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Three Steps To Reaching Your Goals

Roughly 20% of the U.S. population has a gym membership.  Based on my 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, I would estimate that of that 20%, only one half to three quarters actually regularly and consistently use that membership. I find that the majority of people who struggle with consistency do so because they either lack focus and goals or because they fail to reach those goals.  At Fenton Fitness & Athletic Center, we have found there to be three key components to reaching any goal in the fitness and nutrition realm.

Setting the Goal

First and foremost, we must name our goal.  I suggest writing this goal down and possibly sharing this goal with somebody you trust and who supports you.  When choosing your goal, you want it to be specific, something that can be measured, something realistic/attainable, and you want to give yourself a time frame to accomplish the goal.  Think about why you want to reach that goal.  It can be helpful to place the written goal somewhere visible that you will see on a regular basis.  If we can’t make a given goal happen, we can alter our actions to bring us closer to that goal.

Behaviors/Skills

Once our goal is set, we want to write out the behaviors and skills needed to reach that goal.  For example, if your goal is to drop 20lbs, two key behaviors would be eating less calories and being more active.  In the case of somebody who wants to be able to Bench Press their body weight, their skills might be bench pressing progressively heavier weights 2-3 times each week and eating sufficient protein.

Habits/Practices

After setting our behaviors that are needed to achieve our goal, we must then set up our daily habits or practices that will lead to successful execution of our behaviors, which in turn will lead to achieving our goals.  Our habits for our sample goals might look like this:

            20 pounds weight loss (less calories, more activity)

            -Pack gym bag before going to bed and put in car, including a protein shake in bag

-Go to bed 7-8 hours before alarm is going to go off

-Wake up 15 minutes earlier to eat breakfast at home instead of fast food

-Workout at lunch hour instead of going out to eat with coworkers, drink shake instead of eating lunch.

            Bench Press Body weight (2-3 progressively heavier bench press workouts and more protein)

            -Go to bed 7-8 hours before alarm is going to go off

-Set alarm 1 hour early Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for early morning workout

-Prepare/plan breakfast the before going to bed and pack lunch for next day targeting 0.15-0.25g of protein/pound of body weight.

-Buy quality protein shake, protein bars, and/or Jerky to help supplement protein needs at snacks.  Keep them at home, in the car, and at work.

 

From start to finish it can be helpful to set up a chart that looks something like this.

It should be noted that it is best to only introduce one major goal at a time into your life.  I recommend picking just one goal and working on that for 3-12 months before adding or changing goals.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

 

Sarcopenia And The Media

Older individuals have the most to gain from strength training. Six weeks of dedicated strength training will normalize balance, rejuvenate posture, revive the metabolism, and eliminate long-standing pain.  I often tell physical therapy patients that strength training is the “fountain of youth”.  Unfortunately, it is difficult to convince older individuals that they need to become dedicated to a routine of consistent resistance training.  I recently got some help from Jane Brody in the New York Times, *Preventing Muscle Loss Among the Elderly.

Drs. Evans and Rosenburg are Tufts University researchers interested in the physical attributes that keep humans healthy and vigorous over an entire life span.  They have determined that the top four biomarkers are:

  1. Muscle Mass.  What percentage of your body is made of muscle?
  2. Strength.  Can you use that muscle to push, pull, lift and carry?
  3. Basal Metabolic Rate.  The number of calories your body expends at rest.
  4. Bodyfat Percentage.  What percentage of your body is composed of fat?

They named these top four biomarkers, the decisive tetrad.  They are the prerequisites to maintaining healthy numbers in all of the other essential biomarkers.

  1. Aerobic Capacity
  2. Blood Sugar Tolerance
  3. Cholesterol / HDL ratio
  4. Blood Pressure
  5. Bone Density
  6. Internal Body Temperature Regulation

Drs. Evans and Rosenburg coined the term age related sarcopenia in their 1991 book Biomarkers.  It refers to the gradual loss of muscle mass that occurs as we age.  The keys to aging well; staying durable- no injuries, and maintaining control of all health parameters is maintaining or improving muscle mass / strength and eating properly.  An ongoing program of strength training and nutritional discipline are the foremost components of fitness and health.

I was happy to see that Jane recommended her elderly compatriots consume more protein.  Not enormous amounts of protein- just some protein.  Many fitness clients fail to make optimal gains because they have the protein intake of a bunny rabbit.  Adequate training recovery requires the building blocks of muscle in order to produce results.  A bagel for breakfast, a kale sandwich at lunch, a yogurt snack and a diner of soup, bread and ice cream does not supply the nutrients necessary for recovery.

So, take the time to read the amazing Jane Brody and then get those dumbbells out of the basement.

