Posts Tagged ‘exercise’

Ann Arbor Featured Client for Sept 2010

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

Post by: Kelly Kalbfleisch, NPTI Trainer

Manager of Ann Arbor CMF

I want to take more time to give proper recognition to those clients, here in Ann Arbor, who have met or are on their way to meeting their goals.  One in particular, David Fry, shared his story with me this month.  David is the perfect example of how dedication and the proper mind set will allow anyone to reach his/her goals.  Be inspired by his story, as I was. 

BEFORE:

I grew up in Pennsylvania in a family of overweight people. There was no appreciation for eating right or getting regular exercise. But even among my loved ones I stood out. I was an obese child who became a morbidly obese teenager, carrying 350 pounds on my 5′ 7″ frame by the time I entered college. My weight defined my life.

After my freshman year I put myself on a starvation diet of my own design. By eating less than 500 calories a day I lost more than 150 pounds in six months. This was an extremely stupid thing to do and some of my internal organs turned against me. But I was young and ultimately regained my health. I was thrilled with my new body and I lived the life I had always been denied. I was physically active throughout my 20s and kept my weight off with no particular effort.

In the mid 1990s I moved to Ann Arbor with my wife and started a new business. I resumed my bad eating habits and sedentary lifestyle as I focused on my work, and I started regaining my weight rapidly. But I kept telling myself, “It’s okay, I’ve lost weight before. I can lose it again when I need to.” Somehow I just never got around to it. Ten years later I finally had to deal with the consequences when a bout of severe dizziness and confusion led me to a local hospital. I weighed over 400 pounds and had extremely high blood pressure, with a host of other medical problems around the corner.

That scared me enough that I finally started to address my problem. Over the next few years I slowly lost 60 pounds by eating a little better and getting more physical activity. I didn’t really make progress, though, until my wife and I joined Coach Me Fit and began working out with Ann Marie Furlong. Even when I was young and active I never had done any structured weight training, so Ann Marie’s workouts were a new experience for me. I remember being so exhausted in the first few months that several times I drove home and fell asleep in the car in my garage before going inside the house. Ann Marie was the perfect coach for me. She challenged me to push harder each time, but she didn’t come on strong with a “drill sergeant” attitude. Some people respond well to that but it probably would have been counterproductive with me. I think a good personality match with your trainer is very important.

Over the next two years my physical fitness and stamina improved greatly but I only lost about 20 pounds because I still wasn’t watching my calorie intake. I used to joke that if they had an Olympics for people with a BMI over 50, I would do very well! Good health truly is about “fitness” and not just “weight loss,” but I still had face the facts about my diet. Late last year I signed up for a service called BistroMD that delivers frozen, pre-packaged meals to my home once a week. Starting right before Thanksgiving (great timing, right?) I began eating 1,200 to 1,400 calories per day while continuing my regular Coach Me Fit workouts. I also started using an iPhone app called “Tap N Track” to measure all the calories I ate or burned up through exercise each day.

The results were immediate. I lost 25 pounds through the holiday season, which encouraged me to stick to my diet. And the weight loss made it easier for me to workout so I was able to increase my physical activity throughout the winter. Ann Marie started giving me more challenging workouts at Coach Me Fit, and in the spring I rediscovered my old love of long distance road cycling, something I hadn’t done in more than 15 years.

Today I’m happy to report I’ve lost 100 pounds since November 2009. I’ve dropped eight clothing sizes, I’m no longer taking blood pressure medicine, and my cholesterol level is now well within the healthy range. But more than that, I can barely describe how much better I feel every day, whether I’m rushing through a crowded airport with heavy luggage, riding my bike to Brighton and back, or simply trying to fit into a seat at the movie theater. Obesity means making compromises with yourself every day, and I finally decided I didn’t want to do it anymore.

I know my struggle isn’t over. I still want to lose another 40 pounds or so but, even after that, good health is a lifelong commitment to smart food choices and regular physical activity. Coach Me Fit will continue to be a part of that for me.

I have two pieces of advice for anyone who’s facing similar challenges: First, don’t wait to get started on a healthy lifestyle.   As I learned, time is not your friend. Each week it just gets harder and harder to change bad habits, and you just find yourself farther and farther away from where you need to be. As they say, “when you find yourself stuck in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging.”

Second, you don’t have to solve all your problems at once. Do you what you can, when you can. Each step forward is progress. You can see in my history that I rapidly lost a huge amount of weight when I was young, but I did it in an unhealthy way that didn’t really include a conscious change to my lifestyle. And so my weight rapidly returned. My current weight loss adventure has actually been multi-phased, lasting over five years. The people around me have noticed the big physical change in the last 10 months, but my brain started making the necessary adjustments several years ago.

