Bridging the Gap Between Artist and Architect

Have you ever heard the artist vs. architect analogy?

An architect spends years in studying the math, physics, and engineering concepts that lie behind designing a magnificent structure. He draws out the design taking all of this into account. This design is used to create an amazing building that stands up against time.

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An artist sees the building and skillfully recreates it.

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What’s the difference?

The architect understands why the structure is designed a certain way: Why certain materials are used, why specific angles are important, etc. There is a certain amount of artistry to an architect’s work, but it comes within the parameters of structural engineering concepts.

The artist recognizes patterns, angles, and shapes and recreates them but doesn’t understand the “why’s.”

In the world of fitness and coaching, I’m on a journey, bridging the gap between an artist and an architect. Most days I feel like an artist. I observe what reputable coaches do and copy it. I borrow great ideas from multiple coaches and mesh them together. I collect their designs, try them out for myself, and bit by bit figure out the “why’s” behind.

One day I want to be an architect in the fitness and coaching world. I want to understand the why enough to design brilliant training programs for people with different needs and goals.

The next steps for me along this journey include 1) working and learning from other coaches 2) continuing to educate myself through reading on a daily basis 3) practicing my coaching and design skills with clients and 4) pursing either my doctorate in physical therapy or masters in kinesiology.

This is my passion, and everyday I’m a little closer to being an architect.

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Be More Sensitive…To Insulin!

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What is insulin?

  • Hormone: a signaling molecule produced by the body or synthetically to control or regulate the activity of certain cells or organs
  • Peptide: a small protein, a chain of amino acids (110 to be specific).
    • Peptide hormones cannot pass easily through cell membranes (like steroid hormones can) and must bind to receptors on the surface of cell membranes to create the desired action.
  • Anabolic: responsible for building (synthesizing) in the body, not breaking things down (which would be catabolic).
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Where does insulin come from?

  • The Pancreas

    In an area of the pancreas called the Islet of Langerhans (I didn’t name it).
    DAD2.pngFrom Beta Cells in this area.
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What causes insulin to be released from β-cells?

During digestion, nutrients from food, including fats, proteins, carbohydrates, and micronutrients, are broken down to their most basic forms and absorbed into the blood.
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Ingestion of carbohydrates causes blood glucose levels to rise, and this is the primary trigger for insulin to be secreted from the pancreas into the blood stream.

Ingestion of certain amino acids can also trigger insulin release, but this is to a much smaller degree.

What does insulin do?

  • Without insulin, glucose cannot get from the bloodstream into cells of the body. Insulin attaches to receptors on cell membranes and enables the transport of glucose into cells. Glucose gets transported mainly into skeletal muscle cells and fat tissue.
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  • Prioritizes the body’s use of carbohydrates as energy instead of fat or muscle.
  • Insulin also causes cells to be more permeable to amino acids, creatine, and some minerals. In muscles, this helps with growth, repair, and energy.
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  • When insulin attaches to skeletal muscle it increases muscle protein synthesis (i.e. the building of muscle tissue from entering amino acids).
  • Insulin causes blood vessels to dilate, increasing the amount of nutrients (glucose/amino acids) delivered to muscle cells.

What does the glycemic index have to do with insulin?

Foods are digested at various speeds, meaning their nutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream at different rates. The glycemic index (GI) is a reflection of digestion rate for carbohydrate sources. Higher GI numbers reflect faster digestion than lower GI numbers. High GI carbs arrive in the bloodstream quickly, driving blood glucose levels up high. Insulin spikes to make use of that glucose, but afterward blood glucose may crash to low levels causing fatigue (i.e. food coma). Low GI carbs gradually enter the blood stream, so insulin levels are more consistent.
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Things that raise a carbohydrate’s digestion rate (higher GI): sugar

Things that lower a carbohydrate’s digestion rate (lower GI): fiber, protein

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It’s generally suggested that at most times, one should consume lower GI carbohydrates. However, there are other times, such as after a strength training workout, where eating high-GI carbs with a whey protein shake (also quickly digested by the body) is optimal for increasing nutrient uptake into muscle tissue.

Why is insulin necessary?

