By Bryan Opaskar
Preparing for the end of the Strength Cycle
As we near the end of the strength cycle, we would like to take this time to inform you on stress management. Training, like any other aspect of life, is a stressor. Positive or negative, stress has an accumulative effect and needs to be managed in the grand scheme of day-to-day life. Whether you are an accountant, strength coach, banker, or student, stress needs to be managed in an appropriate fashion to avoid burnout and allow you to achieve your short-term and long-term goals.
Becoming Aware of our Stress Levels
Monitoring/controlling stress in training is no different than in life. More than likely, you develop a yearly goal for your job/company. This is the big picture and is adjustable somewhat, but gives you guidance as to where you want to ultimately end up a year from now. You proceed to make a plan in order to achieve your yearly goal by breaking it down into smaller steps, typically quarterly goals. The quarterly goals allow you to focus on a select few aspects that will accumulate and ultimately help you achieve your yearly goal. Each quarterly goal can be broken down into smaller steps, such as monthly and weekly goals. The process helps manage your stress over time by spreading out the workload appropriately into manageable loads. Will there be times where you have to put your head down, eyes up and plow through? Absolutely. It is necessary at times. However, it typically gets balanced out by periods of lighter workloads.
Training is no different. You set up a goal, such as losing 10 lbs, and determine roughly how long it will take to achieve your goal. Set up a target date and work backward, developing a plan to achieve your goal. Throughout the development of your plan, you will have smaller goals to monitor progress and keep you on track. This allows you to get less discouraged by small fluctuations in weight or small deviations from the plan and help you stay consistent with your plan. Additionally, it reduces the stress of trying to lose all 10 lbs at once, spreading it out into manageable steps throughout the process.
The gym should not be a place that negatively affects your life by adding more unnecessary stress. Rather, it should be a place where you improve your health, physical performance, and overall quality of life. You do not need to bury yourself in the ground all the time to achieve greater fitness and health outcomes. Rather, monitoring your stress in the gym takes you to far greater places overall. We as coaches believe in monitoring your workload because we value each and every individual that walks through our doors. Your safety is our top priority. Hence, workload monitoring is one aspect we utilize to help keep you safe.
A look into the future of the gym…..
At The Bar Athletics, we are implementing training cycles to help monitor your stress in the gym. We have broken down the yearly programming into 5 training cycles that focus on further developing every individual’s general physical preparedness (GPP) while simultaneously managing your stress. There will be times where you will be pushed hard and feel “broken down”. However, we will help build you back up so you are stronger and better than before. Especially near the end of each cycle, when we test out, you will experience a deload/”peak” week in which your overall workload will be significantly reduced. The purpose is to help your body (especially your nervous system) fully recover so that on the testing day you can put forth your best performance.
If you have any questions about specifics related to you, please feel free to reach out to one of the coaches.
By CJ Kostranchuk
Increasingly popular in gyms, and commonly utilized by boot camps and personal trainers, battle ropes are a dynamic, effective training tool. They are available in a variety of diameters and length, creating progressive levels of difficulty.
Longer ropes ideal for pulling movements; thicker ropes are advantageous for developing power and grip strength. Battle Ropes are also great because their portability lets you take your workout outside.
To find out the primary benefits of using battle ropes in your training, click the link below:
By Coach Meredith
As always, our safety should take priority in anything we do. This week I’d like to give you a few tips on staying safe and avoiding injuries.
If you’re an active individual, injuries are bound to happen every once in a while. We often prolong or worsen our injury by not resting long enough to allow our body to heal itself. However, there are ways to treat and avoid injury without disrupting our routines. Here are a few tips:
Apply ice & relieve pain. The two most portable injury healers are ice packs and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain relievers. Applying ice and taking an anti-inflammatory will reduce swelling and pain quickly and effortlessly.
Avoid dehydration. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to speed up recovery. Dehydration can also cause injuries by increasing strain to dry muscle mass, so be sure to drink up each hour, as a preventive measure!
Eat plenty of protein. Proteins help your muscles rebuild after an injury or challenging workout. Consume eggs, lean meats, beans, or green veggies to get the right amount of protein!
Stretch often. Take a break once an hour while at work to stretch sore muscles. Simply standing up and sitting down is a great way to massage the body—but you can even stretch your neck and wrists while completing your to-do list. Also make sure to stretch and mobilize before and after class, as this will help to keep muscles limber and allow for proper range of motion.
