Stretching: When, How, and for How Long?

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Stretching: When, How, and for How Long?

Most exercisers know that flexibility is an important component of fitness. Stretching can not only prevent injuries, but increase blood circulation, increase your range of motion, and improve your performance. What many exercisers don’t know is when to stretch and for how long.

Adding to the confusion, is the controversy which has arisen in the fitness industry itself regarding whether or not to include static (non-moving) stretching in the warm-up.  According to the Aerobics and Fitness Association guidelines published in 2010, light, preparatory stretching is optional during the warm-up. based upon the needs of individuals the activity or environment. *  More intense stretches held longer than 15 seconds belong at the end of the workout or during the cool-down phase.  Aside from the controversy surrounding static stretching during a warm-up, exercisers can also do dynamic stretching and/or movement rehearsal as part of the warm-up. Examples would include shoulder circles, side to side lunges, and other fluid movements.

I remember the days when we would commonly stretch before the warm-up…on cold muscles. The problem is cold muscles are more prone to over-extension tears, strains, and other injuries. Once blood is flowing and the heart rate is elevated, muscles can be stretched more safely.

If you have a fitness question you would like me to answer please send an email to Questions@GetFitWithKayla.com

*AFAA Basic Exercise Standards and Guidelines Reference Manual. Fifth Edition 2010 p. 26

Just Breathe

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Just Breathe

 You probably heard that breathing is important during exercise. Maybe  your aerobics instructor cued you to breathe or your karate instructor told you to exhale as you kick or your yoga teacher wanted you to breathe into a stretch. Maybe you are thinking it’s a bunch of hogwash and of course you’re breathing or you wouldn’t be exercising, you’d be dead…So why all the reminders?

Breathing correctly not only ensures you can get a better workout, but keeps you safe too. If you hold your breath during exercise or breathe too rapidly, you can suffer ill effects.

If you hold your breath while exerting yourself in weightlifting, doing abdominal exercises (your bodyweight) or just shoveling snow and other strenuous activities, even healthy individuals can possibly experience slowed heart rate, dizziness, or even fainting. Those predisposed to heart disease could experience irregular heart rhythms and more serious consequences…all because of the changes inside the body which can interrupt blood flow. To avoid this issue, breathe in and out at a normal pace. Exhale when lifting the weight (contracting the muscle) or exerting yourself and inhale when at rest or releasing the weight.

On the flip side, I have sometimes see individuals or even fitness instructors breath too heavily or cue breathing every few seconds and normally conditioned people could get dizzy or have other consequences of over- ventilating. Keep in mind when an instructor asks that you breathe into a stretch for instance, this is an indication that you should relax into the stretch, not hyperventilate…breathing slowly and exhaling while deepening the stretch is common in yoga.

Breathing can also be used to assess how hard you are working. For instance the talk but not sing test is a good indication your breathing is right on track for a moderate exertion level. If you can carry on a conversation with ease, or sing well, you are not working hard enough but if you are working so hard you cannot catch your breath you may be working too hard.

If you experience shortness of breath, wheezing, fatigue, chest pain and/or coughing, you should consult your Dr. These may be symptoms of exercise-induced asthma.

Take a deep breath, now exhale. Feel less stressed? Not yet? Then go work out.

Now Red Meat Is Gonna Kill Us?!

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I think red meat in moderation is safe. Moderation..That is to say: unprocessed, grass fed, preservative-free, 1-2 servings, once a week. See if this new Harvard study says I’m right, or if all red meat will kill us.

10 Strategies for Keeping Your Figure and Enjoying the Holiday Party

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Purim, Passover, and Easter are nearly here, and although they can be a lot of fun, all  holidays,  can be stressful. There’s the preparation, cleanup, and interactions with relatives who may not be supportive of you or your healthy diet plan; then add to that treat foods which lure us with memories of childhood, or heartwarming traditional foods associated with those holidays like chocolate filled marshmallow eggs or hamentashen cookies that just aren’t around all year long. It seems temptation is lurking at every turn. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. You might find yourself unwittingly succumbing to the temptation to binge on those treats or over- eat at the buffet. ..Even though you know you’ll be disappointed when you see the numbers on the scale a week later.

