Monday, June 29, 2009

Monday Myths Debunked - My muscle will turn into fat if I don't exercise

Let's face it - We have all heard the old adage that a lack of exercise will result in all that hard earned muscle becoming nothing more than fat on our body and a roll hanging over the top of our jeans.

Just look at this poor dog here...I am sure his owner (a regular dog walker) had to take a business trip and when he got back Fido had turned into the pic you see below!

[photo courtesy]

All kidding aside, apples can't turn into oranges any more than muscle cells can turn into fat cells.

Muscles that aren't being used atrophy, or shrink, but they do not disappear. If you keep eating, but stop exercising, you will inevitably gain fat. That combined with your muscles shrinking from lack of use is what causes people to think their muscles simply became fat.

In reality, the balance simply became skewed resulting in a less toned look.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Wondering Wednesday - How to workout when you suffer back spasms

Today is my first "Wondering Wednesday" post. From now on, I will take fitness and nutrition questions from blog readers. I will take these questions throughout the week, and answer them each Wednesday. These can be anything from a generic question about a specific exercise, to a complex question  concerning what type of workouts are appropriate for cancer patients. I have a wealth of knowledge, and years in the industry. I know it can be difficult to get educated answers off the Internet, so I am creating this forum for people to ask me anything they are curious about.

Our first question: "When you are having back issues, such as tightness that causes spasms, what is the best way to exercise without suffering an injury?"

This a problem many people suffer. Back issues plague many Americans, whether it's the lower back or upper back around the neck and shoulders. First, it is important to understand the reason a muscle spasms is to restrict movement to protect the muscle group from further injury. Listening to your body is important. Walking and swimming are the best exercises for you to begin with. Always make sure you perform some safe and gentle stretches at the end of your cardio workout - I will send you some via email if you contact me directly at rockworkout {at} gmail [dot] com. After a few weeks of walking/swimming, add abdominal and back strengthening/stretching combinations to help strengthen weak muscles, and stretch tight areas. Working on your postural muscles with the help of a physical therapist or knowledgeable trainer will help in the prevention of future flair-ups.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Monday Myths Debunked - No Pain No Gain

How many times have we heard the saying, "No pain, no gain" - when we train, when we played organized sports, from our old coaches, maybe even from our parents.

There are myths that get stated as fact on a regular basis, and if heard enough, people start to believe them as just that. However, this all too familiar quote can be very detrimental to those believing it to be accurate.

"No pain, No gain" implies we must be hurting in one way or another to see results. The truth? While an intense workout will undoubtedly result in some soreness one or two days after, pain should not be felt during an exercise.

If your shoulder is popping, or you feel pain in your elbow do not assume it is as it should be and continue. If your knee is hurting while doing a specific exercise, stop and ask a trainer if there is a better way to perform the exercise. You would be amazed if you knew the multiple ways in which to modify an exercise. If there is not a way to modify, the trainer should be able to give you a new exercise that will target the same muscle group, but will not negatively impact the area where you are feeling pain.

We all have little glitches in our bodies. Many times, old injuries suffered as kids on the basketball court will resurface as we age. That shoulder you dislocated in football 20 years ago may not have caused many problems, but as you get older you may feel it clicking when working out. Don't assume all is well, while thinking, "Ahhh, no pain, no gain" because you will most likely injure it further.

It is always good to consult with your doctor before beginning any intense training. The last thing you want is to work hard at getting in better shape, only to be forced to stop by a nagging back injury. The point of exercising isn't to push through pain but to take things as slow as your body needs to strengthen its weak points, benefiting you greatly in the long run.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

There's No Denying It - Size Matters

Are you looking to shed some pounds but can't fathom becoming one of those people that weighs food, counts calories or deprives themselves of something they want?

We have all heard of portion control, but often times we are unaware of what proper serving sizes are and how to divide it on our plates.

