Tag Archives: Training

Different Types of Exercise: Pros and Cons

Exercise variety can maximize your health returns and reduce your risk of injury. On the flip side, focusing on one modality at a time can enhance your sport or exercise-specific performance. So, the decision is yours. Without further ado, let’s look at the pros and cons of focusing your physical efforts on endurance training, high-intensity interval training, Pilates, yoga, light weightlifting, and heavy strength training.

Pros & Cons Endurance

Endurance Training

Pros – Endurance training is when you exercise in an aerobic zone. This includes a wide range of movements and sports, from walking to riding a bike, and more. Generally speaking, when you’re exercising in this zone, you can sustain your effort for longer periods of time, possibly even while carrying on a light conversation. The ability to sustain energy in this zone means that you can oftentimes handle both longer workouts and more frequent endurance workouts. Either of these scenarios can help you stick to a training plan, burn calories and improve cardiovascular health. Endurance training is great for fat burning and individuals of all fitness levels.

Cons – Although endurance training usually yields fat-metabolism for fuel, too much of this exercise can also deplete muscle stores. This can happen when individuals overtrain, do not supplement their exercise with proper nutrition, and/or do not balance their regimens with strength training. Also, in recent history, there has been some evidence that extreme endurance exercise training may cause abnormalities in the heart. Hey! What do ya know? You don’t have to make yourself feel guilty for not being an ultra-marathoner! 

 

Pros & Cons HIIT

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

Pros – HIIT is an awesome, time-efficient way to get in your workout. It involves high-intensity bouts of exercise interspersed with moderate to light-intensity exercises for recovery. Not only is this exercise format a time-saver, but it also causes Excess Post-Oxygen Consumption (EPOC). EPOC is a term used to describe the extra oxygen that your body demands and consumes following rigorous exercises. While consuming this extra oxygen, your body’s metabolism is elevated. This means that you’re continuing to burn calories for as much as 36 hours following a HIIT workout! Not bad, I must say!

Cons – There is no standard formula for a HIIT workout, even though there are some commonly used routines (for example, a 2:1 work-to-rest ratio). This means that you could walk into an exercise class and be asked to perform any number of different exercise regimens. While this keeps things fresh and full of variety, it also means that unqualified fitness professionals could lead you – and your body –  astray. This is especially true if you’re a beginner or have a low level of fitness since HIIT is very intense, putting individuals at a higher risk for injury if left unsupervised or asked to perform exercises to the point of fatigue (which causes many people to lose form). My advice: trust your gut. Always recognize your right to step out of class or choose an exercise modification that better suits your needs, if you’re not comfortable. 

 

Pros & Cons Yoga

Yoga

Pros – Yoga is one of the oldest exercise practicies, dating back at least 5,000 years ago! Something with staying power like that is bound to be worthy of our attention, right?! Various yoga disciplines and formats can be great for different goals. You can attend a class that focuses on breathing and find that it helps you with stress management and mental clarity. You can also attend a power yoga class to exert some energy, challenge muscles and improve flexibility. Specific poses can improve your balance, core strength, hip flexibility, shoulder stability, and more.

Cons – The trickiest thing about yoga is finding a class that suits all of your physical, mental and spiritual needs. Certain westernized yoga practices focus more exclusively on the physical, while branches of Ashtanga yoga and Hatha yoga may take you a bit deeper. Some people love repeating mantras, learning sanskrit and being encouraged to do service yoga, while others just want to zone out during some sun salutations. Whatever your yogi-cup-of-tea, keep at it until you find one you love! A little research on the formats never hurts. One last thing worth noting though; you won’t have the same muscle and cardiovascular gains doing yoga as you will in other exercise formats. In fact, some people increase their risk of injury by doing prolonged stretches too often. So, since yoga is all about union and harmony, try to find some balance between your yoga sessions and other exercises each week.

 

Pros & Cons Pilates

Pilates

Pros – Pilates traditionally focuses on the core muscles, so anything between your hips and neck. This means that you will be extra vigilent in your awareness about proper posture and core control during one of these workouts. Pilates can be done on a mat, with or without props, and on specialized machinery (most commonly the reformer, cadillac and barrel). If you’re looking to achieve spinal alignment, Pilates is for you! If you’re eager to reduce back pain or increase your core strength, give it a try!

