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.
Infused Ice Pops
Provided by Coach Meredith
Pineapple Raspberry Pops
Sparkling Lemon-Lime Pops
**Can also freeze into ice cubes to add refreshing flavor to your water.
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.
By Coach Meredith
We are half way through May and summer is right around the corner! Last week I discussed ways to bring your indoor workouts into the outdoors. As The Bar Athletics is concerned with our overall health and wellness, this week I would like to discuss the prevalence of ticks and how to take precautionary measures while still being able to enjoy the outdoors.
There is a new, and potentially fatal, tick-borne illness called Powassan, that we all should be aware of. Researchers are saying this summer looks like it might be one of the worst on record for an increase in the tick population.
Ticks are most active during the spring, summer, and early fall months. Approximately 75 cases of Powassan disease have been reported in the United States over the past 10 years. According to the CDC, most cases have occurred in the Northeast and Great Lakes region. That’s a big red flag for us Northeast Ohioans!
So what is Powassan?
Powassan is a virus that can be transmitted through a tick bite. Signs and symptoms can include fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, seizures and memory loss. Long-term neurological damage may also occur.
There's currently no specific treatment or prevention for the disease. People with severe Powassan often need to be hospitalized to receive respiratory support, intravenous fluids or medications to reduce swelling in the brain. Fatality rate is approximately 10% if inflammation of the brain (encephalitis) occurs.
Because of the milder winter in the Northeast, a dramatic increase in the tick population is expected.
Ticks carry a host of several diseases. They carry bacterial diseases such as Lyme, viral illnesses like Powassan and parasitic diseases like babesiosis.
Since the late 1990s, the number of reported cases of Lyme disease in the United States has tripled, and the number of counties in the Northeast and upper Midwest that are considered high-risk for Lyme disease has increased by more than 300 percent. According to the CDC in 2015, about 30,000 cases of Lyme disease were reported in Americans, but the number was likely much higher.
To protect yourself from a tick-borne infection, the CDC recommends:
It is important, we as Northeast Ohioans, take these precautionary measures to ensure we have a safe and enjoyable time outdoors this year!