In America, portions have continually grown over the years making it nearly impossible to remember what a healthy serving size actually was before the "super-size" era. Unfortunately, as our food portions have been super-sized so have our waistlines. In fact, many people don't need to diet, as much as they simply need to cut back the amount of food they are eating.

A woman in the UK created The Diet Plate® which has portion sizes drawn into the plate, taking away the guesswork that is often inaccurate. There is no need to count fat, calories or carbohydrates, as this plate does it for you by providing guidelines for calorie controlled portion sizes. In addition, this plate comes in a female and male version so portion sizes are altered accordingly.

What is an actual serving size?

To give you a frame of reference, this is the American Cancer Society's measuring stick for "normal" portion sizes:

~ 1oz meat: size of a matchbox
~ 3oz meat: size of a deck of cards or bar of soap. This is the recommended portion size.
~ 8oz meat: size of a thin paperback book
~ 3oz fish: size of a checkbook
~ 1oz cheese: size of 4 dice
~ medium potato: size of a computer mouse
~ 2Tbsp peanut butter: size of a ping pong ball
~ 1/2 cup pasta: size of a tennis ball
~ Average bagel: size of a hockey puck

That was eye-opening, I'm sure. I know when I go to my local bagel shop for breakfast, the bagels are much larger than a hockey puck. And I recently purchased potatoes from my local farmer's market, and they were double the healthy serving size.

Now, you don't need to rush right out and buy The Diet Plate® but it is a very novel idea, one that would help many realize just how much they are eating in comparison to what they should be eating. However, if you don't want your nightly dinner plate to resemble a food puzzle, here are a few more tips for controlling your portions:

Tip 1: When you eat out, ask for 1/2 your meal to be bagged before eating. This will ensure you don't "pick" at your food or eat too much. Instead, you can look forward to enjoying it again for lunch the following day.

Tip 2: Don't "eat from the bag" Instead, place a serving size in a bowl or on a plate to avoid overeating. Let's face it, it's just too easy to keep reaching back into the bag for more!

Tip 3: Share an entree with a friend when eating out. If you aren't a fan of leftovers (much like myself) sharing meals will ensure you don't overeat or waste food.

For more tips on portion sizing, as well as additional tips for portion control visit the ACS Web site. If you think all that information is too much to worry about, look into The Diet Plate®. It takes the guesswork away, and will help you on your journey to a healthier you!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Childhood Obesity - What Can You Do Differently?

{Image Courtesy}

Healthy habits are something we acquire early in life. It's like that quote, "All I ever needed to know I learned in kindergarten." It's amazing how much of what we achieve in the future, is based on what we learned as children.

As youngsters, we are introduced to concepts like coloring in the lines and following class rules. Throughout life, we will be reminded of these lessons when we sign contracts, negotiate deals and write resumes. It's at these times we will think back to our teachers who instilled patience while working towards something beautiful, as well as accountability for our actions (even if it meant learning to keep quiet when others are speaking.)

My point is, we learn most of life's basic principals and skills when we are young. One of the most important things for children to learn early is an appreciation for their overall health. Now, I don't expect your child to turn down a brownie and request a tomato slice. But we need to teach them balance.

With the childhood obesity rate on the rise, it's time to take stock of what we are doing differently with today's youth. For starters? Video games and inside amusement. Looking back, I can remember jumping rope, playing kickball, and participating in league sponsored sports. Now, kids are entertained with video games that leave them glued to the couch for hours!

It's time to get kids involved in team sports again. Going back to my earlier point, we learn a lot about life through team sports. Kids learn to share the spotlight with others and grow closer in defeat. Football players learn they can't win without the help of others. Baseball players learn that it won't always be their day, but their teammates will step-up and help pick up the slack. Cheerleaders learn there must be trust among squad members to successfully execute a stunt.

We live in a society that demands instant gratification, which is a terrible thing to teach our kids to expect. We speed through fast food joints, get each child a different meal, rush home, gobble down the food and separate to do our own things. Instead, take the 20 minutes to cook a healthy meal. Try getting the kids involved so they will look at food with an understanding. Teach them what is healthy and explain why you will put more veggies on their plates and only minimal amounts of meat. They may moan and grunt about it, when they'd rather be playing, but as they grow older that knowledge of healthy v. unhealthy will stay with them.

