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What is Balance Training and Should I Be Doing It?

Today, we continue the series on the benefits of exercise (you can click here to read that post in case you missed it) and specific types of exercises. (Read about Cardio Workouts here and Strength Training here.)

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According to Harvard Health Publications, guidelines from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommend a well-rounded plan of “aerobic activity, strength training, and balance exercises.”

What’s balance training?

It focuses on improving and/or maintaining stability (not falling over). Stable movement improve overall mobility.

Some types of training that emphasize balance are:

Yoga

Pilates

Various core and agility exercises

Some martial arts practices, such as Tai-chi

BenefitsPicture downloaded from Pixabay for strong-woman.com

  • Strengthens core muscles
  • Improves stability and mobility
  • Requires little to no equipment
  • Multiple variations of simple movements
  • Helpful to people at all fitness levels

In-house fitness expert, Mark Montalvo, says this:

“As we age, balance usually decreases resulting in falling or injury…this is why balance training is so important. It develops proprioception, which simply means how we move our bodies through space and time.

He says effective balance training should be performed in multiple directions of movement, in an unstable environment. It can be as simple as walking on a straight line or standing on one leg.Weight loss photo courtesy of pixabay published on strong-woman.com

Complicate that by standing on one leg while throwing or catching a ball.

Drawbacks/Risks

  • Must practice good form to reduce risk of injury
  • Progress is hard to measure

So, everyone can benefit from balance training, no matter the level of fitness. Being able to stay upright and stable will go a long way to keeping you healthy and well.

Remember to check with your health care professional before starting an exercise program. This is especially important if you’re under doctor’s care for a health condition.

What’s Strength Training and Why Should I Be Doing It?

What’s Strength Training and Why Should I Be Doing It?

I’ve talked about the benefits of exercise (you can click here to read that post in case you missed it) and specific types of exercises. (Read about Cardio Workouts here.)

Today, I’m covering some basic information about Strength Training.

You’ve probably heard you should be doing some sort of strength resistance training.

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Many women dismiss the idea because of a pre-conceived notion that “strength training” means bulked up biceps and oversized thighs, and walking around saying (in a deep voice), “I pick things up and put them down!”

But that’s the stuff of comic books and make-believe. Women who “bulk up” put forth tremendous effort, specialized nutrition, and intense training to achieve those results.

Strength Training – What is it and what are the benefits and drawbacks

Strength Training is focused movement of weight.

Benefits of strength training are:

  • Strengthens bones
  • Strengthens muscles
  • Improves stability and balance
  • Especially good for women who lose muscle mass more rapidly than men and loss is accelerated with age
  • Versatile – Can be mixed with many different types of exercises

    Artwork by Mark Montalvo
    Barbell

In-house fitness expert, (my husband) Mark Montalvo, says this about strength training:

“Most women don’t want to do strength training because they don’t want to bulk up. Strength training does build muscle. However, women who build large amounts of muscle mass while lifting weights are usually doing other things to enhance their results.

Strength training is important because it helps reduce body fat and burn calories for longer than just doing cardio or any other type of exercise. It can significantly help in maintaining a healthy weight.

It also helps preserve and build bone mass, which is important as we age. For women in particular, building bone mass helps reduce the onset of osteoporosis.”

Drawbacks/RisksPhoto courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com

  • Requires equipment
  • Must practice good form to reduce risk of injury
  • Some people find weight lifting hugely boring – lifting things up and putting them down isn’t very exciting
  • In order to ensure proper form and technique, you may need a coach or trainer

 

Most weight lifting will not accelerate the heart rate for prolonged periods of time (anaerobic) so in order to get full-body benefits, you need to incorporate some kind of cardio.

 

As always, it’s important to check with your health care professional before starting an exercise program, especially if you’re under doctor’s care for a health condition.

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Exercise and Good Nutrition: Why You Need Both

The first time I trained for a half-marathon, I thought, “Okay, this is good.  I’ll be burning a ton of calories running all these miles and I’ll probably drop a few pounds. Awesome!”

And, yeah, I burned lots of calories, but I didn’t lose weight. Not at all.