*Brody, Jane. Preventing Muscle Loss Among the Elderly, September 1, 2018, New York Times.   View article

Michael O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

That pain in your arm or hand could be coming from somewhere else.  Read Mike O’Hara’s article, Changing Locations to find out more.  Jeff Tirrell gives nutrition tips and Mike discusses the benefits of using an agility ladder.

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Calculating Nutritional Needs

If you are hoping to see serious changes in your weight and body composition, then nutrition is going to play a huge role.  There are many parts to a solid nutrition plan.  For the purposes of weight gain/loss, we must look at overall energy intake.  A chronic surplus of calories consumed leads to weight gain, while a chronic deficit leads to weight loss.  But most people want to do more than to lose or gain weight.  Most individuals want to gain or maintain lean body mass (muscle, bone, organs, tendons/ligaments, water) while decreasing body fat.  For this, we need to focus on protein.  Nutrition needs to be based on performance goals, the types of activities you enjoy doing, your lifestyle, and your food preferences.  Adherence to a program is huge, so it’s important to pick a nutritional approach that fits within your lifestyle.

Calories: We must first start with calculating caloric needs.  First, determine a good target body weight (TBW).  This should be based on a healthy/realistic body composition range.  For men, this is typically 10-20% body fat, for women it tends to be 18-30%.  A good trainer can help you determine this number/range.  Once you have your TBW, we must determine your activity multiplier.  It is important to be brutally honest here, odds are you are 1 lower than you think.  The multipliers are:

Very Inactive & Older: Multiplier is 8.  This is for anybody who never does anything physical day to day.  They have a long commute, office job, and engage in little unplanned movement from day to day.  They are also over the age of 55.

Very Inactive: Multiplier is 9.  Same as above but for individuals under the age of 55.

Inactive: Multiplier is 10.  This for anyone who while mostly sedentary during the day, does get up and walk around or move several times per day.  This can also apply to someone who doesn’t move much during the day, but has a standing desk.

Moderately Active: Multiplier is 11.  This individual is never sitting for more than 90 minutes straight and moves around several times per day.  They also engage in leisurely activities a few times each week such as walking or casual bike riding.

Active: Multiplier is 12.  This individual sits no more than 60 minutes at a time during the day, and engages in leisurely activity 5-7 days per week.

Very Active: Multiplier is 13.  This is for individuals who have a very physically demanding job such as construction, landscaping, assembly line work, etc.

Hard Gainer: Multiplier is 14.  This is reserved only for those individuals who are trying to gain wait, have a very low body fat percentage (below the norms listed), and has never been able to gain wait.

The final thing we must determine is how many moderate to intense training hours we are going to perform each week.   Again, be realistic.  Don’t count warm up time, and if you think you are going to train 3-4 hours per week, use the low number for weight loss and the high number for weight gain.  Here is what the equation looks like:

(TBW x (activity multiplier + training hours))=estimated caloric needs

Here are two examples to help you work through this:

200lb male, with a target body weight of 185lbs who is inactive, and trains 3 hours/week.

(185 x (10+3))=2405 calories/day

150lb female, with a target body weight of 140lbs who is very active and trains 2 hours/week.  (140 x (13+2))= 2100 calories/day.

Protein:  Now that calories have been determined, we must determine protein intake.  Calories will dictate weight gain/loss.  Protein will help preserve or increase lean body mass.  Protein intake should be set at 0.72 up to 1g per pound of target body weight (TBW).  So, for our 2 examples listed earlier, we would have the following:

200lb male with a TBW of 185lbs.  0.72 x 185= 133.2g

The low end would be 133 grams of protein, and we could go up to 185 grams reasonably.

150lb female with TBW of 140lbs. 0.72 x 140= 100.8g

This puts our low end at 101 grams of protein with the upper reasonable range of 140g.

There are 4 calories in 1 gram of protein.  This will come into play when we set our carbohydrate intake later.   Our male would be targeting 133-185g of protein per day which equates to 532-740 calories coming from protein.  For our female, we have targets of 101-140g of protein each day with 404-560 calories coming from protein:

Fat: Fat is essential for optimal hormonal health and should be consumed from a variety of sources.  There is no good or bad fat (outside of trans fats), we should simply seek a variety of fat sources.  Fats (just like carbohydrates) have a huge healthy range you can pick from based on food preference and tolerance.  Fat should make up 20% of your calories at a minimum, but can go as high as 1g per pound of target body weight (TBW).  Using our previous examples:

200lb male, with a TBW of 185lbs.  Calories projected at 2405/day.   0.2 x 2405=481 calories coming from fat.  There are 9 calories in each gram of fat.  So, we take 481/9=53 grams of fat each day for the lowest possible number.  The upper end would be 185g or 1665 calories from fat.  Our fat range could be 53g (481 calories) up to 185g (1665 calories).

150lb female, with TBW of 140lbs.  Calories projected at 2100/day.   0.2 x 2100=420 calories from fat.  420/9=47 g of fat.  Her low end would be 47g (420 calories from fat) up to 140g (1260 calories from fat).