By Coach Meredith
I’ve had a few people asking about the reason why we aim to complete at least 10,000 steps per day. Let’s take a moment to discuss the origin and clarify the reasons behind the 10k step movement. Should we be aiming for 10,000 steps or is there more to it?
The 10,000 number originally appeared in the 1960s when a Japanese company started selling pedometers called manpo-kei, which literally translates to "10,000-step meter." Health studies later on confirmed that people who take 10,000 steps have lower blood pressure, more stable glucose levels and better moods. Therefore, the number stuck as the standard number of steps an individual should aim for each day in order to benefit their health.
More recently, some researchers have suggested 15,000 steps might be even better. A snapshot study of Scottish postal workers found that individuals who walked an average of 15,000 steps per day had normal waistlines, healthy cholesterol levels, and a lower risk of heart disease.
Let it be known, most national and international health authorities don't have a daily step count recommendation. For example, in Canada it's recommended that adults get 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity per week, with no mention of a specific number of steps.
Setting a daily step count recommendation can be both beneficial and problematic for three reasons:
The first is that intensity matters.
-Taking 10,000 slow, meandering steps isn't the same as taking 10,000 quick ones. Recent research on HIIT training suggests that sprinting in short bursts (even as little as 60 seconds) may have similar benefits to walking for an extended period of time.
The second is that step counting is too narrow.
-It fails to account for movement that's not easily quantified in steps. For instance, an hour of yoga or weight training won't be accurately reflected in a step measure.
Despite advances in fitness tracker technology, many still fail to accurately capture non-step movements, like cycling and swimming. A person could be lifting weights and spinning for 150 minutes each week, be reaping all the benefits of physical activity, and never hit 10,000 steps.
The third is that when it comes to steps, more IS more.
-There's nothing magical about 10,000 or 15,000, or any other big number. Studies have confirmed that these numbers are associated with health benefits not because they signify reaching some amazing threshold, but because they're a lot of steps.
Research has unanimously concluded that the more movement you can do in a day, the better. Taking more steps means you're spending less time sitting, which is always a good thing. It also hopefully means you're taking more frequent breaks, which is also a good thing.
Your daily step target shouldn't come from a study of postal workers or a Japanese pedometer maker. Because more is always better, the right amount is whatever number encourages you to take the most.
FINDING THE RIGHT AMOUNT
For many, 10,000 is a reasonable target because it's ambitious but attainable.
However, depending on your lifestyle, 10,000 may seem discouragingly high. If you struggle to reach even 5,000, set a lower goal to start and then work your way up. Or, if you're a Scottish postal worker, 10,000 may seem too easy and you should set your sights higher.
To find the right goal for yourself, the first thing you need to do is establish a baseline. On an average day, how many steps do you typically take?
Track your steps for a week or two and see what you average. Then set a goal that is ambitious but that with a little additional effort, you can reach. In an ideal world, your goal should provide the nudge you need to sneak in more activity. You want to look down at your tracker at dinner time and think "If I just go for a half hour walk before bed, I could reach my goal."
Once you start reaching your goal every day, you can work on setting it higher. If you can easily get in 10,000 steps a day, bump it to 11,000 or 12,000. Try 15,000 if you really want to. As long as you're pushing yourself to walk more every day, and at a brisk pace, you can be sure you're doing your mind and body some good.
THE BROADER POINT
More generally, counting steps, however many, will never alone be a good measure of physical activity. No number of slow steps can replace the benefits of heart-pumping activity. Strength training is important for your muscles and bones, even if it doesn't help you hit 10,000 steps.
We should resist the urge to latch onto the big, trendy number and instead aim to lead an active life filled with a variety of activities. We should set a personal goal and work toward it.
And we should also remember that all steps are not created equal. If you're intent on taking 10,000 a day, make sure at least a few are the fast, heart-pumping kind that leave you sweaty and winded.
By Coach Meredith
This is something that is not only beneficial for our overall wellness, but it can help prevent injury in the work place, the gym, and our day-to-day lives as well. Some of you may already have a specific stretching routine that you prefer to stick to in the morning or before or after your gym sessions.
Tight muscles can lead to imbalances in the body which may contribute to a limited range of motion or possible injury. Stretching regularly can help you maintain mobility that may help improve your performance and well-being.