The saying goes: You can’t outrun (or out-lift, out-train) a bad diet.

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That means, exercise alone isn’t enough.

If you really want results, you need both: regular exercise and good nutrition.

How can it possible that even when you’re burning a lot more calories you don’t lose weight?

One possibility is a phenomenon called “The Halo Effect”

The Halo Effect

In a nutshell, it’s when you think something or some one is so good it’s hard for you to be objective.photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com

When it comes to fitness, the halo effect is:
I work out so I can eat whatever I want.

Sure, I can have dessert and a jumbo margarita! I just ran 10 miles.

 

I’m running a 5k tomorrow. I can have an extra serving.

The Halo Effect results in a person losing objectivity and allowing herself more high calorie indulgences or “rewards” because she worked out.

Thus the saying: You can’t outrun, out-lift, or out-train a bad diet.

In my experience, nutrition is way more critical in losing and maintaining a healthy weight than exercise, but it’s also the more challenging component.

And, it seems that the nutrition piece becomes even more important with age. You may be thinking, “I used to be able to eat whatever I want and never gain a pound.” [I’ve never said that, personally.]

So how do you do it? What’s the easiest way to get the best results from all your hours at the gym?

Here are a few tips on how to incorporate exercise and nutrition for the best results

Eat clean

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Simply put, eating clean means eating whole foods in their most natural form as possible. For example, if you have a choice between an apple, apple sauce, and an apple flavored, gluten-free fruit chew, the apple’s the best choice. Choose minimally processed food with no added sugar whenever possible.

Eat more vegetables

At every meal, have at least one serving of vegetables, and shoot for 2 – 3 servings each meal. Starchy vegetables like corn and potatoes don’t count. 

Drink water to stay hydrated

The standard recommendation is to drink half your body weight in ounces every day and even more than that if you’ve been sweating. Adequate hydration improves all bodily functions. Not drinking enough water can cause dehydration which can result in problems such as headaches, constipation, muscle cramps, and more.

Be aware of added sugar in beverages and choose accordingly

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Sports drinks, soda, fruit juice, adult beverages, and sweetened coffee drinks often have a ton of added sugar and a ton of extra calories.

Many restaurants now have calories per serving listed right on the menu and others have nutrition information on their website. It’s worth taking a look.

Read labels for ingredients and serving size

When you look for calories on the label, don’t forget to check the serving size.

For more information, read How to Read a Food Label

The most important thing is to find what works for you and then stick with it. For more recommendations and nutrition tips at How to Start Eating Healthy and Stick to It

Over the past few years of working out and finding what works best for me, I discovered that exercise has many benefits but losing weight isn’t one of them. Maybe that’s because of the Halo Effect. I don’t know for sure.

What I know for sure is that making good nutrition choices improves my overall feeling of health, wellness, and fitness. I make my share of bad choices and I’m not anywhere near perfect, but when I do these things most of the time:

  • Eat clean
  • Eat my veggies
  • Drink water
  • Avoid added sugar
  • Pay attention to food labels

I get better results. It’s most likely, you will too.

How about you? Do you agree with the statement: “You can’t outrun a bad diet”? What works best for you?

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The Hardest Part of a Workout is Showing Up

When it come to exercising, sometimes the hardest part is showing up.

You may know exercise is good for you.  Maybe you really want to start exercising, but something always comes up and you can’t seem to get started.

You know you really should do it. And that it takes a commitment to do it. (Read more at Exercise – The First Step is the Hardest)

Still, you can’t quite figure out why you can’t get going.

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It’s hard to get moving.

It’s tempting to compare yourself to others, such as some one who seems committed to his or her exercise routines and think, “I could never be that disciplined.”

Or to compare yourself to some one who you think has no other commitments and think, “It’s easy for them because they have lots of time. I have so much stuff going on.”

No matter how it seems, the truth is that most people have to work at staying committed. Simply knowing the benefits of exercise doesn’t make it easy to show up to a work out.

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Showing up is the hardest part.

My friend Alice, who has made tremendous progress by staying consistent with her workouts, showed up to a group workout and said, “I don’t want to be here. I don’t feel like working out. I sat in my car thinking about going home.”

