Since last November, I have been working with a client who has fibromyalgia. I had some experience helping people work through this condition in the past, but this was my first long-term client with the disease.
The CDC defines fibromyalgia as is a condition that causes pain all over the body, sleep problems, fatigue, and emotional and mental distress. Previous to working with me, she had started taking Plexus supplements which helped tremendously but felt like something was missing. She decided to reach out to me to start a strength training program.
When creating a program for someone with fibromyalgia, you must consider these basic principles:
1. Start with no weight. Literally. Go through range of motion exercises without weight.
2. Assess balance and flexibility. Be creative in introducing balance exercises.
3. Add weight 1-3 lbs at a time to exercises.
4. Start with one set of 6-10 reps. Increase every 2-4 weeks.
5. Never do an exercise to fatigue. I use the 70-80% rule.
6. Do not completely enter into full extension (locking knees, elbows, etc) with any exercise.
7. Rest between sets. I rarely use supersets.
During our 10 months together, she told me that she feels stronger, sleeps much better, experiences less pain and enjoys exercise more than she had previously. Originally, I had also encouraged her to get a step counter and to start at 4,000 steps per day. That might seem minimal, but with chronic pain, too much too soon can make symptoms worse. She is now regularly walking over 8,000 steps per day!!
If you know anyone who suffers from chronic pain, please encourage them to consider researching the benefits of exercise. Chronic pain can cripple their motivation and subtle suggestions can help if they are fed up with their disease. If you have any questions about developing a program that suits someone with fibromyalgia, please contact Sarah at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Getting outside to exercise during the winter can be brutal. My husband and I chose to “vacation” to beautiful and friendly Madison, WI after Christmas. We are both unpleasant when we don’t get outdoor time so I have put together the ultimate outfit to survive the frigid Midwest winter weather. I have included links to examples of these items. (Note #1: Some items seem expensive, but if they are made out of wool and other high performing materials, it’s like owning 3-4 cheap alternatives. Note #2: I should also mention that you will be so warm when wearing these items during your outdoor exercise that you will probably consider not being so hardcore/overdressed, but at least you are guaranteed not to be cold.)
1. Knee High Wool Socks
2. Thermal Hat
3. Bada$$ Mittens (I like them so much I bought a matching pair for my husband!)
4. Windbreaker with neck protection and a hood
5. Thermal Baselayer Top
6. Fleece Lined Leggings
I’m resurrecting my blog (it’s been too long), mostly inspired by a MUST-SEE exhibit that will change your life. If you are waiting for that one special moment to move you so much to start living healthier, then this is your answer. (If this ISN’T your answer, I don’t know if there is one...)
The Body Worlds exhibit at Union Station in downtown Kansas City is extremely moving. The exhibit takes you from the conception of life through childhood into adulthood and eventually to death. Body Worlds examines how each lifestyle choice you make greatly impacts the process of aging. The series of cadavers on display show off the importance of having a healthy diet, getting adequate sleep, managing of stress appropriately, and daily exercise.
The two most impactful displays are of the “Smoker’s Leg” and what a lean person looks like on the inside compared to an obese person. The “Smoker’s Leg” was much like the appearance of a diabetic leg. Loss of lower leg function, hardened circulatory pathways and a black appearance.
Seeing a slice out of a lean person was fascinating. You could see the outlines of the organs along with minimal subcutaneous fat. In the obese figure, the subcutaneous fat was incredible and the inner organs weren’t even visible because of the extraordinary amount of visceral fat. It’s amazing to me that organs even survive surrounded by the hard, yellowish fat.
So if you haven’t checked out the Body Worlds exhibit at Union Station, GO THIS WEEKEND! I felt immediately affected by the displays. It has motivated me to continue to learn and understand how your lifestyle needs to evolve over your lifetime to optimize your longevity and enjoyment of this life.
Sidenote: For those who might be squeamish to seeing another person's “inners”, the displays are masterfully done in a way that is not intimidating and promotes learning.
