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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Q&A, Soreness/Pain

Q&A: Low Back Pain

lowbackQ:  I was standing and praying all day in Synagogue for Yom Kippur – at least 3-4 hours at a stretch and I had a long walk there from my house, too.  My low back is aching.  Is yours?  Do you have any exercises I should do?  I hear that I should strengthen my abs but my stomach is strong already.  Please don’t use my name in your blog post. I don’t want people to think I am unhealthy.  It just came up because I was standing so long on Yom Kippur and not something that happens to me all the time.

(Achy Back, Some Synagogue in America–Name withheld upon request)

A:  Dear Achy Back,

Don’t worry. Nobody will figure out who you are!  80% (some experts even say 90%) of Americans suffer from low back pain at some point. The majority of folks suffering are between the ages of 25 and 60.

Most cases are due to poor body mechanics – posture/muscle imbalances and not from things like cancer, arthritis, or fractures, bone loss or kidney stones etc.  Though those things can also cause back pain.   Before simply pointing you in the direction of some good core strengthening exercises (as opposed to ab exercises like situps/crunches), the better more complete approach would be to do a postural assessment to see if any muscle imbalances might be causing your discomfort.

A few postural deviations which can lead to low back pain include lordosis (sway back/overly arched lumbar spine and an anterior pelvic tilt), kyposis (hunch back, rounded shoulders and perhaps a forward jutting head) or hip and shoulder height discrepancies which might indicate a spinal curviture/scoliosis.

For those who tend toward lordosis and have an anterior pelvic tilt, I would strengthen the abdominals and stretch the iliospoas and erector spinae muscles.  For those with kyposis, I would strengthen the mid-trapezius and rhomboids and stretch the chest – the pectoralis major and the anterior deltoids.

Performing traditional ab exercises without proper lumbo-pelvic-hip stabilization has been shown to increase pressure on the discs and compressive forces in the lumbar spine actually.   So I think it would be more prudent to work on core stability before building you some abs.

  1. The drawing-in maneuver:   Get on your hands and knees on the floor like a dog.  Make sure your hands are under the shoulders and your ears are in line with your shoulders and there’s a straight line – ears, shoulders and hips.  Knees are directly under the hips.  Maintaining this neutral spinal position, now pull the region just below your belly button toward your spine.
  2. You can also lie on your back with your knees bent, feet on the floor, toes pointing straight ahead, arms and palms down at your sides and lift one leg at a time marching.
  3. Floor bridge.  Staying on your back with knees bent, feet shoulder width apart, arms by your sides, palms down, push though your heels and raise your hips off the floor as you draw your navel in and activate your butt muscles.  Raise your hips until your knees, hips and shoulders are in a straight line.  Slowly lower to the floor.
  4. Floor prone cobra:  Lie on your tummy on the floor, arms at your sides, palms facing the ground.  Draw your navel in, activate your butt muscles, pinch your shoulder blades together as you raise your head and chest off the floor.  (Keep legs and hips on the floor.) Hold for 1-2 seconds and slowly return to the floor keeping your chin tucked.
  5. Plank.  Lie with your belly facing the floor, feet together, elbows under shoulders and forearms on the ground.  Draw your abs in and activate your butt muscles.  Lift your whole body off the ground.  The only parts touching the floor are the balls of your feet and toes, and your elbow and forearm and fist/hand.  (If this is too difficult, you could do it in a modified push-up position – knees and hands on the floor)

Once your core is stable, we could build you some abs and strengthen your low back more to further improve your kinetic chain and prevent the low back pain.  Remember not to hold your breath during these exercises!!

Here are a few other tips to prevent low back pain: maintain a healthy weight, stay active, lift with your thighs by bending at the knee instead of the waist when lifting heavy objects and avoid twisting while lifting. Wear low-heeled shoes.

Diet, Q&A

Juicing – Good or Bad?

I was asked this question 3 three times last week in more or less the same form:juicing

“Kayla, I have some weight to lose and I was thinking about juicing, you know, drinking lots of fresh fruits and veggies all day. What do you think of that? Is it safe and effective?”

ADVANTAGES
It’s easy to see the benefits of juicing.

Most of our diets are too high in fat and lacking in necessary nutrients.