First, let’s review a few helpful stretching tips to get you started:
HOW MUCH SHOULD YOU STRETCH EACH WEEK?
The great news is that as little as 6–10 minutes of static stretching a few times a week can be beneficial, so it doesn’t have to be an overwhelming task to include more flexibility-focused work into your already busy schedule.
If you aren’t currently doing any stretching, aiming for 1–2, 10-minute sessions a week is a good place to start. Each week you can add more sessions or increase the duration.
If you know you won’t ever have the time to do a full 20–30 minutes in one session, don’t worry. You can break it up into shorter, more manageable time blocks, or simply do a more focused, 5–10 minute stretch on busy days. The key to success here is to find a way to fit in flexibility time without added stress. The good news? Stretching also helps to decrease stress levels.
WHAT’S THE BEST TIME TO STRETCH?
Stretching can be done WHENEVER you like, whatever fits your schedule— morning, noon or night. It’s both a great way to begin or also wind down your day. The best time to stretch is the time you’ll actually do it.
At The Bar Athletics, we like to focus on a generalized warm-up before every class that ensures safe movement through the WOD prescribed for the day. We ALWAYS encourage our members to mobilize specific body parts that inhibit their personal range of motion if needed. We also provide a cool-down segment to our daily classes in order to promote further work on mobility as well as monthly mobility clinics.
“Blessed are the flexible for they shall never be bent out of shape.”
By Coach Meredith
How can we increase movement throughout the day if we have a standard 9-5 desk job? My answer to you is: there are A LOT of ways to increase activity even if you have to remain at your desk for the majority of the day. Here I will go over just a few ways to focus on core strength and increase physical activity throughout the day.
Even with standing desks, parking at the furthest end of the parking lot, walking to meetings and trying to walk at lunch, most people STILL spend the majority of their workdays sitting. Booooo!
Fortunately, there is a way to sneak strengthening exercises into your daily routine, even if your day is packed with meetings. One trick is using isometrics. These are moves that use contraction and relaxation to engage muscles.
HOW ISOMETRIC EXERCISES WORK
On a basic level, muscles contract in three main ways. Concentric contraction happens when a muscle tenses, which means you’re shortening it. Eccentric contraction occurs when that muscle tension is prompted through lengthening, such as resistance or lowering a weight.
For example, with a bicep curl, you have concentric contraction as you bring the weight toward you, and eccentric contraction as you lower the weight.
With isometric contraction, muscles tighten without changing length, and there is no movement in a joint. Examples include pushing against an immoveable object like a wall or holding plank. You remain in one position without movement, but are still doing plenty of work.
Isometrics are also called “static strength training.” These exercises can be so effective they bring muscles to fatigue quickly and the effects last long after they’re done.
Try some of these isometric exercises throughout your workday. Although they seem like modest moves, they can help to keep your muscles working:
Clasp your hands or press your palms together in front of your chest, elbows bent, exerting equal pressure in both arms. Hold each press for 10 seconds, then release. Repeat 5–6 times. This will work your biceps, chest and triceps — maybe while you’re reading emails.
Sit up straight in your chair, with shoulders relaxed. Breathe deeply and engage your abs as if you’re bracing for a punch. Hold for 5 seconds, then breathe out while “crunching” your abs upward as if you’re doing a sit-up. Exhale completely, take a few breaths, then repeat. This can be a great exercise during long meetings, since the action is subtle and no one will know you’re doing a major ab workout while you’re taking notes.
Strong glutes help to protect your back, especially when you’re chair-bound for most of the day. A simple isometric exercise is to squeeze your glutes and hold the contraction for 10 seconds, then release.
To get some movement in your shoulders and engage your core, stand about 3 feet from a wall and place your palms against it at shoulder height and width apart. Press firmly against the wall for 10 seconds, then release. You can also make this into a push-up by lowering your torso toward the wall and pressing back up.
The main benefit you’ll see with isometric holds is stabilization of the muscles. Isometric exercises are done in a static position which means they won’t help improve speed or athletic performance, however they can help maintain muscle strength.
Isometric movements are often used in physical therapy to rehab injured muscles, so if you’re trying to bounce back after injury or other issues, putting some isometric exercises into your everyday schedule can also be useful.
There is also another advantage to performing these movements, especially for work: Isometric exercises can help lower blood pressure. That means you can de-stress and fit in some workout moves at the same time.
