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.
Provided by Coach Meredith
In 1972, researcher Walter Mischel did a now-famous experiment at Stanford. He sat children between the ages of four and six in an empty room with a marshmallow on a table. Researchers told each child that they could have one marshmallow right now, but if they waited a little while, then they could have two marshmallows. Then, the researchers left the children alone with the marshmallow to see what happened.
Some kids ate the marshmallow immediately.
Some kids waited a few minutes, then caved in.
But about one-third of the children were able to wait longer.
They came up with ways to avoid the marshmallow temptation while they waited. Some covered their eyes or turned away from the marshmallow. Some invented little distractions, such as humming. Their payoff, of course, was twice as many marshmallows.
By waiting - or delaying gratification - these children succeeded in getting more in the long term than they had in the short term.
TO SEE THE STUDY CLICK HERE
That's interesting enough, but what's even more interesting is what happened afterwards.
Children who were able to delay gratification in the marshmallow experiment turned out to be more successful later on, too. (By the way, this experiment also worked with pretzels, candy, and chocolate, in case you were concerned that maybe kids just didn't like marshmallows.)
In the late 1980s, when Mischel checked in on the children he'd studied, the two-marshmallow kids were still winning the game of life. They were doing better socially and academically. They had their act together.
And guess what? The same principle of delaying gratification applies to wellness, weight loss and getting in shape.
Remind yourself of what you truly want.
Remember that what you get in the future might be twice as good as what you get right now.
You don't have to have iron willpower for this.
Sometimes, all you have to do is get through just a few minutes of discomfort.
Think about the "impulse eating" situations that you often find yourself in, such as:
Like the children you can:
Remember what's truly important to you
WHAT's UP NEXT?
This weekend, try sitting with a little bit of discomfort and difficulty.
Get just slightly hungry. It's OK. Embrace the challenge.
WHAT TO DO TODAY
1. Stay focused on what you truly want in the long run.
Remind yourself of who you are and why you're here. Ask yourself:
When and where are you likely to make rushed or thoughtless choices? From now on, anticipate this. Come up with ways to stay on track and delay gratification.
3. Find strategies to help yourself stay focused.
Like the children you can:
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
As we ease into the first round of summer heat waves, we need to take precautionary steps to avoid heat-related illnesses.
Hot temperatures and high humidity are likely in our forecast for the next couple months. It is vital to drink plenty of fluids, mainly water or a natural electrolyte drink such as coconut water. It is also a good idea to stay out of the sun during the mid-part of the day, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., when the sun’s rays are typically the strongest. It is also advised to conserve your energy where you can by limiting activity that is directly in the sun.
Make sure to drink cool water before you exercise as well as after your workout. If you're planning to exercise in the heat and humidity for more than an hour, it's important to consume a drink that contains electrolytes, in addition to water, to replenish the salt loss from sweating. A few salty pretzels and water are also a quick alternative to an electrolyte drink if you prefer.
To beat the heat, it is best to stay indoors with air conditioning if possible. If air conditioning isn’t available, the use of fans and a cool mist will work well too.
When outside, wear loose-fitting and light-colored clothing and a hat that provides shade to the head and face. Wear sunscreen and make sure to reapply every two hours.
During any periods of high heat and humidity, keep a close eye on seniors and children because both are at increased risk for heat-related illnesses.
Heat cramps and heat exhaustion are the most common heat-related illnesses. Nausea, dizziness and muscle cramping can also occur. Heat stroke is even more serious than cramps or exhaustion, and is a medical emergency. Depending on how serious symptoms are, IV fluids may be necessary to help reduce the effects of heat and to rehydrate the body.
In some situations, you may even develop temperatures up to 106-108 degrees, which can cause confusion and disorientation, as well as loss of ability to produce sweat to cool the body. Ice baths and misting fans can help reduce your core temperature.
Therefore, it is highly encouraged to drink plenty of water (at least ½ your bodyweight in ounces per day) on a regular basis to remain properly hydrated. This way your body can function and cool itself properly.
By Coach Meredith
Food cravings tend to derail our weight loss or fitness goals. Cravings are a natural and normal response to meeting a need, however we don’t always need to give in to an edible object. Learning how to control our cravings is key for our health and wellness. We can reduce our overall susceptibility to acting on them and ultimately reduce the effect it has on us.
Here are some tips to help control and satisfy those cravings:
Our hunger cues can be both physiological or hedonic. This means either our bodies are actually hungry or we saw something appetizing and it set off hunger pangs. If it’s the latter, try something as simple as breathing. By changing our breath, we can change how we feel. Long, deep exhalations help to ease anxiety, which also helps you fight cravings. Very slow breathing, about nine breaths per minute, has also been found to possibly help reduce food cravings.
THINK ABOUT IT
Justification is the enemy here. When someone eats something they probably shouldn’t have or has too much of something, they typically use justification as to why they were “allowed” to have it. For example: “I walked my 10k steps today, I can have this brownie Blizzard.” Although it may seem hard in the moment, being logical and actually thinking about why you need the food, can help to stop a craving. Are you actually physically hungry and are in need of energy? Or are you just bored? If you track your calories or macros [macronutrients], you are able to easily see if you’ve hit your goal for the day. This helps you to see that you don’t “need” that ice cream, you just “want” it.
Procrastination isn’t always a good thing, but it might help you with your cravings. Taking a brief walk or doing some physical activity for 3-5 minutes has been known to help decrease the thoughts of food. Also replacing that craving by playing a game or reading, helps to reduce overall snacking. Using an app like Stop, Breathe & Think or Headspace and doing a short meditation is another great way to distract yourself from those cravings.
Eating on a consistent schedule helps us to keep our blood sugar levels stable which in turn helps us to avoid the crash and cravings that follow. Whether you’re a 3, 5, or even 6 meal a day person, this strategy will surely help fend off the unwanted cravings.
HAVE A BACK-UP PLAN
It’s always a great idea to have a Plan B for your nutrition. For example, if mornings get too crazy trying to shuffle the kids out of the house and you don’t have time to make breakfast, keep five ingredients on hand that you can toss in the blender to have a quick, healthy smoothie. Or what happens if you pack everyone else’s lunch and forget your own? Have a plan to know exactly where to go for a healthy lunch option. Having a plan in place will make you less likely to eat just anything.
There are my top tips to fighting off those annoying food cravings and saving you the extra calories. And don’t forget to DRINK PLENTY OF WATER as it is getting hot outside (another food craving fighter).
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.