Carbohydrates:  While carbohydrates are not technically essential in our diet, your brain prefers them for fuel, and intense exercise tends to be best fueled through their inclusion.  However, for the recreational gym goer who trains 2-4 days per week, the amount of carbohydrate intake probably has minimal bearing on progress.  Food preference, as well as how your body tolerates different levels should be your main determinant in setting levels here.  To determine carbohydrate levels, we simply take your remaining calories (after setting protein and fat intakes) and a lot them to carbohydrate intake.  There are 4 calories in 1 gram of carbohydrate.  So again, using our previous examples, we would have the following:

200lb male with TBW of 185lbs.  2405 calories per day, sets protein at 0.72/lb of TBW.  This equals 133g of Protein (532 calories).  This guy loves fat so he sets his fat at 1g per pound of TBW.  This would be 185g of fat (1665 calories).  So 2405-(532+1665)=208 remaining calories.  208/4=52 grams of carbohydrate.  Same guy may also choose to up protein to 1g/lb of TBW.  This would give us 185g protein (740 calories).  Let’s say he loves pasta, bread, etc.  So, he sets his fat to the minimum of 53 grams (481 calories).  In this example we have 2405-(740+481)=1184 calories from carbohydrates.  1184/4=296 grams of carbohydrate per day.  There is an endless combination of macronutrients here.

Conclusion: There are many approaches that can be used when determining nutritional needs.  The most important variable is adherence.  Can you stick to this approach long term?  Data suggests that both very low carbohydrate diets (under 100g) and very low fat diets (under 15% of total calories) are difficult to maintain beyond 6 months.  Do the foods you eat make you feel energized, taste good, and satisfy you?  These are all things that should be considered.  We want to emphasize whole foods, while not avoiding any food group entirely unless you have a proven medical condition.  These equations are to be used to help you set baseline numbers.  For weight loss, we should target 0.5% up to 1.5% body weight lost each week.  For weight gain, we should target 0.25% up to 1% body weight gain each month.  If your rates fall below or above those respective rates, we simply need to increase/decrease caloric intake accordingly.  For help setting your numbers schedule your nutrition consultation by reaching out at jeff@fentonfitness.com or calling 810-750-0351.  Nutrition coaching is available for those that require more education and/or accountability.

-Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CFSC, Pn1

 

Stay independent longer by increasing your stair climbing capacity.  Mike O’Hara shows you how in his article, “Keep Climbing”.  Mike also discusses standing desks and the many benefits of standing while working.  Jeff Tirrell explains the effect of exercise on appetite.

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Our June issue brings information on preventing neck pain by strengthening your neck.  Mike O’Hara describes and demonstrates in a video exercises that will help strengthen the muscles of your neck.  In another article, Mike tells how grip strength can be a predictor of early death in some patients.  Be sure to read Jeff Tirrell’s article on performance based training.

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100 Steps Per Minute

Step Cadence and Fitness

Exercise researchers have been studying gait cadence for years.  A cadence of 80 steps a minute is a stroll.  100 steps a minute is considered a brisk walk.  At 130-140 steps a minute, you move into jog or slow run.  Recent high tech evaluations of gait cadence has been able to predict the onset of dementia in older people.  For many people, walking is their primary form of exercise.  Gretchen Reynolds has written an excellent *article on the walking cadence that produces optimal health benefits.

A compilation of many studies has found that 100 steps per minute is the sweet spot for walkers under the age of sixty.  The data for older walkers has yet to be fully evaluated, but it appears a slightly slower cadence is a good goal.

I like evaluations of performance.  Evaluations tell you if you are getting better or getting worse.  The human body is in a constant state of adaptation and never stays the same.  Keep track of your cadence by counting your steps for twenty seconds and then multiplying by four.  Use that information to track your fitness level.  Ideally it should get easier to walk, at faster pace over a greater period of time.

15 x 4 = 60 Pokey Joe.

20 x 4 = 80 Still too slow.

25 x 4 = 100 Good job.

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

*Walk Briskly for Your Health.  About 100 Steps a Minute, Gretchen Reynolds, New York Times, June 27, 2018

View: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/27/well/walk-health-exercise-steps.html

Lumbar Spine Fitness Guidelines

Janet injured her lower back while exercising in her local gym.  She was taking a trip through her favorite “ab ciruit” when she felt a snap in her lumbar spine.  The next day she was unable to stand up straight.  Two weeks later, we met her in physical therapy for her initial evaluation.  She was ready to return to her fitness program three weeks later.  Janet was very concerned she may suffer another exercise induced back injury and requested some advice.  These are the simple guidelines I give to physical therapy low back patients returning to exercise.

