Will work for coffee

If you have read many of my posts, you already know that I hate aerobic exercise – commonly referred to as cardio. I incorporate my cardiovascular training into my strength training program and also finish most days with a bout of cardio. This is doable. And is my level of fitness adequate? Yes – but I will not be running a marathon anytime soon!

Tuesdays and Thursdays are designated as my aerobic fitness days. I begin each workout with a warm up and maybe some core (this is what entices me to get to the gym). The bulk of my work is done in aerobic intervals. I can stay on a treadmill 5X longer if I am doing intervals than if I do a steady state.

And when I want to quit, which is often with cardio, I tell myself that after my workout I can treat myself to a coffee. Mind you – I do drink black coffee and I allow myself to drink it whenever I want it so the concept of it being a true reward is mute. Somehow, this works for  me. While doing my intervals this morning, I thought I should make a sign, WILL WORK FOR COFFEE.

Why it works

There are multiple explanations for why my process works. I trick my own mind! I use strategies and mental skills to keep my head in the game! The most important? Goal setting.

Intervals = Task goals

We can improve motivation through goal setting (Hardy, Jones, & Gould, 1996; Wilson & Brookfield, 2009). While we often think of outcome goals (e.g., long-term goals) as big dreams or milestones that can only be achieved in time – those are certainly outcome goals – equally important are incremental goals. Some of these may be smaller outcome goals and some may be minute task or process goals. Each week, my Tuesday and Thursday workouts are outcome goals. And I set task goals that allow me to reach the outcome goal – completing the workout. Let me explain.

Because I do not enjoy cardio, it makes it hard to make it to the gym in the first place. Therefore, I begin my workout with something that I enjoy. Lately, I have been practicing headstands and handstands – which I thoroughly enjoy. I WANT to do my practicing and I have to go to the gym to do it. Once I am at the gym, I might as well put in the work! I’m warmed up and get right into my intervals, somedays :60/:90, some :30/:30, and so on. Honestly, the time split doesn’t matter all that much. What matters is that I think about getting it done one interval at a time. My mind is usually fighting me and I ask myself, why am I doing this again? So I start, telling myself that I will do half of my intervals and then reassess the situation. So,

          • outcome goal = 8 intervals
          • incremental goal = 4 intervals (reassess)
          • task goals = each interval

More often than not, by the time I have completed half of my intervals, I am pumped on adrenaline and working to the end is no longer an issue. And as a woman true to her word, and will not quit. I will not be stopped!

Short-term goals MUST be established. Short-term task goals will help increase self-efficacy and enhance sense of self-worth through the reinforcement of accomplishments (Hall, Kerr, Kozub, & Finnie, 2007; Wilson & Brookfield, 2009). Further, the use of task goals can encourage flexibility for those of us who normally retain a rigid approach to attaining perfection (Hall, Kerr, Kozub, & Finnie, 2007).

Self-regulation

Related to goal setting strategies is self-regulation. Kirschenbaum (1984) defines self-regulation as

“the processes by which people manage their own goal-directed behaviors
in the relative absence of immediate external constraints.”

Self-regulation generally requires five stages: problem identification, commitment, execution, environmental management, and generalization (Kirschenbaum, 1984). And you may find it beneficial to journal or log your personal stages. For example, I

  1. have identified a problem of disliking aerobics,
  2. have committed to a desire to change,
  3. will execute change through various workouts,
  4. have enforced that my workouts (including my headstands) must be completed at the gym, and
  5. will eventually apply what I learn to other generally difficult situations.

The reward system?

I motivate myself with the reward of coffee. But this is not a true reward. I would have had my coffee whether I had worked out or not. You see, I simply cannot function without coffee. So, what have I done here to improve my motivation?

I have ignited the reward center of my brain by placing pleasurable bookends on both ends of something I find aversive. We do not like everything that we do in life. Sometimes we just do things because we have to. Other times we choose to do things because we know the pleasurable outcome.

A bit about rewards

I want to advise against using food or drink as a reward. Hypocrite? A cup of black coffee contains 5 calories and caffeine has been shown to provide numerous post-workout benefits. If coffee works as a reward for you – that is the only exception I will allow! The problem with using food as a reward? If you are working towards adopting a healthy lifestyle, your reward of food becomes equally pleasurable and aversive. You have now confused your mind! (As if we do not have enough confusion in life!)

You are used to eating after your workout? Good, you should. Make it a planning and allotted for snack or meal! That is not a reward.

