Sports Nutrition, Muscle, Endurance, Recovery, Sexual Health, Weight Management

How To Choose A Fitness Club

So you’ve decided you’d like to join a gym. That’s great! But wherever you turn, there are billboards, ads on buses, and commercials on the radio and tv for fitness clubs, all advertising low prices and guaranteed results. So how do you choose the best gym for you? Selecting the right gym will take a little bit of time and research, but will be worth the effort in the long run.

The first thing to take into consideration is a fitness club’s location. You’re much more likely to be consistent with your exercise routine if your gym is convenient for you to get to. If you prefer to work out right after work, you may prefer to look for a gym that’s close to your job. If you work out on weekends, you may want to look for a fitness club that’s closer to your home. If you travel frequently, consider looking into a gym that has locations in places that you visit frequently.

You’ll also want to make sure that you choose a gym that has hours of operation that fit with your workout schedule. If you enjoy working out early in the morning or late at night, a gym that’s open from 9-5 isn’t for you. If you like to work out on weekends, inquire whether they close early on the weekends.

Identify what you need in a gym. Do you just want to run on the treadmill and use weight-lifting machines? These are basic machines found at almost every gym. If you enjoy group fitness classes, inquire about the gym’s classes. Do they offer classes you are interested in, at times that are convenient for you? Also take into consideration any amenities you want in a gym. Some fitness centers offer anything from hair dryers and towel service to pools, saunas, and spa services.

Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, request a tour of any gym you are seriously considering. Are the facilities clean? Is the equipment well maintained, or are there several machines that are out of order? Do you feel comfortable with the general atmosphere?

While you tour the gym, be observant of the staff. They will be there to answer any questions you have about equipment and your fitness routine. Are there a sufficient number of staff members available? Are they friendly and helpful? Staff should also be trained in first aid and CPR, and be certified with a reputable organization. Don’t be shy to ask about the staff’s certifications. After all, you are trusting them with your most valuable commodity, your body.

Finally, take advantage of any free trials. A gym may look perfect on paper, but the best way to find the right gym for you is to get in there and try it out.

Workout Ideas for Couples

Hectic schedules can sometimes make it difficult to set aside enough time to dedicate to your fitness regimen and also spend enough quality time with your significant other. Relationships, much like fitness regimens, require lots of time and commitment, and at times it may seem hard to balance both. But these two priorities don't need to come in conflict - working out together can help you both achieve your fitness goals while spending quality time together.

Working out as a couple has several physical as well as emotional benefits. Men and women tend to focus on different types of exercise when working out; Men usually favor strength training, while women typically focus on cardio. Exercising together can help to balance out each of your workout programs to incorporate both cardio and strength training. Partners can also help to watch each other's form and serve as a spotter during difficult exercises. In addition, exercising as a couple gives you a common interest and allows partners to give each other motivation and support, which can help deepen your bond.

It can be tricky to start working out with a partner, particularly if you are at different fitness levels. Below are some suggestions that will help you get a good workout together.

  • Join a class together. Pick an activity you're both interested in trying; from kickboxing to yoga to swing dancing, the possibilities are virtually limitless.
  • When using cardio machines at the gym, work on machines that are next to each other. This will allow each of you to work at your own intensity level while still being close to each other.
  • Challenge your significant other to a high-energy game of basketball. Rouse up a little friendly competition and start burning calories!
  • Go for a power walk or jog outside. Walking at a brisk pace can be great exercise, plus you'll get to enjoy the scenery and outdoors together. Adding intervals to your walk or jog will help to accommodate both your fitness levels.
  • Stretch it out. Assisted stretching has been shown to help improve flexibility and feels good, so give your partner a gentle tug or push, just be careful and go slowly to ensure you don't overdo it.
  • Go play outside. Remember as a kid how you would spend endless hours playing outside? Recreate those childhood memories with your partner - play a game of tag, jump rope, or go for a bike ride.

The "Core" Essentials

Over the last few years, core training has become a staple of exercise routines, though it has been the focus of ancient practices such as yoga and tai chi for centuries. Yet many people don't have a good understanding of what exactly the core is, and the importance of core strength not only in your workout, but even in everyday activities such as walking or lifting groceries.

Many people mistakenly interchange the terms core and abs. Actually, your core runs the entire length of your body's trunk and torso, and includes the muscles in your back, abdomen, pelvis and hips. These muscles form the foundation for all your body's movement, your posture and your balance by helping to stabilize your spine, pelvis and shoulder girdle. If your core is strong, you are more stable during movements, your posture is better, and you have greater strength and power during your activities. A weak core can result in poor posture, injury, and lower back pain.

