Archives for October 2012

The 15-Minute Yoga Routine to Beat your Halloween Candy Binge {Guest Post}

In just a few hours one (or both) of two things is going to happen. (1) You’re going to put out a big bowl of candy to give to trick or treaters; (2) your children are going to arrive home with their trick or treating haul. Suffice it to say that most of us will indulge in Halloween candy once or twice during the coming days.

Today’s post is written by Anna Quinn, a yoga instructor, writer and regular reader of my blog.

Did you know that the human body is built to cleanse itself of waste that can make you sick? Now that doesn’t give you a free pass to pound back a whole Halloween bag of goodies this Wednesday evening. But it does mean that you have the power to combat the effects of all those empty calories with a quick 15-minute yoga routine.

Halloween candy binge

Yoga postures, or “asanas”, combat the negative effects of a sugar-filled evening because let’s, face it; we’ve all woken up with mini chocolate bar wrappers stuck to our wigs! The good news is that your body already has the systems in place to eliminate toxins:

  • The Lymphatic System—stimulates lymph fluid via movement (so exercise is key) and flushes toxins out through the bloodstream.
  • The Digestive System—which processes the food we eat by separating nutrients and eliminating waste.
  • The Circulatory System—responsible for the delivery of oxygen-rich blood and waste elimination from cells.

The following yoga workout proactively encourages detoxification, circulation, and flushes out the toxins from a Halloween candy binge…

1. Forward bend

The motion of bending at the waist compresses the abdominal organs and eliminates waste by stimulating the digestive system. To perform a safe forward bend:

  • Sit facing forward with a straight back and legs extended straight
  • Ensure a slight bend at the knees to take stress off knees and lower back
  • Hinge forward at the hips, reaching head and heart forward
  • Grasp the backs of the knees or the soles of the feet

2. Seated yoga twists

The twisting motion squeezes the abdominal organs and stimulates digestion! To perform a yoga twist:

  • Sit cross-legged on the floor and twisting the body to the right
  • Come back to centre and repeat on the left side
  • A twist works by literally wringing the liver and kidneys out a like a sponge, squeezing out unhealthy toxins in the blood and cleansing the abdominal organs with fresh, clean blood when the twist is released.

3. Cat/cow pose

These two poses work collaboratively to encourage healthy spinal alignment and gently massaging the belly. To perform a cat/cow:

  • Come to a tabletop position on all fours, with the hands under the shoulders and the knees under the hips
  • As you inhale, lift your head and tailbone, letting your belly dip towards the floor
  • As you exhale, tuck your tailbone, round your back towards the ceiling and drop your head Alternate gently between the two poses letting your breath guide you

4. Yoga Inversions 

Placing the heart over the head encourages the drainage of lymph waste from the lower body. Inversions like yoga headstand, shoulder stand, bridge, or simply lying on the floor with your legs up a wall will soothe the immune system, nervous system, and reduce stress. My personal favorite inversion is bridge pose due to its soothing effect on abdominal organs, lungs and thyroid, digestion, and back muscles. To perform bridge:

  • Lay flat on your back and bend your knees, feet flat the floor
  • Reach your arms alongside your body with your fingertips grazing the backs of your heels
  • Exhale, pressing your feet and arms down and lifting your tailbone until your thighs are parallel to the floorHold the pose for 10 breaths and release on an exhale, rolling the spine gently down to the floor

Halloween candy binge

5. Corpse pose

I end all of my yoga classes with Savasana because it helps the body let go of the tension from your practice:

  • Lie flat on your back with your arms and legs resting comfortably, palms facing up and legs, ankles and feet slightly splayed
  • Close your eyes, let your jaw and tongue hang loose, and allow your breath to become natural
  • Focus on peaceful, calming thoughts
  • Rest in corpse for 5 minutes, then awaken the body by gently wiggling the fingers and toes

Anna Quinn is a staff writer for AndGeeks . A woman who admits she’s addicted to her smart phone, video gaming, and really any new and neat consumer electronic, Anna decided to put her passion to pen and earn a living writing about technology and consumer electronic reviews to help the average person make a smart purchase. When she’s not obsessed with a new gadget, Anna likes to balance her type A personality with a little hot yoga.

#FatblasterFriday | Hi-Lo LEGS Workout!

Want to sculpt muscle, burn fat and engage your core simultaneously? (Rhetorical question, right?)

