Will That Machine Help Me?
Home Gym Hints
Television ads, holiday gift giving, and the return of frigid temperatures brings out the “What cardio machine should I purchase for my home?” question. Is it the bike with an internet trainer, the fat blasting high intensity elliptical trainer, or the Euro designed Nordic ski machine? Many of these units sell for over $3000 and they wish to choose wisely. Most of the questioners have no experience with any of these gizmos. I have some pre-purchase questions they need to answer before buying that expensive cardio machine.
Can you currently walk for thirty minutes without stopping to rest?
If you answer no to that question, do not bother purchasing a treadmill, bike, or elliptical unit. Focus all of your efforts on developing the strength and skill necessary to walk for thirty minutes without resting. If pain is a limitation, get to the physical therapy clinic and resolve the problem. Walking is the essential neuromuscular activity that keeps a body healthy and out of the assisted living center. Leaning over on a treadmill, elliptical trainer, or recumbent bike is very likely to worsen those walking woes.
Do you have a prior history of consistent exercise?
Just owning a new high-tech training machine will not make you thinner or fitter. You must use the machine three or four days a week for the next year. Many people believe that locating the machine in the dwelling will jump-start the exercise habit. If you answer no to this question, I have concerns that you will not develop a relationship with your internet connected mechanical friend.
Is fat loss the primary reason you are purchasing the home exercise machine?
The fat loss the exercise motto everyone needs to learn is; “familiarity breeds failure”. The human body is a master at adapting to a physical stress and the forty-five minute spin class that burns 440 calories in February only consumes 180 calories in August. The sad truth is that the same amount of exercise time and effort produces a weaker fat loss response. The crucial components for fat loss are long duration meal preparation and high intensity portion awareness. After you get those under control, progress to activities that you find challenging (difficult, not good at, loath, hate) and change the training modality on a frequent basis. Using the same exercise device month after month will not produce optimal results.
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.
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.
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.
The Cumulative Effect of Activity
Many people are put off from starting an exercise routine because they are overwhelmed by the time commitment they feel is necessary. Fitness magazines, exercise experts, and everything on youtube preaches–
–30 minutes of cardio three times a week
–45 minutes of strength training twice a week
–150 minutes of exercise per week
Most of this well-intentioned advice is wrong. Nearly everyone can derive significant benefit from short bouts of fitness activity that are performed on a consistent basis. Walk for five minutes twice a day. A simple routine of two strengthening exercises will take no more than five minutes. Climb the stairs in your home three times once a day. Practice getting up and down of the floor. Stay consistent with a routine of short exercise bouts and you will be healthier and stay independent for a lifetime.
More research has demonstrated the beneficial effect of short exercise sessions interspersed throughout the day. Read the March 28, 2018, New York Times article by Gretchen Reynolds, Those 2-Minute Walk Breaks? They Add Up. View the article: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/28/well/move/walking-exercise-minutes-death-longevity.html
Mike 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.
Keep your shoulders and spine happy and strong by following Mike O’Hara’s advice in “Pushing Up Performance”. Video explanation and performance of pushups and their variations included. Jeff Tirrell discusses the proper performance of pull ups in his article. “Movement You Should Master”. Is your mobility limited? Try massage sticks or foam rollers with the information provided in “Pain, Pressure, and Pliability”.
Slant and Pant
HIIT Methods: Incline Treadmill Walking
Fitness centers present the client with an endless array of cardio training entertainment. You can spin a bike, wheel around on an elliptical, run on a treadmill, row, ski,… My recommendation is that we all start performing more incline treadmill walking intervals. There are three big benefits you get from incline treadmill intervals that you do not get from any of the other cardio contraptions.
Single leg stance stability is a skill we all need to keep in our fitness programs. Our independence and well-being is based upon being able to repeatedly balance, load, and then drive forward off a single leg. Since we are all sitting more, we need to make an effort to practice the elaborate leg to leg “game of catch” that happens when we walk. It is a sad fact that most of the more popular training devices in the gym have made exercise easier by eliminating the single leg stability demand.
