Easing back into your routine

If you’re like most people, you probably over-ate and had more than a few drinks over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Like most people, the festivities likely kept you busy with little time to work out. That’s normal and it’s more than okay. Everyone deserves to let loose every now and then, especially during the holidays. It’s nothing to feel guilty over and you certainly don’t need to rush right back into your workouts full bore. In fact, you should definitely not overdo it.

For one, rushing into a hard workout immediately after the holiday binge will not undo everything right away. Secondly, you’re only increasing risk for injuries. Thirdly, your regular routine is not only sufficient, it is probably a little more difficult given the few days off and extra calories consumed. Gauge how your body feels without going by the metrics of added weight or extra reps. Your body will know how much and when is enough.

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Beware the False Promises of the Exercise Pill

Recently there was news of an “exercise pill.” Researchers have been working for years on deciphering the precise chemical mechanisms of metabolism and fat burning. The result of multiple research efforts around the world over the years is a promising drug that has shown to reduce cholesterol, burn fat, and even increase healthy proteins. Hence, the exercise pill. Though, it is still years away before an actual exercise pill becomes reality. If you want to read about the details, go here.

For many, the exercise pill will be a god-send. It would be a holy grail for millions of couch potatoes. After all, we are a society of quick fixes and instant gratifications. Exercise is hard, painful, and time-consuming. Imagine that people could be healthy, in shape, and save time just by taking a pill—a shortcut to physical glory. All gain, no pain.

This is a fantasy. When something is too good to be true, it usually is. No knock on the science, as I’m sure the best people are on the job. Still, some things are beyond the laboratory. There are intangibles that come with actual exercise that a pill cannot confer. Things like discipline, perseverance, determination, grit, purposefulness, self-esteem, among other character traits, are developed through the trials of effort. Shortcuts bypass the steps necessary for character building. Taking a pill, in my opinion, is cheating yourself. Health and fitness are simply byproducts of exercise. The true benefits of exercise are not measured by numbers on a scale.

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Put in the time now so you don’t pay the price later

There is a fundamental truth in life: everything has a cost. It may not be monetary, but there is a price to pay. Whether that price is time or attention or stress or pain, it is a cost.

Still, people tend to relate to economic cost, because it’s tangible. So consider the costs of the most common medical procedures:

  • Heart Valve replacement $170,000
  • Heart bypass $123,000
  • Spinal fusion $110,000
  • Hip replacement $40,364
  • Knee replacement 35,000
  • Angioplasty $28,200
  • Hip resurfacing $28,000
  • Gastric bypass $25,000
  • Cornea (per eye) $17,500
  • Gastric sleeve $16,500
  • Hysterectomy $15,400
  • Lap band $14,000
  • IVF treatments $12,400
  • Face lift $11,000
  • Tummy tuck $8,000
  • Rhinoplasty $6,500
  • Breast implants $6,400
  • Liposuction $5,500
  • Lasik (both eyes) $4,000
  • Cataract surgery (per eye) $3,500
  • Dental implant $2,500

(Data source: Statista)

Notice that the majority of the conditions above are weight and diet related. Most of these conditions, however, could be alleviated or controlled by regular exercise. Compare the costs of these procedures that of a gym membership (average cost of $50/month or $600/year) or trainer ($60-100 per workout). If you want to take a prevention mentality, then keep this in mind: Put in the time now, so you don’t pay the price later.

But economics isn’t everything. Regular exercise will give you extra time to be with friends and family. It will give you an improved quality of life, in addition to improved mental acuity and a happier outlook on life. Activity begets more activity, meaning you’ll have an active lifestyle, which leads to an active mind, which then means you’ll get more done, and that ends up giving you more time. You’ve come full circle: having more time. And that is priceless.

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Aerobic vs. Anaerobic Exercise

There are only two types of exercises: aerobic and anaerobic. Understanding the benefits of each type would enhance your workouts.