WORK YOUR LEGS! Together, your glutes, hamstrings and quads are your body’s powerhouse.

Lots of big muscles moving = lots of calories burned.

Today’s #FatblasterFriday is a Hi-Lo Legs workout. Only 6 exercises; 3 low impact moves (but don’t confuse ‘low’ with ‘easy’…), 3 high impact (or plyometric) moves, 15 reps each (or 15 repetitions per leg, where appropriate), 2 rounds and you’re done.

The entire workout can be done without equipment (body weight only), but for a little extra challenge I’d suggest a single dumbbell (5-15 pounds). No dumbbells around (make whatever joke you’d like now..)? Substitute a medball, telephone book or milk jug.

I used my new Ugi ball (isn’t it pretty?).

Let’s rock and roll!

Need a ‘Pinnable’ version of the workout? Here you go –>>>

legs workout

Be sure to check out my YouTube channel for more, challenging real-time workouts!

If you’re dying to try Ugi out for yourself, now’s the perfect time! Save $25, through October 31st, by clicking on the image below! Make sure to enter the promo code KICKSTART25!

legs workout

Have you ever tried a Ugi ball before?

Do you hate leg workouts as much as me? (Hint, the things we dislike the most are usually those we most need to do…)

Disclaimer #1: While I am a certified personal trainer, I am not YOUR personal trainer (unless you want me to be; email tgrand@telus.net for more information). Please see your doctor before embarking on any new fitness program.

Disclaimer #2: Ugi generously provided me with a 10 lb Ugi ball to use and review!

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Intercostal muscle strain: a surprisingly long and slow recovery

It’s coming up on the 4 month anniversary of my intercostal muscle strain. Not sure whether that’s cause for celebration or consternation.

While I no longer see my chiropractor regularly (a therapy called the Graston Technique seems to have helped), neither am I completely healed. I’m back to teaching and training, as before and am spending considerable time strengthening my core. In addition to the three exercises I was prescribed back in August (Chiropractor-approved moves for healing your intercostal muscle strain), I am once again doing rotational work and even adding light resistance to crunches and planks.

intercostal muscle strain

Yet, every ten or twelve days I feel that same tenderness under my ribcage and am back to icing and ibuprofen.

Usually, it’s precipitated by overexertion: lifting a 20-lb box of cat litter up and out of the trunk of my van, then twisting only my upper body to place it on the ground (note to self, always turn feet before turning arms…); demonstrating an exercise to a client, using the heavier weight that they need, rather than the lighter weight that my core can handle; an afternoon of vacuuming and window washing (what a great excuse not to do housework!).

That’s the thing about intercostal muscle strain. It takes a long, long time to heal completely. Your intercostals are used each and every time you take a breath. Turning your torso engages them. Unlike other types of muscular strains, you can’t stop using your intercostals while they heal; just hold your breath for a couple of weeks and you’ll be fine! Ha!

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of having an injury like this is the number it does on your confidence. I’m much more tentative in the gym that I used to be. Picking up lighter weights than I know I can lift. Afraid of ‘over-doing it’ and being in pain again.

The biggest challenge is finding that fine balance between strengthening weakened muscles and re-injuring them. A balance I’m working on each and every day.

Have you ever had a long healing injury like an intercostal muscle strain?

How do you deal with injuries that interrupt your training (and your life!)?

 

 

 

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5 tips for successful partner fitness training

Having a workout buddy can do wonders to improve motivation and accountability. No doubt about that. There’s nothing like knowing that somebody is waiting for you at the gym to ‘encourage’ you to get off the couch and into your exercise clothes.

Other benefits of  partner fitness training?

  • it’s an efficient way to combine workout time with social time
  • you’ll never have to search the gym for a spotter
  • having a common goal can strengthen personal relationships
  • hiring a personal trainer is often less expensive when there are two of you

But not all fitness partnerships work out.

When fitness partnerships dissolve, it’s typically due to differences between partners in commitment, ability and temperament.

Want to increase the odds of having a successful partner fitness training experience? Follow these 5 tips!