“And here you are, Alice! The hardest part is done!” I said.

Alice shifted her attitude and made the choice to get out of her car and join the workout instead of going home. She had worked a full day and she was tired, but she chose to show up.

Why do some people show up and others don’t?

I’ve thought about this a lot. For myself as much as anyone.

These days, I work out consistently, but several years ago I completely quit my gym workouts. I decided they were boring and that life is too short to do something I really didn’t enjoy, so I quit.

It didn’t take long for me to lose my muscle definition and to start feeling like a slug, just kind of blah.

I decided I didn’t like that either. So I had to make a choice. Either find something I like to do and then do it or don’t do it and accept the consequences that brings.

I gradually came around and got moving again.

Now, I work out with my very motivated husband who actually likes working out. He tolerates my grumbling and mad mugs when I feel like I just don’t want to do it.

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Looking at workout board

I can’t think about it too much. I just get my workout clothes on, show up, listen to my body, and stay mindful of my movements.

And then, the workout’s done and I’m almost always glad I did it.

Why do some people show up and others don’t?

It’s physics. A body in motion tends to stay in motion while a body at rest tends to stay at rest. Unless acted upon by an equal or greater force.

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It’s physics.

What greater or equal force will get you to show up? What will get you in motion and keep you in motion?

Whatever that force is, it has to be bigger than your excuses.

It could be your:

  • why
  • desire to realize the benefits of exercise, such as improved mental clarity
  • commitment you’ve made to some one else to be there
  • commitment you’ve made to yourself to be there
  • some inner driving force
  • knowledge that you’ll feel better once it’s done
  • desire to burn off excess calories you’ve consumed
  • desire to burn off calories you plan to consume

Don’t think about it too much, just start moving and then don’t stop. Take baby steps if you have to and, even when you’re full of excuses, keep showing up. That’s the hardest part.

What is the force that will move you? Or stop you?

 

Picture by Ruby Montalvo published on strong-woman.com

How Functional Fitness Can Help You Get Stuff Done

The next time you’re getting ready to work out, instead of putting on your workout clothes, grabbing your running shoes, or driving to the gym, get a functional fitness workout by doing that household project you’ve been putting off.

Functional fitness and household projects?

Some household project possibilities: repair a fence, wash windows, mop the floors, clean baseboards, dust ceiling fans, clean a closet, organize the pantry, rearrange your furniture, re-tile the floor, and many more.

Tackling these types of projects not only gives you the satisfaction of checking them off your to-do list, but it’s a great way to get your body moving, to practice one of the main benefits of full-body workouts – functional movement.

Sometimes we don’t even know what we’re getting into.

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Functional movement – get stuff done.

The little project that grew

Now, let me first say, I’m not big into house cleaning. I figure when I’m dead and gone, no one’s going to be talking about how clean I kept my house. Let’s just say that getting my workouts in is way higher on my priority list than deep cleaning. I strive for tidy, not spotless.

But my husband and I were hosting Thanksgiving dinner for the family and we wanted to get our house guest-ready. One of the things I really wanted to do was wash the windows, which were long overdue for a serious washing.

I knew it would be a tricky project. Some of the windows are so high they’re hard to reach even with a 20-foot ladder, so I had no intention of even attempting to do those hard to reach windows.

Picture by Ruby Montalvo published on strong-woman.com
The problem window

I decided to do one easy-to-reach window, but once we got started, the small one-window project turned into a we-might-as-well-do-them-all kind of project. Our projected 20-minute project turned into more than 2 hours of going up and down the ladder, scrubbing, stretching, and lifting. It was a full-body workout using core strength and balance.

Through my window washing experience, I experienced firsthand how functional fitness workouts offer major benefits when you need to get stuff done. DIY, of course.

What’s Functional Fitness?

Endurance

When we started the window-washing project, we hadn’t planned on it taking hours. But when we saw what a difference it was making, we were determined to do as much as we could. Sure, we were tired, but our windows looked amazing. We still had lots of cooking, setting up, and prepping to do for our holiday meal and would be working for hours. Endurance training helps condition for those days when you have a long, physically demanding to-do list.

