Archive for the ‘Working Out’ Category

Old dogs and new tricks

March 30, 2011

The dumbbell rack

You know that saying about old dogs and new tricks?  Well it applies to people too.  In this case, the trick is weight training.

According to a recent study in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, women in their 20s and women in their 60s gained strength from lifting weights at the same rate.  Ergo…it’s never too late to start! 

The study suggests this tip for getting stronger,  faster: add an extra 5 percent to the amount you usually lift and you’ll get up to 38 percent stronger in 13 weeks.  So for example, if you usually leg press 100 pounds, go up to 105 the next time around.  The math isn’t so easy if you’re using 8 pound weights to work your biceps.  An extra 5% would mean you’d have to lift 8.4 pounds.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen an 8.4 pound dumbbell! 

Here’s what I suggest: work with the 8 pound weight until you notice it’s too easy to pump out 2 sets of 12.  The last couple reps on both sets should be hard to do, but not torture.  When it’s too easy, it’s time to move down the dumbbell rack.

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Age is just a number

December 2, 2010

I just finished reading up a great (and inspiring) article in this past weekend’s New York Times Magazine.  (Yes, it’s taken me until Thursday, but it’s been a busy week).  Anyways, they profile a 91 year old female athlete who’s been breaking record after record in track and field events at Master competitions around the world.  For those of you who don’t know what those are, they are competitive sporting events for athletes over the age of 35.  Athletes compete with others their age, with some sports featuring athletes in the 91-99 age range (like this woman).

Scientists are studying her (and other athletes like her) to try and figure out the link between exercise and getting old.  The article goes into  much more detail than I will here, but there are a few things that stand out about this woman.

First, contrary to what you may think, she hasn’t been an athlete all her life.  She came to competition later in life after all her children were grown.  Just goes to show you it’s never too late to start.

Second, at 91, this woman tells the reporter she has the energy of a 50 year old…50!  That’s 41 years!  She credits that to her exercise routine.   I don’t know about you, but that’s all the motivation I need to keep dragging my butt to the gym.

You know what?  Maybe there is a fountain of youth and we’ve just been looking for it in the wrong place.  Maybe it’s already within us.

Take it easy ladies!

November 30, 2010

If you exercise regularly and you use your heart rate to monitor how intense you’re working out, get ready to have your mind blown.

Turns out the normal formula of 220 minus your age is often inaccurate when calculating a women’s maximum heart rate.  Researchers at Northwestern Medical in Chicago say that approach results in a heart rate that’s too high.  Instead, they suggest another way of calculating your maximum heart.  And you’re going to need the calculator for this: 206 minus 88 percent of a women’s age.

Let’s use me as an example.  Under the old system, my max heart rate would be 191.  Calculated with the “women’s only” formula, my new max heart rate goal is 180.  Now consider this: When training for a major race, I try to exercise within the 65%-85% of my max heart rate.  With the old math, my range is 124-162bpm.  With the new math, it’s 117-153bpm.  Obviously, this means I can now workout with less intensity to gain the results I want.  A win, except that I never stay below 153 or even 162 during my most intense workouts.  But that’s ok too.

The author of the study tells the New York Times that there’s nothing wrong with exercising at a higher level if you can maintain it.  He also points out that the study is based on averages, so that for some women the numbers will be too low, for others too high.

The people who this new way of calculating things will directly affect are those who live and die by the heart rate calculators on the treadmills.  Now instead of killing themselves to achieve that elusive heart rate number, they can workout a little less intensely, but still get the same results. 

And please remember, if you’re working out to the point of utter exhaustion, you’re doing something wrong.  You should be walking out of the gym exhilerated, not frustrated.

SOURCE: Recalibrated Formula Eases Women’s Workouts

Listening to Your Heart

August 6, 2010

Remember a couple of months ago when I blasted equipment at the gym for not providing accurate calorie counts?  Well, it’s time for a follow-up.  Here’s what my non-scientific study found this time around.

Calorie counts on stationary and spin bikes are still way off.  This holds true even if you’re wearing a heart monitor, which, one would think, would help the computer to calculate correctly how many calories you’re burning.  It doesn’t, so continue to ignore it.

Treadmills are a different story.  They are by far more accurate than bikes, coming within only 50 calories or so of the count registered by my heart rate monitor while running.  So you can pay attention to those numbers if you’re looking for a guide.

I still maintain you should concentrate on your heart rate range during the exercise for the most accurate reading of how hard you’re working. 

If you’re working for endurance (i.e. exercising over a long period of time) aim for a number that’s somewhere around 65 percent of your maximum.  If you’re doing intervals…get that heartrate up to between 80-85 percent of your maximum during those intervals and although the heartrate to fall to around 60 percent inbetween.

Not sure what your maximum heart rate is?  It’s really simple to calculate.  All you have to do is subtract your age from 220.

Lifting weights and breaking bones

June 18, 2010

Alright people…the point of lifting weights is to lift them.  Alas, a new study finds nearly a million people have injured themselves when trying to lift weights.