Plus, there are so many pleasures in life beyond food!!

The bottomline

I WILL work for coffee. The chances are, I would do more work for more coffee – but that is another post. I have some challenges for you. Are you ready?

  1. Find at least one exercise or activity that you LOVE.
  2. Incorporate that love into EACH and EVERY workout.
  3. Set a daily goal – and possibly task goals within that goal.
  4. Reward yourself for every goal you complete – large or small.

References

Hall, H. K., Kerr, A, W., Kozub, S. A., & Finnie, S. B. (2007). Motivational antecedents of obligatory exercise: The influence of achievement goals and multidimensional perfectionism. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 8, 297–316.

Hardy, L., Jones, G., & Gould, D. (1996). Understanding psychological preparation for sport. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.

Kirschenbaum, D. (1984). Self-regulation and sport psychology: Nurturing an emerging symbiosis. Journal of Sport Psychology, 6(2), 159-183.

Wilson, K., & Brookfield, D. (2009). Effect of goal setting on motivation and adherence in a six-week exercise program. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 7, 89-100.

Helpless in weight loss?

Learned helplessness occurs when someone feels she has little or no control over an outcome (Seligman, 1975). The helpless individual will give up easily when faced with a challenge. According to Cemalcilar, Canbeyli, and Sunar (2003), learned helplessness is

“when experience with uncontrollable events leads to the expectation
that future events will also be uncontrollable,
disruption in motivation, emotion, and learning may occur.”

Have you tried to make changes and failed? How does that affect your motivation, emotions to change, and desire to learn more about change? Do you feel overwhelmed? Helpless?

What is learned helplessness?

Helpless individuals believe the causes of bad events that happen to them are permanent.  They believe bad events will persist and will always affect their lives. Learned helplessness is a maladaptive coping mechanism that far too often leads to depression, low self-esteem, and low self-efficacy. This helplessness coincides with self blame and negative self-talk. We often attribute failures to internal, stable, general, persistent, recurrent, and important causes and this thought pattern restricts future learning and trying (Prapavessis & Carron, 1988).

Learned helplessness is the belief that failure is inevitable. We have an intrinsic need to be competent and to explore behaviors. When we fail, our confidence diminishes and we lose desire to explore. This is when we become helpless. If you failed in a task in the past, which led you to believe that you are incapable of doing anything in order to improve your performance, you will avoid the task in the future (Stipek, 1988).

Helplessness IS NOT depression

Learned helplessness is not synonymous with and should not be mistaken for depression – and as such does not require medications. Fisher (1999) summarized the three common thought errors associated with learned helplessness:

  • Personal: An individual sees herself as the cause and internalizes the cause of events.
  • Permanent: An individual sees the situation as unchangeable.
  • Pervasive: An individual sees situations as affecting all aspects of life.

Depression is a clinically diagnosable mental disorder; learned helplessness is a characteristic of depression. Learned helplessness does affect various psychological processes (Buckworth & Dishman, 2002; Fisher, 1999):

  • Motivation: Reduced or no incentive to try new, adaptive coping mechanisms.
  • Cognition: Inability to learn new responses to overcome prior learning that an event or situation is uncontrollable.
  • Emotion: The helpless state resembles depression.

Societal role

Unfortunately, our society encourages learned helplessness. For example, some parents can induce to the development of learned helplessness. Parents can put a significant amount of pressure on children to do things perfectly, telling their children, “well, if you cannot do it right, then I need to do it myself,” or “You’ll never be as good as ____.” In addition, Western society has bred a population of ‘quitters.’ You see this often, we who fail once – never try again.

Children are also often taught that they are not able to do things based on traditional gender roles. The thought, “I will never be good at football because I’m a girl.” Even though she might have a desire (and the ability) to do it, she already feels like she cannot.

Exercise as an intervention

Learned helplessness can be helped by physical activity in many ways. It is well known that the release and uptake of certain chemicals (e.g., dopamine, serotonin) and an increase in adrenaline can positively influence mood.  Further, the psychological benefits include increased self-efficacy, maintenance of identity, increased self-worth, and reductions in anxiety and worry (Buckworth & Dishman, 2002; Weisenberg, Gerby, & Mikulincer, 1993).

Your overall sense of self (i.e., identity) can certainly change. In fact, I have watched self identities change and improve daily. Most of my clients have hired me with a desire to improve their health or fitness. Many of these individuals have extremely low self-efficacy, “I can’t do pushups. I can’t jump.” However, by using appropriate progressions, I am able to show these individuals that they in fact can do these activities. Empowering!

