Using Fitspiration As Motivation

Fitspiration is a term used to describe the inspiration behind someone getting up and working toward their physique goals.

Most of these supposedly motivational memes and pictures portray men and women working out or posing to show off their physiques. They are traditionally in spandex or cut off shirts. They are typically drenched in sweat and sport an amazing six pack or a great pair of legs and butt. They will have some slogan that encourages pushing through pain, exhaustion, and hunger. Some of them sound like this. 

"Suck it up now so you don’t have to suck it in later."
"The only bad workout is the workout that didn't happen."
"No Pain, No Gain."

Is this a good form of motivation?

My answer: NO!

There is no research confirming fitspiration’s role in helping people maintain a healthy, sustainable level of physical activity.

A desire to workout because you want to emulate the toned, muscular individual on a fitspiration meme can be a source of short term motivation. The issue with this type of motivation is that is has a short life span. You may enter the 'grind harder' mentality but lose your stamina after learning how much exercise and time it takes to acquire that physique. It sounds good in theory but what's wrong with staying in your own lane?

A huge component of your success in improving your fitness is for you to develop a good relationship with exercise. If you don’t actually enjoy the gym or exercise in general, your interest in engaging in exercise to lose weight or gain muscle will peter out pretty quickly. 

I see a lot of disordered thinking from people looking at fitspiration as a vehicle to to get to there goals. In most cases it actually fosters the motivation to exercise less because it makes most feel worse about themselves. That ultra-fit ideal may seem so far away from where you are now that it is just easier to stay in the same place and resist change.

Fitspiration could alienate people from engaging in exercise, since they’re led to believe that the only way to do so is some over the top program. Most of those memes portray some high intensity boot-camp program, a workout dvd that looks impossible to complete, or a body builder’s weight training routine from his hay day. These memes make a leisurely stroll, bike ride, or a easy swim look like a waste of time. But they aren't because they can help you improve your health and fitness too.

Let me explain something real plain and simple to you.
Real fitness isn’t about having a ridiculously low body-fat percentage.
Real fitness isn't about being able to run a mile in under six minutes.
Real fitness isn't about being the biggest or the most buff person around.

Fitness involves being active enough to get your blood flowing at least once a day.
Fitness is about maintaining your heart, lung, brain, bone health, and emotional well being.
Fitness is about taking pleasure in the ability your body has to move rather than sitting in front of a computer screen or television.

Train Smarter And Harder

You know what I think is crazy. The "more is better" phenomenon. I had a conversation with some clients of mine that thought if one workout a day is good, then two workouts a day is even better. It just makes sense right? Absolutely not!

This is one of the most common things I see in the gym every day. Most people are overwhelmed with the concept that “more is better” when it comes to exercise.

The thinking tends to go somewhat like this: If strength training is getting me results then if I combine it with cardio then I will double my results.

As a result, many people end up spending hours in the gym several days a week. And if that doesn’t work, they do even more in an effort to get their body to respond.

And do you know what usually happens? They get so burned out after a while that they disappear all together. They wonder why all that work hasn’t paid off. I mean, they have been working out for hours a week!

Then all the doubts set in.

"I have bad genetics."

"My body likes to hold weight."

"I'm stuck at this weight forever."

The correct answer is you are doing too much. The focus should be on working out harder and smarter.

I have trained people who used to strength train five or more days every week, and they did hours worth of cardio on top of that. When they come to train with me, they only strength train three days per week with some slight twist to their workouts. We greatly reduced the amount of cardio they performed and used different methods to elevate heart rate.

They end up doing half the work they used to do but are much more productive.

At first, they are incredibly skeptical and worried they are going to gain weight or not get results. However, the exact opposite happens.

They start losing weight. Their body responds to the workouts. They have more energy throughout the day. They have a lot more free time to invest in other activities.

It’s not about how long you workout, but the quality and intensity of your workouts.

If you work hard doing basic compound exercises for 30-45 minutes three times per week, you are going to get great results.

Transforming your body is not complicated, and it doesn’t take near the amount of time that people think.

You have to train hard, and train smart.

Why Does Your Weight Fluctuate

I enjoy weighing myself everyday. I am also probably an exception to the rule because weighing yourself can lead to a lot of negative emotions as well.

