Less is Sometimes More

Most of us have probably heard at least one of the following statements when it comes to working out:

  • You need to suffer to see results.
  • If you’re not “killing yourself” it won’t work.
  • Go hard or go home.
  • Do more.
  • Work harder.
  • Work out longer.
  • No days off.

These statements have probably been the reason for why most of us sometimes find it hard to motivate ourselves to get to a workout when all we think and are told about how to get results is to spend hours in a gym and kill ourselves.  Honestly, most of us have been there, done that, and burned out.

The good news is that for the goals of many, you don’t have to kill yourself in the gym for hours on end to achieve results.  That being said, it does depend on what your goals are.  If you’re goals sound something like, “Look better, feel better, and be the healthiest version of myself,” then you can probably use what I’m about to tell you.  If you have more specific goals, especially if they relate directly to a particular sport or activity, then you may need to devote more time to achieving those results.  In either case, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) can be a welcome addition to almost every training program.

In the past few years HIIT has been flooding news cycles, magazines, and websites in a big way.  That’s not without good reason.  We have been able to prove, through research, that when HIIT workouts are performed properly we only need 10-20 minutes to workout.

What is HIIT?  HIIT involves intense work periods at 80-95% of a person’s estimated maximal heart rate, matched with recovery periods that are typically around 40-50% of a person’s estimated max heart rate. Work and rest periods are usually performed in ratios starting at 3:1 and adjusted as a person gets stronger.

The Benefits. HIIT training not only improves aerobic and anaerobic fitness but it also improves blood pressure, cardiovascular health, insulin sensitivity, cholesterol profiles, and abdominal fat and/or body weight, all while maintaining muscle mass. These workouts also tend to increase caloric expenditure by 6-15%.

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Power Up Your Stride

Power and strength are two components of fitness that inevitably decline with age. Power is said to reduce 6-11% per decade from adulthood to older age and is the first fitness component to decline, followed by strength. The definition of power (when it comes to biomechanics and physics) is the amount of work done in a certain period of time. You will notice the loss of muscular power in an aging individual whose walking stride is shorter, lower to the ground, and ultimately slower. Great news though! Add a little power training to your workout and this unavoidable descend can be slowed down dramatically.

These workouts are typically a bit more exciting and require more explosive movements such as medicine ball throws. While the whole body is engaged, majority of the effort comes from the lower extremities. Workouts should consist of exercises that focus on hip and knee extension and flexion such as ball slams and overhead, underhand and side throws. Start with few sets (3-5) of small amount of repetitions. Slowly increase the repetitions as you feel stronger. Of course, these aren’t the only moves to consider. So make sure your program is well rounded and filled with exercises that strengthen the body as whole from head to toe. *Explosive/Plyometric exercises should not be done until a strong muscular foundation has been established.*

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Grow Your Glutes

Many of Americans spend at least 8 hours a day sitting on one of the top 5 strongest muscles in the human body. Your Gluteus Maximus has a large responsibility when is comes to stability of your lower back and hip region because it connects the pelvis to the femur. Spending majority of our day sitting, probably with the legs crossed, causes this muscle (along with some others) to weaken while the oppsite groups get tighter. Dysfunction in the gluteals, hip abductors, and hip flexors, can lead to some of the most costly injuries such as non-specific low back pain. Other injuries associated with weak Gluteus Maximus are plantar fasciitis, patellar tendonitis and hamstring strains.

Not only is it aesthetically appealing but growing your gluteal muscles is important to optimize daily functions such as walking and climbing stairs. Sitting for hours at a desk, in a car, on a plane, keeps the hips in a flexed and internally rotated position so when it comes to relieving stress on the body and increasing strength it is important to work in the opposite direction (extension and external roation).

Add several variations of the following exercises for growth in size and strength of your glutes, and don’t be afraid to load the resistance!

  • Supine Bridges (as seen above)
  • Weighted Hip Thruster
  • Fire Hydrants and Hip Extensions
  • Side Squat Walks
  • Seated  Hip Abduction
  • Split Squats
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Go Nuts for Heart Health – 10 Simple Ways to Incorporate Nuts in Your Daily Eating

 

  • Top oatmeal, yogurt, or cottage cheese with almond or pistachio slivers to boost the nutrient density of your breakfast.
  • Look for cereal brands that list nuts in the ingredient list, such as Ezekiel Sprouted Grain Cereal with Almonds, Kashi GoLean Crunch Honey Almond Flax, or Nature’s Path Flax Plus Maple Pecan Crunch.
  • Try nuts in place of croutons in salads, like Asian Cashew Chicken Salad.
  • Spice up soup recipes with a sprinkling of nuts.
  • Add nuts to your smoothie recipes.
  • Sprinkle an ounce of almonds or cashews over a stir fry or Pad Thai.
  • Rub fish in nut coating, like walnut crusted salmon.
  • Make your own trail mix or create your own snack pack. Or try pre-packaged brands such as Blood Diamond 100 Calorie Grab-and-Go Bags and Planters Nuts on the Go.
  • Place a sprinkling of nuts on pastas, like lemony pistachio pasta or pasta with walnut pesto.
  • Top sautéed veggies such as green beans and broccoli with almond slivers.