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There are a couple reasons insulin is important:

  1. Too much sugar (glucose) in the blood is toxic to the body. Blood glucose must remain within normal levels of 75-120ml/dl.
    ->As a side note: too little blood glucose is also problematic, but that’s an issue for another pancreatic hormone called glucagon.
  2. Glucose is an important energy source for our bodies’ daily processes. Without insulin, glucose can’t get into the cells to be used as energy. The body will deplete it’s glycogen stores and then break down muscle tissue for energy.
  3. Let’s not forget the brain. In the brain, insulin receptors are present in areas that control nutrient homeostasis (keeping nutrient levels constant), reproduction, cognition, memory, neural development, executive functioning, learning, and memory.
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    • I recall discussing the importance of glucose in the functioning of the hippocampus (a memory center in the brain) in my Psychology of Learning class at UCLA. My professor’s hypothesis (which he was testing on military members at Camp Pendleton) was that some symptoms of PTSD (inappropriate memory flashes) arise when, due to extreme emotional stress, the hippocampus depletes it’s glucose stores and cannot properly store memories.

Insulin Sensitivity vs. Resistance

These terms describe how sensitive the body is to the effects of insulin. When one is insulin sensitive, his or her cells respond properly to the presence of insulin. In cases of insulin resistance, cells fail to respond to the presence of insulin, blood glucose remains elevated, the pancreas releases more insulin, so blood insulin levels are also abnormally high.

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Insulin resistance can be developed from diets that are chronically high in High-GI carbohydrates, and it can lead to the body’s inability to regulate blood glucose (Type 2 Diabetes).

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Insulin sensitivity is considered a desired trait for good health, and it can be increased by both aerobic and anaerobic exercise. Maintaining insulin sensitivity can help with workout goals in a couple ways:

  1. More carbohydrates can get into the muscles during exercise allowing for better workout performance (because more energy!).
  2. Elevated insulin from eating or drinking carbohydrates post-workout increases amino acid uptake (building blocks for new muscle or muscle repair). It also enables faster recovery from workouts since muscle can quickly absorb glucose from the blood instead of the slow process of getting it from fat stores.

Further Reading

Sugar the Sweet Truth by Bret Contreras

Insulin by Rehan Jalali

The Muscle Building Messenger Complete Guide to Insulin by Jim Stoppani

Insulin in the Brain: Its Pathophysiological Implications for States Related with Central Insulin Resistance, Type 2 Diabetes and Alzheimer’s Disease

References

[1] Goulet, E.D., Melancon, M.O., Aubertin-Leheudre, M., Dionne, I.J. (2005). Aerobic training improves insulin sensitivity 72-120h after the last exercise session in younger but not in older women. Eur J Appl Physiol., 95(2-3):146-52.

[2] Van Der Heijden, G.J., Wang, Z.J., Chu, Z., Toffolo, G., Manesso, E., Sauer, P.J., Sunehag, A.L. (2010). Strength exercise improves muscle mass and hepatic insulin sensitivity in obese youth. Med Sci Sports Exerc., 42(11):1973-80.


 

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So You Have a Case of the Kneesles

Kneesles, pronounced like measles with a “Kn,” is my way of referring to knee pain.

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Many suffer from achey knees and daily knee pains, especially women. It can be attributed to females’ larger Q angles, habitual leg crossing while seated, improper movement patterns, mobility deficits, and/or lack of muscular stability.

Knee Anatomy

Check out this awesome interactive knee image.

Bones:

  • Femur
  • Patella
  • Tiba
  • Fibula

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Ligaments (Connect bone to bone):

  • Collateral Ligaments:
    • Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL): Runs top to bottom on outside of knee joint
    • Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL): Runs top to bottom on inside of knee joint
      Front view of knee joint showing patellar ligament.
  • Cruciate Ligaments:
    • Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL): Runs from the outside (lateral side) of the femur to the tibia.
    • Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL): Runs from the femur to the back of the tibia
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Joint Structures: 

  • Medial Meniscus
  • Lateral Meniscus
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Tendons (Connect Muscles to Bones):

  • Quadriceps Tendon
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  • Patella Tendon/Ligament
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  • IT Band (Iliotibial Band)
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Causes of and Remedies for Knee Pain

  • The Vastus Medialis Obliquus (VMO)

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This tricky little muscle, also known as the “tear drop,” is often under-recruited in lower body exercises (or over powered by the vastus lateralis). The VMO contributes to end-range (terminal) knee extension (from a slightly bent-knee position to a straight-knee position).

