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!!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Week 8 Challenge - 7-Days of Squats

Here it is.  The final week of your 8-week challenge.  I know, technically it's week 9 but with last week being a holiday week, I decided to give you all a break!  Hopefully you are keeping up with your new-found habits of daily water intake, daily exercise, packing your lunch, and dealing with "life happens".  Your last challenge was a big one, seven days of push-ups.  How did you do?  Were your arms and chest sore by the end of the week?  Did you meet the challenge?  Did you improve your upper body strength?  I sure hope it went well for you.  This week is another tough one so let's just jump right in.

This week's challenge is 7-days of squats.  Before I get into the details of this challenge, let's first talk about squats because I'm sure I lost a few of you with just the title of the challenge.  I can't tell you how many times I hear gym patrons or training clients say "I can't do squats".  But what they don't realize is they are doing squats all day long...sitting down in chairs, getting in and out of their cars/vehicles, bending down to tie shoes, picking up small children...the list goes on.  Granted you are not formally squatting with the true squat form when you perform these tasks but you are using the same muscle groups.  So unless you have a true mechanical issue with your hips and/or knees, then you should be able to perform squats. 

Let's talk about form first.  When properly performing a squat, you should think about how you sit down in a chair.  Your hips are pushed backwards, you lean forward slightly, and your weight is on your heels.  Try it.  Grab a chair and sit down.  Now stand back up and let's practice the squat with that chair still behind you.  Stand with your feet about hip- to shoulder-width apart and toes facing forward.  Push your hips backwards as if you were going to sit in that chair but don't sit down.  Keep your chest and head up, in other words, don't look down.  Lightly touch the chair with your tushy then stand right back up.  You just performed a squat with proper form.  Now move the chair away and try it again.  Imagine that you have a ball between your knees while you squat.  This will prevent your knees from caving in or bowing out.  Remember, weight should be on your heels, not on your toes.  Click on this link to see pictures/demonstration of a body weight squat.  Depending on the strength of your lower body, you may or may not be able to go as low as what is shown in that link.  Once you build up your strength, you should be able to get your thighs parallel to the floor.  Remember, this is also dependent upon previous injuries to the hips/knees and/or other mechanical issues (i.e., joint replacement, severe arthritis, etc.).

So now you know how to do your squats, let's move on and talk about the challenge.  I hereby challenge you to perform 30 squats a day for the next seven days.  As with week 7 challenge, I will give you a couple of options since some of you may be a little more advanced with your ability to perform squats.  Regardless of your strength level, everyone will perform 30 per day.  You have the option of performing them all at once or break it up into 2 sets of 15 per day.  By the end of the week you should be able to do all 30 in one set.  For beginners, you have the option of performing a stability ball wall squat (click on that link to view instructions).  For intermediate levels, perform a body weight squat as described above.  For advanced levels, you may either add weight (dumbbells, medicine ball, barbell) and/or change to a squat jump (click on that link to view instructions).  

Can you do it??  Are you game??  Give it a try...this is your last challenge.  As always, check in with me on Facebook on the PROMATx trainer page or comment at the end of this blog.  Let me know how you are doing throughout the week.  Good luck but remember, if you feel pain when doing any version listed above, STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING!!  This challenge is designed to "challenge" you NOT injure you!!

Have fun with it and get some of your friends involved.  You'll get a great butt/hips/legs workout this week!!  Until next time.......