How Can I Sleep When I’m Stressed Out?

Everyone knows how important sleep is for living a healthy lifestyle but not everyone actually gets as much sleep as they know their body needs.  Getting adequate sleep helps with everything from mental issues, such as stress, by keeping stress hormones down to physical issues, such as potentially helping you maintain or lose weight.  The thing people don’t understand though is how to get a healthy amount of sleep on a consistent basis when they’re stressed out.

We have all been there.  You have multiple exams coming up that you’re not prepared for or you have too many jobs that need to get done and it’s keeping you up at night.  How on earth do you fall asleep at a reasonable hour and stay asleep all through the night? A big part of the answer to that question is diet and exercise (real shock right?).  I am not just saying that because this is a fitness blog, it’s actually very true. 

When you eat the right foods (like fruits and vegetables) it gives you all the nutrients your body needs to regulate your sleep cycle so that you can fall asleep easier and stay asleep longer.  Eating evenly spaced out meals throughout the day and eating enough food helps you not feel overly hungry late at night nor give you indigestion from eating too much right before laying down in bed.

Then there is also the huge benefit of getting exercise daily.  Whether it’s a hard weight lifting workout or just a good long walk in the park, getting some form of exercise gets you tired and when you’re tired you want to go to bed (obviously).  Getting a good workout in reduces your stress levels and gives you a feeling of accomplishment which helps you relax your mind and reduce your chance of being kept up at night with stressful thoughts or worries rushing through your head.  

I could go on a much longer rant about the benefits of a healthy diet and exercise program for helping you sleep but I not going to because I think you get the point.  Don’t rely on sleeping pills unless prescribed by your physician and don’t eat a large bowl of ice cream right before bed.  Just eat the right foods and get your heart rate up on a daily basis and you should be good. 

Sprinting vs. Distance Running for Fat Loss

There is a lot of confusion out there over how to lose weight.  Most people who are trying to lose those extra pounds of fat around their waistline think that they should go out and run for as long and as far as they can.  The truth is that this is not the best way to go upon fat loss.  Putting in miles on the running trails or on the treadmill will definitely burn calories and will help you lose weight but that weight you are losing isn’t all fat.  Most of that weight you are losing is muscle. This is especially true if you are not consistently weight training along with your running program.  

So how should you go about efficient and healthy weight loss?  The answer is sprinting workouts. It might be hard to believe at first because sprinting workouts are usually shorter than distance workouts and have much longer resting times but there is one very important fact that needs to be understood:  Sprinting workouts help you build muscle.  When you are building muscle it speeds up your metabolism which makes it so that you burn more calories while at rest and don’t have to put your legs through the hard stress of running for miles and miles. 

On the other hand, if you are training for a 10k or a marathon then distance running should be your main focus of training.  As stated earlier, these kinds of workouts will make you lose muscle as well as fat but that is actually ok because you need to be as lean as possible to run long endurance races.  Having too much muscle can make running long distances much harder just like having too much fat does because of how much weight your legs are having to carry along. It is important to note though that you will lose weight faster by incorporating sprinting workouts into your distance running program than if you only went on long runs.  

In conclusion, sprinting workouts are the way to go if you are just looking to lose fat and get healthier because of how it helps you lose fat while also putting on muscle.  But if you are training to eventually run a marathon, then going on distance runs should be your main type of workout.  Just remember you will not lose weight as quickly if you only go on long runs as you will if you do some sprinting workouts and weight lifting workouts on the side because of how those types of workouts help speed up your metabolism.

My Experiences With Skiing and Snowboarding

Since it is finally starting to feel like winter here in Colorado, I thought I would bring up the topic of skiing and snowboarding.  I grew up my entire life on the slopes of the Colorado Rocky Mountains.  The funny thing is though, even with all the years that I have spent skiing and snowboarding, I never realized that it was giving me a such a great workout and was not just a source of entertainment. Skiing and snowboarding have secretly been keeping me in good physical condition during the winter without me even realizing it.

I have realized that Skiing and snowboarding do have slight differences in what muscles they help get stronger. For instance, in skiing I feel like it mainly targets my quadriceps and hamstrings for stabilizing and balancing and my abdominals for stabilization as well.  In snowboarding (my personal favorite) I feel that I am targeting my shins and my calves more because of the leaning forwards and backwards motion that it requires to steer while also giving me an even greater lower back and abdominal workout than skiing (but that's just my experience).