“Aero” is Greek for air or, in the context of fitness, relates to oxygen. Aerobic and anaerobic exercises are associated with slow-twitch and fast-twitch muscle fibers, respectively.

In aerobic exercises, oxygen is used to fuel metabolism. Slow-twitch muscle fibers are geared for more efficient oxygen consumption and therefore are built for distance running, swimming, cycling, and other endurance exercises. Slow-twitch muscle fibers are long and lean.

Anaerobic exercises, in contrast, utilize fast-twitch muscles for quick burst movements that do not require oxygen to fuel muscle contraction. Examples of anaerobic exercises are weight lifting and sprinting. Since anaerobic metabolism do not use oxygen for fuel, certain chemicals are released that impair muscle contractions. We call this fatigue. Slow-twitch muscles are thicker compared to slow-twitch.

So if you want to to build strength and size, you would want to target fast-twitch muscles. You could only do so with anaerobic exercises. On the other hand, if your goal is stamina and endurance, then you would want to work on those slow-twitch muscles.

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The Relationship Between Weight, Reps & Rest

There are two main reasons for weight training: building muscles and losing weight. You could certainly have both as your goals. But most people start with one or the other.

For our purpose here, let’s say that you either want to lose weight or you desire to build muscles. The difference between the two is obviously managing intensity (weight) and frequency (reps). What isn’t so obvious, but equally important, is the rest time between reps.

For size and strength, less is more when it comes to reps. You’d want to do heavier weight, but with less reps. You’d also want longer rest between reps. Three to 5 minutes is ideal, as that allows your muscle fibers to recover. The recovery promotes strength and growth.

To lose weight, you do the opposite: lower weight, more reps, and shorter rest (1 to 2 minutes). The short rest stimulates more calorie burn.

So depending on your goals, the rest between reps is crucial. As always, exercise in general is great for your health. But having a focused workout with a targeted approach will give you the results you want faster. Measurable results, in turn, will keep you motivated and engaged.

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Getting into the Zone

Many athletes talk about getting into the zone, that place where they perform at their peak, where time seems to slow down and the background fades away. They move effortlessly and everything seems clearer. There is even a sense of euphoria. Runners call this the runner’s high. The “zone” is not just for athletes, though. You could get into the zone at your job or even when working on a home project.

What does it mean getting into the zone? It’s probably different for everyone, but there are some common denominators. When you are in the zone, you are focused with a single-mindedness. Whatever you’re engaged in at that moment has your full attention. Your peripheral vision narrows. You’re not thinking of what you’re going to do next. Your energy and focus is on the task at hand. Your brain and body reshuffles for maximum efficiency. Not a drop of energy is wasted on anything but what you’re currently doing. Your body, mind and soul is in full alignment with your purpose and goal, creating an eclipse of the superfluous in favor of only the essential.

That is getting into the zone!

So how do you get into the zone? Again, there is probably no consensus because we are all wired differently. However, there are common techniques, such as visualizing what the goal of your activity is. The more specific your goal is, the clearer your vision will be. Eliminating multitasking is another way. Switching between several tasks requires the brain and body to switch in accordance. It’s like switching between playing offense and defense. There is lag-time, reorientation and refocusing involved in the transition. You might think you could train yourself to excel at switching between tasks, but it requires energy to do so and you will tire quickly.

At the core of the zone, it is about simplifying and reducing to only what’s necessary. The next time you’re feeling like you are in a zone, pause and take inventory of how you got there. Do this enough and you just might figure out your own formula for getting into the zone. Then maybe you could get there at will and see your productivity soar.


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Your Trainer is More Than a Trainer

Being a personal trainer has many responsibilities, ones that go beyond fitness. As a certified personal trainer with a degree in physical education and extensive experience, I know I could get my clients in tip-top physical shape. Fitness is the easy part. After all, it is simply a matter of devising a sensible workout routine and adjusting it as the client becomes more fit by increasing reps and/or weight. Of course, you shake things around once in a while to offset acclimation.

