Shari Duncan

Tag: Plateaus

Is Your Time in the Gym Time Well Spent?
Admin

by on Aug.10, 2013, under Fitness, Motivation, Natural Bodybuilding, Strength and Agility Training

How balanced is your training program?

Are you training chest and back as  frequently as legs?…  How much recovery time do you allow between workouts?…  Are your fitness goals written out and  are you progressing towards those goals?…  How do you know if you are getting in enough cardio hours… do you designate time each week for stretching, ab and core work?…
What about time management? Do you pace yourself,  and give enough time to recover in between sets, or perhaps spend too much time socializing with other gym goers?
This is why keeping a training journal can be most helpful.  Workout logs are beneficial for beginners as well as seasoned lifters.  I’d say they are essential if you are serious about achieving your fitness goals.

Why keep a journal?

  • Motivation. Looking back at where you come from is inspiring.
  • Awareness. You get an understanding of what works for you.

    Training logs provide accountability, progress, and motivation for your training sessions.

  • Experience. You learn from your errors: injuries, etc.
  • Confidence. You’ve got a plan when you go to the gym.

The process of writing down your loads, sets, reps, etc.  helps you to better remember the workout.  It’s nice to be able to flip back and see what weight you used and how many sets and reps you did.   The process of keeping a log enables seasoned lifters to critically analyze their programs and see if they’re truly delivering results.

Also, use your log to jot down important notes such as machine settings, how the set felt; (light, heavy), how you felt that day (energized, fatigued, hungry, sore).

Keeping a journal accelerates the learning process.

By writing down your workouts you are taking an additional few minutes to process what you have learned, repeat the concepts and terminology to yourself, and ingrain it into your brain.

If you are a beginner it is likely you will be able to beat previous efforst every week for several months. As you establish new routines, it is helpful to know what you did your previous workout and to have a specific goal for each training session. Logging workouts helps you remember the appropriate weights to use. Beginners struggle most with remembering not only which exercises to do, but in which order, how many sets, reps, etc.  because everything is new to them.  They’re not yet familiar with the names of exercises, the loads they used, etc. so training logs for beginners are essential.  I have been  journaling  for several years now and still write notes in the margins to remind me of proper set-up and/or form on certain exercises.

Tracking results and being able to check your progress lets you know if what you’re doing is or isn’t working.   If you make notes about your workout, you are also less likely to spend time chatting between sets or resting too long.   Seeing your gains on paper will reaffirm that you are progressing, and as a result motivation will likely increase or stay high.

The basic benefits of journaling

  • Faster learning
  • Remembering weights
  • Having information to analyze
  • Tracking progress
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Mental Strength… Do you Exercise your Mind?
Shari

by on Mar.10, 2013, under General HEALTH, Motivation, Natural Bodybuilding, Strength and Agility Training

Do you Train your Brain to be as Tough as your Body?

Some may argue that toughness is found in soul, spirit and mind…  and not in muscles.

Never underestimate the power of your mind…whether it is in sports, in business or in life.   Becoming mentally stronger may be the one factor that determines whether you realize your goals; or not.  It may be the one single factor separating you from being a champion or a runner up.

When life gets hard, we tend to want comfort, not change.  Those who have learned the secret to mental toughness have learned that comfort now may mean pain later, but a little pain now can yield great rewards in the future.

MIND POWER--Train your mind as well as your body

When it comes to training; having mental strength is one of the most important pieces of sports equipment you will ever own.  Your physical workouts will strengthen you body,  but mental strength training provides the necessary conditioning to fortify your mind.  It provides you a psychological edge that enables you to be consistent; to maintain focus and determination to not only finish but perform at your maximum potential,  despite any difficulty or consequences.   More simply put: To Never Quit.   Being mentally strong directly affects your confidence.  As mental strength rises, so will your confidence.    If you want to become mentally stronger, you have to become tough about what you think.  What you think determines how you act.  Replace weak thoughts like “I can’t or I’m too tired” with positive ones;  I feel great; my body is strong.”