Take a moment and think back...even write down...the things you remember learning in kindergarten and how they have transferred to your adult life. Now, use this knowledge to form a plan for your children. Check the local sports leagues and ask your child what interests them. It's important to show your child that you will be their biggest fan! Make a point to practice with them, teach them new skills and attend all games!

Don't think you are off the hook either. This is the chance for you to set the example you may or may not have had growing up. Fix healthy meals and let your kids see you exercising regularly. Make the change as a family and kids will be more likely to follow your lead without much hesitation. Just remember, this can't be a spur-of-the-moment change...this is a lifestyle change that will lead your family down a path of health and physical well-being.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Dear Peanut, I am leaving you for Sunflower Butter!

{Image Courtesy}

Channing Pollock, and American playwright and critic once said, "No man in the world has more courage than the man who can stop after eating one peanut."

This quote made me chuckle thinking back to my day at the baseball park when I kept snacking on the shelled peanuts that cost $6.00 a bag. Truthfully, no matter how hard I tried, I could not put those delicious, salty peanuts down.

Unfortunately, my snack of choice would put many people in a full-blown allergy attack, some severe enough to require an immediate trip to the emergency room.

Chances are, if you are like me you are wondering how people can survive a life without peanuts. And if you are allergic to these nuts, you are probably feeling a sudden itch on your skin. Well, fear not because I am here to tell you about a never-know-the-difference alternative to good ol' fashioned PB!

Sunflower Butter has been on the market for a few years now and is an ideal low-fat, high fiber substitute for traditional peanut butter. Some schools are now offering this alternative to students with nut allergies, making for a safe eating environment while allowing those students to still enjoy the taste of real PB&J.

Those suffering severe peanut allergies are now afforded the chance to enjoy sunflower butter the same way their peers enjoy PB: on celery, morning toast, with jelly and on crackers.

In fact, people are now using sunflower butter to make those melt-in-your-mouth chewy cookies with the famous crisscross imprint on the top!

I found this great recipe at Baking Bites:

{Image Courtesy}

Sunflower Butter Cookies

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sunflower seed butter
1/4 cup sugar + 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon + 1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugars. Beat in egg, blend in vanilla and sunflower seed butter. Add in dry ingredients and mix on low speed until combined..

Drop dough into 1-inch balls on prepared baking sheet. Dip a fork in water and press down gently to flatten each cookie. Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar-salt mixture.Bake for 10-12 minutes, until just beginning to brown on the edges.Cool on baking sheet for 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen

Monday, June 8, 2009

High Heels - I Love You So Much and You Hurt Me So Bad!

{image courtesy}

High Heels are a beautiful thing. Strappy, thick, sexy, conservative, professional, night-out-on-the-town...whichever style you choose is fine by me. After all, I have over 100 pair in my closet. I have had a love of shoes since I pranced around in a pair of my mother's red leather pumps nearly 25 years ago. They are actually one of my favorite accessories to purchase because they always fit. They fit when nothing else does and they make a statement like nothing else ever will.

The bad news? They are ruining our feet, and various other parts of our body, with each step we take. I am sure you are thinking, "But I only buy comfortable heels." I don't believe you. We all own at least a few pair that leave people gawking while we end the night peeling them off and running a hot bath to soak our tootsies.

These shoes are the culprits for bunions, corns, hammertoes and ingrown toenails. I bet you just wiggled your toes and a specific pair of pumps flashed in front of you. According to an article in Glamour's July issue, podiatrists are now performing bunion surgery on women in their twenties, when that surgery was once reserved for ladies in their fifties and sixties.

Why do heels cause us so much pain? Every inch of heel adds 25 percent more pressure on your feet. Now do the math and if you weigh 130 pounds and slide your feet into stunning four-inch heels, you are putting 260 pounds of pressure of your feet with each step you take. Do that every day and you will feel the effects rather quickly.

