What does it mean to be fit?
For many of us, being fit means maintaining a healthy weight with diet and exercise.
However, the “healthy weight = fit” idea omits and misrepresents several important components of what being truly fit means. In biological terms, “being fit” means “being able to provide for one’s own life and wellbeing; the fittest are those who can do so the best.” Now that’s a little closer to what we should be working toward. Not just being fit to the point of sufficiency, but being the fittest.
So, the question is: What can you do to be the fittest you can be, or to obtain the best quality of life possible?
To answer that question, we’ll examine the five components of physical fitness. That’s right, there are five. Not just “fitting into my favorite jeans,” “being able to run a marathon,” or “bench pressing twice my body weight.” Our definitions are from the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Body Composition: This refers to the relative amount of muscle, fat, bone, and other vital parts of the body. Body composition can provide a better evaluation of overall health than weight or BMI alone, so it is important to maintain a level of body fat that is neither too low (below 3-5% for men and 8-12% for women), nor too high (above 20-25% for men and 29-35% for women).
A variety of body fat measurement tools exist including calipers and bio-electrical impedance devices, and although some are more accurate and expensive than others, all can help you monitor changes.
Tip: Have a body fat analysis performed to know your starting point, and begin implementing small, healthy diet and exercise changes to improve body composition.
Cardiorespiratory Endurance: Cardiorespiratory endurance is the ability of the body’s circulatory and respiratory systems to supply fuel during physical activity. This means being able to sustain an elevated heart rate. Activities like walking, swimming, and bicycling will all lead to improvement, and the good news is that the activity you choose does not necessarily have to be strenuous (at least initially).
Tip: choose an activity you enjoy and start slowly, increasing the intensity and duration over time.
Flexibility: Flexibility is the range of motion around a joint. Maintaining good flexibility helps protect the muscles and joints from injury in all kinds of activity. A basic stretching program, such as 10-15 minutes of light stretching for the upper body, lower body, and core after a workout, may be all you need to improve this oft-neglected fitness component. Yoga and Pilates classes can also add more structure to your flexibility program.
Tip: the key to improving flexibility is to make time for it! Add 10 minutes to the end of your workout to stretch or take 10-minute walking/stretching breaks at work.
Muscular Endurance: Muscular endurance is the ability of the muscle to continue to perform without fatigue. You can improve muscular endurance by doing sustained activities such as walking, swimming, or bicycling. When it comes to weight training, completing longer sets (12-25 repetitions) would be considered working in the endurance range.
Tip: look for opportunities to activate your muscles outside the club. For example, walk to the grocery store and flex those biceps by carrying groceries.
Muscular Strength: Muscular strength is the ability of the muscles to exert force during an activity. Sorry to those of you who want to stick to the treadmill, but this means using your muscles against resistance, whether that comes in the form of a dumbbell, resistance band, or your own body weight against gravity.
Tip: take the stairs instead of the elevator, or do some pushups during TV commercial breaks.
To be truly, “totally fit” we need to focus on all five components of physical fitness. Not only will we be healthier overall, but we will also enjoy the benefits of reduced risk of injury and disease prevention (osteoporosis, diabetes, etc.). The added bonus? Improving any single area of fitness will help the others improve as well.
So what are you waiting for?! What areas of physical fitness are you focusing on right now?
LPGA golfer Stacy Lewis’ ability to overcome childhood scoliosis to become one of the game’s rising stars is an inspiring story that hits home with Midtown Athletic Club in Windy Hill, Georgia member Heather McNally, a Coca-Cola Planning and Resource Management Director.
Diagnosed with scoliosis at age 10, Heather began to experience debilitating migraine headaches—often up to 20 times per month—in 2003.
But thanks to a connection made by a Chicago neurologist that directly linked Heather’s migraines to scoliosis, along with a four-day-a-week fitness regimen at Midtown Athletic Club at Windy Hill, her monthly migraine toll is down to just a few each month.
In desperate search of relief for her headaches, McNally, 41, visited four Atlanta neurologists over an eight-year period. Her quest would eventually lead to Chicago, and her stepmom’s recommendation of the Diamond Headache Clinic. It was here where a clinic doctor observed a direct connection between her scoliosis and headaches.
