Posts Tagged ‘strength’

A Healthy and Functional YOU!!!

Monday, May 18th, 2009

A few posts ago we talked about how in our East Grand Rapids studio, we were doing lots of functional training with a client. We did treadmill hill climbs with his backpack on in order to get him ready for a hiking trip. Well, he is now on that hiking trip, and in his absence I thought I would offer a few ideas on how the rest of us can incorporate more functional training into our everyday workout routine.

When you isolate body parts, as you sometimes do with traditional strength training, you end up training your muscles but not your movements. One way to change that is to look for ways to make your strength exercises more functional:

  • Incorporate free weights: Machines have a place in strength training, but they offer so much support that the body doesn’t have to work as hard to maintain balance and good form. In real life, we don’t have that kind of support. Using dumbbells, bands or cables forces your body to create it’s own support, which leads to a stronger body overall.
  • Use a stability ball: Doing some exercises on a ball, such as chest presses or pushups involves more stabilizers, the muscles that work to protect joints and maintain alignment.
  • Combine movements: We usually do a combination of motions throughout the day. We lunge forward to open a door and then rotate while stepping through. Combining strength exercises together, like lunging forward with a reach or squatting with an overhead press can mimic this dynamic way of moving.
  • Try unilateral exercises: Doing one-legged squats or using one arm at a time for moves like flies or chest presses forces your core to engage as well as your stabilizers, making these moves more functional and challenging.

Just a few ideas on how you can make your training more effective and funtional for everyday life.

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Weekly Update 2 and 3

Monday, January 26th, 2009

“Biggest Loser” contestant Joelle Gwynn is a client at the CoachMeFit studio in West Bloomfield,  MI.  She works out with the owner of the studio, Catherine Munaco.

“Biggest Loser” airs Tuesday’s at 8:00pm on NBC.\

Catherine will be blogging weekly first-hand updates from Joelle’s training

(Oops!  Week 2 must have been busy!)

These past two weeks were difficult emotionally on Joelle. Week 2 and 3 aired episodes that portrayed Joelle as a slacker. It seemed that the cast’s attitude towards Joelle was less than cordial. Furthermore, Joelle was in the bottom two during the weigh-ins two weeks in a row. Joelle said this was the most difficult time on the ranch for her—Carla was putting a lot of pressure on her and so were her teammates. While this may motivate some people, it’s certainly not how Joelle is motivated. Because she is naturally quiet and not competitive, it actually defeated her more than it helped. It was initially hard to figure out what would motivate Joelle, but the more we trained together, the more I realized Joelle was motivated by positive feedback. What she really needed was a buddy (enter, Catherine!). While I feel it’s my primary job to give Joelle a tough, physically demanding workout, I also feel like she needs someone on her team. These past two weeks, we’ve tried to surround her with as much support as possible. Last Wednesday, after watching another difficult episode air the night before, she came in and said “I’m done worrying about the show. I want to focus on me.” SUCCESS! Let’s get rockin’

This week, Joelle and I also finalized a schedule for her workouts from now until the May 12 finale. We coordinated fitness class schedule with my availability and Joelle’s work schedule. When all was said and done, Joelle is working out a minimum of four hours a day, including multiple kickboxing classes, cardio interval workouts, and strength training sessions with me. We did allow Sunday to be a lighter day, so she could recuperate and prevent injury. Four hours a day is a lot for anyone, but it’s especially dense for someone who didn’t work out before starting at the ranch. Psychologically, Joelle mentioned having some difficulty getting her head around the idea of being skinny. Our schedule and workout plan put her on track to lose over 160 pounds since her initial ranch weigh in! That’s a lot of weight in a short amount of time. Even more noteworthy is that the last time she weighed less than 200 pounds was when she was ten years old. Joelle has literally never been thin—and the thought of success may take some getting used to. In the meantime, I’m keeping her on track and the weight is really starting to come off. Since starting at CoachMeFit, Joelle is losing weight at the same rate that she did while on the ranch. This is extremely encouraging. On the ranch, there is no job, no family, and few similarities to real life. It is infinitely more difficult to lose weight at home, where the demands of life can easily take precedence over working out. In this regard, Joelle seems most appreciative to have a trainer to keep her on track and motivated, although she has been teasing me about the phrases I use most as a trainer. She took a particular liking to my personal favorite, “Its only numbers”. I say it when we have 5 reps left and she’s hurting. Joelle said it puts things in perspective—only numbers! But I do use it a lot. I’ll have to scour the internet for some new motivating phrases.