I like to see how the previous days food, water, stress, and digestion effects my weight from day to day. It gives me a snapshot of what is going on. The more data points I get the more information I can piece together. I don't place my value on the scale or let whatever the number is affect my self confidence in any way. But I know there is a long road for others to get to that point. It is key for you to understand what causes your weight to fluctuate. I'm not asking you to weigh yourself everyday like I do. But if weight loss is something you are trying to accomplish then you have to learn how to separate your feelings from the number on the scale.

If your goal is weight loss, it can be easy to celebrate when you see the number on the scale fall by a few pounds one day, then worry when the scale jumps by a pound or two the next day. But what do these fluctuations in weight tell you?

Short-term fluctuations in weight are normal and generally reflect changes in your body’s level of water. It’s not possible under typical circumstances for your body to gain or lose several pounds of fat over the course of just a few days. Components like diet, exercise, weather, and your bathroom habits are all factors that can change the level of water in your body and cause the number on the scale to change, too. So you freaking out is the last thing you should be doing.

For example, eating salty food causes your body to hold on to extra water. Until your body clears out the excess salt and the water that comes with it, your weight will increase by a few pounds. An intense, sweaty workout can cause your weight to decrease by several pounds from the fluids you lose as sweat. Once you are fully hydrated and your level of body water is back to normal your weight will increase again.

Your metabolism can also influence your body’s water balance and cause fluctuations in weight.

How your body handles carbohydrates gives us the best example of this. As part of normal metabolism, your body stores a small amount of carbohydrate that is used to maintain steady blood sugar levels between meals and to power muscles during exercise. This reserve of stored carbohydrate, called glycogen, attracts and holds extra water. When your body’s glycogen reserves are full, your level of body water will be much higher than when your reserves are depleted. This is why your nutrition and exercise habits are so important. They both can lead to changes in the body's level of stored glycogen. Because normal variations in your body’s glycogen stores affect your level of body water, weight fluctuations are part of normal metabolism.

It is normal for your body weight to fluctuate by several pounds over the course of a day and even in a week. This doesn't mean that weighing yourself isn't helpful. You just need to keep things in perspective when doing so. Tracking body weight is still a good tool as long as your mindset is in a place to take it the right way. If stepping on a scale makes you feel frustrated, hopeless, or sparks other negative emotions then staying off the scale might be the best action to take for now.

If you want to teach yourself how to approach weighing yourself the right way then you should have a few things in order first.
1. Be discipline in preparing your meals or have some consistency in your nutritional regimen.
2. Have consistent exercise habits. It doesn't matter if it is one day or a week or seven. It could be 30 minutes per session or 60. You need to have some solidity in your program.
3. Don't place your self worth into a number on the scale. You are amazing already.

Start by checking your weight less often. Once a week or once a month for example. That way you will have a good idea of your progress while limiting the distracting influence of short-term fluctuations in weight and less mind games.

Some things you should consider if you are going to weigh yourself is:
Weighing yourself on the same scale all the time.
Weigh on same day of the week.
Weigh at the same time of day.

The goal is to get the most consistent measurement as best as you can.

Watching the scale drop by a few pounds only to see it rise again by the end of the week can feel discouraging. But when you know what your scale is really telling you, it’s easy to avoid being distracted by short-term weight fluctuations and stay focused on your long-term goals.

The scale is a tool. That's it. Stay away from it until you can view it that way.

Don't Skip Your Warm-Up Routine

How do you feel about warming up prior to exercise? Most people see it as a waste of time. You will see people stretch there legs out before a run or stretch out there chest before they do a chest press. But rarely do you see people go through a full warm up routine before they start there weight training routine for the day.

How important is warming up before a workout?

Warming up and stretching correctly are fundamental, yet often overlooked parts of any training program. While these components to training are very basic, many people tend to skip over a proper warm-up, stretch and cool down program and wonder why they do not feel ready to work out. I call these aspects of training the forgotten elements of training. They are techniques that you never see much of in gyms.

Warming up has many benefits. The main benefit to warming up is injury prevention because the blood will be pumping to an area, lowering the chance of a muscle pull or joint injury. Warming up also has positive effects because afterward strength and focus should be peaked. Warming up has many physical and mental benefits.

A younger lifter rarely thinks about joint health when getting started with lifting. A large percentage of lifters are forced to stop performing certain exercises, work around pain, or quit training altogether because they never paid attention to joint health from the beginning. If they had stopped and focused on taking care of there body before they began a workout they could have trained pain free for life and gotten much more results.