Heather’s doctor in Atlanta had prescribed a drug given for epilepsy. While it reduced the migraines, the side effects were unbearable.
“I lost 10 percent of my body weight, my cognitive reasoning was weakened, and I had memory loss,” she remembers. “Worst of all, the medication made carbonated beverages taste awful. And that’s not good for a woman who works for Coca-Cola.”
Her family coordinated an “intervention,” insisting that she stop taking the drug. McNally did, but the migraines returned with a vengeance.
It was Diamond Headache Clinic’s Alex Feoktistov, M.D., who finally asked the right question.
“He asked if my head hurt when I tilted my neck,” McNally recalls. Tests would later help the doctor determine that McNally’s headaches were actually caused by stiffness in her neck and upper back—and most likely aggravated by her scoliosis.
Says McNally: “This connection was something that all my doctors previously dismissed.”
After talking with her personal trainers at Midtown Athletic Club at Windy Hill, McNally was provided with a four-day training regimen that has been working well. On Monday, for instance, it’s Pilates; Tuesday is for strength training (including neck and shoulders); Wednesday is her day for physical therapy; and Thursday is for massage therapy at the club’s spa.
Eight months into the program, Heather says that her migraines have virtually disappeared. Her back, she adds, is straighter than it has been in 30 years.
“We all know that physical activity is good for the body,” says Dina Casso, Windy Hill’s General Manager. “But for Heather, the results have been literally life-changing.”
“Many members come to us not only to help them lose weight or firm up areas of their body, but also to help them with debilitating ailments,” Casso adds. “We help by designing specific physical fitness programs to help provide our clients with a better quality of life.”
McNally wholeheartedly agrees.
“For me, even my personality has changed,” she says. “Not living in constant pain has made me a happier person. My family, friends and co-workers have all noticed. If it weren’t for Dr. Feoktistov and my great team at Midtown, I can’t imagine where I’d be today.”
Why do we care about trends? Researchers study them, writers report them, teachers teach them, and tweeters tweet them. Although there are many advantages to being “in the know,” one of the most important reasons to pay attention to trends is that they can help us prepare for and adapt to changes ahead.
Over the past six years, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has identified trends in the fitness industry with their ”Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends” (you can view the full 2012 survey text here). Come January 1, some of the most popular resolutions will be health- and fitness-related, so let’s get a jump on meeting our goals by looking at what the 2012 fitness trends mean for us.
Educated, certified, and experienced fitness professionals are the core of a rapidly expanding industry. In spite of tough economic times, consumers still place a lot of value in getting and staying healthy. The fitness industry has responded to this need by employing qualified trainers and instructors.
What does that mean for you? You can breathe a little easier knowing that you can trust your fitness professionals to lead you in safe and effective workouts, helping you reach your goals faster and giving you more bang for your buck.
Strength training is here to stay. Having been near the top of the trends list for several years, strength training is the first training “type” on the trends list, accompanied by personal, core, functional, and group training.
What does that mean for you? Since most of us sit at a desk all day, adding a little weight-bearing exercise such as resistance training can help improve our energy levels, mood, and overall functionality. Expect fitness centers to continue to update equipment and training options to facilitate strength-training programs that meet the needs of all types of exercisers – a stronger body is yours for the taking!
No one will be left behind. Training options are becoming more population-specific, with new programs being tailored to the aging Baby Boomer population and the fight against childhood obesity (just to name a few). Your fitness professionals are trained specifically to work with a variety of individuals from athletes to people fighting obesity or other diseases.
What does that mean for you? The fitness industry is actively trying to meet you where you are to help you get the most you can out of an exercise program, regardless of your goals or fitness level. In other words, you don’t have to start off looking like Jane Fonda to make exercise a part of your life.
It’s all about energy. Zumba, boot camp, and spinning are growing in popularity. These group classes are high-energy and fun, and put the emphasis on pushing your physical limits.