Source: http://www.mnn.com/food/healthy-eating/blogs/7-easy-ways-to-add-a-handful-of-nuts-to-your-day

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A Serving of Nuts a Day May Keep Heart Disease Away

We’ve all heard the health claims associated with nut consumption. They help lower cholesterol, provide protein and fiber, and can even help lower triglyceride levels. But in terms of disease prevention, are nuts really all they’re cracked up to be? A review of twenty studies examining the impact of nut consumption on heart disease and cancer points to yes. Researchers involved in the study found that people who ate the most amounts of nuts reduced the risk for coronary heart disease by 29%, cardiovascular disease by 21% and cancer by 15% when compared to people who ate the least amount of nuts. There was also a reduced risk for diabetes, respiratory disease, and infectious disease, with the majority of risk reduction achieved by consumption of only an ounce of nuts each day. This equates to roughly 24 almonds or 15 pecan halves. There was minimal decrease in risk associated with greater nut consumption, so only a small serving of nuts is needed. If you don’t do so already, now may be the time to consider including an ounce of nuts as a daily snack or as part of a meal to reap the many health benefits associated with nut consumption.

 

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/06/well/eat/a-handful-of-nuts-is-good-for-your-health.html?_r=0

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Common Muscular Imbalances and Corrective Strategies to Implement

Are muscular imbalances causing your lower back or neck pain, or leading to a potential injury? These imbalances are not just limited to athletes and can be due to a number of factors such as lack of joint mobility or instability/weakness of a particular muscle group. This usually happens when one muscle group is overworked and its opposing muscle group remains under-worked.

Performing simple tasks that we don’t give much thought such as lifting a child repetitively or sitting in one position too long at the computer can contribute to muscular imbalance development over time. Here are three of the most common imbalances we see and some simple corrective strategies to help begin the restoration process:

  1. Anterior Pelvic Tilt: Commonly referred to as Lower Crossed Syndrome, this occurs when the front of the pelvis is tilted forward or looks down, which creates an arch and puts excessive strain on the lower back. This can be caused by one or any combination of the following: Tight (shortened) Hip Flexors, Abdominal Weakness, and/or Gluteal Weakness. Since many of us are in a seated position for a good portion of our day, it is a safe bet that our hip flexors are tight. Performing a kneeling hip flexor stretch a couple of times a day can help with this, and over time, flexibility should improve, thus helping to restore pelvic alignment. At the same time, we want to make sure that we are prioritizing core and gluteal strengthening when resistance training. Ideally, we are looking to work each muscle group about 2-3 times per week.
  1. Rounded Shoulders: Also referred to as Upper Crossed Syndrome, this occurs when your shoulders drift forward, usually due to shortening of the primary internal rotators of the shoulder, the Pectorals and Lats. The weakened opposing muscle groups in this case would be the muscles of the upper back, which include the Traps, Rhomboids, Rotator Cuff, and Rear Delts. For example, to many gym-goers, Mondays are referred to as “International Chest Day”. In this scenario, the gym-goer comes in on Monday and works the chest with a variety of horizontal pressing movements. The gym-goer then does not come in the rest of the week and neglects to train their upper/middle back. Eventually, this imbalance can lead to rotator cuff impingement, which then manifests itself in anterior shoulder pain during any pressing or overhead exercises. The fact that many of us are hunched over a keyboard for many hours each day also contributes to this imbalance. To correct this, we need to strengthen the muscles of the upper back and posterior (back side) of the shoulder, while also working to improve flexibility in those tight pecs and lats via myofascial release techniques and stretching. Some excellent exercises to help strengthen the upper back and improve posture includes Rows (and lots of them), Reverse Flies, Face Pulls, and YTLW’s on a bench or physioball.
  1. Limited Hip Mobility:  Typically, this is due to a general lack of physical activity. As mentioned earlier, the fact that we are always sitting is a main contributor to this limitation. If overall mobility is limited, this is going to reinforce faulty movement patterns when exercising, which could eventually lead to injury and other muscular imbalances. Think of it this way, if your muscles are not “working” as efficiently as they should be, are you getting the most out of the exercise that you are doing? The answer to this question is no, you’re not. Therefore, to mobilize the hips, we need to be foam rolling, performing hip mobility drills, and stretching. Some of my favorite mobility exercises to prescribe for this are Quadruped Hip Circles and Quadruped Fire Hydrants. These exercises not only strengthen the muscles around the hip joint, but actively takes the joint through a large range of motion to help restore mobility and help prepare the body for more vigorous exercise. Programming a few hip mobility drills as part of your dynamic warm up routine is a smart strategy to prevent injury and get the most out of your workouts. Likewise, some stretches that can help improve hip mobility include a Lying or Seated Piriformis stretch and a Kneeling Hip Flexor stretch. Be sure to hold these stretches for AT LEAST 15-30 seconds after every workout.

