Ask an Expert: Motivating Others

Question: I’ve recently started a new fitness routine, but my friend has been more reluctant. How do I go about motivating others around me to be active, too?

Congratulations on your enthusiasm for sharing your new fitness program! While you’re excited about the benefits of your routine, you’ve already realized that different factors motivate different people.

If you’ve made great strides in your fitness, it’s possible that your friend is intimidated by your success, or, possibly, would benefit from a different routine altogether. You could start by finding a new, common activity that the two of you can share. Activities like co-ed volleyball and softball are both seasonal activities that are great for being social and active with your friend or a group of friends.

You can also try outdoor, non-competitive activities, such as hiking, biking, or after-dinner walks. Once you’ve found an activity that you both enjoy, using technology (like the ViaFit app that works with many Horizon Fitness products) can help motivate each other and stay on track.

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Keep the enthusiasm up by sending fitness-themed motivators throughout the week. Some ideas might include a special invitation for a night out starting with a new fitness class (cycling and restorative yoga are two ideas), a hike on a favorite trail, creating a special playlist for their next home workout, or joining up with another friend for a small group personal training session.

As you look to expand your fitness journey with your friends and family, remember that it might take a little experimentation to find the fit that works for everyone. Keep it fun, positive, and enjoy the adventure!

Joli

About the writer: Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more on the Meet Our Writers page.

 

 


Selecting the Yoga Practice That’s Right for You

With so many styles and benefits of yoga available, sorting out the yin from the yang and the power from restorative can be pretty daunting. Looking for a little guidance on finding the right fit for your first class? Here’s an overview of some of the benefits of yoga as well as the styles that will emphasize these benefits, so you can select the yoga practice that’s right for you.

Overall Fitness. For the fitness-minded person who is just looking for a well-rounded approach to cross-training, yoga can offer benefits in the three areas of fitness: cardiovascular, strength, and flexibility. While you need to keep moving to get your heart rate up, recent studies demonstrate that the cardiovascular benefits of yoga can be in keeping with those of brisk walking and exercise, resulting in increased fitness and decreases in LDL Cholesterol and body weight. If this sounds like your type of practice, look into a Power, Flow, Core, or Vinyasa yoga classes. You might also see this type of offering billed as Baptiste or Forrest yoga. These classes are offered in both traditional and heated studios and you can expect to sweat even at room temperature.

Strength and Improved Mobility:  Whether you’re looking to prevent injuries, improve your balance, or increase your functional flexibility, yoga can assist you in becoming stronger and moving in a healthier fashion. A classic Hatha yoga class, such as those provided by Iyengar trained instructors, or a traditional “Hot” yoga class, as made famous by Bikram Choudhury, will likely emphasize alignment and balance. If you’re intimidated by the quick transitions between postures found in the Power and Flow styles of yoga, you’ll find the slower pace and deliberate instruction comforting, while even advanced students will benefit from the precise alignment cues and opportunities for continued progression. You might also benefit from an Ashtanga approach, a demanding athletic practice that combines movement between postures with an emphasis on proper technique.

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Restoration and Improved Flexibility: If you’re primarily looking for a mind-body connection, stress relief, or an introduction to meditation, along with an emphasis on opening the joints and connective tissues of your body, a slower paced class deemed “restorative” is likely to meet your needs. There are many varieties, including Yin Yoga, which includes long holds of supported postures, Kundalini Yoga, which emphasizes connecting to your sacred energy, and even Yoga Nidra, which is directed at improving your meditation and sleep. While the approaches of these classes differ, they will all result in improved awareness of your ability to observe and change the reactions of your body and mind to stress and daily demands.

While there are many more approaches to yoga than can easily be summarized, having an idea of the benefits you’d like to receive from your practice can help you to narrow down the right fit. Many classes combine one or more of the approaches described here and offer practitioners multiple benefits within a single class. Additionally, many yogis draw from different schools of yoga and different approaches when developing their own unique schedule. Whatever approach you choose, yoga offers enormous benefits when combined with your home fitness program for cardiovascular and strength training and can improve your function both in athletic training and daily activity.

Joli

About the writer: Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more on the Meet Our Writers page.