So now that you understand the importance of a strong and stable core, how do you incorporate core training into your workout? A good core training program should target all the muscle groups that stabilize the spine and pelvis. Though there are several pieces of equipment such as stability balls, balance boards and kettle balls that can help with core training, you can build core strength without any equipment. The strength required to hold a pose, coupled with the gravitational pull of your body weight are enough to effectively work your core muscles. Push ups, squats, lunges and crunches are basic exercises that can help you get started on building core strength; pilates, yoga and tai chi classes also focus on exercises that develop your core, or consult with a trainer, who can help you develop a personalized core strengthening regimen.

Successful Weight Management

Having a weight management strategy benefits pretty much everyone-whether your goal is to maintain your weight or get better muscle definition. Make a plan and remember it's always a good idea to speak with your doctor about your weight goals and before making any significant changes in your diet or exercise routine. Here are some tips that may help you get a plan together.

We know the basics-to manage your weight you need to burn more calories than you're taking in and if you're eating more than you're burning you'll gain weight. The secret to making the jump from knowing how to change your weight to actually getting results is to make a commitment to a lifestyle that supports your goals. It may sound like a full time job, and there's no doubt that when you're starting out with a new plan, it takes a while to find what works for you.

When you're figuring out your strategy you should always keep a few questions in mind:

  • will your diet include plenty of fruits, vegetables, grains, lean protein and foods from the other major food groups?
  • whatever the idea behind the diet, does it feature foods that you can afford and can find easily?
  • will you be eating foods that you like and will commit to eating for the long term, not just a set amount of time?
  • do you have the time to prepare these foods?
  • will you get enough nutrients and calories on this plan?

That takes care of the food, but you also have to be balancing your diet with exercise. If you have a personal trainer, ask what kinds of exercises are right for your body and your goals. Always speak with an expert before trying new techniques so as to avoid injuries.

Remember, though, that research shows whatever kind of exercising you're doing, it should be done regularly.

Drop Pounds By Making Smart Choices

Little things mean a lot—whether you're trying to sculpt and tone or improve your health, making small changes in your day can help you drop a few pounds with very little extra effort. Take a look at the tips below for some ideas.

1. Cut out the empty calories. Find some empty calories in your daily routine that you can eliminate. For example, if you cut out one can of cola a day, you'll knock off about 136 calories per day.

2. Drink water. It may help you eat less and burn more calories. Drinking a glass or two of water before a meal will fill you up and can help you eat less. And researchers are now reporting that water consumption may increase the rate at which people burn calories.

3. Lighten up your omelet. It's an easy way to cut out over 100 calories a serving. By using ½ cup of egg whites in your omelets instead of ½ cup of whole eggs, you can cut out 120 calories.

4. Team up. People who exercise together are more likely to stay motivated. Find a friend and put together a realistic exercise plan, even if it's just a 20 minute walk during your lunch time.

5. Slim down your poultry. Thinking of using chicken thighs? Think again. By switching to white meat and removing the skin, you take an eight ounce serving from 560 calories to 375 calories and cut out 24 grams of fat.

6. Get your Z's. Sleep deprivation may be packing pounds onto your waistline. Research shows that a lack of sleep may make weight loss and weight control more of a challenge because it alters metabolism by increasing the production of cortisol (a stress hormone). Also, you're more likely to eat more if you're feeling fatigued.

7. Only have 15 minutes? You don't have to commit hours a day to make a difference. Add a brisk 15 minute walk to your day and burn extra calories. If you want to challenge yourself and pick up the pace - switch to a 15 minute run and burn even more calories.

8. Get portions under control. Cut your poultry or meat portion from eight ounces to five ounces just once a day and you'll eliminate around 138 calories.

9. Eat several small meals a day. Frequent, small meals will actually increase your metabolism. Eating small meals every few hours during the day can help keep your metabolism revved up and that means you'll burn more calories overall.

10. Choose whole grain products. This is an easy way to reduce your caloric intake significantly. A small muffin made with white flour contains about 259 calories. If you were to replace it with an oat bran muffin of the same size, you'd cut out about 81 calories.

What is Kinesiology?

Kinesiology is used by many personal trainers to aid in determining ways to help clients work efficiently, safely and effectively in their movements. But what exactly is it?

Briefly, kinesiology is the study of the way the body moves. It studies physical activities performed during normal, everyday actions and also actions involved in movements in sports and dance. Additionally, applying the information developed through kinesiology can be useful in improving health, physical fitness and rehabilitation from injury.

