Posts Tagged ‘flexibility’

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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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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