Exercise, Flexibility/Stretching, General Health, Injuries, Personal Trainers, Q&A

Muscle Cramps During Exercise?

Screen Shot 2019-04-30 at 7.19.43 PM Why Do I Get Muscle Cramps When Exercising and What Can I do about it?

You’re really jammin’ on your workout and then suddenly it happens, your muscles just cramp up and you can’t go on. Maybe a charlie horse hamstring or a calf pulsation ..What gives? Well there are many factors that could cause it and that’s why I often ask my clients if they have eaten recently and I also review their training program and ask about their activities between training. Aside from medications (like those for high blood pressure and cholesterol) and nerve issues, there are many factors which can cause cramping including overexertion, dehydration/electrolyte imbalances, inadequate nutrition, or chronically tight muscles.

When someone is new to fitness, deconditioned, or working out harder than they usually do, muscles are subjected to forces much stronger than that which they are accustomed. As a result, they may go into a spasm as a protective mechanism to prevent injury. Isn’t the body marvelous! Okay, it may not feel maahvelous at the moment. If this is the situation the obvious solution is to get more fit- gradually. Things like interval training will build up your endurance: both cardiovascular and muscular.

Another factor which often leads to cramping is dehydration. Potassium, magnesium, calcium and sodium in and out of the muscle and surrounding tissues maintain an electrical charge which allows it to do its work. When the levels of these minerals aren’t adequate or in the right amounts or the fluid which carries them in your body-H2O-water isn’t adequate, the muscle either can produce a weak contraction or make a contraction that fails to let go-a cramp.

Most people do get enough sugar and salts in their diet. Unless you are a serious athlete your issue is likely to be dehydration rather than inadequate salt intake. Make sure to hydrate before, during and after your workout. Consider avoiding caffeine and diuretics.

However, some people are sweating so much in their workout and having water but are not replenishing their sodium fast enough and water alone won’t relieve the issue. Typically this isn’t something happens in a one-hour training session but more of a marathon training of 90+ minutes of moderate to intense exertion. Researchers at Brigham Young University found that salt inhibits the message the brain sends to nerves which cause muscles to cramp. (It was a study where they made athletes cramp and then fed them pickle juice and it worked to stop the cramp within seconds). So you could try having something salty to relieve the cramping.

Low Potassium levels can contribute to cramping. Try eating potassium-containing foods such as banana, avocado or oranges at least once a day.  Calcium and Magnesium found in dairy and nuts can also help reduce cramping events. .

Some clients think that carbs are the enemy. However carbohydrates are the primary fuel for aerobic activities. The muscle can only store so much glycogen to fuel the workout and at a certain point it can become depleted. It takes about 60-90 minutes to deplete the glycogen stores but if we’re working very intensely it could become depleted in 45 minutes. Muscles need energy to contract and to relax.. So adequate fuel in the form of complex carbohydrates like whole grains and fruits can totally be part of your healthy lifestyle and may help performance.

Some researchers hypothesize that shortened/tight muscles- like shortened hamstrings from prolonged chronic sitting are more likely to cramp. The solution then is to become a regular stretcher. Things like standing toe touches, down dogs from yoga, lunges or similar modifications against a wall or using a chair etc can stretch the calf and hamstring area.

At this point you may be wondering why am I writing to you about cramps just after Passover?

I always think of cramps during Passover because while pregnant in 2002 or 2003,  I got the worst cramp that would not go away. I turned to Rabbi Blumenkrantz’ Passover book for a remedy in 2002 and on page 486 he writes, “ Vinegar is high in potassium and low in potassium levels;may cause some cramping, For best results, drink a mixture of 2tsp vinegar and one tsp of honey in a glass of warm water.”  Worked like a charm.

If you have fitness questions that need answers, write to me Kayla@getfitwithkayla.com

 

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Diet, Exercise, Fitness Goals, General Health

Just One Thing..

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Just One Thing…

The most common New Year’s resolution is to lose weight and get into shape or tone up.  