Team Fuel member and personal trainer, Shaun Eckhardt, graduated with a degree in kinesiology and says he finds it extremely beneficial in determining optimal workout strategies for his various clients.

“If you don't know how the human body works, it’s hard trying to design programs that fit a particular person’s body and genetics,” he says, adding, “I see a lot of trainers training people the way they work out themselves.” Shaun says the problem with that approach is that people have different goals and body types and one approach can’t be applied to everyone.

If you’re interested in taking a course on kinesiology as part of your personal trainer education, visit the American Council on Exercise’s Web site for more information.

Tips on Dining Out

You watch what you eat and make smart choices about how to fuel your body. Don’t let a meal out mess with your good diet strategies.

You’re not going to be stuck with a green salad and plain baked potato if you just get a little creative. Here are some ideas to get you started:

-Stay away from cream-based soups and sauces- they have more fat and calories than most other options.
-When available, choose whole wheat pasta or brown rice- complex carbohydrates fill you up faster and absorb into your body more slowly so your blood sugar won’t spike.
-Drink water with your meal- again, you’ll fill up faster and you’ll avoid the empty calories in soda, juice or alcohol.
-Order your salad with the dressing on the side- this way you’ll be able to control how much you add while you eat.
-Avoid all-you-can-eat places- they’ll make you want to eat more to get your money’s worth. Stick to an a la carte menu whenever you can.
-Choose lean cuts of meat- skinless chicken breasts and turkey sausages or burgers are usually a safe bet, as is fish, depending on how the dishes are prepared.
-Select foods that are steamed, baked, grilled or broiled- usually they have less fat and fewer calories.
-Get the side of salad, not fries- most restaurants will make the substitution even if it’s not listed on the menu.
-If you want dessert, share it- or if you’re not feeling generous, order a dessert lower in calories and fat like fresh fruit or sorbet.

If you’re attending a party or wedding where you don’t have the option of making the kind of choices outlined above, just be smart about portions- leave some food on the plate and skip dessert.

Nintendo Wii* - The newest craze in fitness. But does it really help?

In 2006, Nintendo once again revolutionized the world of video games with the release of the Nintendo Wii video game console, launching a new era in the age of video games- the exergame era. Exergames, as the word implies, incorporate elements of both video games and exercise that require players to use physical movements to manipulate actions in the game. The console comes bundled with a Wii Sports package, which includes baseball, boxing, bowling, golf, and tennis.

The exergame would seem to be a natural next step in fitness in a country where people spend an average of 19 to 25 hours a week watching TV and playing video games. But can you burn a significant amount of calories and get a good workout just from playing Wii Sports?

That’s exactly what the American Council on Exercise (ACE) aimed to find out when they sponsored a study on the exercise benefits of the Wii.1 Exercise scientists at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse Exercise and Health Program recruited 16 volunteers (equal males and females) between the ages of 20-29 for the study. After taking an exercise test to determine maximal heart rate and maximal oxygen uptake, subjects played each of the five Wii Sports games for 10 minutes in random order, with a five-minute break between each game to allow subjects heart rates to return to within 10 beats of their normal resting rate. Participants were instructed to simulate the body movements used in each actual game. For example, for tennis, participants would swing their entire arm as they would a racket, and change their stance when necessary. Researchers recorded heart rate and oxygen uptake at one-minute intervals, and interviewed subjects during the final minute of each sport to determine their perceived level of exertion.

Though all participants experienced increases in heart rate, oxygen uptake and perceived exertion — and therefore calories burned — calorie expenditure was greatest for tennis (5.3 calories/minute) and boxing (7.2 calories/minute), which are higher intensity games. A half-hour of sparring using Wii Boxing can burn a total of 216 calories, and a half-hour Wii Tennis match can burn 159 calories.

Playing Wii golf burned 3.1 calories/minute, bowling burned 3.9 calories/minute, and baseball burned 4.5 calories/minute. In addition to burning the most calories, boxing was the only game with enough intensity to maintain or improve cardiorespiratory endurance as defined by the American College of Sports Medicine.

So what’s the bottom line? Playing Wii Sports can provide a decent workout when you just don’t have the time or motivation to exercise. After all, it does burn calories and increase energy, and well, it’s just plain fun, which may help you stick with it. However, engaging in the actual sports provides more cardiovascular and strength benefits than playing Wii Sports, because you utilize your entire body, and the accessories required for these sports, such as a bowling ball or a baseball bat, weigh significantly more than a Wii controller.