Understanding Heart Rate

After running shoes and a source to play music, a heart rate monitor is usually the first piece of equipment runners add to their workouts. If you aren’t using one now, you’ve most likely at least played with them in the past, calculating whether you’re working too hard or not hard enough, estimating your total calories burned, and even tracking your mileage or sharing your workouts. Using a heart rate monitor can give you a lot of insight into the quality of your workouts, fitness level, and effective training. So what are the best ways to really get the most out of this popular gadget? Let’s break down the benefits:

Step 1: Get your real max heart rate. While the calculation of (220 minus your age) has long been the standard for estimating your max heart rate, there are newer, more accurate methods for fitter individuals. One favored formula is 205 – (.5 x your age).

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The biggest take-home is to recognize that your maximum heart rate is very individual and isn’t going to be in complete agreement with any formula. If you see a number on your monitor that’s higher than you thought your maximum heart rate was, that number is your new maximum heart rate. Use it for planning your training.

Step 2: Calculate your training zones. Once you’ve established your actual maximum heart rate, you can use it to calculate your zones for training based on the amount of effort that you’re shooting for in a given workout. At a minimum you should calculate your easy zone, at 65% of your max (not above 70% of your max), and your work zone, at about 85% of your max.

Knowing these numbers allows you to design your workouts intelligently depending on your training goals on a given day. You should include easy days that are directed at increasing your endurance and providing active recovery, during which your heart rate stays below 70% of your maximum. While this may leave you working at a significantly lower effort than you’re used to, (perhaps even walking) you will find that your fitness improves in time as you’re able to work more efficiently on your hard training days.

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Step 3: Alternate your training zones throughout your week. If you’re choosing cardiovascular workouts every day, make sure you’re building in active recovery days that keep your heart rate below 70% of your maximum at least twice a week, more frequently if you feel that your age or the demands of your training make that a necessity.

Heart rate monitor training is a great way to keep your efforts consistent between your treadmill sessions and time training on the road. For more on Heart Rate Monitor training, John Parker’s Heart Rate Monitor Training for the Complete Idiot gets consistently good reviews and includes programs that will both challenge you and improve your recovery. Polar’s website is also full of tips directed at helping you get the most from your monitor.

About the writer: Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more on the Meet Our Writers page.


Technology to Inspire Your Workout Routines

Stuck in a workout rut? Don’t panic. Everyone has been at one time or another. If you are wondering where to start, why not let technology give you a hand? Try a few of these tips to give your workout routines a new life:

Recruit a Buddy. Whether you meet up in person or use an online application, working out with a partner increases your accountability. Free applications (like ViaFit) have made this easier than ever by incorporating online fitness tracking software that links with many other fitness apps (just in case you and your buddy use different devices) allowing you to effortlessly upload your home workouts, set goals, and motivate each other. Having trouble finding the right workout partner? Many apps can help you with this as well by creating on-line communities with common goals and challenges.

Set a New Goal. If you’re not feeling motivated to train for a race or event this spring, fitness apps and devices can help you set a goal that’s customized to what you do want to achieve. Tracking steps, increasing your total time spent exercising, or accomplishing a set number of workouts are all manageable goals that can be tracked through popular apps. Seeing your workouts on your home screen and receiving congratulatory messages through your smart phone can go a long way towards motivating you to stay active and step up your training this spring. Customize your software’s goal setting feature to set your unique challenge.

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Try a New Gadget. From smartphone apps to GPS enabled wrist watches, fitness devices can be found in every price range and can inspire you to go further, run faster, and try new experiences.  Breathe new life into your spring training by familiarizing yourself with a new app or device and maximizing its benefits through customizing the settings to your profile. Incorporating a device that includes heart rate tracking can also be a motivating way to monitor your progress in a new activity and to track the calorie burn improved performance that accompanies your workouts.  You can also use your device to track your activity level as you run your way through your Saturday errands, add in a walk after work, and take the kids to the playground. You’ll find your motivation and your fitness increasing just by getting more daily activity.

Create a New Playlist. No discussion of technology and exercise would be complete without considering the motivating impact of music. You can create custom playlists through online tools (such as Spotify) or access playlists that others have uploaded.

Ready to get started? Web MD has a great article on customizing workout approaches to meet individual needs. Take the time to give it a read, then get moving!

-Joli

About the writer: Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more on the Meet Our Writers page.

 

 

 


Exercise During Pregnancy

As a part of your prenatal care, your doctor has probably already talked to you about the importance of exercising during pregnancy. Benefits include everything from better sleep and improved mood to an easier birth and better outcomes for you and baby. Even if you weren’t regularly exercising before pregnancy, you can still start a simple program and begin to smartly exercise during pregnancy.