How can you avoid calf tightness, a shortened ACL, and even ingrown toenails? Stop wearing high heels. However, I know that's not likely to happen so it's important to forgo wearing the stilettos all day. Do like the city slickers, and wear a pair of flats while your black patent leather pumps are tucked away in your purse. Arrive at the destination, switch the flats for heels before you step out of the car and no one will ever know the difference...except your feet of course.

The unfortunate truth is the higher the heel, the more significant the long-term effects. Aside from a few ingrown toenails or an annoying corn or two, we aren't faced with the bigger issues until it is too late. Wearing stilettos, or any type heel, will have an everlasting effect on your back and your overall posture. Throwing your body forward in a pair of heels, forces the back and hips to overcompensate for the bad alignment, in the end leaving you with lower back pain and tension in the shoulders.

Now, don't go home and cry over the 50 pair of Stuart Weitzman shoes you have to donate. As a shoe aficionado myself, I wouldn't dare suggest such a thing. Just invest in some good (even stylish) flats that you can wear when heels aren't necessary. Your legs may not look as long, or your ankles as slender, but both will thank you in the long run.

Friday, June 5, 2009

How Healthy Is Your Lifestyle? ~ Take This Test!

How Healthy is Your Lifestyle?

Directions: Put a check beside each statement that applies to you. Tally the number of checks at the end of each section. Then, at the end, add all sections together to get your total score.

1. Alcohol

___ If you do not drink, score 5 here and move to question #2
___ I drink less than 2 drinks a day.
___ In the past year, I have not driven an automobile after having more than 2 drinks.
___ When I am under stress, I do not drink more.
___ I do not do things when I am drinking that I later regret.
___ I have not experienced any problem because of my drinking in the past.

2. Tobacco use

___ If you have never smoked cigarettes, score 5 here and move to question #3
___ I haven’t smoked cigarettes in the past year.
___ I do not use any form of tobacco (pipes, cigars, chewing tobacco).
___ I smoke only low tar and nicotine cigarettes.
___ I smoke less than one pack of cigarettes a day.

3. Blood Pressure

___ I had my blood pressure checked within the last six months.
___ I never had high blood pressure.
___ I do not currently have high blood pressure.
___ I make a conscious effort to avoid salt in my diet.
___ There is no history of high blood pressure in my family.

4. Weight/Body Fat

___ According to height and weight charts, my weight is average for my height.
___ I have not needed to be on a weight-reduction diet in the past year.
___ There is no place on my body that I can pinch an inch of fat.
___ I am satisfied with the way my body looks.
___ None of my family, friends or health care professionals has urged me to lose weight.
5. Physical Fitness

___ I do some form of vigorous exercise for at least 30 minutes three or more days a week.
___ My resting pulse is 70 beats a minute or less.
___ I don’t get fatigued easily while doing physical work.
___ I engage in some recreational sport such as tennis or swimming on a weekly basis.
___ I would say that my level of physical fitness is higher than most people in my age group.
Score ___

6. Stress/Anxiety Level

___ I find it easy to relax.
___ I am able to cope with stressful events as well as or better than most people.
___ I do not have trouble falling asleep or waking up.
___ I rarely feel tense or anxious.
___ I have no trouble completing tasks I have started.

7. Automobile Safety

___ I always use seat belts when I drive.
___ I always use seat belts when I am a passenger.
___ I have not had a speeding ticket or other moving violation for the past three years.
___ I never ride with a driver who has had more than two drinks.

8. Relationships

___ I am satisfied with my social relationships.
___ I have a lot of close friends.
___ I am able to share my feelings with my spouse and/or other family members.
___ When I have a problem, I have other people with whom I can talk it over.
___ Given a choice between doing things by myself or with others, I usually choose to do things with others.