Joints require mobility, stability, and motor control. In other words, joints need flexible muscles and soft tissue to surround them. Joints stay healthier when you have a strong and stabilizing musculature to prevent wasted movement. Joints require coordination to move properly. Joints also need balanced levels of strength in the surrounding musculature in order to track properly.

Joint health is highly correlated with good habits in terms of warming up and good form while lifting. Performing some sort of a dynamic warm-up before you start lifting can pay of big time. Things such as foam rolling, mobility drills, and activation drills can get your joints and muscles ready to perform to there highest capability. Once you are done with that you should conduct a more specific warm-up consisting of several progressively heavier sets prior to your first compound lift of the day. Use a full range of motion when you lift weights, and make sure you use sound form. These things are vital for you to have healthier joints 5, 10 and 15 plus years from now.

An injury is the last thing any person that has a weight training routine wants. You can miss a meal here and there if you absolutely must and still reach your goals over time. You can skip the last 5 minutes of your cardio session if you need to be somewhere and your body won't hate you. But if you skip your warm-up and end up with a muscle pull, you're not gaining optimally for the next month or even longer in some cases.

Warming up is injury preventative in many ways. It increases flexibility and blood flow which limits the chance of a muscle pull and joint pain. A proper warm-up also gets the you in a groove for a good lifting session.

Don't skip out on this very basic principal. Your body will thank you later.

Fitness Doesn't Define You

You’re not your diet or nutritional plan.

You’re not your workout program.

You’re not the size of your bra, shirt or jeans.

You're not the number on the scale or your body fat percentage. Health and fitness habits should not define you.

The ultimate goal for any health and fitness goal should be to create the best version of yourself that you possibly can. Exercise and nutrition are the vehicles to get you there but they are just that. Tools that give you the ability to live a more awesome life with no restrictions. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look better. I’ve built my career off helping people lose fat, improve fitness, and gain muscle. Everyone wants to feel confident and like how they look. But how we eat and work out should not consume our lives and dictate our every move.

Fitness shouldn't stress you out.

Fitness shouldn't overwhelm you.

Fitness shouldn't make you feel bad about yourself.

Fitness shouldn't be always be about chasing a lower body fat percentage or new personal best on bench press.

Fitness shouldn't be about arriving at some state of “perfection”.

If you feel any of those things then it is time for a change. The outcome isn't pretty if you continue down that path. It can lead to disordered eating habits, and uncontrollable binge eating. You could experience exhaustion from long and grueling workouts, a terrible obsession over a number on the scale, and constant dissatisfaction with your body. This is not a good road to travel down.

Your happiness shouldn't be predicated on you reaching your health and fitness goals.

Fitness should enrich your life. It makes your life better. Improving your fitness should build you up and help you to reduce your stress. It should make you appreciate your body for how it looks, but also the amazing things it’s capable of doing. Think about something for me. When's the last time you stopped to appreciate that you are better today than you were yesterday? Or the last time you stopped to think the amazing things your body can do instead of trying to change how it looks?

It is easy to look at what you lack. Make a different choice. Things could always be worse. If you have the ability to exercise in order to improve your lifestyle then you are fortunate. So to place your happiness based on the number on the scale is disastrous. 

When your health and fitness becomes a lifestyle it will no longer consume you. There is a learning curve because you have to gain all the skills necessary to make that transition but it will happen if you are consistent.

This won’t resonate with everyone, and I don’t expect it to. To some working out and eating well is only about, and will only ever be about looking good. That’s fine and completely understandable. But as you dig deeper in to this lifestyle you will notice that there is great carryover from your fitness routine that will impact everything you choose to do in this life. You will see that your relationships improve, your financial discipline sharpens, and you will start to have revamped look on life. A healthy lifestyle is much bigger than most give it credit for.

Gary Keller states in his book The ONE Thing, “Your body is an amazing machine, but it doesn’t come with a warranty, you can’t trade it in, and repairs can be costly. It’s important to manage your energy so you can do what you must do, achieve what you want to achieve, and live the life you want to live.

Stop Using Exercise As Punishment

I strongly dislike when exercise is used as a form of punishment.

You should exercise because you love your body, not because you hate it.