If you’re new to exercise, it is very important to start slow. Avoid activities that include a risk of falling or potential injury to the stomach area. An indoor cycle and elliptical are great options. Walking on a treadmill is also a good program to start with, though if you are not already a runner, you’ll probably want to wait to start until after delivery.

Every woman is unique (and we encourage you to speak with your doctor before starting any sort of fitness program), but current recommendations are to work up to a half hour of exercise daily for the best benefit for you and your baby. After the first trimester, avoid exercise that involves lying on your back for extended periods of time, and respect the increased elasticity of your body by avoiding overstretching or unbalanced load bearing activities (such as weighted lunges), if those cause discomfort for you.

If you’re already committed to your training program, you can probably safely modify it throughout your pregnancy. Previous heartrate guidelines of staying below 140 are no longer recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can now work within the exertion levels in which you are used to training. Provided that you do not have any physical risks associated with your pregnancy (such as bleeding or history of premature births), you can continue moderate and high impact activities (such as jogging and running), as your comfort allows. For more pregnancy information on safe exercise during pregnancy, ACOG’s website provides a wealth of resources for moms to be.

During my own pregnancies, I found that with special attention to pre/post workout nutrition, working out helped tremendously with nausea and energy levels. Sticking to a diet that was high in protein and contained plenty of natural electrolytes was especially helpful in alleviating dizziness during exercise. I also used compression tights to help with the light-headeness that can happen after exercise due to the expansion of the circulatory system. Late in pregnancy, an SI belt was also very helpful in improving my comfort while running and assisted me in avoiding associated joint pain.

Most importantly, choose the exercise program that allows you to enjoy your pregnancy or at least feel better throughout it. Talk with your doctor to help craft the right program will leave you with more energy, better health, and will make it easier to recover following labor and delivery.

-Joli

About the writer: Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more on the Meet Our Writers page.


Simple Recommendations for a Healthier Heart

February is American Heart Month in the United States, aimed at bringing attention to a national effort to prevent one million heart attacks in the United States. Simple choices in diet and exercise can have a substantial impact on your overall heart health by improving overall cardiovascular function and decreasing cholesterol and tri-glyceride levels. For daily choices that can make a big difference, I recommend that you try some of the following tips.

Common advice for improving heart health is to follow a low fat diet, but we also know that focusing on the type of fat in our diet matters more than the overall level of fat intake.

Trans fats are the biggest offender when it comes to unhealthy fats. These artificially stabilized fats hit our heart with the double whammy of raising bad blood cholesterol while lowering healthy cholesterol. So what should you do?

  • Increase healthy fats (like those found in olive oil and nuts) which beneficially impact overall cholesterol levels.
  • Be sure to read nutrition labels to see if trans fat as an ingredient. Even if the amount per serving is very low, these levels are often reduced by indicating an artificially small serving size, which can still add up to a detrimental impact on your heart.
  • Finally, while reducing saturated fat consumption is also beneficial, these natural fats do increase both protective and unhealthy cholesterol levels and can be included in moderation.

For more dietary recommendations that will help with improving heart health, the Mayo Clinic provides simple recommendations such as including more soluble fiber (found in foods like oatmeal) omega three rich fish (salmon and sardines), nuts, olive oil, and foods with added plant sterols.

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In addition to cholesterol, elevated tri-glyceride levels are an indicator of risk for heart disease and diabetes. These levels increase when we routinely consume more calories than we burn.  While healthy diet choices like reasonable portion sizes, moderate alcohol consumption and an emphasis on fruits and vegetables will likely have a positive impact on your triglycerides, these numbers are also helped by regular exercise.

General recommendations for heart health are to ensure at least 30 minutes of movement most days of the week. If you are working to control your weight increasing this level of movement to as much as you can fit into your day is likely to be beneficial. Rather than emphasizing overwhelming endurance sessions, break your goal down into approachable segments throughout your day, such as increasing your overall step count, climbing more stairs, and adding in brief activity breaks throughout the day.

Many fitness monitoring apps can help you in monitoring your progress towards your daily goal and can even be integrated with your home workouts through the ViaFit app offered on many models of Horizon Fitness equipment.

Free Polar Chest Strap with Cardio Equipment

To make your heart rate tracking easier, select exercise equipment that will sync with Polar Chest Straps. Get a FREE Polar Chest Strap with Horizon Elite machines.

