Monday, January 31, 2011

Matching your training program to your goals

What are your goals?  As I mentioned in the last blog, the only thing that dictates the appropriate training program is YOUR goals.  If your goal is to be able to lift really heavy weights a couple of times then you train by lifting really heavy weights a couple of times, slowly increasing the amount of weight over time.  If however your goal is to lose weight then the program would look a little different.  For everyone who has tried a resistance exercise program (it's not just weight lifting any more), any program, you will hear various beliefs on how many reps (repetitions) and sets (how many times you do the group of repetitions).  "you need to do 3 sets of 10", the next person will tell you "NO, it's 5 sets of 5" and on and on.  The next time someone tells you how many repetitions 'are the best' simply ask them "WHY?"  For some reason, we all like to 'know what we are talking about' so we will repeat what we have heard before regardless of where the information comes from.  Case in point, I had managed to make it through three college degrees in the fields of sports medicine, athletic training and physical therapy, but it wasn't until I was at a continuing education seminar several years ago that I was asked that question "why that many reps?" when several others in the class and I answered 3 sets of 10 repetitions to the question of how many to do.  It was one of those 'aha' moments when you look around and say "that's what we were taught?" so after that class I decided to look into it and I had to laugh at what I found.  The good old '3 sets of 10' was originally written about back 40 years ago and was the opinion of one writer.  Do the first set of 10 at 50% of the 10 rep max, then 75% for the Second set and then 100% for the last 10.  It sounded official so it must be right, by the way 100% of a 10 rep max is the amount of weight that you can lift 10 times and no more.  After this article, the authors that followed didn't question the '3 sets of 10 rep' theory, just the amount of resistance for each set until it was "agreed upon" that the truth must be "3 sets of 10 reps with 100% of the 10 rep max each time."  So why did this become the standard, very simple, IT WORKED!  People were getting stronger and seeing changes to their muscle mass so obviously it 'must be right'.  And so on we went with our resistance exercise routines, that is until Nautilus hit the scene in the 1970's with a crazy idea, 'Do one set of 15 repetions' on a series of very impressive machines.  But, guess what happened..."IT WORKED" well at least for a little while, people were seeing results on these machines and it took less time.  Then all kinds of ideas started coming out, multiple set and repetition combinations and you know what each one "WORKED"  Well now we have a problem, all these different combinations actually work so "How Can this Be?????"  Lets go back to my definition of exercise 'anything  your body hasn't done before' (remember?) of course each one would work because your body had to adapt to a new stress placed on it, but, once it adapts to the stress we once again hit the dreaded 'plateu' of no improvement and we pick up the next magazine or the next trainer and 'their program works'.  

Actually, over the years we have gotten some actual science on these repetitions and energy systems that go along with them.  If you want to build power, you must do a maximal effort 1-3 repetitions and a limited number of sets (of course you warm up).  Next is strength, for maximal strength development you want to be in the 4-6 rep range for 4-6 sets.  Then we hit the garbage can of cellular changes or the amount of resistance that will allow improved function of the muscle tissue 8-15 reps, 2-3 sets (sound familiar).  Anything above that and you are in the strength endurance range with an inverse relationship of strength to endurance.  Its not rocket science, the longer you do something the lighter the resistance must be and visaversa.  If you lift something really heavy, you can't lift it very many times (I know, I'm a genius and you never figured this out for yourself).  Actually, it is common sense and the next time you are working out make sure you use it.  The other issue is technique, proper form is essential to not getting injured but in comes the good old American belief 'if a little is good, a lot must be better) and on goes the additional weights (this seems to be especially true when testoterone is involved!).  The problem is if you are using too much weight/resistance then you will be compensating in some form.  Good Technique and appropriate form will get you much further, much faster than 'packing on the weights.'  As for reps and sets, that depends on what you want to accomplish, what's your goal.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Truth isn't always the truth

