Monthly Archives: March 2011
I recently got a letter from a guy who was discouraged about his muscle development. When going over his program his issue became apparent. He didn’t quite understand what his body required to change.
First, you must be consistent. For example, when you rake the yard, you don’t immediately get calluses. Instead, you get tender skin and bleeding blisters. Your skin will go on to heal and basically return to its previous state. A callus only forms when the skin is consistently being worked and, more importantly, given time to repair.
Secondly, your program must be challenging. You only get blisters if you give your body more than it can handle on a regular basis. If you had only raked a small portion of your yard, I doubt you would get a blister all. Even if you raked the yard for thirty seconds every day, I doubt it would be challenging enough for your skin to build up much of a callus at all. Consistency and challenge are both equally necessary to produce change.
If you are not challenging your body, you are not changing your body. If you are challenging your body every once and a while, like a blister that heals, your body will also heal with little change. Your body reacts to the demands you place upon it and responds appropriately.
A musician understands this probably more than anyone. Not only does regular practice keep a pianist’s fingers nimble or keep calluses on a guitarist’s finger tips, but a musician understands each musical piece must be more challenging than the last to improve in skill. If a musician were to play the same thing over and over, there would be very little chance of improvement.
Think of the gym member who you’ve seen everyday since you’ve joined. You know the one I’m talking about – all clubs have them. It’s the member who does the same routine using the same weight everyday and their body looks exactly the same. This person has the consistency part down, but they quit challenging their body a long time ago.
Lastly, the same way blisters don’t appear overnight, you can’t expect muscles to pop up overnight either. Weight training requires patience, which many of us lack – including me! I want results now – doesn’t everyone? Giving up is simply not an option. Your body is more predictable than you think. Reshaping your body is not smoke and mirrors, it is basic science and it works.
There is a fine line between exercise and increased activity. Someone can walk everyday and still not exercise enough to help them lose weight. Although increasing activity can improve your health, it is not as effective when it comes to weight loss.
What is the difference between exercise and activity? A good example for activity would be walking your dog or a taking a morning stroll. Exercise is typically more structured and purposeful. Good examples would be a power walk, jog or aerobics class.
For most people, your heart rate is probably the best indicator of aerobic exercise and caloric expenditure. In order to find out where you should exercise you need to figure out your maximum heart rate, which according to the American Heart Association is 220 minus your age. Then, multiply that number by 65% for a low intensity workout or 85% for a higher intensity workout.
Here is an example for a thirty year old:
220 – 30 = 190BPM (beats per minute)
Heart rate for a low intensity workout would be 123.5BPM (190 X .65)
Heart rate high intensity workout would be 161.5BPM (190 X .85)
Tracking your heart rate can be pretty easy when using a treadmill. Most treadmills have a chart on the machine to tell you where you need to be, but what if you are out walking in your neighborhood? You can either buy a heart rate monitor or you can get an estimate by counting your heart beat within a ten second span and multiplying it by six.
For example, the same thirty year old would need to maintain a heart rate of 21 beats over a ten second span for a low intensity workout. For a higher intensity workout, the ideal heart rate would be 27 beats. Of course it is not as accurate as a heart rate monitor but it can give you an idea of where you are.
Although heart rate is normally the best indication of caloric expenditure, there are some exceptions. Some people’s resting heart rate can be slower than normal, a condition called Bradycardia, or it can be faster than normal, called Tachycardia. However, for the general population, the heart rate is the best way to monitor aerobic exercise and calories burned.
So, if you are not sure if you are exercising at the right pace, just ask your heart.
A few years ago I suffered from a muscle spasm after a shoulder workout. The spasm was yanking on my discs and throwing me all out of whack. Since I was leaving on vacation the following day, I immediately went running to Dr. Chris Stepanek at Total Health of Vero Beach for help. This was my first encounter with a Chiropractor and I was impressed to say the least.
I loved that he not only treated my discs but also worked on my actual spasm that was causing my discs to jump out of place. I continued with ice and anti-inflammatories, but it took weeks for me to recover.
When it came time to do shoulders again, it was only natural for me to be a little scared of re-injury. Fear is a natural response, but I knew that if I didn’t stay active I’d only face more problems down the road.
Since injuries tend to be a good excuse to avoid exercise, I asked Dr. Stepanek to share some tips to help people get back in the saddle and prevent future injury. The following advise may surprise you.
1. Keep moving. Don’t avoid the motion that caused the injury to begin with. “If you threw your back out doing squats, the first reaction is to avoid doing squats again” explains Dr. Stepanek. He warns avoiding the same motion that created the problem can only cause more problems down the road.
Many back injuries are due to weak or tight muscles. Avoiding exercises that would strengthen and stretch the area allows your body to become weaker, compounding the problem and making the patient even more fragile. Instead, Dr. Stepanek encourages patients to repeat the same motion that caused the injury at the earliest possible moment.
2. Let joints heal. Although you should get back into motion as soon as you can when it comes to muscle related injuries, injured joints are a different story. Dr. Stepanek says people should avoid strengthening muscles around injured joints too early in the healing process. The joint must be fully functional before you can begin strengthening muscles around it.
This is very difficult for impatient people on a quest to get fit, but it’s best to heal from a minor injury than to ignore it and cause more damage.
3. Ice is best. While bed rest and heat sounds a lot more appealing than applying a Ziploc bag of crushed ice to the middle of your bare back, ice is always a safe bet. A heating pad is not something you will find at Dr. Stepanek’s office, as heat causes an inflammatory response.
4. Get strong. Even though disc related low back pain is the number one condition treated at Total Health, Dr. Stepanek says it can be prevented and improved. Strengthening the core muscles splints the spine, giving the back more protection and support. Abdominal exercises are very beneficial as well as stretching exercises for the back, hamstrings and hip flexors.
If you have been using pain, or fear of injury, as an excuse to stay out of the gym, it’s time to look for another excuse. Dr. Stepanek says, “ It’s your future, be there healthy.”
Total Health of Vero Beach welcomes walk-ins. Call 778-BACK for more information.