If you’re reading this, that probably means you’re a Coach Me Fit client or thinking about becoming one. So then “Congratulations” on a great first step towards a healthier life!

AFTER:

Thank you for sharing your story, David.  Congratulations on all your progress.  I’m excited to see you reach more goals as you continue on this healthy living journey!!

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Blasting Fat with Cardio Intervals

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

Kelly Kalbfleisch- NPTI Certified Personal Trainer

CoachMeFit Ann Arbor, Manager

As many of you have probably figured out by now, whether from magazines, programs geared towards fitness or from personal experience, cardio interval training is all the fat burning rage. 

“Intervals are an important addition to your training routine because your body adapts to movements and intensities over time.  Repeatedly putting your muscles through the same (limited) range of motion or adhering religiously to a specific aerobic intensity will stall any strength gains or weight-loss goals you may have in mind.”

“An admirable quality of interval training is that its sessions can be brief.  In fact 15 to 20 minutes of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can provide the fitness equivalent of 40 to 60 minutes of continual-speed cardio.  Best of all, research indicates that short periods of high-intensity exercise are better for caloric expenditure than longer steady-state periods, giving you more fat-burning bang for your buck each minute during (and for quite some time after) your workout.”

I enjoy interval training, not only for the increased fat burn, but to beat the cardio bordem.  The sessions keep me engaged and focused the whole time.  I tested out the treadmill interval routine listed below.  On paper, it looks quite easy, but once I got into it, it was a great challenge.  You need to pay attention to your body when trying out these routines.  RPE means Rate of Perceived Exertion.  This is a way to monitor the intensity of your workout without equipment.  The most common RPE scales run from one to 10, with one representing little or no activity and 10 being maximum all out exertion.  Your RPE is a bigger factor in your fat-burning success than following the incline, speed and resistance exactly.  If you feel dizzy or not challenged, lower or raise one or more of your exercise variables until your RPE matches what is reflected in the routine.

Treadmill Intervals
Minutes Speed Incline RPE
0-3 3.5 3 4
3-5 4 3 4-5
5-7 5 3 5-6
7-9 4 4.5 4-5
9-11 5.5 4.5 6
11-13 4.5 4.5 5
13-15 6 6 6-7
15-17 5 6 6
17-20 4 6 5
20-22 5.5 4.5 6
22-23 7 4.5 7-8
23-24 6 4.5 6
24-25 5 3 5-6
25-27 4 3 4-5
27-30 3.5 0 3
       
Elliptical Intervals
Minutes Resistance Incline RPE
0-2 4 0 3
2-5 5 3 4
5-7 6 3 5
7-10 7 6 5-6
10-12 7 8 6-7
12-15 8 8 7
15-16 10 8 8
16-18 6 8 6
18-20 8 10 7-8
20-21 10 10 8-9
21-23 8 10 7-8
23-25 6 8 6
25-26 8 8 8
26-28 5 6 5
28-30 4 3 3-4

I like to get 45 minutes of cardio in, so after the treadmill routine, I hopped on the elliptical for the last 15 minutes.  Try a different cardio machine after the 30 minutes to mix it up even more!! 

Good luck and Happy Fat Burning

*Quotes and interval routines are from Oxygen Magazine

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Burn Baby Burn

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

Quick Notes on Energy Expenditure and What it Means for Weight Loss

By Catherine Munaco

Owner, CoachMeFit West Bloomfield

As a trainer, I have one basic rule for clients aiming to lose significant amounts of weight: You must know roughly how many calories you consume relative to how many calories your body is burning on a daily basis. Surprisingly, very few people have looked into their energy consumption and expenditure, and instead take what we call “uneducated guesses”. As humans, we tend to underestimate the calories in our food and overestimate the energy we use during our daily routines and workouts. Clients are often reluctant to spend time tediously logging entries into a food diary, and even nutritionists will say that calculating calories in food is a time consuming process. I simply don’t care. I’ve logged my food consumption, its annoying—yes—but vital, read: VITAL, to progress with weight loss. Luckily, online food journals make tracking easier and less time consuming than it used to be (try fitday.com for a free online food journal). If tracking food every day isn’t something you’re likely to stick with, then track for three days (making sure one of those days is on the weekend). Because we tend to be creatures of habit, you’ll get a general idea of how many calories you eat in a typical day. Most likely you’ll be shocked with the amount of calories you’re consuming. If you eat out, be sure to look up calories on the restaurants website, which can also be shocking. I’ll never forget when I learned that my “healthy” Panera salad contained over 30 grams of fat. Simply substituting the dressing would have saved me over 200 calories.