  1. ensure that both partners are equally committed. It sounds simple, but all too often, workout buddies differ in their inherent level of commitment. It’s no fun being stood up at the gym (or anywhere else, for that matter). If your partner is late for your workouts, is negative about exercising, or frequently cancels at the last minute, it might be time to re-evaluate the relationship.
  2. common fitness goals work best. If your primary fitness goal is weight loss and your fitness partner is hoping to shave minutes off their marathon time, the workouts that each of you need to do to achieve your respective goals are strikingly different.
  3. aim for similar fitness levels and abilities. When partners have very different fitness levels, the fitter individual almost always feels under-challenged, and sometimes, becomes resentful of being held back. These dynamics can spill over into your outside-the-gym relationship.
  4. save the coffee chatter until after the workout. While the social aspect of having a workout buddy can make exercise more enjoyable, don’t undermine the effects of your workout by talking the entire time. Warmup and stretching times are great for chit-chat; the rest of the time you should be working 🙂
  5. take turns being the trainer. If you and your fitness parter are equally committed to training, share a common fitness goal and have similar fitness levels and abilities, chances are you’re also equally knowledgable (or equally not-so-knowledgable) about exercise. Take turns mapping out your workout sessions, ensuring that you both remain equally engaged in the training relationship (and avoiding the teacher-student mentality)

P.S. Need to find a fitness friend? Group fitness classes are a great way to meet like-minded people; you may just find a fitness partner there!

Do you have a workout buddy?

How has partner fitness training benefited you?

 

 

#FatblasterFriday | ABSolutely Amazing All Abs Workout

Everybody wants amazing abs. The trick? Eat clean and work them consistently; 2-3 times each week and to fatigue each and every time.

Last spring, I had abs that I was proud of. I had all but eliminated added sugar from my diet and was training hard and consistently. Lots of all abs workouts.

all abs workout

Sadly, those abs are currently in hiding. Thanks to an injury that side-lined my training for much of the summer and a few too many trips to the ice cream shop 😉

In fact, in response to a recent photo I posted on Instagram, somebody actually asked if I was pregnant! (Note, doesn’t everyone know that you NEVER ask a woman if she’s pregnant, not unless she’s on the way to the hospital to deliver???)

all abs workout

But I’m determined. Those abs will reappear by Christmas time, come hell or Halloween treats (of which I’m having NONE!).

Today’s #FatblasterFriday is an all abs workout, baby.

ABSolutely amazing abs will be yours (and mine!) if you just commit to doing this workout 3 times per week. And don’t forget to progress the exercises (make them harder, that is), to keep on stimulating muscle growth and abdominal definition!

#FatblasterFriday Amazing All Abs Workout

1a. Plank + leg abduction (15 reps)

1b. Side plank + core rotation (15 reps)

Repeat 1a and 1b on opposite side

2a. V-sit push-aways (15 reps)

2b. V-sit + core rotation (15 reps each side)

Repeat 2a and 2b

3a. Diagonal crunch with foot on knee (15 reps)

3b. Reverse bridge glute squeeze with leg press (15 reps)

Repeat 3a and 3b on opposite side 

 

Don’t forget, your subscriptions MAKE MY DAY! Comments and Tweets would be LOVELY too!

Disclaimer: Although I am a registered Personal Trainer, I am not YOUR Personal Trainer. Always adapt workouts to suit your body and fitness level. Always consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.

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#FatblasterFriday: I get by with a little help from my friends

So, here’s the deal. I’ve been sick all week. Too sick to work out at the gym. Too sick to work out at home. Even too sick to film a workout video for #FatblasterFriday.

I thought about having my kids do the workout for me. But, despite being very photogenic, their pushup form sucks.

#FatblasterFriday

I thought about just writing out some instructions for you to follow. But the whole point of #FatblasterFriday is to work out, in real time, together.

And then, I remembered a workout that I’d written, way back in the summer, as a birthday present for my friend Rebekah (now you’ll ALL want one for YOUR birthdays, won’t you?). She filmed herself doing the workout (with fantastic form, I might add) and posted it on her blog, BexLife.

Join Bex in an 8-minute, whole body workout!

Make sure you ‘Like’ her video and ‘Subscribe’ to her YouTube channel if you’re not already a fan.

I promise I’ll be back next week for an ALL ABS #FatblasterFriday video. Mine may even be flat after a week of eating very little…

Don’t forget to drop me a line and tell me what types of workouts you’d like to see on #FatblasterFriday!

 

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Should you exercise when sick? 5 reasons not to

I’m sick. Apparently, the only way children have to thank you for tending to their needs while afflicted with head and chest colds is to pass them on. Thanks guys, I really appreciate it.

exercise when sick

A little pale, huh?

