Health Benefits of Exercise for Persons with Traumatic Brain Injury

TBI is defined by the Brain Injury Association of America as “an alteration in brain function, or other evidence of brain pathology, caused by an external force. Traumatic impact injuries can be defined as closed (or non-penetrating) or open (penetrating)” (n.d.)  In other words, TBI is caused by a severe hit to the head from something external that causes the brain to function differently. There are a number of symptoms that can come as a result of TBI. According to an article off of TraumaticBrainInjury.com (n.d.), these symptoms include:

    Cognitive Changes

  • Attention

  • Concentration

  • Distractibility

  • Memory

  • Speed of Processing

  • Confusion

  • Perseveration

  • Impulsiveness

  • Executive functions

 

      Physical Changes

  • Physical paralysis/spasticity

  • Chronic pain

  • Control of bowel and bladder

  • Loss of stamina

  • Appetite changes

  • Regulation of body temperature

         Social-Emotional

  • Dependent behaviors

  • Emotional ability

  • Lack of motivation

  • Irritability

  • Aggression

  • Depression

  • Disinhibition

  • Denial/lack of awareness

All of these symptoms that may come with TBI can make the lives of individuals with TBI, as well as the lives of their caretakers, very difficult. There are numerous pharmaceutical medications coming out that are supposed to help reduce or prevent certain symptoms of TBI (antidepressants, anti-seizure meds, anti-psychotic meds etc.) but what if I were to tell you that moderate intensity exercise may also help? Persons with TBI have been known to be physically inactive, which may lead to reduced levels of fitness as well as potentially raise their risk of secondary health conditions. These secondary health conditions that are often correlated to physical inactivity might potentially be exacerbating any symptoms that an individual with TBI is already dealing with.

What exactly is the best type of exercise for individuals with TBI though? Well, the answer is that there is no specific type of exercise that individuals with TBI need to focus on because, just like a typical person without TBI, it is best to get a variety of different types of training in for basic overall health benefits.  Plus, it is only fair to let the individual with TBI be in charge of choosing what type of exercise routines they follow because they’re more likely to continue with the routine if they enjoy it. If it feels like a chore to them, it may increase their desire to quit sooner (again, no different from typical persons without TBI).  

When a person with TBI is getting ready to start an exercise routine, they must first be cleared by a physician to ensure that there are no other underlying health conditions that would restrict their ability to increase their levels of physical activity. Once official clearance from their physician has been received, it is smart for persons with TBI to get an official assessment of their current fitness levels.  These assessments can be done on a treadmill, cycle ergometer, or any other machine that has the ability to increase the workload in an incremental way. If there is no access to a reliable machine for this assessment, alternatives can be implemented such as the six minute walk test. The six minute walk test involves the person with TBI getting assessed on how far they walk in six minutes, followed by having their heart rate measured directly after the test is completed.

The biggest responsibility for a trainer working with persons with TBI is to guide them through an exercise routine safely and effectively. A trainer's biggest hope should be that their client is eventually able to exercise more independently with less direct guidance (basically working themselves out of a job so to speak). There is a chance that if a person with TBI is able to increase their independence in their exercise routine, it may potentially translate to increased levels of independence in other parts of their daily life as well.

When looking at the outcomes of exercise programs for persons with TBI, numerous studies have shown that exercise may have major long-term benefits for both their physical and mental health. These benefits include:

        Physical Benefits                

  • Increased prevention of chronic diseases associated with a sedentary lifestyle

  • Increased ability to maintain and progress in their physical work capacity

  • Increased levels of cardiovascular endurance

  • Increases ability to balance on unstable surfaces

  • Increased ability to manage and reduce levels of fatigue and stress

    Mental Benefits

  • Increased ability to perform activities of daily living

  • Decreased reliance on assistance from others or assistive devices

  • Increased levels of self-esteem

  • Increased ability to interact and socialize with peers

  • Decreased risks of developing depression

  • Decreased incidences of aggressive behaviors

In conclusion, the potential health benefits of getting consistent exercise are substantial and may help persons with TBI increase not just their physical health, but also their mental health as well.  With increased physical and mental health, persons with TBI may have greater chances at increasing their levels of independence, decreasing their reliance on assistance from others, improving their abilities to perform activities of daily living, and (most importantly) increase their overall quality of life.  

References

Exercise for People with a Traumatic Brain Injury : NCHPAD - Building Inclusive Communities. (n.d.). Retrieved October 27, 2018, from https://www.nchpad.org/1407/6273/Exercise~for~People~with~a~Traumatic~Brain~Injury

DeNiel, C., PT, DPT. (n.d.). Move it or Lose it: The Benefits of Movement and Exercise in Traumatic Brain Injuries. Retrieved October 31, 2018, from https://www.braininjurymn.org/annual_conference/CONF-2017-presentations/Friday-I-E.pdf

Mossberg, K. A., Amonette, W. E., & Masel, B. E. (2010). Endurance training and cardiorespiratory conditioning after traumatic brain injury. The Journal of head trauma rehabilitation, 25(3), 173-83.“Severe TBI Symptoms.” TraumaticBrainInjury.com www.traumaticbraininjury.com/symptoms-of-tbi/severe-tbi-symptoms/.

Importance of Initial Assessments

When it comes to working with a new client, it is always a smart idea to perform an initial assessment of their fitness level as well as have them fill out the required forms.  Important forms include: Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (PAR-Q), Waiver, and Informed Consent. These forms help the trainer screen for potential red flags (reasons to discontinue the exercise program) before beginning the assessment.  Red flags may include but are not limited to: medications, heart conditions, and pregnancy.

