Tag Archives: fitness

Why You Don’t Need Machines in Your Workout

28 Oct

The contestants on The Biggest Loser work hard. They spend the majority of their day in the gym working with very talented personal trainers. For a brief period their life is focused around losing weight. We all know that just isn’t how it works in the real world though.

Even if we could have access to such a phenomenal gym and experienced trainers, sometimes exercise machines just do not translate well into real world fitness. And honestly, you do not need machines to complete an effective workout. The Biggest Loser actually proved that in season 11 when they brought in two new trainers who had more experience with mixed martial arts, CrossFit, and boxing than they did with fancy treadmills and cable equipment. The teams who worked in the non-traditional, no machines setting actually seemed to have better weight loss and strength results than those who stuck with treadmills and machines.

There are several reasons machines don’t translate well into real world fitness. First, they are designed to isolate muscle groups rather than work the body as a unit.  This can lead to muscle imbalances and potential injuries if agonist and antagonist muscle groups are worked evenly.

Second, exercise machines rarely allow you to move at a speed that motions occur in the real world.  Upper slow movements have low carryover to activities of daily living.

Third, exercise machines typically lock you into one movement plane. For example, leg extensions allow you to lift your leg at the knee up and down. That may be fine as part of a rehab program, but for real world fitness you’d perform walking lunges with trunk rotation side to side.  This would give you a more dynamic multi-plane movement.

Other limitations of exercise machines are:

Complete home gyms can cost several hundred to a few thousand dollars. The alternatives to home exercise equipment are much less expensive.

Exercise machines take up a lot of space. This is especially important factor to consider if you live in a small place. Even models that slide under the bed need to be slid out and set up somewhere. While we can all dream, not everyone’s “real world” includes an extra room in their house dedicated to fitness equipment.

Exercise machines don’t travel well. You can’t just pop your Buff Body 3000 into your suitcase and head out on a business trip. Real world fitness needs to work for you, not against you. Since you can’t take your machine with you, you might not work out. There’s no reason to make travel harder than it has to be. Creating and keeping fitness routine that can go on the road with you will make it more likely you actually follow through on it when you are out of town. Many people who travel regularly prefer to use bands and sneakers to get their workouts in. Even the hand weights get left at home in these days of overweight luggage fees. Exercise bands are extremely light weight, come in several different levels of resistance, and can even be tucked into your sneakers to save space in your luggage.

Finally, if you are short on time, exercise machines won’t help you get through your workout as quickly as other types of fitness equipment. You will need to stop between each exercise to reconfigure your machine. These pauses in your workout every 1-2 minutes really kill the effectiveness of your workout. The ideal workout keeps going and never lets you bring your heart rate below your personal baseline. You just can’t accomplish this with an exercise machine.

If you want an effective workout that is easy to duplicate whether you are home or traveling, then ditch the machines and look for fitness tools that actually work in real world fitness.

What Do You Value

20 Jun

I was listening to a discussion between two strength coaches the other day talking about the excuses they hear from people regarding exercise and nutrition, and it got me thinking.

What are your priorities in life and where do exercise and nutrition fit in all that?

One of the most often used excuses is, “I don’t have time”.  But this raises an interesting counter-question in my mind: don’t have time for what?  Everyone is dealt the same 24 hours in the day, and it is really a matter of how your prioritize those hours.  Some will tell you that family comes first, or that work must be a priority, and those things are ok.

But everyone also has to eat.  Why not make those meals good ones?  Food has taken on almost mythical properties in our culture, purported to assist in any and all that ails you: Ice cream heals a broken heart, wings and beer make watching the game more fun, vegetables cure cancer, rice and sprite calm an upset stomach, chocolates and oysters help to set the mood.  I think you get my point.

In reality though, food’s primary role is to fuel your body and mind from day to day.  That is not to say that there aren’t better (and worse options).  My approach to food has always been to eat foods that are either of the earth or on the earth, and as close to their natural state as possible.  Examples you ask…

Vegetables, fruits, tubers are all OF the earth.  Animals, of course, are ON the earth.

The question I used to get from the high schoolers I worked with was about the natural-state clause: Grilled chicken thighs with the skin on are much closer to nature than those deep-fried and breaded wings you just gobbled down.

So what foods are the better ones?  In a recent nutrition seminar I attended, I heard the most succinct qualifier for which foods one should eat – those that move you closer to optimal health.  While there are health claims made about almost any food under the sun (twinkie diet anyone?) there are obviously more nutritious and healthful foods out there; there are foods that while superficially benign, are actually responsible for all sorts of negative consequences under the surface.

Shouldn’t we all be trying to provide our bodies (and brains) with the best foods we can?  Maybe that means forgoing the pizza because it’s quick, and instead spending the extra time to grill the steaks and veggies you have sitting in the fridge?  It might take a little bit of planning on the front end, but the benefits will be much more long-lasting (UC-Berkeley journalism professor and food writer, Michael Pollan, has spoken at length about the hidden costs – medical, environmental, etc. – of quick processed foods, and that spending more time and money preparing healthy foods will actually be cheaper in the long run).

So I bring you back to the earlier question: where do you place your priorities?  I know for myself, a good meal is only a great meal if it actually makes me healthier for eating it.

Why FIT CrossFit – Guest Author Ilana Sharaun MA, MFT

11 Jan

Living fully has always been my way. Building a family, finding an occupation I love, and contributing to my community have all been deep sources of meaning and happiness. So, when it became obvious that the stamina and energy I took for granted were not as plentiful as they used to be, I knew it meant making new choices in the way I live. This meant that I must become aware of what affects my well-being, and find the right balance that would result in feeling more alive and vibrant.

