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Feb 22, 2011

Interval Training for Fat Loss

"Interval Training" is quite the buzz word in the fitness industry lately.  In case you have been living under a rock (and I'm not saying I have something against people living under a rock.  If you enjoy living under a rock, that's perfectly OK with me), you have heard that interval training is superior over "steady-state" cardio for fat loss.  Good news and bad news.... Good news: interval training takes less time than stead-state cardio, and you get better benefits.  Bad news: Most people don't quite understand the concept of interval training and are not getting the maximum benefit.  There is more good news.  I have decided to put up a random picture in a random spot in this post.  Check it out:

Hopefully, this post will help you understand the concept of interval training and how to approach it to help you with your goals.   I'm even going to throw in a couple of interval workouts to try.  

One quick note on "steady-state" cardio... It's not that I hate steady-state cardio.  I'm a runner myself (not a fast one, except when people are chasing me, like cops on Friday nights) and I enjoy it.  I find it a good way to stay active.  But when I'm trying to get lean, I prioritize intervals at the top before any steady-state cardio.  So if you are a runner, walker, etc., etc., certainly don't stop if you enjoy it.  But if you hate it, then intervals is really good news for you.

Hey dude, what are intervals?

Intervals are periods of high intensity work (hard), followed by a recovery period (easy)Some people don't do the intervals hard enough, and some people don't recover "easily" enough, not allowing them to do the intervals at the necessary intensity.

Alright, here's the deal. 
  • The #1 rule before doing intervals (especially for running) is that you MUST warm-up before doing intervals.  This is to prepare the body for the intervals, as well as prevent injury.  It's for your own good, so don't give me that look.
  • You must cool-down after intervals
Let's use a scale of 1 to 10 and pretend we're outside running.  1 is walking ridiculously slow, and 10 is running for your life. Got it?  Good.  But I understand that everybody is different, and that is OK.  So, to help "shed some light", let's say you're a beginner.  A 9/10 intensity for you might be walking briskly.  An advanced athlete will find a 9/10 intensity as sprinting with 90% effort.  Simply use the scale based on YOUR fitness level.

For the following example, let's use a 3/10 intensity for your recovery, and a 9/10 for your intervals.  That means your recovery period should be a comfortable pace (about a warm-up pace). 

20 seconds (9/10) interval
40 seconds (3/10) recovery

Do the above interval and recovery periods 6 - 8 times.  That means this interval workout will only last around 16-18 minutes including a warm-up and cool-down.  Pretty cool, huh?  What's not cool is if I messed up the math and my wife sees this and gets upset because she's a math teacher.

Let's say you want to change things up and running, biking, and using an elliptical is not your thing.  That's cool.  You can do intervals with body-weight movements, too.  Here is an example:

30 seconds of Mountain Climbers, followed by 30 seconds of rest 

Do the above 6-8 times.

Try some interval training after your next strength workout.  Put them in your fat loss tool kit.  

To your fitness success,

Feb 16, 2011

Ab Exercises ... Which Ones Work??

Recently, I read a REALLY good article by strength and conditioning coach Michael Boyle.  You can read that article here.  Again, GREAT article... I hope it helps you with your perception of the coveted "six-pack".  That got me thinking... I haven't done a good post on what ab exercises are great for core strength, which in turn can help with back pain.  Any good "core routine" doesn't involve a bunch of crunches.  Crunches are ... well, don't get me started.  There are many better exercises you can do to get your core good and strong, and help with the ab definition.  But, just like Michael Boyle said, the best exercise for 6-pack abs is the "table push-away" :)

Just say no to crunches!

Some Better Core Exercises:
(To see descriptions, simply click on the link at the top of each video)

Stability Ball Jackknife
(To really get fancy, you can do a jackknife push-up as shown... but the jackknife is what's shown, but minus the push-up)
X Mountain Climber (also known as the Cross Mountain Climber)

Plank (You may think they're boring, but they work!... Too easy?  Try this stability ball plank)

Stability Ball Rollout

Those are the exercises my clients use to get a stronger core.  You won't see them doing any silly sit-ups or crunches.  You don't need any fancy equipment to get a strong core.  You can do these right at home.  You can get a stability ball almost anywhere these days.  But always remember...


