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Eating Healthy During the Holiday Season!

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Being health-conscious doesn't necessarily mean that you can't enjoy the holiday season and have a little bit of what you crave. It simply means that you should continue to be vigilant and be prepared for the festivities.

1. Exercise: Most people have a little extra time available over the holiday season when they are not at work. Take this opportunity to get some exercise! This will help to burn off the excess calories and fat consumed over this period. And maybe it will get you into the habit of exercising, and you can continue the regime after the holiday season is over.

2. Review your cooking methods: These days there is no excuse for not utilizing the many healthy ways in which food can be prepared. Instead of frying, grill your food. If you're roasting, use one of the many available low-calorie spray oils. Steam vegetables to retain nutrients and flavor.

3. Invest in lower fat ingredients for cooking: If you're preparing a big dinner, why not use half-fat ingredients whenever possible? It is often difficult to tell the difference where taste and flavor are concerned. You can even get low-calorie beers, wines and soft drinks. By simply swapping regular ingredients, foods and drinks for their half-fat alternatives you can make a big cut-back on fat and calorie consumption.

4. Eat regularly: If you are going to a big party or dinner, don't starve yourself all day in anticipation. You're in danger of arriving there feeling “starved” and eating everything in sight. Instead, have healthy snacks throughout the day. By doing this, you'll be less likely to over-indulge whilst you are out.

5. Prepare for outings: If you have some big nights out and meals planned over the holiday season, compensate by having some healthy eating days leading up to the event. Many of us think that we may as well forget about healthy eating over the holidays. However, it should not be a case of forgetting about your health, but simply managing it a little more carefully over the holidays.

6. Balance your meals out: Don't be tempted to fill up your plate with purely rich, calorie-laden food. Instead, have a little of everything including fruit and vegetables. This way, you'll still get to indulge as well as receive valuable nutrients and vitamins.

7. Be wary of sugary foods: Always remember that rich, sugary foods have a nasty habit of making us crave yet more rich and sugary foods. We've all been there...over-indulging in sweet or rich food...feeling bloated, sick, and making rash promises to never eat again...and, a couple of hours later, finding ourselves back in the kitchen, picking at leftovers. By ensuring that you practice healthy eating over the holidays, and throw in some form of regular exercise, you can expect to have more energy and fewer cravings.

8. Stock up on healthy snacks: When you go shopping, be sure to throw some healthy snacking items in to your trolley. Fill up on raw vegetables, such as carrots or celery, which can make a simple snack in times of temptation.

9. Moderate alcohol intake: Don't forget that alcohol is fattening too. That innocent-looking glass of sparkly wine or that small bottle of beer may look as though it will do no harm. However, alcohol contains calories and lots of them. Try and control the amount of alcohol you consume over the holiday period and, in the same way as food, try not to over-indulge regularly. There are plenty of lower-calorie beers and wines available that can help, so opt for the healthier version whenever possible.

10. Be assertive: Don't feel as though you have to say yes to everyone that offers you food and drink. If you are not hungry, then simply say so. Do not let yourself be bullied into eating something that you really don't want.

12. Leave what you don't want: Despite what your parents may have drummed into you as a child, don't feel obliged to clear your plate. When you feel full, stop eating. Simple

Food and festivity will always be a major part of the holiday season - and there is certainly nothing wrong in that. However, the holiday season is also a stressful time for many of us, and we need plenty of energy and stamina to cope with it. It is therefore essential that we eat the right type of food with the necessary nutrients to give us energy and reduce stress levels. This is not to say that we shouldn't allow ourselves to indulge a little, but we should eat in moderation and maintain a varied diet.

What your PAIN is saying…..

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Research in pain indicates that the signals from an injury do not of themselves always say “pain” to the brain. The same signals triggered in the body that say “pain” today may just be translated as “frustration” tomorrow.

In other words, pain is cognitive: it’s an interpreted event in which the brain takes in many signals – including physical, social, psychological input – and then decides whether the combined output says “pain.”

At its most basic level, we can say that:

1. Pain is not the same thing as injury.

2. Pain takes place not at the site of injury but in the brain.

Research also tells us that the brain interprets a particular input as pain when it perceives something interfering with the body’s balance (homeostasis).

Likewise, the role of pain seems to be an action signal: a signal that, if perceived, means something needs to be changed to restore the body’s homeostasis.

3. Pain is a signal to change.

One of the challenges for rehab is that the site of pain is not always the source of pain. While pain is a brain signal, it does not necessarily tell us what is wrong. All we know is that our brain thinks something threatens our homeostasis.

Movement is the key….

  Pain is an action signal.
  Pain a signal to change, but not a prescription for rehab.
  Pain is the brain telling us that something is threatening our homeostasis; it doesn’t tell us specifically what is wrong or what to do about it.

Pain is often described as acute or chronic. And for those of us who work out or play physically, acute or chronic pain seems to be par for the course. Acute pain would be like experiencing a twinge in your back during a squat or banging your knee into the bench.  Chronic pain is the shoulder or back ache that has been around for year.

