Sunday, 15 May 2011

Why Women Should Weight Train

Lifting weights, also known as weight training, strength training or resistance training helps to strengthen your muscles and your heart. It also creates a leaner physique and a body that is better able to support your everyday needs and activities. However despite its many benefits, women still tend to shy away from this beneficial form of exercise because of a misplaced fear that they will "bulk" up and look like an overly muscular body builder.

Most men, whose bodies naturally contain much greater amounts of testosterone and growth hormones, can lift heavy weights, yet still struggle to add muscle. Unless they are supplementing with dangerous and unhealthy steroids, most men do not naturally bulk up by lifting weights, and neither will most women. The idea that women get big muscles from weight training is a misconception. The fact of the matter is that women must lift weights in order to achieve the lean, sculpted bodies they desire.
Most muscular body building women take steroids or growth hormone to build their big muscles. The average woman who weight trains, will simply achieve a slim, healthy body without adding unwanted muscle mass.
Women who rely on vigorous cardiovascular activity and a low calorie diet to change their physical appearance are just punishing their soul and plummeting their metabolism. Women further benefit from strength training because of the increase in resting metabolism created by strength training. Because of this increase, women who are trying to reduce body fat will do so more easily. When done consistently, strength training increases muscle fibre size. Once muscle fibres enlarge, they consume more energy - which boosts our metabolisms
Chances are that no matter how much weight you lift, you will never have the problem of building too much muscle mass. Ladies, I encourage you: Let go of your preconceived ideas about weight training. Do not fear it. Embrace your weightlifting potential! Your body and overall health will benefit so much more from it than spending hours on the treadmill.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

The Benefits of Yoga

When I think of exercising, I think of challenging and exhausting the body. Heavy weights, squatting, jumping, sprinting, pushing, pulling, sweating and puffing. I don't think of laying on a mat and stretching. We have all heard of yoga and you have probably heard that it is good for you. If you have ever tried this form of exercise you would notice just how much better you feel when you walk out of the class. What are the benefits of yoga you can expect to enjoy from doing it regularly? You will notice there are both physical and mental benefits that yoga will bring:

Physical Benefits of Yoga

Flexibility: Stretching your body in new ways will help it to become more flexible. You will find a greater range of motion to your muscles and joints. With continuous practice you can expect to gain flexibility in your back, hamstrings, shoulders and hips. Every day movements in life will feel so much easier!

Strength: A lot of yoga poses require you to support the weight of your own body in different ways. The Tree Pose has you supporting your weight on one leg and a Downward Dog  has you supporting yourself with your arms. Some exercises require you to move slowly in and out of poses, which also increases strength.

Muscle tone: As your muscles begin to strengthen and grow you can expect to see increased muscle tone. Yoga will help build long and lean muscles. More muscle = more fat burning too!

Pain Prevention: Increasing your flexibility and strength can also help prevent the some types of back pain. Sitting at a computer or driving a car can result in muscle tightness and spinal compression. Yoga will improve your spinal alignment both in and out of class, which can help prevent many other types of pain.

Better Breathing: Most of us breathe very shallow into our lungs and don't give much thought to how we are breathing. Yoga focuses the attention on the breath and teaches us how to make the most of our lungs, which will benefit the entire body. Deep breathing in to the belly can also help clear the nasal passages and even calm the central nervous system. This will have both physical and mental benefits.

Mental Benefits of Yoga

Mental Clarity: Yoga can be quite physical. Concentrating so intensely on what your body is doing has the effect of bringing a calmness to the mind. Yoga also introduces you to meditation techniques, such as focusing on how you breathe. This will disengage you from your thoughts for a moment, which will help calm the mind.

Body Awareness: Practising yoga will give you an increased awareness of your body. You are often guided to make small, subtle movements to improve your alignment. Over time, this will increase your level of comfort in your body. You can expect an improved posture and greater self-confidence.

Stress Reduction: We all know that physical activity is good for relieving stress, and yoga is no different. Because of the concentration required, your daily troubles seem to melt away during the time you are doing yoga. This gives you a break from the stresses and allows you to put things into perspective. Yoga puts you in the moment and will stop you from stewing on past events or thinking about the future. I guarantee you will leave a yoga class feeling much less stressed than when you started.

These are just a few of the many benefits of yoga. Why not try the benefits of yoga for yourself. Try it out with a friend for something new. Your body will thank you for it and you will probably see improvements in your other forms of training too! Lifting heavier weights and running faster may be just around the corner!

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Exercise Excuses - Busted!