With a decade of personal training experience, I have worked with just about every age and ability from 11 to 83 years old and from wheelchair bound to marathon finishers. I often hear about the glory days of high school and college. I hear about how women want to squeeze into pre-pregnancy jeans and men want to lose the 12-pack of beers around their mid-section. I try to be encouraging as possible because it IS possible. Your body changes with each decade and it is imperative to "tweak" your lifestyle as you age so that you can retain your picture of health.
Here's some helpful tips and information to consider if you're trying to relive your fittest years:
1. ADJUST YOUR CALORIC INTAKE EVERY FIVE YEARS. With every year that goes by, your metabolism slowly changes. It's important to remember that you can't eat like you're 20 years old for the rest of your life. Start cutting back on your portions. Even if you don't change your diet, calorie restriction can result in weight loss. If your diet is poor, just imagine if your diet changed AND you restricted your calories.
2. FIND A ROUTINE ASAP. In your 30s and 40s, your growing family needs you. It is important to keep them in mind as you make choices that will affect your long-term health. Your schedule becomes demanding, so if you fit in exercise early in your family's evolution, you're more likely to prioritize eating well and working out as the schedule becomes more demanding.
3. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF YOUR PHYSICAL POTENTIAL IN YOUR 30s. Female aerobic endurance generally peaks in the middle 30s. If this is when you have chosen to have children, it's a great time to jump back into your fitness routine to take advantage of your potential.
4. CONTROL YOUR STRESS AND MOVE MORE. Your highest earning years are generally between 40 to 60 years old. This is also when job stress can be at its peak. Stress plays a significant role on your body's mechanics. If you're slaving away at your desk for long hours, your shoulders roll forward, and your back develops spinal flexion which can lead to chronic pain and noticeable long-term postural abnormalities. It's important to control your stress with adequate rest and physical activity. A well-rounded program can help you divert those bad habits that result from sitting too much. A widely accepted new rule is for every 40 minutes you sit, you should spend the next 10 minutes standing.
I haven't had an activity tracker in several years, so I was excited when I found out that I could get one from my husband's employee wellness program. I am hooked! Besides the convenient step counter feature, I have found several other reasons why fitbits are awesome.
1. Sleep tracker - if you choose to sleep with your band on, you can log into your fitbit dashboard and see how much sleep you got, how many times you were restless or awake throughout the night, and subtle encouragement about getting enough rest.
2. Estimated Caloric Burn - I was confused at first when I woke up one morning after sleeping for the first 5 hours of the day to see that I had already burned 300 calories. Huh? It took me a second to realize that from the personal information you provide when you setup your device that it is calculated your baseline metabolic calorie burn. That is, the amount of calories your body burns while going through daily metabolic processes when it is at rest.
3. Total Active Minutes - You can see on your fitbit dashboard how many total active minutes you are each day. When I ask my clients if they were active since I saw them last, they often tell me something like, "Oh yeah, I deep cleaned the house on Saturday and mowed the yard on Sunday." I harp about getting in organized, planned physical activity outside of activities of daily living (ADLs). This allows me to track my clients activity to see if their gardening and active cooking actually qualifies as titbit-certified "active" minutes.
4. You can signal to your fitbit by holding down the display button on the band to begin a workout. This can help you determine how intense your workout is based on how many steps you took per minute compared to other days.
5. If you have a "fancier" fitbit (Charge HR), it will display your heart rate and which creates more accurate data than without. I don't have this particular model, but I do appreciate the option.
Are you inspired yet? I smell a TrainKC fitbit promotion coming in the near future!
Whenever I'm at my favorite Kansas City gym, I still see lots of members sitting and standing around waiting for the next set. Either they are training for a body building competition or they don't know that resting between sets is out of style!
In a time-crunched world, who has time for rest during workouts? The old-fashioned "do a set, rest, do a set, rest", and so on is effective, but it isn't efficient when it comes to overall fitness. If you're looking to build muscle by doing low reps, high intensity sets, keep doing so. To maximize your time and continue to improve other aspects of your fitness, such as core movements and flexibility, choose a low intensity exercise to do in that 45-90 second rest period that doesn't elevate your heart rate. This might include a plank or a dynamic stretch.
Whatever you do, keep moving!
High-intensity interval training has been on the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) list of top fitness trends for the past. To generalize the definition of a HIIT workout, it combines short, anaerobic bursts of exercise with shorter rest periods.