Mobilize the Thoracic Spine and Hips

Movement is supposed to happen at the thoracic spine and hips.  Unfortunately, prolonged sitting, deconditioning, and poor training choices tends to restrict mobility in these areas.  If you are unable to rotate and extend at the hips and thoracic spine, your brain will use other joints to make up for the deficit.  Pushing extra rotation and extension forces into your lumbar spine is never a good thing.  Dedicate some training time to improving thoracic spine rotation and hip extension / internal rotation range of motion.  If you sit for a living, work on your mobility everyday.

Make the Lumbar Spine Stable

Most fitness clients believe that more lumbar spine movement is a good thing.  They perform toe touches, back twists, and the many breeds of up and down dogs.  Unfortunately, greater lumbar spine range of motion is positively correlated with a higher incidence of lower back pain.  The incidence of low back pain escalates even further when we move those hypermobile lumbar spine segments against a resistance.  What does keep lumbar spines healthy is high level of lumbar spine strength endurance.  Can you hold the lumbar spine stable and prevent movement from occurring at the pelvis and five lumbar vertebrae.  Your lumbar spine stays happy and healthy when you focus training efforts on planks, roll outs, crawls, carries, and Pallof press exercises.  Avoid the sit ups, crunches, sidebends, toes to bar, and other assorted “ab” exercises that create lots lumbar spine motion.

Avoid Muscle Isolation Exercise Activities

The muscles that support the lumbar spine work together as part of a neurally connected team.  Training activities that support better communication between the team members will create optimal performance.  The neuroanatomy saying is “What fires together, wires together”.  Ditch the “upper abs”, “lower abs” baloney and sprint away from anyone who trys to strap you into a machine in an effort to “isolate your obliques”.

On her discharge from therapy, Janet was unable to perform a single roll out and fatigue fairly quickly with a twelve pound suitcase carry.  For the last three months, she has followed the guidelines and her progress has been excellent.   Janet is currently performing a suitcase carry with fifty pounds and has worked up to ten full reps on an ab wheel roll out.

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

In our May issue, Mike O’Hara discusses the importance of walking.  If you have pain or difficulty with walking, there are things that help.  Mike demonstrates some exercises to get you ready.  Be sure to read Jeff Tirrell’s article on squatting, and read about Afterburn–a new class at Fenton Fitness that uses heart rate monitors while training.

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World’s Best Diet Part 9–Fasting

If you google the word diet, you will come up with over 200,000 results.  Every week, month, year, and decade a new study or article comes out claiming certain foods are killing us, or that some other food or nutritional approach will lead us to the promised land.  Unfortunately, articles are written to create traffic, so scientific research is often misreported or spun to sell magazines or generate website traffic.  The truth is, there are many ways to skin a cat.  All of the evidence on nutrition (in regards to weight loss) points to two undeniable truths.  First, that dietary adherence is king.  It doesn’t matter how perfect or evidence based a nutrition plan is, if you can’t follow it, it doesn’t matter.  Before starting any eating plan, you must ask yourself how easy it will be to maintain long term.  Second, you must achieve an energy deficit to lose weight (eat less energy than you expend each day).  Though “calories in, calories out” may be slightly over simplified, it is still the underlying rule to any weight loss success.   For any weight loss plan to work, you must consistently follow the pla, and you must be in a caloric deficit.  This series will highlight the nine most popular current nutrition approaches, and the pros and cons of each.

Fasting

Claims: There are a ton of different approaches to fasting.  The most common are ADF (alternate day fasting) and IF (intermittent fasting).  ADF simply means that one day you eat nothing, followed by a day of standard eating.  IF is a restricted eating format where you don’t eat for a given period of time (16 hours being the most popular) followed by a feeding window where you eat regularly (8 hours in the 16 hour example above).  Every person fasts when they sleep by default, the various fasting protocols simply extend this fast one way or the other.  Purported benefits include improved insulin sensitivity, improved heart health, weight loss, better brain function, and some eve claim better performance.

Reality:  There is nothing magical about fasting.  When calories are controlled for fasting protocols seem to offer many of the health benefits that other diets show (improved heart health, improved insulin sensitivity, weight loss, etc.).  One unique potential benefit is that of life extension.  Several animal studies have shown this to be the case, but more research is needed.

Pros:No off limit foods.  Even without tracking food directly many people will eat less food by reducing the window of time in which they eat food.  This is probably one of the simplest plans to follow in concept.  If you can tell the time you can follow this plan.

Cons: No emphasis on food quality, or protein intake.  May not get enough vitamins and minerals in if you aren’t sure to emphasize getting a large amount of whole and unprocessed foods since you aren’t eating on a daily basis.  May be harder to maintain muscle mass (though research hasn’t shown this yet).  Could lead to binge eating behaviors during the feeding window in some individuals.  If this is you, this plan is not right for you.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CFSC, Pn1

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