I coach people on improving their mentality every day. Mental toughness is something that you will have to work on daily. Exercise mentality means more to me than the type of exercise you are partaking in.

It hurts me to the core when I hear things like, "I need to perform extra cardio because I over indulged on the weekend." "Can I have a hard workout today because I have to eat out tonight?"

It hurts me because I care why you are working out more than the type of workout you are doing. If your workouts are fueled with that sort of mentality then you have to change things up. That mindset is a negative form of motivation and is a road to disorder.

You don't need to punish yourself for giving into a craving. You might have ate too much yesterday. But you don't need to call yourself fat and get on the stair master for an hour because of it. The journey is filled with ups and downs. Ditch the mindset that you must be perfect. It leads to bad habits. It will lead you down a road of always feeling guilty about enjoying your favorite treats, and terrible restriction. Then you will force yourself to perform a super challenging workout to “make up” for the damage. Not only is that mentally draining, but you will start to dislike strength training because it became punishment. This “punishment” mentality also leads to some severe binge eating habits.

You need to relax. Seriously. Keep things super simple, and stop putting so many restrictions on yourself. Focus on consistency instead of trying to be perfect.

The only goal you should have with your workouts is to become a stronger, more awesome version of yourself. Because you were born awesome.

Your workouts allow you to improve your quality of life. To set some personal records, get stronger and build your self-confidence. Your workouts help you discover how much your body is capable of.

So the next time you enjoy a favorite treat or not-so-healthy meal, enjoy it, forget about it, and move on.

Why I Love Dumbbell Exercises

Dumbbell exercises have been a huge part of my training regimen since I started lifting weights at age 12. My dad had a set in the garage that I would use. The old school ones where you had to screw the weights on. It definitely sharpened my math skills.

Dumbbells are great tools to have in your strength training arsenal.

They allow for a lot of variety within your workouts. They have a lot of real world practicality and they have some significant advantages compared to barbells.

Of course they aren't included in most gym discussions because they aren't macho man exercises and leaves very little room to ego lift. But they have the best carryover in real life in my opinion. You will never barbell bench press something in real life unless you are stuck under an object and have to press it off of you. Pretty sure those chances are fairly slim. However, you will be faced with obstacles in life where you have to handle different weights of things and have to get in and out of various shapes. Having dumbbells in your training regimen will help improve your fitness to enhance your quality of life. 

I’m not claiming that dumbbells are the best workout tool and that they’re superior to any other piece of equipment. Barbells, kettlebells, machines, or anything else can definitely play a role in your strength development but this article will just dive into the positive aspects of using dumbbells.

Dumbbell exercises can be a little easier on the joints when you are starting out in your lifting journey. You may have some old shoulder injuries, elbow pain or back pain. Dumbbell exercises can be a little safer until you gain full mobility within all your joints, tendons and ligaments. An example of this is to take a look at flat bench dumbbell press and compare it to it's counterpart flat bench barbell press. The dumbbell version tends to be a bit more elbow and shoulder friendly because you can have more natural movement since your hands aren’t fixed in place. You have the freedom to turn or rotate them as you press. Those little tweaks can make for a very safe exercise and not hold you back from making very good strength gains.

The same thing applies to a dumbbell standing press compared to a barbell overhead press. Having your palms face your face instead of facing forward could be the difference into you forming that shape pain free. This is why I recommend people who have had previous shoulder or elbow issues to use dumbbells in their training.

This is why many of my favorite upper body and lower body exercises use dumbbells.

So if you’ve noticed some problems with certain upper body barbell exercises, try swapping them out for the dumbbell version and see how things feel.

I'm a huge advocate for training the body unilaterally as well. We all have a dominant side. Sometimes using a barbell can only exaggerate that. Using dumbbells can improve your weaker side and help you create a more stable, functional physique.

The last reason I love dumbbells is because they are great for home gyms. You don't need any fancy equipment early on in your journey. A pair of dumbbells can take you such a long way. A pair of power block dumbbells can save you a ton of space if that is a resource that is limited in your household. These dumbbells increase in 2.5 pound increments from 10 to 50 pounds. That is perfect for a home gym.

Dumbbells can be a great tool if you’re new to the wonderful world of strength training and want to ease into lifting. Begin by performing basic compound exercises with dumbbells and strive to get stronger.

No workout tool is perfect for everything but dumbbells are a great place to start in your lifting journey.