I was planning on going over how to find your resting heart rate and thus your training range for cardiovascular exercise today, BUT, I read an article this morning that someone sent me and now I need to vent about that so the heart rate will need to wait for another day.  The article was in Men's Journal and titled "Everything you know about fitness is a lie."  I was immediately intrigued as I thought that someone was going to join my fight to stop all the misinformation.  The article had a promising start as the author correctly identifies the current fitness/health clubs as show rooms which are meant to sell memberships and how easy it is to get a 'certification' as a personal trainer.  Obviously, you can get a decent workout in one of these centers but why is the largest amount of space dedicated to cardiovascular machines and weight lifting machines?  Just when I was getting into it and about to throw out an "Amen Brother!! You tell them!" the article turned to 'the truth about training' and my enthusiasm evaporated, what started as such a promising article became a rehash of an antiquated training method.  He was shown the 'truth' by a strength coach, strength training 101, all you need is squats, dead lifts and bench press!!  Just keep adding weight and you will keep getting stronger!  This is revolutionary information!  How simple is that!  Why hasn't anyone talked about this before???  Well, they have,  this is a rehash of the good ol' "Bigger, Stronger, Faster" program from the 1980's.  Very Revolutionary!  Also long ago proven ineffective for training athletes, but don't tell  all the high school football coaches as a majority of them still believe this is the gospel.  For some reason, when it comes to training philosophies we leave the modern era of information and we chisel the philosophies onto rock slabs never to be questioned again.  Trainers, coaches, strength coaches learn a system and information be damned lock into the truth.  Now, this is not true of all trainers, coaches, strength coaches because we have continued to make improvements into improved training techniques and the best coaches always try to improve and learn.  Like with any change, there are those who are early adopters, then the mass of people start to move over, but there are always those who are stuck in what they already know.  Let's step away from training for a second and ask one question,  when dealing with a complex situation, do we really believe there is only one solution?  Why then when it comes to training is there only one thing that works?  The answer is that there isn't.  Heavy lifting is the perfect training regime if your goal is to be good a heavy lifting.  It was shown years ago that heavy lifting is way to slow of a movement to be functional for sports.  A training program is dictated by one thing, the goal of the person who will be doing the program.  There might be a short phase of heavy lifting but there will be other phases of training as well. 

Friday, January 28, 2011

Fast, Slow or Combo?

Last time we were talking about activity (exercise) and making sure to change it on a regular basis.   This brings up an interesting question that again has multiple 'Opinions' and actual real science.  Speaking of just cardiovascular exercise (also know as aerobic or endurance exercise) is it better to do prolonged exercise at a lower heart rate or aggressive exercise that really gets your heart rate up there?  The first question is 'What is your goal?'  and the second is 'what is your current fitness level?'  Due to the statistics we have already talked about we can guess that most adults want to lose weight (actually lose body fat) so then the question of fitness level comes into play.  Remember, gradual progressive increases are the way to go, so where is the best place for you to start.  Simple, you start where you are (I know Genius Right?!?!) Actually you start with what you have been doing for the last couple of months.  If you haven't been doing anything, then start walking.  Remember we want early success and no pain. So start with a 10 minute walk.  One of the best ways to evoke change is not to plan to go out for a 30 or 60 minute walk, just go out for a 5 minute walk then once you are out there it will be much easier to keep going.  If we 'decide' to do a 60 minute walk, that little voice inside our head starts telling us all the reasons why this is not a good day or time (I'm to busy, we have a lot of things we need to get done today, what if I get to tired, what if its to hot or cold).  Trick the little voice by going out for a short walk and once your moving keep moving (Newton's law works the other way as well-A body in motion tends to stay in motion!)  I can hear it already, but my 'friend/trainer/video/biggest loser program' said you burn more calories running. To that I say, you are correct but is your body ready for that level of exercise?  Here is where the science comes in...ready...ok, when we start any exercise we start in anaerobic state (meaning we are burning carbohydrates and not utilizing oxygen) this is the way our energy systems work.  Have you ever notices that the first 2-3 minutes of cardio seem hard and it doesn't feel very good, but then around 3-4 minutes you start feeling better?  That is because of science, we burn carbohydrates to get started and then (based on how hard we are going and how high our heart rate goes) we switch to aerobic exercise where we are utilizing a different energy system and utilizing oxygen.  Now that we are in this state we can keep going until we hit the anaerobic threshold on the other side.  Remember the anaerobic system utilizes carbohydrates, actually technically it utilizes glucose (simple sugar).  We have some glucose in our blood, and we store some in our muscles and organs as Glycogen and that's it.  Once we burn up our glucose and glycogen stores we are done.  This is known as "hitting the wall" that feeling when you are doing something when your body says.."That's it I'm done!!"  and you have to sit down.  So, if you push your cardio too hard you will blow through the aerobic phase back into anaerobic and then you are done. Because of this for years it was reported that if you want to burn fat, which occurs in the aerobic phase that you should do exercise around 50% of your max heart rate, no higher than 70% or basically the level where you can still talk but couldn't sing.  (called the Talk/Sing test).  The problem is that while this is true, you will burn calories from fat stores during the length of exercise once you stop exercising you go back to your normal metabolic rate and burn calories at that level.  So if you burned 300 calories then that was your net amount burned in addition to your resting metabolic rate.  But, if you do intervals of exercise where you get your heart rate up and then recover (allow it to come down) and do this several times you will actually increase your Metabolic Rate for several hours after you finish exercising burning more calories for HOURS!  But let's cover that and how to figure your your heart rate in the next blog. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What is exercise?