During the initial assessment, the trainer will observe the client’s function and mobility in an exercise environment as well as screen for other red flags not found in the PAR-Q form.  These include temperature control, fatigue, and difficulty breathing at rest. Temperature control is an important factor to understand in clients with certain medical conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and Spinal Cord Injury because they’re prone to overheating easily.  If a client is showing signs of overheating, it is important to ensure proper body cooling by allowing adequate rest periods and frequent water breaks during the assessment. Extra fans or other cooling devices will help even more if accessible. Fatigue is also very important to monitor during an initial assessment because if a client gets fatigued easily, they’re at risk of injuring themselves more and the client should get clearance from a physician first before continuing the exercise program.  Fatigue is known to be associated with certain medical conditions such as MS, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Post-Polio.

Other important factors to understand about the client before completing an assessment include sleep factors such as quality of sleep and average hours per night, their age, their water intake per day, and their job occupation.  Everyday habits can make or break how healthy the client is and how ready they are to start an exercise program. Bad habits can not only be hard to change, but there is also a possibility that those habits could be leading to or have already led to physiological problems that will affect their ability to exercise.  As a trainer it is not your job to fix a client’s bad habits and it is definitely not your job to diagnose the client with any medical issues. If you are performing an assessment on a client and they express physical pain in anyway, you must stop the assessment immediately and encourage them to go see a physician to be cleared for exercise before returning.

Also, if you are working with clients with intellectual or developmental disabilities such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Down Syndrome, or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), it is recommended that you break down all that is going into the assessment into smaller steps to ensure that the client has a full understanding of what is being asked of them. Also, if the client is expressing anxiety about the assessment or if you are unsure of their level of understanding, a practice assessment might be necessary too.  Practice assessments will give the client more confidence which will likely improve their performance in the real assessment as well as build your rapport with the client as their trainer.

In conclusion, initial assessments are key in determining a client’s readiness to start an exercise program.  They will help you as the trainer understand the client’s current level of fitness, their medical conditions, build your rapport with them, and determine the best possible exercise program for them to reach their goals!!!

References

“Client Screening Questions for Personal Trainers.” National Federation of Professional Trainers, www.nfpt.com/resources/client-screening-questions.

Percia, Matthew, et al. “Getting a Professional Fitness Assessment.” American College of Sports Medicine, 7 Oct. 2016, www.acsm.org/public-information/articles/2016/10/07/getting-a-professional-fitness-assessment.

Wing, Cary. “ACSM/NCHPAD Resources for the Certified Inclusive Fitness Trainer.”ACSM/NCHPAD Resources for the Certified Inclusive Fitness Trainer, American College of Sports Medicine, 2012

Training Clients With Down Syndrome

According to the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS), “Down Syndrome occurs when an individual has a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21”, thus giving them 47 chromosomes instead of the typical 46.  The NDSS notes that due to the additional chromosome (partial or full), there are changes in the person’s development which can lead to the characteristics often associated with people with Down Syndrome.

When working with a client who has Down Syndrome, it is important to understand all the possible health complications that can be associated with the condition and to make sure they have consent from their physician first.  According to The National Center on Health, Physical Activity & Disability (NCHPAD), people with Down Syndrome are prone to congenital heart defects, problems with vision and hearing, respiratory issues, thyroid and metabolic conditions, sleep apnea, and have a tendency to develop Alzheimer’s or symptoms of dementia at an earlier age.   There is a chance that many of these health complications are potentially avoidable with a well-designed exercise program.

All exercise programs should be individualized for each client and even the basic guidelines put up by experts in the field will still need to be adjusted depending on the client’s current level of fitness.  For instance, the NCHPAD suggests that clients with Down Syndrome perform cardiovascular exercise at “an intensity of 60-80% of an individual's maximal heart rate (MHR), 3-5 days a week, for 20-60 minutes per session.” This might be exactly right for an individual with Down Syndrome who is in decent shape and has no other health issues but way too intense for another individual who is overweight or has respiratory issues.  The NCHPAD also says that “resistance training exercises should be 70-80% of [one rep max] for 3 sets of 8-12 repetitions” for clients with Down Syndrome.  This again might be perfect for an otherwise healthy individual but not at all right or safe for an individual who has poor muscle tone and/or loose joints.

It is important to note that there is one area of training that is NOT suggested in clients with Down Syndrome: flexibility training. This is due to the hypermobility and joint laxity that individuals with Down Syndrome often have.  

Just as important as designing the exercise program itself, it is also key to understand the common behavioral difficulties that may be present in clients with Down Syndrome and the strategies that work best for managing them.  For instance, it has been shown that the use of a “token reward system” in which the clients can receive tokens for following directions and completing tasks (or workout exercises) can increase adherence and motivation to stay with the program.  A progress chart that shows all their workout data is also a good way to work with clients with Down Syndrome. Even better, if the trainer is able to teach the client how to record their own information and workout data on a progress chart, that can lead to long-term growth and success.

Of course, all individuals with Down Syndrome differ in personality and don’t all have the same behavioral issues which is why the trainer must be able to assess what the client’s triggers are and understand how to work with that client specifically.  Some clients might do great with a token reward system, others might find it to be very ineffective, and for some, it might just be unnecessary.

In conclusion, personal training clients with Down Syndrome may be effective and can potentially make a huge difference in their quality of life.  With an understanding of all their health conditions and potential triggers, there are no reasons why a trainer can’t succeed in training a client with Down Syndrome.

References

“Down Syndrome : NCHPAD - Building Inclusive Communities.” National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD), www.nchpad.org/117/918/Down~Syndrome.

Quaglio, Laura, et al. “A Transforming Experience: Working with Clients Who Have Down Syndrome.” NASM Blog, 21 Aug. 2013, blog.nasm.org/certified-personal-trainer/transforming-experience-working-clients-syndrome/.

