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Crunches are a Pain in the Neck

Question of the Month: Kayla, why does my head and neck hurt when doing crunches?

Crunches make my head hurt for so many reasons. As a trainer they hurt my head because I know that so many people think that doing more of them will get them the flat tummy they are after and also because so many people do them in a way that undermines those intentions. So many people complain when they hate situps and crunches because they hurt their necks or lower back.

The main form issues I see are folks tucking their chin to their chest and pulling down on the back of their head as they lift the shoulders off the floor.  Instead, to reduce neck strain, allow your head to be cradled by your hands and focus on keeping the elbows open. Exhale as you find a place on the ceiling to look at and as you raise your shoulders off the mat place your tongue on the roof of your mouth.  Also know that your neck strength is similar to other muscles- it gets stronger when you use it..but use it properly to avoid injury.

Another thing to think about is abdominal hollowing rather than bracing. When we brace sometimes we place pressure from the inside to the outside- in effect, poofing out the belly rather than pulling it in. This can exacerbate any weakness in the abdominal wall and even cause more major issues if there was a separation of the abdominal muscles during pregnancy. So instead, practice abdominal hollowing by exhaling your bellybutton to your spine. NPR did a wonderful guided abdominal hollowing routine you can download for free that is even safe for use during pregnancy and is very similar to what I do with clients to prepare them for proper crunch/situp form.

Speaking of situps, if you are doing old-school full situps you may be placing undue strain on your lower back. Consider instead the crunch with abdominal hollowing as described above or plank/modified plank which is like a girdle inside for your entire core not just the upper abs the way crunches focus.

If you have any questions about fitness or would like hands on help or coaching feel free to give me a call. I can even help with this via facetime/skype.

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Help, I’ve fallen off the Exercise Wagon

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If you just spent the last month like I did:(A) With a piece of honey cake in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other. (B) Doing an exercise routine exclusively made up of balancing hot dishes on one arm while walking laps in and out of the house. (C) Where relax and restore included multiple hours seated in meaningful contemplation or reading.. or (D) All of the above..AND/OR each week contained moments of forlorn looks in the mirror with concerns about your lack of energy and expanding waistline…Then you will want to read on about how to bounce back into working out.

First: Lets get real about expectations. You will want to pick up where you left off. This generally means you will want to return to the couch (Remember a body at rest tends to stay at rest from physics class in High School?!?) or You will want to jump headlong into cardio and double sessions in the gym. I want to take this moment to help you pause and do neither of those instinctive but completely unproductive impulses.

Instead, follow my

5 tips for getting back into exercise and fitness in a sustainable way:

1.Prepare for success. Lay your workout clothes and sneakers out before you go to bed. Schedule the workout in your planner and block out interruptions. Do that workout before you have time to think about it…because thinking during the next two weeks (your break back in period) will only get in your way.

2.Begin the way you mean to go on.  Plan on ONE thing you can stick with consistently FOREVER. Maybe that’s a 10 minute walk. Maybe that’s a 10 minute walk three times a week. Maybe that’s a 10 minute walk plus 20 setups and 10 modified pushups and a stretch. Maybe that’s eating a breakfast consisting of a carb and a protein for stable blood sugar. Pick that one thing you could reasonably stick with for the rest o yer life… and do it consistently for the next two weeks. If you don’t think you’re doing the keto diet for the rest o your life.. then you are not doing the keto diet— not today not next week, not ever. That means I want you to resist the urge to give 110% these first two weeks. You want to work out to a point where you notice there was something happening but not so sore you can’t move (and sometimes you can’t tell because soreness doesn’t kick in until 24-48 hours after).  This is NOT the time to push your limits. You do not want to miss a workout these first two weeks. You want consistency and consistency IS success. Soreness is not the indicator of success. Begin the way you mean to go on. I’m fairly certain you didn’t plan to go on needing to hold onto the walls easing yourself onto the toilet because …leg day. No. Nobody wants to live like that forever.

3.Read my post on SMART goals. Figure out your WHY and write that down. Why do you want to get fit? Wanna not die so soon? Write it down. Wanna look awesome for your niece’s wedding. Write it down. Wanna get up the stairs without passing out? Whatever that is figure it out now and write it down. Read this often. Put it in your phone. Do whatever you have to do. You’re in charge.

4.Have Fun. The more fun you have while doing the workout the more you will stick with it. Maybe you fell off the wagon because you were bored. Then try something new- a new class, a new sport, something which used to make you smile but you gave up years ago like dancing in your bedroom like Madonna to show tunes.

5.Get support. Need a sports bra, get it. New kicks, get it. Need to dial a friend, a counselor, a coach, a trainer? You can’t do this alone. You need support so plan that out. Register for a class or take that walk Wednesday with a friend. Always getting hurt on week two- call a trainer or a sports med doc or a physical therapist so you can move better and more.

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The Food Police

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I am NOT the food police. If you see me at a wedding, a kiddish, or a charity banquet and you are holding a pastry, you do not owe me an explanation or an apology. I didn’t ask and I wasn’t judging…That was all YOU.

I hear you. You “don’t always take a second helping of the beef stew”. You know you “shouldn’t really eat cold cuts because of the nitrate and cancer link but you have a taste for them right now”. You have been “really good all week and are limiting yourself to this one pastry and then you’re back on” your restrictive diet. You “know this food is bad but”… But nothing. You don’t actually owe me an explanation.

All of us make decisions.. a million decisions it seems about what we eat, how much we eat and when and where we eat it.  We don’t always comment about it to others. We aren’t always distressed about these choices… or maybe we do and we are?!?

After an especially long period of holidays, banquets, celebrations and community events I suspect I could tally more ladies commentaries about their food choices than other people. I know this because when  I explain in response to the comment about your food choice that I wasn’t thinking about it, or that I preferred the chocolate one, its usually followed with “yes but well you are a trainer..”

I’m gonna let you in on a secret. I’m trained to know about metabolism and some basic nutrition and unless you’re living under a rock, you also know a lot about foods and metabolism. I’m also a female who was raised in America reading the same magazine and watching tv and shopping at the same stores as you. I also want to look good in my clothes and I also know what I put in my mouth has some sort of effect on that. There’s a point at which some of this distress/concern about food can interfere with one’s joy in life though and it can snowball off of others and its important to keep an eye out or tune in about that.

Most of us are worried to some degree what others think of us, but I figure, while we’re worried what they are thinking of us, they are busy worrying about what we are thinking of them. It’s a wash. The other part of the time while you are concerned about looking gluttonous eating that second pastry they are probably thinking what you are thinking the rest of the time.. something mundane and completely unrelated like, “cute shoes but they really hurt my feet, maybe I should have gone with flats.” This is probably what I was thinking since I can’t manage heels with grace.

You, however, are the expert of You. Consider the function that choosing these foods or needing to justify choosing these foods serves for you. Is this respecting and listening to your body?  Are you able to eat that food with enjoyment and mindfulness or is your mind elsewhere?  If you find this distressing, or these types of decisions consume you, maybe book an appointment with the appropriate mental health professional for a session or two to discuss further. Trainers expertise is in movement and muscles. We are not the food police.

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

Muscle Cramps During Exercise?

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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

 

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.