9. Rest and Sleep

___ I almost always get between seven and nine hours of sleep a night.
___ I wake up few, if any, times during the night.
___ I feel rested and ready to go when I get up in the morning.
___ Most days, I have a lot of energy.
___ Even though I sometimes have a chance, I never take naps during the day.

10. Life satisfaction

___ If I had my life to live over, I wouldn’t make very many changes.
___ I’ve accomplished most of the things that I’ve set out to do in my life.
___ I can’t think of an area in my life that really disappoints me.
___ I am a happy person.
___ As compared to the people with whom I grew up, I feel I’ve done as well or better than most of them with my life.

Total Score = _____

Interpreting Your Score

A score of 40-50 ………………………..Healthier than average lifestyle
A score of 25-39 ………………………..Average lifestyle
A score of 0-25 …………………............Below average: need for overall improvement
Scores of less than 3 in any one area……Need for improvement in that area.

Learn to Handle Stress
Stress is a normal part of living. Everyone faces it to some degree. The causes of stress can be good or bad, desirable or undesirable (such as a promotion on the job or the loss of a spouse). Properly handled, stress need not be a problem. But unhealthy responses to stress – such as driving too fast or erratically, drinking too much, or prolonged anger or grief – can cause a variety of physical and mental problems. Even on a busy day, find a few minutes to slow down and relax. Talking over a problem with someone you trust can often help you find a satisfactory solution. Learn to distinguish between things that are “worth fighting about” and things that are less important.

Be Safety Conscious
Think “safety first” at home, work, school, play, and on the highway. Buckle seat belts and obey traffic rules. Keep poisons and weapons out of reach of children, and emergency numbers by your telephone. When the unexpected happens, you’ll be prepared.

Start by asking yourself a few frank questions. Am I really doing all I can to be as healthy as possible? What steps can I take to feel better? Am I willing to begin now? If you scored low in one or more sections of the test, decide what changes you want to make for improvement. You might pick that aspect of your lifestyle where you feel you have the bets chance for success and tackle that one first. Once you have improved your score there, go on to other areas.

If you already have tried to change your health habits (e.g., stop smoking or exercise regularly), don’t be discouraged if you haven’t yet succeeded. The difficulty you have encountered may be due to influences you’ve never thought about (such as advertising) or to a lack of support and encouragement. Understanding these influences is an important step toward changing the way they affect you.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Training with a Friend ~ Accountability at Its Best!

For most people workout out is done out of need. The need to lose weight. The need to strengthen muscles. The need to relieve stress. The need to do something productive. Point being, most people do not find going to the gym an easy task.

Some people are more successful at making it a habit if they workout in the morning. Others find it convenient to swing by the gym on their way home from work. And many find it easier to partner-up with a workout friend, as various studies have found people who have workout partners are three times more likely to exercise.

Generally speaking, most people find it easier to do things in pairs, or small groups. Often, it is for the company; however, the underlying benefit of having a workout buddy is accountability.

As the alarm starts buzzing, it is easy to say, "I'll workout later" and hit snooze. But if you have a neighbor or friend who is meeting you at the gym, you are more likely to groan and then get out of bed, knowing someone is depending on you. It is also easy to head home after work claiming, "I have had a bad day. I'll workout tomorrow morning instead." But knowing there is another tired coworker waiting makes you more accountable.

It is also easier to have a friend or family member dieting with you. When you are out at the local Mexican restaurant craving cheesy nachos, your fellow dieter will help you put your cravings in perspective. You will respect his/her opinion when he/she tells you "no" because you are sharing the struggle together.

And finally, let's be honest - working out or dieting with a buddy brings out our competitive side. If we spend our downtime eating excessively or not exercising, we are bound to be upset when our buddy proudly exclaims, "I've lost 5 pounds and shrunk an inch in my hips!"

So with summer here, grab a friend or family member and formulate a workout plan that works best for both of you. And don't forget to reward yourselves after reaching one of your goals. Just because you sweat together doesn't mean you can't celebrate the first reached goal by sharing a nacho plate - light cheese though!