As always, stay tuned…

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Going Functional in Grand Rapids

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

By: Brian Dokter

Manager, CoachMeFit Grand Rapids

“Functional training” is considered training that prepares the body for the actual demands of every day life. Well, when your everyday life is about to get more extreme, then your idea of “functional training” should follow. In Grand Rapids we recently adjusted the training of one of our clients to meet the needs of a missions trip he is heading on, and it is getting very “functional”.

Our client is heading on a trip to Burma to live the the life of a photo journalist that he supports. He is going to be hiking in the Burmese mountains to provide aid to locals, as well as to help his friend who through the lens of his camera, exposes the genocide that takes place there.  Needless to say, but there are certain people who don’t appreciate his presence, and there are times that swift action and movement is necessary, and it has to be done in very extreme mountain conditions, with 40-50 lbs. on your shoulders.

Since starting with CoachMeFit, our client has lost 30lbs and has improved his overall fitness greatly, but now his life could depend on that level of fitness. Let’s just say he has an increased level of motivation. And we are training him in conditions as similar to the demands he is about to endure.

Every warm up and cool-down periods on the treadmill and elliptical is done with a backpack with 35lbs. in it. He has been doing many single leg exercises to help improve his balance and strength. We also do lots of negative work on the stairs to simulate downhill climbing. Our cardio sessions on the treadmill involve the backpack with large amounts of weight and steep hill climbs.

He has loved the change and variety in his day to day workouts, but he really enjoys the confidence and strength he is building knowing that he will be prepared for the demands of his coming missions trip.

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Every Woman’s Plight: Dieting with Her Husband

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

By: Catherine Munaco

Owner, CoachMeFit West Bloomfield

A few months back, Robin, the mother of my old college roommate called me to ask me a few questions about diet and exercise for herself and her husband. “Mark and I are going to go on a diet!” She explained giddily. My response was less enthusiastic, but she assured me that Mark was a “meat and potato guy” who was “simply getting dragged along for the ride”. I had heard it before, but I gave her my advice on cardio routines and we were on our way.

Less than six weeks later, Robin called me in a fury to explain Mark’s “diet”. “He weighs himself in the morning,” she lamented, “and if he weighs more than he did the day before, he skips his morning muffin. If he weighs less, he eats his muffin.” She paused before exploding: “HE’S LOST 15 POUNDS! I’VE LOST ONE AND I NEVER EAT THE MUFFIN!”

If this were a rare occurrence, women wouldn’t have such a disdain for watching a male significant other drop 5 pounds in a week by eliminating his midnight snack. But instead, woman after woman has returned disgruntled after attempting to diet with her man.

So why is it so easy for men to drop weight compared to women? The easiest answer is the most annoying one: men’s body compositions are simply designed to burn more calories. Anthropologically speaking, men were the hunters and the protectors. Women had to bear children (which also means fatty breast and hip tissue). As we evolved, men continued to have more muscle mass than women in part because the males that survived had higher muscle masses and the strength to kill for food or protection, and the females that survived had the fat stores to carry healthy children to term. Because muscle is an active tissue, it burns more calories at rest than fat. Men have substantially more muscle than women, both because they have a lower percentage of body fat than women (A healthy level of 8-19% for males compared to 21-33% for women) and also more mass in general. In analyzing body fat, a body is generally divided into two groups: Fat mass percentage (FM) and fat free mass (FFM), which includes muscles, bones, and organs. If we compare two individuals with healthy body fat percentages (a 135 lb woman with a FM of 27% and a 165 lb male with a FM of 14%) the female would have a FFM of 98.55 pounds and the male would have a FFM of 141.9 lbs. That’s roughly 43 more pounds of active tissue for the male. It’s no wonder that skipping a morning muffin can still lead to weight loss when a man’s body will almost always have higher rate of calorie burn at rest (also called resting metabolic rate, or RMR). Whether it’s running outside or watching a movie, women simply do not burn as many calories as men.