No More Training For Weight Loss

Why did you start exercising?

Why did you join a gym?

Many people who join gyms and want to improve their body composition and physical appearance automatically start training for fat loss. This may mean that they do a lot of cardio or circuit training and the focus is solely on fat loss and nothing else.

This is especially the case with women. Most women believe that if the scale doesn’t move then the program isn’t working. 

In my experience these women would be much better off if they focused on improving their performance and building muscle.

Women's fitness has progressed in my eyes. I believe that women are out of the lifting weights will make me big and bulky phenomenon. If you still believe that then let me be the first to tell you, it is absolutely not true. Building a few pounds of muscle will:
1. Increase your metabolism.
2. Allow you to burn more fat. and
3. Give you the desired lean, athletic, “toned” look.

I have trained so many women who even gain a few pounds of muscle without realizing it. The result will be that the scale weight may stay the same or even be a little higher. All they knew is that they looked and felt better.

If more women would just focus on improving their performance in the gym instead of always focusing on losing fat and weight, they would get far better results.

So what can you do differently?

When you workout be intentional about doing better than you did the previous time you exercised. Don’t get caught up in the trap of doing the same weights with the same reps all the time. For example, increase the weight you use for each exercise, or perform more repetitions with the same weight. Don’t worry about how many calories you’re burning or working out so hard that you have to get on all fours and crawl out of the gym in a pool of sweat, blood and tears. That is unnecessary and a lot of times can be counterproductive.

Increasing your performance can be fun, challenging and very rewarding.

To prove my point, take this into consideration. My best friend Rachel was 160 pounds when she decided to start weight training. She battled with her weight her entire life. Rachel has two young boys at home, Brantley and Carter, who are very active with school activities and sports. Her husband Bryan is one of my best friends too and loves to travel and scuba dive. If she was going to keep up with her busy family she needed to be strong, and have great muscular endurance. I told her that we would have to build from the ground up. She was all for it and said that she understood why we needed to be intentional about improving her performance.

Her body fat percentage was around 36-38% and she ate around 1100 calories. She really never had any formal instruction on lifting weights and she didn't know how to eat for performance. Her first month we did nothing but body weight exercises and her workouts typically didn’t last longer than 30 minutes. I would have her video some of her exercises and I would send back pointers so the next time she would perform the exercises with better execution. After a few months we progressed to lifting weights. She wasn't extremely strong and didn't know her way around a weight room so we kept things simple. Our goal was to increase the amount of reps over time with the same type of movement. She nailed it. Rachel has been extremely consistent in the weight room for almost a year now. She lifts upper body twice a week and lower body twice a week and does very minimal cardio. Every week we attempt to improve on what she did the week prior in some form or fashion. Rachel now eats around 1800 calories, lifts weights 4-5 times per week, has a body fat percentage 26-27%, and weighs 137-139. 

So if you want to lose weight and change your body, then stop training for weight loss and focus on improving your performance. You’ll get better results and actually have fun doing it.

2 Muscle Building Mistakes Men Make

This one is definitely for the men but much of the information stands true for both males and females. 

When I look back on the thousands of conversations that I have had with men regarding their current health and fitness routines I have concluded one thing; they are all experts and I'm not. 

It is as if the countless hours of study, degrees, certifications, and my personal 15+ years of weight training is null and void. 

Thankfully my father taught me some valuable lessons when dealing with people. Listen twice as much as you talk was one of them. He used to always say we have two ears and one mouth for a reason. 

At some point I eventually penetrate the thick skull, years of misinformation, and the ego driven know it all guy that has a degree from the Muscle & Fitness magazine. Working cattle all my life has graced me with a never ending amount of patience.

The same 2 principles seem to haunt most men when it comes to building muscle. So I'm going to share them with you so you are ahead of the game. Thank me later. 

1. You Perform the Same Exercises Every Time You Train

Most people have the 'list' of exercises that are staples in their routine. It's human nature to want to stick within your comfort zone so I totally understand. You can't miss bench press Monday right? 

It is okay to have movements that you feel that you respond best to. But you have to understand that muscles become accustomed to the continual use of the same movements. This will make them increasingly resistant to trauma. Why would you want the time that you spend in the gym to work against you? The goal is to create metabolic stress to the muscle so your body undergoes the remodeling process continually.