Empowered!

And most exciting – I watch this feeling of empowerment as it is translated to other areas of life. Once you realize you can do things that you once felt you could not do, you will begin to take more risks and attempt activities you usually felt were impossible (Danish, Petitpas, & Hale, 1992; Weisenberg, Gerby, & Mikulincer, 1993). With increased confidence, it is likely you will take more risks and set more challenging goals in all areas of life. You will give yourself permission to DREAM BIG!

(Re)Building confidence

It is important to introduce strategies that are simple, yet challenging. Take for example introducing physical activity to the overweight woman trying to lose weight. She is unable to do pushups, adamant that she cannot. Many overweight women will not want to get onto the ground for a pushup—for fear of not being able to get back up. She may or may not have been stuck on the floor before. What do you do? You could start with a wall pushup or similar incline pushup and build confidence in your ability and build upper body strength.

Lastly, avoid the myths of weight loss. They will only increase risk of learned helplessness and decrease confidence.

References

Cemalcilar, Z., Canbeyli, R., & Sunar, D. (2003). Learned helplessness, therapy, and personality traits: An experimental study. Journal of Social Psychology, 143(1), 65-81.

Buckworth, J., & Dishman, R. K. (2002). Exercise psychology. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Danish, S. J., Petitpas, A. J., & Hale, B. D. (1992). A developmental-educational interventional model of sport psychology. The Sport Psychologist 6, 400-415.

Dweck, C. S., Davidson, W., Nelson, S., & Enna, B. (1978). Sex differences in learned helplessness: II. The contingencies of evaluative feedback in the classroom and III. An experimental analysis. Development Psychology, 14, 268-275.

Fisher, A. C. (1999). Counseling for improved rehabilitation adherence. In R.  Ray &  D. M. Wiese-Bjornstal (Eds.), Counseling in Sports Medicine (pp. 275-292). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Prapavessis, H., & Carron, A. V. (1988). Learned helplessness in sport. Sport Psychologist, 2(3), 189-201.

Seligman, M. E. P. (1975). Learned helplessness: Depression, development and death. W. H. Freeman: New York.

Stipek, D. E. P. (1988). Motivation to learning. Allyn & Bacon: Boston.

Weisenberg, M., Gerby, Y., & Mikulincer, M. (1993). Aerobic exercise and chocolate as means for reducing learned helplessness. Cognitive Therapy & Research, 17(6), 579-592.

What makes you an expert? Fitness edition

What makes someone an expert in their respective field? Physicians are required to endure years of formal education and practical training. We perceive physicians as medical experts. Engineers pursue years of education, followed by internships and journeymen positions, on a path of expertise. Teachers – years of education along with student teaching experience. Even religious sectors require their leaders to obtain education through Bible schools and seminaries. 

When we look at most careers, both education and experience are required for expertise. Why is the fitness industry different? Why do we allow ‘experienced’ individuals to be promoted as experts?

Would you allow a life-long cutter the opportunity to remove a suspicious mole on your body? They have years of experience with sharp objects. Would you ask the individual with multiple food allergies to help you diagnose suspected allergies? They know the signs, symptoms, and results of their own experience. Would you let me perform knee arthroscopy? I have viewed the photos and videos of two of my own and observed one other. Should the man who was raised in and lives a Catholic life be ordained Father of the church? I know how to type, maybe I could teach a keyboarding course? I have been typing for at least 20 years, that makes me an expert, doesn’t it?

Fitness ‘experts’

Heck – the guy who hit the gym as a teenager to build muscle – let us make him a personal trainer. And then – let us ask him to help individuals lose weight. Or, how about the ‘fat girl’ who lost weight, became a trainer as a teenager…let us make her THE EXPERT of fitness. If a personal trainer utilizes and promotes methods that lead to injury or lack sustainable results, should we consider her an expert?

In the weight loss/fitness industries – experience is all that is required for someone to be considered an expert. The Gabriel Method – he lost and successfully kept off weight. No Education. Jillian Michaels – supposedly lost weight by doing karate as a kid. No formal education. No respectable certifications. (And not respected by true experts in the field.) This list could be endless, but you get my drift.