Today let's focus on burning some of those additional calories we have been gathering.  But first lets focus on our perception of exercise.  When you think about exercising what is the first thing that comes to mind?  For a majority of people fitness and exercise has a negative impression.  It is a wide variety of negative impressions, PAIN, Uncomfortable, Miserable, a negative memory of a gym class, being the last chosen for the team at school, No Pain-NO GAIN.  Exercise is hard, you have to push yourself if you want results.  What is the typical cycle of exercise?  You get frustrated with your weight or fitness level and finally get so irritated that we decide we are finally going to do something about it.  You decide that you are going to hit the gym or go for a jog or bike ride. We have good intentions, "That's it I'm getting back in shape and I'm going to do this EVERY DAY!!"   Remember, we want quick results so we go from 0-60 and off we go.  Our bodies are happily stuck in Newton's Law (A body at rest tends to stay at rest) when suddenly we are off and running.  While the human body has an amazing ability to adapt to stresses placed on it, it also has mechanisms if place if to much stress is placed on it all at once.  While the tissues in our bodies (muscle, tendon, bone, ligaments, etc) will react to gradual increases in stress by increasing their size and strength, they will just as easily be damaged by placing to much stress on them or placing the stress too quickly.  Once again we want to jump over the laws of physics as they apply to the tissues in our bodies because we want quick results "I want it and I want it NOW!"  All of the tissues in our body (muscle, tendons, bones, etc) succumb to the SAID principle (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands).  So, if we place NO demands on our body, it will respond by decreasing the amount of muscle mass, the density of bone, the density of tendons and ligaments (works for the brain as well) because this additional tissue is not necessary.  If we place gradually more stress on the tissues they will respond by adding muscle mass and increased density of the other tissues to meet the amount of stress, but here is the warning-only to a point.  Every substance has a breaking point steel, wood, concrete and yes human bone, muscle, tendon and ligaments.  If you go past this point the tissue is damaged and then must go through a healing phase.  Now we are in physical pain and most of us human's don't really like things that hurt us, so we stop exercising to heal.  Then when we think about starting again we talk ourselves out of it with a multitude of excuses, reasons, stories but the truth is that 'last time that really HURT!!!"  The amount of information in this area is incredible and well beyond the scope of this blog but maybe in the future we can get there.  But for now, suffice it to say, if you place the right amount of stress over the right amount of time the tissues will respond appropriately.  If you go to fast or with too much the tissues will break down.  So, what is the right amount?  It is simply a little more than you did before.  My definition of exercise is 'something your body hasn't done before'  period.  Oh, and let's get this straight, exercise is simply activity, any activity that moves the body.  It doesn't have to be done in a big gym while dressed in tight leotards while looking in a mirror.  The human body was made to move and adapt over time, so let's get it moving.  Two of the cardinal rules for activity(formerly known as exercise) are to make increases gradual and make the increases small.  If you have not been walking then activity is taking a 5 minute walk, then increase 1-2 minutes a day.  In 10 days you will be walking 15-20 minutes without the pain.  Once you get to 20-30 minutes and you "don't have time" to do any longer simply increase the intensity of the walk.  First, we have to build a base then slowly increase.  It never fails that someone will say 'but I walk 2 miles everyday and I can't lose weight!"  My first question is 'How long have you been doing that?"  and they usually answer for several months.  Lets, go back to my definition...Activity (exercise) is something that your body hasn't done before.  So if you have been doing the same walk, the same distance, your body long ago adapted to those stresses and it is part of your daily routine.  Our bodies are tricky that way, remember Gradual Increases Over Time.  Now, let's get moving!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Hunters and Gathers in the Modern Era