“What Is Down Syndrome? | National Down Syndrome Society.” NDSS, www.ndss.org/about-down-syndrome/down-syndrome/.

Wing, Cary. “ACSM/NCHPAD Resources for the Certified Inclusive Fitness Trainer.”ACSM/NCHPAD Resources for the Certified Inclusive Fitness Trainer, American College of Sports Medicine, 2012.

Training Clients with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Before we get into training clients with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), let’s first get a real understanding of what ASD really is.  According to the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH), “Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is the name for a group of developmental disorders. ASD includes a wide range, “a spectrum,” of symptoms, skills, and levels of disability."  Although people with ASD may have difficulty with communication and socialization and are known to have restricted interests, it does not mean they’re incapable of learning new skills.

There are effective techniques for working with clients diagnosed with ASD that a personal trainer can find very valuable when trying to teach them a new skill or exercise.  These techniques come from understanding the basics of using "Applied Behavioral Analysis" (ABA) strategies. These strategies include modeling, prompting, redirecting, and offering choices to the client that the trainer is working with.  Also, giving the client positive reinforcement when they do something well can be a great motivator and increase their confidence (e.g. “great job following directions!”).

People with ASD, just like everyone else, are going to have activities or exercises that they may like and exercises that they may dislike.  Sometimes though, even though you dislike it, it’s still important. That’s where the ABA technique known as the “High Probability Command Sequence” comes into play.  The High Probability Command Sequence tells the client that they can receive something of higher preference if they complete a lower preference activity or exercise first (e.g. "Let’s do this activity (low preference), then we can do this activity (high preference)”).

After establishing an understanding of how to effectively communicate with the clients, understanding how to work with them specifically in a gym setting is the next step.  As a trainer, you need to know three key variables before getting ready to put a client with ASD through a workout. First, asses whether or not they are physically capable of handling the exercise (know the difference between “I can’t” and “I won’t”).  Then, if you know they’re physically capable of handling the exercise, you have to figure out if the client is cognitively able to understand your directions or if the exercise is too complex. Lastly, if you are confident that they can understand your directions, you need to figure out how motivated they actually are and if they are truly willing to do it. If they’re not motivated or unwilling to do the exercise, think of a possible adaptation that will increase their interest.  When adapting the exercise is not an option, that is when using the ABA High Probability Command Sequence strategy should come into play.

Another big part of working with clients with ASD is that you may consider not "switching it up” all the time.  A lot of people lose motivation after doing the same exercise routine for awhile and need a change to get re-motivated to workout. Those with ASD on the other hand, may actually get increased motivation the longer they stay on the same routine. Attempting to change their exercise routine or teach them a new skill without first pre-teaching the necessary steps that go into that change can lead to problem behaviors such as tantrums, refusals. and increased anxiety.

In conclusion, personal trainers can have success working with clients diagnosed with ASD if they have an understanding of basic ABA communication strategies on top of their knowledge on exercise and fitness itself.  If you have patience and the right attitude, who knows how much you could change the life of a man or woman with ASD for the better!

References

“Autism Spectrum Disorder.” National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/autism-spectrum-disorders-asd/index.shtml.

Cooper, John O., et al. Applied Behavior Analysis. 2nd ed., Pearson/Merrill-Prentice Hall, 2007.

Quaglio, Laura. “On the Spectrum: Programming for Clients with Autism Spectrum Disorder.”NASM Blog, NASM, 21 Aug. 2013, blog.nasm.org/ces/spectrum-programming-clients-autism-spectrum-disorder/.

Wing, Cary. “ACSM/NCHPAD Resources for the Certified Inclusive Fitness Trainer.”ACSM/NCHPAD Resources for the Certified Inclusive Fitness Trainer, American College of Sports Medicine, 2012.

Functional Fitness: The Key To A Fulfilling (And Long) Life

Something that a lot of people in the fitness industry like to claim is that you need to give your workouts a 100% max effort every time you step into the gym and that is exactly the mindset that will lead to injuries.  The reality is that you don’t always have the same amount of energy and the same level of motivation every time you go workout and if you’re not feeling as good as you did the last time you worked out, don’t push your body as hard. Seems like that should just be common sense but unfortunately the “fitness experts” such as Jillian Michaels that you see on TV and in those informercials say otherwise and they have a lot of loyal followers.  Going max effort when your body isn’t feeling up to it is a big waste of a workout and I wish more people understood that. 

Another fact that I wish more of the population understood is that a lot of the big trends in fitness today are focused towards a specific audience: young people.  It is true that a lot of these styles being preached such as CrossFit and Powerlifting are definitely ways to get in great physical condition…when you are young.  The problem with those types of programs is that they are so high impact that they take a very severe toll on your bones, joints, ligaments etc. the more years you do them and as you age, your body’s ability to recover from activities of high impact continues to decline. 

That is why I am passionate about what I like to call "functional fitness”.   Functional fitness is what helps guarantee you a healthy strong body in your later years (50’s on) just like what you had in your younger years.  I don’t know about you but I don’t just love playing sports and doing different types of physical activities.  I love playing sports and doing different types of physical activities at a high level of performance.  That’s what functional fitness is all about. 

Functional fitness is all based around low impact exercises that will get you strong and keep you strong without your body eventually falling apart as well as help you maintain good balance and mobility too.  Plus, on top of helping you stay fit your whole life, the exercises are WAY easier to remember and understand than the ridiculously complex exercises of Powerlifting and CrossFit (that almost always lead to injury).  Don’t worry about mastering the “Clean and Jerk” or trying to max out on bench press and deadlift because those are a waste of time if you want to keep feeling strong as your body ages.  

It's up to you to chose: Being fit when you're young or being fit when you're young AND when you're old(er). 