We don’t consume enough fruits and vegetables.  Some proponents claim the antioxidant vitamins, chlorophyll and enzymes, as well as the water content of fresh fruit and vegetable juices help keep us strong, healthy and more resistant to disease.

If you don’t enjoy eating fruits or vegetables, juicing can make eating them more pleasant.

When sweetened with beets or apples or bananas and oranges, you hardly notice the bitterness of vegetables such as collard greens and kale.

You can also get creative with your combinations.  It can also be convenient – you can have it on the go, in your car or at your desk.

It’s also an excellent way to boost your fluid levels since fruits and veggies are water-rich and it is a far better choice for hydration than coffee or soft drinks.

Fresh juices also don’t contain any preservatives or chemicals like factory processed drinks can.  It can be good for those who have difficulties digesting fiber to get their nutrients.

DISADVANTAGES
There are some drawbacks however.

Many fruits are high on the glycemic index, meaning they contain a lot of sugar and the impact on your bloodstream is higher than if you had consumed the whole fruit with all of its fiber, which can slow down the impact of those sugars.

When the body has to cope with an high increase of blood sugar, the pancreas has to release insulin.  The yo-yo effect it has on your system can give you spikes of energy followed by feelings of sluggishness and lethargy.

It can also make you store fat.

Further, for diabetics and those who need to limit their sugar intake, its not always the best choice.

Fruit juices can pack a lot of calories.

Juicing can take out the fiber of the fruit and vegetables and we need that fiber, not just to slow down the absorption of the sugar, but for aiding the absorption of nutrients, for the health of our colon (fiber keeps us regular and reduces the risk of colon cancer).  Fiber helps you feel fuller longer too.

Some vegetables are actually better for you when cooked!

It can also be time consuming and expensive.  Juice tastes best freshly made. It loses some of its nutritional value as it oxidizes in the fridge and can taste less appetizing. Juices are best consumed within a day to keep all the enzymes.  Not everyone has time to do all the cutting and peeling daily.  Plus, juicers can cost $200+ and you need a lot of fruits and veggies to produce a lot of juice.

Cleaning out that juicer is also time-consuming. (Of course you could purchase juices at the store and give up some of the nutritional value for the convenience.)

What about protein??  You need to consume certain number of grams of protein per day and I’m pretty sure if you are consuming fruit and vegetable juices for every meal you won’t get it.  (To get the number of grams of protein your body needs, take your weight in kg and multiply that by .8 to get the number of grams of protein you must consume daily).

BOTTOM LINE
So are you for it or against it Kayla?

Well, I’m for it and against it.

If you are struggling with your weight, the sugar calories in all the fruit juices might not help you out.   If you want to have a cup of juice and weight is your concern, make it a cup of juice that’s mostly veggies – or at a minimum, include some veggies you wouldn’t otherwise eat if they weren’t covered in fruit juice.  And make it a snack, not every
meal for the whole day or you will be missing out on important protein and fiber and necessary fats.

Another option is to use a blender – so you get the fiber as well as the juice..and add in some Greek yogurt for protein, or a protein powder, to make it a meal.

Consume the same day or freeze for maximum freshness.

Overall juicing, can be a good thing but please use the rule of moderation and eat real food, not just juice all day long for every meal and consult with your doctor or Registered Dietitian for specific meal plans — (I work with two Registered Dietitians whom I trust and would be happy to refer you).

Remember, do not drop your calories below 1200 for women and 1400 for men or you run the risk of metabolizing your own muscle tissue for fuel.  While you will lose weight at these dangerously low calorie levels, you will be slowing down your metabolism and when you do finally eat normally, you will pack on weight that much more readily and likely have more difficulty getting it off.

Eating healthy is important, but don’t delude yourself into thinking you can skip your workouts because you had some juice. You need a sensible diet and exercise for sustained weight loss.

Diet, Exercise, Q&A

FAQ – Diet Without Exercise?

Dear Kayla,4803786_s

Ever since I learned that 80% of fat loss has to do with diet, I think I lost my will to exercise. I kind of know its good for me and every time I see you, I think to myself I should do it, but I don’t really feel motivated.—M. from Los Angeles

———

Dear M,

It’s great that you are becoming educated about your body.  Its true that diet, including what you eat, when you eat it and in what quantity has so much to do with weight loss.  Trainers like me can only help you maximize the other 20% of the picture when it comes to getting you to your ideal body weight.