Some exercises to wake up the VMO:

  1. Terminal Knee Extensions with a Resistance Band
  2. Reverse Step-Ups
    Imagine you are going up a stair backwards. I’d suggest using a smaller step than shown in this video to begin, possibly 4 inches high or so.
  • The Gluteus Medius

The gluteus medius is responsible for abducting (bringing the leg out to the side), externally rotating (turning the leg outward), and supporting the body when on one leg.

Some exercises to strengthen the gluteus medius (Side Note: autocorrect and latin-based muscle names are not my friend right now):

  1. Banded Squats
    Squat with mini band below knees. For those of you with leg hair, I suggest a layer of clothing between your skin and the band.
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  2. Banded Bridging
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  3. Single Leg Deadlift (Romanian Deadlift)
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  • The IT Band

The IT Band is a notoriously tight tissue. When this gets tense, it can cause the knee cap (patella) to not track (move) properly when the knee bends. The best remedy for this is regular foam rolling of this area. I suggest starting with a softer foam roller and increasing firmness of the foam roller as needed. Be sure to roll the entire IT Band including the area to the outside of the knee.

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  • Limited Dorsiflexion

What is dorsiflexion? It’s the movement of the foot in the direction of the shin.
foot-dorsiflexion-6Many have limited range. We compensate for this limitation through raising the heels or pronating the feet. You may have noticed people who raise their heels or over pronate their feet (collapsed inward) in the bottom points of squats and deadlifts.

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A couple exercises to work on this:

  1. Stretch and foam roll the Gastrocnemius and Soleus (Calf Muscles)

     

  2.  Rocking Ankle Mobility Drill
  3. Knee Break Ankle Mobilization

Regardless of if you have a case of the kneesles, give these exercises a shot!

How do you keep your knees healthy?


Further Reading:

Knee Valgus (Valgus Collapse), Glute Medius Strengthening, Band Hip Abduction Exercises, and Ankle Dorsiflexion Drills By Bret Contreras

18 Tips for Bulletproof Knees by Mike Robertson

 

How Food Is More Than Fuel

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Food is a complex issue.

There’s a reason that our society struggles with weight management, and it’s not necessarily because we don’t know how to eat well. I’m sure many of us understand we’d be a whole lot healthier if we ate more whole foods and less sugar, avoided fried or processed things, drank less alcohol, and limited our soda consumption. So, why don’t we?

I’m the biggest culprit of it all– I really know a lot about how to eat well. So why isn’t my diet better?

The way we eat is not just a physical, biological process–it’s highly psychological! When we eat we are not only fulfilling our bodys’ fuel needs, but often, other emotional or psychological needs as well.
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In honor of Eating Disorder Awareness Week this week, I’m writing this article to share some insight into the complexity of eating behavior.

Adaptive Roles of One’s Diet

  1. Identity
    A person uses the way they eat to define who they are. “The skinny one,” “the fat one,” and “the health nut” are all identities that people take on having to do with the way they eat. Personally, I’ve been “the health-conscious” person to the point where I felt embarrassed to eat a food that was unhealthy or in a large portion in front of others. Coworkers would remark,”Look at Kait’s lunch, it’s always so healthy.” I’d only eat candy or burritos or fried food when I was alone, because heaven forbid someone see me eat something unhealthy and I lose that identity of being the health-conscious person.
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  2.  Distraction or Numbing Emotions
    Eating becomes a way of distracting from life’s problems when one is unable to cope. Instead of being unhappy, stressed, or burdened from the life problem, the central focus becomes one’s diet and the goal of losing weight. Sometimes people eat to “stuff” down uncomfortable feelings. In concentrating on eating, one can space out instead of focusing on the problem. I have some crazy mental association between relaxing and binge eating. If I’m stressed I need to relax so I binge…which is actually counterproductive considering that binging causes more discomfort and anxiety (i.e. more stress).
  3. Control
    When life feels out of control, eating becomes the one area that no one else can control. Sometimes our bodies become the battleground for self-assertion.
  4. Social Habits
    If you are female and you break up with your boyfriend, what do you do? Grab that pint of ice cream!
    Unknown-1Rough, stressful day at work? You need a drink….or 5.
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What characterizes an eating disorder?

