Exercise isn’t supposed to be painful!

Dear clients, friends and family,

An effective exercise program does not need to be painful. In fact, there is no study to date that has found extreme muscle soreness indicates a good workout and yet, so many people gauge the intensity of a workout by how stiff they are the next day.

Most of us have experienced muscle soreness. Remember the feeling after your first day of skiing, your first spring run or your first fitness class? This sensation is referred to as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) because it takes about 1-3 days after the workout for the stiffness to kick in. The severity of DOMS is dependent on the novelty and intensity of the activity. So if you participate in a new sport and you go really hard, expect to be very stiff. Even if you are really fit, if you do something your body isn’t used to, you’ll probably pay for it unless you take it easy.

The message is, if you’re training appropriately, there’s no need to be extremely sore. It’s OK to think “Hey, my muscles feel like they had a great workout yesterday.” However, if you have a problem getting out of a chair, walking or even just moving, you’re training too hard – and not very sensibly. Calling in sick for work because you worked out too hard the previous day is not going to make your company very happy or get you the results you want!

While lifting weights you will experience muscular fatigue, a slight discomfort and a temporary “burning” sensation at the end of a set that goes away as soon as the set is finished. During cardiovascular exercise like running, cycling or fitness classes, your heart will be beating more quickly, you will be breathing heavier and you may feel fatigued at different points of your workout. These sensations are all normal.

However, during exercise, you should not feel sharp pain. This is not normal and you should stop the exercise immediately and consult a sports physician or physiotherapist. The key to exercising safely is being able to distinguish between muscular fatigue and pain.

To reduce the likelihood of extreme muscle soreness, always warm up, cool down and stretch. If you are participating in a brand new sport or activity, progress very slowly. Don’t go hard on your first day. Give your body a few workouts to adjust and then gradually pick up the intensity. For example, if it’s your first day of biking, choose a flat route, take lots of breaks and go for only a short ride.

Once you’ve established a consistent exercise routine, there are no extra health benefits from pushing yourself to be extremely sore. Pain is a warning signal that you have done too much, too soon.

If you do find yourself suffering from DOMS, back off on the intensity of your program and progress more slowly.

“No pain, no gain” is a myth. Pain is not necessary and may in fact be detrimental to improving your fitness and getting results.

Yours in health and fitness,

Sherri McMillan

When is the best time to do abdominal exercises?

Is it better to do abdominal exercises before or after a workout? A.M., Vancouver, WA

Actually, there are pros and cons to both. Performing abdominal exercises before a workout will help to warm-up and prepare the core/abdominal muscles for the actual workout which will involve these muscles in some manner. However, you must be careful not to overly fatigue these important muscles prior to exercise as they are the spine and pelvis support network. If totally fatigued for example, prior to a loaded back squat and/or deadlift, poor form and injury may result. So if you do your abdominal exercises before your workout, you would want to take it easy and train at a sub-maximal level for the rest of your workout.

If you wait to perform your abdominal exercises at the end of the workout, you can train them more aggressively because you won’t have to worry about the over-fatigued state as we mentioned above.

You can even perform abdominal exercises during a workout in between exercise sets so long as the intensity does not exhaust the abdominal muscles and compromise the quality and/or safety of any of the other exercises in the workout. For example, sometimes a workout circuit I will follow will be a lower body exercise, upper body exercise and then a core exercise and repeat this template with different exercises each time through.

Yours in health and fitness,

Sherri McMillan

ps. Join us for March Muddy Madness on Sunday March 21st.


http://www.nwpersonaltraining.com/subs/events/event_details.php?event_id=67

Use your head to get results…

Did you know that Neuromuscular Facilitation can really make your workouts a lot more effective? Neuromuscular what? Neuromuscular facilitation is just a fancy term for Muscle Smart or teaching your muscles to contract more effectively. You see, your muscles are under direct control from your nervous system. In order for your muscles to work, a nerve stimulus must arrive at the muscle which will cause it to contract. So the coordination between your muscles and your neurological system is critical to maximize any movement or exercise.

Studies demonstrate that most strength gains that occur in the first month of someone starting a new weight lifting program are a result of this phenomena. It has been coined the “Learning Effect” and occurs as the nervous and muscular system learn to work together as a team.