If getting into shape is your goal, and you actually want to change your shape-say from a pear to an hourglass or from an apple to an hourglass or from a brick to an hourglass, or from a stalk of wheat to something that won’t blow over in the wind, cardio isn’t the best way to try and get there. Cardio is a great choice for heart health and stamina and we need to do it a few times every week but its not a top choice for maintaining a healthy weight and for actually changing your shape.

With resistance or weight training, we can build you some shoulders to give those of you with a pear shape a more balanced look and we can tighten and firm your glutes and use high reps on your thighs to give them a longer leaner appearance. Will that make you an hourglass? Technically no, because bone structure and genetics are what they are, but we can get you closer to balance and proportion you might have in mind.That said, there’s nothing wrong with any of those body shapes and many people do find them attractive despite the singular message about beauty standards the media seems to offer. From a health and longevity perspective weight training is great for you.

Those with more voluptuous bellies or booties may also be dealing with another big issue: hormones. Those of us in our mid to late 40s or 50s with bat wings who may be dealing with age-related loss of muscle.Muscle also gives a more youthful firmer appearance. Muscle tone helps you lose fat because it takes calories just to sustain itself.  Even if weight loss is your goal, resistance training, and especially resistance training in midlife is the way to go.

Muscle is metabolically active tissue…which means you don’t need to starve yourself and run marathons to maintain your physique. In fact, muscle tissue needs calories to stick around or it will waste away- which means you can eat good nutritious food without worrying so much that it will turn to fat. Isn’t that good news?

So if starting the new year with an exercise program means loving your body, that’s fantastic. If it means beating into submission, can you believe you’re less likely to succeed at weightloss? Yes the scientific data says loving your body with enough hydration, rest, nutrient dense food, an occasional unhealthy but so yummy treat and the healthy hormones released when you exercise with intensity are fabulous for your health and better for weightloss.. Starving your body, over-working it and telling yourself about how your various bits aren’t up to par is horrible for your body and your emotional health and actually inhibits weightloss and may even foster illness.

This year, can we resolve to work out smarter instead of harder and be kind to our bodies? I’m ready. So here’s my challenge to you: This year don’t join a gym, and blow it out on the treadmill and dry ryvita crackers for 3 weeks and give up by March.. Just pick one thing. ONE small thing you could commit to for the rest of 2019 that might make a difference and stick to that one thing.

Here are some examples: (Feel free to come up with your own…but only ONE..and make it small and achievable)

  • I will drinking a glass of water every day before breakfast.
  • I commit to walking for 10 minutes every day.
  • I commit to a one minute meditation or mantra of gratitude every day.
  • I commit to learning to do something besides a bicep curl with dumbells
  • I will learn to do one pushup.
  • I will join a workout group and attend each of my 6 sessions (okay I had to throw that in there) as a way to kick start making fitness part of my lifestyle.

 

Exercise, Q&A

Kayla’s Functional Fitness for Small Groups

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Sometimes I get asked what type of training we do in the Small Groups and how it works.  The short answer is that I focus mainly on exercises which prepare my clients for a great quality of life and ease in their activities of daily living. Professionals sometimes use the term functional training.

This type of training is different than what you may find in big box gyms with lots of metal equipment. Often those machines train you in a seated position, isolating one particular muscle and work you in the sagittal plane of motion- front and back or up and down. But in life, we work in many planes of motion: side to side, twisting, as well as front and back and up and down pushing and pulling (sometimes simultaneously). So most of the activities we do in small group training are performed from a standing position and use multiple muscle groups in a variety of planes of motion. Our activities of daily living require strength with flexibility, stability of the core and stamina. My training focuses on preparing you for those activities of daily living. You also develop the knowledge and attunement to safely progress or modify any fitness class or activity to your body and its unique strengths or limitations.

We often cover exercise basics: Squats, lunges, push-ups, bicep curls, planks and crunches as well as pilates and yoga-based floor moves with and without dumbells, kettlebells, a barbell, or bands. Sometimes we use TRX suspension trainers, sometimes Bosu Balls or Stability balls. We mix it up, and we modify based on your own fitness level and goals and the goals of the group.