There are a variety of eating disorders that exist, some more well-known than others: anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, orthorexia, purging, night eating syndrome, body dysmorphia. Do you feel immense guilt after drinking an In-N-Out milkshake? Would you still love yourself 5 pounds heavier? Do you opt out of a family dinner just because the meal isn’t the healthiest? Do you feel like certain foods have control over you or cause you to lose control?

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Eating disorders involve extreme emotions, attitudes, and behaviors surrounding weight and food issues.

Research suggests that up to 50% of the general population demonstrates problematic or disordered relationships with exercise, body, and/or food, but clinical eating disorders only occur in 1-3% of the population. The difference lies in the degree of symptoms one experiences and how much they interfere with one’s life, health, and ability to function day to day. There are some common symptoms of eating disorders like food restriction, binge eating, purging, excessive exercise, and use of diet pills and/or laxatives. Symptoms that are not as well known include basing one’s self worth or self esteem highly or exclusively on weight or body shape, or having an obsession with or high amount of anxiety surrounding certain foods, calories, or food groups.

Keep your food/body relationships healthy:

  • Avoid classifying foods as good or bad. Food doesn’t have morality; you are not good because you eat broccoli or bad because you eat pizza. There is a time and a place for all foods.
  • Limit social media time. It’s easy to get caught up in comparisons, but when most people share pictures on social media, they are sharing pictures that reflect the best versions of themselves. These posts don’t tell the whole story–the struggles, the vulnerabilities–these pictures are the highlight reel. Check out Sohee Lee’s short article called Don’t Be Fooled By Photos.
  • Be as objective as possible about physical assessments. It’s been said that one should view his or her scale weight with as much emotion as he or she would count the number of white cars in a parking lot.
  • Don’t make a habit of “punishment” workouts or diets. “I ate X so now I need to do an extra workout this week.” “I binged last night, so I’m not eating any carbs today.” Be consistent with your diet and workouts and the results will come.
  • Make a list of all your amazing qualities that are not related to your body or diet. (I’m really organized, I listen well to others, My dog loves me)
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  • Be aware and respond to your own red flags. (Isolating yourself from others, becoming secretive about food, anxiety, depression, giving a lot of emotional weight to things like your scale weight, binge eating episodes)
  • Set realistic goals and focus on your system to make progress day to day. If your goal is to lose 20 pounds in the next 4 months, focus on your plan of going to the gym 4 days a week and eating enough protein each day. I like focusing on the small steps because it allows more opportunities for success every day instead of just one big moment for ultimate success or failure 4 months from now. Read my article on goal setting to learn more.
  • Forgive yourself!
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Further Reading

Body Dysmorphia in the Fitness Industry

Why Can’t I Stick to My Diet? The What-The-Hell Effect Explained

How to Break Free From Binge Eating

The Candy’s Not Going Anywhere

Ban No Foods

How to Stop at One Cookie

When Good Fitness Habits Go Bad

What are your thoughts? Let me know!

Confessions from a Recovering Perfectionist

My name is a Kait, and I’m a recovering perfectionist.

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It’s something I’ve struggled with my entire life. All or nothing. Black and white. Best or worst. No cookies or all the cookies. Kale or Cheetos. Clean eating or dirty eating. 100%. A or F. Good food and bad food. I was once insulted when someone accused me of not having a Type-A personality.

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To be honest, though, trying to be perfect has caused me a lot of stress, anxiety, exhaustion, embarrassment, shame, and guilt, and it has lead to an eating disorder and bouts of low self-esteem. When one aims for perfection, failure is unavoidable, because perfect doesn’t exist.

I am not perfect.
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I am. Not perfect.

I. Am. Not. Perfect…and I never will be!

But, TODAY I am better than I was yesterday.

Here are some areas of my life I’ve learned to appreciate not being perfect.

  1. My diet is not perfectly healthy

    I’ve fallen in love with the flexible dieting or the “if it fits your macros” mentality where no foods are off limits. I can occasionally incorporate imperfect foods into my diet without feeling guilty or like I’ve completely sabotaged all my fitness goals. I actually eat more whole foods because I choose to, not because I have to.

    My diet is still not perfect in these regards. I struggle to track my food, eat enough protein, and not succumb to emotional eating in times of stress, but I’m getting better at it. My relationship with food is much better now than it was at this time last year.
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  2. I don’t know everything there is to know about fitness.