The Differences Between Training Men and Women

I was recently asked what the differences are between training male and female clients.  The answer is that there are none! When you think about it, we are all human and both genders will benefit from all the same types of training.  There will be differences in the types of changes that will happen to men and women due to differences in hormones but that does not mean we need to train them in separate ways.  Men have more testosterone which means that they are able to put on more bulk and have greater muscle hypertrophy from resistance training than women but that doesn’t mean women shouldn’t be in the gym lifting weights as well! The effects resistance training has on women’s health are just as equally beneficial as they are for men but our society fails to understand this. These benefits of resistance training range from gaining strength and muscle mass to losing body fat to reducing your risk of injury.  I don't know about you, but to me, that sounds like something we could all go for (no matter what your gender is!).  

If you’re a trainer and you fail to realize this, you are putting yourself in a bad spot because you will at some point be training both male and female clients and you are going to think that you should train them in different ways which will only set you up for failure.  Instead, you need to look at each person as a separate individual and analyze them based off of their current levels of fitness, their personality, and what their personal fitness goals are (not their gender).  When you can successfully do that, you are setting both your clients and yourself as a trainer up for success because you will be able to figure out a much more specialized training program for each of your clients and help them reach their fitness goals faster! 

In conclusion, don’t ever think that you need to train a certain way because of your gender.  You need to understand that men and women will both benefit from different types of resistance training and cardio equally.  The ending results might not be the same for men and women when doing the exact same workouts due to hormonal differences but one gender does not stand out as getting better, or healthier, results than the other in any way at all.  It really all depends on each individuals goals and current level of fitness. 

Apps For Motivation

When it comes to working out, the biggest reason why people don’t workout is not actually a lack of time in their schedule.  It’s actually a lack of motivation.  If you have the motivation, then no matter how much (or little) time you have in your schedule, you can always find the time to workout. Then, there are also the people who say that they would like to get to the gym more often but don’t think they can because they don’t know where to get started.  What if I were to tell you that you could have all the motivation you need in right in your hands? I’m talking of course about fitness apps that you can get on your phone.

There are a lot of fitness apps out there that have gone above and beyond just tracking whatever it is that it was originally designed to track (steps, calories, nutrition log, amount of weight lifted etc.).  For instance, there are a lot of great apps made by Under Armour such as MapMyRun, MapMyFitness, and MyFitnessPal that allow you to see all the workouts that your friends have done and compare them to what you have done which can bring out the competitor in you while also helping you get in shape.  If you like competing against your friends for glory this can be very motivating as well as keep you accountable for the times you decide to slack off and not exercise because your friends will be able to look at their phone and see that you didn’t workout that day. Nike has come out with a similar app for competing against friends called Nike+ Running that you can checkout as well.

There are also apps for weight training motivation just like there are for running, biking, and other cardio workouts.  The big one that I have always loved (and have mentioned in previous posts) is called FitnessBuilder.  This app isn’t quite the same as the Under Armour and Nike apps where you can compete against your friends but what you can do is share and receive workouts from your friends.  FitnessBuilder makes it easy to design weight training workouts of all kinds that you can then use to track your own workouts or you can send them to a friend to try out.  For a lot of people, being given a workout from someone else, whether it be from a personal trainer or just a friend, can be more motivating and make them feel more accountable for their training (or lack of training) then trying to make up their own workout in the gym.

This is the 21st century and technology is better, more advanced, more convenient, and more helpful than ever and I highly recommend you take full advantage of what is out there to help you reach your fitness goals.  

Anywhere, Anytime, Anyplace

There are a lot of reasons people sign up for gym memberships and for many people that really is the best way for them to go for reaching their health and fitness goals.  That is not necessarily the case for everyone though.  Some people find the time it takes to get to and from the gym to be a hassle and others can’t afford to get a gym membership either due to financial reasons or possibly feel they lack the time with their busy work schedule.  That is where creativity really comes into place.

People who have a perceived lack of time and belief that working out is something that can only be done effectively in a gym setting don’t realize that they can get strong and in the best shape of their life right in the very spot they’re standing (unless that spot is where mom is trying to cook (learned that the hard way)).  Just starting out with a basic bodyweight training workout in your home doing push-ups, squats and lunges, pull-ups (if you have a bar you can use), bench dips and some bodyweight core exercises is all you truly need to start out. Then, once you have gotten to a point where you feel like you’re plateauing and need more advanced exercises to progress, you can start adding in exercises like burpee’s, jump squats, tuck jumps, spiderman pushups, and tricep push-ups (a.k.a diamond push-ups) to increase the intensity and work more muscle groups.  All of these types of exercises don’t require any equipment and can be done just about anywhere as long as you have enough space to fully execute all the movements effectively.  

Once you have progressed even further, it’s time to start making the workouts even harder by increasing the length of time spent at a high intensity and/or decreasing the length of time spent resting or at a low intensity.  If you are willing to invest in some dumbbells or other kinds of exercise equipment (such as a TRX) that you can use at home and take with you on the road, this will give you an even more effective workout when just using bodyweight movements isn’t enough.  

These kinds of workouts can be done at home, in a hotel room, outdoors, and many other places which, if you are not into the idea of getting a gym membership, is a free alternative that can get you just as good of results as long as you put in the work and stay consistent with both your workouts and your healthy nutrition plan.  

Personal Training vs. Group Fitness Classes

There are a lot of pros and cons to both personal training and group fitness classes but which one will actually benefit your health and fitness goals more?  The truth is that neither are completely superior to the other because it all depends on what your fitness goals actually are.  

