Friday, July 30, 2010

Question and Answer: Upper Body Strength

Q: I recently lost over 100lbs. My arms are a lot skinnier, of course, but since the weight loss was done by counting calories and cardiovascular workouts done doing Dance Dance Revolution and then on a stationary bike, my upper body is much weaker than it was before the weight loss. What can I do to gain upper body strength?

A: Congratulations on the weight loss…that’s amazing! You’re question is great. Strength training is an extremely important component every day health. As you’ve experienced, when strength training is not involved in a weight loss program, you could be left with weaker muscles than before, especially in the upper body. The benefits of strength training are vast and valuable. Strength training:


· Increases your lean body tissue

· Boosts metabolism

· Helps balance and coordination

· Improves the symptoms and can reverse arthritis, osteoporosis, back pain and much more

· Prevents Sarcopenia, which is just a fancy word for losing muscle mass as we age.

Studies show that we start losing muscle mass at a rate of 1% a year staring in our 30s and 40s. So what? Well, it’s a big deal to lose muscle mass. Not only will you have a higher percentage of body fat which puts stress on your heart, can lead to diabetes and some other horrible things, but keeping your muscles means keeping your balance, preventing osteoporosis, and sustaining our abilities to do every day tasks well into the aging process. Specifically, upper body strength lets us do every day tasks such as carrying groceries, lifting kids, putting things up on shelves, helping friends and family move, and getting up and down off of the floor. You don’t have to train like a body builder to get a strong, functional upper body. In fact, to get started you don’t need any equipment; you can just use your own body weight to start getting strong, lean muscle mass.

Check out these 2 upper body strengtheners that you can do anywhere. The key to gaining strength is to push your body and progress through the levels. Start at the level in which you can barely finish the 12th repetition. Once you are able to do 15 reps, move to the next level. Every other day, do 3 sets of push ups and tricep dips. (12 repetitions per set).

Push Ups. Most people think that this is an advanced move for only the super-strong. Push ups are hard, but you can ease your way into this upper body strength builder. Push ups are a must move because they use pretty much all the muscles in the upper body (arms, chest, back) making it an extremely efficient upper body exercise.

Level 1: Using a wall, stand with feet hip width apart a few feet out from the wall. Keeping the abs in tight and torso straight, lean towards the wall and place hands chest height, slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Slowly bring your chest towards the wall and then slowly push back up to starting position. Repeat 12 times.

Level 2: Use a counter or sturdy table edge and follow the Level one instructions.

Level 3: On the floor, either on your knees or toes, keep your body nice and flat as you lower your chest towards the ground and push back up. Need more? Lift one leg up as you go down.

Tricep Dips. Dips are a great functional exercise that strengthens your shoulders and triceps.

Level 1: Find a sturdy (non-rolling chair). Take a seat on the edge of the chair and place the hands on either side of your thighs, curling your fingers around the front seat of the chair. With elbows bent, lift your rear end off the chair until your arms are straight. Lower back down to seated. Repeat 12 times. This is a tiny movement, but it will prepare you for the next levels.

Level 2: Start in the same position as before. Your legs should be bent at a ninety degree angle with the feet flat on the floor. Lift your rear up off the chair, walk the feet out a bit so that your hips are in front of the chair instead of directly over it. Slowly bend your elbows until they are at a ninety degree angle and then push yourself back up until your arms are straight. Repeat 12 times.

Level 3: Same as Level 2 only your legs are straight out in front of the chair, not bent. If you need something more than that, lift a leg.


Friday, July 16, 2010

Age-proof your body with movement!

Think you’re too young to worry about loss of strength and flexibility that makes it harder to move and do every day activities during your older years? You are WRONG! It is never too early to start preparing your body for the aging process. The human body peaks around the age of 25 in both strength and flexibility. From there, without proper care and training, your body’s functionality starts to go downhill. This is what happens, your muscles start to atrophy (weaken) and your flexibility decreases. The combination of these two events cause everyday movements such as bending over and getting up harder and harder as we age. This isn’t to scare you, especially if you are in your 30s, 40s, 50s or older. You too can improve your body’s function and even reverse the signs of aging!

So…no matter your age, incorporate these exercises into your daily life.

Stand ups. Don’t roll your eyes. Think about it. Getting out of chairs, off the sofa or out of the car can be very difficult for older people. Therefore, training your muscles to do this everyday, important movement can be just what your body needs to jump out of whatever seat you’re in for the rest of your life.

How to: Sit in a chair or a your couch and without using your arms to push or pull yourself up, simply stand up. Repeat 20 times in a row. You’ll be strengthening your abdominals and lower body as well as stretching out your lower back.

Pick ups. That’s right, picking things up off the floor around your house can keep you young. So be intentional about picking up one item at a time so that you have to keep bending over to pick up every item individually. If you, like me (HA!), keep an immaculate house, clutter free. Throw some stuff on the floor and get to work OR better yet, go and pick up trash in your neighborhood or favorite park!

How to: Bend over from the waist, keeping your knees slightly bent, pick up an item and stand back up to straight while rolling your shoulders back and down. You will be stretching out the hamstrings, lower back and strengthening your abs, lower back (as you stand up), lower body PLUS improving your poster with a roll of your shoulders.

Stretches. Keep that body limber and moving freely with a few stretches.

How to: Hold each of these stretches for 30 seconds or more a day

· Hamstring Stretch: bend at the waist and let your upper body and arms hang down with the intent to touch the toes

· Lower back stretch: start down on the ground on all fours and push your hips back so that your butt rests on your heels while stretching your hands out in front of you…walking them away from the body (also called Child’s Pose in yoga)

· Chest and shoulder stretch: interlace your fingers behind your back. Push your hands down and then pull up until you feel a great stretch across your chest and shoulders.