Experts of the human body

When you have a heart concern or condition – you visit a cardiologist. When you have a skin concern – you visit a dermatologist. When you have a GI disturbance – you visit an internist or gastroenterologist. When you have teeth woes – you visit a dentist, orthodontist, or oral surgeon. When you have knee or hip pain – you visit a rheumatologist, orthopaedic surgeon, and/or physical therapist. When you need assistance with your hair or nails (dead body parts) – you consult a cosmetologist or nail technician – whom are required to obtain state licensure!!!!

But when you are concerned with your body composition – lean muscle mass versus adipose tissue (organs of the body) – you visit the former high school athlete at your local gym. Take a moment to think about this.

TRUE fitness experts

Exercise physiologists have a master’s degree in kinesiology – the study of human movement. These qualified professionals are often employed in hospital cardiac rehabilitation centers, physical therapy units, fitness centers, etc. Some exercise physiologists obtain doctoral degrees – making them doctors of human movement. In other words – doctors of exercise! If you are truly committed, do you not want advice from the best of the best? From the true EXPERTS?

Exercise physiologists could be considered the experts of muscles. Your heart is a muscle. Muscles support and protect your joints and skeletal system. Muscles hold your internal organs securely in place. When your muscles fail to protect the integrity of your body, you visit a doctor or specialist (i.e., expert). Seeking expertise from an exercise physiologist can prevent injuries and illness; whereas, seeking advice from an unqualified trainer can do more hard than good. Read about whether your personal trainer is qualified in my past post.

The bottomline

Be careful who you trust with your body – it is the only one you are going to get!

The good news is that many individuals are smart consumers (Szemilewicz, 2011). But I want EVERYONE to be a smart consumer. As the industry and community need continue to grow, why don’t we follow the lead of countries like Canada, France, and the United Kingdom – who heavily regulate and monitor the quality of fitness professionals (Viallon, Camy, & Collins, 2003). These countries also have lower rates of obesity, orthopaedic injuries, and obesity-related disease (WHO, 2012).

Coincidence?

References

Szumilewicz, A. (2011). Multiple Influences Affecting the Women’s Choice of a Fitness Club. Baltic Journal Of Health & Physical Activity3(1), 55-64.

Viallon, R. R., Camy, J. J., & Collins, M. F. (2003). The European integration of a new occupation, the training and education strategies of national professional organizations: the case of the fitness sector in France and the United Kingdom. Managing Leisure8(2), 85-96.

World Health Organizations. http://www.who.int/research/en/

Vitamin C + Fruit Snacks = ??

Here is another story about misleading nutrition information.

My friend is getting sick. I recommended she incorporate mega-doses of Vitamin C into her diet, among other things. She asked me if eating three packages of Welch’s Fruit Snacks counted as mega-dosing. They each provide 100% of your % Daily Value (based on 2000 calorie diet, or that designed roughly for a 175 pound man). I had to look up the nutrition facts for myself. I found something particularly interesting.

Vitamin C

Both the .9 ounce and the 2.25 ounce packages provide 100% of your daily Vitamin C value. How is that? The larger package contains more calories, more sodium, more sugar – but not more of any of the vitamins and minerals? This leads me to believe a couple of things. 

  1. One of the two packages is labeled incorrectly.
  2. Both of the packages are labeled incorrectly.
  3. Before sealing the individual packages, they somehow infuse into the package  a Vitamin C agent – the same quantity of agent regardless of the package size. If this agent is to be absorbed into the gummy treats, I wonder then how much remains on the inner linings of the package.

Reading nutrition facts

The FDA explains how to read a nutrition label. Just to make sure I wasn’t mistaken, I reread this information. I suggest that you read it too.

Me, doing math again

The serving sizes differ for the two package sizes. The larger package offers a larger serving size and 2 servings. No matter how I try to do the math, it does not add up.

The %DV is based on the 2000 calorie diet. 4% or less is considered low, while 25% or more is considered high. If you track your vitamin and mineral intake, you would want to combine the amounts you consume on a daily basis to equal or surpass 100%. I get that.

What I do not get is how both 40g and 26g have 100% of my calcium. If 26g have 100%, shouldn’t the 40g have more than that? And if the 40g have 100%, shouldn’t 26g have less than that?

The bottomline

It does not make sense; therefore, you should not eat fruit snacks.

 

Well stated post on fructose!

DJP Lifestyle & Fitness

There are many, many articles and opinions on fruit and how/when/if it should be eaten. First of all fruit is healthy for you, that can’t be denied. Having said that gym goers and athletes should assess their fruit intake based on their goals.