When working with a personal trainer, you get a more specialized program that fits what your goals are more specifically and can be much more beneficial for people who are on both of the extremes of fitness. The one’s that are brand new to exercising and are not already in moderate to good physical condition are not likely to succeed in a group fitness environment because of the fact that they don’t know correct form on very many exercises and might feel overwhelmed by being surrounded by people that are stronger and fitter than them.  The other group of people that will benefit much more from personal training than a group fitness class are athletes and people at elite fitness levels. Elite athletes are at a level of fitness that requires more advanced exercises at higher intensities in order to improve even more which is something that is much more suited for a personal trainer than in a group fitness class because a personal trainer is there solely to focus on your workout and your form and can make sure you are always keeping up your intensity whereas a group fitness instructor can’t watch you the whole time. 

A group fitness class is intended to reach out to the general population, not the people at the level lowest or highest levels of physical fitness.  They’re there for the people right in the middle (people of normal or average fitness levels).  Group fitness classes can be more beneficial for people that are at these middle levels of fitness than personal trainers for a couple of reasons.  For one, you can go with a friend or a group of friends.  Also, being in a big group environment surrounded by people with the exact same basic goals as yourself can be very motivating just because of the fact that you know you’re not alone.  Finally, group fitness classes can be a great way to make new friends or workout partners for the days when the group fitness class isn’t being held so that you can have someone to push you and keep you accountable to stay consistent with exercising throughout the week instead of showing up to the group fitness class only. 

In conclusion, neither is better than the other, it just depends on your current level of fitness and what your goals are.  

The Secret to Reaching Fitness Goals

There are a lot of people in this country who are in need of a significant change in their life if they want to improve their health and body composition.  Many of those people will decide that they want to do something about it but have very little success because they go about it with the wrong goal setting strategies.  For example, someone who needs to lose 50+ pounds of fat will simply make their goal to lose 50 pounds and that sets them up for failure because of the fact that it will take so long to fully achieve.  Instead, set a more specific and achievable mini-goal every 2 weeks.  That way, you will always have something short-term to strive for which will keep you on track to achieving your long-term goals (such as losing 50 pounds) in the future.

When setting a two week long mini-goal, you have to always be thinking about what is the most important thing to achieve or reach for at that very moment. The first few 2 week mini-goals you make should be very basic things that are based around the two most important parts of starting any fitness program:  Nutrition and consistency. These could be anything from getting in the habit of tracking your calories to making sure you go to the gym at least 2 or 3 times per week to just simply eating more fruits and vegetables and less processed foods.  Once those have all gotten to a point where you don’t even have to think about them anymore, you are ready for more advanced 2 week mini-goals. 

More advanced goals always have a very specific area of focus in them.  If strength training is your main focus, these could be goals such as increasing the amount of weight or reps you can lift in a specific exercise or working on exercises that were too advanced or too hard for you in the past. If your goals are more on the cardiovascular endurance side, goals such as increasing the amount of miles you run each week or decreasing your average mile pace over a certain distance are great goals to work on.

In conclusion, don’t make a long-term goal without making shorter term goals to keep you on track and focused and always start out with very basic goals. Don't move up to more advanced goals until you have gotten to a point where the basic nutrition and consistency goals have become habits.

Circuit Training

When it comes to picking a training program it all depends on your goals.  If you are looking to put on a lot of muscle mass, bodybuilding and powerlifting is usually the way to go.  If you are just looking for overall conditioning and staying healthy, you should probably look to doing regular full body weight training and low-intensity steady state cardio (LISS) workouts 2-3 times per week.  If you are somewhere in between or looking to improve your athletic performance, circuit training is a very good choice.

Circuit training, when done correctly, is one of the most beneficial ways to get in shape and improve your athletic performance.  These workouts are formatted such that you have a series of exercises that you do back to back without resting in between and go through them all for a certain number of rounds (a.k.a circuits).  A good circuit training workout is usually a combination of strength, cardio, and agility and about 20-30 minutes long. Also, these workouts can be done anywhere both indoors and outdoors as long as you have room to lay out any equipment being used.  I would recommend a circuit to include at least two of each type of exercise (strength, cardio, agility) with a 2-3 minute rest afterwards before repeating the circuit again.  The strength exercises usually include mostly bodyweight exercises such as pushups or suspension trainers like TRX because these are easy to do just about anywhere whereas dumbbells and barbells are difficult to transport and are usually used in just a gym environment. Then, the cardio portion can include exercises such as high knees, butt kicks, shuttle runs, and mini-sprints.  Finally, the agility part of a circuit workout can include exercises such as jumping over mini hurtles, hopping on and off of benches and as well as many others varying in level of difficulty and complexity.

I don’t think circuit training is right for people that are just looking to stay in shape because circuit training is usually very high intensity and involves more complex movements than regular weight training.  It is recommended that you get into decent physical condition before starting circuit training purely because of the complexity of the exercises that these workouts can potentially have you doing.  For more information, check out the this website: https://www.sport-fitness-advisor.com/circuit-training.html

Eccentric Training: Get Stronger Quicker

For a long time there was a belief that doing a slow and controlled movement throughout the entire range of motion of an exercise was the best way to gain strength.  Although that is definitely a much better way to go then trying to move heavy amounts of weight quickly by using momentum (and then throwing your back out), there is proof out there that it’s not the most efficient way to gain strength.  There is a strong argument for Eccentric Training.

Eccentric Training works on the principle of doing “negative sets".  A negative set is when you do the lifting part of the exercise (the concentric part) normally and then, during the lowering part of the exercise (the eccentric part), you go down really slowly.  For example, during a barbell bicep curl, you would do a normal curl and then, instead of lowering the bar back down right away, you hold down the bar up and slowly lower it down over a period of 5-10 seconds.  By doing this you are putting your biceps under great tension by forcing them to hold up the weight while also fighting gravity.  This tears down your muscles more then normal lifting which will undoubtedly lead to greater muscle growth if you give your body time to recover.  

