it would be OK because I could eat after my last appointment.  Well 3:30p came around and, of course, I was way past hungry.  Since I still didn't have any food with me, I swung by a local Mexican restaurant to get some black beans and rice.  Add a few "unmentionables" to that dish and that was my breakfast/snack/lunch.  Probably added up to around 500-600 calories, unfortunately.  I split that meal between my lunch and dinner. 

So that's not the end of the story.  As I stated early, I did my regularly scheduled personal workout with a couple of friends on Tuesday (the next day).  It was probably one of the worst workouts I had in a long time.  Why was that?  Because I probably had about 700-800 calories of food the day prior.  Based on my activity levels and metabolism, I should be eating close to 1900 calories/day.  My body was in a temporary state of starvation and therefore I had no energy reserves to get me through my workout.  I was lethargic, my heart rate was abnormally high, and my muscles were unusually fatigued and sore.  That should have been an indication to me right then and there since I know the signs of overtraining and under eating.

The moral of the matter what type of training regime you are on (i.e., fat/weight loss, muscle building, lean out, etc.), it is VITAL that you consume enough calories to meet your activity levels.  Even one day matters.  Essentially, my workout on Tuesday was a waste of time and a waste of energy (what little there was left).  Even today I am still slightly feeling the effects of under eating on Monday.  Most people think..."I eat less, I lose weight".  In theory that seems correct but there is a fine line.  It is important to talk with nutrition professionals when you are attempting to change your body composition.  They will know how to safely and accurately get you to your goal.

It just goes to show that sometimes "life happens" and things get out of whack.  Use these times as a learning experience and move on.  While forgetting my lunch doesn't happen very often, I know now to take adequate steps (like asking friends co-workers if they have food to share or if they can cover me while I go get some healthy food) to resolve the issue.  Just a little insight in the crazy life of mine!!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Getting the Most of Ground Reaction Forces

Here is the third installment of trainer, Todd Walbert's blog.  Read on to find out what he has to say about "ground reaction forces".

I changed my mind on the topic for today's blog.  I want to talk about "ground reaction forces" or GRF for short.  First, let's define is equal in magnitude and opposite in direction to the force that the body exerts on the supporting surface through the foot.  That's a big mouthful but in layman's terms it refers to the reaction of the force the body exerts on the ground.  Now, on with my thoughts.  I see so many people running on the treadmill while at PROMATx.  Most people know walking or running outside is better for you, but why?  It's because you have to work harder when not on a moving track.

Bear with me as I talk a little about the science behind might get a little technical but hang in there!  At the University of Kentucky, I participated in a lab that studied GRF.  We ran as natural as possible over a force plate in the ground.  This plate was an aluminum alloy plate, approximately 14-16" rectangle, that was flush with the ground.  When we took a step on the force plate, it measured the "multiplanar force" or "angular pressure" exerted on that rectangular plate.  In this lab, we chose to measure the vertical positive and negative loads acting on the plate.  All of this information was, of course, computer generated but what was taken from this lab was that when you are on the treadmill you are absent of the "propulsion phase" of running/walking.  When moving forward on the ground, you have to "propel" yourself forward to keep moving.  On the treadmill, the belt carries your foot back, then your hip flexor muscles are used to step forward.  In other words, you have to work harder to move yourself when you are running/walking outside versus traveling the same distance on a treadmill. 

How do you account for the lack of the "propulsion phase" when on the treadmill or, in other words, get a better workout?  First, no healthy person should ever be on the treadmill with 0% grade/incline.  Try it, then spread the word.  On the same note, raising the incline to a crazy high number (thereby increasing the propulsion needed to keep up with the moving track) which causes you to hold onto the heart rate handles is another gym "don't".  [Refer to my last blog on "Gym Etiquette".]  While you are holding on and walking up this "Mt. Everest" hill, take a gander down and see what your heart rate does.  Does it go up?  Most likely it drops slightly while you are holding onto the handles.  That should be a clue that holding onto the handles of the treadmill (or for that matter, any cardio equipment) lowers the efficacy of your workout.

