Monthly Archives: June 2010

Not Worth the cheat…

It struck me last night that the tempting foods I want -those that aren’t good for either me or my waistline- usually end up disappointing.  The thought of the dessert or the treat is so appealling -but the reality doesn’t live up to that tempting impression.

And what to happens when that reality disappoints?  I want more- of the same or something different- in a search to fill that spot.  That desire.

None of it’s worth it. I don’t feel satisfied and the calories (or fat, or sugar or whatever) is a major sabotage to feeling better and getting leaner.

I need to remember this when I’m standing in the store and contemplating something that I know isn’t going to fulfill me in the end.  Saving the calories for the true treats – the occasional things that are decadent and extraordinary and worth the cheat.

Anyone have good suggestions for dealing with the craving when I know it will not satify?


Exercises Everybody SHOULD be doing- #1 The Deadlift

So I spent a couple posts talking about those exercises that I think everybody should stop doing.  I provided some alternatives in those posts, but then I realized I should come clean with some exercises that I think everybody SHOULD be doing (and likely aren’t).

So while you’re not wasting your time doing sit ups or sitting on the inner/outer thigh machines,  what should you be doing?

I’ve said it before, and I’ll likely say again, but I think everyone -especially women- should be doing deadlifts.

  1. ….it is a full-body workout that hits every major muscle group.
  2. Think about how you spend your day: picking up and carrying children, pets, groceries, clothes, etc.  Imagine one exercise that when you do it regularly prepares you for your every day life -and makes the repetition of those movements easier.
  • As a full-body exercise, this also stresses the major bones in our body-causing them to lay down more calcium and grow stronger.  This would include the lower back, hips, shoulders, thighs.  Exactly the bones that weaken in osteoporosis.
  • People worry about the deadlift -fearing that they will harm their lower back. This is a definite concern with poor form, but there ways to lessen this threat.One such way is to spend most of your time doing sumo deadlifts- standing with your legs wide apart, hanging your arms between your legs, and pulling up.  LOTS of leg strength is involved in this – so it will save your back.  And LOOK it’s a much better leg exercise than doing any silly inner/outer thigh machines!

    The Gubernatrix has a great post on how to do a sumo deadlift. There is no way I could write a better description of this lift than she has.  So go and enjoy. Take a couple notes.  And next time you’re near a something a bit heavy, give a sumo deadlift a try.

    eyeing the dogs sleeping on the floor… hmmm….

    The Hip Abductor Machine-Worthless Exercise (machine)#2

    Yesterday I started commenting on some of the Entirely Useless Exercises that too many people are continuing to do.  The first exercise tackled was the sit-up.

    Today, I’m actually going to tackle to useless machines in most commercial gyms: the hip abductor and hip adductor machines. These two are some of the most used items in our gym and I think they are totally useless. Besides, what can possibly be appealling about spreading your legs wide over and over again in the middle of a huge public gym?

    The users believe that pressing their thighs out or in against a weight is a good way to strengthen their inner/outer thighs and firm them up (read: make them smaller).  They will spend hours a week working these machines and wondering why they aren’t working.

    To me, these machines have problems with their range of motion and their design.  While I may wish to concentrate some of weekly exercise time on my hip adductors/abductors, both these machines seem to stop short of getting me a full range of motion.  Their design limits that first/last motion where the knees actually touch.  They also don’t resemble real life movements.

    But what would you do instead?  The best ways to strengthen these muscles?

    1. Lunges. Seriously, you use the abductors/adductors to stabilize yourself when you do a lunge.  Why not do 20 of these instead of spreading your legs on some odd machine?
    2. Step ups to balance. The time in every day when you use these muscles is when you’re stepping up or down.  Step up on a bench and find your balance.  Trust that to do so, you will use these muscles.
    3. Ball-wall squats with a medicine ball between your knees. Yep. Squeeze the ball as you do your wall squats.  It will bring the adductors into play while the squat itself is using your adductors.
    4. Bridges. The mere action of hip bridges brings these muscles in as you stabilize your midsection.

