How to start a fitness program or step up your game

Who’s excited for the New Year? You may be thinking “new year, new me,” so you want to either start an exercise program or step up your game. I am here today to help you with that! This is a time where so many people get injured because they are trying to start a fitness program for the first time or they’re trying to step it up too quickly. And nearly 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail. Let’s take this as an opportunity to help you think about some different aspects of fitness, so you can prevent injury and get the most out of your fitness and your health this year.

Know your baseline

The first and most important thing is knowing your baseline. Are you a beginner, intermediate, or advanced fitness enthusiast? Do you have any pain or discomfort, or any potentially old injuries that you’re dealing with? What is your mobility/ stability, or functional movement, baseline? Working with a qualified professional to properly screened and know exactly what your starting point is highly recommended.  If you don’t have that opportunity, then you really want to be able to seriously reflect on your true baseline, your starting point, so that you know how to systematically progress safely from there. Once you figured that out, now we can jump into what to include in your fitness program.

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1)Warm-up and prepare

This does not mean jumping on the treadmill for five minutes to get your body warmed up for your workout. It means taking the time to tune into your body. Notice what pain or tension you might have that day. Are you tired? Did you eat well that day?  Really take a deep inward look to see how you are feeling that day and how that will affect your workout. Once you’ve established that, then you can think about how can you prepare yourself best for the demands of the activity that you are about to embark on. If you are going to do strength training for example, then doing some static stretching, ie holding a stretch for 30 seconds, is not beneficial. Instead, think about how you can prepare your body for the demands of the activity. For example, instead of jumping on a treadmill and walking for five minutes, you could do lunges with a reach. This will help to activate and wake up your whole body and nervous system, so you are fully prepared for your workout. 

2) The systematic progression of your activity.

For this to be successful, it is vital to have a preparation period. One to three months preparation time is recommended to prepare for it, so that you can just go into it with ease. The last thing you want it to do is create stress, ie. Inflammation, on your body.  You’ll want to make sure it is the right time in your life and things are relatively calm. It is extremely challenging to eat out when you are on the Elimination Diet. Lastly, it’s often easier if you slowly work out one to three foods at a time and find replacements for them before you begin. You want to be fully prepared, which is why it is strongly recommended to work with a professional to guide and support you through the process.   

How to do this for a running program

If you are just starting out with a running program, running for 30 minutes three times a week is unrealistic, especially if you haven’t done that in months or years. That will set you up for injury. When, starting a running program, or any program for that matter, you want put stress on your body, and then take it off, put stress on your body, and take it off, and so on. This will create an adaptation, which means you are getting your body familiar to a certain exercise or training program through repeated exposure. This will help to create fascial elasticity in our body, like a rubber band, which can really aid in preventing injury. If you want to start a running program, make sure that you can walk for 30 minutes three times a week first without any symptoms before you progress to running in any capacity. You encounter 1-1.5 x your body weight in force with walking and almost double that with running. When you’re symptom-free and ready to progress, you would slowly start with a walk-jog interval. You could start with the one minute of walking and one minute of jogging. I would suggest starting at five minutes total, so it’s only a few minutes total running time. Once you feel comfortable with that, then you can slowly progress to 10 minutes, and then 15 minutes and so on. This is going to take weeks to months to get you to 30 minutes of running. On the other hand, if you’ve already been running, and you want to step it up you could follow the same protocol, but you would just have a different baseline than a beginner does. For example, if you want to go from 20 minutes to 30 minutes, then every other day you can add a few more minutes to your run assuming there’s no symptoms, pain, discomfort, or injuries. You can continue to progress that way to achieve whatever goal you have.

How to do this for strength training program: If you’re strength training for the first time, I would suggest starting at two sets of eight to 12 repetitions two times a week. Then you can slowly progress that towards three sets of 10-12 repetitions three days a week.

How to do this for a yoga program: There are a lot of different yoga classes out there, but you need to make sure that it’s a yoga class that you can do safely. For example, a Hatha yoga class may be more appropriate for a beginner as opposed to a power yoga class. It doesn’t mean that you can’t ever do that, it just means to start with something where you can learn how to control your body and coordinate your movement with your breath first before you go into something more advanced.

How to do this for a HITT training program: Please reference the video on for pros and cons of HIIT training here or read the blog post here. For the intermediate to advanced fitness enthusiast, this can be great way for you to step up your program. Beginners have a higher injury risk because they really need to develop a basic fitness or strength baseline before they move into something more advanced like HITT training.

3) Cool-down

A cool-down is different for every person. It could be a short walk, stretching, basic breath work, or even meditation. It can also be a great way to reflect on what happened in that session. That means reflecting on what went right and what didn’t go as well.  Does your body feel energized and revitalized or does it feel kind of worn down and sore? Did you work too hard or not hard enough? Use this information as an opportunity to change your next session.

Summary

Fitness is a journey, no matter if you are a beginner, intermediate, or advanced. You are always fine tuning, and reflecting on how to maximize what your doing.  Do you need to add yoga in because you’re doing too much strength and HITT training? Do you do too much yoga and need to add in strength and  power exercises? I definitely encourage you to reach out to a professional that can help you reach your goals while staying injury- free. It is important to take ownership of your health and movement to be able to continue to stay pain-free for a lifetime.