    There is so much to know and to learn as a personal trainer, a fitness enthusiast, and a coach. No one knows it all. I certainly don’t know it all. Sometimes, the amount I don’t know overwhelms me, but for the most part, what I don’t know drives me to keep learning. It creates my passion. I’m so glad I don’t know everything because I actually love learning about training, nutrition, motivation, etc.. Half the reason I started this website is so I have a reason to learn and study more aspects of the fitness field in depth while I write articles.

  3. I’m not a perfect coach or personal trainer.

    Blasphemy, I know. I have so much room for improvement, but there are 2 things I’m certain of: 1) With my education and experience, I know a lot more than your average gym go-er (and many personal trainers) and 2) every day I do my best move my clients safely toward their goals. I am content knowing that every day I am working to be a better coach and if 3 years from now I coach the same way I coach today, I’ll know I’ve done something wrong.
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  4. I’m not a perfect writer.

    I don’t quite understand how to use effect and affect or semicolons vs. colons. I’m not bursting at the seams with words of wisdom each time I sit down and write. I’m not sure what “my voice” sounds like or if people even want to read what I’m writing about. I enjoy it, though, and I trust that in time I’ll figure it out. Plus, if i didn’t publish posts until I deemed them perfect, I wouldn’t have a blog…or a life.

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Are you a recovering perfectionist? Where do you embrace imperfections?

Strength Training for Fat Loss

So, you want to lose weight?

To start out, let’s make an important clarification:

  • Weight Loss: Doesn’t specify where weight is coming from. Weight can be lost from all sources including muscle, fat, water, limb amputation, organ removal, etc.
  • Fat Loss: Specifically, losing body fat, preferably while maintaining muscle mass and all limbs.

You want to lose fat, but how?

Option A: Spend countless hours of your week on a cardio machine

A 2011 study found that, on average, it takes 86 hours of  (steady state) aerobic exercise to lose 1 kilogram (about 2.2 pounds). If your goal is to lose 8 pounds (about 3.5 kilograms) that is 301 hours of cardio, or 3 hours and 20 minutes of cardio every day for the next 90 days. No thanks!

Option B: Embark on a strength training program. This is my choice. I’ll tell you why!

Reason 1: You’ll burn more calories doing nothing

Basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the number of Calories the body burns at rest on a daily basis, and it is directly dependent on the amount of lean body mass (i.e. muscle mass) one has.

Lean body mass: mass of the body not including fat.

The more muscle one has, the higher his or her lean body mass, the higher his or her BMR. Research estimates that each pound of muscle burns an extra 30-35 daily Calories. If a person gains 5 pounds of muscle, he or she will be burning an additional 150 Calories every day and losing an additional pound of fat every 3 weeks or so.

Reason 2: Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC)

After periods of intense exercise, one’s metabolism can remain elevated for several hours after training. Oxygen is the currency of the body during exercise. During periods of intense, anaerobic exercise, the body depletes its oxygen reserve and goes into oxygen debt. After finishing the training session, the body must continue working to pay back this debt and does so by taking  in more oxygen over a period of time. The more oxygen debt, the longer the body takes to repay it.

Lifting weight can have a much greater effect on EPOC than other types of exercise. With enough intensity, this EPOC can last more than 38 hours after a workout.

For those of you who doubt the intensity of weight lifting, I suggest wearing a heart rate monitor during your heavy deadlift or squat sets. My heart rate gets as high as 170 beats per minute on those.

Reason 3: Strength Training Decreases Hunger Hormone

Ghrelin is called the “hunger hormone” because as its level rises, one feels hungrier and as its levels decrease in the body, one feels full and satiated. A recent study found ghrelin levels fell 13 to 21 percent after an intense strength training workout.

Reason 4: Muscle is required to look “toned”

Many desiring fat loss envision having a “toned” physique. A healthy diet and a lot of cardio can get you fat loss but not the “toned” look you desire. Muscle is required for this, and it doesn’t just show up- it takes months of work!

Not only is strength training important for building muscle, but it’s also crucial for maintaining muscle. Many fat loss strategies (cardio, eating less, exercising more) put the body into a catabolic state where it is breaking down tissue for energy. Unfortunately, these tissues include muscle tissue that the body doesn’t think it needs (because it isn’t being used on a regular basis). Strength training promotes anabolic processes in the body where muscle is built (or repaired), which helps in maintaining the muscle one already has.