What does that mean for you?Releasing stress through dancing, high-intensity training, and cycling will leave you feeling strong, accomplished, and ready to tackle life’s challenges. You just have to be willing to give them a try. And although not “trending” anymore, Pilates fans shouldn’t be worried that their favorite class is going to disappear; only time will tell whether these new arrivals and old favorites will continue on as actual trends rather than fads.
The key this year is to work with Midtown to customize a fitness program that will leave you feeling refreshed, rejuventated, and (hopefully) like you had a darn good time.
Now that you know what’s to come in 2012, it’s time to use this information to start doing something that will work for you.
Your 2012 motto shouldn’t be “once I meet my goal, I’ll be happy.” Instead, how about you take a chance on what the industry is giving you and say “it’s time to give myself knowledge, revitalizing energy, and a sense of accomplishment, and add some more fun to my fitness routine.” Now that’s a reason to work out today.
What do you think of these trends? Have you already tried any of these fitness programs or plan to in 2012? What are you going to do differently in your workout routine this year?
Now that we are smack-dab in the middle of the holiday season, you might feel like the size of your to-do list rivals Santa’s “Naughty v. Nice” one. Fortunately, having less time doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice fitness.
Let’s take a look at a few ways to trim your workout time (and your waistline) along with your Christmas tree.
Circuit-style weight training and combination moves: Instead of resting between sets, perform exercises one after the other to effectively rest muscle groups without losing time. Work opposing muscle groups back-to-back, such as chest and back, or alternate upper and lower body exercises to ensure adequate recovery time.
You can also combine upper and lower body moves, such as a squat with a biceps curl. Just make sure the “up phases” of the exercises are done at the same time to maximize effort. And here’s an extra benefit - the lack of rest in this style of training gives you a little cardio boost!
Interval training: You may think interval training is just another buzz word fitness professionals and heart rate monitor aficionados throw out to make you sweat more, but the cardiovascular benefits of this training method are proven. The basic idea is to increase your effort to near-maximum exertion for a period of time, followed by a recovery period.
For example, perform one minute of running (or stair-climbing, or jumping rope, or spinning, etc.), followed by one minute of walking, or some other lower-intensity version of the same exercise. You can also intersperse cardio moves (high-intensity interval) with strength-training moves (recovery interval). Make sure you adequately warm-up and cool-down when performing this type of training to help the body adjust to the intensity.
Creative Combos: Get creative by completing your workout and your holiday to-do list simultaneously. Power walk while shopping at the mall. Do squats or hold a wall-sit while putting finishing touches on your decorations. Dance, lift cans, or do push-ups on the kitchen counter while cooking. Practice abdominal contractions while driving in the car. Choose a new exercise for each of the 12 days of Christmas. It’s up to you!
Bonus Tips: Stick to a plan and use your time wisely. If you want to continue your structured workout, try to find uninterrupted time by turning off your cell, or doing your workout while your kids are at school. If it’s too hard to find a set time, break up your workout by starting your day with a brisk walk or core work. Get in as much as you can in the time you have, but don’t forget your cool down.
Any activity you do this season will add up to help you trim your waistline (or at least hold off the effects of that extra glass of egg nog). So what are you waiting for? Get excited for your new plan and get ready for a new you come January!
Have you changed your workout routine because of the holidays? What are you doing differently?
If you spend a lot of time around the club, you’ve probably heard talk of Heart Rate Monitors (HRMs).
Trainers are recommending them to clients, group exercise instructors are recommending them to their classes, and friends are comparing their “calories burned” in the locker rooms.
But will a HRM work for you?
Like all things in life, that depends.
Heart rate monitors can range from $50-$450, it’s important to decide whether a HRM is a good investment before you buy one.
Here are 5 ways a HRM can help you, and what other considerations are necessary to make sure your expectations are met as safely and effectively as possible.
HRMs can help you:
1. Improve your health: HRMs can help you find and maintain the right exercise intensity to reach your goals. If you are working to attain the 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise (50-70% of maximum heart rate) 5 days per week recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the device will tell you whether you are doing that. Higher-end models can provide specific zone intensity and time requirements to reach weight loss and fitness performance goals.