A Journey Toward Greater Wellness

This journey toward greater wellness demanded that I address all aspects of my life, and among the most important was exercise. All the studies I have read show that physical activity is directly linked to well- being, but the amount, intensity, and frequency of exercise were not clear. Therefore, I looked for a regimen that will allow me to experiment. I wanted a challenging program with variety, scheduling flexibility, and some form of accountability. Most importantly, I wanted to have fun, which (for me) meant working out with other people.   FIT CrossFit delivered what I was looking for. My life is super full, so having the choice of three sessions per day, six days a week is a huge benefit. The daily routines are flexible and adaptable to each person’s fitness level, not a one sizes fits all program. The trainers are very knowledgeable, supportive, and motivating. The group dynamic is invigorating and encouraging. We all know that the toughest part of Crossfit is just getting started, and the biggest obstacle is believing that you can do it. This personal challenge is what I find most invigorating, and I always leave with more energy than I came in with.

How has my fitness level changed since joining CrossFit?

On a recent hiking trip to Rocky Mountain National Park I was astonished to find myself charging up mountains and flying down the steep slopes. I experienced a joy of movement in a way I never have before. I trusted my body and released myself to the experience without fear.

Living fully means that balancing and rebalancing my life is an ongoing process. The daily strength, stamina, and confidence that I get from the FIT CrossFit training program helps me stay balanced and focused on the priorities I value most in my life.

Your Body is Not a Sports Car … YET

11 Jan

So the New Year is upon us, and as it has become common tradition, it is time to lay down some goals for the upcoming year.  Maybe you want to take up a new hobby, or possibly become more financially competent.  Probably the greatest enthusiasm for New Year goals is seen in health and fitness.  We experience a rush of people joining our ranks for the first time – or simply revamping and reinvigorating a stale and stagnating workout routine.  Unfortunately, these well-intentioned thoughts can often lead to more disaster than success.

For those just beginning an exercise routine (or for the first time after an extended layoff) it would be prudent to begin slowly.  Not only may you be unfamiliar with how to safely perform different exercises, your body’s internal mechanisms are also unfamiliar with the new amount of stress you will be placing on it.  When starting a new exercise program, muscles that have not been used for some time – if at all – cannot produce the amount of contractile force you may be asking of them.  This may lead to a significant amount of soreness in the hours and days following the workout as your body tries to remove metabolic waste and repair tissue damage in the exercised muscles.  Additionally, the hormonal and enzymatic pathways are not significantly developed in order to perform the exercises with the efficiently or intensity required to initiate desired changes.  While it only takes hours after first beginning an exercise program for your body to start improving and enhancing the physiological pathways (increased oxygen-carrying capacity of red blood cells, improved nutrient uptake into muscle cells from the digestive tract, etc.), it take time for these mechanisms to reach a level that can sustain the workload you maybe asking of your body.

While the objectives and goals of improving your health and wellness are laudable (in whatever form those goals may take – losing some body fat, improving your blood/lipid/cholesterol numbers, increasing activity to keep up with kids), it would be wise to follow the advice that luxury car dealers give their clients when driving off of the lot in that new cherry red speed demon: “Take it easy for a while”. This advice is given because the engine and suspension have not covered enough miles to withstand the stress of high speeds and quick cornering.  Similarly, your body needs time to prepare for the stress and intensity of a demanding workout.  If you have never exercised before and have been generally sedentary for quite some time, just moving at a casual pace for thirty or more minutes at a time may be enough work to start with.  If, however, you haven’t exercised in quite some time, but are relatively physically active – walking the dog, a job that requires a lot of movement or lifting/carrying things – a comprehensive bodyweight resistance-training regimen may be just what your body needs to “prime the pump”.   Using bodyweight exercises, such as lunges and push-ups will increase the strength and circulatory capacities of the connective tissues that support muscles and bones, and ultimately provide greater joint integrity (where most injuries from drastic changes in activity or routine occur).

In closing, I want to applaud all those that are making their health a priority in this New Year.  Just remember that there is no harm in starting slow, learning to listen to your body, and enjoying the process for the long haul.  Just like that nice car that you enjoy driving down winding roads on a sunny afternoon, wash weekly, and ensure proper maintenance, your body needs careful attention and gradual tweaks to keep it roaring at full speed.

FIT Summer Fitness Camp

4 Jun

Summer break is a time for kids to relax and enjoy their hard earned vacation. Pool parties, sleepovers and bbq’s fill many summer days. However, with at least two months of down time and the elevated use technological gadgets, such as  Xbox, Wii and PS3, kids can find themselves on the couch more often than not. A great solution to summer inactivity is summer camps. General fitness and activity camps can keep kids moving and provide lifelong positive experiences.

The FIT Summer Fitness Camp is designed to accommodate all skill levels of children ages 7-15. Using general activities derived from sports and games, our camp will not only help your child maintain a higher level of fitness, but will also provide them with the sociological and psychological benefits associated with organized play. Positive self-esteem, teamwork, and confidence are just a few of the benefits gained from participation in the FIT Summer Fitness Camp.

Last years attendees had an excellent experience. As a coach, witnessing the pride of each child at being part of team and their excitement with the development of each new skills was an awesome thing to experience. Our goal is to provide a positive experience with movement that each child can carry with them for years to come.

For more information on the FIT Summer Fitness Camp, please contact FIT @ (650)947-9831 or visit http://www.focusedtrainers.com