You should always utilize a variety of exercises over the course of whatever training cycle you are on. Switching angles, planes of movement, and even your hand and foot spacing plays a huge role in your muscle building efforts. There is no hard rule on how often you should be changing exercises though. I tend to stand by the general guideline to make some sort of routine changes at least on a monthly basis. 

Remember that your muscles are some greedy monsters and in order to keep them happy you must give them variety. 

2. You Believe that You Should Train In the Same Rep Range All The Time

This argument runs crazy in the fitness industry. For the longest people would always say that muscle growth is maximized in the moderate rep ranges (6-12 reps per set). That argument has some research to back it up but it is far from being indisputable. Even if it were 100% true that still would not mean that you should only train in that rep range. 

Let's break it down. 

Training in lower rep ranges (1-5 reps per set) maximizes strength increases for sure. Being in this rep range at times will help you use heavier weights during those moderate rep range training days. Training in low rep ranges at times translates to being able to create better muscular tension which will give you better growth. 

High rep sets (15+ reps per set) will help you increase your lactate threshold. Why would you want to delay lactic acid build up? If you build this up then you will have the ability to keep a lid on fatigue when training in those moderate rep ranges. This will also increase the time you have the muscle under tension which is important in the growth process as well. So you get double the benefit. Who doesn’t want more bang for their buck.

So stop with I’m doing the 5 by 5 to pack on size and then high reps to get cut program.

Bottom line is muscular development can continue to happen when you use a full spectrum of rep ranges. Your program should include both low reps, moderate, and high repetitions. 

Building muscle is harder than following some program you saw in a magazine or some viral Facebook trend. I’m tired of seeing men train year after year in the gym only to never see the gains they are looking for. Hopefully some of these tactics are already being used in your current program and if they aren’t then start as soon as possible. 

To Stretch Or Not To Stretch

Let's discuss another one of those topics that seem to linger around in fitness sector. Stretching.
Is it good? Is it bad?
Should I do it before I exercise? Should I do it after I exercise?
How long should I do it for?

This topic appears in tons of fitness related magazines, blogs, and articles. Some of them have good information but some of them suck.

Stretching does the body good in several ways but I want to clear up the biggest myth first.

Stretching will not improve your performance. Yes, you spent some time bending over and touching your toes, but that will not translate into you squatting more weight. You will often see a man stretch his chest out before he bench presses. That does not help power output. I'm sorry.

The majority of articles mention that stretching decreases the chance of injury. NOT TRUE. Being able to perform a movement through its entire range of motion is what decreases the chance of injury. Performing certain stretches can aide in that regard. But stretching isn't the only vehicle to get us there. Remembering that there are more than one way to chop a tree down is key.

When the goal is to embark on improving flexibility then a couple things need to be considered. Stretching is best performed after a good warm-up. This helps to reduce joint viscosity. Which is a fancy way of saying prepare your muscles and connective tissue before you start tugging on them. Some light aerobic activity performed for 5 or 10 minutes will accomplish this task well. Take home message: Don’t stretch a cold muscle if improving flexibility is the end goal.

Stretching is great for helping you to be more aware of posture, and stress relief. It can also be a good tool for helping the body get in and out of basic human shapes.

I personally love stretching for the mental aspect. It allows you to have 2 to 5 minutes of time where you can mentally prepare yourself for exercise. I find that to be beneficial for clients, and also in my own practice.

What does the research say?

There is some evidence showing that stretching before a workout isn't the best idea. It can have a negative benefit on performance output. Especially in high performance activities like low rep resistance training, sprinting, jumping or any other high output type exercise/activity. Let's take a T-shirt for example. If you have a fresh T-shirt out of the bag. It is nice and tight when you put it on. But if you start tugging on the sleeves, and stretching the bottom of it then it won't be so tight will it? Your muscles act the same way. If you are stretching a single muscle for an extended amount of time and asking that muscle to be nice and tight during maximum output, good luck.

In general, standard stretching protocols where you are holding a stretch for 10 - 30 seconds are safe. It actually shows great benefit to the individual that practices moderate to high repetition resistance training. It also has great carryover for the person performing sub maximal cardiovascular exercise.

Performing basic fundamental stretches are helpful because:
1. It will help your body realize that basic human functions are safe.
2. It will help give you access to moving through a full range of motion.
3. It could help you become more aware of some posture flaws.
4. It could be a great tool for stress relief since muscle tightness is often associated with stress.