On top of the muscle strengthening that skiing and snowboarding have given me, they have also been giving me a great cardio workout.  Working at being able to balance and control my body while going at a high speed downhill is one of the best (and funnest) ways to keep my heart rate up and burn calories fast.  Unlike with muscle strengthening where skiing and snowboarding work different muscles, I have found that both skiing and snowboarding are fairly equal when looking specifically for a cardio workout.

In summary, purely thinking from a fitness point of view (disregarding personal preference (snowboarding)), if I wanted to get a better upper leg workout, I would go with skiing.  If I wanted a better core and lower leg workout, I would go with snowboarding. 

DOMS

Every man or woman out there who lifts weights has more than likely experienced extreme soreness in the muscles that they worked out.  Sometimes that soreness doesn’t even show up for over a day or two.  This is a phenomenon known as “delayed onset muscle soreness” which is better known in the lifting community as DOMS. 

DOMS can confuse and worry people who are new to weight lifting because after going a day without feeling any soreness from their workout they think that they are never going to feel sore and then suddenly, after 48 hours, are excruciatingly sore. This is completely normal though, and actually should be something that gets you excited instead of worried because that delayed soreness you are feeling is proof that your workout was successful.   Personally, I would be more worried that something was wrong if my muscles were sore in less than 24 hours than if it took 48 hours to feel the soreness.  DOMS should heal 24 to 36 hours after it first shows up but can stay longer depending on how much recovering your muscles have to do.  If your muscles still hurt after 3 days, you probably have a muscle tear or pull.

It is important to note that after a hard weight lifting workout you HAVE TO STRETCH!  Speaking specifically about DOMS, if you don’t stretch you are more likely to tear or pull a muscle and, especially if you are a male, could very well convince yourself that it’s just regular soreness and ignore it.  Stretching will not prevent DOMS but it will make the soreness less intense as well as get your muscles stronger faster (and help prevent injury).  

Also, if like I've said in previous blogs, if you don't get quality rest, your muscles will be sore longer and you will be more likely to get injured.  Plus, if your nutrition isn't good, you will likely feel just as sore with minimal strength progress.

As an ending note, DOMS is a key sign of a successful weight lifting workout but must be payed attention to and taken care of with proper stretching, nutrition, and rest. 

Full Body vs. Split Weight Lifting Routines

When it comes to designing a workout program for yourself, you need to understand what your short-term and long-term goals are.  If you don't have any specific goals other than just getting stronger and healthier, than maybe you should sit down and figure that out first.  Once you have figured out exactly what you want to get out of your workouts, that's when can you start picking out your routines.

If your goals are to lose weight, get toned, increase your speed etc, than you might look into doing full body workouts.  Full body workouts, as you can imagine, are workouts that work all the major upper and lower body muscle groups.  These kinds of workouts should be done only 2 to 3 times a week because, since you are working the majority of your muscles in a single workout, you need more time to recover.  Also, if you are a very busy man and don't think you have the time to workout more than two or three times a week, or you don't want to workout more than you have to, full body workouts are pretty much your only choice.

If your goals are to bulk up (A.K.A put on muscle mass), then split routines are the way to go. A split routine is also exactly like what the name says it is.  It is a routine that is split up into separate muscle groups depending on the day of the week.  Common examples are splitting up workouts into chest and triceps on day one, back and biceps on day two, legs and shoulders on day three, and then take a break and rest on day four.  Then repeat that whole schedule over. These split routines will get your muscles stronger faster than full body workouts because you are giving every single muscle a harder, more intense workout than you ever will be able to with full body workouts.  Taking your biceps as an example, if you do a full body workout you are probably doing one or two exercises that work the biceps a couple times a week.  With a split routine you are doing four to six different exercises that work the biceps twice a week.  That is quite a lot more stress being put on the biceps a week.

In conclusion, neither is necessarily a better type of workout.  It all depends on your goals.

 

Childhood Obesity: Diet Comes First

There is obviously an epidemic going on in this country right now with obesity in children.  Adults in this country that are overweight or obese know that their diet is unhealthy and that they have a problem whereas children are not aware of this at all.  Children just eat what their parents and other adults decide to feed them and don't care about anything other than if it tastes good or not.  