So, it's too hot outside to run/walk or the weather is not cooperating or you just would rather be on the treadmill.  How can you take advantage of this propulsion phase?  Use at least 1% grade/incline on the treadmill to give the feeling of a climb.  When you get used to this level then try to go back to 0%, it feels as though you are going downhill.  If you insist on using that crazy high level of incline, you better keep your hands off of those handles or I'm going come by and punish you!!  Give it a try.  You can even test yourself by comparing your run/walk outside versus that on the treadmill at 0% grade/incline.  You'll see that outside is harder, regardless of environmental factors.  

PS...this blog was not intended to bash treadmills.  I can think of hundreds of ways to effectively utilize this revolving belt!  Come and see me for details.  You won't regret it!!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Gym Etiquette - Are You Being Mindful of Others?

Here is another blog entry from our trainer, Todd Walbert.  Read about what he has to say regarding gym etiquette.

I wanted to talk a little about gym "dos" and "don'ts".  Since I have always worked out and spend so much time in gyms over the years, I notice problems that arise perhaps more than others.  Sometimes people don't realize they are the source of the "problem" and, on the other hand, many realize the do but they don't care.  Either way, maybe this blog will shed a little light on a few gym "don'ts".


First, crowding around the dumbbell rack is something you don't hear people complain about as much.  It's not as commonly voiced as a problem as other things but let me shed some light here.  If you have a person walk up to a rack of dumbbells, grab two 30-pound dumbbells and start to perform bicep curls, he/she is essentially blocking the 5's, 10's, 15's, 20's......unless he/she takes 5-10 steps back.  Performing an exercise immediately in front of such a high-traffic area is not necessary.  You are risking confrontation because typically the gym is full of type-A personalities.  No one wants to be called out in the middle of their set for blocking the 40-pound dumbbells, so most likely their will be words exchanged.  This problem is easily preventable.  If you are blocking the dumbbell rack, essentially it is the same as blocking 10 selectorized machines or using 10 flat benches.  A related problem to crowding the rack is performing 1-arm rows using the rack as support.  Why??  Is that the only thing around to put your arm/hand on??  I think not.


Second, I see people who misuse the squat rack or power rack.  The cage is only to be used for squats, whether it be front, back or Zercher squats.  There is nothing worse than waiting to use the rack for squats and having to watch someone perform bicep curls or deadlifts in the cage.  Why?  Can you not set the curl bar down on the ground?   Do you really need to be in the cage to flex and extend the elbow?  Unless you are doing "top half" deadlifts, the power rack is not necessary.  Utilizing the rack for deadlifts is unnecessary since it blocks the entrance/exit of the rack and can be distracting to the squatter since you are in such close proximity.  Find another area to workout and leave the rack for those performing squats.  Ask yourself:  do I need to be in a rack/cage to perform this lift safely?


Third, if you are camping out on equipment, you may also be asking for trouble.   There are always a few who will consistently sit on or near a machine or cable tower as if to block it from being used by another member.  In doing so you are putting people on the spot where, if adamant enough, they will ask you to work in with you.  Gym patrons need to understand that training styles are varied and not everyone performs three straight sets without moving to the next exercise/machine.  Supersets or triple sets are more widely used now and justifiably so.  Waiting to work a muscle group again is not as productive as pairing 2 or 3 muscle groups and working back and forth.  Ultimately this type of training frees up a machine while you are "supersetting" your exercises.  Just because you have "idle" time during your workout doesn't mean others do also.  It's hard enough sometimes to find the time to get to the gym AND have the mindset to be productive let alone watching people with too much time on their hands clog up the workspace.

I chose these three things because they aren't commonly talked about like topics such as unracking your weights and cleaning equipment after you use it.  My next blog will be on trainer-client interaction.  How do you keep both people happy and positive while achieving results?  Stay tuned to find out!!