Labels Stick (double-entendre)

Hello my name is...

I am re-posting a post from my brother, Joel, on LinkedIn. We grew up in a home where athleticism wasn’t really a thing. Don’t think my mom every worked out–aside from walking. My dad used to swim, but not real heavy duty. Now my sister, brother and I are all gym regulars.

I never thought of myself as an athlete until a few years ago when my doctor referred to me as “athletic.” My brother encapsulates a lot of what I felt growing up and what the change has meant to him.

Enjoy!

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/really-im-athlete-joel-ungar/

Water…water…

Desert, Jordan

The Weight Loss Challenge where I work is now in full swing. Last night was the first group fitness class offered by one of the other coaches. It was a big group and notable that many had not brought water with them. This is not a formula for success.

We hear a lot about keeping hydrated. We are not like camels who are able to store water for long periods and long distances. We use water to nourish our bodies and we lose water through sweating which helps to keep us cool. We must continually replenish. So what are the rules for water consumption with exercise?

Generall speaking the following guidelines apply:

  • 2-3 cups of fluid 2 hours BEFORE the start of exercise
  • 1 cup of fluid every 10-20 minutes DURING exercise
  • 2-3 cups of fluid for every pound of body weight lost AFTER exercise

You’ll notice that I put “fluid” instead of “water.” Water is always excellent, but there are sports drinks that work as well. It is also better to drink something cool that something hot; this improves the speed of absorption. We also know that there are some liquids that actually accelerate dehydration: coffee and alcohol are two prime examples. This is not to say that you cannot have a glass of wine at dinner after exercising; just remember that this cannot be your primary form of hydration.

Dehydration is not pretty. It can lead to dizziness, loss of conscience, nausea and headaches. Bring a water bottle to the gym or to your class; this will help ensure that you are drinking enough.

Get your exercise on, but remember to get your hydration on as well!

How To Keep Your Fitness Resolution

Image result for new years resolution meme 2020

It is that time of the year. At gyms across the country, the “resolutionaries” are making their presence known…for the next few weeks anyhow.

If this is the year when you really want to work on a “new you,” remember that there is no such thing as a “new you.” At best, we can only hope for a better version of ourselves. Total transformations are rare; incremental long-term change is more realistic.

How can we best keep our resolutions? As I have blogged in the past, we should focus less on a weight we want to get to or a size we want to fit into. The emphasis should be on building a healthy lifestyle. When we focus on lifestyle, we are more likely to make a sustained change than simply starting a diet…and falling off of it in a week.

Another way to stick to the resolution to get healthier is to surround oneself with others who can give us positive encouragement or who are on the same journey as we are. That is why joining a gym is so popular…but it is important to take advantage of the professionals there to help build a program that is safe, effective and keeps us motivated. It is easy to give up if we feel we are in this alone.

Try to keep goals as specific as possible so that there is a way to measure success. “I will go to the gym” is not as effective as “I will go to the gym 3 times a week,” which is not as effective as “I will go to the gym on Monday, Wednesday and Friday before I go to work.” Create simple rules that are easy to stick by that are specific as well like: “no eating after dinner,” or “limit desserts to Friday and Saturday dinner only, ” etc. When we keep our goals fuzzy we have no way to really see if we are making headway. Even if we may not see the results in terms of weight loss, when we keep our gaols specific we will see that we are building a healthy lifestyle–which is the best for our health in the long run.

Finally, look back at past attempts to get healthy. Why did they fail? What were the obstacles? Take some time and strategize how to overcome them. If we realize that we are too tired to work out in the evening, figure out a better time to do it. If we always feel like we are in it by ourselves, find a friend or family member to engage in the journey too. We should not expect to do the same things that failed before over and over again and get different results. Plan ahead for success.

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy and fit 2020!

Weight Lifting on a Salad and a Piece of Cheese

Image result for dizziness gym

Twice today at the gym I had conversations with individuals that came back to questions of nutrition and fitness goals.

In the first case, it was someone who signed up for an indoor triathlon. He and I were discussing the best strategies to prepare for a race that is just over a month away. During our talk, he mentioned that he is trying to lose weight and that he is starting a diet in January that is basically all animal-based proteins, fruits and vegetables (and nothing else!). Under other circumstances, such a diet might be a great way to lose weight, but while training for a triathlon it may not be the best approach. It is essential to make sure that we are properly fueling our bodies for the intense training we are doing. By the way, most folks training for races find that the rigorous regimen causes them to lose weight in any case. I directed him toward resources about how to best train for the triathlon and what would be the best way to fuel his body. That diet may have to wait until after the race.

Just as I was about to leave the gym a person came to the trainer’s office and asked for a cup to get some water for her husband who was feeling dizzy. I went out onto the floor to find a young man lying on an incline bench looking pretty pale; he had been doing incline dumbbell presses. I adjusted the bench to put his head down and then we put his legs (knees up) on the bench as well. After some water, he began to feel better. I asked him what he had eaten that day. “Salad and some cheese. Oh, wait, I think a piece of fruit. Maybe a slice of bread.” Yikes! This was the early evening and that was his total consumption for the day. I understand that young men and women want to get that “cut” look and try to eat very lean, but again, we have to make sure our bodies are properly fueled for what we are asking them to do. Lifting weights on that few calories–and carb-free–was not a good idea.

I am not a nutritionist or a dietitian, but my education as a personal trainer does include the background science on how we digest foods, how we fuel our bodies and how we build muscle.

There are lots of resources on the web; before you embark on a serious exercise regimen or training for a race check those our or talk to a nutrition expert. This second young man was lucky that he was with someone else and that he wasn’t on a piece of equipment where he could have really hurt himself had he passed out.