This muscle-nerve relationship can be used to your advantage to maximize the effectiveness of your workouts. A number of studies have been done to measure this effect. One study had it subjects perform a number of standard weight lifting exercises. The subjects were hooked up to EMG’s to measure muscle activity as the exercises were performed. Stage two of the study had the subjects perform the exact same exercises with the same speed and same resistance so that they mimicked the first stage exactly. The only difference was that the second time around they had the subjects really focus on what they were doing. They had them concentrate on contracting the muscles that were supposed to be working in each exercise. Basically, they had them put their mind into it. In this second stage, the amount of measured muscle activity significantly increased. So the message is clear – the mind-body connection is critical to maximize the work a muscle will do.

On a practical level, what does this mean for your workouts? There are definitely some exercises you can dissociate from. For example, you can get up on a treadmill, plug in an 8 minute mile and then allow yourself to think about your day or read a magazine or watch TV. You will burn the same amount of calories whether you focus or not. But, with weight lifting, focus is critical. We sometimes see exercisers sitting on a leg press machine reading a magazine and just going through the motions. We feel obliged to tell them that if they put down the magazine and focused, every rep and set would be so much more effective and they’d see results much more quickly. A lot of exercisers would find that if they just concentrated while they were performing the movements, they wouldn’t have to do 2-3 sets of each exercise. If it’s a really good set, one set is often enough. Wouldn’t you rather get the same results in a shorter period of time? Would you rather spend 40 minutes or 2 hours in the weight room? Think of all the extra time you’d have if your workouts were more efficient!

An understanding of this entire mind-body scope has taken on a whole new level of interest. A lot of coaches are realizing that on any given day, there are a number of athletes who could possibly win an event. The one who stands on top of the podium, generally is not the one who is the most fit or talented but the one who tapped into the enormous amount of strength stored inside of our bodies. This untapped strength is only accessible if the mind can overcome any limitations or barriers. For example, did you know that it was once thought that a 4-minute mile was humanly impossible? It wasn’t until that barrier was broken that others were able to tap into the strength that was always there. Within one year, another 5-6 people broke the 4 minute barrier and within another year, another 50!

We would literally astound ourselves if we actually learned to really effectively coordinate the brain and the body. Our physical capabilities would be phenomenal. So although you may not be gearing up for a 4-minute mile, learning to use your brain during your workouts will definitely take them to the next level.

Yours in health and fitness,

Sherri McMillan

Is it best to do cardio before or after a weight lifting workout?

Dear clients, friends and family,

I get this question asked all the time…

Is it best to do cardio before or after a weight lifting workout?

It’s actually best to mix up the sequence of your routine during your weekly
regime. For example, if you always do your cardio exercise first, next
workout do a brief warm-up, then do your muscle conditioning exercises and
then finish with your cardio. Then next workout, do your cardio first and
muscle conditioning last. It will be a completely different workout and a
new stimulus for your muscles and your heart.

Or intersperse cardio intervals within your muscle conditioning session for a killer workout. For example, you could do a Lower Body exercise, then an upper body exercise, then a core conditioning exercise and then a 3 minute cardio interval. Repeat again with different exercises.

With that said, if your primary goal is muscle conditioning and developing muscle tone/bulk, you may want to do your muscle conditioning first when you have the most energy and strength so you can really focus on this area. And vice versa if your focus is on cardio conditioning.

Hope that gives you some direction to your workouts!

Yours in health and fitness,

Sherri McMillan

ps. Happy Valentine’s Day – Remember to give Fitness not Fatness for V-Day. And if you do indulge this weekend, be sure to get your workouts in! It’s all about balance!

Important Tips for Indoor Cardio Training

Dear clients, friends and family,

Since the weather in most of the country requires many of us to be exercising indoors at this time of year, I thought I’d provide some tips on Indoor Cardio training. I hope this gives you some good ideas.

• The American College of Sports Medicine recommends a frequency of 3-5 cardio workouts per week, a duration of 20-60 minutes and an intensity of 60-90% of your maximum heart rate each week to maximize cardiovascular fitness. Investing in a heart rate monitor will definitely keep you honest!

• If you are using indoor cardiovascular machines, try staying on the same machine for only about 10-15 minutes and jumping from machine to machine instead of staying on the same machine for extended periods of time. This will create better muscle balance. It’s better for someone to spend 10 minutes on each of the stairmaster, rowing machine, bike, treadmill and elliptical rather than spend 50 minutes just on the stairmaster. If you are using the same machine or performing the same activity all the time, the muscles targeted with this exercise will continue to get fitter but the other neglected muscles will get weaker and muscle imbalances are sure to surface. By varying your machines you will develop a more overall toned physique and reduce your risk for repetitive stress-type injuries. And finally, mixing up your indoor machines will also help to prevent boredom. Most exercisers have no difficulty going for a 2 hour bike ride outside but after 10 minutes on a stationary bike you start to go stir-crazy!