But there’s more to life and more to being healthy than simply being thin!  You can be thin and not necessarily be healthy.  I’d like to think I help people do more than look hot in their skinny jeans–we are talking about quality of life and possibly the duration of your life as well!

So, you mean you are dieting, but you aren’t exercising?  Ouch.  You could be losing muscle, too…That’s not pretty.  There are so many benefits to regular exercise:

Exercise decreases your risk of some cancers:

Cardiovascular activities have been shown to reduce cardio vascular disease risks because they:

  • Decrease triglycerides
  • Increase HDL cholesterol
  • Reduce resting blood pressure
  • Reduce insulin needs
  • Reduce blood platelet adhesiveness
  • Increase stamina, endurance and energy
  • Strengthen the heart
  • Decrease heart rate and blood pressure at sub maximal levels
  • Increase maximal oxygen uptake
  • Improve immune function
  • Improve sleep

Strength Training Benefits Include:

  • Increased functional ability/ability to perform the activities of daily living. (Being more fit means you can do more with less effort)
  • Increased bone density
  • Decreased sarcopenia (age-related muscle loss)
  • Potentially increased metabolism (making it easier for you maintain a healthy weight)
  • Decreased risk of injury
  • Increased strength of connective tissue
  • Increased motor performance
  • Improved feelings of well-being and self-confidence

Additionally, circuit weight training (where one resistance exercise is performed one after the other without rest for 20 minutes or more) may result in:

  • Reduction in blood pressure at rest
  • Improved lipid profile
  • Improved glucose tolerance

Just stretching alone can provide the following benefits:

  • Decreased stress
  • Relief of muscle soreness
  • Decreased muscle tension
  • Improved posture
  • Decreased low-back pain
  • Improved ability to perform daily activities

It’s a choice, really. You have to make the time for exercise and you have to choose to make exercise a priority or it won’t happen.

There are lots of things we know we should do in life that we don’t necessarily want to – change diapers, pay taxes etc. but we get through it. Maybe you haven’t been able to find something fun?  If you can’t–just do it anyway!

Ideally for optimal health, we want 3-4 days a week of cardio and 2-3 days of strength training.  Flexibility training could take place 2-3 days a week, but ideally 5-7 days/week.  If you have been sedentary, you will need to start slowly and work up to this ..for example start walking maybe with just a 10 minute walk a few times a week and increase the duration and/or distance as you build your strength.

Both a sensible diet and exercise are needed to achieve optimal health.

Hope to see you Monday for cardio kickboxing!

Flexibility/Stretching, Q&A

Stretching: When, How, and for How Long?

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

Q&A

Q&A: Is It OK To Exercise When I Have A Cold

(Originally posted January 4, 2012)

Before the ink dried on my own new year’s fitness resolutions, the universe conspired to give me a one-two punch right back into bed with a cold. That got me thinking about the time back in college when I saw others “push through” a cold with exercise. My try at the same routine, back then, landed me in the infirmary with a case of Mono. So, is it a good idea to work out when you’re sick or not?

The answer: It depends on the kind of cold and what your body is telling you.

Don’t exercise if you have: a fever, widespread muscle aches or fatigue; if your symptoms are “below the neck”—like diarrhea, upset stomach, chest congestion, or hacking cough.

However, it may be ok to exercise if your signs and symptoms are all “above the neck” — symptoms such as sneezing, nasal congestion, runny nose, minor sore throat. If you choose to exercise when you have a mild cold, I recommend that you reduce the intensity and length of your workout so as not to risk more serious injury or illness.. Be aware that when you train hard, your body needs to repair the muscles that have been worked and this can further weaken your immune system. Take it easy. Go for a walk, not a run, for instance. Also, be considerate, and don’t contaminate others at the gym.

Listen to what your body is telling you! If you feel miserable, take the day off or even a week off. The few days won’t really affect performance. Be sure to resume your normal routine gradually as you start to feel better. Check with your Doctor if you’re still unsure if it’s OK to work out.

If you have other fitness questions, feel free to send a message and I’ll try and answer them here.

References: 

Laskowski, Edward R. M.D. Exercise and illness: Work out with a cold?

(June 18, 2011) Retrieved from:http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/exercise/AN01097