Exercise Articles

Basic Body Function: What You Don't Realize You Already Know

Basic Body Function: What You Don’t Realize You Already Know

It’s true when we see many of our clients in the gym the first time we explain to them that most of the actual gym equipment we have is more for show than anything. The whole idea of functional training has become the focal point of exercise for the last decade, as well it should be.

Without a doubt a dysfunctional core is one of the most common concerns we see with almost every person that comes to see us. Because of chairs, comfortable car seats and the like our body is continually supported throughout the day with very little effort. Comfort does not equal proper alignment.

By now some may be thinking, “it’s time I take that ball to work to sit on,” which is still only partially right. You see the benefit of sitting on a ball is the need to move which in turn forces the core to work, but given enough time you will find ways to sit steady, awkwardly, and nearly as dysfunctional as though you were sitting in a chair.

Your core encompasses more than your abdominal muscles, true function will consider some muscles related to the hips, the muscles that support the spine and I’d even argue the muscles of the shoulder girth.

You see the body is about balance, when one group of muscles falls out of balance the surrounding groups will also be affected. So the solution to the problem is not just strong abdominal muscles in the traditional sense but a holistic approach to exercise in general.

Here’s how you are already a fitness expert when it comes to your own body. Pay attention for this coming week and note the ten most common movements you spend a large amount of your time doing. Pay attention to the range of motion of the movement and the direction of the movement. If you simply completed 2-3 sets of 15-25 repetitions of the opposite of these movements with some form of resistance added you would be leading your body to better balance and function. In addition everyone should learn to perform a proper squat, the proper lift of a heavy object from the floor, a lunge, a shoulder retraction and spinal flexion and extension. Even a couple sessions with a qualified trainer could ensure that you spend many years pain free, happier and healthier as a result of a basic understanding of how to improve the muscular balance of your body.

Visualization is a strong tip for success

Stay On Track With a Success Chart

Red Deer Weight Loss Success Chart

Visualization is a strong tip for success

I am going to share with you one of our absolutely most powerful training tools we use with all of our clients at One-to-1 Fitness. This one tool will take up less than 5 seconds of your time on a daily basis and I guarantee you will have an incredibly dramatic impact on your success. Aptly named we call it a Success Chart. If you have a current calendar handy than I you already have a simplified version of our Success Chart at your finger tips. Here’s how it works.

1)     Set a monthly goal. We all know how goals are important but if you even doubt it for a second I just want you to envision having 15 minutes to get somewhere in down town Toronto, you know it’s not far but you don’t have a road map. Without monthly goals you are as likely to reach your fitness objectives as you are to reach your Toronto destination on time, not very. Make your monthly goal realistic and attainable, something like losing 5-6 lbs or one pant/dress size.

2)     Set a daily exercise and nutrition goal for each week. Again these small goals are critical, but only if they are simple and realistic. So don’t plan to change everything tomorrow, rather simply look at your current lifestyle habits right now and decide what small steps you could make this week. An example might be if you always skip breakfast and then go out for a big lunch your weekly nutrition goal might be to always have something, anything, for breakfast and to pack a lunch a minimum of three days this week. Fitness might be to meet with a personal trainer 1-2 times or complete 3-4 different classes as well as going for a walk at least four days this week.

3)     X’s but not O’s! Here’s the magic. Your Success Chart is one of the simplest and most effective types of journals. Each day you meet your nutritional goal for that day/week you draw a line diagonally through the day. If on that same day you exercise as you’ve outlined for that week then you draw the other line to make the X. At the end of each week if you’re not making progress simply look at how many X’s you have on your chart. We often don’t realize when we are off course until it’s staring us right in the face.

I know this doesn’t sound like the answer to that missing link in your nutrition, it’s not that magic tummy tucking exercise, heck it’s not even a direct plan. Though the Success Chart may be none of those things it can easily outperform them all by providing the most important component of any fitness and weight loss program, rigid, trackable, consistency.

Don’t doubt the power of this tool, trust me and try it, 3-4 weeks of mainly X’s and there is absolutely no way you will not have modified your lifestyle and experienced physical change.