    Do you use these machines when you’re in the gym? Find them distasteful or useless?  Care about your inner or outer thigh?

    Entirely Useless Exercises, part one. The Sit-up

    Did you happen to see the list of 10 Useless Exercises posted by David Howard?  I found it from We Are the Real Deal where most of the commentors mentioned the truly odd facial exercises…

    I must agree with the list – and I’m truly happy to see sit-ups mentioned as useless.  (I’d add regular crunches or anything where the work is done by flexing the abdomen.)  While sit ups are not the strangest of the exercises, it is one that too many people still believe they MUST do to get a strong and flat stomach.

    This is a belief that I wish would go away as quickly as the concept that lifting heavy will make a woman all bulky.

    Anyway, why am I anti- sit-ups and crunches?  Mainly because Dr. Stuart McGill is.  McGill is the University of Ottowa (Canada) world-known expert on the lower back.  I read a quote from him once that suggested we have “x” number of flexions in our lower spine.  And we can choose to use those to bend over and tie our shoes when we’re 80, or we can do 100 crunches/day damage it that much sooner.

    In a T-Nation interview, he explained:

    Also among the misperceptions that I hear out there about the rectus abdominis, and upper vs. lower abdominals, is that you’ve got to work the rectus throughout its range of motion. Again these might be muscle physiologists speaking but not people who are cognizant of spinal mechanics. For example, when you look at the architecture of the rectus, it’s a muscle with four heads, four contractile components each separated by a lateral tendon.

    If it was a muscle designed to work through its full range of motion it would be one long continuous muscle—but it’s not. It anchors the obliques and transmits the hoop stresses laterally through those lateral tendons. If it wasn’t beaded, the oblique forces would rip it apart laterally. In many elite performances the abdominals contract isometrically. Too many bad backs are created by misinformed people thinking they need to train the rectus with repeated full flexion exercises. There are much better and safer ways to do this.

    If you shouldn’t be doing crunches/sit-ups to work your abs, what should you do?

    1. Planks.  And all plank variations.  This will strengthen the muscles of your posterior chain, teach these muscles to work as a unit, and teach them to stabilize your spine.
    2. Bridges. The opposing motion to the plank, bridges strengthen the anterior chain and pelvic floor.
    3. Bird dogs.  Kneeling on all fours, then extending one arm and the opposite leg teaches the core to stabilize with transverse motions.
    4. The side plank.  Again integrates stabilization of the abdominal/core muscles.

    Start Small

    The universe is sending me a message.  Something about thinking small and drawing a bottom line.  In the course of an hour of reading blogs, checking websites, I several times read the message I’m calling:  START SMALL.

    It began with Ali Hall’s post  on Little Man, Thinking Small Without Guilt: Setting Minimum Standards that suggested instead of setting grand achievements (lose 100#, participate in a triatholon, do 20 pull ups) that we concentrate FIRST on setting minimum standards. Maybe lose those first 10#, run a 5K or do the first pullup.

    Within minutes I read a couple other posts about taking small steps toward your goal. Accepting that moving in the direction is good even if one isn’t moving that fast.

    With this in mind, I feel compelled to look at my “I want to..” list, and first list the big picture items and then get realistic with the small stuff:

    1. Lose 30#.  But really be able to fit into the jeans and shirts that I was wearing 2 years ago.  If I could fit into them and the scale read the same as today?  I’d be happy.

    Short term: Today is the 14th and I weigh 148#.  I will be 3# lighter -or lose a total of 2″ in body measurements- by the end of the month.

    2. Strength goals.  Honesty here: I cannot achieve any of my strength goals until I get my shoulder fixed.  Which will likely be in September.  The full shoulder recovery time is a year – so AS MUCH AS I HATE TO, I must take most strength goals off the table.  However, I still have poor balance that can be improved through treating the movement impairments and muscle imbalances.

    Short term goal: I will spend 3 days in the next week specifically working on movement impairments.