On a podcast featuring cardiologist Dr. John Higgins, he reviewed new research that shows that men see more benefits to their level of fitness including decreased body fat and increased aerobic capacity after about six weeks of training. Women, on the other hand, did not show as much improvement.
An very important asterisk to this research is that the population of women that showed lesser results were those who are post-menopausal and nearing retirement age. Younger and middle-aged women actually did see similar results as the men. This suggests that the difference for older women is related to hormonal changes or an overall ability to perform high intensity workouts.
One important bulletpoint to consider is that HIIT workouts were created to cater to those busy people who only had 20-30 minutes to sneak in a workout. Meaning, this type of workout might work best for them only because that's all they have time for.
Although men do see greater results from HIIT workouts than women, personal trainers will admit that they watch men closer because of their higher risk for a cardiac event, such as a heart attack. For the older population, both men and women, fitness programs will still benefit from some HIIT workouts, but the "foundation" should be more moderate exercise to protect themselves from both injury and a significant health event.
As spring creeps up quickly, lots of events around Kansas City will be getting people out of the house and more active. The winner of this weekend's healthiest event is the Kansas Caucus. Voting is sort of like going to confession; you always feel good about doing it.
Locate your closest caucus event and if it's within 2 miles, choose to walk. The weather is favorable in March and makes for comfortable walking conditions.
You can find your caucus locations by going to these websites:
Kansas Democratic Party
As a health professional, anytime I see a news article about a major professional athlete, I pay attention. I like reading about how particular they are about what they eat and what their secrets are to staying healthy. What you put into your body is the fuel it uses to perform daily tasks. If you're eating Captain Crunch and drinking Pepsi all day, chances are your body isn't very healthy and has trouble recovering from illness and injury.
I'm a baseball fanatic. I have been since about age 10. I will watch it on tv, in person, listen on the radio and even talk to my cat about who should start at right field... I've always taken an interest in our hometown hero, Alex Gordon. A few years ago, I read an article about how meticulous he is about his workout routine and diet. He obsesses over his pregame routine, doesn't eat sweets and wouldn't be caught dead eating fried food. I never forgot this. He isn't my favorite player, but I have so much respect for his discipline to make lots of small sacrifices that have ended with big rewards.
So the other day, I was getting my daily baseball brief (have I mentioned I love baseball?) and I was reading interviews from Royals spring training. Included in the article was a picture of sleeveless Alex Gordon. Instead of having thoughts of a blushing teenage girl, I couldn't help but think,
"He is a true picture of health."
At that moment, I decided that I can do more to take better care of myself. I'm going on the Alex Gordon diet!
I challenge you to make one single "major league" change and treat your body like you are a professional athlete. The rewards are worth the small, temporary sacrifices and will be life changing.
Keeping up with all of the health and fitness information on the internet can be confusing if you're deciding how you can best reach your goals. Developing healthy habits right away in the morning is one of the easiest ways to start, getting a head start on the day's distractions that are coming after you leave the house.
1. Get up at the same time each day. Your internal clock is amazingly accurate so avoid hitting the snooze or waiting till the sun comes up. Your body's immunity and energy is affected by your sleeping habits so it is important to ignore those weak moments and make it happen.
2. Drink a tall glass of water before you leave the house. Most people don't drink enough water throughout the day. Maybe 8 cups a day isn't the right amount for you, 1 is better than 0 and once you start drinking water, you'll notice more often when you're thirsty. Remember, once you're thirsty, there's a good chance you're already dehydrated. Put a water bottle close to your bed or in the bathroom in the morning so you can get started right away.
3. Slap on your step-counter or fitness device to track your daily steps. FitBit, Garmin Vivofit, Nike Fuelband...find a device that suits your lifestyle and budget. The first time you strap a fitness device on your wrist, you will be shocked at how little you walk on your busy days at work. When you start getting an idea of how much you actually move on certain days, you will be more cognizant of getting up at moving at lunch and during breaks. Some companies even offer discounts on these devices and have incentives built into their wellness programs.
As Spring approaches, it's important to revisit your fitness resolution for 2016 and incorporate these habits in helping you get to your goals, whatever they may be.