You should try incorporating a few exercises per day, and do them at about 30% of your max effort. From there, you can start to build more into your workdays and increase intensity over time.
Like I mentioned, this is just one way to increase your physical activity with a desk job. There are also bodyweight movements and other exercises you can perform to improve your strength while on the job.
By Coach Meredith
It’s that time of year where the spotlight is on that beach bod. Some of you may have already started months ago working towards your new summer body goal, whereas some may be getting frustrated with where they’re currently at and want to make a change ASAP. When setting weight goals, it’s easy to pick a number that seems as low as possible, or at least lower than you are now, or to illogically choose a time in your personal history when your weight seemed just right. Maybe that was high school, pre-baby or just a few months ago.
Some may choose to go with a standardized number, like the “normal” range of your body mass index (BMI), or even compare yourself to some of the fitter people on your social media feed who seem to be around your height, age, and build.
The fact is: Choosing an ideal number for your weight isn’t easy. This is because age and gender play a role as well. Body weight does have a relation to optimal health and can be useful for preventing health risks that come along with being overweight or obese, however that number isn’t the “end all be all.”
Let’s talk a bit about the problem with using a BMI (Body Mass Index):
Although it’s common for physicians, insurance companies, some schools and even the Centers for Disease Control to use BMI for measurement, there are plenty of issues when it comes to using that for gauging weight.
First off, those with more muscle mass are automatically heavier and will be put into a higher BMI. So technically speaking if we are using the BMI scale, the fittest, most ripped person you know will be considered obese (For example: Rich Froning, Katrin Davidsdottir = obese). Even with those who are “normal weight,” the BMI doesn’t allow for insight into muscle versus fat.
Adding to the difficulty of using BMI, there have been several different formulas in the last 50 years for determining “ideal weight.” Even within the BMI, the range of recommended weight can be wide, four formulas in particular — Hamwi, Devine, Miller and Robinson — each come with their own set of criteria, and while the results may be similar, there are still variations.
For example, a 30-year-old woman who is 5-foot-4 would be considered within a healthy range if she weighed between 107–145 pounds. Using the most recent formula, the Robinson formula would put her ideal weight at 123. But a woman who has solid muscle mass may weigh more than the “ideal weight.” So does that mean she needs to risk losing that muscle just to reach a lower number? That seems ridiculous. The BMI gives a very imprecise estimate of a person’s activity level, which is recognized as contributing to successful aging and greater health.
What’s a better way to measure?
You can track body fat percentage, waist-to-hip ratio and other measurements, OR you could simply ditch the numbers altogether. Step away from the scale, set a goal, write it down and work toward it. When I say set a goal here, I mean set a more tangible goal like having your clothes fit better or be able to run a 5k within a certain time. Fitness related goals usually create the body composition changes you want without the reliance on weight.
Don’t get me wrong, the scale is a great tool to measure progress, but it is not the only one AND your weight needs to come into context with other aspects of your lifestyle—Nutrition, physical activity, sleep and stress ALL come into play here.
If you’d like a more accurate measure of your health, you can set up a time with Coach Meredith to get measurements.
By Coach Meredith
I hope you all have been enjoying your summer so far. Can you believe it’s already July?! Let’s start off this month by talking about getting your whole family active. Summer months are the most active for Ohioans and you and your family should definitely be taking advantage of it!
Active parents raise active children. It’s a fact. Research shows that children will take after their parents and have similar physical activity levels. So, as you find the balance between work, family, and extracurricular activities, be mindful that your children will follow in your footsteps, literally. Fitness should always be a priority in a family’s daily schedule.
It is recommended by the American Heart Association that from the age of 2 and above, you should participate in an hour of moderate to vigorous activity every day. Children who meet this goal will find it easier to maintain a healthy weight as they work to prevent heart disease, cancer, stroke, and other metabolic diseases.
One hour each day might sound like a large chunk of time, but there are several different ways to incorporate physical activity into your family’s routine little by little.
Here are some ideas:
There you have it, some top tips for increasing your family’s activity level.
By Coach Meredith
Last time I discussed some pre-workout nutrition tips, so this week I would like to cover a few post-workout musts. Here are my top 3 post-exercise tips:
Static stretching is best reserved for after your workouts. Static means you will hold the position. Dynamic stretching involves a gentle flow or movement through a series of positions. When performed immediately after your workouts, static stretching helps to you cool down, increase muscle relaxation and potentially get tight muscles back to their resting length.