Regardless of your fitness goals or where you are in your training you will be challenged many times to keep moving forward to achieve your desired goal.   Here are some common traits that make up mental toughness:

Be resilient:

Learn to bounce back from adversity, pain, or a disappointing performance. Realize and admit a mistake, understand a missed opportunity, embrace the lesson and quickly move on and refocus on the immediate goal ahead.

Focus

Focus in the face of distractions and unexpected circumstances.   Don’t avoid situations or make excuses for less than perfect conditions.  When your are dead tired, hurting and want to quit is the time to dig deep and focus.  Tell yourself to keep moving forward.

Trust:

Have faith in yourself   Trust that your body will know what to do when it is time to perform.  Trust in your training and your plan. Trust in your coach. Believe in yourself, even if there is no one nearby to boost your confidence.

—-BE POSITIVE:  TALK TO YOURSELF: VISUALZE:

GET OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE: BE PREPARED—

“Strength does not come from physical capacity.  It comes from an indomitable will”  Mahatma Gandhi

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Feed your Metabolism with Food.
Shari

by on Jan.01, 2012, under General Nutrition, Motivation, Weight Loss

All Calories are not created equal.

Contrary to what you may have been told, the body does not burn and store 500 calories of fruit and veggies the way it does 500 calories of refined, processed or fatty foods. Some foods take more work to eat–and therefore burn more calories while you’re digesting them.  Just the act of chewing foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean cuts of meat can increase your calorie burn by up to 30%! On the contrary, many other foods lack certain nutrients and minerals that have been proven to stimulate the metabolism.  The higher your metabolism level, the faster you will lose weight, provided you eat healthy food and pursue an active lifestyle.

Depriving your body of fuel is a surefire way to slow it down.

When you slash calories, the calories burned by eating are greatly diminished and so is your metabolic rate. Restricting calories also signals the body that there is no food available, so it tries to conserve stores of carbohydrate and fat by slowing down its metabolism. The best way to keep your metabolism revved is to eat regular meals with snacks when necessary to give your body a constant supply of healthy fuel.

Nutritional Superstars that Burn Calories

There are proven nutritional superstars that can fuel your metabolic fire and help you to burn more calories as you kick your diet into high gear. These foods/beverages act similar to the way a thermogenic or a cardio session in how they affect the body. They can ramp up your metabolism, and in essence, assist you in burning fat.   When you wake up in the morning it is especially important to “break the fast” (and a sleepy metabolism) by eating breakfast. When you eat breakfast you start burning calories earlier, thereby burning more total calories through the day. And keep your metabolism pumping all day long, by eating several small meals through the day.  You will tend to eat less at one sitting, which puts less burden on your digestive system and lets it work more efficiently.

So what are you waiting for?   Let’s get your metabolism moving!

Food does some amazing things for our bodies, including fight disease.  Try adding some of these metabolism friendly foods to your diet each day:

1. Oatmeal If you’re looking to jumpstart your metabolism, start your morning off with a bowl of oatmeal. This super food is rich in fat soluble fiber, which requires a lot of calories to break down. Eating oatmeal can also help decrease your cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease.

2. Grapefruit Studies indicate that eating grapefruit can reduce insulin levels. Lower insulin levels after meals can help your body process food more quickly and efficiently. This means that you burn more calories and store less fat.

3. Hot Peppers Adding some spice to your food can speed up your weight loss. Hot peppers, like jalapenos, contain a chemical called capsaicin, which gives these veggies their heat and causes a spike in your metabolism. This chemical also keeps the calorie burn going hours after you’ve finished your meal.

4. Lean Proteins The protein found in chicken, turkey and other lean meats takes a great deal of energy to break down. Therefore, your body burns a lot of calories during the digestive process. Protein is also an essential ingredient in building lean muscle mass, which burns more calories than fat.