    3. Diet.  I need to get back to eating more vegetables during the day.  This is what made me feel healthiest and fired the transformation in my body.

    Short term goal: eat 3-4 servings of a fiberous vegetable a day.  (and work up to 5-7).

    I have never used minimum standards or short term goals before.  I was always happy with whatever gain I made and never felt a pressure to accomplish anything by a certain date. Maybe why it took so long to lose wieght?  and why it’s taken months of saying “I need to lose the excess pounds” but not do anything about it.

    Have you ever approached a goal by setting your minimum standards?  Or short term goals?  Did it work?  What did you do when you didn’t accomplish these goals?

    Let’s Get (re)Started.. Week one?

    I’m pleased to see that several people are willing to come along on my journey of getting (re)started.  I’ve spent a week looking at the decisions I’ve made this past year that have gotten me where I am now (for the record, back to the 150# that drove me to the gym to lose weight the first time.  However, I’m a much fitter 150# than I was 4 years ago).

    I lost and kept off the weight for nearly 2 years by following a simple program:

    1. Fresh vegetables at almost every meal.  Plus fruit 2x a day.
    2. Limiting my starchy carbs to just before/after a workout.
    3. Cardio – HIIT 3xs a week.  And 30 minutes of steady state cardio the other days.
    4. Resistance training primarily in a metabolic fashion.  Low to medium reps/heavy weights/short rests.  I would start sweating within 5 minutes of beginning and not stop sweating until an hour or so after I stopped working out.
    5. Lean protein.
    6. Limited sugars and fried foods to “treat” status-once or twice a month.
    7. Plenty of rest.
    8. Lots of water.

    I got away from this path – first choosing to move away from the cardio, then increasing the weekly levels of sweets and starchy carbs.  Then, even if it was because of illness or injury, not working out as hard as I had. As soon as I backed off the cardio the weight started coming back – and yet I resisted simply adding the cardio back.

    Now, in respect to the scale, I’m back where I began.  This time, however, I know what to do:  all those steps above combined with a small decrease in my caloric intake and I’ll be back to my fighting weight in about 4-6 months.

    What is going to be the challenge for me?  Remembering to have enough vegetables ready to grab and add to any meal.  Last time, I finally conquered this challenge by making LARGE batches of roasted or grilled veggies evey 3-4 days, keeping those batches in the fridge and making sure I added them to every meal.  I also have to have on hand a small amount of hard cheese, balsamic vinegar, and other seasonings for the veggies to give me some variety.

    It’s truly surprising how clear minded, energized, and refreshed I feel when I base my diet on vegetables first.  And, luckily for me, this is PRIME FARMER’S MARKET season.

    The dirty details

    Let me get a clear picture of where I’m beginning (sigh, again).  These numbers look sadly familiar from 2006.

    • Height: 5’3″
    • Weight: 148#
    • BMI: 26 which puts me in the healthy range
    • BodyFat: about 30% (the edge of healthy/overweight)

    To track my progress, I am using a couple high tech improvements that I didn’t use last time:

    • BodyBugg. Slip this on to get a honest read on my activity and caloric burn.
    • Calories Counter. A simple app on my Android.  My phone is always with me.  So I don’t have to remember what I eat and then add it when I get back to my computer.  It has nice features- it will read the barcode of most foods that I buy at the store and automatically add the data to my food intake.

    Yes, it would be nice to only use item for the entire program- but BodyBugg doesn’t have an Android app (they DO have an iPhone app, I understand).

    I went to NutritionData (as it’s available for free to anyone online).. filled out their nutrition calculator. The suggestions were right in line with what I get everywhere:

    Your Recommended Ranges
    Carbohydrate: 45 to 65% of total Calories
    Fat: 20 to 35% of total Calories
    Protein: 10 to 35% of total Calories

    Pretty safe recommendations here -and a pretty wide variation.  My personal aim is to get my carbs right around the 45% mark- with almost all of those coming from vegetables and fruit.  Protein at the 35% mark will leave me with fat at 20%.