Some groups have prenatal and post-natal clients for whom crunches aren’t appropriate. Alternatives are given and coached. Some people have knee or back issues and cannot safely lunge so exercises are modified or substituted or the range of motion is limited. Others are very fit and need more of a challenge so plyometrics and heavier weights or multi-planar movements are given. Sometimes groups are comprised of women in similar age groups or with similar ability levels but oftentimes there’s a mix of ability levels and ages and it works out just fine with everyone getting a fun, safe and effective workout with the coaching of a personal trainer and the camaraderie of a group.

Generally most groups work full body- mostly strength with a little bit of cardio (dancing/kickboxing/jumprope) or with cardio performed via peripheral heart action by moving both lower and upper body at the same time. Most groups prefer to see a demo of the exercise and then work the same muscle group at the same time with a variety of modifications/progressions for individuals. Each class is roughly choreographed to appropriate tempo music. I demonstrate each one before we begin and work the full body. (Groups meeting twice a week may do an upper/lower body split or a push/pull split). Sometimes there are partner drills. Some group sessions are structured where participants work at their own pace against the clock doing as many repetitions as possible of a particular exercise or series of exercises before the timer expires. Other sessions have you rotate through training stations so nobody is doing the same exercise as you while you’re doing it. One thing is sure: it’s never exactly the same each time. You will gain strength, flexibility endurance and maybe a friend or two.

 

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Saying Yes or No?

Why is it so difficult to say no?

One of the biggest fears many of us have is the fear of rejection. It is inevitable we think if we say no, we will disappoint someone, make them angry, hurt their feelings, or appear unkind or rude. Often as kids we said no and were disciplined for it. Sometimes our self-esteem is wrapped up in saying yes to as many people and opportunities as we can.

We think we are being kind and open hearted and sharing of our abundance, being a caring giver is all positive, whereas saying no is being stingy and harsh.

Saying no should be something we can do at our own discretion. We know that sometimes saying yes can be worse than saying no. Sometimes it is even more kind to say no than to say yes. Occasionally it’s worth a little rejection if saying yes will lead to resentment. Nevertheless, some of us fear saying no will leave us feeling humiliated, guilty, ashamed and worse, alone, rejected and abandoned. Having others think negatively of us is a pretty big form of rejection.

One of the beautiful and freeing things about aging is many of us tend to care less and less what others think as we become more experienced at saying no and we have learned over time that saying yes, only later to feel resentful about the things we said no to by saying yes is actually worse. We also begin to accept that nobody is perfect (despite facebook photos which indicate otherwise) as we age. Sometimes saying NO to one thing is often saying YES to something else of greater value.

For instance, my neighbor assumed we host Shabbos guests all- the- time.  She said that she feels guilty if she has to say no but she feels so burnt out. For clarity sake, I actually do not host Shabbos guests all-the-time, specifically because it would totally burn me out; but it was never about me in the first place. My neighbor just used me symbolically to represent her own needs and feelings about whatever she thought about hosting every single Shabbat.

I remember many years ago, once making a fancy meal for someone who just had a baby, and serving fish sticks to my own family that night (which nobody here likes). This is all because I wanted to do “kindness.”  Is it a kindness to my family that they have to eat fish sticks and deal with a stressed out mommy? What is really going on here? I was a slave to the misguided notion that I needed to appear to be of value for my own gratification.

How about when we exercise… What are we saying yes to and what are we saying no to? Do we exercise so hard that we can’t work out another day? Do we only go hard and not take time to unwind and do the slow workouts because of some internal need to be “strong.” [The irony is that we often pack on pounds from the increase in cortisol and inflammation caused by going hard and we risk injury by not slowing down to stretch and restore.]

When we eat sugary, salty, starchy foods. Is it self-care or self harm? It could be either one depending on the time and the mood and a plethora of other factors. We need to tune in and stop and reflect every so often.