A lot of ignorant parents out there who feed their children (and themselves) extremely unhealthy food to make them happy and then pay to send their children to personal trainers with the expectation that that will magically prevent them from getting fat (or fatter).  Not only are these parents wasting their money but they're also wasting their kids and the personal trainers time because no progress is being made and the kids are usually not having any fun doing these workouts either.  

Once parents start to understand the true importance of feeding their kids the right foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meat) and discontinue the candy and soda meal plan, they will notice that their kids will naturally start losing weight, become more active, and even be happier and less stressed out.  Candy and soda might make your kid feel happy temporarily (until their stomach hurts and their body crashes) but feeding them more healthy fruits and vegetables will have a much longer (and healthier) effect on their lives because they won't feel sick and their body is actually receiving the nutrients it needs to fully thrive.  

Remember parents, you have the power and the knowledge to keep your children healthy and active, so lets work together to put an end to childhood obesity now!  

Stay Away From CrossFit and Olympic Lifting

I know I’m probably going to get a lot of people mad from this blog but, as a trainer, I feel that this is an important topic to bring up.  There are a lot of people on this planet who used to be in the best shape of their life but are now experiencing serious problems with their back, knees, hips, or other parts that could have easily been avoided if they had worked out correctly when they were younger.  Back and knee problems are just like hearing problems, they might not appear until you are in your 50’s or 60’s even though you had been slowly hurting them for years while you were in your 20’s and 30’s.  

The first kind of exercise I believe people need to stay away from for long-term health and fitness is one that is growing in popularity (sadly) quite rapidly: CrossFit.  The reasons behind why you should stay away from CrossFit are all to do with form and intensity.  CrossFitters get injured all the time because they go all-out until they can’t go anymore with exercise form that is being compromised due to serious fatigue.  For instance, when these athletes do exercises like the "clean and jerk", they use a lot of leverage so that they can maximize the amount of weight they lift which KILLS their lower back and puts way too much pressure on their knees.  Also, instead of doing a real pull-up, they do these ridiculous versions of pull-ups that use leverage so that they can blast out more of them quicker and for a longer period of time.  This not only doesn’t get you as strong as a real pull-up does, but will also eventually lead to even more lower back pain because of the leverage technique being used.  

Similar to CrossFit is Olympic Lifting.  Olympic Lifters, just like CrossFitters, are setting themselves up for all kinds of health problems.  Just about every exercise they do requires immense amounts of leverage because the whole goal is to lift as much as you possibly can.  The consequences of trying to lift too heavy are numerous.  For one, doing exercises such as "the snatch" and "push presses", can damage your neck because you are resting all that heavy barbell weight right on it, which then leads to serious cervical spine injuries. On top of that, when you lift too heavy of a weight, you are more likely to tear the muscles you are working then make them stronger. Those are just two examples because I don’t want to start boring you.

Basically, in summary, if you are a CrossFitter, you will have a lot of long-term health issues because of trying to go too hard for too long using unneeded leverage and if you are an Olympic Lifter, you will also have a lot of long-term health issues because you are trying to lift more weight than your body can handle multiple times a week.  Just don’t do it.  It’s not worth your time and effort.  

My Experiences With P90x3

P90x, for you all that don’t know, is a set of workout DVD’s made by Team Beachbody that you simply put into your DVD player or XBOX and follow along.  There are multiple versions (or generations) of P90x, including P90x2 and P90x3, that all have their own original styles.  P90x is the most basic, P90x2 is specifically for athletes and athletic training, and P90x3 is kind of in between the two.  

My personal experience is with P90x3.  What made me choose P90x3 over the others was that all of the workouts are only 30 minutes long.  That’s shorter than the 45-60 minute workout videos that the other two contain.  Even though they’re only 30 minutes long, they are intense, exhausting, and really prove that you can get a days worth of exercise in without using up a major portion of your time.  

I definitely felt like I was getting leaner and stronger during the period I spent on this program.  You do multiple versions of pull-ups, pushups, squats, and many other exercises that attack the muscles from all angles which is what most people in the gym don’t understand is even a thing you should be doing.  Some of the workouts are strength training specific, others are cardio based training, and others are for balance and stretching.  All of them have to be used to get the full benefits of P90x3.  What is the point of getting stronger and improving your endurance if you have terrible flexibility and balance?