The carbohydrate in fruit is fructose. Fructose will only replenish liver glycogen stores, and it doesn’t take much to fully replenish liver glycogen stores. What happens when the liver glycogen stores are full? Essentially the fructose is converted in to fat.

I would say the majority of people who work out are looking to lower body fat and for that fructose is not the way to go.

At the moment I do an HIIT cardio workout within an hour of waking up and for this I eat one apple/banana 30ish minutes prior. The reason for this? Fast digestion which gives me fuel for the early morning workout…

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Soreness = A good workout?

Yesterday was a heavy lifting day for me. Big legs – squats, walking lunges, RDLs, ham curls, and such. I use straps on heavy lifting days so that my grip does not interfere with the completion of my sets. As I am deconditioned, my straps left beautiful markings on my wrists. I finished my workout, taking the marks as an indicator of a mission accomplished! I left the gym sweaty – sweatier than most days. I was even a little shaky. My heart rate remained noticeably elevated for a good portion of the day. I was anticipating a wonderful soreness today.straps

NOPE!

None.

It is atypical for me to experience significant DOMS, but I am always hoping. We have been conditioned to believe that soreness is the best indicator of a good workout. And while I know better, I am guilty of hoping for that good, deep soreness as confirmation of a good workout!

Was that a good workout?

My preferred measure of a good workout is progression – lifting more weight, increased endurance, improved stability, etc. I am currently coping with the psychological side effects of strength regression. My absolute strength has significantly diminished. In September 2010 I was consistently squatting 265+ for 4-6 repetitions. Yesterday, I struggled with 185. On a positive note, I have a new starting point! I do have my baseline workout which I will repeat on April 1st. But until then, how do I measure progress and success? How do I know when I’ve had a good workout? How am I determining that I am on the right path?

1. Progression. I am keeping copious notes, as usual, of weight selection. This provides me with evidence of strength increases. When doing this, expect to increase your weight 5-10% at a time. And recall that it takes eight weeks to improve your strength one fitness level (The Cooper Institute).

2. Body Shape. Whether trying to lose weight or build muscle, body measurements and appearance are great ways to measure success. I mentioned in a previous post that I hate when my shirts do not fit – this is a sign of my being on the right path towards my pullup goal. During my process, I am building muscle and losing fat (not necessarily weight!). Therefore, my jeans really need a belt – indicative of an improved body shape!

3. Elevated Heart Rate. Following a good strength or resistance workout, you will notice a lingering elevated heart rate. This can be measured by either using a heart rate monitor or through body awareness. (Taking your own pulse – not a good measure).

4. Feeling Off. I have no other way of explaining this, other than after a good workout I just feel a little off – which immediately begins improving following my first post-workout MEAL. This meal immediately follows my workout, so feeling off does not last too long!

5. Exhaustion. Sometimes exhaustion occurs within a few hours and other times it is exhibited in a good nights sleep!

6. Improved Endurance. I hate cardio (emphasis because I also hate that word, ambiguous as it is). Actually, I hate aerobic exercise. I monitor my heart rate, rate of perceived exertion, intensity, time, etc. I tend to be excited when I maintain my aerobic fitness – so any improvement is stellar!

The bottomline

Note that my measures may not be your measures. This needs to be personal. But bottomline, soreness is not the sole indicator of a good workout. IN FACT – more often than not – soreness is indicative of a poorly designed workout and overall program. Excessive soreness is a sign of overtraining. If you are working towards adopting a healthy lifestyle, do you really want to be sore all the time? I know that I do not!

How do you determine whether your workouts and program are effective and keeping you on the right path? 

How do you measure or rate your workouts? 

Who AM I?

I have been working very hard at developing materials and have compiled information for my Possible Selves Workbook. As a result, I have been thinking about where I have been, what I have done, where I am today, and where I want to be. WHO I want to be. And you know what? I want to be me. My life has not been full of incredible moments and accomplishments. But my life hasn’t been all that bad, either. And I love my mission. I love the individuals I interact with every day. I am thankful for the relationships and for the AMAZING individuals who are in my life, have been in my life, and those who have yet to be in my life.

I am devoted to always bettering myself – ultimately for the betterment of others. It is my hope that my love and humility shine for the betterment of this world. I am passionate about health, fitness, and wellness because I have lived on both sides – ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ and I know how much better LIFE is on the healthy side. I have taken risks to build my foundation in education and experience. And I am forever thankful that I took those risks because I would not change my experiences for anything!

What defines me?