In order to not blow all the hard work you have been doing, it’s a good idea to become mindful of the caloric impact of  various foods and situations you will likely encounter so you can plan accordingly. You need a strategy.
Here are 10 tips to help you survive the holidays with your head held high and your bottom zipped securely into your skinny skirt:

  1. Don’t arrive hungry!  If I know the meal will be filled with things I’d rather not eat..or a ton of things I would rather eat but won’t be proud that I ate so much of them a week later– I might down a protein shake an hour before the meal and spoil my appetite. Drink a glass of water before hitting the buffet to help fill your tummy, or add to that water a scoop of psyllium husks (a fiber supplement that can be found at health food stores).  Eat normal meals through the rest of the day that are healthful but slightly lower in calories.  For instance, if you trim 100 calories off breakfast and lunch and a snack, you can indulge in a 300 calorie treat without impact.
  2. Exercise! Burn off the extra calories before you have them & keep your metabolism up.
  3. Don’t hang out by the buffet. Focus on being social.
  4. Eat your greens first, before the higher calorie foods like proteins and desserts. If you must graze, make it at the veggie platter.
  5. Choose well. Grilled, boiled, baked or broiled and steamed  will be lower on fat ad calories generally.  Fried, sauteed ( in fat/oil), dressings, cream sauces, Au gratin (a cheese sauce) will have a higher fat and calorie impact.
  6. Offer to bring a dish. Almost any dish has a healthy version. Just google healthy version and name the dish and you will have a plethora of options.
  7. Don’t deprive yourself! Plan your indulgences. Enjoy in moderation. Have that cookie (not 12) and savor it. Eat it slowly, on a plate, sitting down. Maybe even try eating the main meal on a smaller plate for that matter- to control your portion sizes.
  8. Easy on the alcohol.  Alcohol’s hormonal effects which can make you store fat … this is on top of the plain caloric impact and relative lack of nutritional value.
  9. Keep yourself accountable. Keep a food journal and log what you are eating. There are calorie counters on line and even diet journal apps for your smartphone so you can log right there in the buffet line. Lose It is my favorite.. You can even scan the bar code of those chips on the table and know immediately how to fit them into your calorie allowance.
  10. Holiday stress can make you release the hormone grehlin which makes you hungry, and the stress hormone cortisol which can make you pack on the fat. Consider lessening your commitments and obligations so you aren’t pressed for time and will have enough sleep and mental clarity to withstand temptations that threaten to destroy your new good habits.

Are You Getting Enough Sleep?

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When you have enough sleep, cognitive and metabolic systems are humming smoothly but when you don’t have enough, you begin to accumulate a debt which some research shows has very negative repercussions. Below 7 hours a night puts you at much greater risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, depression and weight gain (Michaels, Jillian. Master Your Metabolism. 2009. Crown Publishers. p.190).

Even just one night without enough sleep can affect your mood and appetite, along with your ability to think clearly – like clearly enough to make healthy food choices.

When you don’t get enough sleep it causes your body to release more of the hunger hormone ghrelin, which makes you feel hungry, while it decreases the hormone leptin (known for making you feel satiated or full). Blood sugar levels can rise and one Chicago study showed you can become more insulin-resistant, even if you aren’t overweight or diabetic.

During sleep, you release human growth hormone HGH which helps you burn stored fat!

Schedule eight hours of sleep for health and happiness. Better yet, have a consistent bedtime every night.

To learn in depth about many other risks and benefits of sleep, read: The Promise of Sleep by William C. Dement

Additional Reference:
Associated Press. “Irregular Sleep Tied to Obesity, Other Health Problems” USA Today, May 7, 2008.