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4 ways to combat holiday stress

We all know how it feels when we’re tense. And the rush before and after the holidays really adds to the stress load.

Stress takes a toll on our bodies. It affects your workout program, too. That tense feeling means your muscles are tired even before you start using them. Consequently, your workout performance is going to take a hit. To avoid that, there are several things you can do to help.

1. Get more sleep. If six hours do it for you normally, you might need eight or nine for a few nights to get back on track.

2. Drink more water. Stress leaches water out of the system. That dehydration makes muscles sore. Avoid that by sipping water throughout the day.

3. Watch what you eat. When we’re stressed we tend to reach for “comfort foods” that are high fat, high salt and high in calories. Stress depletes the body of nutrients making it more important than ever to make good food choices — even during the holidays.

4. Don’t get discouraged. Understand that when stress makes that workout tougher and less rewarding, it’s temporary. Don’t let poor performance turn into an excuse to quit.

The key is to be on the lookout for the signs that you are at the stress threshold. Pay attention to what your body is telling you. Once you recognize the signs, you can manage the situation and keep your program on track.

Six things you can do to prevent workout injuries

Once you have started working out regularly, the last thing you need is to be sidelined with an injury. Once injured, many people never get back to their regular routine.

Working to prevent injury in the first place helps. We can’t promise you’ll never get hurt, but these six points will help decrease your risk:

1. Layer your clothing. When you start a workout, keep your body warm until your internal temperature comes up, then eliminate layers as needed.

2. Start slowly. Don’t just jump right in at full speed. Start slowly and work up gradually.

3. Stay well hydrated.  Many people don’t realize that you should sip water continuously throughout the day – every day – not just before and after working out.

4. Watch your form. Pay attention to the position of your body as you work out. If your stance changes when you are walking or running, it’s time to stop. Don’t continue if you find yourself using your whole body to lift, rather than the intended muscle.

5. Don’t push through pain. If something hurts, stop.

6. Make sure you allow time to rest and repair. You need to rest the body to repair muscles after intense activity. One day on, and one day off is a good rule of thumb.

The days of ‘no pain, no gain’ are over

The two most common questions personal trainers hear are: “How much exercise should I get?” and “How long should I work out?” The answers aren’t easy, because they vary with each individual.  

As a general rule, you should move more. But just moving isn’t enough, and it might not get you where you want to go. You need to use the right muscles in the right way.

How much activity?

The days of  “no pain, no gain” are over. Pain is the body’s way of telling you have done too much. Similarly, getting your heart pumping so hard that you can feel it beating is also not recommended. The body is not meant to sustain such harsh pressures.

So what should you do? When something starts to hurt: stop – unless otherwise directed by a qualified professional. You should also stop when you can no longer control the activity you are doing; i.e., when you are running and your feet are no longer in their normal stride position or when you are lifting weights with your whole body instead of the intended muscle.

What type of exercise is best? Here are some general guidelines for three types of people:

1. Performance athletes

Looking to increase raw strength? Concentrate on load-bearing exercises and not repetitive ones. Want to increase speed or distance? Focus on high-endurance activities such as distance swimming and running or long-duration activities like riding a bicycle. But remember, no matter what you are doing, you must have the right form. It’s not practice that makes perfect but perfect practice that makes perfect. There’s a reason why professional teams have trainers.

2. People who need toning and shaping up

Most of the people we see at Advanced Training fall into this category. The first step is to determine why you aren’t toned. It might be that your body has too much fat. Or, if you aren’t fat, it might be that the muscles aren’t tight enough to your frame. You will need a balanced program that combines high-calorie-burning exercise with load-bearing activity, ideally customized specifically for you.

3. People who have lost functionality

If you can no longer do what you used to do – whether from injury, illness, aging or a sedentary lifestyle  – it’s easy to become frustrated. Don’t think about what you used to be able to do, focus on where you want to go and don’t look back. Exercises to restore function need to be highly specific, structured and supervised to teach the body how to function under new conditions. That’s why doctors send you to physical therapy. But because insurance doesn’t always allow you enough time to completely recover, you usually end up with a sheet of exercises to do on your own. Exercise without supervision in these cases is risky. This is the time to seek professional help.

Fitness success starts in your head

You’ve made the decision: You are going to get trim, shape up, tighten up, build stamina, increase strength, or improve performance. You are ready to chart your course — either assisted by a trainer or on your own.

Sounds easy, right? Sure, as long as you understand that you aren’t maneuvering a speed boat, you’re at the helm of a freighter. When it comes to your body’s metabolism, it takes a while to speed up or change course.

If you go into your fitness journey thinking that you will make quick changes, you’re setting yourself up for failure. You need the right mindset along with a plan that creates systematic and sustainable changes and incorporates them into your lifestyle.

Managing your expectations is the key. Your greatest tool in this fight is your ability to determine the outcome by making sure you are focused on the right goals. Many people think in terms of timeframe. I will be “x” in two weeks, or I will be “y” in six weeks. That doesn’t work. You need to think instead in small markers. Did you commit to a workout program to increase energy?  Maybe you’re feeling a bit more energetic. Were you avoiding the stairs? Take that flight and see if it’s getting a little easier. Did you need to slim down? Maybe your pants are looser.
If you watch for those small changes and see improvement, you will be encouraged.

The answer is to figure out what your individual motivation is and capitalize on that. For example, going through a day pain-free might be all you need to reinforce your commitment. Going down a size may be exactly what someone else needs to keep making the effort.

If you aren’t seeing those incremental improvements or if you’re getting discouraged, it’s probably time to reassess. If you’re working alone, you might need to consult a professional. If you’re working with a trainer, you should sit down and talk about why you aren’t seeing any gains.