Unfortunately, the two most common sports responses to pain – work through it or stop moving until it goes away – are both largely wrong. Turns out, we need to keep moving, but, unless it’s life and death, never move into pain.

Movement we know is a key part of health. Because of how we’re wired, movement (not into pain) actually plays an important role in pain management.

Keep Moving….

Movement is a key signal to our bodies about how well we’re doing. We are designed as “use it or lose it” systems, constantly adapting to what we do.

Our bodies adapt to the demands — or lack of them — they experience. If we don’t move something for a while, our bodies begin to adapt to support that lack of movement. Unused bone disappears. Unused muscles atrophy.

Our bodies compensate in other ways too, to make up for the lack of mobility. We often get new pain as a result of those compensations. For instance, our joints may swell, or muscles may complain when asked to do work for which they were not designed.

For instance, let’s say you have pain in your right hip. You start favoring your left leg to compensate. While this makes your right hip feel better (sort of), you eventually get pain in your left leg and hip, because you’re suddenly doing much more unbalanced work on the left hand side. Then, maybe your right shoulder starts to hurt, or your neck, because you’re walking around lopsided like a boat with one oar, and it’s pulling on your spine.

Here’s another common example. Your back hurts. So you go to bed. After a few days of lying around, you feel worse. Now your shoulders and neck hurt too. Your hips hurt from the pressure of lying down. Not a great solution!

Thus, immobilizing oneself can create a vicious cycle. Compensating for one painful movement induces other restricted movements.

By staying as mobile as possible, at every joint, without pain, we signal two things.
First, movement says we are still using this part of our body and thus this body part needs resources for healing and growth.

Second, the movement signals themselves can overwhelm a pain signal to say there’s more right than wrong going on in the area: there are more nerves that tell the body how we’re moving than nerves that say there’s something wrong.

Let Pain guide you….

In the gym or on the field, if we experience a twinge, we often ignore it until it becomes a scream. The best response to an immediate pain, however, as soon as it happens is:

1. Stop what we’re doing – whether it’s a muscle cramp or just a twinge.
2. Reduce speed – recheck.
3. If there’s still pain, reduce load – recheck.
4. If there’s still pain, reduce range of motion.
5. If there’s still pain, do some other movement that incurs no pain.

In each of these tests, the advice is NOT to stop moving our body but where possible to keep moving the affected body part without pain. Find a pain-free way to move.

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)!

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People are habitual in nature so after a couple of months of training they are starting to see plateaus in their results. This is usually because they have been doing the same thing for 12 weeks. The same leg extension machine, the same ball crunches, and the same 30 minutes of Treadmill walking. This was all fine and dandy when they first got started but now their body wants more, not the same boring stuff.

Exercise can range from gentle movements to maximal efforts. HIIT and heavy weights can elevate stress hormones.

Most every high intensity physical activity is a state of “crisis” in the body. It endangers oxygen supply to tissues, increases body temperature, reduces body fluids and fuel stores, and causes tissue damage.
Intense exercise creates endocrine and defense reactions that are similar to those elicited by low blood oxygen, high blood carbon dioxide, acidosis, high body temperature, dehydration, low blood sugar, physical injury and psychological stresses.

Hormonally, your body basically freaks out. Then it brings out the big guns to deal with the problem. High intensity exercise stresses the body so much that it’s forced to adapt.

Which is the point! By putting your body through this "crisis" state the body will be forced to change to meet the demand....Which means increases in lean mass and fat loss. These 2 desired outcomes are closely tied to your nutrition but that is another blog post!

HIIT is excellent for:

• losing body fat (while retaining lean body mass)
• strengthening the cardiovascular system
• developing sport-specific energy systems (e.g. training for that Olympic hockey team)
• developing “work capacity” (i.e. the ability to tolerate a high level of intensity for a longer period)
• improving fat and carbohydrate oxidation in skeletal muscle
• developing “mental toughness”
• making you a badass
• challenging the fast twitch muscle fibers — the fibers that are great for strength, power and looking buff
HIIT is extremely efficient. It lets you get a bigger training effect with less time spent. And compared to a 45-minute jog, 5 min of HIIT is a lot easier on the joints.

How to......

There are many ways to do HIIT. All you need to remember is the basic principle: Alternate short bursts of very high intensity with periods of recovery/low intensity.

The longest 4 minutes of your life: The Tabata study

One of the most famous studies of HIIT is known as the Tabata study. In this study (see abstract below), subjects performed rowing intervals: 20 sec of ultra-fast rowing alternated with 10 seconds of relaxed recovery rowing, for a total of 8 intervals, or 4 minutes.

At the end of the study, participants showed a 28% increase in anaerobic capacity along with a 14% increase in V02max. Pretty impressive!

The “Tabata protocol” — 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off — has become one of the most common methods of doing HIIT.

Using resistance exercises can be a very effective method of doing HIIT.

To use resistance training, choose compound exercises that are good “oxygen suckers”, such as:
• burpees
• kettlebell swings or snatches
• jumping squats
You can also combine resistance exercises with “cardio” type exercises.