Cons – Several traditional Pilates disciplines focus on the same exercise series for every workout. While these exercises can be scaled for your fitness level, you may reach a plateau after regularly performing them. Some people feel that they don’t get great weight-loss or strength gains from Pilates. Thus, it’s important to get individual advice from your instructor on how to get the most out of each movement and/or how to find a new, more challenging (or less challenging) class. Another drawback worth noting is that it can be difficult to find affordable options for exercising on Pilates-specific equipment. Group classes on reformers are becoming more common and help reduce the costs of participation when compared with paying for one-on-one instruction, but they can be hard to find depending on the diversity of options in your neighborhood.

 

Pros & Cons Light Weightlifting

Light Weightlifting

Pros – Light weightlifting is a great way to workout on days when you don’t have a lot of energy or if you’re new to exercise. Lifting light weights will pump blood to your muscles and stabilize your body. It may also give you a little cardiovascular training effect. Lighter weights are also great if you’re recovering from an injury, tapering down your training regimen, or in need of practicing exercise form/technique before graduating to higher weight classes. These weights may be little, but they can lead to strength! Plus, little dumbbells are kinda cute, right?! Or is that really weird of me to say?…

Cons – While lighter weights are certainly the way to go when you’re learning a new exercise, they aren’t what you need forever. Unfortunately, a lot of women get into a comfort zone with 2.5-15 lb weights and fear that grabbing heavier weights will cause them to bulk up (which is not true…just read the next section below!). This can hold women back from gaining more muscle and reaping greater metabolic and strength benefits. Interestingly, only 10 reps or less is considered strength training – and that’s 10 hard reps, not casual ones. So, if you’re looking for more gains, you can’t pump out 15+ easy-to-moderate reps with five pounders forever. I know, I know, they’ll miss you too!

 

Pros & Cons Heavy Weightlifting

Heavy Strength Training

Pros – Strength training with weights that feel subjectively heavy to you is an excellent way to stimulate your body to adapt. It can lead to muscle gains, bone mass gains, increased metabolism, decreased risk of injury, improvements in joint health, and more! Strength training is an anaerobic activity. In other words, your body uses different energy for this exercise when compared with endurance training, which is aerobic (see explanation above). Perhaps the biggest bonus to strength training is the impact on your physique. That’s right, this exercise format more than any other can help you feel amazing in a strapless gown or bikini. Time to make friends with the barbell! 

Cons – Strength training is very technique-intensive. Without proper form you can easily go wrong in this exercise category. Also, various weight-lifting methods can be complicated to understand for the non-professional. Split training, progressive overload, periodization, and other approaches can feel confusing. This can discourage people who are looking for something effective and straightforward. Thus, if you’re interested in strength training and you’ve never worked with a professional, I suggest that you invest in a few training sessions and make your goals clear to the trainer you’re working with. He or she will respect your desire to get a “crash course” in weight lifting basics so that you can practice them on your own. The trainer can also help decipher what kind of regimen will be best for your body, goals, time commitment, and schedule.

 

Pick your exercise poison and enjoy! Just keep in mind that even if you’re an awesome marathon runner or a heavy-weight champ in the gym, you will need to build in what’s called taper or recovery weeks where you exert less effort and allow your body to restore. Generally, if we don’t balance out our training a little bit, the pendulum is liable to swing in a direction away from optimal performance (often into injury or fatigue).

Have another exercise format (or sport) you’re wondering about?! Fire away in the comments section or email me directly via the Contact form! I’m happy to answer questions about kickboxing, tai chi, skiing, cycling, contact sports, and more!

 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

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Upper Body Toning; Tricks of the Trade

This is not a post to tell you how many sets and reps is ideal for you. In fact, I’m not even going to mention the amount of weight you should attempt to lift. This article is centered on the stuff you probably don’t know about upper body lifting and how to achieve optimal tone. Your triceps can thank me later…wink wink. 