Hip extension is the movement of your thigh bone (femur) behind your body. Hip extension keeps your hamstring and gluteal muscles strong and responsive. Well functioning hamstrings and gluteals keep your knees and lower back healthy and happy. In the age of perpetual sitting and very little squatting and sprinting, hip extension has become a lost movement pattern. Improving hip extension strength should be part of every training session.
Walking on an incline reboots the postural reflexes that hold us tight and tall. Prolonged sitting, improper training, and weakness shuts down the team of muscles that keep our spine stable and upright. As fatigue sets in, you can slouch over on a bike, slump onto the elliptical, or fold into a rower and continue to exercise. If you lose your posture on the incline treadmill walk, you slide down the belt. Many fitness clients report this is the hardest part of an incline treadmill session–their muscles in the middle fatigue before their legs.
Finding your initial incline and walking pace will be a trial and error endeavor. My suggestion is that you start easy. I find most newbies to incline treadmill intervals do well with a 5% incline and a 3.5 mph pace. Incline treadmill training makes you stronger in all of the most neglected places. Many people report they are able to significantly advance incline and speed with four months of dedicated training. For the best results, frequently vary the intervals that you perform. These are some of the sessions I have found work well for fitness clients.
90 seconds on / 45 seconds off
Walk for ninety seconds. Step off the treadmill and rest for forty five seconds and repeat for three to six intervals. The two to one work / rest ratio works well for nearly all fitness clients that are new to incline treadmill walking.
Quarter Mile Repeats
Get a stopwatch and track your performance on this interval session. Set the treadmill speed and incline. Walk ¼ of a mile. Rest as needed and then repeat. Perform four ¼ mile incline walks. Record your time to complete all four ¼ mile walks. I find this to be a good test of cardiorespiratory recovery capacity. Work toward a faster performance.
10 seconds on / 10 seconds off x 10
This comes directly from Dr. Gibalas research on HIIT. This protocol has been shown to be as or more effective at improving insulin sensitivity and cardiorespiratory capacity than longer training sessions. Set the treadmill at a slightly higher incline. Walk ten seconds and then step off and rest for ten seconds. Perform ten of these ten second intervals.
2/10th, 3/10th, 5/10th Mile Interval Session
Get a stopwatch and track your performance on this interval session. Set the treadmill speed and incline. Walk 2/10th of a mile. Rest as needed and then perform 3/10th of a mile. Rest as needed and then perform 5/10th of a mile. Record your time to complete all three intervals. As you get stronger your times will improve.
For more information on the many benefits of HIIT read the The One Minute Workout by Dr. Martin Gibala.
Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS
Train your hip adductors and bulletproof your legs by following the advice in Mike O’Hara’s article Adductors Galore. Video demonstration and explanation included. Mobilize your upper body by foam rolling. In Foam Roll T W I, Mike explains the importance of adding foam rolling to your exercise program.
Americans are far behind the rest of the world when it comes to the number of steps we take in a day. The body mass index numbers and mortality rates of our fellow citizens are rising in direct proportion to time spent seated. Human physiology operates optimally under the physical demands of a significant amount of standing and walking. Much of the now rampant obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome can be linked to our species sudden fall into sustained sitting. Standing for most of your workday and a daily habit of walking pays huge health and fitness benefits.
We are de-evolving into a nation of sitters. Between internet, television, driving, and computer work, it is not uncommon for many of my physical therapy patients and fitness clients to sit for ten hours a day. Unfortunately, you cannot train away the metabolic and physical damage created by prolonged sitting with a few 45 minute exercise sessions every week.
Seventy years ago, the London Transit Workers Study provided the initial scientific insights into the powerful health benefits of sitting less and standing more. Take the time to read the recent *article by Gretchen Reynolds in the March 23, 2017 edition of the New York Times. Ms. Reynolds’ provides some valuable information on the benefits of standing up and moving as much as possible. Now go for a walk and then Google Varidesk.
–Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS
*Should 15,000 Steps a Day Be Our New Exercise Target?, Gretchen Reynolds, New York Times, March 23, 2017