Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Boot Camp or Bust?

What are my fitness options?

If you’re unsure about RHF Burn30 Bootcamp you have other options...

1. Engage in Semi Private Training: As an experienced fitness pro I can assure you that personal training (semi-private) works (assuming you and the trainer are a match). If you would prefer semi-private training it is available to you. Please let me know I’ll be happy to help you. Do keep in mind that it is 4-6 times the cost of RHF Burn30 Bootcamp, and you never get the same external support that you get from group environments. Group environments create instant accountability. In boot camp you make new friends (Burn Buddies) so it requires less initial will power and internal motivation. Group environments create massive energy.

2. Join a Traditional Gym (not recommended):
Here you are basically leasing equipment with zero accountability (most likely). Recent statistics state that as high as 75% of gym members attend once or twice a month! If you skip out you miss all the benefits. If you do attend, how do you know if you are maximizing your time? Are you doing the right exercises? Are you using effective principles for proper growth and function? Are your progressions transferable to the real world? These are just a few things to consider.

Attempt a “Diet:” Dieting fails in the long term. Your goals should be to balance a sensible exercise and nutrition plan that allows you to learn a lifelong set of skills (skill sets). With restrictive dieting you deprive your body of many essential nutrients. You can “lose” some weight in the short term by strictly limiting your caloric intake, but you will find it again and it is harmful to your body to continuously “diet.” Dieting will also stunt your physical performance and cause your body to go into “protection mode” (metabolic drop) because it fears starvation which in turn may make you fatter (skinny fat). The goal is to decrease body fat right?

Be the Lone Ranger: Only a few people can be successful with a self-monitored fitness plan. If you have strong will and intense self-discipline, you can make this work for you. Your results though will be in direct proportion to your knowledge base; results will probably come less quickly because of the learning curve. Keep in mind you will need to buy some equipment, schedule time and REALLY commit to following through without any outside support or accountability. Even the best athletes in the world have trainers and coaches (hint).

5. Stay Stuck Right Where You Are:
You want to be fit right? You can maintain your status as is and keep getting much of the same. A wise person said once: “If you always do what you are always taught you will always get what you always got.” Again, you want to be fit right? You do want change right? If you are satisfied with what you’ve achieved thus far, chances are you would never be reading this right now. If you choose to do nothing at all it is the absolute worst choice of all. I hope you choose a better path than this one.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Tips For Beginning Your Fitness Program

Proper preparation for a fitness program is essential in order to achieve the best results.  The following tips will help you when starting a new fitness program, and help you to stay consistent with it over the long term.

The following is a list of general principles:

  1. Prior to beginning an exercise program, speak with your physician, especially if you have a medical condition such as diabetes, high blood pressure, are overweight, sedentary, over 35 years old, have any heart problems, or have a history of heart problems in your family.
  2. Set achievable, measurable, attainable, and realistic goals.  Write them down and keep them some place visible. Create an accountability team (i.e. trainer, nutritionist, workout partner) to help keep you on track.

  3. Wear comfortable clothing that will absorb perspiration. Choose clothing that maximizes your movement and remember that this is about fitness rather than fashion (although you may wear fashionable workout clothes). Wear good athletic shoes that provide plenty of arch support. Dress for the climate.

  4. Choose and schedule times to work out that fit your daily routine. It helps to pick a time when you usually feel energetic and your schedule allows for consistency.  If you have a busy lifestyle, put your workouts into your schedule just like any other appointments or responsibilities that you have.

  5. Track your workouts in a log or notebook.  This helps ensure that you consistently challenge yourself to do more in your program, allows you to see the progress you are making, and gives you a record to monitor so you know when to build variety and progression into your program.

  6. Warm up for 3 – 5 minutes with a light activity that targets all the major muscle groups prior to beginning your fitness program (also known as a dynamic warm-up).

  7. After your workout, finish with a cool down phase of 5-10 minutes.  This is also a good time to incorporate any static (stationary) stretching into your fitness program.

  8. Consistency is the key with any fitness program designed to achieve lasting, long term results.  Start with small steps, but keep moving forward with your program consistently.

  9. Avoid going overboard with your fitness program.  Exercise is like anything else, and too much of a good thing can be detrimental.  Give your body adequate rest by getting a good night’s sleep on a consistent basis and by varying your exercise routine so that you avoid suffering from repetitive use injuries.