When attempting Eccentric Training for the first time I suggest you lower the weight you would normally lift by anywhere from 30-50% because your muscles have probably never been under the type of stress you are about to put them through.  If you put on the normal weight you would use for bench press and then try doing negative sets for the first time, I can almost guarantee that you will be unable to blast out the amount of repetitions you thought you were going to as well as potentially injure yourself if you push too hard. Even though you will need to lower the weight from what you normally would lift when first starting, just remember that it is proven that your strength gains are likely increase much quicker with Eccentric Training then with normal lifting. If you can keep that in your head and stay consistent with your workouts, there’s no doubt that you will be stronger and your muscle mass will increase tremendously.  

Are You Eating Enough?

A lot of people who are trying to lose weight think that they just need to stop eating as many calories as they normally would. Some even think that they should go an entire day without eating. I'm here to explain why that is completely wrong and not going to help you lose weight in a way that will improve your overall health.

For one thing, if you go to the gym to workout with no calories in your system, your workout will be super ineffective because of the fact that you have no energy and you will fatigue much faster than usual due to low blood sugar.  Also, if you are severely restricting your food intake you won't have enough protein to help your muscles recover which is making your workout basically useless.  On top of being low in protein, you will also be low in all of the important vitamins in minerals you need too. Without all the vitamins and minerals your body needs you will start to experience a number of health issues due to having a weaker immune system.

Another part of eating enough is for mental health.  If your are suffering from obesity it is likely that you could be suffering from depression as well.  An obese individual might realize that he/she has an eating problem and will decide to just stop eating with the belief that that will fix their weight issues and instead leads them into depression (not weight loss).  There is proof of a correlation between not eating enough calories on a consistent basis being at risk for becoming depressed and when you are suffering from obesity the likeliness increases even more. It might sound simple enough to tell someone who is depressed and not eating enough to just start eating more but sadly that’s not always the case.  Mental health problems like depression that can be caused by or linked to poor nutrition could potentially require up to months of therapy and anti-depressant medications on top of help in getting their nutrition under control.  

If you really want to lose fat in a short period of time I am sorry to say that you are out of luck unless you are willing to sacrifice your overall health just to temporarily look skinnier.  Getting to your goal body fat percentage can take a lot of time if you have a lot to lose but you will get to that goal eventually if you are able to keep consistent with your workout program and meal plans and you will get there without feeling sick or losing muscle mass. That is how you will become a happier healthier you in the long run.  Not an overweight depressed you. 

This Gym is Way Too Crowded

We have all been there.  You show up to go workout and every bench and every machine that you planned on using is taken (and there’s already three people ahead of you waiting for that machine or bench!).  Lots of people would take this as an excuse to just jump on the elliptical for 30 minutes and call it good or not workout at all.   I’m here to tell you that it’s time that you take that crowded gym mindset from one of inconvenience to one of creativity.

Just like how you can always find the time to workout, you can also always find a way to workout as well. A very smart way to go about getting the most out of your workouts is going into every workout with both a "Plan A" and a "Plan B”.  Plan A is what you cross your fingers and hope to do but, if the gym is way too crowded to efficiently do that plan, you are prepared with Plan B that you know you can do no matter how flooded the gym is with people. Having the knowledge and the creativity to find alternative exercises for a Plan B workout can be the difference between reaching your goal in a month or it taking almost two months. 

Having an alternative to your first exercise of choice doesn't always mean that you will get exactly the same results but it is always better than skipping it all together.  For instance, you want to do bench press but all the benches are taken and you don’t think you will be getting a bench anytime soon.  Instead of skipping out on that chest exercise entirely, you can substitute bench press with push-ups.  If you’re goal is to get more muscle mass and push-ups seem too easy then bring a weighted vest to add an extra 20+ pounds.  This is by no means equivalent to lifting heavy on the bench press but it’s still going to help you get stronger which is a lot better than not doing anything. Take squats as another example.  If you want to do squats but all the squat racks are taken, you can substitute traditional barbell squats with dumbbell squats.  If your goal is to squat a heavy weight and dumbbells alone don’t do it for you, you can turn regular dumbbell squats into jump squats. Even though plyometric exercises (like jump squats) aren’t exactly right for reaching heavy lifting goals like regular barbell squats, they are still going to get you stronger and, given the gym isn’t insanely packed every time you go, you will still have plenty of future opportunities to get on that squat rack.

In conclusion, don’t EVER use “there’s way too many people here” as an excuse.  There is always a way to get the job done and if that means doing your Plan B workout, then get in there and do the best workout you can and don’t leave feeling discouraged because you didn’t get to do your Plan A workout.  Instead, leave feeling accomplished knowing that you found a way to get a much more productive workout in than all the men and women standing around forever waiting to get the bench or machine for their Plan A workout (because they don’t even have a Plan B).

Forget That New Years Resolution

The most classic New Years Resolution in this country is to start working out more and getting healthy.  January is packed full of new exercisers who don’t have a history of exercising in the past.  Then, when mid February to early March comes around, majority of those newcomers who vowed to exercise more have already quit and only the regulars (people who have been working out consistently for a long time) remain.  There is a reason for this and it has nothing to do with how tough exercising can be physically. It is all due to mental health issues.

If you are overweight for instance, instead of jumping straight to working out, you need to look deep inside and ask yourself “how did my body end up this way?”  Either on your own, or through therapy, if you think about it hard enough you will realize that there is something much deeper than just a lack of exercise and clean dieting that got your body to that point.  Some people live very stressful lifestyles, others have experienced something extremely traumatic. These are examples of the types of things that start you on the trail to weight gain and until you realize that, your chances of staying consistent with an exercise program and eating cleanly in the new year are sadly slim to none.

