You may be a neophyte to gym culture or returning after a long hiatus. Here are 14 gym rules to help you and the people around you have a more pleasant experience at the gym or wherever you workout. From body odor to space hogs, I cover the most important things to know before you get your sweat on. Click here to read it on the Huffington Post.
You’re pressed for time. You know you shouldn’t blow off your plan to workout today, but you can’t fit in a whole hour. Maybe you can squeeze in 30 minutes. Does this scenario sound familiar? So what’s the best use of your time if improved fitness and maximum calorie burn are your goals: Weight training or cardio?
If you said cardio, guess again. It appears that a weight training circuit packs the strongest punch compared to hopping on a cardio machine for an aerobic workout. A weight training (a.k.a. resistance training) circuit, if you’re new to fitness vernacular, is when you go from one exercise to the next, taking as little time as possible to rest in between. An aerobic (a.k.a. cardio) workout is something you can do at a sustained level for a relatively long time without fatiguing, such as jogging, cycling, swimming, brisk walking, etc. What these aerobic activities have in common is that they use the body’s larger muscles which can perform work longer without fatiguing.
If you’ve been following fitness trends for a while, you’ve probably already heard that the best way to improve your fitness during your cardio workout is by adding intervals, or high intensity bouts to your activity (i.e. alternating between one minute of slow and fast jogging) instead of just staying at a “steady state.” It’s been shown that you can burn a similar amount of calories by doing a shorter workout with intervals as you would in a longer, lower intensity workout.1 (Note to people trying to lose weight: Please stop believing people who tell you that low intensity workouts burn more fat. That’s so wrong!)
As a matter of fact, the harder you do intervals, the greater the benefit to your fitness and the more calories you burn, if you’re not a newbie. Much research has come out in the past decade touting the benefits HIIT (high intensity interval training) has on improving endurance, burning fat and building strength. If you’ve ever done Boot Camp workouts, Indoor Cycling (Spinning) classes or DVDs like “Insanity,” you’ve probably done some HIITs. Some more recent studies have shown that this type of workout can make you lean and mean in less time than steady “state endurance training” (doing cardio at a steady pace for 20 minutes to an hour),2 making HIIT the Holy Grail for us trainers trying to get our clients fitter, faster.
But hold everything! There may be a new bad boy on the block to give you even more bang for you exercise buck. Well, the information isn’t exactly new, but in lieu of all the HIIT hoopla going around the past several years, this research bears repeating, especially since it may be even more calorie torching than doing intervals. I’m referring to good ol’ pumping iron. But not the kind where you do one set, then rest and chat with your buddy, then pick up the weights again. I’m talking circuit weight training where you go from one exercise to the next using resistance that is relatively challenging to downright heavy with minimal rest in between sets. This type of vigorous weight lifting has a positive effect on a little something known as the EPOC. EPOC stands for “excess postexercise oxygen consumption” which is the technical term for what’s commonly called the “after burn.”
Exercise scientists have known for a while that the harder and more intense your workout is, the longer your body will be in an elevated metabolic state. This means for a while after your workout session, your body continues to burn more calories at a higher rate than if you hadn’t gotten off your couch to exercise. The amount of extra calories isn’t a whole lot (approximately 51 – 127 extra calories according to two different studies), but over time it adds up and can help in your weight management plan.
The EPOC, or afterburn, is greatest after high-intensity resistance exercise because the body needs extra energy to restore itself and return to it’s normal state. This energy of course, comes from calories. Most of the studies on this have been on men, but compelling results were also found in a small study done on women and published in 2000. Researchers studied seven females (average age of 27 years) and had them perform a workout consisting of five supersets (10 exercises) doing 10 – 15 repetitions per set. In case you want to give it a go yourself, the exercises were: bench press and bent-over rows; leg extension and leg curl; military press and sit-ups; biceps curls and triceps extension; and lunges and lateral raises. They were given four minutes to complete the workout.
After the workout the scientists measured the subjects’ EPOC every 30 minutes. Three hours after the workout, they found the EPOC was still 13% higher than their pre-exercise metabolic rate and even 16 hours after the exercise, their metabolisms were still 4.2 percent higher than their pre-workout resting metabolic rates. The authors’ conclusion is that intense resistance training produces a prolonged but modest elevation in post exercise metabolism in women.
The moral to the story is if you’re short on time, is you can still get results by doing short, more intense workouts. If you’re doing cardio, add high intensity intervals to rev up your metabolism. Or better yet, do a circuit of weights heavy enough to be somewhat to very challenging (not comfortable) and you can get an even more after burn. The more intense the workout, the longer and greater the after burn. So, if your still making excuses that you have no time, you can stop now! It’s probably not so much time that’s your issue, it’s probably motivation. How do you get motivated? Well, Spring is upon us and skin will be showing. Pull out your skinny jeans or a picture of yourself (as an adult) when you were in great shape and put it where you will see it regularly. Or, hire a trainer willing to do short sessions with you or who will just write some out workouts you can follow on your own time.