  1. Clean up your diet; look into nutritional cleansing and supplementation. Understand that there is a balance (physically and nutritionally) that your body must achieve for optimal health and physical performance. This is done through a balanced, practical, and rational approach of exercise, rest, and nutritional intake.

Sprain vs. Strain and How to Treat Them Both

Injuries happen. They’re never any fun, and so we do whatever we can to make them go away as fast as possible.

Problem is, the things we do for them often make them worse. That’s particularly true of sprains and strains. It seems silly that something so common can be so tricky to treat. But that’s exactly why. Everyone thinks they already know how to do it.

They think they know how to do it, that is, until faced with questions like these: Should you use ice or heat? How long? How often? Should you use bandages? Braces? Walk it off? Stay off it? Put it up? Keep it down? And how do you get back to your normal routine?

That list would leave most people scratching their heads. Almost everyone has the basics down. But when it comes to treating sprains and strains, the devil is in the details.

Below, are all the details you will ever need to take care of MOST common joint and muscle injuries.  It is far better that you know rather than be ignorant to self-treating sprains and strains.

Sprain vs. Strain: Some Definitions

Before we get too far into it, what’s the difference between a sprain and a strain, anyway?

Good question. A sprain is a ligament injury. Ligaments are the tough, fibrous tissues that connect bone to bone. They literally hold your joints together. When they are damaged, we call that a sprain.

In contrast, a strain is an injury to a muscle or tendon. You already know what muscles are. Tendons are the tough, fibrous tissues that connect muscle to bone. When either a muscle or a tendon is damaged, we call that a strain.

There are three different classifications for sprains and strains:

Grade 1.
This kind of injury happens when the fiber (ligament, muscle, or tendon) is stretched a bit beyond its normal limits and sustains some minor damage.

Grade 2.
This kind of sprain involves a partial tear of the fiber.

Grade 3.
This kind of sprain involves a complete rupture or tear of the fiber. (A ruptured fiber remains intact but detaches from the bone.) Severe damage may require surgical repair.

Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of sprains and strains overlap significantly. (For the record, “signs” of an illness are directly observable or measurable. “Symptoms,” on the other hand, are subjectively reported by the patient).

Common signs of a sprain include swelling, bruising, and decreased joint mobility. If the ligament ruptures, you may actually hear a “popping” sound. Symptoms of a sprain include pain and difficulty using the affected extremity.

The signs of a strain are very similar. They include discoloration and bruising. Generally strains are accompanied by less swelling than sprains, but that obviously depends more on the severity of the injury than on the type. Symptoms include local pain and stiffness.

If you suspect that you have suffered a sprain or a strain and you are experiencing severe pain or functional impairment, you should probably consult a doctor. These can be signs of a fracture or a complete tear. The doctor will use an X-ray to rule out a fracture. After the swelling has gone down, he or she may also order an MRI to check for a tear.

If, on the other hand, your injury is mild, you can treat it yourself by remembering the following simple mnemonic.

The RICE Method

RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. This method is taught to EMTs and orthopedists alike because it is the optimal form of treatment for most sprains and strains. Though it may sound like common sense, you need to make sure that you are doing each step correctly -- and most people fail at this. Remember the long list of questions? They’re all answered below.

1. Rest

The biggest mistake that most people make with sprains or strains is to try to “walk them off.” That’s fine for cramps. For sprains and strains, however, additional force usually means additional injury. Nevertheless, many people will continue hobbling through their activities and then apply ice only much later that night, if at all.

That’s too late. The first 24-48 hours after an injury are when ice, compression, and elevation will make the most difference -- the sooner, the better. If you neglect resting immediately, you do you run the risk of hurting yourself even worse, you also deprive yourself of the potential benefits of the rest of the RICE method.

The other mistake that people make is resting too much or too long after an injury. Prolonged immobilization causes joints to stiffen up and muscles to waste away. That means you should avoid “babying” an injury as well.

Instead, you should rest only until you are pain-free -- within one to three days for most injuries. Then try to ease back into your normal routine. Listen to your body. Stop if it hurts, but do as much as you can handle. Strength and flexibility fall into the use-it-or-lose-it category. Appropriate rest will speed your recovery.

2. Ice

As funny as it may sound, most people also ice incorrectly. You should ice immediately after an injury to minimize swelling and ease pain. Swelling is the real enemy. Ice keeps swelling down because cold constricts blood vessels, which slows the arrival of inflammatory molecules. It also numbs the nerves at the site of injury to reduce pain.