Not so long ago, human beings wandered around and hunted or gathered up what ever they could find to eat.  Since they didn't know when or where the next meal would come our bodies adapted by becoming very efficient at storing extra calories as fat stores, to be used during those periods in between the hunts or the next time food was found.  Plus, humans had to actually go out and walk looking for food.   Remember, for every 3500 kcal of food we eat in excess of what we burn we store one pound of fat.  So, welcome to the modern era, no longer do we have to go out searching for the next kill or a patch of edible fruits or vegetables.  There is no longer a shortage of food, between convenient stores, grocery stores, restaurants, and those fast food drive ins, we are well stocked.  Not only is there no shortage of food but all the capitalists out there looking to get our business came up with the kind of food we LIKE to eat...HEAVY on the fat, salt and sugar!!  Not only do we have a taste for fatty, salty or sweet food, we don't want to be cheated on our portions...MORE IS BETTER!!  So, now we have an abundance of not only food but Calorie Dense Food and large portions but we also can drive up and get it.  Wouldn't our ancestors be proud! 

Here is the science of the human body.  In order to keep our hearts beating, our brains functioning (yes, everyone has one, even though some don't use it much) and our other basic life functions working we need energy and we burn kcal as the energy source.  So, here is the good news, even if you did nothing but lay in bed all day you are burning calories.  This is known as your resting or basal metabolic rate.  More good news, as we get up and move around and walk around we burn additional calories.  At TERRIO we utilize a breathing test which calculates your metabolic rate and the number of calories you burn through your other activities of life.  Several things can affect your resting metabolic rate, that's why we prefer using the test to find out, instead of guessing.  So you can see that our hunter gather ancestors burned a tremendous amount of calories while they were out searching for food and then ate only what they could find.  Now our hunting and gathering is limited to walking to the fridge and looking in there, if there is nothing there we want we might walk over to the pantry (not a lot of calories being burned here).  If we can't find any thing then comes the heavy activity a hike to the car and off to the fast food restaurant.  Bakersfield has one of the highest concentrations of fast food restaurants in the country (suppose there is a link between this fact and the Obesity rate???).  When we do go to all this activity to find food, it is rich in calories, good thing because we can store it as fat until we find the next meal. 

Sum it all up and we have gotten into some really bad habits and the worst part is that we are teaching these habits to our children.  We need to replace our old habits with new ones if we want to change the path we are on and are taking our children down.  There is no silver bullet and it won't be easy but it can be done!!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Seeking the Silver Bullet for weight loss...

Have you stopped and thought about the speed of life in America today?  We have a seemingly endless need for speed.  Long gone are the days of trying to find a phone booth to make a call, now its inconvenient when our cell phone only has one bar.  3G wasn't fast enough so now we are going to 4 G and can anyone remember dial up connections for Internet?  We become inpatient if we have to wait a few minutes for the venti latte even if we were the ones who orders the 'triple venti, half caff, extra foam with a shot of vanilla'.  Americans have become so used to instant gratification that we become frustrated when something takes even a short amount of time to accomplish.  We immediately assume that this cannot be the case and that somehow, somewhere there has to be a faster, better way.  (Believe me, I am guilty of this as well and have made a career out of looking for a 'better way' to do things.)   To quote the girl in Willy Wonka "I want it and I want it NOW!"  So, what happens when the laws of nature are the very thing that keeps us from our need for instant results? 