The reason why I eventually gave it up was that there wasn’t enough room in my apartment to fully execute some of the moves that involved jumping and skipping and I felt like I wasn’t getting the full benefit.  So I ended up going back to the regular weight lifting routine at the gym but am highly considering going back to P90x3 when I am living somewhere that has enough room for me to take full advantage of the program. 

My Experiences With Kickboxing

When I’m angry and/or full of energy there really aren’t many things out there I find more satisfying than hitting things!  I know there are millions (if not billions) of people out there that would agree with me too.  The tricky thing can be finding a safe and smart ways to hit things without consequences you will likely regret.  That is where kickboxing comes in.

Kickboxing, for anyone that doesn’t know, is exactly what it sounds like: You kick and punch things (mostly punching bags).  The great thing though that I have come to realize about kickboxing is that it’s actually not as simple as just kicking and punching things.  There is a lot of technique that it takes to hit and kick without injuring yourself, there is a surprising large variety of different moves that you can do and learn, and it is a workout that will get you sweating in minutes (no matter how fit you are). 

I personally have found that kickboxing, when done correctly, has been able to give me a great cardio and strength training workout (as well as relieve a lot stress and anger).  On top of that, as I did more kickboxing and got better at it, it became even more fun because it was less standing and watching and more hitting!!  

As a personal trainer, I have learned that a lot of people hate running but think that they have to do it to lose weight.  They think it is exhausting, hard on their joints, and hearing that they need to pick up the pace just makes them hate it even more.  Kickboxing, or any kind of martial art for that matter, can be easier on the joints, release stress instead of increase stress, and be very rewarding.  These rewards are both emotional and physical.  There is an emotional reward of knowing that you are getting stronger, leaner, and feeling better mentally and physically.  Then, there are physical rewards such as earning “belts” based off your progress and level of mastery (black belt is the highest).

Unless you really hate physical contact and hitting things, there aren’t many reasons why kickboxing should not be considered as a training tool in your life.

In conclusion, kickboxing has improved my life both physically and mentally, just like it has for many others out there, and there are not a lot of reasons to completely disregard it as a training tool.  If you are looking to add variety into your workout schedule, are tired of regular weight training, or just hate regular cardio, kickboxing could be right up your alley. 

My Experiences With the Nike Fuelband

The Nike Fuelband is a wearable device that can track your daily steps as well as your active calories and how many hours you've been active each day. On top of that it also lets you earn something called "Nike Fuel" and you can set a goal amount of fuel to earn everyday. I don't have a clue how the algorithm that measures how much "fuel" you've earned works but trying to reach your daily fuel goal can become very addicting (believe me I know).  

The Nike Fuelband that I use isn't super accurate at tracking my steps (usually off by a couple thousand steps) but that's not the main reason I why I got it in the first place. I got my Nike Fuelband because of the Nike Fuel goals. Something about trying to earn as much fuel as possible everyday has really driven me to be as active everyday as possible. My daily fuel goal is 3,500 fuel and I am now at over 1.2 million total fuel earned which is always satisfying to look at.

I know there are plenty of people out there that hated and returned their Nike Fuelband (or just threw it away) but I have been very happy with it for the most part. Even though the total daily steps aren't accurate, I don't really care because there's better ways to measure your steps anyways. 

Overall, if I had to give a grade, I would give the Nike Fuelband a B+ because it has done a great job at keeping me up and active but it would be a lot better if the steps counter wasn't so inaccurate.  

My Experiences With the Apple Watch

The Apple Watch is capable of doing a lot of things, including keeping you fit and active.  Ever since I first got one, I have been obsessed with keeping track of my steps, heart rate, active calories, and number of minutes exercising each day.  

I found that the workout app that comes with the watch is great because it is set up to track all different kinds of workouts including running, walking, cycling (indoors and outdoors), elliptical machine, stair master, rowing machine, and other.  Although this app isn't much different than any of the iPhone apps you can download off the App Store (MapMyFitness, Nike+ Running, Strava etc.), the advantage is that I never have to deal with carrying my iPhone with me while I am working out.  Plus I can answer phone calls from the watch itself if someone happened to be calling me while I was working out.