Again, fitness is the easy part. It is also arguably a small part. As a personal trainer, I am also a motivator, problem solver, life coach, confidant, friend, and often even a therapist. Many clients come with a fitness goal, but they also use that time to blow off steam or vent. Everyone almost always have something to get off their chest. Doing so during a workout might seem like a good time for that. So I listen.

And I gauge what the client needs. Sometimes they need motivating and encouraging. Or they need advice and coaching. Usually, they just need a friend. Even thought my specialty is fitness, my skill is people. You don’t need a psychology degree, just compassion and being observant. So I invite you to come join me at Vagastar Gym.

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Don’t Use Time as an Excuse

How many times have you–or someone you know–say, “I’ll wait until spring to start working out”?

Or, “I’ll wait until summer to starting getting in shape”?

Or, “I’ll wait until I’m less busy…

Or, “I’ll wait until I make more money…

These “I’ll wait until ___________” statements always have to do with a condition in some future time.

The problem is that these are all just excuses. The fact of the matter is life rarely offers a perfect scenario for us to start to do anything. When it has to do with your health, there is no better time than now.

Benjamin Franklin once said, “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”

If your health is important, then treat it as an unconditional priority and stop using time as an excuse.

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Photo by Warren Wong on Unsplash

The focus for Vagastar Gym is fitness and health. We work out to get the best out of ourselves. That means physically as well as mentally, because the mind is also a muscle that has to be exercised to run optimally. Just like physical activities, mental exercises are skills that could be developed through practice.

The greatest mental routine you could start doing and begin reaping the benefits right away is gratitude. Being grateful takes practice, but you could build it up like you do any muscle. You will get better over time. The energy and positivity that it provides you is exponential. Gratitude is the lubricant for life. It offers perspective and keeps you anchored to life’s most important things–things that are beyond materialism or social status.

The beauty of gratitude is that it is all internal. Everyone is capable of gratitude. Look within and you will see that you already have everything.

But if you need a point of reference, then just look around you. Realize what miracles have to have happened to bring you to where you are. Do you have a roof over your head, the ability to eat when you’re hungry, clothes on your back? Do you have the luxury to exercise for health? Friends, family, loved ones? People who support, encourage, push you? There is always something to be grateful for. If you’re able to read this, case in point.

You know what’s equally important to be grateful for what you have? It is to be grateful for what you don’t have. Then you don’t have to squander energy and time worry about what isn’t there, so you could concentrate on what is already here.

Pain vs. Soreness

Knowing the difference between pain and soreness is important not only for improving your workouts but also to prevent serious injuries. In order to get stronger, your body needs to be pushed to an appropriate level where gains can occur. Everyone’s threshold is difference, given your fitness and conditioning. When done properly, regular exercise will progressively increase your threshold. When you stay within the safe side of your threshold, you could expect soreness due to the stress placed on your body. Muscular soreness is a healthy and expected result of exercise. However, it is when you cross that threshold that you will experience pain. Here are key differences between soreness and pain:

  • soreness is a dull, maybe tender, aching sensation in your muscles, while pain is a sharp ache in your muscles or joints
  • you will experience soreness within 24-72 hours after activity, while pain could occur during or within 24 hours
  • soreness will typically last 2-3 days and goes away, but pain from an injury could linger much longer if not addressed
  • other than muscle tightness and tender to touch, there is usually no outward appearance from soreness, but inflammation, bruising and swelling are indications of something beyond soreness
  • soreness will commonly improve with stretching and movement, while ice, medication, and rest are normal pain relievers
  • soreness could worsen with inactivity and pain will usually worsen with continued activity

If any ache lasts more than a week, chances are that you’ve sustained an injury. Some minor injuries could be treated with ice, rest and pain killers, but if the pain lasts more than a week and the injured area remains swollen and/or bruised, then seeing a doctor would be a great idea.