The other half of the equation, of course, is calories expended. Here, we also see inaccurate guesses. Clients will often tell me they went for a long walk, but when I put them on the treadmill they realize how slow they were really moving. For a more accurate calorie count, I usually suggest a heart rate monitor. Cardio machines typically have a spot for calories burned in a workout session, but even they can overestimate. One time, the treadmill said I burned 800 calories in a 40 minute run; my heart rate monitor said 425. (I would have loved to believe the treadmill, of course, but a female my size would have to run faster than 6 minute miles to expend that much energy in 40 minutes, and I don’t think I’ve ever run a 5:50 minute mile, let alone 8 of them.)

Additionally, my clients usually have no idea how many calories they use at rest. The most simplistic estimation of this value is what exercise physiologists refer to as resting metabolic rate, or RMR. RMR accounts for the energy required by cells to maintain normal bodily functions and homeostasis at rest. Similar to RMR, basal metabolic rate, or BMR, is the minimum energy needed to sustain vital life functions. In laboratory conditions, BMR is typically only slightly less than RMR, so the two tend to be considered interchangeable. Regardless, knowing your daily BMR or RMR is crucial to weight loss. Again, people are often shocked to learn how little they burn at rest. Equally frustrating—BMR is lower in females (a result of lower muscle masses as compared to males) and decreases with age. To calculate your age, gender, and weight adjusted BMR, go to http://www.bmi-calculator.net/bmr-calculator/

Aside from physical activity and exercise, BMR ends up being the most important form of calorie expenditure simply because we spend most of our day at rest. Having a basic understanding of our daily energy needs allows us to regulate and change the foods we eat to better accommodate energy expenditure. In the long run, we want eating HABITS that fit our energy needs. Knowing BMR also highlights the importance of physical activity. On days that we put in a significant workout, our caloric expenditure is as much as 25% greater than our resting levels. That means we can eat more! Exercise increases weight loss when calories are carefully monitored and helps to buffer “bad eating” days (you know you’ve had ‘em).

Research has also shown that exercise can have a counter effect on the natural decrease in BMR with age. Age-related decreases in BMR are typically explained by loss of muscle tissue and increase in fat tissue. Some changes in metabolic activity for muscle also exist as we age, but for the most part we lose active muscle tissue, and therefore burn less calories at rest. However, weight training can help maintain muscle mass that we would otherwise lose, thus keeping basal metabolic rates from plummeting. Some research has even suggested that regular aerobic training in older individuals causes increases in BMR with no increase in muscle mass.

BMR often decreases with age

BMR often decreases with age

So what does this mean for the average person? It means that you need to keep moving and you need to know what you’re consuming relative to what you’re eating. Weight loss only occurs when energy out is greater than energy in, but if we don’t at least have some general idea of what our individual caloric consumption and usage is, we can’t begin to know what to change to see results. Is it a pain in the butt? For some of us, yes. Is it necessary? YES. Fitness is a lifestyle, not a temporary fix. Knowing what your body is doing is the first step to changing habits and creating new patterns for a lifetime of health and wellbeing. Smaller pant sizes are the satisfying bonus.

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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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The Biggest Loser: Season 7

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

Meet Joelle: The Inside Scoop

This is the first of weekly updates on CoachMeFit’s celebrity client, Biggest Loser contestant Joelle Gwynn. Joelle has been training at CoachMeFit West Bloomfield with owner/trainer Catherine Munaco since early January. At stake is a $250,000 prize for losing the most weight by the season finale on May 12, 2009. The Biggest Loser airs every Tuesday at 8pm on NBC.  Catherine will be blogging weekly first-hand updates from Joelle’s training

I met Joelle for the first time on Thursday and was immediately impressed with her work ethic and excitement. What I noticed first, though, was how much she needed a personal trainer from CoachMeFit. She was strictly following the nutritional program given to her by the show’s nutritionists, but she wasn’t exercising nearly as often or as intense and she needed to be. She told me accountability was key for her—when she goes to the gym, she works extremely hard, but waking up and getting to the gym was the difficult part (sound familiar?) I assured her that we had enough time to reach her goals by the finale on May 12, but we needed to—literally– get moving.

It didn’t take long for Joelle to show me how hard of a worker she was during her workouts. My favorite quote from her was “I can talk and work!” She didn’t want to take breaks. She didn’t want to go half speed. She wanted to do every exercise correctly and to its full capacity. It’s a personal trainer’s dream to have such a motivated client! (Of course, a live finale on national TV doesn’t hurt either.)