Upper Body 3

 

Forget Biceps and Triceps…Temporarily

Yes, I’m serious. You can actually put off doing bicep curls and tricep exercises until the end of your routine. These muscles [biceps and triceps] act as assistors to larger muscles. Literally, every time you flex your elbow, the bicep is shortening and having to work. This applies to motions like picking up something heavy or even lifting a fork to your mouth. Can we make that a fork puncturing a big fluffy bite of chocolate cake, please?  

The same is true for your triceps. Any time you extend your arm straight or push something away from your body, you’re shortening and actively working your tricep. Soooo, you know what this means? It means that when you’re doing chest, back and shoulder exercises, your biceps and triceps are actually getting a workout too!

Thus, if you’re pressed on time, opt for working larger muscles in your upper body. You will accomplish more overall work and will reap the benefits. Helloooo strapless dress! 

 

Back it up, Baby!

Your back is begging you to pay more attention to it. It’s actually quite common to forget about the back because we tend to focus our workouts on areas of the body that are easier to give the stink eye to via our mirror’s reflection. But, it’s SO important to incorporate more back work. Here’s why…

  1. You will get the optimal posture that you want by doing exercises (properly) like rows, reverse flies, lat pull downs and rotator cuff exercises. You will look more confident, tall and lean with improved posture. Not to mention “the girls” will now be sitting pretty! 
  2. Since we’re sitting down all day long, we often slouch forwards. This creates a rounded posture that can lead to kyphosis, discomfort, rotator cuff issues and impaired movement. Thus, it’s important for both function and tone to focus on opening the chest and working the back. I typically tell my clients to do two back exercises for every chest exercise. If someone has serious postural issues then I suggest an even greater ratio.

 

Upper Body 2

 

Get Low, Get Low, Get Low

I know I just preached about doing more back than chest exercises, but the chest is important too, and many women see great results when they work it. Here’s the thing though; if you want optimal tone for your chest exercises, you’ve got to complete a full range of motion in your exercises. For example, many people will opt for push-ups on their toes instead of their knees, but they only lower their bodies a few inches towards the ground before pushing back up to the starting posture. This is not ideal push-up form. A chick like this needs to humble herself and choose an easier modification (knee push-ups, wall/”mommy” push-ups, or push-ups with hands on a raised bench). Ironically, she will get more out of her workout this way.

You will achieve better results when you lower your body to a 90-degree angle (in the elbows) at the bottom of a push-up. You may not be able to complete nearly as many push-ups this way at the outset, but you will build up much better upper body and core strength in the process. Funny side note: I’ve corrected a lot of ex-military professionals on their push-up form. At first they think I’m crazy and arrogant, and then they feel the difference…

Upper Body 1

 

Don’t Fear the Transition

There’s this painful point in any exercise where you’re transitioning from lengthening your muscle to shortening it, or vice vera. For example, you’re doing a tricep dip and you’re changing from lowering to lifting your body (i.e. bending to straightening the elbows). The transition feels super intense and your body gets overwhelmed by the effort, so, oftentimes, people rush through this part of the exercise. They’re missing out…

By taking your time transitioning from one phase of the exercise to the next, you will get way stronger than if you rush the process. And you know what goes with getting stronger? Getting more toned!

There are many more bits of advice I could give you about upper body lifting and toning, but, for today, let’s leave it at these four nuggets. I hope you consider at least one of these concepts and achieve greater resilience through the application of it.

 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

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Powerful Yogi Wisdom

WW India 4

When I studied yoga in India just over seven years ago, I learned yoga poses, breathing techniques, meditations, mantras, yoga nidra, sanskrit and much more. While these various aspects of yoga can definitely bring us closer to ourselves and to the divine, the life lessons that I learned while in the ashram far exceeded the sun salutations and omkar chants. In fact, one lesson in particular has resonated with me ever since then. I’d like to share this simple wisdom with you today because I believe it has the power to transform how we conduct our lives, and ultimately, how we find satisfaction [and wellness]. Ps – I hope you enjoy the handful of colorful and beautiful pictures I took of India during my stay. 