Ice right away. You should never apply ice directly to the skin for an extended period of time. There are two better options. You can place a thin layer -- a towel, for example -- between the ice and your skin. Or you can perform an “ice massage.” To do that, just move the ice over the injured area as if you were rubbing it. Either way, leave the ice in place with a barrier.

You should ice for 15-20 minutes at a time. Though your injury may still hurt at the end of that time, further icing is ineffective. In fact, it may hurt: you run the risk of frostbite and other complications with overly long icing sessions. Instead, wait an hour or so. Then check the area again. If it has normal tactile sense and feels warm to the touch, you can ice it for another 15-20 minutes. You can then repeat that process as many times as you like. (Though it really fails to help after more than a day or two).

The ideal ice pack is a Ziploc bag filled about three-quarters full with ice and a little bit of water. The water helps the ice pack conform to your body. You can also use packages of frozen vegetables.

For those who prefer hot to cold, heating does have its place. It is a great way to loosen up stiff muscles and joints. It relaxes tissues and stimulates blood flow. You can use heat before exercising (also for 15-20 minutes at a time), but you should never heat after an injury, as it will exacerbate swelling. (You should also never heat while you sleep.) A simple rule of thumb is to heat before, ice after.

3. Compression

The mistake that most people make with compression is one of omission. Compression helps to immobilize an injury and provide support. When combined with ice, it also helps to minimize swelling and pain.

To compress an injury, wrap an Ace bandage around the site. Try to overlap about half the width of the bandage on each pass until you completely cover the injury. You want it to be snug, but make sure that you keep blood circulation. If you start to get cold, blue, tingly, or numb, it’s too tight. Undo the bandage and rewrap it a bit looser.

You should use compression bandages at least as long as you are icing the injury. (You can leave them on longer than ice though.) Even after you stop icing, you can continue to use compression for support. Compression bandages should never keep you inactive for too long. Remember to rest only as long as you need to.

4. Elevation

Finally, elevate the site of your injury above the level of your heart. Just like cold compression, elevation works to decrease swelling. Elevation also prevents fluid from pooling. Keep the injury elevated at least as long as you are icing it.

The RICE method is the most effective possible treatment for most sprains and strains. As you can see, all four steps work in concert to treat sprains and strains.