These are big questions. Too big for a blog post. But I am thinking that an important step in being able to say no has to do with knowing our own worth is independent of what others think of us and based on far more than a singular decision. Our self-worth can’t be totally dependent on how much we do for other people. Does that even sound healthy? If saying yes makes you feel trapped, resentful or guilty, perhaps it is time to say no!?!

I love feeling useful helping people become comfortable in their bodies and love what exercise adds to their feeling of accomplishment, mood, and their physical health. B”H” my client load was full before Passover, really full. Saying yes to new clients or more sessions had reached a point where it had come to mean saying no to recharging my own battery or being the sharpest happiest Mommy I could be and more. To remedy this, I decided not to take on any new private training clients. Scary decision, but very worthwhile. I finally feel like I have re-charged and have more balance.

In the meantime, if you are ready to get started right NOW, there is space for new or returning clients to join the small group training class Monday mornings at 9:30 in Pico Robertson.

As we enter summer and some of my long-time regular clients take extended vacations overseas or take breaks from training to run mommy camp with their kids I will have more flexibility in scheduling and more openings for new private clients. So, if you are thinking about private or group training with me this summer, it is just around the corner. Please be in touch so I can let you know what spaces will be available in May and June when I will likely have the ability to take on more clients and you can have a regular time slot.

As always, feel free to send me any fitness-related questions.

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Intermittent Fasting Q+A

Esther Sara asks if Intermittent fasting is successful, helpful, and how long it took to see a difference.

Here’s my answer:2018clock

Basic background:

Intermittent fasting/IF is an umbrella term for various diets that cycle between a period of fasting (though water is typically allowed) and non-fasting. Intermittent fasting can be used along with calorie restriction for weight loss. Generally there are two main types- one which fasting is performed on alternate days and (the one I have seen more) which is fasting for a period of each day- usually slightly longer than the hours in which you sleep.  In other words with most calories being consumed within an 8 hour window of the day. There are many combinations and modifications of this type of eating.

How I define success:

If by successful, you mean that you feel good and you are energized, clear thinking, regulated mood and able to perform the activities of daily living including daily exercise with optimal performance (ie not hitting the proverbial wall in your training) and its something sustainable long term- as in the rest of your life and won’t get in the way of your time with family and friends and you also feel good looking in the mirror, than I would call that really successful.

If on the other hand you find that you are obsessing about food and the clock or it leads you to a binge cycle, or you expect to use this as a temporary weight loss method followed by a return to some more typical eating pattern for yourself or followed by a series of other diets and/or you aren’t performing and feeling optimal on it, I would tend to view it as a massive fail. (There is scientific data to support the view that cyclic dieting isn’t best for long term optimal health or physique).

If you are considering whether this method vs. eating 3 squares, or 3 main meals and a snack or two is better, or eating every 2-4 hours is better for optimal health and performance or even for weight loss….I think the scientific data I have read is far from conclusive.

This eating plan is generally frowned upon for children by the medical community and that’s enough to give me pause.  

There’s no way someone else can answer how long it would take for you to see a change in physique (despite the heavy marketing you may have seen) since there are many unknowns including your baseline metabolism, dieting history, and how many calories from what types of foods you plan to consume, and whether you plan to exercise. Keep in mind, there’s nothing to say you will be happier, healthier or more attractive from rapid weight loss. Most times clients engage in short term rapid weight loss, they experience a boomerang effect of long term increased set point, slower metabolism and more difficulty losing weight. In fact if you are thinking about severe caloric restriction as a weight loss plan I urge you to have a discussion with a Registered Dietitian, a Mental Health Professional, and a Physician who can properly advise you.
The Jewish Context:

In a Jewish context, we encounter situations regularly in which eating is restricted and where fasting for spiritual purposes is practiced or simply situations where one is required to wait.  In fact, even within regional groups we see differences in how long one restricts consumption of meat after milk. In some regions it was typically 1 hour and in others it was 4 and yet others approximately 6.  Part of this has to do with how many meals were typically consumed in a day. People do different things based on their custom and lifestyle and region.