SINCERE. I am sincere at heart, thoughtful, genuine, and compassionate.

FAITHFUL. Loyal, committed, and trustworthy – and I expect the same in return.

GOAL SETTER. Achiever, accomplished, and driven. My sights are focused on what I want and my goals help me define my path.

COMPETENT. Able, willing to put forth effort, and possess the know-how.

ORGANIZED. I like order, systems, and structure. If it is not there, I will make it – whether it makes sense to you or not!

Visit www.flagpage.com to discover what makes you YOU!

That bad a$$ chick

I know I have a presence about me. In the past, have been labeled ‘bad a$$ chick’ at the gym. My very first lifting partner will tell you that it took two years before I would make any conversation in the weightroom. I have heard that I am intimidating and unapproachable – to women and men alike. Women who do not take the opportunity to get to know me perceive me as threatening – when my heart is one of the kindest I know! As a friend, I will be the first to be honest with you and I can sometimes be too blunt…

Perceptions of who I am

I come across old photos now and again and it’s a reality check. There are days I feel out of shape and weak. Really??? Let’s rewind ten years and then maybe I could talk about being out of shape. There are days when I feel like I can do ANYTHING. But most days, I just am. I am just me. I am not superwoman. I am not infallible.

In the last few years, I have heard many things, others’ comments of who and what I am linger in my mind. Here are a few that come to mind:

  1. You sound like a walrus.
  2. You are wearing makeup; I thought you were someone else.
  3. You are a vicious b___.
  4. You are really skinny – and that’s a compliment (from the mouth of a child).
  5. You have taught me that you don’t have to be thin to be attractive.
  6. Those shoes don’t look like you.
  7. It’s inspiring to see a woman who’s not afraid to wear muscle.
  8. You look great – you look GIRLY!!

Who am I? I am not 100% sure. I wish that I saw myself the way that others see me. How is it I only see the flaws and others see so much more? I do know for certain that I am not superwoman, but I am strong and I work hard. Physically. Mentally. Emotionally.

SO, I’m reflecting. And refueling. And I encourage others to reflect and refuel as well!

Who are you,

who do you want to be,

and what are you doing to get there?

How frequently should you workout?

How frequently should I workout? Can I work the same muscles two days in a row? Can I do the same exercises every day or should I mix it up? These are some common questioned I hear on any given day. The answers are: it depends on your fitness goals. This post is an appendage to the overtraining post, giving you more details to help you plan and succeed.

Do you partake in the same workouts week in and week out? Are you making progress towards your goals? Doing the same thing over and over might work for someone looking to maintain a current condition, but if you want to change – your workouts must change! Doing the same group fitness class over and over puts you at significant risk of overuse injuries. You will plateau more frequently – leading to frustration, burnout, and eventually a desire to give up.

If your goal is to build muscle (hypertrophy), training utilizing a typical linear model – or what is commonly referred to as bodybuilding splits – may be best. However, if you want to increase strength, undulating periodized training will help you achieve optimal results. Let me explain the science to you.

The research

Rhea, Ball, Phillips, and Burkett (2002) examined the effectiveness of the undulating periodization model (DUP) as compared with the linear model (LP). The goal of periodized programs is to ‘optimize overload’ by using planned variations, in this case eliciting strength and body mass improvements. Periodization can manipulate the:

  • number of sets, repetitions, or exercises performed;
  • amount of rest;
  • type of contractions performed; or
  • training frequency.

LP programs gradually increase intensity while decreasing training volume over weeks and months.

DUP programs make these same variations on a weekly or daily basis.

The results

The DUP group showed significantly greater strength increases from pre- to mid-testing. There was no significant difference in strength increases from mid- to post-testing. This led the researchers to discuss limitations of overtraining. In the last 3 weeks, LP participants reported extended muscle soreness and fatigue, when the DUP group did not.

There were no significant differences in body composition across groups. This led the researchers to propose that the greater strength increases in the DUP group were not due to body composition or hypertrophic changes; but rather, were related to greater adaptations of the neuromuscular system.

The results support use of DUP for maximizing strength over LP. DUP programs can be used for anyone looking to make strength increases, especially anyone who has been training for an extended period of time. Further, DUP programs may help avoid plateau effects.

The bottomline

What does this mean for you? First, there are no ‘cookie cutter’ workouts that will help you safely, effectively, and efficaciously achieve your fitness goals. Your standard group fitness workouts will only take you so far along your journey before you need something more. The lack of variety and program design with limit fitness and strength improvements significantly. If you are going to put in the time, do you not want to get the results? I will gladly customize a workout program for you and teach you along the way!