Joelle also told me she is extremely anxious about Week Two’s episode, set to air Tuesday January 13 at 8 pm. Apparently, she is yelled at by Bob and is portrayed as wimpy and lazy. It’s ironic, actually, because she’s probably the least lazy client I have ever had. But we understand the show needs to pick villains for dramatic flare, and I guess Joelle got picked to be one. There are multiple cameras running 24 hours a day, so in a week they get hundreds of hours of footage and have to cut it down to 2 for the show. Its unfortunate, but a part of being on the show Joelle will have to deal with.

I was also surprised with how little contact the show keeps with the contestants once they are at home. Keep in mind, week eleven was taped over a month ago—so ALL contestants are home now, whether they’ve been eliminated or not. Joelle had a comprehensive nutritional plan and access to workout clothes (hard to find for extremely plus sizes!) and caloric expenditure monitors. A trainer from the show had come to her gym in Michigan and showed her some workouts to do on her own, but after that there was little to no feedback. Joelle said she really missed the immediate feedback and accountability that she had while she was at the ranch, and that training with me at CoachMeFit made her accountable to working out even when she didn’t want to. As well, I could give her feedback on the types of workouts she was doing and how to improve them to burn even more calories. We forget that contestant have a maximum of eleven weeks on the ranch to learn about nutrition, exercise, and weight loss. I spent four years studying the same things at the University of Michigan. It’s unrealistic to think contestants return home as exercise gurus, and Joelle needed the guidance, accountability, and expertise that CoachMeFit personal trainers provide.

All in all, I can tell Joelle will be successful at her weight loss this time. Stay tuned…

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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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After elimination, Amy offers advice for others

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

“Biggest Loser” contestants Amy and Shellay are clients at the CoachMeFit studio in Birmingham, MI.  They work out with the owners of the studio, Derek and Kerrie DiGiovanni.

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

Last night, Amy was voted off the show. Eager to stay at the ranch and continue the rugged regime, she would now have to go it alone. Instead of a TV star for a trainer she would look to Derek at the local CoachMeFit to “kick butt.” It’s working. Her weight continues to go down.

Amy has some advice for people who are seriously over weight but don’t have the luxury of a stay at the Biggest Loser ranch to help them.

    1) Make exercise a priority every day. If there is something else you want to do, tell yourself that you can’t do it until you do your cardio, or weights.
    2) Ideally find a “workout buddy” who is committed to exercising with you regularly. Of course, a personal trainer is your best support system.
    3) Diets alone don’t work.
    4) Realize that many physical symptoms—aching legs and feet, difficulty breathing, and a host of medical problems—are the result of your weight, and you can be free of them.
    5) Set small attainable goals, achieve them, and set more small goals. If you never exercise, don’t start with a goal of working out every day. You’re likely to fail, and give up completely.

This week’s pay-off for Amy was going to lunch with friends she used to work with and finding that many didn’t recognize her. Priceless.

In case you are curious … Amy and Shellay won’t be indulging in a 4,000-calorie (the average intake of an adult at Thanksgiving dinner) eating frenzy this Thanksgiving. They are eating turkey breast, salad, and cauliflower mashed “potatoes.”

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Amy Dropping Pounds and Going Strong

Friday, November 21st, 2008

“Biggest Loser” contestants Amy and Shellay are clients at the CoachMeFit studio in Birmingham, MI.  They work out with the owners of the studio, Derek and Kerrie DiGiovanni.

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

Nothing celebrates losing a lot of weight like selling all your “fat” clothes in a garage sale. That’s exactly what Amy and Shellay did, vowing that they are so over being overweight.

Amy and her Personal Trainer, Derek

Amy and her Personal Trainer, Derek

If Amy reaches her goal, she’ll be wearing a size-10 dress for the season finale. On Tuesday’s program Amy beat out all other contestants in terms of the greatest percentage of weight loss in a week. She lost 8 lbs for a total weight loss of 66 lbs.

Shellay is on-track to don a size 6 little black dress when she returns. Shellay admits that exercising for hours every day is getting tougher. Boredom, burnout … that’s inevitable when all day, every day for the last six months you’ve been counting every calorie you burn. It’s her personal training sessions that keep her enthused. “I always feel really good after working out with Derek. Sure, I’m exhausted, but my stress and any negative feelings are gone.”

Shellay believes that if you exercise infrequently, you can convince yourself you’ve reached your limit although your body is far from it. But with a good personal trainer you find you are capable of more than you imagined. “CoachMeFit is full of positive energy. I cross paths week after week with the same people and can see their progress.

I would tell anyone who is struggling with losing weight to in invest in personal training, even a few times a month. It would be hard to put a price on the benefits.”