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Almost every day when I was in India, when the sun was supposed to be at its highest, monsoon rains would pour from the open skies. At this hour, my fellow yogis and I would gather in the shadowy yoga hall to sit at grade-school style desks. We would sit there for about an hour or two, absorbing our guru’s teachings while the rain drowned out the outside world. Guru was a short Indian man, often barefoot, and adorned in long robes. He talked with conviction as he paced back and forth in front of his students and wore a subtle grin that always made me feel like he saw both foolishness and wisdom in our youth and lack of experience.

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“Not all things can be explained,” he said one day. “This is not science.”  Raising one pointed finger in the air, he continued to enlighten us.

“Take this example. I know of a woman in the village. She comes to me one day with tears in her eyes and I ask her – ‘What is wrong, my friend?’ She tells me that she is dying. She has a bad cancer. The doctors tell her she will die. There is no chance she will live. And so she tells me that she is trying to accept that one day she will be dead. She is trying to accept that she is dying.

And this is what I tell her, I say ‘Go and meditate every morning at sunrise. Do your sun salutations. Thank God that you are alive. You are not dead. Only today exists and today you are not dead. You will only be dead if you let yourself die. Go and practice being alive. And be happy.’”

He paused again. His sleeve fell down his arm when he raised his pointer finger higher in the air.

“And you know what?!?” he had asked those of us sitting before him feeling foreign, naïve and perplexed.

“That woman no longer has cancer. A cancer doctor said such a thing would kill her quickly. That was 10 years ago! I tell you, I know this woman! She is alive to this day! All the tests, all the science show now that she is healthy. No signs of cancer.”

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The lesson from that day was “drop expectations.” This woman changed her focus from dying to living and altered her destiny. No matter what, whether your expectations are positive or negative, they have the power to own your mentality, and, if life comes up short, they can leave you feeling empty and dissatisfied.

I can’t say that dropping expectations has been easy for me, but every time I get my hopes up about something and my expectations aren’t met, it’s a little easier for me to stay open-minded and move forward. Life can continue and can be full of joy. This message isn’t to say that life should be banal, devoid of happiness or lacking ambition. It’s simply to say that life gets a whole lot easier when we learn to go with the flow rather than anchoring all of our hopes and happiness on a singular vision of how things should play out. Namaste.WW India 3

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

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Getting Out of a Rut; High-Intensity Interval Training

If you’ve fallen out of the super-determined-and-hitting-the-gym-hard routine, it’s okay! If you’re feeling lackluster about exercise, I get that too. If you’ve decided to become submissive to the powers of winter and are posting pictures online from last summer’s vacation, well…you’re not alone.

There are tons of readymade exercise plans abound so I will spare you a cookie cutter formula. Instead, I would love to direct your attention to a way of approaching exercise: High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). This kind of training will boost your energy and allow you to minimize gym time during seasons when you’re just not “feeling it.” Ahem, like the end of February when it’s easiest to pretend you’re a bear in a cave. So cozy. So warm.

HIIT exercise sessions can range from 4-30 minutes and consist of a tough movement followed by moderate activity as a rest. Depending on your fitness, you can do anywhere from 3-10 reps of the tough move before taking your rest. Not bad, right?! There are oodles of benefits that you will reap after some focused effort.

I have written a guest post for my alma mater on this subject. It’s short and contains roughly 60 seconds of video footage, divided between three clips, demonstrating some high-intensity moves that may spark your imagination and/or motivation. (Just pretend you’re a fellow alum and yell “WAHOO-WA!” five times fast. Gets MY blood pumping.) 

Feel free to check out the videos: http://bit.ly/1AHH666. Also, if you have time, these short clips are followed by an interview on why I started this blog and where we’re all headed. Great places, of course. Grin.

Lastly, if you’re curious about the benefits of HIIT, glance over the list below…

HIIT Training (2)

  • Burns fat
  • Increases resting metabolic rate (RMR)
  • Improves athletic performance
  • Lowers insulin
  • Improves glucose tolerance
  • Causes skeletal muscle adaptations
  • Reduces trunk and lower extremity subcutaneous fat
  • Maximizes a workout when limited on time

In plain words – HIIT may help you get out of a rut that is physical and/or mental. I hope trying it out gives you a boost this winter so that you may exit your bear cave…even if you decide to do so fashionably late.

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

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References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-intensity_interval_training