Resistance Training & Weight Loss

Resistance Training & Weight Loss

Marcel lost 26lbs in a short time at One-to-1 Fitness

Marcel lost 26lbs in a short time at One-to-1 Fitness

In order to achieve long-term, permanent weight loss, the caloric burning effects of cardiovascular exercise are king! This is not entirely true.  While cardiovascular exercise has a wide range of health benefits, it has much less effect on permanent weight control than weight-bearing or resistance exercise.  Cardiovascular exercise burns calories while it is being performed as well as for a limited amount of time upon completion of the activity.  Resistance training has a much more pronounced effect on the burning of calories and raising the metabolism for extended periods of time.  Research has shown that load-bearing exercise can increase metabolic function for as much as 12 to 24 hours.

One of the most well understood benefits of resistance training is the fact that it can increase lean muscle mass as well as strength.  As the body is put under the stress of resistance training, it adapts to this strain by increasing its capacity to do work.  This can be accomplished by increasing its energy storage capacity (storing more energy inside the cells) or by increasing the amount of lean body mass or muscle tissue present.  Either of these methods of compensation allows the body to be better suited to handle greater levels of physical stress.  These adaptations increase the level of activity at the cellular level, burning more calories and in turn, increasing the metabolism.  Simplified, the more living tissue is present in the body, the more calories the body burns in a 24 hour period.

Another significant benefit of resistance training comes in the form of increasing bone density.  The human body is constantly in a state of breaking itself down and re-building itself.  Our cells are always dying off as the body creates new cells and tissue.  However, as we age, the hormones responsible for the growth of new tissue decline and our bodies become less prone to building new cells.  As a result, bone mineral deposits decrease and bone density starts to drop, making bones weaker, more brittle and prone to breaks and fractures.  It has been proven that the stress placed on the skeletal system during resistance or strength training helps stimulate the body to increase bone concentration and bone mass.

An area of resistance training which we focus on greatly with our clients is Functional Training.  We tend not to focus greatly on making our clients “stronger” for the 60 minutes that we are working with them.  Rather, our focus is to make our clients more functional for everyday life.  We train our clients so that their bodies are more apt to facilitate every day functions like lifting, climbing, squatting, throwing, running, yard work, shoveling the walk, bending over without strain etc.  This is accomplished by training our clients in a state of “un-balance” in the gym.  Remember that it is impossible to train for balance unless the body is OFF-balance.  Performing exercises incorporating exercise balls, stability balls, balance boards, gymnastics rings and other pieces of functional training equipment, we are able to train our clients’ bodies to be more responsive to the ever-changing stimulus of everyday life.

Strength training has also shown to be beneficial for the heart as it decreases blood pressure and lowers resting heart rate, reducing the risk for heart disease.  Regular resistance training will actually help stimulate the liver to produce more HDL (good) cholesterol.  It helps decrease stress levels and can help promote regular sleeping patterns.

Cumulative Effect

Cumulative Effect

The key to success at just about anything in life is consistency. You do just about anything often enough you are either going to get better at it or achieve the desired result. This is very much one of the core values of exercise and nutrition to reach any goal. For example let’s take weight loss. A common misconception amongst those trying to achieve substantial weight loss is the idea of burning calories. It’s fairly common knowledge that a pound of bodyfat is equivalent to about 3500 calories. Now our keen sense of logic kicks in and makes us rationalize that if we were to burn an additional 3500 calories through exercise than we should lose a pound of fat. Accordingly the same logic would apply to nutritional restriction; if we restrict our bodies from 3500 calories over the course of a week logic would suggest that we would lose an additional pound of fat. Unfortunately our body does not work on such simplistic mechanics.