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Amy’s Hardwork Paying Off

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

“Biggest Loser” contestants Amy and Shellay are clients at the CoachMeFit studio in Birmingham, MI.  They work out with the Owners of the studio, Derek and Kerrie DiGiovanni.

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

“The energy goes right out of me when I don’t exercise. That’s a real eye-opener,” Shellay observed after a family funeral and other obligations made it impossible to keep up her intense exercise regimen this past week. Contrary to how she might have expected to feel after dramatically cutting down on exercise, Shellay admits she “felt exhausted.”

Amy’s hard work is really paying off. When Biggest Loser last aired two weeks ago, she ranked number one – she had lost the greatest percentage of body fat of any of the contestants. From Shellay’s perspective, this has made as big a change in her attitude as in her body. “She is so much happier now.”

Shellay has mentioned before that she tried all kinds of diets from the time she was a teenager. It wasn’t until Biggest Loser that she realized the role of exercise in losing weight. If you doubt the extremes to which she went to lose weight, check this out — Shellay, her mom, aunt, and cousin all tried a controversial diet that involved receiving injections of animal placenta. Imagine that even as a teenager, Shellay was desperately searching for a way to lose weight, just like her mom.

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Keeping Fit During Pregnancy

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

By: Jen Boyce, Manager, CoachMeFit Ann Arbor, MI

Keeping fit during pregnancy is vital for your (and your baby’s) health and well-being. It improves blood flow to the muscles and also helps your body to use glucose more effectively, which helps reduce the risk of diabetes. James Clapp, M.D, states that pregnant women who exercised delivered a healthier baby with a stronger fetal heart rate. Even more compelling is the fact that of the women who exercised, time spent in labor was shortened by about a third, with 65% of the women delivering in four hours or less.  Start slowly. Doing 20-30 minutes a day, up to five times a week is adequate.  The following exercises are especially good to get your body ready for labor.

KEGEL EXERCISES
Start with Kegel exercises, which help tone your pelvic floor muscles. Simply tighten your pelvic muscles as if you’re stopping your stream of urine. Try it for five seconds at a time, four or five times in a row. Work up to keeping the muscles contracted for 10 seconds at a time, relaxing for 10 seconds between contractions. Aim for at least three sets of 10 repetitions a day. You can do Kegels while standing, sitting or lying down.

TAILOR SITTING OR BUTTERFLY STRETCH
The tailor sitting position stretches the muscles in your thighs and pelvis. It also improves your posture, keeps your pelvic joints flexible and increases blood flow to your lower body.
To practice tailor sitting, sit on the floor with your back straight. Bring the bottoms of your feet together, pull your heels toward your groin and gently drop your knees. You’ll feel a stretch in your inner thighs. Try tailor sitting anytime you’re able to sit on the floor.

If it’s difficult to sit in this position, use a wall to support your back or place cushions under each thigh. Remember to keep your back straight.

LOW BACK STRETCH
Stretching the muscles in your lower back can help relieve backaches during pregnancy and labor.
Rest on your hands and knees with your head in line with your back. Pull in your stomach, rounding your back slightly. Hold the position for several seconds. Then relax your stomach and back, keeping your back as flat as possible. Don’t let your back sag. Repeat several times. Gradually work up to 10 repetitions.

PELVIC TILT
You can also stretch the muscles in your lower back while standing. Lay on the floor face up, your feet about shoulder-width apart. Then push your pelvis upward. Repeat several times.

SQUAT
Squatting during labor — even for short amounts of time — helps open your pelvic outlet and allows more room for your baby to descend. Practicing squats now will make it easier to squat during labor.
Stand with your feet slightly greater than shoulder-width apart and your toes pointing forward. Slowly descend, bending through the hips, knees and ankles, making sure your shoulders stay up. Keep your heels flat on the floor. Stop when your knees reach a 90-degree angle. If you can’t bend your knees to a 90-degree angle, simply go as low as you can. Then return to the starting position. Repeat several times. Gradually work up to 10 repetitions.

BALL SQUATS
For a twist on standard squats, try these;
Stand up straight with a fitness ball behind the small of your back and against the wall, your feet about shoulder-width apart. Slide down the wall until you’re in a sitting position, then slowly slide back up. Repeat several times. Gradually work up to 10 repetitions.

SWIMMING
Swimming is good to take the weight of your belly off of your back and legs.

A COUPLE OF TIPS TO FOLLOW:
-Monitor your heart rate and breathing. As a general rule, your heart rate should not exceed 140 beats/minute.
-In the last trimester, avoid ballistic movements, such as jumping or running.
-Avoid exercising at extreme altitude or in hot, humid environments.
-Most of all, drink plenty of water.

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