I have heard plenty of reasons from people for either giving up on exercise or failing to start! Some of the reasons such as “I broke my leg and my arm” are quite valid. Then there are people who come up with an excuse to get out of exercising. “My dog ate my running shoes” is not acceptable! Here is a list of the more common excuses and how you can overcome them:

1.      I am too busy and I don't have time: Unless you work 100 hours a week, you have time! The President of the USA finds time to exercise regularly. You need to make exercise a priority in your schedule and you will find you have more than enough time. You don't have to find an hour each day, just 30 minutes a few times a week is better than nothing. It's as simple as waking up 30 minutes earlier or skipping your favourite TV program a few times a week. If you plan your life well, you will always find time for a quick workout.
2.      I can't afford to go to a gym: While the gym might be a better place to work out, it certainly isn't the only option. You can still walk or jog in the park and you can still do some simple body weight exercises in the comfort of your own home. You will find literally 100's of exercises to perform at home if you searched the internet. While gym prices are often getting more expensive there are also a lot of cheaper gyms that have memberships for less than $10 a week. Still don’t have the cash? Save the money you spend on beer or coffee to buy a membership.
3.      I got injured (6 years ago): Unless you are physically unable to walk or have been advised by a doctor to do NO exercise, then it is time to get off your backside and stop using an injury as an excuse. There are always exercises to do that will not interfere with your injury and some that will probably even help in your rehabilitation. A physiotherapist or most personal trainers will be able to show you many exercises that will not cause you any more damage. If you have a sore knee then do some upper body weight training. If you have a sore shoulder then go for a run or do some lower body exercises.
4.      I don't like going alone: Why not join up with a friend, partner or family member. If no one else is interested then simply go to the gym and make friends there. Most people train at the same time each day, so if you make a regular time to visit I guarantee you will meet new people. If you can afford to hire a personal trainer, get one to revamp your exercise program.
5.      I have a baby to take care of: More gyms are now having nursery or child care sections for your kids so it is as simple as finding one that does. They are often free or a very small cost. You can even bring the kids along for an exercise session outdoors! Once the kids are older think about family outings that you and the kids can get active together, like bike riding. Or if you have a baby or toddler, push them around in a pram for an extra workout!
6.      I'm too old to start exercising: You are never too old to start exercising: Working out may not remove your wrinkles on your skin, but it will definitely bring a smile to your face. It will build your stamina, help you to lose weight and reduce stress which will allow you to live longer and healthier! Resistance training is also really important for the older population as it helps to maintain bone and muscle mass which can positively affect the quality of your life.
7.      I'm too fat and I'm embarrassed to exercise: Unless you are really obese and your doctor asks you not to exercise then your excuse is not valid! Start with something simple. Even if you just walk for 15 minutes a day. Soon you will be able to jog or even run. The same goes for people who want to work out in gym. If you are worried about others looking at you, then start by exercising at home. Buy a set of dumbbells. You can do many exercises with some basic equipment. But trust me, most people are busy exercising and will not spend time looking at you!

Friday, 6 May 2011

You're not Tired, You're Thirsty!

As a Personal Trainer I work with a number of clients each day. A common question I ask them before a workout is: How are you feeling? I am often told that they are feeling tired, sluggish or lethargic. In fact there seems to me that there are a large number of people who live their lives feeling exhausted and tired. The first question I ask them is: How much have you had to drink today? When a 4pm client tells me that they had a coffee at morning tea and a juice at lunch, I know exactly why they are tired. They are dehydrated!

The human body is made up of around 60% water, which is a huge amount! Being just mildly dehydrated can sap your energy levels and make you tired. While our busy lives are often blamed for headaches and feeling tired, did you know that these symptoms are among the most common signs of dehydration? There are many studies that indicate up to 75% of the population are dehydrated. Many of us don’t even realise that we are dehydrated because a lot of the common symptoms (headache, fatigue, dizziness, muscle weakness) could be attributed to other causes.

So how much water do you need? The answer to this question varies from person to person. Every day you lose water through sweating, breathing and going to the toilet! For your body to function properly, you need to replace the lost water by consuming food and drinks that contain water. Thirst alone isn't always a good way to gauge your bodies need for a drink. The older you are, the less you're able to sense that you're thirsty. During exercise a large amount of your fluid reserves may be lost before you even feel thirsty. It is vital that you are sufficiently hydrated before, during and after exercise.

We have all heard of the 8 glasses per day rule. This is not always true. According to research there are several factors that can influence your water needs:
  • Exercise: If you exercise or participate in any activity that makes you sweat, you will need to drink more water to compensate for the fluid loss.
  • Environment: In hot or humid weather you will need to drink more water to help lower your body temperature and to replace what you lose through sweating.
  • Health conditions: Some signs and symptoms of illnesses, such as fever, vomiting and diarrhea, cause your body to lose extra fluids. These fluids also need to be replaced. Being pregnant or if you are breast-feeding will also require you to add to your water intake.
What we all need to do is make drinking water a part of your normal routine. Here are a few tips:
  • Drink a large glass of water as soon as you wake. This will rehydrate you after a nights sleep and also kick start your metabolism.
  • Drink a glass of water with each meal and between each meal.
  • Take water breaks instead of coffee or tea breaks.
  • Substitute sparkling water for alcoholic drinks at social gatherings.
  • Remember that alcohol and caffeinated drinks will actually dehydrate you.
You will soon know you are drinking enough water. Your energy levels will increase and you will feel much better!