Unfortunately, your HRM won’t tell you what activities to do, how to do those activities correctly, or how to balance the other components of total health – nutrition, sleep, etc. From inexperienced exercisers to elite athletes, additional input from a doctor or trainer may be needed to paint a complete picture of an individual exercise program.
2. Measure your effort: Measuring the work-rate of the heart is the most accurate method of determining how much benefit you are deriving from your workout, and using a HRM is more accurate than interrupting your workout to take your pulse manually. Apart from user-error (e.g. the strap falling off, or accidentally stopping the training computer during a workout), HRMs are pretty dependable, as long as you always remember to use it!
3. Exercise safely: Feedback from HRMs can help prevent you from exercising too hard in a single session (and thus burning yourself out for several days), and from over-training in general. A heart rate that is higher than you expect it to be before, during, or after a workout, can be a signal that your body needs more rest. Most models don’t see the whole picture, however.
For example, certain medications can affect your heart rate, and your monitor can’t account for working an active job (think construction worker) if you only wear it during structured workouts. Again, listening to your body and asking for advice from a health or fitness professional can round out the picture.
4. Track your progress: Some HRMs are able to store and display weeks’ worth of training sessions, which will help you identify possible training errors, or hopefully just reinforce that you are staying on track! From the perspective of someone who never really liked math and can’t always remember how much she ran three days ago, it’s a nice benefit. However, all of the tracking and reporting tools are usually not available unless additional equipment or software is purchased.
5. Put the fire back in your program: Most of us probably never thought we would be taking orders from computers, but I have to admit, I can’t help feeling a little guilty when my HRM tells me “incomplete training week” or “train a lot more.” That is usually enough motivation to get my butt to the gym.
Some of you may prefer a social or physical push to exercise that can make a digital reminder more of an annoyance than a motivator. But at least for me, having that little screen tell me that I met my training goal for the week feels like the extra pat on the back I couldn’t give myself.
What do you think? Is a heart rate monitor worth it?
With 17 marathons (including 10 Bostons) under his belt, and 15 years of personal training experience, Bruce Hedlund, the Rochester club’s resident running expert, is the trainer you want to work with if you’re preparing for a race.
He graduated from SUNY Cortland with a B.S. in Exercise Science, and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. Bruce also works as Penfield High School’s Strength and Conditioning coach, and did the same for the Rochester Americans for the 2009-2010 season.MORE
It’s Ask the Trainer time again, and Brian Wilmot is taking on your questions this month.
Brian has a fascinating background.
He made Jamaica’s National Swimming Squad at the age of 10 and competed at an international level until age 17. He started Body Building and personal training at 18 and competed in body building until age 24. He won the NPC Amateur New York State Championships for his weight class. He’s also the author Slim and Trim. After becoming certified by The American College of Sports Medicine as a Health Fitness Specialist (HFS) and having earned several certifications prior, Brian worked in a medical office as a health fitness specialist for six years. He joined the Midtown personal training team in 2000, and his current fitness quest is Seidokan Karate.MORE
Personal Trainer Josette Lindsey is answering your questions this month. Exercise and fitness have always been a part of Josette’s life, whether she was preparing for an upcoming softball season or just working out to stay fit and healthy. She graduated from SUNY Brockport in 1990 with a degree in Physical Education and Sports Management, and then taught children’s fitness classes for four years.
She then transitioned to adult fitness and personal training, and has worked at Midtown for five years.
Her favorite part about her job comes from the satisfaction she receives when her clients tell her how much better they feel after their workouts. She takes great pride in encouraging them to take better care of themselves, and loves watching their progress over time.MORE
Paul Torcello has a five-year history with Midtown. After graduating with a B.S. in Exercise Physiology from SUNY Brockport, Paul began working as a Fitness Department intern. Upon completion of the internship, Paul was hired as a personal trainer and has been working with clients for the past four years.
His favorite part of working as a trainer is helping goal-oriented clients achieve success through hard work and dedication.