The thing that the Apple Watch could use improvement on is with the heart rate monitor.  It only takes my heart rate randomly throughout the day and is very inconsistent.  If there was a way to get it to consistently monitor my heart rate so that I could really know how high and how low my pulse gets throughout the day I would be in fitness heaven. 

Overall though, from a fitness standpoint, the Apple Watch will definitely be a great asset for reaching a lot of different kinds of fitness goals (not all though).

Best Nutrition Apps

If you want to get the best out of your nutrition you need to keep track of what you are eating. In this day and age, that is very easy to do with your smartphone.  Some people also need to get ideas of recipes to cook that are healthy and easy to make.  You can use your smartphone for that too.

The best app out there, in my opinion, for tracking what you are eating is definitely MyFitnessPal. It tracks your total calories, grams of protein, carbohydrates, fat and sugar as well as milligrams of minerals such as calcium, potassium, and sodium.  What is the most impressive about MyFitnessPal is that it already has all the nutrition facts about almost every food from every manufacturer out there and, if by chance you can’t find what you are looking for, you can add it in yourself. This app will also automatically sync with your computer so you can also use the MyFitnessPal website on your computer to add and check everything you have done on the phone app.  The last great thing is that if you are big into using the iPhone HealthKit app, MyFitnessPal and HealthKit will automatically sync with each other so that you can track all of your nutrition data in an easy organized way that anyone can understand. 

If you are looking for a good app full of healthy recipes, you no further than Yummingly. Yummingly is an app full of healthy recipes of all different types of food with all the nutrition facts you need to know.  Also, just like MyFitnessPal, you can sync all your nutrition data from recipes that you have chosen and sync them with the HealthKit app.

Beyond these two apps, there are literally hundreds (if not thousands) of others that you can try but these are easily my two favorites. 

Best Strength and Cardio Apps

In this day and age we rely on our smart phones for everything (literally everything) and since I don’t see that changing anytime soon, I think it is only fair that I give my best advice for using your phone as a major fitness tool.

Fitness apps have grown so immensely that you can download one for just about any type of fitness goal imaginable.  The question is though, which one’s are actually worth downloading and which one’s are a waste of time (and possibly money)?  Personally, I focus mostly on strength training in the weight room.  There are a couple of apps that I have downloaded that are absolutely perfect for this and others that made me say “what was I thinking?”  

The best apps I can recommend for people like me who are in the weight room all the time are called FitnessBuilder and BodySpace. I like FitnessBuilder because you can make up your own workouts, track how much weight your lifting, and see your progress as you start lifting more weight graphically.  BodySpace is great because there are thousands of workouts and workout programs that others have designed and published that you can follow if you don’t want to make up one yourself.  

If you are more into running and cycling, the amount of apps that are out there are so massive that I couldn’t list even a small fraction of them off the top of my head.  My personal favorite for when I’m going on a run is Nike+ Running.  It tracks how many miles you’ve ran, how long you’ve been running for, your average mile pace, and shows you a map of the route you took after you’ve finished.  Others that I can recommend that work for running are MapMyFitness, Strava, Runtastic, and RunKeeper. Strava and MapMyFitness are both great for cycling as well as running. 

The one kind of fitness app I don’t recommend at all for anyone is ab workout apps.  They are all false advertising because they claim to train you to get great “six pack abs” when really that’s just nonsense. The way to get a six pack is with a healthy, well balanced, diet and exercise.  Working your abs is important to keep your body strong and all that, but don’t follow any of these ridiculous apps please.  They all contain exercises that are bad for you lower back and not worth doing unless you have a certified trainer there to check your form. 

My Experiences With Running

Ever since I was little, running has always been an important part of my life.  According to my mom, as a baby, I transitioned from bear crawling straight to running without learning to walk first.  Whether it was just back and forth up and down the hallway of my house or competitively at a high school track meet, running has always brought a lot of satisfaction and happiness to my life as well as a good outlet for me whenever I was angry. 

When I first got into running, I had dreams of running professionally and in the Olympics. I eventually got my mile time to under five minutes (4:58 to be exact) and thought I was on track to greatness. That was short lived though because I did not get along well with one of my Track & Field coaches and decided I didn't want to be a part of the team anymore. I was also having problems with shin splints which are not fun at all. That's when I realized I would much rather use running for fun and for staying in good physical condition, and not for training for the Olympics. Ever since coming to that realization, running has been even more enjoyable for me and I can run hard without the stress of thinking about how well I was going to do at the next track meet. 