Conclusion:

Humans are amazingly versatile omnivores designed for survival. Can I suggest looking inside to what suits your family and lifestyle and tuning into your body to find what works best for you long term. Find what is showing your body love and respect for its needs and what makes it feel and perform optimally. Know that there are many different ways for different people to eat and there are many paths to optimal health.  

 

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The Women’s Locker Room Pep Talk I’ll Never Forget

A Women’s Locker Room Talk I’ll Never Forget

I was in the women’s locker room at my local  budget gym a few years ago and witnessed a conversation between two women I will never forget. One was in her mid to late 40s. Polished nails, trendy hair style, good complexion, taut firm skin, toned body, balanced posture, taking off her spandex and stepping into a matching bra and panty set.The other, a gray-haired woman in her 60’s, overweight, hunched posture, with belly rolls peeking out from her halfway pulled down one piece swimsuit. Looking spent from her aqua aerobics class, the older heavier woman was longingly examining the younger lady. Feeling her gaze, the younger toned woman turned to smile back at her.

“If I looked like you, I wouldn’t need to exercise”, said the woman in her 60s, wistfully.

“Oh, you have it wrong,”  said the woman in her late 40’s.. “It’s because I exercise that I look like this.”

Many people don’t like to exercise. (I get a personal thrill out of making exercise converts out of them, but I digress.) A lot of these people nevertheless will stick with exercise long enough to see results. However, the only way to maintain those results is by continuing to exercise.

Muscle strength decreases with just two weeks off of pumping iron and cardiovascular strength diminishes in just two days! That’s also why it’s really hard to see results after the occasional workout. It needs to be regular and consistent, as a lifestyle. Forever. Not only that, but it must be challenging to your system to make the kind of change you can see.

So as much as I think movement in general is beneficial; picking up the kids’ legos, parking farther from the entrance, and taking the stairs alone simply aren’t going to provide you with all the benefits (both aesthetically and in terms of health) that you probably want to see in the long run; even if they are good for your circulation and sense of self-efficacy in the short-term.

Activities like chasing toddlers across the living room, folding laundry and walking the groceries into the house are what I call exhausting. I also call them activities of daily living. Regular exercise is supposed to make these less taxing for you as your energy level increases because you are becoming more fit.  They aren’t the workout themselves.

What makes movement go from daily activity to exercise, in my book, is when your heart rate is elevated into your aerobic zone (The talk but not sing test is a nice benchmark for what your aerobic zone feels like). Even better if you could keep it in that zone for at least 10 minutes. Exercise is when your muscles have to work really hard to lift and you just might want to stop or you might have to struggle just slightly to complete the lift. Or that position you are holding still is challenging for you.

Does knowing all this make it hard to stick to an exercise routine if you don’t really like exercise? It can. That’s why it’s super important to keep trying different types of exercise until you find something you enjoy doing and then find a way to do that type often. If you can just tolerate exercise without actually liking it, you can try to find other things about the exercise experience that you do enjoy- such as the music, or the scenery, or the company, or the lack of company, or merely the feeling of accomplishment of charting it knowing its good for you (though this one tends not to work as well as the enjoyable endorphin rush at the end of the workout or any of the other tips mentioned).

Finally, now that you found something you like and you are doing it often, our body as brilliantly designed for homeostasis that it is, will adapt to that and stop giving you results at a certain point. You will plateau. To make more changes you will need to change it up- in duration, intensity or with another type of exercise. The good news is, by the time you reach that point, there’s a good chance you are already a regular exerciser.

Exercise, Fitness Goals, General Health

How to Stay Fit During the Jewish High Holidays

 (Excerpt from Jewess Magazine, September 2017)

Oftentimes we think there’s so much to do to in the days and weeks preparing for the Jewish High Holidays that we simply won’t have time for exercise.

Even the most disciplined women find it difficult to maintain their exercise routines due to schedule and eating changes during Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot.

As a personal trainer, even I struggle with keeping up my exercises during this time. However, it can be done. I’m going share the strategy and mindset that my training clients and I use. It’ll help you emerge renewed and re-energized about working out.

Read more…