We hear daily that Americans continue to gain weight and the numbers of clinically obese people is constantly increasing.  In Bakersfield it is estimated that over 60% of our population is overweight or obese.  Before you start laughing, you might want to check the national statistics or your local statistics (it isn't just Bakersfield).  Thus there is a growing (literally and figuratively) population seeking an answer to weight loss. Where there is demand, products and services are soon to show up (that's what makes America Great).  This is where the problem comes in.  We take years putting on the extra pounds and then one day we decide that we need to do something about our weight.  Now that we have focused our attention on the issue we expect immediate results.  Enter the actual laws of nature (if you don't want to know the truth don't read this next part).  A pound of fat is 3500 kcal, not so scary right?  Until you start doing the math.  For every pound of fat you want to lose you have to burn 3500 kcal more than you take in.  Hang on it gets better because the human body doesn't like to be in a negative calorie count (you burn more than you take in) your body isn't going to just give in.  Without getting into the battle of creation/evolution suffice it to say that our bodies are set up to store additional calories (as fat) for future use.  Just in case we can't find any extra food for a while.  The problem is that a shortage of food isn't the issue for most of us, so we just keep storing and storing and storing, until a majority of the population is overweight (oh, wait, we are already there)!!  Since we don't want to acknowledge this simple rule of human nature and we want quick results we go searching for the 'silver bullet'  the 'cheat code' that will over ride human physiology.  With 24 hour television and the Internet we don't have to look far for the latest "lose weight fast" program, pill, drink, formula.  Go from "fat to fit in just a few days", oh and it is really easy "just a few minutes a day is all you need to get in fantastic shape and be skinny" and we gobble it up like the food that got us here in the first place.  There is no silver bullet and there are laws of human physiology that are in play.  I intend to share these with you over the next several blogs.  The good news is that there are ways to maximize burning fat that are based in science and we will be going into those as well.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

It's time

After 25+ years in the fields of physical therapy, athletic training, fitness and wellness, one thing has remained consistent...the neverending parade of misinformation, deception and half truths.  My company has come to reflect my ecclectic experiences and education.  We have built our company on a foundation of actual science supported by integrity and our desire to help our fellow man.  It has amazed me all these years that people will research the purchase of a home, car, even a dog and yet when it comes to our bodies, the most unbelievably complicated machine ever made, that we continue to buy whatever the 'snake oil' salesman is selling.  People will make sure that the person teaching at our schools or working on our cars is 'certified' and yet when it comes to weight loss and fitness we don't hold the same standards.  If someone looks in shape or has lost a lot of weight they 'must know what they are doing', really?  I spent nine years in college studing the functioning of the human body and now after 17 years of continued learning, I still realize there is more to learn.  The human body is the most amazing organism ever devised or created, yes I believe that God created us (but that is a discussion for a different time), the complexity of the human body and the ability to adapt to stresses is remarkable.  Yet, people are consistently willing to buy the latest silver bullet or fad to help reach their goals of improving health or losing weight or improving performance.  My goal is to utilize this blog along with a video blog, to shine a light on what is actually true and what is a bunch of nonsense.  Much like we have grown from one employee in one clinic to 12 locations with 187 employees, we will grow and learn together.  I have come to know one thing over all these years, If I don't know the answer, I know where to go get it.  I have a network of experts in various fields related to the human body that I will network together to bring the truth out.  So, 'snake oil salesmen' here comes the spot light of truth based in science, ARE YOU READY????  We will tackle the fields of athletics, physical therapy, wellness, nutrition, weight loss, fitness, pediatrics and basically the functioning of the human body.  I am excited to reach out to those outside the central valley and share my thoughts and ideas with you.  Here we go?