Sometimes I have the uncontrollable urge to snicker when I hear the world’s tiniest women voice concerns about bulking up. Some women avoid weight training like most guys avoid an all day shopping spree at boutiques in the local mall. For the vast majority of women there isn’t much to be concerned about. The fact is… it‘s difficult to add a significant amount of muscle mass to your body, unless you are a VERY VERY heavy lifter on a high calorie diet. Your body type and genetics play a role in it as well. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen some women that I wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley, but generally speaking, if you don’t have the genetic blueprint of Bigfoot’s wife, it’s not gonna happen. Some people actually believe that you can develop gigantic muscles from moving a five pound weight around. We would all look like Popeye after a can of spinach, if our biceps instantly grew from picking up a weight lighter than the average grocery bag! For the majority of people, bulking up usually requires eating like a horse, and lifting the equivalent of grandma’s piano on a regular basis. Without an over abundance of testosterone, i.e. pharmaceutical enhancements, the amount of muscle the average person can put on in a short period of time is prone to major exaggeration. Only a handful of women aspire to be lumberjacks, most people are going to end up with a more toned and shapely look as the final result.
Jack Lalanne was not a big guy, yet at 60 he swam from Alcatraz Island to Fisherman’s Wharf handcuffed, shackled and towing a 1,000-pound boat. At 70, handcuffed and shackled again, he towed 70 boats, carrying a total of 70 people, a mile and a half through Long Beach Harbor. He was a living example of what a normal person, exercising regularly will achieve… wait a minute, did I say normal?… never mind. Anyway, It didn’t bulk him up!
Strength Training is one of the most important things you can do in terms of being healthy and fit. The kind of results that you achieve also have to do with the type of program you are engaged in… the amount of sets and repetitions you’re doing, the exercise intensity, how often you do it, and whether you’re splitting up muscle groups or doing a total body program. If you’re naturally stocky, or want to lose weight, keep the number of repetitions high, between 15-20, and do total body circuit training. If you’re lean and want to tone up, go for 10-12 repetitions. Always use a weight that you can control and lift with proper form.
Some of the health benefits of Strength Training include:
- Reduced body fat, and a more toned appearance
- Up to a 15% increase in your metabolic rate, (helps permanent weight loss)
- Fights muscle loss that occurs with dieting and age
- Increases your energy level
- Improves bone density, (helps prevent osteoporosis)
Don’t be fooled into thinking that good food tastes bad, because really… bad food taste bad – we just brainwash ourselves to believe it can’t possibly be any good unless we shouldn’t be eating it. A skillfully prepared healthy dish can be delicious, colorful, appetizing, satisfying, and habit forming. I have yet to hear someone tell me how great they physically felt after eating a half pound burger with bacon, egg and cheese, a side of fries, and a milkshake! (sound good?) When it comes to fat, the rule of thumb seems to be, if a little bit tastes good, twice as much will be better, right? Who wants to be stuck with half a stick of butter and nothing to put it in, just throw in the whole stick and it will just be more decadent!! How about a little salad, with that dressing? How about a baked potato, with that sour cream, bacon, butter, and extra cheese? Most cooking shows, (with the exception of a few), are a great example of what to do if you could care less. Try this dish, and check the scale at the end of the week… BAM!! Fast food commercials are like a form of hypnosis. Have you ever seen the new colossal, oversized, crazy meal, topped with the kitchen sink, and had the uncontrollable urge to rush right out to your car, and head for the nearest drive-thru? They could just about deep-fry a spicy shoe, melt some cheese on it, add some bacon and ranch dressing, and they’ve got a hit! The NEW Spicy Shoe Club!! …available for a limited time only!
The Good thing is… there seems to be an epidemic of people coming to their senses, and corporations considering change, due to the threat of having to produce calorie counts on menus. The Bad thing is… the wide spread acceptance of belly kings, and larger trunks with a lot more junk in ‘em. The Ugly thing is… the increasing demand for out of control single servings, large enough to feed a family of three, and the longterm effect on our health.
There are two parts to eating right. One part is knowing how to make the best choice… the other part is doing It. I know this is going to sound corny, but we need to eat more fruits and vegetables. We’re all pressed for time these days, but frozen foods with a whole day’s worth of sodium in a single bite aren’t the only logical choice. You can grill, broil, saute, or stir-fry chicken, fish, or lean beef, and prepare vegetables in about 20 minutes. When you’re in a hurry, just keep it simple. When you eat at fast food and restaurant chains, check the calorie counts ahead of time – it’s easier to make better choices, before you find yourself sitting in front of a huge menu full of temptations. If the ingredients are of unknown origin, then be sensible with the portion size. Last but not least… at the risk of over simplifying things, eat less and exercise more, to get control of the scale.
Fitting back into those jeans usually only requires a fraction of the time it took to pop the buttons. We can spend countless days, months, or even years ignoring our ever increasing belt size, and learning to conceal chubbiness. Some of us may even go through the traumatic experience of completely breaking off our relationship with the scale. When we’re overcome by the urge for sudden change, we want results yesterday! Our impatience sometimes drives us to accept the unbelievable.