Exercise tends to shorten muscles through contraction and it is important to stretch them out afterwards. For example, runners will typically will have tight hamstrings or calves if they don’t consistently stretch after their runs. The tighter the muscles get, the more likely they are to develop injuries and lose their speed or functionality.
Immediately following your workouts, when your muscles are still warm, aim to spend at least 30 seconds to one minute stretching each muscle group that you’ve used or may feel particularly tight. The use of lacrosse balls, foam rollers, and resistance bands comes in handy here.
2. WEIGH YOURSELF and or DRINK PLENTY OF WATER
Post-exercise, you shouldn’t lose any more than 2% of your body weight between the beginning and end of your workout. So, for example if you weighed 150 pounds at the start, you shouldn’t weigh any less than 147 pounds at the end. If your weight loss is greater than, it means you are on the road to significant dehydration. Improper water consumption can decrease your exercise performance and put you at risk of heat stroke as well as exacerbate symptoms of muscle soreness and fatigue.
Any drop in weight should be dealt with by drinking at least 8oz of water following your workout. If you’re dehydrated, it is also beneficial to hydrate with an electrolyte-containing drink or coconut water.
3. EAT PROTEIN AND CARBS
Muscle undergoes rapid remodeling and rebuilding, especially during the period following an intense workout. In order to push the muscle protein in a positive direction for growth and recovery, it is important to consume adequate protein, including branched-chain amino acids, after a strenuous workout.
How much do you need? It depends. Exercises like lifting or running tend to lead to more muscle damage versus low-impact exercises such as yoga or walking. It may be necessary to consume higher amounts of protein and BCAAs after intense exercises that cause more muscle damage in order to promote optimal muscle repair and recovery. Aim to get anywhere between 20 and 40 grams, consuming toward the higher end for the greater your exercise intensity or body size.
There is what’s called an “anabolic window” which is the post-workout time period in which the body can most effectively absorb protein and incorporate it into its muscle cells. This time period is typically 30 minutes up to 2 hours.
That being said, you may actually need more carbs than protein post-workout. Post-workout foods and drinks should have a 3:1-to-4:1 ratio of carbs-to-protein for ideal muscle recovery. This means, for every gram of protein you consume following a workout, you likely need three to four times as many grams of carbs.
Why is this so? Insulin, released by the pancreas when you eat carbs, helps amino acids from protein enter muscle cells for repair and recovery. Try choosing whole carbs from natural sources including fruit, whole grains, and dairy.
By Coach Meredith
Food is Fuel--Just like you put gas in a car to go, we need to put food in our bodies to go.
As most of us know or are learning, it is important to provide our bodies with the right nutrients before exercise. By eating a healthy, well-balanced (well-balanced= a mix of Carbohydrates, Protein, and Fat) meal 1-2 hours before exercise, and another healthy, well-balanced meal within 1-2 hours after exercise, most people can meet their workout nutrition needs. Different types of exercise and different athletes will require different nutrient ratios before, during, and after exercise.
Let’s discuss a few:
What and when you eat before exercise can make a big difference to your performance and recovery.
In the 1-3 hours before your workout, you’ll want to eat something that helps you:
Eating some protein in the few hours before exercise:
Eating carbs before exercise:
Fuels your training and helps with recovery. It’s a popular misconception that you only need carbs if you’re engaging in a long (greater than two hour) exercise session. Carbohydrates also enhance shorter term (one hour) high-intensity training. Unless you’re just going for a quiet stroll, ensuring that you have some carbs in your system will improve exercise performance.
Fats before exercise:
**Note: Your actual needs will vary depending on your size, goals, genetics, and the duration and intensity of your activity.
Here are a few options for Pre-Workout nutrient timing:
Option 1: 2-3 hours before exercise
This far in advance of your workout, it is recommended to have a mixed meal (Protein, Carbs, and Fat) and water.
Option 2: 0-60 minutes before training
Rather than eating a larger meal 2-3 hours before exercise, some people can eat a smaller meal closer to the session. The only issue with that: the closer you get to your workout, the less time there is to digest. That’s why it is generally recommended to have something liquid at this time, like a shake or a smoothie.
It might look like this:
So there you have it—the basics on pre-exercise nutrition. It is important we know how to fuel our bodies properly. Everybody is different and will require different nutrients according to their gender, age, and activity level in order to be able to perform at their optimal physical capacity.