Too often (especially with drastic weight loss strategies) a person will lose a lot of muscle in addition to fat from his or her fat loss efforts. The result is a skinny-fat appearance and lowered resting metabolism (remember Reason 1? Your BMR is dependent on lean body mass) making it more difficult to A) continue losing weight (because of slowed metabolism) and B) keep the weight off (because the body’s Caloric maintenance level is so low).

How to lift weights to lose weight:

  1. Prioritize exercises that use many muscle groups or large muscle groups
    For example: 
    Row Variations (Working the upper back, shoulders, and biceps)

    Chest Press Variations (Working the chest, shoulders, and triceps)

    Squat Variations (Working glutes, hamstrings, quads, core)

    Deadlift Variations (Working the legs, glutes, core, back)

  2. Lift Heavy Weight
    If you are a new to weight lifting, I suggest sticking in with “easy to medium” realm as far as weights go, for the first 2-3 weeks as you learn technique and your body adapts.
    Anyone else should lift weights that are in the “medium to hard” difficulty (as long as you can maintain good lifting technique). For example, if you are performing 3 sets of 10 reps of an exercise, your last 1 or 2 reps of sets 2 and 3 should be challenging. If you get to rep 10 and feel like you could have done 5 more reps, increase the weight on the next set.
  3. Vary your repetition ranges
    If you are new to weight lifting, stay in the 8-12 rep range to learn proper form.
    More experienced lifters can play with other rep ranges. I find myself starting workouts performing 4-rep sets of an exercise and finishing a workout with a couple sets of 12-20 reps.

 

 

 

 

Further Reading

Training Guidelines for Beginners by Sohee Lee

Eat, Lift, and Condition to Lose Fat and Maintain Muscle by Bret Contreras


 

  1.  Friedenreich CM, et al. Adiposity changes after a 1-year aerobic exercise intervention among postmenopausal women: a randomized controlled trial. Int J Obes (Lond). 2011;35:427-435

 

Sane, Balanced, Motivated

It’s the 2nd week of February, and this year is flying by. Since there is so much “new” in my life, a new job, schedule, blog, and goals, I’m always juggling and frequently re-evaluating. Today’s post is going to be an update on what’s going on in my life right now and what I’m doing to stay sane, balanced, and motivated.

Physical Therapy School

I’ve spent the last 2 years focused on getting accepted into a Doctorate of Physical Therapy Program.

The first year out of college, I retook (and Aced with the highest grades in my classes) two biology classes at my local community college, racked up 100+ hours of observation hours in a physical therapy office, and applied to 5 programs/schools that were within an hour’s drive of my house. I was rejected from 3, interviewed at 1 (then rejected), and waitlisted at the last (which never came to fruition).

The second year, I spoke with an admissions counselor from one school I was rejected from the year before, and framed my approach based on his recommendations. I retook a physics class (Aced), aced a 5.25 semester unit Spanish class, acquired over 1500 observation hours in multiple physical therapy settings, and had more recommendation letters. I also applied early to 20 programs this time. Well, after months of waiting for responses, I’m now at a point where I’ve been rejected from 14 schools and waitlisted in 3 programs, and I’m still waiting to hear back from 3.

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Every single rejection is heartbreaking. The nicest rejection email still reads like “you are not good enough.” It hurts. It’s frustrating. It’s disappointing.

I just wonder if all these “no’s” are a sign that God has another path intended for me…or if struggling through this is God’s way of building an essential element of my character.

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I do believe He has a plan for me.

I’ve had time to cultivate my passions in fitness and physical therapy over the last years. I have a lot more direction and sense of purpose in my life today than I did a year or two ago. Physical therapy is not my [only] end-all-be-all goal. My passions are in helping others, working with young athletes, teaching everyone healthy and sustainable fitness practices, and keeping people active and uninjured through the entirety of their lives. I see physical therapy as a means of doing this, but it is not the only way. So, regardless of what happens with physical therapy, I know the direction I’m going to keep shooting in.

Following My Bliss

While I wait to see how physical therapy school plays out, still unsure of where I’ll be in the Fall, I’m spending my time developing my personal training business and learning about being the best coach I can be. I call it “following my bliss” aka doing what makes me happy!