So what is an example of a better New Years Resolution? How does this sound: "In the new year I am no longer going to hold all my emotions in and finally let go of the past."  This is so much better than vowing to exercise more because it solves a much deeper problem and will undoubtedly lead you onto the path of becoming a healthier person (both physically and mentally) without exercise feeling like a chore.  That is what leads you to becoming an intrinsically motivated exerciser rather than a extrinsically motivated exerciser.

In conclusion, when you start to realize that you are not as healthy as you think you should be, instead of resorting to diet and exercise right off the bat, remember to first look deep inside yourself until you have figured out exactly what the core cause of your weight gain is.  Even if it doesn’t seem like it now, if you are living an unhealthy lifestyle it is very likely that there is an excessive amount of stress in your life or you have experienced something very traumatic that never got dealt with correctly.  When your mental health is in check, it is very likely that your physical health will naturally stay in check too.  

Orangetheory

Orangetheory is a new craze in the fitness world that is growing very fast.  There is a lot to be liked about Orangetheory if you have the right mindset and are more of an intrinsically motivated exerciser.  The reason I say that is because these workouts are a full 60 minutes of high intensity cardio and strength training and are not for those looking for a “quick fix”. 

When you look at the official website they explain the basic idea behind Orangetheory as the following:  "The physiological theory behind the Orangetheory workout is known as “Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption,” or EPOC.” (http://www.orangetheoryfitness.com/About-the-Workout/Our-Philosophy).  To sum this idea up, “Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption” (EPOC) has to do with how your body continues to burn calories long after your 60 minute workout is over because of all the energy needed to help your muscles fully recover.  

Orangetheory is not a whole lot different from regular high intensity interval training workouts (HIIT) when looking at the workout itself.  The same basic equipment is used (dumbbells, barbells, treadmills, ellipticals etc.) and the way the workouts are formatted isn’t too different either. The difference is that you wear a heart rate monitor that is hooked up to a TV screen. That makes it so that the fitness instructor can see hard you are actually pushing yourself and that you are at at least 84% of your maximum heart rate the entire time which makes it almost impossible to cheat (people try and cheat?!) when you start feeling tired.   

Overall, I think that Orangetheory is a great workout program and I think that anyone who is willing to put in the work will get the results they are looking for without a doubt.  The only problem is that for a lot Americans, workouts that are this intense will be nothing but a hard and miserable experience which is why I think that Orangetheory should be recommended for those who are already in decent shape and looking to improve their fitness even more.

Body Weight Training

There has been a recent growth in popularity throughout the fitness community to tryout body weight training.  This is one of the best ways to train your body for overall fitness for more reasons that I can list.  The biggest part of body weight training that is so beneficial for people trying to get in better shape has to do with how variable the exercises are as well as how many different types of exercises there are that you can do to make sure you never get bored.

The variation in body weight training is much greater than regular weight training with dumbbells and barbells which makes it so that you can truly work every muscle in your body.  An example of variation in body weight training is all the different types of pushups out there.  Depending on where you place your arms and legs you can work completely different arm muscles.  Close grip pushups (a.k.a Diamond pushups) work your triceps a lot more than your chest muscles whereas wide grip pushups work almost entirely your chest muscles and little to none of your triceps. Then, once doing all the different types of pushups gets boring or too easy, you can do spiderman pushups where you add in an abdominal workout by lifting your leg off the ground and bringing your knee to your elbow (switching off legs after each rep). Or, you can also work your way up to doing one-armed pushups.

Body weight training also gives you the opportunity to add in extra cardio while you are strength training.  Examples of this include exercises such as burpees, squat jumps, and plyometric lunges. If fat loss is your primary goal, then doing exercises like these can speed up your results because of the high amount of calories that you can burn if you do them with enough intensity (and correct form). 

There are multiple different ways to put together a weight training program depending on your fitness goals.  If you are just looking to lose a few pounds or simply improve your overall conditioning, then full body workouts 2-3 times a week is the way to go.  Do one to three exercises for each muscle group (chest, back, arms, legs, core) and then recover for at least 48-72 hours.  If you are looking to put on muscle mass and increase your strength, it get a little more advanced.  For this type of training, it is best to separate the muscle groups into different days so that you can really push the muscles you’re working in that specific workout to complete fatigue.  An example schedule could be doing chest and back exercises on Monday, tricep and bicep exercises on Tuesday, legs on Wednesday, and then repeat.  It is up to you which days you do core exercises (lower back and abs) as long as you do them 2-3 times per week and don’t do them on consecutive days.

In conclusion, whether you tired of lifting weights and want to try a new kind of workout program or simply don’t want to pay for a gym membership, body weight training should always be one of your top considerations because of the efficiency and effectiveness of this type of training. 

Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation

There are two types of people in this world: Intrinsically motivated exercisers and extrinsically motivated exercisers. If you are intrinsically motivated, that means you workout because you find it fun, rewarding, and it makes you happy.  On the other side are the extrinsically motivated individuals who are working out because they think they have to or are worried about their health. Either way, it’s good to be going to the gym but will intrinsically motivated and extrinsically motivated individuals get the same results?

There is proof out there that people who are intrinsically motivated end up having the most success with their workouts and are usually much happier in their daily lives. This is because people that are intrinsically motivated look forward to their workout and think of it as a source of enjoyment rather than an obligation.  It doesn’t take a genius to know that going into a workout with a positive attitude is a big (possibly the biggest) influence on how hard you push yourself in each exercise as well as how satisfied you feel about yourself afterwards.  