We find that people often think they aren’t improving, but it is just that they aren’t seeing how far they have progressed. For example, when one of our clients started working out, she couldn’t hold one repetition of a body position for more than three seconds. After a number of sessions, she was making great progress, but didn’t realize it and became discouraged with what she was still unable to do.

I simply reminded her of her performance on the first day and how it compared with her performance now. She was doing more activities with greater control and shorter rests in between. She had stretched that single three-second hold into seven repetitions over the course of a workout, holding them from 10 to 15 seconds each. That doesn’t sound like much, but if you do the math, it’s huge: She had achieved a minimum 2,300 percent increase in capability. (I wish my stocks did that.) She never would have known that if the discussion hadn’t taken place, and once she realized it, her discouragement evaporated.

So hold your course, measure your progress, and don’t forget about the freighter — it takes time to get up a full head of steam, but once you start moving, there will be no stopping you.

How to lose weight without stepping on a scale

We all know we can be better, stronger, leaner. But we often don’t know how to get there. The first step toward doing that — without frustration and disappointment — is to know where you are starting from. That begins with a proper assessment.

If a mid-50s woman walks  in our door says is, “I need to lose 20 pounds” she may already have  set herself up for failure. That’s because she is associating weight with health and fitness. If she doesn’t have enough muscle mass and her postures poor, no amount of weight loss will help her achieve her goal.

What’s more, if she “diets” heavily she will slow down her metabolism and compound the problem.

If your goal is to lose 20 pounds, you need to ask yourself, 20 pounds of what? Fat? Water? Muscle? Focusing on weight without proper body composition won’t get you into that size eight.

What’s the answer? Step one, is to figure out where you are. The best way to do that is to consult a professional trainer who will test to see if you body has:

• Strength
• Balance and stability
• Muscular endurance
• Cardio-respiratory functionality
• Absence of pain
• Correct range of motion at each joint

Following the assessment, the trainer will determine if your goals are realistic, and then wil identify the steps to get you to your goal. If you know where you are starting from and where you are going, eventually you’ll make it.

For our mid-50s woman, that meant recalibrating her goal — taking the scale out of the equation — and creating a program to improve her muscular deficiencies so she could begin to make healthy strides forward. We let the fit of her clothes determine the success of the project. She eventually dropped two full sizes without “losing an ounce.”

When is it time to seek the help of a trainer?

1. Your doctor has given you a clean bill of health, and may even be telling you to “diet and exercise”

2. Your clothes are getting tight

3. You have pain or difficulty with everyday activities

4. You have balance issues; i.e. you have to sit down to put your pants on

5. You are sitting for most of the day

6. You have tried slimming down on your own and haven’t been successful

How to select a professional trainer:

1. Ask for recommendations: As with anything else, personal recommendations are always a great place to start.

2. Check the trainer’s credentials: At minimum the trainer should be certified and experienced; many trainers have college degrees in exercise science, sports training and related disciplines.

3. Make sure you ask the trainer if he or she has dealt with someone who had the same concerns you have. You want to make sure they have enough experience to help you with your particular issues.

4. Be wary of someone who promises too much too soon. Remember it is a journey. You want someone who will be realistic but motivational about what training can do for you, without specifying a timeframe. Don’t fall for someone who says they will get you in shape in a month or two, and don’t press the trainer to meet your timeline. There is no way to tell how quickly or slowly you will progress.

The naked truth about fat

When people come to us and say, “I want to lose some weight,” we say we can help — with one caveat. We believe you need to lose fat not weight.

If you are working out properly and building muscle — which weighs more than fat — you could end up trimming fat without losing an ounce.

We tell people that the goal is to look good and fit when you are fully clothed. Since you usually aren’t around other people when you’re naked and standing on a scale, no one will know what you weigh unless you tell them. So don’t tell them.


Fat is up to 10 percent hydrated. Muscle is up to 80 percent hydrated. That means that if you don’t have enough water in your body, it will make more fat than muscle.

Fat hinders metabolism, it doesn’t burn calories just being there. Muscles help metabolism; they burn calories even at rest.

Blood does not move as well through fat as it does through muscles and organs. More blood pressure is required to move blood through fat. That’s why people with high blood pressure are encouraged by doctors to “lose weight.”

When fat is in the midsection it can push on major organs, causing problems from incontinence to diabetes.

1. Drink water: Staying well-hydrated will allow you to build muscle and will discourage your body from creating fat.

2. Eat foods that boost metabolism: These include fruits, vegetables, proteins and complex carbohydrates.

3. Get up and move: If you move, especially if you move correctly, your body will drop the baggage.

4. Allow time for rest: When you overload your muscles, you need equal time for them to rest and heal.

5. Develop a positive attitude: Keep looking for that silver lining, it makes a huge difference.

Consistency is the key to losing fat and keeping it off. Forget the scale, get out the tape measure and let your reflection guide you.

Fitness is more than just being thin or looking good

Many people approach fitness full-bore while having unhealthy expectations. Phrases like “no pain, no gain” are misconceptions about fitness that are counterproductive.

I am a personal trainer who sees things differently.

Fitness is not a destination. It’s a journey. To be successful, you must take ownership of your body. You need to understand where you are to know if your goals are realistic. There are no quick fixes. Radical changes are not always possible and what’s more, they can even be unhealthy.

At Advanced Training Techniques, we define fitness as the body’s ability to return to a normal state after abnormal stress is applied. Fitness applies to all aspects of the body, and it isn’t achieved just by being thin or looking good.

I invite you to join us as we dispel the myths of fitness and define what it really takes to reach your body’s potential. If you want to come along for the ride, we will be happy to show you how.