5. Salmon and Tuna High levels of the hormone leptin have been linked to slower metabolisms and weight gain. A good way to lower leptin levels is to increase your intake of fish. The oil found in fish like salmon and tuna has been shown to cut leptin levels and help your body process foods more effectively.

Burn more calories with Green Tea

6. Low-fat Yogurt Low-fat yogurt is one of the best foods to eat if you’re trying to lose weight and boost your metabolism. Yogurt is full of calcium and protein. It gives you the energy your body needs to keep going all day and helps you build lean muscle mass. Yogurt can also help regulate your digestive tract.

7. Green Tea The caffeine found in green tea accelerates your heart rate and speeds up your metabolism. The tea also contains a chemical, known as EGCG, that stimulates the nervous system and helps you to burn calories at a faster rate.

8. Broccoli Broccoli is rich in both calcium and vitamin C. These two vitamins work together to help you burn calories faster and more effectively. Calcium activates your metabolism, while vitamin C helps you absorb more calcium.

9. Almonds Almonds may be high in calories, but they are also jam packed with essential fatty acids which are great metabolism boosters. And the healthy fat in almonds has been proven to help in lowering cholesterol.

10.  Apples,Pears, Berries:  These fruits are low calorie, high fiber, and rich in vitamins and antioxidants.  Your body must burn calories to break down. Since they help you stay full for longer, you‘ll eat less.  And they are naturally sweet!

Spices can fire up your metabolism too!

In addition to some of the suggestions listed, certain spices such as chiles, cinnamon, curry and ginger fire up your central nervous system and can boost your metabolism by as much as 12%.

Metabolism-Slowing Pitfalls

Just as there are natural ways to boost your metabolism, there are also natural ways you slow  your metabolism — Here are a few:

  • Skipping meals–always eat breakfast!
  • Sleeping less than 6 hours a night.
  • Eating empty calorie foods–exchange them for low carb, low-fat, high nutrition foods.
  • Choosing processed foods–exchange them for whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

And don’t overlook the power of water!

Researchers in Germany found that subjects increased their metabolic rates (the rate at which calories are burned) by up to 30 percent after drinking approximately 17 ounces of water. Water is also a natural appetite suppressant that banishes bloat as it flushes out sodium and toxins. Drinking enough water will also help keep you from mistaking thirst for hunger. It is necessary to drink water at frequent intervals, because it is water that helps in digestion of food. So drink up! Make sure that you are starting your day with a big big glass of water and drink all day long.  It’s hard to get too much water.

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Fitness Plateaus: How to get your body out of cruise control.
Shari

by on Nov.13, 2011, under Fitness, Motivation, Weight Loss

“… There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.”  Bruce Lee

Workout plateaus are nothing new.  You are hitting the gym routinely. You feel more energetic and look better, but  suddenly now you‘re not feeling the burn anymore.  The scale stops moving and your body becomes immune to the stress of exercise.  You have hit the wall.  Fortunately, it usually only takes a few changes to overcome a workout plateau.

The key to overcoming plateaus is change.

Changing up just a few things can make a big difference.  Our bodies are highly adaptive and are constantly working to maintain homeostasis—so the workout that was so challenging and making you sweat and burn calories 6 weeks ago is no longer.   Changing your approach or routine will help you blast through frustrating plateaus. Remember the body acclimates to repeated challenges, making it necessary to make changes every four to six weeks.

A few suggestions from Web MD:

Pump it up. Instead of 40 minutes on the treadmill, pump up your metabolism with high-intensity intervals. Do four minutes of any cardiovascular exercise as hard as you can; then two minutes of strength-building exercises (using free weights or weight machines). Repeat this “harder/easier” cycle five times. (The magic cardio-to-weights ratio is 2-to-1.) Your

Change workout activities, intensity and break through plateaus.

post-exercise metabolic rate and fat loss will increase much more than if you exercised 40 minutes steadily at an average pace, and you’re also building lean muscle mass.