Extrinsically motivated exercisers on the other hand will likely not have the same experience. These are usually the people who only go to the gym because they know they need to improve their overall health and get little to no satisfaction from working out. The most classic example of this is someone who is overweight or obese and has been told if they don’t lower their body fat percentage they could be at risk for cardiovascular disease or type II diabetes.  A person like that usually has a history of living a sedentary lifestyle which means that going and working out was never something that attracted them which likely means that pushing their body beyond their comfort zone stresses them out.  Going into a workout feeling stressed out and wishing you were at home can often make going to the gym a complete waste of time. 

What does it take to make an extrinsically motivated individual stop thinking of working out as a chore and become more intrinsically motivated? The answer is getting a personal trainer or joining a group fitness class.  Having a personal trainer or a group fitness instructor there to motivate you and help guide you through workouts safely will help you perform more successful workouts and feel better about yourself (as well as get results quicker!). With good results comes looking better and feeling better about yourself, which leads to greater self-confidence and a greater enjoyment for exercising.  That will eventually lead to becoming a more intrinsically motivated exerciser. 

In conclusion, working out is always better than not working out but your mindset going into the workout can make all the difference.  Whether or not you think you need a personal trainer to help you get going on an exercise program is your decision but it is highly recommended. 

The Number One Reason You're Not Getting Results

There are a lot of people in this country hate working out because they think it’s hard, painful, and not fun at all.  This belief is all due to the fact that what they have tried in the past stressed them out more than it made them feel accomplished. There is always some kind of exercise program out there for everyone that will make them happy and get the results they never got with the programs they tried in the past.  Working out doesn’t have to feel like an obligation or a chore.

The first place to look when attempting to figure out what kind of workout is right for you is NOT the internet.  There are a million catchy advertisements out there that claim to be the best way to lose fat and get strong but it’s all a lie because no matter how much scientific research went into designing it, it isn’t going to help people who don’t find it fun and get stressed out doing it.  The first step to finding your perfect workout program is going out and actually trying things yourself.  You don’t know whether running or swimming is a better source of cardio for you until you try them.  If neither running or swimming make you happy, there is also rowing, cycling (indoor or outdoor), and High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).   It's the same thing with strength training as well.  You don't have to do Dynamic Constant External Resistance Training (DCER), better known as "normal" or "regular" weight training, if it feels boring and repetitive to you. There is also TRX, Circuit Training, Variable Resistance Trainingbody weight training and many more!  

Probably the easiest (and quickest) way to figure out what type of training you like best is to try sessions with a personal trainer or try a group fitness class. Fitness professionals are likely to know how to motivate you and help you find your correct fitness path a lot better than relying purely on yourself.  Working with a fitness professional such as a personal trainer or a group fitness instructor will help make sure you do all your exercises correctly and safely so that you don't injure yourself (a classic excuse not to exercise) as well as help you decide if it's the right type of workout for you to reach your goals.

In conclusion, if you take the time to explore yourself and what the world of health and fitness has to offer, there's no doubt that you will reach any fitness goal you strive for! All you got to do is just believe in yourself and believe that there is something out there that you will get great pleasure doing that will push you hard enough to get great results without making you feel miserable doing it. Whether you use a personal trainer or not, success can always come with the right amount of time, effort, and a positive attitude!

 

SMART Goals

What is a SMART goal?  Is it just a fitness goal that you think of that sounds smart? Well it’s a bit more complicated than that.  A SMART goal is actually an acronym for Specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.  In the world of fitness, making a SMART goal is the very first step to getting the real results that you are looking for.

Starting with specific, most people walk in to the gym for the first time and tell themselves and others that they “just want to lose a little weight” or “I want to get buff”. The problem with something that broad is that you don’t actually have anything specific enough to keep you motivated or ever feel a real sense of achievement.  If your goal is to lose weight, you need to decide exactly what amount of weight you really want to lose.  Then, if you are trying to get stronger (or “buff”), you have to pick certain muscle groups and exercises and then pick a specific goal weight that you want to be able to lift.

Then there is measurable.  When you are thinking of a fitness goal it has to be something that you can measure.  If you say your goal is to get in shape or to get ready for beach season there isn’t anything that you can actually measure.  An example of a measurable goal is losing weight. You can step on the scale every morning to track how much you are losing throughout your goal period of time.  Or, if you are trying to get stronger, you can make a goal to be able to lift a specific amount of weight and then track what weight you can currently lift and how much you have improved the amount of weight you lifted when you first started doing that exercise.

The next part, achievable, is like a combination of the first two parts.  In order for your goal to be achievable, it has to be specific enough to know what your are reaching for and it has to be measurable so that you know when you achieved it.  If you don’t think you have a clue what you are capable of achieving you can make a long line of short term goals that you keep updating as you go. For example, instead of saying that you want to lose 20 pounds in the next two months, think of something shorter like losing 3 pounds at the end of the week.  What that does is give you more opportunities to feel successful which will then help you learn what you are capable of better and then you can start making longer term goals.

Part 4, realistic, is potentially the most important part of the SMART goal.  This is where you say to yourself: “Can I actually achieve this goal without having to give up other parts of my daily life or risking injuring myself?”.  If you make a fitness goal without the knowledge and planning of how to achieve it, you are not likely to achieve it and therefore aren’t thinking with a very realistic mindset which also hurts your motivation and determination to stay consistent with your workouts.  

Finally, last but not least, there is time-bound.  What is the point of making a goal of losing 20 pounds without giving a time-frame for losing that weight in? Without that time-frame, you are much more likely to fail.  If you instead say you want to lose 20 pounds in 2 and a half or 3 months, you will be more likely to stay consistent and motivated because you have an ending date.  

In conclusion, making a goal that is specific, easy to measure, achievable, realistic, and limited in time (or SMART), you will no doubt reach your fitness goals if not go above and beyond those goals.