The average person certainly does not need to train like a bodybuilder (i.e., LP). Nor does an LP design optimize fat/weight loss. Following a properly designed DUP program will help you avoid overtraining, burnout, and plateaus – which ultimately lead to greater results, improved self-efficacy, and more!

Reference

Rhea, M. R., Ball, S. D., Phillips, W. T., and Burkett, L. N. (2002). A comparison of linear and daily undulating periodized programs with equated volume and intensity for strength. J. Strength Cond. Res. 16(2), 250–255.

Overtraining – More common than you think

Overtraining. It is far too common. It can be the result of all-or-nothing thinking – I have to do it all the time or I will not see results. It can result when we are highly motivated and determined to meet a goal. It can be a symptom of adrenaline addiction.

How to identify overtraining

One problem with overtraining is that it is ambiguous. It is more qualitative than it is quantitative. For individuals new to exercise, I would say that if you are exercising 7+ hours a week that you are likely overtraining. This is not the case for myself, nor is it true for most endurance athletes.

As a self-proclaimed adrenaline addict, how do I know when I am bordering overtraining? When my workouts are not what they should be. When I begin to see performance declines. For example, this morning I attempted headstand and handstand practice (working toward goals!). It was pathetic. My shoulders are shot from a week of intense barbell complexes. I did very little this morning before I knew that training would do more harm than good and I stopped. The best things for my body are rest and recovery.

Common signs of overtraining include 

  • Chronic muscle and joint pains
  • Excessive weight loss and loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Bloating
  • Decreased physical performance
  • Increased fatigue
  • Insomnia; loss of sleep
  • Lack of enthusiasm
  • Frequent Illness
  • Decreased cognitive performance
  • Mood changes; depressed
  • Increased anger and irritability
  • Decreased desire to exercise
  • Frequent overuse injuries

Other signs of overtraining include otherwise unexplained plateaus, diminishing returns, and decreased absolute strength. If you are not seeing the results or gains you would like to see, you may need to cut back on your training. It is hard to believe, but it is true. Overtraining could also be the result of the inability to sleep for those of us who need to busy ourselves (Budgett, 2000).

Manage and avoid overtraining

There are several methods of achieving optimal training without overtraining. This includes implementing the following strategies:

  • Cut back on the intensity and/or duration of training
  • Set and enforce a bedtime
  • Practice mental relaxation techniques
  • Maintain hydration
  • Ensure muscle fueling and muscle tissue repair and rebuilding through proper nutrition for carefully programmed workouts.

Working with a good program, that includes education of the whys and why nots of training, can help prevent overtraining. I make a point of educating clients on the risks associated with overtraining, such as possible injury and/or loss of desire and motivation. A post to follow will outline program design research and elements for those who want additional know-how for avoidance.

I strongly encourage you to implement relaxation and other techniques that promote recovery and reduce overtraining (Peterson, 2005). Examples include meditation, relaxation exercises, massage, tapping, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), self-myofascial release, stretching, ice or cold baths, a sauna or steam room, and electric muscle stimulation.

The bottomline

How much physical activity is too much and how much is enough? The science is complicated. The answers are highly individual. One thing is certain, you can increase your physical activity level threshold with proper training, nutrition, and recovery. I workout every day — my program is carefully and mindfully designed to avoid overtraining. And I practice being body smart. Like today, I could feel the muscular fatigue and I made the body smart decision to skip my training. Your body does know best — we each just need to learn how to hear what it is saying. And what it is really saying – not what we want it to say or we think it is saying.

I do not recommend that most individuals workout daily – but it is truly dependent upon your goals. Not sure if you might be overtraining, seek assistance from a qualified fitness professional. And go forth!

References

Budgett. R. (2000). Overtraining and Chronic Fatigue: The Unexplained Underperformance Syndrome. International SportMed Journal, 1(3).

Peterson, K. (2005). Overtraining: Balancing practice and performance. In S. Murphy (Ed.), The sport psych handbook (pp. 49-70). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Greek yogurt – A healthy choice?

I wish that false and/or misleading advertising was illegal. Further, I wish that only real and natural foods were available to us – it would solve a lot of our problems and ease the food consumption decision-making process. Instead, companies work to make food products better for you and tell you (overtly and covertly) that you are making a good decision for yourself and your family if you chose to consume their product. Healthy chips. Healthy crackers. Healthier yogurt.