Shake it up. Walking doesn’t do much to help you lose weight, even though it’s good for your health. Instead, mix up your cardio intervals by throwing in new things every week: the elliptical machine, the recumbent bike, the rowing machine, the stair climber. Keep your body guessing.

Start it up. The one time when simple aerobic exercise can really boost your metabolism is in the morning. When you first wake up, your liver has burned through your carbohydrate stores, and light aerobic exercise can jump-start the fat-burning enzymes in your liver. So start your day with a brisk walk.

Count it up. You might think you’re not snacking between meals, but it’s easy to miss the bites of your kids’ leftovers you take here and there. For a few days, record everything you eat. Make sure the extra food you take in is accounted for — either by cutting out your dinner roll or by doing an extra high-intensity interval.

——

*Varying your activities or cross-training is important to avoid or break through plateaus.  But while changing up type of activity is important, it is also important to implement variations in intensity.

Specify different days of the week as low, moderate or high-intensity days.  Grab a new partner to work out with. Get out of the gym and move your workout outdoors.  The mix-up of activities will also keep your workouts enjoyable, thus helping with motivation as you break through the wall.

And if you’re not strength training, now is the time to start.  A pound of muscle burns more calories than a pound of fat.  And you want to replace fat with muscle to increase the amount of calories you burn a day.  If you are already lifting and have hit your plateau: You MUST step up the intensity of your strength training program. Bump up the frequency of your training from twice to three times a week. Increase the amount of weight you’re lifting to challenge your muscles even more or try a more challenging exercises.

But plateaus do not necessarily mean you need to work harder or spend more days at the gym. It may be time for an active rest.  Proper rest and recovery from working out is so important, it may just be the deciding force behind results and no results.  Consider taking a few days, to up to a week off from structured exercise, and instead take leisurely walks, play ball with the kids, or take a yoga class. Active rest rejuvenates the mind and the body and allows for overworked muscles to rest and rebuild. You will return to exercise stronger and ready for new challenges.

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What comes first… Cardio or Weights? Prioritize YOUR workout.
Shari

by on Jun.25, 2010, under Fitness, Strength and Agility Training

You know you got to do it.  Love it, hate it, or just love to hate it; we all need to incorporate some type of cardio into our fitness routines.

It is an essential part of any training routine. The question that is  often asked  is whether it is better to do cardio BEFORE or AFTER weight training.  The answer lies partially on your specific goals and what you want to accomplish. Your current conditioning, stamina and mindset are also important considerations.

In general, any exercise performed when you have ample energy is performed with greater intensity and with more focus and efficiency. Exercises you perform once energy supplies

Cardio, BEFORE or AFTER?  The choice is Yours

Cardio, BEFORE or AFTER? The choice is Yours

are low (or depleted) are less effective and more likely to result in injury. So If you are a recreational athlete, you might consider doing cardio and strength training on separate days.  Or you might combine the two with intervals or circuit training, which both strength and endurance activities are applied to whole body or timed routines. Or you may just start with what motivates you that day.

However, if you are trying to achieve a specific goal, such as building muscle or improving sports specific skills, or if you have an extremely high level of fitness already, then order may play a role in your training regimen.

Cardio BEFORE Weight Training

Light cardio before training serves as great warm up that prepares the muscles for heavy lifting. The cardio can actually help to reduce the number of warm up sets necessary.

In order to build and maintain cardiovascular endurance,  perform endurance exercise first, If you are preparing for a hiking or biking event or training for a 10K or triathlon, then the focus, energy and efforts should be in the area that will assist you in improving/achieving optimal performance and results. Lifting prior to running is not recommended because you increase your risk of injury due to muscle fatigue.

Cardio AFTER Weight Training

Likewise, if the goal is to build muscle, it makes sense that your energy and efforts should be dedicated to weight training before cardio. Cardio burns fat and carbs depleting energystores necessary for strength training. So a hard cardio workout before training may not leave you enough fuel to challenge your muscles. If the body’s carbohydrate stores are depleted during intense cardio, there will not be enough critical fuel left to sustain a weight training session. Over time, this could actually lead to a decrease in strength.