1 & 2. Kravitz, Len & Zuhl, Micha, 2012 HIIT vs. Continuous Endurance Training: Battle of the Aerobic Titans. IDEA Fitness Journal, 9 (2) 34-40
I had a miserable time in my 20′s when I started doing fitness seriously – meaning, as a job. I was down for the count a few times with terrible knee tendonitis from over training and not being aware of what movements I was doing that were causing the injuries. I’ve spent many hours with great physical therapists who I’m grateful to as well as orthopedists to help get me straight (ok, pun intended). My body is a bit of an exception to the norm since I have certain structural abnormalities in my skeletal system that put me at greater rish, but everyone who works out regularly is at risk of knee tendonitis since we use that joint more than most.
Here’s a great little primer I found on Real Age to help people who have had knee injuries or are setting themselves up for one by using poor form while exercising, wearing high heels, and/or not having proper arch support. Click here to read it: http://www.realage.com/chronic-pain-management/bad-habits-knees-knee-injuries-2
Remember it’s always a good idea to talk to a knowledgeable trainer (like me who stresses form and biomechanics) if you’re having some mild discomfort, a physical therapist (who can diagnose and treat the problem) or an orthopedic specialist if it’s severe.
Do you workout to your favorite music? You should and there’s plenty of research to prove it. Last year (2011) the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research published a study showing that self selected music boosted both performance and mood during certain explosive exercises. But there’s more! Click here to read my latest blog on how playing your favorite jams gets your body pumped! Leave a comment on what tunes rock your workouts.
I’ve written about this topic almost exactly 2 years ago for the Huffington Post as every new year I hear more and more people talking about going on a detox diet or doing a cleanse. It’s that time of year again when I’m hearing the buzz. If you’re on a detox diet, doing a cleanse or wondering if you should, check out this short and informative article by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) – a non profit organization that certifies fitness professionals. Here’s the skinny on whether these diets work and what to beware of.
My new product, The AbAssist Plus has begun airing 2-min. commercials today. What does it do? It has 2 functions. One is as an ab trainer for floor exercises. The AbAssist Plus helps any level exerciser do difficult ab exercises with ease while taking the strain off your lower back because it suspends the weight of your legs. It allows you do more repetitions of advanced ab exercises like “Jackknifes,” “Scissor Kicks,” “Reverse Crunches,” than you otherwise could without it, which helps you get results faster. If you’ve ever done or seen Pilates on a Reformer machine, the AAP can also perform many of the same movements, giving you the benefits of a Pilates workout too!
When you’re not working your abs, the unique, patented design of the AbAssist Plus instantly converts into a “body weight leverage” trainer to work your entire body! This is one of the hottest trends in fitness according to national surveys of fitness professionals. And the best part is the cost! At only $29.99 it’s just a fraction of the price of the other body weight leverage devices on the market which can run upwards of $200! The AbAssist Plus does what all the other body weight leverage trainers do, but no other product on the market can work your abs the same way!
The AbAssist Plus attaches to most any door or stable object for a fast, efficient workout, any time, anywhere! See it in action here: AAPweb_1003_1.09.12
Here’s a good sports nutrition article I found on Real Age’s website. It reiterates some of the tips I wrote in my April 2009 blog article, “When and What Should You Eat Before You Workout? And Does It Matter What You Eat After?” If you think eating a meal or a snack before or after your workout will slow you down, you need to read these articles. What you eat and when you eat make a big difference!
My top 10 tips for starting, sticking to and getting back on track for any fitness or weight loss plan. Implement a few of these tips and you’ll get to your goals faster.
Happy New Year and I look forward to helping you reach your goals!
This is an article I spent months writing. Mostly because the topic matter is near and dear to me – it was hard to step back and write objectively which I always try to do as someone who spent part of her professional career as a news reporter! As you’ll see, I’m not that objective here. If you take group exercises classes, whether it’s for the added motivation, group energy, music or because it’s your social time, have read. Would love to read your comments here or on Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jill-s-brown/pre-choreographed-fitness-classes_b_1033965.html#es_share_ended
It’s really not as mystical as it seems. When you see a celeb walk down the red carpet flaunting an apparently transformed body, it wasn’t some magical workout program or exotic diet that got them there. There’s only a handful of tricks of the trade that credible trainers use to help their clients make a dramatic (hopefully long term or permanent) change. When done in combination, these five changes will make any body ready for their close up. Here’s my latest article on Huffington Post / AOL Healthy Living.