 

  • Yesterday, I did my first [paid] photoshoot as a model. It felt great! This is something I plan to incorporate more of. Why not? Anyone need a model?
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  • I have a [awesomely organized] binder for my personal training business. Yes, I’m a organization nut. I have color-coded tabs, self-made logs, a place for ideas, and other resources strategically placed in my binder.
  • I’m cultivating a social media following to increase the exposure of my website/blog.
  • I’m building a network of fitness professionals to collaborate with, including the physical therapists I’ve worked for.
  • Although I work for a gym, I’m not limiting myself just to business in that setting.
  • I’m exploring opportunities for growth, including coaching internships, Masters programs, and seminars/conventions.
  • I’m frequently listening to awesome podcasts in my car such as Ben Coomber Radio (a great UK-based nutritionist) and Physique Science Radio (hosted by Sohee Lee and Layne Norton) and trying to keep up with my monthly-delivered Strength & Conditioning Research Literature Reviews.
  • I began a new training program in the gym. It’s from Eric Cressey (one of the top athletic trainers in the country and one of my idols) called the High Performance Handbook. Yes, I am a personal trainer who has a personal trainer because, I’ll admit it, there is still a lot I don’t know, specifically in regards to training program design, which is really a form of art. I’m two workouts into this program and already I feel FANTASTIC. Not only am I learning a lot about my body and program design, but following a newinteresting  workout program is highly motivating.
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One thing I need to improve on is setting boundaries for myself. In addition to planning time to get things done on my calendar, I really need to plan time off and time for non-fitness, relaxing activities. Doing fitness/career related tasks all day every day is a surefire way for me to burnout. This is where playing with my dog, Bug, and spending time with my family and boyfriend come into play.

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How is your year going? What are you doing to stay sane, balanced, and motivated while pursuing your career, goals, etc?

 

2-Cents on 6-Packs

How many crunches does it take to get a 6-pack?

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I hate crunches (and situps). To be honest, I despise any ab exercise I have to do for more than 10 reps (or 10 reps each side) to see results.

One day I’ll write an article that gets into the anatomy of the abs and what muscles make up the core. Today, I’m going to go over how to avoid the ab exercise mistake I see all the time in the gym and some super efficient ab exercises to try!

The Big Mistake

Anytime one does an abdominal exercise lying on his or her back, the back (specifically, lower back) should be, and remain, pressed firmly into the ground.

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The postural element here is called pelvic tilt. I like to describe it with an analogy that equates the pelvis to a pot [of water]. Now, there is anterior (meaning front) pelvic tilt and posterior (meaning back) pelvic tilt, which refer to the way water would spill out of “the pot” if it was tilted one way or the other. Here is a pictogram that describes it.

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In the left picture above, water would fall out of the “pot” toward the front of the body, so the image is depicting anterior (front) pelvic tilt. In the right picture, water would spill out of the pot toward the back of the body. This is posterior (back) pelvic tilt. You may find yourself standing with anterior pelvic tilt and sitting slouched with some posterior pelvic tilt or vice versa. Ideally, the pelvis is in neutral at all times.

Some of us spend more time in one posture than the other, making it habitual for our bodies, and, as you could imagine, this posture shows up in our workouts.

Try this test: Lie down on your back with your legs together, straight up in the air. Push your lower back into the ground so that your entire back is touching the floor. Keeping your legs straight, slowly lower them to the ground while keeping your entire back on the floor. Could you do it? A little challenging, right? Most of us lack the abdominal control to keep our backs flat while performing this movement.

Here is a progression to correct this!

  1. Toe Taps. 2-3 sets of 20 reps, 10 on each leg, keeping that lower back flat!
  2. Linear Dead Bugs. 2-3 sets of 20 reps, 10 on each leg.
  3. Single-Leg Lowering. 2-3 sets of 20 reps, 10 on each leg. Contrary to what this picture shows, I like to keep both arms extended in front of the body, reaching toward the ceiling.
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  4. Double-Leg Lowering. 3 sets of 10 reps. Arms in the same position as the single-leg lowering exercise. For added intensity, weight can be held by the arms.
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In addition to building the abdominal muscles to keep the pelvis in place, another component to correct is the hip flexors. Often those who have an anteriorly tilted pelvis and cannot keep their lower back to the floor while performing these exercises have overactive (tight) hip flexors. Look at the picture of some of the hip flexor muscles below. Notice how, at the top, the psoas connects to vertebrae in the low back and the iliacus attaches to the side and back of the pelvis. If these muscles are shortened, the low back vertebrae and back of the pelvis are pulled forward resulting in anterior pelvis tilt. Mobility exercises, foam rolling, and stretches that lengthen (stretch) the hip flexors will help alleviate some of that tilt.