For more information on heart health, www.mayoclinic.org offers a wealth of tips and resources. While these small changes many not seem like much, when they become daily habits, they can add up to a big impact on your heart health, weight loss or maintenance, and overall well-being.


Ask an Expert: Fitness for New Moms

Question: As a new mom, there are days I can barely get a shower, let alone eat right and exercise. Do you have any tricks to help me lose the baby weight, while still caring for my newborn? — Julia

Congratulations on your new family member! While it may seem like the baby weight takes forever to come off, you’re probably been burning a lot of calories just through sleep deprivation and your new mother duties!

But to answer your question on fitness for new moms, for the biggest impact on body composition and metabolism, take advantage of short windows of opportunity to squeeze in intense sessions of cardio or strength training.

If you’re struggling with a training plan, you can even use the interval setting on your Horizon home fitness equipment for an effective workout in just 20 minutes. When it comes to nutrition, preparation will be your best friend. Use your smart-phone or tablet for meal planning and recipe research during nap times and delegate shopping and meal preparation, whenever possible.

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Look for a time of day that is a little easier on you and baby (it probably isn’t in the evening!) to do some of the prep work you need for healthy grab-and-go options or to throw food into your slow cooker.

Lastly, try to be patient. Remember that you, your family, and your body are all going through some of the biggest changes you’ll ever experience. Take this transition one day at a time. Days won’t always go according to plan (welcome to motherhood!), but with flexible planning and preparation, you’ll find yourself progressing in no time.

About the writer: Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more on the Meet Our Writers page.


Running to Relax

In addition to the fitness benefits of running, many use it as a way to unwind, relax and focus. Lace up your shoes, head out, and before you know it, you’ve created your to-do list, made dinner plans and decided to ask your boss for a raise. While this free-flow of thoughts can keep our minds busy during the run and even improve creativity, it may also be distracting and keep you from reducing stress levels and improving overall wellness. If you are running to relax, it’s important to keep a few things in mind.

The concept of mindful running (or running to relax) brings focus and concentration to the act of running itself, and brings with it many of the same benefits of other mindfulness and mind/body activities, such as meditation and yoga. It can be a rather simple practice. Rather than allowing our minds to freely associate during our runs, the emphasis is on observation without judgment.

As you begin your run, notice the overall state of your body and surroundings: are you rested? Do you feel energized? This might be followed by noticing specific sensations in your body, such as the act of relaxing your shoulders and neck after a stressful day at work, or the pressure of the ground against your feet during each foot strike. While it is natural for your mind to wander to other thoughts and concerns, during mindful running you notice this drifting of the mind and redirect it to the immediate actions and sensations of your run. In addition to noticing the sensations of your body, you can direct your attention to your immediate surroundings, such as the trees or buildings that you pass and the type of surface on which you are running.

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This practice works well for both treadmill sessions and outdoor training, as well as cross training activities, such as cycling or elliptical running. As you improve your mental focus, you can practice improving the feelings of your run. You can consciously choose to deepen and slow your breathing, increase your speed, and reduce the chatter of your mind when it informs you that a hill or terrain is too difficult.

While most of us will continue to run with busy minds (at least some of the time) running to relax is an opportunity to practice mindfulness and quiet any negative thoughts as you train.

About the writer: Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more on the Meet Our Writers page.


Post Workout Soreness (or DOMS)

The term “Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness” (or DOMS) is usually seen as the bane of new exercisers, but even experienced athletes know that changing up your workout routine or intensity can result in some serious pain for the next few days.

If you’re recovering from your first tough workout, you might be wondering how to cope with the pain that’s starting to set in. The truth is, while nearly everyone who works out is going to experience DOMS at some point, there are some steps you can take both during and after your workout to reduce your discomfort and post workout soreness.

Adequate warm-up and cool-down. Your warm-up should mimic your workout, but at a lower intensity. Cool-downs offer a similar benefit by allowing your mind and body to acclimate to your post-workout environment as your heart rate and breathing slow and your muscles relax.

Stretching and flexibility. While stretching may have little impact on DOMS following the workout you just completed, over time it will increase your range of movement, muscle strength and potentially prevent future aches and pains.

Finally, as you plan your workouts, know that workouts involving unconventional movements (like downhill running, plyometric training, and resistance training) are more likely to lead to DOMS. If these workouts are your main game plan, especially if you’re increasing intensity over previous efforts, then increasing your usual warm-up and cool down will greatly benefit you.

