The Beast of Christmas Past…

… It is back and hiding in the corner of a gym near you…!

The holiday challenge is upon us again. Row 100,000 meters between Thanksgiving and midnight Christmas eve and Concept2 will donate money to a charity that you can chose from a list they provide. You must row a minimum of 100,000meters. It’s not as daunting as it sounds. You will be surprised at how quickly you progress with consistency and frequency. Work to an average of 5,000meters/day. Register for free at Concept2.com and start logging your meters. Logging your workout is a good way to monitor progress and stay motivated. Every single gym has at least 2 of these beasts resting unchallenged side by side! Go on! Take it on! Start rowing and logging your meters in the free log. Watch and see how you measure up against your age/gender peer groups.

Before you venture towards this creature, it’s important to exercise good form to get the most out of this species of equipment. Get a trainer to review your form and tell them of any muscular-skeletal issues so they can best advise you and keep you injury free.

Start out by building your endurance by rowing 1000m and gradually build on the distance you row… Row 2-3 x per week. Rowing sprints of 300-500 meters between weight-training exercises is a good way of keeping your heart rate up. Logging those sprints will help accumulate those meters towards your 100kms and improve your performance. You will activate those fast-twitch muscle fibers which will help increase performance over any distance. The neuro-muscular learning that takes place during sprint training will rollover into anything else you do that involves fast-paced movement using the same muscles.

The benefits of using the rower on a regular basis is that it has several components all rolled into one: Core strength and development; improved cardiovascular fitness; development of upper and lower body strength, and toning. The regular exercise will help maintain a healthy body weight and assist with weight-loss goals.

Slay the Beast!

Taming the beast!

Taming the Beast

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Fighting Parkinson’s with the Sweet Science

A recent report by ABC news shows how boxing helps people suffering from Parkinson’s disease improve their quality of life. Parkinson’s disease is a debilitating neurological condition that severely reduces people’s quality of life. Deterioration of brain cells responsible for synthesizing the neurotransmitter dopamine causes tremors, deterioration of motor skills, coordination and balance.

Kristy Rose Follmar, formerly the No. 3-ranked boxer in her weight class and Golden Gloves champ Vince Perez started a boxing program for sufferers of Parkinson’s disease. Participants in the program at the Rock Steady Gym in Indianapolis experienced less tremors and improvement in functional movement after several months of boxing training. The reduction in the participant’s symptoms that include anxiety and depression improved their quality of life significantly.

Newman, a member of the program says, “Every day the disease does not get worse, we win that round. We go to the corner and we wait for the bell for the next round.” Hopefully, Newman wins with a total knockout.

Running Stairs With a Goal – The Empire State Building.

Walking stairs in a series of repeats helps increase cardiovascular fitness.

An article, Great Workout, Forget the View published in the February 18th edition of the New York Times Fitness and Nutrition section reports how Sheri Harkness shed a final 40 pounds by including stair workouts and modifying her diet to reduce calorific intake. Cedric Bryant, chief science officer for the American Council on Exercise endorsed the health benefits by adding that stair climbing and running “will be a bit more challenging and therefore allow you to burn more calories for that same amount of time.” Stair climbing and running, although very efficient at burning calories, requires a good degree of fitness.

Anything that requires a lot of work burns more calories. The key is to start out gradually. Work from fewer flights of stairs to more flights of stairs. Factor in the steepness too. Steeper stairs require more effort to climb. Include active recovery breaks like stretching every couple of flights or including crunches to catch your breath at various points during a workout.

While reading the article, bear in mind how and where Harkness started her new regimen two years ago. The article points out, Harkness started out by walking on a treadmill at just 3.1 miles per hour in 2007 to running up the Empire State Building in 23:10 last week. She did not do that overnight. Her story should serve as an inspiration to get fit, reach your goals and provide a way of working out when it’s raining.

Sheri Harkness does provide evidence that goals are achievable, even if the goal is to reach the top of a nearby hill in your neighborhood without getting out of breath.

Fitness Isn’t an Overnight Sensation

Gina Kolata’s article, Fitness Isn’t an Overnight Sensation in the January 20 edition of the New York Times outlines what it really takes to lose weight and keep it off.

There are no quick fixes as promised by infomercials selling the latest gads and fads. What is necessary for success in weight-loss or any other health and fitness goal is commitment, consistency, patience and above all, lifestyle change. These three things are the hardest concepts to convey to clients who want unrealistic results. Unfortunately, the people with the highest expectations tend to be those that are less likely to reach their goals.

The article cites an interesting six week study that seems to demonstrate how people’s body image improves once they begin an exercise regimen. Subjects in the exercise group rated their overall appearance higher at the end of the six weeks study even though they showed no physical change. Improved body image serves to aid motivation and exercise adherence necessary for changes in physical appearance. It is also important to realize the physiological changes that lead to improvements in fitness do take place fairly quickly and lead to overall improved health despite physical appearance remaining the same.

Does Exercise Really Make You Healthier?

The article Does Exercise Really Make You Healthier? by Coco Ballantyne in Scientific American endorses my response to last week’s New York Times article, Does Exercise Really Make You Healthy? (See my previous blog.)

Although both articles have similar titles, they differ greatly on the benefits of exercise. The Scientific American article highlights the benefits of exercise on the cardiovascular, immune systems and bone health.

The only “disappointing” aspect of the article was what it had to say about weight-loss, “Contrary to popular belief, working out at the gym every day will not necessarily lead to weight loss.” Unfortunately, it is very true that it is difficult to lose weight and there is no quick fix. According to the American Council on Exercise personal training manual, 50% of people fall out of an exercise program within the first six months and only 9% of people engage in exercise at a high enough levels of duration and intensity for enhancing cardiovascular fitness. To burn one pound of fat in a week, you need a calorie deficit of about 500 calories per day. This is not an easy task, since it involves a combination of diet and moderate to vigorous exercise of an hour or more per day. The upside is this, if weight loss is lost using a combination of diet and exercise over a long period of time, the weight is more likely to stay off.

The important thing is not to be discouraged when you do not see results right away. It takes time. It takes time to form the habit of exercising regularly and the cardiovascular endurance necessary for maintaining the exercise and intensities necessary for weight-loss. Most people when starting an exercise program report feeling better generally and having more energy. The bottom line is that exercise is about life-style change and the evidence to support the benefits of exercise is overwhelming.