Note: Expanding on their exergame idea, in May of 2008 Nintendo launched Wii Fit, an extension to the Wii that uses a balance board to take players through 40 different exercises including aerobic workouts, strength training, balance and yoga. ACE is currently sponsoring a study to examine the benefits of the new Wii Fit.

References:
1. Anders M. As Good as the Real Thing? Fitness Matters 2008;14(4):7-9.

* Nintendo® Wii™ is a trademark of Nintendo Co. Ltd. Mention of specific companies or brand names does not imply any affiliation, connection, association, sponsorship, or endorsement between such company and this material or Twinlab, including its affiliates, and further, nothing should be construed as implying that this material or the goods of Twinlab originate with or have the sponsorship or approval of such company.

Hydration is Key for Peak Performance

Water is one of the most important components of the human body. Making up almost 2/3 of the body, water assists nearly every part of the body in functioning efficiently. Just to give you an idea of how important water is to our health, consider this: our blood is made up of 92% water, and our brains and muscles are each made up of 75% water. Water plays a critical role in regulating body temperature, cushioning and protecting joints and vital organs, delivering nutrients and oxygen to all the cells in the body, and removing waste from the body.

For athletes and individuals who exercise regularly, staying sufficiently hydrated is also critical to exercise performance. The body can lose more than a quart of water in one hour of exercise, and if there is not enough water for the body to cool down through perspiration, dehydration occurs. Exercising while in a dehydrated state can result in exhaustion, muscle fatigue, loss of coordination, heat exhaustion, and in more extreme cases, heat stroke.

The Food and Nutrition Board recommends that women consume 91 ounces of water daily, and that men consume 125 ounces daily, with approximately 80% of your daily intake coming from beverages, and 20% through food.1 People who exercise regularly need even more, especially if they are working out in warm to hot weather. Women typically do not require as much hydration as men due to smaller body size, slower perspiration rates and electrolyte loss, and lower metabolic rates during exercise.

However, the rate at which individuals sweat and dehydrate varies depending on length and intensity of exercise, altitude, and temperature. There are two simple methods that will help you determine your individual hydration needs. First, monitor your urine. You should have a large amount, and urine should be pale (unless you are taking vitamins or other supplements, which can darken the color of urine for several hours). Dark, concentrated urine generally means you are dehydrated. Second, weigh yourself before and after exercise. Drink 16 to 24 ounces of water for every pound lost after a workout.

To ensure that you are properly hydrated for your workout, be sure to consume an adequate amount of fluids 24 hours before you exercise. You should also prehydrate with 17 to 20 ounces of water at least two hours before exercising, and drink 7 to 10 ounces of fluids every 10 to 20 minutes during your workout. And as stated, after completing a workout, consume 16 to 24 ounces of water for every pound of weight lost to help your body recover and rehydrate for your next workout.2

Though water is generally the best fluid replenisher for most individuals, if you are engaging in high-intensity exercise for longer than 45-60 minutes, sports drinks containing sodium can help to replace electrolytes lost during your workout faster than water. Individuals who sweat profusely during a workout or who have a high amount of sodium in their sweat (evidenced by salt stains or rings on your workout clothes) may also want to opt for sports drinks, and monitor their diet to make sure they consume enough sodium.

References:
1. Dietary Reference Intakes for Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate (2004) National Academy of Sciences. Institute of Medicine. Food and Nutrition Board. http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/DRI//DRI_Water/73-185.pdf
2. Casa DJ, et al. National Athletic Trainers’ Association Position Statement: Fluid Replacement for Athletes. J Athl Train 2000;35(2):212-24.

How to Work Out When You’re Traveling for Business

If you travel a lot for work, you may be having trouble keeping up your work out routine. But if you plan ahead, going out of town doesn’t have to mean putting exercise on the back burner.

Most hotels have fitness facilities on site, so call ahead and find out if that’s the case where you plan to stay. If there’s nothing on site, do a search on line to see if there are gyms nearby or ask the hotel’s concierge for a recommendation.

If you don’t have time to make it to a gym, pack a jump-rope or exercise DVD so that you can squeeze in some exercise in your hotel room before bed or right when you get up. Any other equipment that is small and light that you can pack is also a good idea.

There’s nothing like a good old fashioned push-up when you’re really strapped for time and a place to work out. Crunches, jumping jacks, lunges and squats are all great options too.

If you’ve got jet lag or are generally exhausted from traveling and long days of meeting, going for a brisk walk can get your endorphins going and your heart rate up. It may even give you energy for a more strenuous work out later in the day.

And whenever possible, try to exercise at the time of day you normally do when you’re at home. It may help jet lag and fatigue and will probably help you get back to your routine once you get home.