To be fair, men have a similar frustration when they reach 30 and realize they can’t eat like they did in college. I call this the plight of the 30-year-old male. Part of this is because careers and families make it more difficult for a man to regularly exercise like he did in his college bachelorhood days. But even more significant is the fact that testosterone levels first start to drop at 30 in males. In some men, testosterone can drop by as much as 2% every year after 30. Among other things, testosterone is responsible for muscle development. (The significantly lower level of testosterone in females is another reason female muscle masses are lower than in males. Sigh.) After puberty and throughout the 20s, when testosterone levels are highest and males see their peak muscle mass, an average man can practically eat whatever he wants and not gain significant weight, as long as he remains relatively active. At this age, men are caloric vacuums. Their bodies can literally burn calories while they sleep. But when 30 hits and testosterone levels drop along with activity levels, men who are conscious of their weight often find themselves nibbling on carrots and whole bran cereal right along with the women in their lives.

The bottom line is that many factors contribute to muscle mass in both females and males. Muscle mass is directly linked to resting metabolic rate, or calories burned at rest. RMR is considered the baseline for measuring caloric expenditure. The intensity level of an activity can be measured by how much greater it is than RMR. If an activity burns twice as many calories than RMR, it is considered to be 2MR, if it burns 9 times more calories per minute, its considered 9MR, and so on. It makes sense, then, that a higher muscle mass leads to a higher RMR, and also a higher caloric expenditure in any activity. There’s not much a woman can do to increase her testosterone levels to those of a man, nor should she want to (a plethora of complications could arise). But women can still fight the weight loss battle more effectively by increasing their own muscle mass. And by staying away from diets with men and muffins.

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Personal Training Success Story

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

Everybody has different reasons for working out. Some of our clients want to lose inches and pounds, some want to improve their 5k times, and some simply want help improving the quality of their lives. Here at the CoachMeFit studio in Grand Rapids, we have seen success in many ways for our clients, and recently, we helped one of them enjoy the trip of her lifetime.

Ann Marie came to us looking to lose a few inches and pounds, but as we began to achieve those milestones, her goals began to change. Ann Marie scheduled a trip to Italy with her sister. This trip was going to cover a lot of beautiful territory they had wanted to visit their whole lives, and it was going to cover that ground mostly on foot. Ann Marie was worried that given her age and weight she would not be able to keep up with the pack or see all of the things she wanted to. We trained for several weeks with her trip to Italy specifically in mind. We focused on strength training with her lower body and maintaining it’s flexibility, as well as getting her heart and lungs ready for the cardiovascular demands.

Ann Marie returned home from her trip to Italy with a large smile on her face when she walked back in to the studio to resume her training. She was able to not only keep up with the pack, but said she often found herself waiting for them. Not once was she tired or sore and not once did her health keep her from seeing anything she wanted to see. She was very thankful that she put in the physical work that was necessary for her trip, and she was glad that her trainer at CoachMefit was able to help her do so.

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Get Your Butt in Gear.

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008
As a personal trainer, I always walk that fine line with my clients between what is most effective and least painful for my clients. Given that, my single favorite exercise just so happens to be lunges. Lunges can be done in a wide variety of ways and can focus on different muscle groups depending on how you do them. Here are a few thoughts about my favorite exercise, and my clients least favorite.

1. Gain Strength, Stability and Balance

Alternating lunges improve the stability of the trunk, balance out the muscle strength of each individual leg and tighten and tone the rear end. This exercise is one of the best lower body workouts you can do. Not only does it help to strengthen and develop the glutes, but the lunge also works the quadriceps, hamstrings and calves. Alternating lunges work the same muscles as a stationary lunge, but it works them harder because of the pushing back movement necessary to stand back up with both feet together.

2. Lunging Correctly

Do alternating lunges as part of the lower body strength routine, two to three times a week. Performing this exercise with proper technique, 12 to 15 times on each leg for two to three sets, is optimal. Be sure to rest in between each set to allow the leg muscles to recover. Slow movements, proper breathing and maintaining form from beginning to end is crucial.

3. Ouch!

Be sure not to lunge with feet too close to each other, which will cause the knee to go over the toes and place undue stress on the knee joints, ligaments and tendons that can lead to injury. Make sure the spine is upright, in a neutral position, not rounded forward. A rounded spine position places too much stress on the vertebrae and discs of the upper back. Finally, do not force the heel of the back leg to touch the ground. Doing this will overstretch and damage the Achilles tendon.

4. Make Lunges Even More Challenging

Challenging the body’s abilities is how people get better and stronger. There are several ways to make alternating lunges more difficult, forcing the body to adapt and develop. One way is to do alternating lunges with increasing weight, another is to use the Smith Cage Machine and yet another is to use a bench to step down from when alternating the legs. All of these options will challenge the lower body, creating a greater amount of strength and power in the legs.