Here are a couple of good articles on the topic:

https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/food-as-fuel-before-during-and-after-workouts

https://www.self.com/story/signs-youre-not-eating-enough-before-a-workout

With the New Year approaching and lots of resolutions to consider–including weight loss–do not forget that we need to eat smart and make sure that our bodies get what they need.

To Schvitz or Not To Schvitz?

Finnish sauna II

Last week I had the opportunity to do something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time: visit the Cleveland Schvitz. For the Yiddish-impaired, Schvitz translates as “sweat,” but informally refers to a sauna or steam room. The Schvitz in Cleveland is an entire complex, a building all to itself. There is a large sauna room, changing/locker room with beds, shower room and cold pool; there is also a wonderful restaurant serving steaks, salmon, tuna, etc.

I went with my brothers-in-law and a couple of friends and the experience was everything that I thought it would. I had the feeling that I was stepping back in time to a cultural institution from the “old country.” The food was as good as I had heard–perhaps even more than I expected.

At the JCC, whenever I work out I spend 5 minutes in the steam room after my workout. This is different, though, since the Schvitz is more of a dry room than a wet one. Last year I went to a Korean Spa near Baltimore and it was a similar experience, right down to the excellent food; the only difference was the the place in Maryland was co-ed. The Schvitz is all testosterone.

I enjoy a quick Schvitz; it relaxes me and helps to clear my head. I use those few minutes to do some PT exercises to ward off my old tennis elbow. I wondered, however, whether there really is any benefit to using a sauna/steam room. What I’ve heard is that it is a good way to relax and it helps to sweat out the toxins in our bodies.

I did a little research on the internet (so it must be true) and found that there seems to be some real benefits to the Schvitz. The heat causes an elevated heart rate which can have the same positive effects as cardiovascular activity, but at a much lower level. Asthma sufferers may find some relief in a sauna as well as those with certain skin conditions. One article I found came from a reputable source: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/saunas-and-your-health. Its conclusion is that Schvitzing is not dangerous as long as we follow safe practices (do not combine with drug/alcohol use/observe reasonable time limits/hydrate). There are studies from Finland (where else?) that see to indicate that sauna use leads to longer life spans, but that will need more research. As for sweating out toxins, the article states that this is done more through our internal organs than through sweat. In the meantime, the article suggests that the benefit is really the sense of relaxation and wellness we may feel in the Schvitz.

To Schvitz or Not to Schvitz? I vote for Schvitz. We all need to take care of ourselves, and if the sauna/steam room helps us to relax, there seems to be no reason not to Schvitz.

How to Help Your &%$#ing Workout

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Today I was working with one of my clients doing bench step-ups; these are not easy and when she lost her balance she let out a word not used in polite company. She was mortified–I think because not only am I a personal trainer, but I’m also a rabbi. She apologized, and I let her know it was OK. In fact there is a study that shows that swearing may actually help your workout.

Research from Keele University in England and Long Island University in Brooklyn shows that swearing can help us push through a difficult workout. It has also been shown to have an analgesic effect; letting out a curse word when we stub a toe or bang an elbow can actually decrease our sense of pain. The study shows that swearing can increase our endurance and strength. The final analysis: dropping the f-bomb can help to manage pain–whether sudden and unexpected or the anticipated pain of a difficult workout.

The research showed that this does not work with everyone in all situations. People who have a tendency to catastrophize (to expect the worst), did not find relief from swearing. It also seems to have a lesser effect on women than men. To read more on this, see the article from http://www.cnn.com that was quoted and re-reported across the globe: https://www.cnn.com/2019/10/30/health/swearing-good-for-you-wellness/index.html .

My thoughts are that this is interesting, but I wonder if swearing under your breath would be just as effective. Can we say “freakin'” instead of *you-know-what* and still get the same result? Gyms already have enough coarse language and grunting and groaning; is swearing (which may contribute to further breakdown of civility in our society) worth it for the extra rep or the slightly faster sprint? In my humble opinion, the respect that I pay to my fellow gym-goers dictates that I should try to avoid swearing as much as I can. It’s just not nice. Unless, of course, I drop a 25 pound dumbbell on my foot…in which case all bets are off.

How to Keep the Weight Off

Christmas Break 2008 10

This time of the year, many people are thinking about New Year’s Resolutions and a popular one is to lose weight. Just ask anyone who is a regular gym-goer and they can tell you that the first few weeks of January are always the busiest; fitness facilities are loaded with what I call “resolutionaries.”

Of course, a better way to look at this is to go beyond the mere number on the scale. While weight as a number is a data point, our fitness level depends on other factors as well: endurance, strength, power, cardiovascular health, etc. A better resolution might be to “become more fit” or “pursue a healthier lifestyle.” What both of those mean is up to individual interpretation, so it is important to come up with goals that are beyond merely a number on a scale such as “I want to be able to run a mile without stopping” or “I will do 30 minutes of cardio 3 times per week” or “I will begin training regularly with a Personal Trainer.”

Numerous studies have pointed out that we should take a more holistic approach rather than simply focusing on the readout on the scale. In fact, when we focus more on overall health we actually have greater success at weight loss and especially keeping the weight off.

Research shows that those who put an end to their sedentary lifestyle and become more active will do a better job of losing weight and keeping it off compared to those who simply diet. Studies show that dieting can take the pounds off but unless we engage in a healthy lifestyle that includes diet, exercise and other healthy habits (not smoking, getting enough rest, etc.) , there is a higher chance that the pounds will return.

There is no easy fix to getting healthier. Diet alone or exercise alone won’t cut it for the long term. It is all about a lifestyle that promotes healthy habits. A lifestyle isn’t just something that lasts for a month or six months or a year until we achieve our goal weight; a lifestyle is about what we do from this point forward.

As the New Year approaches consider not only the changes you want to see right now, but also how to make them last for a long and healthy lifetime!