Greek yogurt unveiled

If you watch TV, you have seen the commercial. Oikos Greek Yogurt. You know – the commercials with John Stamos! They advertise that by choosing Oikos Fruit on the Bottom Nonfat Greek Yogurt you are making a nutritionally sound choice. Are you? The advertisements insinuate that you will lose weight if you eat Greek yogurt rather than traditional yogurt.

Here are the Nutrition Facts for the Black Cherry flavor. No fat — hooray! 5 mg cholesterol — hooray! 12 g protein — hooray! TWENTY GRAMS of SUGAR — WHOA!! For anyone desiring to lose weight (i.e., fat), this should scream DANGER! Slow down!!

Further, they only list 5 vitamins and minerals. And all yogurts contain active cultures (sorry, Activia!)

Breaking down the facts

“The sugar is natural, from the fruit,” you say? Let me explore. A single serving container does not contain a full fruit serving. One serving of black cherries is one cup and boasts 22 grams of sugar. Knowing that the little blue cup cannot contain nearly a serving of real black cherries – where do those sugar grams come from? Ingredients four and five: sugar and fructose (sugar). Number six, modified corn starch, might as well be a sugar too. Guar Gum. Interesting.

Experts generally accept that the human body can process 2-3 teaspoons of sugar at one time, or per sitting. NOTE: processed sugars are dramatically more difficult for the body to process than natural sugars (i.e., straight from the source). 20 grams of sugar converts to 4 teaspoons. What happens to the other 2 teaspoons of sugar you have consumed? With proper nutritional timing, your body may use it to fuel your long run or intense physical activity. But the chances are that many individuals are eating yogurt as a snack while sitting at the work desk. Am I wrong? Before I get too distracted, what happens with the excess sugar? Your body converts excess sugar into fat. In other words, you have yourself a fattening, fat-free treat!

Still believe this is a sound nutritional snack? Sure, it is a BETTER choice.

A Greek yogurt proponent

Do not get me wrong. I LOVE Greek yogurt and have been eating it for years – since before it became cool and popular and companies started adding all the wonderful extras to make it more appealing. I buy plain 0-2% Greek yogurt (depends on the use). The less fat in a dairy product, the more processing and additives are required. Compare: 

I make my Greek yogurt more palatable by adding my own natural and good-for-me ingredients:

  • natural, local honey
  • peanut butter (peanuts as only ingredient)
  • raisins
  • fresh berries
  • homemade granola
  • and more!

Recommended daily sugar intake

I want to mention that eating one serving of this yogurt will fulfill 50-66% of the recommended daily sugar intake. The World Health Organization recommends that 10% percent of your total calories come from sugars. I have done the math for you:

1200 calories, 10% = 120 calories = 30 g of sugar
1300 calories, 10% = 130 calories = 32.5 g of sugar
1400 calories, 10% = 140 calories = 35 g of sugar
1500 calories, 10% = 150 calories = 37.5 g of sugar
1600 calories, 10% = 160 calories = 40 g of sugar
1700 calories, 10% = 170 calories = 42.5 g of sugar
1800 calories, 10% = 180 calories = 45 g of sugar
1900 calories, 10% = 190 calories = 47.5 g of sugar
2000 calories, 10% = 200 calories = 50 g of sugar
2100 calories, 10% = 210 calories = 52.5 g of sugar
2200 calories, 10% = 220 calories = 55 g of sugar
2300 calories, 10% = 230 calories = 57.5 g of sugar
2400 calories, 10% = 240 calories = 60 g of sugar

Better than traditional yogurt?

That is debatable. Greek yogurt contains more protein and fewer total carbohydrates. Traditional yogurt contains more calcium and adequate protein. A question to ask yourself, are you consuming yogurt as a protein product or as a dairy product? Which has the great benefit for you? Overall, traditional yogurt may still the healthier option of the two.

The bottomline…

EAT. PLAIN. YOGURT.

No, this does not include vanilla (natural or not) yogurt.

Is Oikos Fruit on the Bottom Nonfat Greek Yogurt bad for you? No, not at all. Is it a healthful decision? Eh – I wouldn’t say that and it relates to my concerns surrounding the use of the terms healthy or healthful!

It is a BETTER decision.

Greek yogurt versus traditional yogurt? It depends on your individual dietary needs – I alternate and sometimes mix the two because additional benefits of traditional yogurt.