Sunday, 1 May 2011

10 Surprisingly Healthy Foods

When we think of a "healthy food", we most likely think of the obvious choices such as broccoli, blueberries and green tea. However there are some surprisingly healthy foods that if chosen and prepared properly, they can also offer us a great deal of health benefits. Take a look at the list and what nutritional benefits they have:

1. Peanut Butter and other nut butters: They are high in monounsaturated fat and protein. Nut butters are delicious, filling and have those omega-3 oils too. Why not try it with on celery sticks, or have it on your wholemeal toast.

2. Guacamole: Yes, avocados are full of fat, but most of it is the good kind of fat that looks after your heart. They're loaded with Vitamin E and potassium, plus the tomatoes are full of lycopene and the lime kicks up the absorption factor of those nutrients. Beware of some guacamole's in stores that contain sour cream. But trust me, it's more delicious and fresh-tasting without it. You can even try guacamole as a spread in replace of butter!

3. Oysters: These creamy and meaty creatures of the sea taste great and pack a big nutritional punch! Just one oyster provides your daily recommended amount of zinc, a trace element that's necessary for a lot of things, including conception. Oysters have also been labeled as a bedroom mood enhancer, if you know what I mean!

4. Pork: Choose the right cuts such as tenderloin, boneless loin chops, even center-cut bacon. Pork rivals lean poultry as a healthy choice for complete protein. Pork tenderloin is as lean as a skinless chicken breast, and any cuts from the loin (pork chops and pork roast) are even leaner than a skinless chicken thigh. Pork is also an excellent source of B vitamins such as niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, and B-6 (pyridoxine).

5. Chocolate: If you love chocolate, you may already know that a little can be great for your health. Small portions of dark chocolate may help reduce high blood pressure, reduce LDL (the "bad cholesterol"), and reduce the risk of diabetes by boosting insulin sensitivity. The key here is "dark." Choose dark chocolate with a cacao content of 70 percent or more and keep the portions small! Yummy!

6. Beef: Again, knowing the healthiest cuts is key. Beef tenderloin has about the same calorie and fat content as skinless chicken thighs.  It is rich in protein and vitamin B12, selenium, zinc, iron, phosphorus, and B Vitamins. Beef is versatile and flavourful and when prepared with the right sides it makes a healthful meal.

7. Eggs: Once though of as an artery-clogging food, eggs have recently been given the tick by new research. Packed with nutrients, one egg contains 13 essential vitamins and minerals, high-quality protein, and healthy unsaturated fats for just 75 calories. While yolks do contain about 213mg of dietary cholesterol (the daily limit is 300mg), eating a whole egg a few times per week falls within heart-healthy guidelines if cholesterol from other sources, such as meats, poultry and dairy products, is limited. If you’re watching your cholesterol, you can still turn to egg whites as a healthful source of protein. Sunday breakfast never tasted so good!

8. Coffee: Obviously if you drink too much, caffeinated coffee can give you the jitters and interfere with sleep. Coffee is full of antioxidants. Studies show that drinking coffee regularly may reduce your risk of Parkinson’s disease, colon cancer, diabetes, and even headaches. Scientists also believe that coffee may play a role in improving memory and decreasing the risk of Type 2 diabetes. Multiple studies have shown that coffee drinkers are up to 80 percent less likely to develop Parkinson's disease. In other studies, colon cancer was reduced by about 25 percent in individuals who drank at least 2 cups a day. While more research is needed, most health experts now believe that the health benefits of coffee outweigh the negatives.

9. Bananas: For some reason bananas get a bad diet rap. Maybe because one large banana counts as two servings of fruit. Bananas are calorie-dense, due to their low water content, but even a giant banana has fewer calories than a slice of most breads. Bananas also boost the nervous system, kick up the metabolism and help the body make the most of its protein. Banana Smoothies can be healthy!

10. Mushrooms: Mushrooms add flavor and real nutrition. Mushrooms are the only vegetable source of vitamin D, a nutrient many people are short on these days. It's a small amount but research suggests sunlight may give it a boost. One study found that exposure to five minutes of ultraviolet light may boost Vitamin D levels in a serving (4 to 5 white button mushrooms) from 4 percent of the Daily Value to as much as 100 percent (400 IU). In addition, many popular mushroom varieties like white, portabella, and crimini are good sources of B vitamins like riboflavin and niacin.

So stop shying away from these nutritious foods! Just be careful with how you prepare them. Enjoy!