• It doesn’t matter what machine you’re on, it’s imperative that you maintain proper posture. This includes contracting your abdominals to stabilize your spine and maintaining proper alignment by lifting up and out through your chest and keeping your shoulders back.

• Most indoor machines offer a variety of program options. Try to avoid getting into the habit of always punching in the same program and the same level each time you workout on a machine. Mix it up. One workout try the steady climb program and the next time, try the intervals. Then go for the hill or the random program. Each program will challenge your body in a different way.

Treadmill Tips:

• Make it a goal to not hold onto the rails while jogging or walking. Instead, use your muscles to balance and support your body.
• Keep your abdominals contracted, look forward and avoid swinging your arms side-to-side and crossing the mid-line of your body.
• Once a month, try a time-trial workout. Program in a distance like 5km (3miles) and record how long it takes you to complete. Next month, try it again and this time try to go a little faster. As you get fitter, you should be able to perform the same distance in a shorter period of time.

Eliptical Trainer Tips:

• If your Eliptical does not have poles, do not lean onto the rails. Instead, develop the balance and stability to use the machine without holding on. Pump your arms just like you were running.
• While exercising, make sure that you’re knee caps always point forwards. Avoid allowing your knees to collapse inwards.
• While exercising, try to keep the weight of your body distributed evenly on all 4 corners of your feet. Avoid allowing your arches to collapse inwards – avoid pronating.
• Once a month, try this workout test. Program in a 10 minute manual workout. Record how far (in miles or kilometers or steps climbed) you get at the completion. Next month, try it again and this time try to go a little farther in the 10 minute time-frame. As you get fitter, you should be able to go further and further in 10 minutes.

Stairmaster Tips:
• Do not hold onto the rails while on the stairmaster. Most people hold on for dear life and take fast, choppy little steps. This technique is very ineffective at burning calories and maximizing fitness goals. Most of you will find that you’ll have to reduce the level you normally perform at once you let go of the rails, because your muscles will have to work so much harder to support your body weight. This increased intensity will get you results much more quickly and you’ll find you’ll also develop good balance and stability.
• The next important tip is to make sure that your steps are not too shallow. Think about the height of a step you would take while walking up the stairs and strive for this. Remember to work through the full range of motion. Tiny, fast steps are not effectively engaging the lower body muscles and instead, using a lot of momentum.
• Try not holding onto the rails for 40 seconds and then holding on for 20 seconds. Do this for 10 minutes.

Recumbent Bike Tips:
• The most common error with technique on a bike is seat adjustment. It’s important to position the seat so that you are positioned neither too far back or too close. When the leg is in a fully extended position, you should only have a slight bend in the knee. Make sure your knee is not maintaining a large bend throughout the entire cycle and vice versa, make sure that the seat isn’t positioned so far away that you have to rotate your hips to spin.
• Because you’re reclined back, it’s easy to slouch while riding. Remember to keep upright posture throughout the entire workout. Keep your abdominals contracted inwards, your chest lifted and shoulders back.
• Program in a hill workout and try to keep your RPM’s (how many times your legs cycle in a minute) constant even while climbing the hilly parts of the program. This will be a leg-burner!

Yours in health and fitness,

Sherri McMillan

Vegan Challenge is over!

Dear clients, friends and family,

Well, I did it. One full month of no meat, dairy or eggs. I honestly didn’t want to do the challenge but it’s amazing what a little peer pressure will make you do. And I’m super glad I did it. Here’s the final assessment and what I learned…

1. I now have a huge respect for anyone who is Vegan. In order to be Vegan you have to be extremely disciplined. It was tough to sometimes say no when I wanted to say yes and I only did it for a month. If someone makes this choice for their lifetime, I can only respect their decision and be in awe of their will power.

2. I lost a total of 4.5 pounds on the Vegan challenge. Starting this challenge, I literally thought that I was going to lose huge amounts of weight and waste away to nothing. But fortunately, I figured out foods that I enjoyed that filled me up and gave me the energy I needed to maintain my exercise and lifestyle. The good news is that if someone’s goal was to lose weight, I lost about a pound a week which is actually a really healthy and more permanent way to lose weight. The ‘Biggest Loser’ type losses of 10-25 pounds a week are crazy and a very short term approach with negative long term ramifications.