5. Focus on Different Muscles

The distance between the two legs in an alternating lunge changes which muscles you emphasize. The greater the stride, the more the focus you put on the gluteus maximus. The smaller the distance between the front leg and the back leg, the greater the emphasis you put on the quadriceps muscles.

Posted by Brian Dokter, Manager, CoachMeFit Grand Rapids (egr@coachmefit.com)

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Debunking Exercise Myths: A pound of fat is NOT a pound of muscle

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

By: Catherine Munaco, Owner, CoachMeFit West Bloomfield (wb@coachmefit.com)

As a personal trainer and exercise coach, I find myself frequently having to “debunk” the most recent trend in exercise information. I’ve seen a lot of fads in dieting and exercise come and go (remember Atkins and Cinefit?) and the reason they fade out is because they all lack the one basic element in lifelong health and fitness: sustainability. Most fads aren’t well researched. At the end of the day, the programs that stick around are the ones that work for the long haul and include a mixture of basic cardio, resistance (strength) training, stretching, and, sigh, a bit of hard work. We have to think of weight loss and fitness as a permanent lifestyle change instead of a temporary fix. A consistent fitness regime will take WORK, but it can also be fun and rewarding. A good training program will improve muscular endurance, muscular strength, cardiovascular fitness, and flexibility, and will be sustainable for the long haul.

It is a common thought that the key to losing weight is packing in as much cardio (running, biking, elliptical, etc) as possible. Some of my clients come to me thinking that strength training isn’t an efficient way to lose weight. They have read that cardio workouts are all you need for weight loss. I would argue the opposite: it is nearly impossible to sustain any weight loss without resistance training. There are many reasons for this. In the simplest of weight loss equations, calories (energy) intake needs to be less than caloric output. Meaning, you need to burn more calories than you eat. Cardio workouts definitely burn calories, but they do little to build muscle, so once the workout is done and your body returns to its resting levels, the cardio workout is no longer “with you”. Here’s what I mean by this: if you build muscle via resistance training, your muscle works for you all day (and night) long. Muscle is a very active tissue; it’s designed to burn energy and can do so even when we are sleeping. Fat, on the other hand, is not active. Its main job is literally to take energy from your system and store it. With resistance training, you can increase your muscle mass. Even minimal increases in muscle can lead to increases in metabolic rate, or the amount of calories expended a minute, during rest. Therefore, your new arm muscle works for YOU. It’s a mutual benefit. (But don’t take my word alone for it:  http://preventdisease.com/news/articles/muscle_vs_fat_measure_what_matters.shtml )

So why do fitness magazines and websites say that you don’t need resistance training to lose weight? Because in the initial stages of resistance training, you may not always see weight loss. Sometimes, people actually gain a small amount of weight before it starts to drop off. The reason comes from the physical properties of muscle and fat. Muscle is denser than fat, and density is a measure of mass per unit volume. In simpler terms, one pound of fat takes up more volume than one pound of muscle. Our volume is our size. It is possible to lose fat, gain muscle, stay the same weight and still be and look smaller. But how much smaller? Muscle has an approximate density of 1.06 g/ml, and fat has a density of approximately .9 g/ml. Pull out your conversion charts and do some math, and you can figure the volume of pound of muscle to be about 26.74 in3 and the volume of the same weight of fat to be about 31.50 in3 – a difference of 4.759 in3. This becomes a significant difference. In fact, many people who enter into a resistance training program often notice their clothes are fitting considerably looser and they are looking smaller well before they see any weight loss. This is why I always tell clients not to be a slave to the scale. It’s important to keep track of your weight for motivation and to stay focused, but weight is only one part of many important health facets. I have one client who lost four pant sizes and only three pounds, but she is sustaining her new body. Her muscles are working to keep her healthy. Not to mention increases in strength make daily living easier and keep us moving.

The bottom line is that to stay healthy and mobile as we age (and by the way, 60 isn’t old anymore) we have to stay strong. Resistance training helps to increase strength and maintain weight loss. This is why people who drop weight quick and don’t work out at all can’t keep the weight off: they have no method of sustaining their new body. At the end of the day, weighing less is nice, but so is being smaller, more energetic, and freely mobile. So don’t use weight loss alone as a benchmark of your fitness progress. Think about the bottom line and most important part of health and fitness: how do you feel today?

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