Preventing Injuries

We will all face an injury of some kind during our lifetimes. Accidents are unavoidable. But physical setbacks are even more frustrating when you are exercising in an effort to improve your health. Although looking at the big picture—skipping exercising makes your body age faster, break down more quickly, die younger, and certainly diminishes your quality of life. Nothing can derail this motivation faster than a nagging injury. After all, your main reason for exercising may be to make yourself feel better, and injuries accomplish exactly the opposite. One of the most frustrating scenarios we face is when we finally make that commitment to our health, begin to work out, and then find ourselves sidelined by an injury Let us examine ways to reduce your chance of getting injured in the first place.
Why we get injured...
There are two types of injury: acute and chronic. An acute injury occurs when something overloads your system beyond its capacity to buffer it—like getting hit by a car or falling off your bike. A chronic injury is one that's created by overusing a body part until it breaks down.
Acute injuries are unpreventable. Nothing can prepare you for a car accident (unless you know how to construct a Superhero suit). But you can prepare yourself to better fend off minor acute injuries. Exercise can help you strengthen your body and can prepare you to deal with adversity more efficiently.
Chronic injuries can almost always be avoided, because overuse injuries are generally due to muscular imbalance and/or lack of proper range of motion. By properly training your body, muscles will be balanced and functional, bones will be dense, and body parts will be supple. When you get this formula right, chronic injuries almost never happen.
But doing this is easier said than done. Even elite athletes have trouble keeping their bodies in balance. The reason is that it takes both dedication and discipline. Most of us just want to do whatever it is we find entertaining when we exercise. The little things that keep us injury free are the most important exercises.  As boring as this may be, it's a lot more fun than being injured. Let's take a look at the basics of staying healthy.
The Warm Up
Warming up properly seems like a waste of time. Many people at one time or another have jumped right into an intensive workout like RHF Studio Boot Camp and walked away feeling like they got hit by a truck. But if you want to remain uninjured, nothing stacks the odds in your favor as much as thoroughly warming up your body to get it ready for the rigors of exercise (5-7 minutes).
Acute injuries are never accidents. Putting stress on a cold system can cause acute injury, even with resistance you can normally handle easily. The reason is that when you're cold, your muscles are actually gel-like. As they warm up, they become less viscous, kind of like oil in your car engine. This process is called thixotropy; as you increase your heart rate, your core body temperature heats up. When this happens, your muscular viscosity decreases, and you become more supple and ready to handle the stresses of exercise.
A proper warm-up starts out slow and gradually increases in intensity. Once your blood is moving, easy, short stretches (dynamic) help elongate your muscles so they're ready for the intense contractions that will happen later. Note that long, slow stretching (static) should be avoided as part of the warm-up. The type of stretching you do to increase your flexibility should be done post-exercise. Pre-exercise (dynamic) stretches should remain very low on the intensity scale. They serve only to loosen up the body to its current range-of-motion abilities, not to increase that range.
The Cool Down
A good workout stresses your body. Your heart rate increases to near its maximum and muscles are contracted at high speed. If you finish a hard workout and walk away without a cool down, your body settles into a contracted state. When this happens, the damage incurred during the workout is exacerbated and your body fails to recover well. A proper cool down eases your heart rate and stretches out your muscle fibers. This begins the healing process and speeds up your recovery time.
A good cool down consists of moving your body more and more slowly, allowing your heart rate to drop. When it gets low enough (under 100 beats per minute) you should begin stretching out all the muscles you worked during your workout. It's best to start with easy ballistic stretches. These can be followed by slower, longer static stretches (stationary). If you want to do a full-blown stretching session with the aim of increasing your body's range of motion, this is the best time to do that.
Stay Flexible and Functional
Since working out contracts your muscles, to stay in balance you need to stretch them out. Failing to stretch out your muscles leaves their fiber strands knotted together. Muscles in this state are very susceptible to overload and hence injury. Properly stretched muscle fibers have far more of a buffer zone than unstretched muscles. They can take the same force loads more easily because they have more room to contract. Staying flexible is a great way to avoid injury and to stay functional.
PreHabilitation: (Rehab before you need it)
If you've ever been to a physical therapist, you've probably been given exercises that help rebuild an injured area. These tend to be low-intensity movements that stress your prime mover muscles and the smaller muscles that stabilize the larger ones. For some reason, many older-style exercise programs often leave out training these smaller muscles. This is bad, because when you build up one muscle group more than another, your body becomes imbalanced. When you have a muscular imbalance, you're highly likely to become injured. This leads to a puzzle for many of us. We only go to a physical therapist when we are injured. At the same time it is hard to know your imbalances without seeing a physical therapist.
Fortunately, most modern (up to date) exercise programs consider this situation. RHF Studio Boot Camp, for example, has many different workouts that focus on both prime mover and stabilizer muscles. RHF likes to fuse concepts together to give you the best possible sweat session. But it's still easy to become out of balance because life often throws us into situations where muscular imbalance is likely to happen. Sports, raking leaves, and even working on the computer can create imbalance. Offsetting this imbalance can be complicated, but is achievable. Here are some ideas:
1.   Have an annual assessment from a physical therapist. Your PT can put you through a series of exercises that can determine your muscular health. If he or she does find an imbalance, it can usually be remedied with a few simple exercises.
2.   Remember those physical therapist visits. Whenever you are sent to a PT, remember the exercises you are given there. Once you've injured an area, that area will always be susceptible to being reinjured. You should do the exercises prescribed, at least on occasion, for the rest of your life. If you have enough injuries, your arsenal of rehab exercises begins to grow, and eventually you'll know how to avoid any imbalances.
3.   Do dynamic (before workouts) and static stretching (after workouts). It targets muscular balance more than any other type of exercise. Doing yoga (stretch class) for a day or so per week will keep your body both balanced and supple, as well as greatly facilitating all other training. You can try fusing stretching into a strength routine as well.
4.   Get help with drills to increase range of motion, help relieve pain, and prevent strain in commonly stressed areas like the shoulders, neck, core, lower back, and knees. This will keep you functional and allow you to continue forward in your progress.

Preventing Overtraining - When Less Is More

Decreasing your training improves performance and prevents over-training…

Over-training syndrome frequently occurs in athletes who are training for competition or a specific event and train beyond the body's ability to recover. Athletes often exercise longer and harder so they can improve. But without adequate rest and recovery, these training regimens can backfire, and actually decrease performance. Conditioning requires a balance between overload and recovery. Too much overload and/or too little recovery may result in both physical and psychology symptoms of over-training syndrome.