Here is another example of a fitness related topic that isn't completely black and white. With most fitness topics like this the truth lies somewhere in the middle. 

Resistance Training For Children

Should you let your kid lift weights? I guarantee you have heard of all the potential 'dangers' related to this right?  

However, there has never been any scientific evidence that youth weight training is harmful to the normal growth and development process. Your child can in fact perform barbell squats without fear of stunted growth!

Weight training is not even listed in the top 10 most prevalent injuries for children. According to some of the most updated statistics from Stanford Children's Health the highest rates of injury occur in sports that involve contact and collisions. Youth football, basketball, baseball and softball, and soccer rank as some of the highest injury prone sports for youth sports. More than 775,000 children, ages 14 and younger, are treated in hospital emergency rooms for sports-related injuries each year. Most of the injuries occurred as a result of falls, being struck by an object, collisions, and overexertion. Children ages 5 to 14 account for nearly 40 percent of all sports-related injuries treated in hospitals. More than 3.5 million kids under age 14 receive medical treatment for sports injuries each year. Guess what? Resistance training isn’t in the list at all. This is often attributed to good coaching and qualified supervision.

Resistance training for kids is extremely beneficial and safe. I believe that the sooner your child has a barbell in their hand the better. Especially with the issues of self-confidence climbing and child obesity rates rising. Why not give them something that teaches discipline, and boost a positive self-image? 

My father put weights in my hand at a young age. Around the age of 8 I started to train with him in the garage. We had a bench press that was duck taped so it wouldn’t fall apart and a squat rack. It was one of the best gifts he ever gave me. I can't thank him enough for introducing me to resistance training because it taught me so many valuable lessons.

Here are the reasons why I believe your child should be in a resistance training program. 

Shape a Positive Self-Image

The most significant basic developmental task for children is developing self-worth. If they don't master self-worth, they become self-absorbed instead of self-aware. Confidence makes social life a lot smoother. It also makes it a lot safer. Studies show that self-confidence is one of the single best shields against bullying. A child’s belief in his or her ability to succeed in a particular situation is important. This is known as self-efficacy. If it isn’t built up then they may have less confidence in their ability to stand up for themselves.

Yes, I understand, your child might be the confident kid. They may even be the superstar. But kids who aren't socially awkward suffer silently from a distorted body image that's probably a lot worse. The social pressure for them to be the best or the prettiest could leave him or her constantly hungry for some internal fulfillment they can't define. 

Weightlifting, however, can give adolescents a say in their physical destiny and appearance. With a resistance training program they play an integral role in developing self-worth. The ownership, investment, and discipline it takes to accomplish that change in physical appearance can often help build the other parts of the self-worth equation as well.

Create an Environment for a Healthier Kid and Strong Family Bonds

Lifting makes kids health and food conscious. Food takes on a whole new dimension when you lift. It becomes fuel, and sustenance. It becomes purposeful, and that purpose is building and maintaining muscle, daily energy, and recovery. They will also learn balance. Kids should know how to enjoy some of their favorite sugar filled foods but not at the expense of pushing aside nutritiously dense foods. 

It's easy to bond with kids during infancy. But most parents aren't as good in maintaining these bonds when kids get older and presumably more complex. My father and I bonded during our weight training sessions. It was something I looked forward to. Weightlifting gives you something to share and a way to acknowledge your kid's effort and achievements, along with their weaknesses. They will learn life isn’t about wins, losses, or participation awards. They will learn that you get out what you put in.

If you are a parent of a young child and considering a weight-training program, ask yourself the following questions:
1. Is your child mature enough to accept coaching instructions?
2. Does the training program emphasize lifting technique and not the amount of weight lifted
3. Is there a qualified coach to supervise my child?
4. Does the coach understand how to monitor the training program and vary the intensity of lifting to avoid over-training and injuries?

If you can answer yes to all of these questions, a weight-training program can be implemented with your child regardless of age.

Weight training is safe for children of all ages to perform as long as they are adequately supervised and coached. Consult the child’s primary physician before starting any new physical training program. (I have to say that but science is science)

How Much Water Should You Be Drinking?

The beloved water debate. This is a topic that I cover at least once a day between friends, family and clients. 