Having a combination of these resistance exercises and mobility drills in your workout program can help restore balance back to the intended area. However, be sure to have your movement and posture screened by a trained professional. This will ensure that what you are feeling is actually occurring and a proper exercise prescription can be developed and safely implemented.

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Putting an End to Our Reoccurring New Year’s Resolutions

With the holidays winding down it is time to reflect on 2016 and move forward into 2017. Each year we make New Year’s Resolutions and think: “this is the year I’m going to get in shape, this is the year I am going to eat well.”  We enter each year with every hope and intention of becoming a healthier and happier individual, but do we succeed? For the past 4 years I’ve been telling myself that I’ll lose the extra weight I’ve put on, but here it is, the same goal, at the top of my New Year’s Resolution list once again. Well in 2017 it stops. Today, we make a vow that by the end of 2018 our resolutions will be – “maintain my exercise program, maintain my eating habits, enjoy my newfound health!

Here are just 3 quick tips to fulfilling your New Year’s Resolutions and making 2017 the year you are more active than ever!

  1. Be SMART with your goals

S: Set specific and significant goals

M: Make sure they are measurable, meaningful, and motivational!

A: Always make them attainable/achievable

R: Ready, set…be realistic! – If not, you’ll set yourself up for failure and end up putting this back on top of the 2018 list!

T: Track your progress and make goals tangible by selecting a realistic time-frame!

  • Use a calendar or various apps to track progress. If you feel like you need a little more help setting up a program and keeping yourself on track and accountable then allow us to help you! At the Princeton Longevity Center we have a Remote Personal Training program which allows us to help you devise an appropriate exercise program and keep you on track! We design and implement these programs, taking all the excess work and planning out of your hands! Through this program we’ll track all of your workouts and the progress you make from week to week! For more information, give us a call at (888)-8000-PLC.

 

  1. DO WHAT YOU LIKE!

Exercise is hard enough, why make it harder by doing something you absolutely can’t stand? What comes to mind when you think of exercise? Walking or running on a treadmill for 60 minutes? Bench pressing and doing sit-ups for repetitions on end? Take the month of January to experiment with exercise. Take a spin class, try Zumba, or look for the nearest Orange Theory and try an interval workout you may never forget (or forgive me for). Exercise doesn’t have to be long and monotonous. Have some fun with it! Power walk along the beach, sing your heart out in soulcycle, challenge a friend to a game of 1-on-1, find your zen in yoga. The more you enjoy what you are doing, the more likely you are to stick with it long-term.

 

  1. Anything is better than nothing

Before we get in to why you can’t exercise, let’s start with how you will. Make a plan. I am sure you have a calendar of some sort, whether it is on your desk, hanging on your wall at home, or on your phone. If you’re a Type A personality like myself, then you probably have all 3. Regardless of you how plan out your day; you need to start planning out your exercise. You scheduled a meeting for 9 am on Thursday and wouldn’t miss it because it’s on your calendar and someone is depending on you to be there – exercise shouldn’t be any different. You schedule a cardio session at 5pm on Wednesday and you can’t miss it. Why? Because you have an obligation to yourself to be healthy.

The good thing about exercise is that it can be scheduled for whenever is most convenient for you. Are you a morning person? Workout before you go to work so that you don’t come up with excuses throughout the day as to why you don’t have time. Not a morning person? Okay, workout on your lunch break or after work. Maybe you do not have all the time and flexibility in your schedule day-to-day but this is when we move to the “anything is better than nothing” concept. Exercise does not have to be a 60+ minute process every day. Do you have time for a 15 minute walk at lunch? Go! Have 30 minutes to cycle before dinner? Do it! Have 6 flights of stairs separating you from your office? Skip the elevator and start climbing. Be as active as possible in your day to day life – it’s better than doing nothing at all!

  • For more information on quick exercise routines, check out my blog on high intensity interval training!

 

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