The big thing I'm really getting at here is that running doesn't have to be specifically for training for a race, but can instead be just a way of life. That's all it really is for me.  

My Experiences With TRX

I first started doing TRX when I was training with a personal trainer and wanted to try something new because, after 2 years of weight training, I was finally starting to get a little tired of it. TRX is probably the most unusual workout I have ever done because it seemed crazy to me that I could get stronger and put on more muscle with what looked like just a fancy modified rope.  

After a few sessions with my trainer I started to realize how much strength you can gain doing TRX because every exercise you do requires core strength and balance that I didn't have to worry about before with regular weight lifting.  And when I say every exercise, I mean literally every exercise.  For instance, when you are doing chest press with the TRX, you are obviously working your pectoralis major and minor (chest muscles), but you are also getting a good lower back and abdominal workout as well because those muscles are needed to keep you balanced and not collapse straight onto the floor. I liked this a lot because having good balance is something that will help you stay healthy and out of a wheel chair your whole life (hopefully).

I do not recommend doing TRX everyday or even every other day because, since your abs are being worked so hard with every exercise, they need time to recover (just like any other muscle) and you will likely injure yourself due to not fully recovering.  Instead, do TRX every third day (ex. Monday, Thursday, Sunday) and try to make them full body workouts instead of focusing on just certain muscle groups. Also, I recommend starting out with a trained professional who knows how to train people with TRX so that you can get your form down correctly on all exercises before getting deep into a program.

I promise you will see the results in no time if you follow a good program, keep your form correct on every exercise, and don't over do it.  

My Experiences With Cardio

Running has always been a big part of my life so there's no question that I have done plenty of cardio workouts in my day.  In middle and high school, Track & Field was perfect for me and I was getting more than enough cardio in doing it. I thought that I was going to get all of my exercise just from running and that other kinds of workouts were not needed in my life.  Then, when I started at CSU, and got big into weight training, my cardio workouts decreased, I wasn't running as much (unless I was running to class), and I started to slowly forget about the importance of cardio for staying fit.  

In my sophomore year of college in 2013, I slowly started to realize the importance of getting cardio back into my life but still wasn't interested in getting back into running and decided I needed to find an alternative. This is when I decided to finally pursue getting a job as a basketball referee. It was perfect! I already knew the game so well that I wasn't too nervous or worried about screwing up the calls, plus it was elementary aged kids so the games weren't as intense, and I got a great cardio workout running up and down the court.

I proved to myself and others that cardio doesn't have to be something you feel obligated to do if you can find ways to mix it in with something else that you are more passionate about. Getting into basketball refereeing (and eventually football refereeing as well) has been one of the best choices I've ever made because it is fun and satisfying work, has helped me make new friends, and is a now my main source for getting cardio workouts in since I referee multiple days a week.  

My Experiences With Weight Training

When I was younger I did not think that weight training was at all appealing and believed it was not for people like me.  My main sports growing up were basketball, track & field, tennis, and snowboarding.  None of these sports seemed to me like weight training would be at all beneficial for improving my performance and fitness.  Then, when I went to college at Colorado State University (CSU) in 2012, my perspective completely changed.  

I started lifting just on my own with a friend and kind of realized that I really didn't know what on Earth I was doing when I was in the weight room and neither did my friend.  That's when I decided it was time to start paying for sessions with a personal trainer so that I didn't end up hurting myself or just not getting any real results from my workouts.  After learning how to do all the exercises with my trainer and then getting a real routine written out for me, that's when my weight lifting lifestyle really picked up.  Just knowing how to do exercises correctly and having an idea of what I should do each day got me more motivated and I ended up putting on the "freshman 15" in muscle (not fat).

Now, I have been lifting weights regularly for over 3 years and it has done only good things for me mentally and physically.  I might not be the skinny distance runner I used to be (now I'm more of a sprinter), but I have noticed a positive growth in my basketball performance, my legs don't get as tired or sore from snowboarding all day, and my serve in tennis has improved. Weight training was a big part of all of those improvements.