Picture by Ruby Montalvo published on strong-woman.com
See how the sparkle.
Balance

Working out regularly helps improve balance and improve functional fitness in every day movement. Especially as we age, balance becomes more critical. Older people have a higher tendency to lose balance, putting us at higher risk for injury by falling down. Working out regularly helps improve balance and is great for every day movement, like walking, and when tackling home improvement projects.

Core strength

An easy way to increase core strength is to keep proper body alignment. Stand up straight, instead of hunched over, and keep shoulders up back and down. Engaging abdominals and maintaining good posture is a simple way to build core strength so that you’re better able to move well, protect your back, and improve balance.

Strength

Lifting and moving things like furniture or boxes, carrying grocery bags, carrying a child, or any number of things we do every day require strength. Strength training can mean lifting weights or using your body weight, such as doing push ups, sit up, and squats.

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Strength training helps reduce loss of muscle.
Flexibility

An often overlooked component of a workout is regular stretching. Stretching every day helps keep your muscles engaged and your joints limber. It’s an important aspect of functional movement of all kinds.

Functional fitness is exactly what it sounds like – moving your body efficiently for whatever purpose you desire, for whatever you want to do.

Take care of your body so that you’re able to continue to enjoy independence, strength, and mobility for life. And you’re better able to get stuff done!

I’d love to hear your experiences with functional fitness and household projects. Feel free to share in the comments. 

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Exercise – The First Step is the Hardest


I’ve always heard that exercise is good for your health (emotional, mental, and physical) and I know that when I skip several workouts I can really tell the difference.

If you’ve been thinking about starting a workout program or exercising but can’t seem to make it happen, follow my five simple tips for getting starting now.

The way I see it, you have to keep it simple. If you’re truly interested in getting/staying healthy and strong for years and well into your “old age”, you can do it. If you want to be able to run around with your kids and grandkids instead of being “too old for that” then listen up.

1. Make exercise a priority. If regular exercise is not currently part check-list-hiof your routine, plan ahead and change it up. Make your exercise time an appointment, like you would a work appointment, an important meeting or a date. I know it can be very challenging. You’re busy. You’ve got a lot of stuff going on. Make one of those things a brisk walk or jumping rope or dancing or even calisthenics, like jumping jacks.

2. Move more throughout the day. Increase your level of activity however you can. For examplTakeStairse, walk more during your regular daily tasks by taking the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator. Park further away and walk a few more steps. If you work at a desk, take a break and walk for a few minutes.

3. Be a problem solver. We all find reasons (excuses) why we can’t do something that we may not really want to do or are afraid to do. Some examples: I don’t have a safe place to walk, I don’t have walking shoes, I have to cook dinner, I have to take my kids to ProblemSolvesoccer/football/piano/gymnastics/etc. and so many more. Each of those commitments requires thoughtful problem solving so they don’t become your reason for missing your exercise commitment. In all possible scenarios, be a problem solver. For example, go for a walk while the kids are practicing. Maybe another mom would like to join you. When you get your mind set on doing something, you’ll do it.

4. Get clear on your why. This whole exercise venture can sometimes be a real mental Why?exercise as well. Change can be difficult. If you’re not exercising now and you want to change that and be a person who exercises regularly, you have to get your head and heart involved. A good place to start is to think about your health goals. Then you have to go a little deeper and think about why you want whatever it is you say you want. Keep asking “why?” until you get to the point where you know at your very core why you want what you say you want. This is your why. Know it. Remember it. Live it.

5. Go do it. Yoda said it best when he said, “Do. Or do not. There is
Yodano try.”  Forget all the “reasons” you can’t do something and re-program your brain to know and believe that you can do whatever you commit to doing. Making exercise a part of your healthy lifestyle may be challenging and may require some sacrifice, but if you really want it, commit to it. And then do it.

 

 

The word “exercise” may conjure up images of weights, running, sweating, gasping for air, training, treadmills, fitness equipment, or other stuff. That’s how some people do it. But if you’re just getting started, keep it simple and think of exercise as exerting energy to move your body. That’s it.