Reader Question: With my work schedule, I usually make it to the club 4 times a week no earlier than 8pm. I do my workout, and by the time I leave at 10pm, I am wide awake when I need to get to bed to get up for work the next day. Unfortunately, early-morning workouts won’t fit with my schedule. How can I get in a good workout, but still wind down at the end of the day?
Paul: This is a common problem among hard-working individuals. My advice is to emphasize the cool-down portion of the workout. For example, try to end each workout with some form of relaxation, which could include stretching, yoga poses, or possibly hitting the steam room/sauna. The key is not to run out of the gym in a hurry. Push yourself really hard during your workout, and then take your time and cool down before leaving the club. This may help combat that adrenaline rush you built throughout the workout.
Reader Question: I’ve seen some people doing exercises with resistance bands in the weight room. What’s the benefit of adding these to a workout routine?
Paul: The benefit of adding resistance bands to your routine is that it is a different form of exercise other than free weights or machines, which creates more variability in your workouts. Resistance bands create constant muscular tension throughout the range of motion of an exercise, whereas free weights do not. Another benefit is that the exercises can be done in small spaces, so you can perform them at home as well. Bands are another effective training method to add to your routine.
Reader Question: My 13-year-old daughter wants to start working out with me on the weekend. She is of a slender build, and I’m concerned she’s going to lose too much weight. That said, I want her to see that exercise is part of a healthy lifestyle. What kind of workout should she do?
Paul: Your daughter should start a workout routine involving both strength training and moderate cardiovascular exercise. The strength training will not only help her keep muscle, but it will also help her build muscle to maintain a healthy structure.
The cardio will obviously help her increase her fitness level , but moderation is important. A great option for your daughter would be to meet with a Personal Trainer, so she understands the importance of proper exercise/nutrition. You and she could also try 2-on-1 training sessions. The two of you would work together with one fitness professional. This would allow your daughter to learn proper form, which will provide her with a strong foundation for progression. This type of training will allow your daughter to receive correct fitness information, while training and spending time with you.
Reader Question: What are the benefits of adding protein powder to a smoothie? Should I add protein every time I get one, or just once and awhile?
Paul: The benefit to adding protein to a smoothie is simply to help you reach your daily protein requirements. Protein helps muscle repair, recover, and grow after being broken down by exercise. Individuals who work out frequently and intensely require more protein than sedentary people. That said, you should consume enough protein to stimulate muscle recovery.
You should add protein to your drink only if you need it. If you meet the daily requirement of protein, then you will not need to supplement with any additional protein. However, if your diet lacks the protein you need, then protein powder is an effective way of making up for what you don’t get through your normal diet.
Reader Question: I know trainers work out almost every day, so I am wondering what’s the one exercise/piece of equipment that you, as a personal trainer, do or use every single day?
Paul: Honestly, there isn’t one particular exercise I believe should be done on a daily basis. There are many important exercises and pieces of equipment, but they should not be done every day. The body needs time to recover from exercise and doing something everyday can slow recovery and also create boredom. The only exercise that may merit daily execution is light stretching to keep the body from becoming stiff or hurting the body’s mobility.
Do you have a question for one of the trainers? Nothing (or almost nothing!) is off-limits, so post your question as a comment to this post, or email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you email the question, I will ask it anonymously on your behalf, and post the question and answer (but not your name) on the next “Ask the Trainer” post. You do not need to be a member to ask a question.
You can find past “Ask the Trainer” posts here.
What do you want to know?
An ex-Marine, Steve once competed on a national level for the Caribbean island of St. Kitts as a Power Lifter and Bodybuilder. He moved to Rochester in 2003, and became a full-time Personal Trainer. With the club since 2006, “Sergeant” Steve teaches two early-morning Boot Camp classes per week and runs S.E.A.L. Training with Bruce Hedlund.
His favorite part of his job is the significant role and impact he has in his clients’ lives.
Reader Question: I made a New Year’s resolution to finally lose about 30 pounds. I started the year off by going to the club almost every day. I’m already slacking off. How do I stay motivated?