A few more ways to keep your body young:

  • Take the stairs
  • Lift weights
  • Do cardio at least 5 days a week for 20 minutes
  • Walk…a lot…
  • Yoga!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Working out at the best time...

So what time of the day should you work out to get the most out of exercise? There isn’t an easy answer. Some people are morning people, some are night owls, but consider the pros and cons of morning, afternoon and evening workouts.

The perks of morning workouts

  • Working out in the morning can jumpstart your day and fill you with energy
  • Research has shown that people that workout in the morning stick with their exercise routine more so than people who work out later in the day
  • Working out before work/school/the kids are up means more time for the family and evening activities
  • You don’t have to worry about “something coming up” and not make it to the gym later…you workout is done!
  • Starting the day off right with exercise sets you up for a day of good healthy decisions

The challenge of the morning workout

  • The snooze button…need I say more?
  • Getting enough sleep is very important (see how important to your health by clicking here), so if you aren’t able to get to bed early enough to get at least 6 hours of sleep before you get up to work out, you might want to consider another workout time.
  • Your body temperature is at it’s lowest, so you need to warm up a bit longer than usual (10 minutes or so) to prevent injury

The perks of lunch workouts

  • Working out before you eat lunch revs up your metabolism and can set you up to succeed with healthy choices during those heavy craving hours between 2 and 4 in the afternoon.
  • Getting work friends to work out with you can help you be accountable

The challenge of the lunch workout

  • Work gets busy…so sometimes the workout gets put on the back burner with your lunch break

The perks of an afternoon workout

  • Research has shown that you have between 4-5% more strength and endurance during the hours of 4 and 5 p.m. This can mean that you can workout harder and longer at that time
  • Injuries are less likely to happen in the afternoon because your body temperature is at it’s highest and your muscles are already warm

The challenge of the afternoon workout

  • Unless you stay at home, have a flexible work schedule or don’t work the typical 9-5 job, working out at this time may be impossible

The perks of a night time workout

  • Some people are just more energized at night and so working out is more conducive after dinner

The challenge of night time workouts

  • Working out 4 hours or less before bed time can disrupt your sleep
  • Life happens and you might not be able to workout in the evenings because of family commitments or unexpected plans

Basically, you know yourself and what will work for you body and your schedule. Get into a habit that is right for you so that you will stick with it! Put it on your calendar and get your body moving!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Summer Meltdown Weight Loss Special...10 pounds down in 4 weeks!

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Eat at home and cut time, money and calories!

3 Reasons to cook at home

  1. You save time. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard (and used) the phrase…”let’s do out tonight…I don’t have time to make anything for dinner.” WRONG! Let’s use an example of a spaghetti dinner.
    1. Time to make spaghetti with sauce and a salad: about 20 minutes.
    2. Time to drive to a restaurant, order, get food/eat, and pay: 90 minutes.

That’s not a great way to save time…right?

  1. You save money. Eating out can get pricey! Let’s take our spaghetti and salad example again.
    1. At home: Spaghetti ($2), Sauce ($3), bag of salad ($3) and salad dressing ($3). Grand total for a family of four to eat at home: $11!!!
    2. At a casual dinning restaurant: Spaghetti ($7), side salad ($3), tip ($2). Grand total for a family of four $48!!!

Wow…that’s some big savings!

  1. You save fat and calories. When you cook at home, you control the way that your food is prepared. You can adjust the amount of fat used in cooking, your portion sizes and sodium intake. For instance, a popular casual dining restaurant spaghetti is 710 calories, 22 grams of fat and 1,500 mg of sodium. If you make it at home, it is 281 calories, 2 grams of fat and 721 mg of sodium…HUGE difference…right?!

Quick, easy and flavorful ways to lighten up your cooking.

  1. Reduce your saturated fat intake: Instead of using butter, use olive oil. Save 5 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon by making the switch.
  2. Measure your oil instead of free-pouring it. Oil comes out fast people, so really measure it. Even though olive oil is good for your heart and skin, too much can mean a larger waist, so get out those measuring spoons
  3. Try fat free cooking. Try sautéing your food, making your pancakes and grilling your sandwiches with cooking spray instead of oil and butter. Save 200 calories!! Also, use chicken broth in place of oil or butter next time you are making a stirfry for a flavorful, fat free way of doing things!
  4. Trim the fat…and skin. When preparing meat, always cut away the fat and skin. You will save tons of fat and hundreds of calories by doing so, plus reap the benefits of getting lean protein!
  5. Stock up on easy to cook items. This is the “no excuses” tip. If you have in the pantry, freezer, fridge, it’s a lot easier to whip up a healthy meal right then instead of having to go to the store to get the supplies. Make it easy on yourself and make sure you have the following foods in your kitchen;
    • Whole grain pasta
    • Low sodium pasta sauce
    • Frozen chicken
    • Frozen 93% lean ground beef or turkey
    • Frozen veggies
    • Frozen fruit
    • Skim milk
    • Chicken broth
    • Olive oil
    • An array of spices that you love
    • Potatoes
    • Nuts
    • Bagged salad
    • Cut up veggies
    • Fat free sour cream
    • Reduced fat cheese
    • Light yogurt
    • Brown rice
    • Tuna
    • Beans and lentils
    • Whole grain bread
    • Fresh fruit
    • Vinegar

Happy lightening-up!!