I had a big workout week planned. Lots of heavy lifting and some cardio intervals to compensate for Thanksgiving weekend dinner and pumpkin pie cheesecake. Mmmmm.

The question ‘should you exercise when sick’ is one I hear frequently.

Many people believe that ‘sweating it out’ is a good thing. I’m not one of them. There’s no evidence anywhere that viruses and bacteria leave your body via your sweat; just sayin’.

Others follow the rule ‘above your neck, head to the gym; below your neck, stay home’. I believe that the body works as a singular entity; above-the-neck illnesses don’t just affect above-the-neck body parts.

When I’m sick, I don’t work out and I don’t teach classes. I do, however, aim for some low-exertion movement, to keep my joints and brain from seizing up. How much? It depends on how I’m feeling. Usually, a walk around the block is enough. I listen to my body and so should you!

Should you exercise when sick? 5 reasons not to
  • exercise can delay recovery; when your body has been invaded by a virus or bacteria, the immune system goes into overdrive. Immune response is energetically costly. That’s why you feel so tired when you’re sick. Expend a lot of energy during a workout and your immune system has nothing to fuel it. A weakened or suppressed immune response often leads to longer recovery times.
  • a tired and weakened body is more prone to injury; for many, it’s psychologically difficult to scale back their workouts. We’ve been taught that progression is the key to getting stronger and faster and don’t want to bench press less or run at a slower pace than we did last week, even when we’re ill. Attempting your regular workout with a tired and weakened body often leads to injuries that can keep you out of the gym long after your illness is over.
  • your fellow gym-goers don’t want to get sick; gyms are dirty places to begin with. Even if your gym provides paper towels and liquid sanitizers for patrons to clean equipment with (all gyms should!), bacteria and viruses are resilient. They like to hide in warm, damp crevices and can travel for remarkably long distances when airborne. YOU don’t want to work out next to someone who’s sick and NEITHER do your fellow gym-goers. Do unto others and all that.
  • your workout will be second-rate at best; endurance and stamina are usually the first things to go when we get sick. If your workout is only going to end up being half of what it usually is, wouldn’t that time and energy be better spent resting and recovering? I’ve never heard anybody say “man, I feel great after I exercise when sick”.
  • a forced rest is as good as a planned rest; allowing your body to rest adequately between workouts is one of the most effective ways to see the fruits of your labours in the gym. Think of your time away from the gym as a muscle building phase, rather than an illness. It’s amazing how much better a little positive spin can make you feel!

Now it’s your turn;

Do you exercise when sick?

Tell me why or why not?

Then, please, make some chicken soup and send it my way?

 

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High intensity interval workout: welcome to #FatblasterFriday!

After receiving some queries from readers as to

  1. when I might be releasing a workout DVD (answer; not anytime soon!)
  2. whether I could show rather than describe my workouts (a video is worth a million words) and
  3. why, in my workout videos I only demonstrate the moves (rather than do the entire workout for with you)

I decided that it was time to start a regular, real-time workout video series.

Welcome to #FatblasterFriday!

Most Fridays (in the wee hours of the morning, so my East coast viewers can make it part of their day), I’ll be posting a short, but intense workout video that you can do in real time with me.

But I need your help to make this work. How?

  • SUBSCRIBE to fitknitchick on YouTube 
  • WATCH and DO the workouts with me
  • GIVE me your FEEDBACK on YouTube or in the COMMENTS section below
  • LIKE and SHARE my videos with your friends via email, Facebook and Twitter

More VIEWS, LIKES, COMMENTS and SHARES –>> More VIDEOS!

Today, we’re doing an 8-minute, whole-body, high intensity interval workout. The best type of workout for torching calories and blasting fat.

Four moves, 45 s work/15 s rest, times two. No equipment, other than a bench and a mat, required.

Ready to rock it?

The Workout:

  1. Plie squats
  2. Pushups (from knees or toes; hands on ground or bench)
  3. Squat jumps (or squat to toes to reduce impact)
  4. High plank knee twist (hands on ground or bench)

Drop me a note below if there are specific types of workouts you’d like to see!

And a very Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian readers!

Disclaimer: Although I am a registered Personal Trainer, I am not YOUR Personal Trainer. Always adapt workouts to suit your body and fitness level. Always consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.