Major increases in energy expenditure and nutritional restriction may at first produce good results when it comes to weight loss but it’s almost certain that these results will not be lasting. As fitness professionals we will attempt to teach you that it’s not about the immediate action you take but rather about the cumulative effect. Let’s take exercise for example. When we complete a cardiovascular exercise with a sustained elevated heart rate for a period of time after a while our body responds with a cascade of hormones that elevates our metabolic rate. Once this occurs continuing to exercise at the same intensity will burn more calories but not have significant further effect on metabolism. This elevated state of metabolism slowly begins to decrease back to the previous but over a span of hours. (This period of elevated metabolism can also be further lengthened with the addition of an effective weight training program completed on a regular basis. The effective use of weight training creates a further complimentary hormonal cascade that provides additional enhancement to your metabolism.)

So the key to weight loss is consistency. It’s common for us to have someone explain that they diligently complete long cardio sessions but only a couple times of week. We’re always busy so it makes sense that on certain days you would just make a bigger commitment and get it out of the way, unfortunately this is not nearly as effective. If you are someone routinely completing 60 minutes of exercise 3 days per week I can guarantee that your results will be dramatically increased by reducing to 20-30 minutes per day for 6 days per week. Mathematically you could burn the exact same number of calories but it’s not about the number but rather the cumulative effect.

Activity vs Fitness vs Training

When it comes to exercise I can say with a great deal of certainty we all need to do it. Our bodies are designed to move and increasing our fitness level will ensure we look younger, live longer and feel better through the duration of life. The second thing that is certain is that life is full of many commitments that usually prevent us from allotting time and energy to some of the things we need to do. This is a common excuse I hear for a lack of regular exercise. I believe that we are all creatures seeking instant gratification and with that lies some of the frustration of an exercise program. As a consumer we are faced with a lot of options. These options usually come with promises and guarantees, and yet sometimes they still don’t deliver. If you’ve experienced this maybe it’s because there wasn’t a good fit between you and the program. Or maybe it’s that most programs lack the ability to address individuals concerns rather than a group concern.

When it comes to living a long healthy life that includes regular activity we all go through three different stages:

Activity – Regular movement is just becoming part of your life, it’s painful and un-enjoyable at best but you know it needs to be done. This is the activity stage, where any activity will do, a walk around the block, a slight jog, a few push ups or pretty much any form of movement. Generally in this stage the individual just needs to have control of the time and intensity of the activity as you may or may not be capable of a lot.

Fitness – In this stage it’s about more than regular activity, it’s about an increased challenge or output that produces a greater feeling of well being. Upon entering the fitness stage you will feel physical improvement regularly from exercise.

Training – Very closely related to the fitness stage this is where it becomes confusing. Once people start feeling reasonably well they expect to be able to participate in a regular exercise program and attain a specific outcome and this is what I call the training stage.

It’s between the fitness and training stage where I see a lot of individuals are stuck. It’s in this stage that we are often attracted to consumer exercise programs, gadgets and ultimately fads. Maybe you find yourself in this situation now where you are looking for the exercise program to take you to that specific result. (ie. Weight loss, cardio fitness, less aches and pains, more flexibility, etc) There is certainly lot’s to choose from ranging from things like: pilates, yoga, aerobics, boot camps, spin classes, cardio kickboxing to new fads like cross fit and kettle bells. You name it and it’s out there and it may or may not produce the results you are looking for. This column is for all the people that fall into the “these fad programs have not produced the result I was looking for” category.

In order to provide specific results an exercise program must be tailored to an individual by addressing the different aspects of our lifestyle. For instance aches, pains, and inflexibility are largely related to repetitive activity and the wonders of modern life such as chairs, computers, keyboards, mice and other things that put us in similar stationary body positions for long periods of time. Body fat is a result of too much processed foods, too little water, poor sleeping habits and a misunderstanding of the importance of macronutrient balance. But all of these things vary greatly from individual to individual. So much so that using the same exercise program that provided excellent results for your best friend might wind up creating more problems for you. When looking at an exercise program consider not the difficulty or frequency of the program but how much time and attention is given to assess you as an individual. We all need to stretch, we don’t all need to stretch the same things, we should all perform resistance exercise to improve posture and bone density but you will need different exercises than I do. Your nutritional needs are likely different than your neighbours. Considering these options will ensure far less disappointment and time wasted on an exercise program that doesn’t produce the result you are looking for. It may also cross a number of options off the list.