Common warning signs of over-training include:
  • Washed-out feeling, tired, drained, lack of energy
  • Mild leg soreness, general aches and pains
  • Pain in muscles and joints
  • Sudden drop in performance
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Decreased immunity (increased number of colds, and sore throats)
  • Decrease in training capacity / intensity
  • Moodiness and irritability
  • Depression
  • Loss of enthusiasm for the sport
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased incidence of injuries
  • A compulsive need to exercise
It's hard to predict over-training since everyone's body is different. It is important, however, to vary training through the year and schedule in significant rest time.

Exercise Induced Repetitive Use Injuries...

Searching for the reason that repetitive use injuries occur can be difficult and frustrating. With a traumatic injury the cause is obvious, but with repetitive use or overuse injuries, identifying the cause is more challenging. Identifying the cause(s) of a repetitive use injury is critical; otherwise, it becomes a recurring injury.

A few reasons why this happens:

1. The first is using it too much, too fast, too soon. Even if you have the body of superman/superwoman, if you do too much, too fast, too soon, something will break down.

2. The second explanation is doing it on a funky system. The condition of what is being used is significant. If the anatomical structure is weak, limited or impaired, there is increased risk of break down.

3. The third issue is doing it funky. If the manner in which you perform an activity or exercise is faulty or incorrect, that can lead to an injury.

If you are experiencing any of the above make sure to contact the trainer or staff so we may better serve you.

Friday, July 13, 2012

It’s Addicting. Work Out with a Partner or Group for Fitness Success

Grab your burn buddy!

The buddy system will give you a huge advantage when it comes to fitness. Hitting the gym with a burn buddy for boot camp is a good idea. Here’s why:

1. Increased motivation. Your friend is counting on you. You are less likely to ditch a friend for that sweat session after work with some lame ass excuse like “oh I forgot.” After 3-4 weeks you will be off and rolling. Nothing will stop you (both of you).

2. Fitness will be fun. In case you forgot burpies until you puke and treadmill sprints are the least exciting ways to “pass time.” You can still be active in a competitive game of basket ball or soccer, but if you do decide in “death by burpies” you know you got your wingman with you to ingest the torture. Maybe play follow the leader in the gym and take turns leading. Changing up your workout often is good for the body (it responds better).

3. You will up your intensity. Having a partner will drive up your intensity. Who wants to be the last one done or the weakest in the group? There is something magical about knowing someone else is enduring the “pain” alongside you. Intensity is in the driver’s seat (over duration). Working out with the right intensity (at the right times) will impact you greatly and you both (or a group of you) will get results quicker (assuming you follow all the instructions you are given). Your athletic abilities should be similar so the push to continue is constant and progressive.
4. You can afford a trainer now. Sharing a lunch is cheaper than buying one for yourself. The same math applies when it comes to a hiring a trainer. Rock Hard Fitness (RHF) Studio Boot Camp already has inherent discounts built into its group exercise format, signing up with a buddy or group compounds those savings even more. The major benefit is that you get a trainer to hold you accountable and make sure that you are maximizing your time (and working out correctly for your skill l level). RHF Studio Boot Camp workouts can be as low as $4 each versus $80 for one personal training session!
5. You will always have help and guidance. You can spend a ton of time through the learning curve trying to cram a workout plan together on a daily basis. Good luck. Even the best trainers in the world are constantly evolving how they plan their routines. Cut out the worry and let someone with the focus and the “know how” plan your sweat sessions out. All you got to do is show up ready to work!

6. Your friends will be thinner. Without being nasty or shallow here-having thin friends benefits you big time. Harvard researchers found that you can “catch” obesity just like any other bad habit like smoking or a good habit like happiness. Obesity can spread like an infectious disease. The experts found that a person's risk of becoming obese rises by two percent for every five obese social contacts they have. Surround yourself by people who are active and eat well. You are the average of the 5 people you hang out with the most.
There you have it. You gotta burn to earn. Get your burn buddy and get moving!
Written by Rocky Reeves, MS, owner Rock Hard Fitness (Anchorage, AK). Rocky has worked with thousands of people in Anchorage and has taught over 10,000 boot camp classes. He uses metabolic training as a preferred method at RHF. RHF is home of the 30 minute boot camp.
For more information on RHF Burn30 Bootcamp and fitness related questions. Contact Rock Hard Fitness at 907-222-5251 or by email at info@rockhardfitness.org