3. I have been introduced to a lot of amazing new foods. I actually really like Shredded Tofu cheese, Tofu Cream Cheese, Soy Chocolate pudding and Soy Ice Cream. I will continue to buy these products. I also now love Quinoa pasta – yummy! There are new brands of food that I really enjoy like the “Imagine” Soups. I’ve always used Rice Milk so I’ll continue with that.

4. I now eat a lot more Organic fruits and veggies – a very, very good thing.

5. I can’t wait to eat my veggies with Ranch dressing again. I did not like the Soy Ranch dressing – but that could have been because I had to make it myself. So perhaps more a testimony to my skills in the kitchen! Gross! Jackson tried it and gagged!

6. Eating out was super hard so I found I didn’t eat out as much as usual on this challenge. So I actually saved some money this month! That was a nice added perk!

7. My energy was great on this diet. The intensity of my workouts didn’t suffer at all even though my diet was so restrictive so that was a big suprise. I’ve been on other diets that have caused me to lose a lot of weight but I felt horrible and my workouts really suffered.

8. I didn’t get sick at all during this challenge and there have been plenty of people around me sick so I’ve definitely been exposed to illness. So overall, I felt great on this type of diet.

So now what? Well, I don’t think I’ll be able to call myself a true Vegan. I think I’ll be an 80/20 Vegan. I’ll probably have a burger every once in a while. When I eat out, I’ll probably have some dishes with cheese and meat. But for the majority of the time, I think this is a super healthy way to eat for me.

Overall, this was a fabulous challenge and I want to thank Ted, Derrick and Alison for inspiring me to try it out. It was a great learning experience.

Yours in health and fitness,

Sherri McMillan

The problem with nutrition…

Dear Clients, Friends & Family,

Do you ever feel like this – the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know? I often feel like that about nutrition. There is so much information out there and so much conflicting good research that it’s sometimes difficult to know exactly what to eat. This poem sums it up…

The Dieter’s Lament

Cholesterol is poisonous,
So never, never eat it.
Sugar too, may murder you,
There is no way to beat it.
Fatty foods will do you in;
You just cannot avoid it.
Some foods once had vitamins,
But processing destroyed it.
So let your life be ordered by
Each documented fact,
And die of malnutrition,
But arteries intact!

At the end of the day, use your common sense. Consume a lot of fruits and veggies. Eat organic and non-processed as much as possible. And listen to your body and what it’s telling you. If you’re looking food, feeling great, have tons of energy and are free of disease and illness, you’re probably doing the right things. Bottom line – don’t stress out about what you’re eating because that’s not good for you either!

Yours in health and fitness,

Sherri McMillan

My positive and negative report…

Dear Clients, Friends and Family,

When you have some time, sit down and watch this clip on the keys to living long and healthy. There are some great tips!

http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_buettner_how_to_live_to_be_100.html

I also wanted to share some of the resources that many of you have sent to me throughout this Vegan challenge.

http://www.vegcooking.com/

http://www.doctoroz.com/challenge/go-vegan

http://www.oprah.com/food/Tal-Ronnens-Vegetarian-Recipes

http://www.vibrantvegan.com/

One of our clients also suggested a great book ‘The Vegan Table’ by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau.

My suggestion would be to create a folder in your inbox titled “Vegan Info” and store this info there for when you may need it.

My personal journey has been interesting.

Positives: Still feeling great despite the diet restrictions. My energy or ability to workout at the intensity I like hasn’t been affected. Haven’t been sick (knock on wood). And I have been introduced to foods that I really, really like and had it not been for this Vegan challenge, I probably would have never tried these items.

Negatives: Despite the diet restrictions, I’ve only lost 3 pounds. Just goes to show you, weight loss at the end of the day falls back to calories in vs calories out. And regardless of what you’re eating, if you’re not burning more than you’re eating, you won’t lose weight. I burn a lot but I also eat a lot. If I were doing a more strict vegan diet – ie a lot more fruits and veggies and less processed foods – it would be harder to consume a lot of calories and therefore, weight loss would happen more naturally. The difference for me is I have substituted high calorie cheese products with high calorie cheese substitute products – ie Tofu cheese, Soy Sour Cream etc…Fortunately, I only want to lose a few pounds so that’s not my primary motivation for trying out this Vegan challenge.

At the very least, my hope is that I’ve been able to share some ideas that will help each of you strive for your personal best and live your life to the fullest!

Yours in health and fitness,

Sherri McMillan

Here are lots of great recipes for you…

Dear clients, friends and family.