To your fitness success,

Feb 10, 2011

7 Things Said During the Birth of My Son

This post has nothing to do with fitness or nutrition.  I've had several people come to me asking about my experience as a first-time Dad and how it went down.  So, this should pretty much sum it up and hopefully give you a few chuckles to get you through the rest of the week.  Enjoy...

Top 7 Things Said During Labor

1. Sabrina: "I don't want to alarm you, but I think my water broke".  Mike: "But... the playoffs are on.... really, now?"
2. Mike (inside of my head):  "I wonder if this hospital has a fitness center and would it be politically incorrect to sneak off and do a workout... I mean c'mon... it's going to be a while"
3.  Mike: "If you don't take an epidural, I will"
4. Mike: "Oh sweet, the playoffs will be on in the background while in labor, that's pretty awesome!"  Sabrina: "Yes hon, you're probably in heaven (dramatic pause)... you're not going to watch that your son is being born are you?."
5. Sabrina: "Are you seriously playing Angry Birds??"
6. Mike: "All of a sudden, I want pancakes.  That's weird.  Pancakes.  Paaaaaaancakes."  Sabrina: "Seriously?"
7. Mike (during delivery) "This is kinda tiring to keep fanning you to keep you cool... Ha-ha! I'm kidding"  Sabrina: "(in a sarcastic tone)... Ha-ha, you're so funny Mike... sooooo funny"

 I feel weird signing off with my usual "to your fitness success", but hey, it's my blog and I can do what I want:

To your fitness success,

Feb 3, 2011

It's February, Are You Still in the Game?

Well, February has arrived.  This is when most people on the "New Year kick" typically, and unfortunately, give up. What usually happens is one or more of the following:

  • Burn-out from starting off too hard (going from not working out to working out 5-7 days/week)
  • Their diet doesn't match their workouts (they still have bad nutrition habits)
  • They start off gung-ho and go from pancakes and pizza to cauliflower and fish overnight
  • They are doing the wrong program based on their lifestyle and current physical condition
 Certainly don't give up.  Here is a step-by-step process that you can use yourself to figure out your own game plan to get back to your fitness goals. This may not be the one-all, be-all list, but it is an approach I used for my own fitness success.

  1. Take an inventory of your kitchen and get rid of the junk food (chips, cookies, candy, soda, etc, etc.).  If you feel guilty about throwing it away, take some time to take it to the local shelter.
  2. Figure out a diet that best suits you.  I did a blog about different approaches HERE.  This will take some time and a little bit of research.  Your nutrition plan will be your foundation of success.  Be honest with yourself and be sure it is something you can stick to. If you know you won't be able to eat 6 meals a day, then don't plan on that type of diet.
  3. Plan, plan, plan. I would rather you miss a workout so that you can spend that time at a grocery store getting everything you need to stick to your nutrition plan.  Then take a couple of hours on a Saturday or Sunday (or any day for that matter when you're not working) and prepare your meals in advance.  That way, when you leave work and don't feel like making anything, you won't hit the fast food joint.  Also, be honest with yourself and know that you can reward yourself with a cheat meal or two each week.  Don't try to be 100% perfect 100% of the time.  Give yourself some wiggle room.  For instance, I'm patting myself on the back on SuperBowl Sunday :)
  4. Take a look at your calendar and figure out 3 days during the week that you can make time for exercise.  Make sure you can commit to these 3 days without any excuses.  You can always add days later.  But for now, stick with 3/week for at least a month.  Mark them down in your appt book.  They are that important.

Bonus tip:  If you now have really bad eating habits, take baby steps.  If you only eat 1 serving of vegetables a day for now, try to aim for 2 servings/day for at least a week.  Once you succeed at doing that, then move onto your next goal.

So what if you have slipped up a little bit.  That's no excuse to give up.  We all make mistakes. It's just a matter of bouncing back from them.

To your fitness success,