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Efficient Ab Exercises

Get a lot done in a little time with these Ab exercises that are staples in my routine.

  1. Static Plank Variations (3 X 1 min or less). Center plank, Side plank, arms on an airex pad, arms on a bosu ball, legs elevated, legs really elevated, feet on a boss ball, on one leg, feet in TRX. Keep that back straight, and, if anything, tuck the pelvis into a slight posterior tilt by contracting the abs.
  2. Double Leg Lowering with Crunch (3 X 10 reps). Once you can keep your lower back in contact with the ground while lowering both legs, this is a great exercise to try. Start lying on your back with arms and legs straight in the air. Lower legs to the floor while simultaneously lowering the arms. Stop an inch above the floor and raise both arms and legs to the starting position. Once there, “crunch” the arms and upper body toward the ceiling and back to the starting position. Repeat. I hold a weight (5-15 pounds) in my hands for added intensity.
  3.  Diagonal Curl Up (3 X 10 each side)
  4. Ab Wheel Rollout Variations ( 3 X 5-10 )
    This is an intense exercise. Here is a video about rollout progressions.
  5. Wood Chops (3 X 10 each side). Variations include chopping high to low, low to high, or across. Keeping your chest up and arms straight in all the movements will help with targeting the abs more and arms or hip flexors less.
  6. Prone Pike (3 X 5-10)
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Perform one or two of these exercises in each of your workouts, and you’ll be well on your way toward that summer 6-pack! Let me know if you try them!

To Learn More:

Bret Contreras is a trainer and PhD who wrote an article with EMG results of the amount of activation in 4 core muscles during a variety of exercises (EMG stands for electromyogram, and it’s a method of measuring muscle activation). Check it out to learn some other great ways of engaging your abdominals!

Meatballs and Muffintops

Meatballs

Buffalo Meatballs. They aren’t too spicy either–just enough! I’ve been using this recipe so long that I don’t know where I found it, so I apologize to whomever I’m unable to give credit to. Anyway, here’s what you’ll need to make these delicious, protein-filled….balls.

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1 sweet onion diced
  • 4oz Frank’s Red Hot Sauce
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1 package (16-20oz) ground meat (I used ground turkey, but you could easily use another ground meat variety)

Mix all ingredients together. Form into meatballs of desired size on a cookie tray. Bake 450 degrees for about 25 minutes.

Serving ideas:

  • Meatballs + Rice
  • Meatballs + Salad
  • Meatballs + Celery and lite Ranch
  • Meatballs in a baggy in your purse… I can’t be the only one =P

Let me know if you try ’em!

Muffintops

Weight Gain Jean Girl

Well, to be more precise, this is the cardio element to get rid of them.

Parts of my fitness goals this year include losing fat and challenging my heart regularly, so in addition to my 4 day lifting split each week, I’ve started with 1 day of cardio every week. This way, if my results ever plateau or my body doesn’t feel challenged with this small amount of cardio, I can always add more.

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While there are many ways to do cardio (i.e. exercise that gets your heart rate up for health and calorie burning), my favorite way is short, sweet, and takes only 20 minutes.

Zombie Sprints

This can be done in any cardio modality, but is best done in a way that doesn’t limit speed (not treadmill or step mill). I like sprints on flat ground, hill sprints, spin bike sprints, or elliptical sprints (as a last resort).

  • Warmup: 5 minute (light to moderate intensity). You may want to incorporate dynamic stretches such as high knees, butt-kicks, lunges, etc to stretch out a bit.
  • Sprints: 10 minutes
    1:40 at 50% effort
    20 seconds at 105% effort (life-or-death-speed sprints, like zombies are chasing you)
    Repeat 5 times.

    • If you feel like you can do another sprint after those 5, you didn’t push hard enough
  • Cool down: 5 minutes (moderate to light intensity)
  • You’re done! Go home (or stretch a bit)

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This is a type of training known as HIIT, or high-intensity interval training. The benefit to this type of cardio is it improves your anaerobic and aerobic capacities, speeds up your metabolism for the next 12-24 hours (more calorie burn), and preserves muscle tissue which can be catabolized from long-duration cardio.