Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Guide to Common Cleanses by Everyday Health

Just last month, I passed my exam to earn the title of Fitness Nutrition Specalist through NASM. Now I feel like I have a little bit more credibility behind me to speak to the nutrition aspect of fitness, whereas before, I really only felt qualified to write about physical training. 

I'm a big proponent of eating what you like, as long as you do so in moderation. There are so many fad diets out there that require you to remove entire food groups out of your diet, which is neither desirable or sustainable. Your body needs a well rounded diet of carbohydrates, protein, vegetables and fruits to stay functioning properly and happily. These days, I keep track of my calories while eating a wide variety of foods to moderate my intake, so that I have an equal balance of calories in and calories out. I find that this is the best way to keep the pounds off and maintain a happy, healthy body.

When I came across an article with Everyday Health  called A Guide to Common Cleanses, I knew I'd have to share it with anyone who reads my blog. The article demystifies the misconception many share on juice cleanses. I am not a fan of juice cleanses because our bodies naturally "clean" our systems on a daily basis. All a cleanse does is slow your metabolism, reduce water weight (which leads you to believe that you lost fat when in reality, you'll just gain all of that weight back when you start to eat normally again), and give you a false sense of weight loss. Take a look at this article from Everyday Health to get schooled on cleanses and read what the experts say about why sustaining your body on juice is a bad idea.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Prevent that Postural Distortion!

In my last blog post, I talked about how postural distortions affect your movement and ultimately, your fitness goals. To prevent the forward head, rounding of the shoulders postural distortion that many of us experience due to sitting in front of the computer 24/7, I'm going to share with you 4 different exercises that you can easily do at home without weights, to ensure more perfect posture. I'm also adding in one weighted exercise to do at the gym, because I think it's one of the most beneficial weighted exercises to build back strength. And away I go!

1) Plank  I'm fairly certain that if you're reading this blog, you know what a plank is. You can see the picture below so if you didn't know by it's name, you know it now by seeing it. You've probably performed it at least once in your life. But are you performing it properly? Here are some things to make sure you're doing to properly execute a perfect plank.

a) Don't let your hips sag down towards the floor (look in a mirror to make sure).
b) Pull your belly button in tight, away from the waistband of your pants.
c) Squeeze every muscle in your body. That's right every muscle in your body. That means you're pinching a penny with your glutes (butt), pulling your quads (front of your thighs) up high, calves tight, and adductors (inner thighs) together.

The plank is the ultimate total body exercise, focusing on your core, which is the powerhouse of proper posture. Hold for 30-60 seconds, or as long as you can properly execute the exercise with good form.

2) Bird-Dog or Opposite Arm-Opposite Leg
Start on all fours, bringing your wrists directly beneath your shoulders. Pull your belly button up and away from the waistband of your pants. Lift your right arm and left leg at the same time. Hold for a count of 5 and then switch sides. Perform 16-20 reps total. Make sure that you aren't letting the hip of the leg that is working, shift up towards the ceiling. Keep it in line with the other hip. The only body parts that are moving during the execution of this exercise are your arm coming up to your ear and your leg extending straight back. Also, make sure that your shoulder doesn't hike up to your ear as the arm raises. Release any unnecessary tension and focus the work on the body parts that are moving.

3) Superman

 Lying on your belly, start with your feet together, and arms about shoulder width apart (or a bit wider as as pictured). Lift your legs straight up (no bend at the knee), using your glutes, and your arms at the same time. Hold for a count of three and then release. Perform 12-20 reps. 

4) Bicycle Crunches:

 Many fitness professionals agree that this is the best exercise you can do for your abs. I once read that this is the number one choice of firemen for an ab workout. Okaaayyy, odd, but I'm on board. 
In this picture you see that this woman's right leg is at about a 45 degree angle. The closer you bring that leg to the floor, the more work you'll be doing for your lower abs. However, if you feel an uncomfortable pull in your lower back, bring that leg back up to where you see it in this picture. Otherwise, you're straining your lower back and not engaging your abs properly. Do about 30 seconds of this exercise, crunching from side to side.

5) Lat Pull Down

If you have access to a gym, a great exercise to strengthen your back to combat that rounded shoulders/forward head postural distortion, is the lat pull down.  
Things to make sure of before you start: Keep your feet parallel to one another, secure both feet flat on the ground (don't let your heels come up), and don't arch your back at the start (or during, for that matter). 
To execute the exercise, pull the bar down to the top of your chest while squeezing your shoulder blades together. Your chest can puff out a bit. Perform 12-15 reps. 
*Important note: NEVER pull the bar behind your head. You can get a severe neck injury performing the exercise this way.

Perform these exercises in a circuit 2-3 times, or incorporate a few (or all) of them into your workout for the day. You're on your way to a more perfect posture! 

Be well!