Still going strong on the Vegan Challenge…

I have received so many Vegan recipes from all of you and I was thinking that the most efficient way to share that information would be to post these recipes to our Website in our Client Zone. We post various articles on a number of different topics relating to exercise, health, fitness and nutrition. One of the sections is for recipes. You’ll find all kinds of ideas for eating healthy in this section – whether you’re trying the Vegan challenge or not. It’s a great resource for you so be sure to check it out. Remember Knowledge + Action = RESULTS!

http://www.nwpersonaltraining.com/subs/client_zone/articles_faqs.php

I haven’t been sharing my daily nutrition lately because I was recognizing that my daily food intake doesn’t vary much day to day. But that’s just me – I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that for everyone. I just keep things in the kitchen pretty simple and consistent. My daily logs weren’t providing any additional information that could help you so I decided to cut back the daily reports so I don’t overload you.

I did try something new, super easy and yummy today for lunch. So I took a Whole Wheat burrito shell and spread some SoyNut Butter on it and then cut up a banana over top and rolled it up. Loved it and I bet your kids would love it too!

Listen to this interesting workout experiment I tried. Wednesday nights I’ve been doing Hot Yoga. I weighed myself before the Yoga class and then again after the Yoga class. Guess how many pounds I lost in a 90 minute Yoga class – 3 lbs! Can you believe it?! That’s a lot of weight. But it’s all water weight and you’ll put it right back on again but isn’t that fascinating. I do like the heat – but I’m one who is often cold so the heat feels really good to my body. Hot Yoga is definitely not for everyone – people getting dizzy and almost passing out all around me – and that my friends is not healthy!

Stay healthy and happy,

Sherri McMillan

What does our Registered Dietitian eat?

Dear Clients, Family and Friends,

I wasn’t able to blog all weekend…just too busy. After this month, I’ll probably drop back to blogging just twice per week. I think that’s realistic for me and easier for you to digest too. I attended a Blogging Seminar and they challenged us to blog everyday as the best way to Blog. But for me, I think that’s just a little too much. So if I miss, always know it’s not because I’m not thinking about you all…

The only really interesting thing about my nutrition plan this weekend was I had 2 glasses of wine on Friday night and 1 glass of wine on Saturday night – still Vegan ;). I’m a light-weight when it comes to alcohol generally anyways, but I noticed I didn’t feel so hot the next mornings. I was thinking that perhaps because I’ve been eating so clean that my body really responded more negatively than usual. It just goes to show you that once you change your nutrition, your body doesn’t like it very much if you expose it to junk, toxins or unhealthy choices!

We thought it would be helpful for you to view a daily Vegan meal plan from someone who knows what they’re talking about when it comes to nutrition – our Registered Dietitian Alizon Ozgur. Let’s see what she’s been eating on this Vegan challenge.

Breakfast: quinoa bagel w/ Earth Balance spread, handful of walnuts, pineapple chunks and an orange, coffee w/ vanilla soy creamer

Snack: SO delicious chocolate yogurt (made with coconut milk) – this company is from Eugene

Lunch: Vegetable soup (homemade), banana, iced tea

Snack: Vegan trail mix cookie, Orange

Dinner: Oregon Harvest veggie patty (Chez Gourmet brand from Lake Oswego) edamame salad (Whole Foods) Sourdough baguette

Evening snack: Popcorn (air popped)

Alison was actually featured in the Columbian newspaper today discussing good general nutrition. Check it out below. She is also doing a talk on Turning Back the Clock THIS WEDNESDAY at our Vancouver studio from 7:00-8:30. You can reserve your spot by calling 360.574.7292.

http://www.columbian.com/news/2010/jan/18/working-fat-into-fitness-dietician-offers-advice/

Here’s my Nutrition plan today:

Breakfast: Organic granola cereal, organic banana, strawberries, organic rice milk

Lunch; Spinach salad with balsamic, Veggie sandwich on WW bread (avocado,spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers)

Snack: Apple

Dinner: Veggies and Hummus, Quinoa pasta with melted Tofu cheese. Side note – Quinoa pasta is my new best friend. Loved it. It tasted like normal pasta, was gluten free and is an excellent source of a complete protein (contains all 9 essential amino acids). You can buy it in the natural or gluten-free section in your grocery store.

Snack: Organic granola cereal, banana, strawberries, Soy yogurt

Exercise: 1 hour Muscle and Cardio

Yours in health and fitness,

Sherri McMillan