Lift with your knees guys! Don't drop it on your feet ladies!

The majority of injuries in women were fractures.  Fractures, ladies!  And how do we get fractures when lifting weights?  By dropping them on ourselves.  Namely, our feet and legs.  Men, on the other hand, suffered more sprains and strains.  But men break things too…remember that weightlifter at the last summer Olympics.  (Do a Google image search of “weight lifting accident” if you don’t, but prepared to be sickened.)

Most of the injuries (in men and women) happened while using free weights, not machines.

And while we’re pretty good at hurting ourselves somewhat severely, in the 18 years the study covered there were only 114 fatalities.

So people…take your time when lifting weights.  Also know what you’re doing!  If you don’t, ask one of the trainers at the gym.  That’s what they’re there for!

SOURCE: Weight-Lifting Gains Bring Pains, Too

Sweat Fest

June 4, 2010

When I workout, I sweat…a lot (especially during the summer).  So I was pleased when I stumbled across an article that proclaimed fit people sweat more than the regular population.  At first I thought, “Finally, an answer!”  But then I realized this couldn’t possibly be true.  I mean, people carrying around more than a few extra pounds must sweat more than I do, right?  Turns out the answer to both questions is yes.

Sweat. Prespire. Glisten.

Let me explain.

Overweight and obese people do sweat more than most because the extra fat on their bodies acts as an insulator.  That means their bodies have to work harder to cool down, i.e. they sweat more and more often.

Fit people also sweat a lot and they’re likely to break a sweat first.  That’s because they’ve trained their bodies to operate more efficiently at higher temperatures.  Once they start heating up, they automatically start to regulate their body temps so that they can keep running and biking without missing a beat.  And it makes sense that the longer you workout, the more you’re going to sweat.

There are, of course, other factors that play into how much a person sweats besides activity level and weight.  There’s age, sex, genes, outdoor temperatures and humidity levels.

In all cases, while it may not be pretty, sweat is essential.  It’s how our body cools down.  Consider this: our brains malfunction if our internal temperatures go up a mere six degrees (to 110 degrees).

And here’s something else you should know.  If your clothes smell like ammonia after a sweat fest, it could mean you’re ingesting too much protein and not enough carbs.  That smell is the amino acids in the protein breaking down.  Solving the problem is as easy as working in some simple carbs (whole grains or fruit) into your diet.

Bruised Ego

April 9, 2010

Ever have an embarassing moment at the gym?   Happened to me yesterday.  I was just getting started on the treadmill when my towel fell onto the conveyor belt.  I saw it falling and decided to pause the machine so I could pick it up.  Well, instead of flying off the machine the way it was supposed to, the towel decided to get stuck.  And it made the worst noise I’ve ever heard.  Like a baby wailing, wounded animal moaning, nails on a chalkboard all combined.  Not to mention the belt was starting and stopping short as I was still on it, throwing me around like a bucking bronco.  That noise I mentioned earlier sent every gym employee to my location and operation Pull the Towel Free commenced.  It didn’t go willingly and all the while we’re yanking at it with all our might, all eyes are now glued on our little tableau instead of the tvs with the bad music videos.   Live Entertainment!  Eventually we were able to rip the towel free and I was able to jog along my merry way.  In hindsight, I guess the situation could have been a lot worse.  I could have fallen off the machine or totally destroyed it.  I wonder if they would have docked me for it…  Got any embarassing storied you want to share?

Heavy weights for a lighter you

April 6, 2010

If you’re one of those ladies who thinks lifting lighter weights for more reps means better muscle tone.  Think again.  Read this and you just might change up your gym routine.

Answers to your burning questions

March 2, 2010

Are you one of those gym rats who religiously follows the number of calories burned while exercising?  Ever wonder how accurate it is?  Turns out, not very.

And for more on what actually goes into determining calories burned check out this article.

Feminine Pain

February 4, 2010

No, not that kind of pain.  I’m talking about a new study that finds female athletes are up to six times more likely to get hurt compared to male athletes.

According to an exercise physiologist at the University of Alberta, women experience a higher injury rate because many training programs developed for women are actually based on research using young adult males.  That means these programs don’t take into account the weaknesses and strengths of the female body.

The most common types of injury among women are those affecting the knees and shoulders. 

One of the more interesting finds is that those injuries listed above aren’t the only problems plaguing female athletes.  The study’s author also lays out something she calls the “Female Athlete Triad”.  It’s described as “three separate but interrelated conditions of disordered eating, amenorrhea and osteoporosis”. 

How many stories have we heard about female athletes (particulary gymnasts or figure skaters) who suffer from eating disorders and claim it’s because their sport demands it?  It’s a sacrifice to their health and you can’t be a top-notch athlete for long if you’re not taking care of your body.  And that’s exactly the point this study’s author goes on to make.  She says, “For female athletes to thrive injury-free, attention must be paid to their proper nutrition to ensure both the athletic performance and healthy reproductive performance associated with bone health and overall wellbeing…”

SOURCE: Female Athletes Injured More Than Male Athletes