Once DOMS sets in, there are a few recommendations that might help you find relief…and a few that won’t.

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Massage. Studies have shown that massage can increase inflammation in the body and can increase muscle soreness, so it is unlikely to leave you feeling better once DOMS is leaving you sidelined. A light massage that will improve your circulation immediately after your workout however, is worth a shot, as long as it is at a level of intensity that will not lead to more inflammation.

Active recovery. Many athletes swear by active recovery, so returning to activities that are similar to but lower in intensity than the ones that left you sore, may leave you with some relief. Try a few reps of bodyweight strength training and some slow running, walking or elliptical training. Swimming can also be especially helpful.

Alternative methods. Other common recommendations include Epsom salts baths and ibuprofen. While research demonstrating the effectiveness of these interventions is pretty limited, many athletes find them helpful.

The main thing to understand is that DOMS is a normal response to changes in your workout routine, whether you’re new to exercise, or are just new to your current activity. However you treat it, remember to give yourself extra time to recover between your workouts, including extra sleep and good nutrition, and keep in mind that the soreness will pass within a session or two.

About the writer: Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more on the Meet Our Writers page.


Five Benefits of Pool Workouts

While triathletes already understand the benefits of a pool to balance out workouts, nearly all of us can benefit from including pool workouts in our training schedules. You can always head for open water during the warm months of the year, but most communities also have more convenient options year round. Check around for a community pool or low cost “swimming only” membership to your local health club. You can even check out local hotels and schools, many of which provide day passes for community swimming. Wondering how effective this could be for you? Here are my top five benefits of pool workouts:

Post workout muscular recovery. Swimming or gently working out in a cool swimming pool following a workout may help to decrease muscle soreness. Ideally, you want to head for a pool that is a little on the cool side and try a variety of strokes that will allow your legs to move in a variety of motions.

 

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Preventing falls and injury. A recent Australian study demonstrated a correlation between swimming among aging men and fewer falls. This article, recently published by the Washington Post, describes the study’s outcome, finding that aging men who swim were 33% less likely to experience a fall. According to the study author, this could be due to the requirement that swimmers create their own base of support while coordinating movements of both the upper and lower extremities. Pretty interesting!

Address muscular imbalances. Land-based activities like cycling and running tend to overdevelop strength through the front of the body (including the quadriceps and chest), so it’s important to develop posterior strength in the back and hamstrings, too. Swimming is a natural way to strengthen these areas by working with the natural resistance of the water.

Improve upper body strength: Developing upper body strength will benefit most athletic activities, but like mentioned above, these muscles are not naturally developed through activities such as running and cycling. Choosing pool workouts that include different strokes will help improve your posture, increase core strength  and increase the efficiency of your upper body.

Injury prevention and recovery: Whether you’re swimming or running in the pool, aquatic workouts can improve muscular strength and cardiovascular fitness without increasing injuries associated with impact. Pool “running” is an injured runner’s best friend, using the same muscles as running on land, with similar cardiovascular benefits, allowing you to maintain fitness during recovery.

If you would like to include more exercise in your schedule without the risk of increased impact, pool running is a natural way of doing so. As with traditional running, focus on maintaining an upright posture and a cadence that will increase your heart rate (you might have to work a little harder than feels natural). You’ll only need limited equipment (an aquatic running belt), but a friend and a heart rate monitor can really help to increase your focus and motivation.

For more on pool running, check out this article from strengthrunning.com. Choose your workout carefully, however. While pool running is especially beneficial for impact related injuries (such as plantar fasciitis), stabilization injuries (such as low back or hamstring soreness) can actually be aggravated by running in the pool and may be better treated through strength and stabilization work on a more traditional surface.

Swimming is a lifetime activity that can benefit athletes of all levels. Once you have a venue, the best part is the equipment needed is minimal. A swimming suit, a swimming cap, and a pair of goggles will get you started and you can choose to invest in optional tools such as a running belt, kickboard, and fins as you progress.

If you get really good, many communities also offer swimming clubs and “masters groups” that provide adults with an opportunity to train together and encourage each other. Add in some pool workouts in to complement your treadmill and indoor cycle training this winter and get ready to enjoy the enhanced recovery, fitness and overall strength in your spring races, sports, and events. Happy swimming!

About the writer: Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more on the Meet Our Writers page.