Steve: This is very common because people tend to set expectations a little high when making goals. In order to prevent the loss of motivation, you should set realistic expectations. For example: if you have never done cardio and decide that you are going to do a half hour of cardio every day, if you miss a day or two you might thing, “Well, I’ve already failed at my goal so why bother?”
A better goal in this case would be 3 days a week for 15-20mins. Once you add this short duration to your current workout, it may have the opposite effect, for example “Well, I’m already here, and it doesn’t feel so bad, I can do more.”
Reader Question: What’s the best group exercise class to take to improve the overall look of my body? I am a slender woman in my 50s, but I want to tone up as much as Mother Nature will allow. The schedule can be a bit overwhelming.
Steve: There are some factors to consider here. First, what type of exercise do you do regularly? Do you play tennis? Do resistance training? Cardio only? Only classes? All of the above? For example, if you only play tennis, then a Group Power class might be a good investment of your time, because of the amount of stress on your joints from the sometimes explosive movement and unpredictable ball direction.
As a woman in your 50s, you are going to need your connective tissue (tendons and ligaments) to be strong and you’ll need to maintain a certain amount of muscle mass to protect your joints. If you do resistance training and yoga, then a spinning class, step class, zumba, and a core class could be good choices, so that you can build your cardio and core strength to help compliment and support your overall fitness level.
And if you are a tennis player who does yoga, does cardio and resistance training, and you just want to take an additional class, then a bootcamp class could be the way to go because it will tie it all together.
Reader Question: I’ve seen other members moving very fast on the elliptical machines and the Arc Trainers, but I tend to increase my resistance and take it slower. Which is better if my goal is to stay in shape (and not get in shape)?
Variety is key. Challenge yourself with intensity and time. Use higher resistance for longer and shorter durations. If you want to move fast, try and be aware of when your body is moving because you are moving it versus when you have built up so much momentum that your body is just going through the motions. Use lower resistance with a slow movement and total focus on muscle contraction through the whole cycle of movement.
Have you ever tried to use the elliptical at a medium incline of around 6 and a resistance of 5 or 6 and tried to not use any momentum and total muscle focus? It’s pretty challenging. I would also recommend using more than one machine during a cardio workout; it will be more interesting and effective in challenging your body’s ability to adapt to different types of cardiovascular requirements.
Also, don’t be afraid of getting off the machine and spicing up a 30-minute bike or elliptical session with 1 minute of jumping rope for every 5 minutes on the machine.
Reader Question: Is tennis a good workout? My doubles partner says yes, but I don’t have the same feeling after a match that I do after a good run on the treadmill.
It really depends on the person and his/her athletic ability. If you have good hand/eye coordination, are light on your feet, and can move quickly while having good ball placement/judgement, then it may feel like less work for you.
If you want to try and increase your workout on the court, try running on the treadmill before your match for whatever may be a challenge to you (time or distance), and when you get on the court, keep moving. Don’t stand still. Bounce around a little and keep in constant motion. Not only will this increase your readiness and increase the amount of exercise you are getting, it may also rattle your opponents.
Reader Question: What do personal trainers eat for breakfast?
Well, we are people too, so we eat a variety of things. Cereal, oatmeal, fruits, sandwiches, eggs, protein shakes, bagels w/ peanut butter and/or cream cheese, and yogurt with nuts. The list is long.
Depending on our day ahead, food allergies, time between appointments, and personal goals, we believe in setting the proper examples while also enjoying some treats from time to time. Two of my early morning favorites, which are quick and easy to make at 4am are:
1/3 cup of dry oatmeal
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
One scoop of protein powder
Mix together nad enjoy.
4 egg whites
1/3 cup of oatmeal
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon of splenda
Mix together, brown on a skillet for a minute or on each side, and voila-a great and healthy breakfast.
Do you have a question for one of the trainers? Post your question as a comment to this post, or email it to me at email@example.com. If you email the question, I will ask it anonymously on your behalf, and post the question and answer (but not your name) on the next “Ask the Trainer” post. You do not need to be a member to ask a question.
You can find past “Ask the Trainer” posts here.
You know you have questions. What do you want to know?