Low intensity cardio activity after training also serves and is recommended as a cool down activity.

So if your goal is to improve your overall health and condition, the order really does not matter. Do what works for you.  If you prefer to get your cardio “out of the way”, then do it first. What matters is that you participate in activities that you enjoy and that combine both endurance and strength training!

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Hit a Plateau? Repair a Stalled Metabolism with Diet
Shari

by on Apr.25, 2010, under General HEALTH, General Nutrition, Motivation, Weight Loss

Knowing your body’s daily caloric needs is an important step in adopting a realistic diet and exercise plan that will help you reach and maintain your desired healthy weight.

To determine your energy needs specific to your age, weight and activity level, click on the attached link to calculate your daily calories.  This is a basic guideline…   Remember, no two individuals’ body composition are identical and activity levels vary for each person.   But this number will provide an important starting point.

http://www.bcm.edu/cnrc/caloriesneed.htm

You now have a baseline number of calories to maintain your current weight.  Next, determine how many calories you are taking in. This must be done before you modify or make adjustments towards your desired weight goal.   Keeping a food journal or logging on to a web based calorie tracker such as www.fitday.com can assist in this task.  I suggest you

You have to know where you are before you make a plan for success

STOP GUESSING! You have to know where you are before you make a plan.

track your calories for at least one week.  Write everything down, including sodas and alcohol.  Many people are surprised when they compare the numbers.  They are surprised to find they are not taking in enough nutrition for their body.  As a result, their metabolism has slowed and the weight loss has stopped.  If you find that your total caloric intake is too low for your current weight, you must gradually up your intake some before you begin to cut again.  This alone will jumpstart your metabolism.

This might sound scary, but you will have to eat more, to burn more….

And you will need to exercise (especially weight bearing  to increase lean muscle).  By restricting calories too much, the body responds by holding on… or going into “starvation mode” and will lock up from fat burning mode.  It will store as much adipose (fat) tissue as possible .

It is not just enough to eat the proper foods, but nutrient timing is key to revving a stalled metabolism. To keep “the furnace” burning, it is optimal to eat small frequent meals (every three hours).  By “fueling” up frequently with “Clean” and nutritious foods, you will prime your body to build lean muscle and in the process lose the unwanted fat. You also will not feel deprived because you will have something in your stomach all day long, which in turn will make it less likely for you to binge on unhealthy snacks.

Be sure that every meal contains quality protein, as proteins are more satiating than other foods and by increasing protein, you will decease you daily consumption of carbohydrates and fats, which are more readily converted to fat.   Research shows that escalating protein levels in your diet results in weight loss.

So what percentage of total calories should be protein?

I hesitate here, again because we are all different.  0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight is often recommended. For a 150lb person this equates to 120 grams of protein every day.  Others prefer a macronutrient breakdown based on total caloric intake instead of body weight:  -40% protein-40% carbohydrate & 20% fat or  a 40-30-30 distribution of total calories for example.  For the same 150lb person eating 1600 calories, this equates to 160 grams of protein a day.    You get the picture.  This is something you will have to experiment with to assess your response and make adjustments.

Macronutrient Tracking.

Macronutrient Tracking

Once your metabolism is moving again & if your goal is weight loss, you will need to GRADUALLY and safely create a caloric deficit. This is done by a combination of eating fewer calories and increasing activity levels.  Again, accountability comes into play.  You need to track your progress.  Stop guessing and measure everything that you want to improve.

  • Keep a nutrition AND training journal
  • Weigh and measure food and track your progress – weekly weights and body fat composition
  • Take photographs

Finally, revisit and re-establish your calorie deficit.  What worked for you before is no longer working, so it is time for a new strategy.  Calorie needs and metabolism changes with weight loss.  The trick to avoid plateaus is to adjust your food intake (calories in) and your exercise/activity (calories out)
each week to reconcile the difference between hypothetical (on paper) calorie needs and
actual (real world) calorie needs.

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