Understanding the results of human health studies: a primer

At least once every week I open the newspaper to see a headline trumpeting the results of the latest human health studies. Studies linking egg yolks, red meat and alcohol (to name but a few), with increased mortality and morbidity.

results of human health studies

results of human health studies

results of human health studies

The headlines are purposefully provocative (“Egg yolks almost as unhealthy as cigarettes“), the articles replete with scientific and statistical terms that mean nothing to the reader and very rarely is there sufficient information about the original study to allow proper interpretation of the results.

Frequently, this week’s study contradicts the results of previous studies on the same topic, making it difficult for the educated lay person to know which study is correct and hence, whether they should reduce their consumption of eggs, eliminate red meat from their diet completely, drink more, drink less or not at all.

Long before I became a fitness writer, I studied the behaviour, ecology and evolution of fish. Data analysis and experimental design were things I excelled at. Much of what I learned is directly applicable to understanding the results of human health studies. Shall I share?

Rather than risk the ire of readers by using their favourite food as an example, let’s investigate the relationship between snorkleberries and snorkleberry-beri (a highly contagious disease that renders the fingers and toes a fluorescent pink, leading to social stigmatization and shunning).

When you read the results of human health studies you need to ask four questions:

1. Is the study observation or experimental?

Observational (or population) studies are those conducted on a large group (or population) of individuals. Data is often obtained via questionnaire. For example, individuals might answer questions about how frequently they eat snorkleberries , how often they exercise, whether there’s a history of heart disease in their family and whether they smoke. Measurements such as weight, height, body fat and blood snorkleberry levels might be taken as well.

Multivariate analysis of the data is conducted to identify relationships between variables; for example, individuals who ate more snorkleberries were more likely to suffer from snorkleberry-beri. Observational studies can identify correlations, but cannot conclude that consequence B is a direct result of action A.

Correlation does not equal causation. Why? It just might be that individuals who eat more snorkleberries also consume large amounts of enkelbird eggs.

Experimental studies are exactly what they sound like. Experiments.

Subjects were (or should have been) randomly assigned to test and control groups, assigned a particular treatment (for example, eat 100 snorkleberries per week, eat 50 snorkleberries per week, eat 0 snorkleberries per week) and monitored for adherence to the protocol (this is a huge challenge with human subjects 🙂 ).

Data are analyzed by either comparing average responses between groups or, in the case of an experiment in which each subject experiences each treatment (again, in random order), the average of the difference between each subject’s response to the various treatments. Confusing, ‘eh?

Experimental studies can demonstrate a causal relationship between action A and consequence B, given appropriate experimental controls and data analysis. In this case, snorkleberries eaters suffered more bouts of snorkleberry-beri than those who abstained.

2. Is the sample size adequate?

In general, the more participants in the study, the better. Most data sets contain a lot of noise (variation between individuals). Biologically significant effects may not reveal themselves to the researcher if too few individuals are included in the study. Observational studies tend to have much larger sample sizes than experimental studies, in part, because it’s a lot easier to get people to fill out questionnaires than it is to get them to adhere to strict research protocols. But also, because of the ethics involved in conducting controlled health studies on humans. (Who would voluntarily sign up to eat 100 snorkleberries each week if they knew there was a possibility that they’d contract snorkleberry-beri?).

3. Is the effect revealed by the study biologically meaningful?

While having a large sample size is generally thought to be beneficial, due to the magic of statistics, it also makes very small effects more easily detectable. Just because a statistically significant effect is found does not mean that the effect itself is biologically important. A 300% increase in the risk of contracting snorkleberry-beri is not biologically significant if the initial risk itself was only 1 in one million.

4. Was the study free of bias?

While most scientific researchers aim to eliminate all forms of bias from their studies, human subjects are notorious for failing to follow experimental protocols to the letter (“I didn’t like the taste of the snorkleberries so I substituted blueberries instead”). When questionnaires are administered, we often (unconsciously) under-report activities that we perceive as negative and even slant our answers in the direction that we think the researcher wants to hear.

And of course, a study’s source of funding should always be considered when deciding how much value to give to its results. Naturally, the Snorkleberry Grower’s Association is happy to fund (and acknowledge funding) of studies indicating no relationship between snorkleberry consumption and snorkleberry-beri.

If you’ve made it to the end of the post, congratulations! You’ve just passed Stats 101. Enjoy some snorkleberry juice, on me; I promise, there’s no evidence that it causes snorkleberry-beri!

Are you frequently alarmed by the results of human health studies?

Do you greet their conclusions with skepticism or believe what’s written and immediately change your behaviour?