For example
• alternate a set of dumbbell swings with 100 m sprints
• sprint up a hill, then do a fast set of pushups at the top
• carry a heavy sandbag for speed

Final Thoughts.....

The benefits of HIIT are exercise specific. If you do squat jumps and running, you get better at squat jumps and running.

You can maximize your HIIT performance by using non-competing exercises. Instead of doing split squat jumps alternated with squat jumps, which use the same muscles, you could pair up body weight rows and squat jumps.

With really intense bouts of exercise, the body’s energy requirement can increase 2 to 20 fold!
During the first 1-2 hours after intense exercise, your body’s energy requirements remain high.
So what is high intensity? Well, during your next sprint, envision a crazy grizzly bear chasing you. That should suffice.

HIIT will not only improve body composition, it may extend your life. The Harvard Alumni Health Study, a 4-year study of more than 17,000 men, found that only vigorous – not moderate — exercise reduced risk of death.

3 Tips for a Fitter 2011

We have officially started the New Year! And with the start of the New Year you have plenty of lists to read through that will help you make it through another year…

I can’t help but to put together my own! So here are my 3 very important tips that you can use to live your healthiest and happiest in 2011.

1. Do less.

This first one doesn’t make sense to a lot of people at first: to achieve more, you have to do less.
People make change hard on themselves by attempting to change too many things at once. They try to overhaul their diet, their exercise habits, their finances, their relationships, etc., all at once — and each of those changes is probably made up of 10-20 smaller behaviors that have to change.

Through my time as a Fitness Coach I have noticed it is very hard for people to try to change more than thing at a time. Emerging research shows that people can typically change only one behavior at a time. Just in case you missed it: One. Behavior. At. A. Time.

We all are impatient. We want instant gratification. We want everything now — or better yet, yesterday. When I start teaching a new client physique change I start very slow. One step/habit at a time this way we can make sure we are truly changing that person versus just throwing a bunch of information at them. Some people want all that info upfront. That sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? I mean, if there they can handle everything right from the beginning then they could do more over the same course of time, right?


You see, doing more is the problem! It’s what everyone tries to do. They go in guns blazing, making massive changes across the board, only to collapse in a heap of exhaustion and self-loathing when the first promise to themselves is broken. Of course, you COULD change more than one thing at once, but not for long, and never for long enough to see lasting, sustainable improvement — which is what you really want, isn’t it?
Accept the fact that you can only change one behavior at a time, and you will succeed. Try to change more than one thing at a time, and you will fail. It’s really that simple.

2. Exercise doesn’t work. – Focus on Nutrition!

The exercise myth! You know, the one the fitness clubs across the globe keep telling us that as long as we exercise a few times a week and eat a “sensible diet”, whatever that means, we’ll have a sizzling sex life and cover model abs.

In fact, two recent studies have shown that exercise alone, isn’t all that effective for helping people lose fat, gain lean mass, and improve their body composition. I know it’s hard to believe. But it’s totally true.
One, done at the University of Texas, showed that with 6 hours of strength + cardio exercise per week for 3 straight months, participants only lost 1lb of fat vs. their completely sedentary counterparts.

Another, done at the University of Oklahoma, showed that with 5 hours of strength + cardio exercise per week for 2.5 months, participants only lose 1.5lbs of fat vs. their sedentary counterparts.

Of course, I’m not telling you this to convince you that exercise is no good. Instead, I’m trying to make a much more important point. And that point is this. Exercise ALONE isn’t very effective at losing weight. However, when you combine a proper exercise program PLUS the right nutrition habits, the sky’s the limit.

3. Find a social support network.

Weight gain can spread like a virus! I reviewed an interesting study on precision nutrition website (click hyperlink to review you). The study looked into patterns of weight gain and obesity in communities, and the conclusion was this: Weight gain is contagious!

Now, of course they didn’t mean that someone could cough on you and a few days later you’d wake up with a fever and fifty pounds heavier. Body fat doesn’t spread like a germ, but it does spread. The study concluded that it spreads through the behaviors we pick up, most of the time subconsciously, from those around us.

Fortunately, leanness also can also be contagious. If you hang out with people who INSPIRE you, who LIFT YOU UP, unwittingly you’ll find yourself inspiring others, and lifting up those around you.

Decide today to go out and add some more fitness-minded people to your life. Start small. If you don’t have anyone, find someone. If you’ve got one person, find a second. If you’ve got two people, find a third. Find a training partner. Join a group class. Find a friend of a friend who’s done what you want to do and just ask them for help.

Really, if you don’t have a strong social support circle, people who can help you, people who inspire you, people you can lean on, then that’s one of the first things that needs to improve in 2011.

Final Thoughts….

I know my list is only 3 but like the first rule stated…. One. Behavior. At. A. Time.

Keeping things simple is the key to long term success. So do your best to apply one of these three tips to your life this New Year! Who knows it could mean the beginning of a whole lot of change (for the good) in 2011!