I’ve seen so many claims that getting in shape or losing weight can be done in minutes a day. Yeah, it really can be done in just minutes a day… not two or three, but about twenty to sixty. Overnight results are so desirable, that if the fine print… (diet and consistent cardiovascular exercise not included), was flashing in neon we would totally ignore it. The real problem is mismanagement of exercise time – for some people a trip to the gym is like happy hour, the problem is, mingling doesn’t burn quite as many calories as real exercise. Some gyms even have “cardio theaters” in them, thinking you’ll be there long enough to watch a movie, yikes!! Nobody likes the thought of a seemingly never-ending workout, or doing cardio until the cows come home.
It’s no wonder “in just minutes a day” is a buzz phrase that instantly freezes the thumb on a TV remote, and can even sell shoes that promise to tone your butt… imagine that!! Don’t get me wrong – doing anything for ten minutes a day vs. sitting and eating chips from the bag is a definite improvement, but major results usually require big changes. Most people can’t go from the couch to a 5k overnight, or from Fatburgers to steamed veggies in a day, permanently! The best way to get there is by setting a series of small short term goals that eventually take you all the way to big changes. I recommend a balance, somewhere between complete laziness, and overdoing it. Above all, be consistent, even if it’s only twenty minutes a day, and don’t let yourself get away with anything. Here are a few tips for getting it going, and keeping it going…
- Plan what you will be doing
- Develop a set schedule for exercise
- Don’t be disappointed if you can’t fit it in sometimes
- Keep it interesting, weights one day, cardio another…
- When you’re short on time or energy, do less but do something
- Dueling Cardio Machines (everydayhealth.com)
- Which Burns More Calories: Cardio vs. Strength Training (fitsugar.com)
In my nineteen plus years as a fitness trainer I still find myself amazed at what people don’t know about exercising and getting into shape. It seems like… at least once a week someone comes up with some new gadget or makes some unsubstantiated claims about the next end all… be all exercise program or diet.
The truth is it’s not as hard as everyone thinks, yet everybody’s looking for a shortcut. Cheating at getting fit is like tunneling under a bank after hours to make a deposit, when all you have to do is wait until it opens and walk through the front door. Your can waste countless years of your life failing to find the easy way when in less than half that time you could become fit. How many people do you know that own multiple rickety gadgets that they paid just three payments of $19.95 for… “But wait – if you act now we’ll throw in this useless rubber-band that will get you absolutely no results.” So many people invest in cheap gadgets that end up becoming expensive coat racks in their bedroom or junk for the future garage sale. It would be a lot cheaper to go out and buy a few dozen hangers. Sometimes the ridiculous becomes so popular it starts to make sense to us. “Don’t eat bread, don’t eat fruit.” Now how many people do you know of that actually packed on the pounds by eating too much fruit? It was more than likely the THREE six-packs of soda loaded with un-pronounceable ingredients, and that all time favorite High Fructose Corn Syrup, or the so-called “Value Size” meals that they washed down with it.
The morning show comes on… and they announce a segment on something new they have to tell you about getting healthy, and you sit through two thirds of the show to find out that it comes right back around to those two little words everybody hates to hear: “Diet and Exercise.” “Diet” sounds like a challenge, “Exercise” sounds like a lot of work, but when you put them both together, it sounds like you are saying “Mount Everest.” I have never liked the word “Diet”… to me it implies that you’re going to do something temporary to get results… then go back to doing what got you in trouble in the first place. Exercise can be fun, rewarding, energizing, but when done incorrectly can be the most boring counterproductive regime you’ve ever involved yourself in. You can only climb Mount Everest one step at a time, don’t look up and don’t look down, just stay focused on the next step. One of the reasons I started this blog is because some of the stuff we fall for is really funny, but also to let people know that the truth isn’t as bad as they think. Getting healthy and fit is easy, once you decide to just commit, and make a real change in your life. Next time you watch an infomercial that seems to be too good to be true, notice the fine print when they get to the testimonials that says, “Results not typical.” Keep it simple, use common sense, and above all be honest with yourself and you really will get results!
There are many ab CRUTCHES on the market that claim they will give you a flat stomach. You might think, “Wow! That looks easy, I can do hundreds of these”…. Or “I can lie down and do my abs while I watch TV”. Lounging while doing abs!, something’s not right here people. Some of these gadgets might be pretty good when used properly, but the fact is….. No amount of working your abdominal muscles is going to flatten your stomach, tighten maybe… but not flatten. It brings us back around to the “D” Word again – “Diet.” OH!.. didn’t want to forget “Exercise”… as in “Cardiovascular Exercise” like walking, running, cycling, etc. In order to see that glorious six pack you’ve been working on, (not Bud Lite), you need to reduce overall body fat. Twisting is another old fashioned idea that doesn’t really reduce your waist, but you can work up an appetite. In fact, working the muscles on the sides of your waist, called the obliques, to reduce your waist doesn’t even make sense. Unless you like the appearance of the “puffy love handle look” – sometimes overworking those muscles can make your waist look even thicker.
I also hear people say, “I do 200 sit-ups.” If you’re doing 100’s of anything, you’re probably doing something wrong. I started doing abs when I began Martial Arts training at age thirteen. Over thirty years later, it never takes me more than 20 reps before I’m really feeling the exercise. There are just a few important things to remember when working your abs…
- Exhale the air out of your stomach as you crunch inward.
- Pause slightly after you exhale.
- Concentrate on contracting or tightening the muscles as you crunch.
- Do them slowly.