If you are interested in feeling your best and you need help, reach out to schedule an appointment to get you started on your journey.

Pros and Cons of HIIT

With the holidays coming around, many of you may want to get fit as fast as you can. We all know deep down that’s not the best solution. But, part of improving your fitness quickly probably includes some kind of speak of high intensity interval training (HIIT). As with anything, there are pros and cons of HIIT and I’d like to educate you on making an informed decision of whether or not it’s appropriate for you.

What is HIIT?

You may be asking yourself what is HITT ? It is essentially a vigorous activity, followed by a low to moderate intensity activity in an interval format that is often done between five to 30 minutes, and the intervals can range from 15 seconds to two to three minutes. There are many options to perform HITT such as using bodyweight, calisthenics, free weights, or even a machine like an elliptical or stair climber.

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Pros

First, it can help to decrease body fat, as well as improve overall metabolic rate. Metabolic rate is really important because it helps you to burn more calories throughout the course of the day when you’re not working out, which is really powerful. Second, it can help improve oxygenation, which is the muscles ability to use oxygen. This means if you do 60 minutes of HITT training versus 120 minutes of steady state cardio you can have the same benefits. This leads me to my next point, which is that you get maximum benefit for decreased time investment. Since we are all super busy and stressed for time, and can’t find the time in the day to exercise, this can be very valuable. It has been shown to also increase muscle growth, however, that is not the gold standard of muscle building.  Strength training always wins. Even though there has been shown some benefit, it’s not the most valuable way to build muscle.

Cons

Let’s shift gears now and talk about some of the disadvantages. First, it can lead to a higher injury risk. Some of the reasons why I think this happens is because many people that choose to do HITT training are often deconditioned at first and they think ” this is a fast way to get in shape”. So, they begin doing it at a high volume, high intensity and often do not have a solid movement foundation, or even a fitness foundation to support it. This is why I would recommend starting out slow and then gradually building yourself up. Second, recovery time is always important in exercise, but it is especially important in HITT training. This is because it is a physical stressor on your body, so you need more time to recover. HIIT four to six days a week is extremely high because the it may take two to three days to recover from a session.  I typically recommend my patients and clients do it no more than two to three days a week if they are an appropriate candidate. Lastly, if you are training for a sport or a movement skill, you need to make sure that you’re really focusing on the specificity. HITT training is not geared towards specificity whatsoever. It is general conditioning, so you may want to consider that with your training goals.  

Other considerations:

  1. Stress? Are you experiencing a tremendous amount of acute or chronic stress in your life. If so, I do not recommend HITT training, because again, it is a significant stressor, a physical stressor. This can contribute to a constant cascade of stress hormones which also can further impact hormonal and immune health.
  2. Beginner? If you are a beginner, I do not recommend HITT training. Learn how to develop the proper movement patterns, learn about your body, and really understand what’s happening to be able to recognize if you are feeling discomfort or pain. Tune in through mindful movement and develop a basic level of fitness first before volume and intensity is added.
  3. Intermediate to Advanced? If you have been working out for a while and you want to take things to the next level to really boost your cardiovascular fitness and fat loss, then I think HITT training can be really valuable.

Summary

Nothing is black and white. It’s really about understanding the different pros and cons of this or any other fitness program to see if it is appropriate for you at this time in your life. If it is not appropriate for you at this time in your life, then just hold off and revisit it later.  It will always be there.  Movement is a skill that you keep refining your whole life. There’s so much to learn. You really want to continue that journey forever, so there’s always room for improvement.

If you are not sure where to start, please reach out to schedule a private session to begin your movement journey.

3 Simple Informal Mindfulness Practices

Let’s chat about some informal mindfulness practices that you can do in your day to day life to become more aware, more present, and more connected. Often times we think about meditation as sitting in a meditative seat for 30 to 45 minutes. You might think, “how on Earth and I am going to do that?” I want to reinforce how important that practice can be in an overall mindfulness practice, however, that’s not for everyone. There are many things that you could do in your daily life to become more present in your own life, become more connected, more aware and hopefully help you to live your best life.

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Three Informal Mindfulness Practices

  1. Find an anchor.
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How to decrease sugar cravings in 3 days

With the holidays in full gear, many of us struggle with those darn sugar cravings. Some people suffer with some type of sugar craving or even a so-called sugar addiction all year long.

We know that sugar cravings cause a dopamine response as well as other neuro chemicals that ultimately creates a biochemical and neuro chemical response in the body. The addiction of sugar can cause a similar response in the brain as in drugs, alcohol or cigarettes.  However, there’s a little bit more to sugar cravings than just that.

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Sugar Cravings and Gut Bacteria

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Are you overpatterned?

Did you know the body is actually very asymmetrical in its structure? This is due to the organs which are oriented in a very calculated way and separated from our right and left side of the body. We have our liver and gallbladder on the right, and our pancreas, spleen, stomach, and most of our heart on the left. We have different functions of our hemispheres in our brain, too. So, there’s so much asymmetry in our body, and it’s really powerful.

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Asymmetry in athletes

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