The question of how much water your body needs to stay hydrated can be a bit tricky. Is it eight glasses a day? Half your body weight in ounces? Those are all common suggestions to follow when trying to stay hydrated. But is there a definitive answer to how much water you should be drinking on a daily basis? 

We all have different hydration needs that vary depending on our health, activity level, diet, and climate. 

I don't want to be the bearer of bad news but there is no specific “one size fits all” recommendation. So if someone tells you to carry around a gallon jug and finish it by the end of the day, run the opposite direction. 

Water is critical for for everyone. Water makes up 60 percent of our body weight, and even that can vary depending on size and gender. Hydration can come from water, food, or metabolic water production. Research has given us some general guidelines. Healthy adults should drink at the very least 2 liters, or 8.5 cups of water every day. 

Why would there be differences in optimal intake for different people?

While considering optimal hydration there are a few factors to keep in mind. You must take into account the intensity of your fitness routine, the temperature outdoors, and current health status. Women must also take extra things into consideration like being pregnant or lactating.

If you have an exercise regimen of any kind then hydration becomes even more important. You have hydration requirements greater than those individuals who are sedentary by about one to three cups per day. Performing exercise for extended periods of time, especially over an hour, makes electrolytes (sodium and potassium) imperative to hydration. Replacing electrolytes that are lost through sweating helps avoid the condition of having too little sodium in your blood.

Similarly, living in warm weather with high temperatures or humidity causes greater fluid loss than that of individuals living in more temperate climates. For this reason additional fluids and electrolytes are recommended for people lucky enough to live where the sun always shines.

Lastly, pregnant or lactating women require more fluids for adequate hydration in the range of 10 to 14 additional cups per day. Putting their recommended daily fluid intake level to around 4.5 liters or 18 cups.

What can you do to ensure you are drinking enough water?

Optimal hydration can be reached through drinking various fluids and by eating water-dense foods.

Findings from a recent study from the Journal of the American College of Nutrition suggest that regardless of the fluids ingested, the body knows how to use them for optimal hydration. Researchers observed a group of healthy males, randomized to varying sources of hydration for 24 hours. They were randomized to either consume water, water and diet soda, water and regular soda, or water with regular soda, diet soda, and orange juice mixed. After testing the subjects’ urine for biological markers of hydration and dehydration, the scientists discovered that all of the men were adequately hydrated.

Coffee, despite some common beliefs, is also a good hydrator. 

How does hydration effect your weight loss efforts?

Hydration is eminent to health and wellness and can even contribute to weight gain or weight loss. Research shows some of your favorite beverages can help your hydration levels. But you must remember that some of those options aren't calorie free. Make smart decisions when consuming some of your favorites. The sugar free version of your favorite soda or coffee not loaded with sugar could lead to better weight-loss success. 

Proper hydration plays a role in counteracting overeating. Thirst can often be mistaken for hunger so food is eaten instead of drinking water or other fluids. A good idea is to first hydrate with a glass of water, a cup of coffee or tea, or any other sugar-free beverage before grabbing a snack.

Staying properly hydrated also plays a role in thermoregulation. A body that is properly hydrated burns more calories than a body that is dehydrated. 

My top 3 optimal hydration tips for success. 

1) Never allow yourself to be thirsty. 
2) Eat plenty of water dense fruits and vegetables. These include cucumbers, bell peppers, and watermelon. They all contribute to optimal hydration as well. 
3) Keep fluids with you where ever you go. If you have it with you then you will likely stay hydrated. 

Tucker MA. Ganio MS. Adams JD et al. Hydration status over the 24-H is not affected by ingested beverage composition. J A Coll Nutri. 2014


Why Should You Go Buy New Shoes

With the invention of smarter, fancier, and innovative pedometers walking more steps everyday has taken off. It is not uncommon for someone to look on their wrist to see how many steps they've taken throughout the day. Walking is one of the safest and easiest ways to add movement and increase your non-exercise activity throughout the day. 

If you are going to walk 10,000 steps in a day you should ensure that you are walking well and have the correct shoes on your feet. 

Walking with lower back pain, bunions and calluses on your feet is not a symptom of hard work. Those are symptoms of poor walking technique, and tissue restrictions. 

One of the amazing things about the body is that it can adapt and you have the power to bring it back to great form. 

Today I want to address an overlooked topic which is the type of shoes you invest in. The sneakers you select can make a huge difference in how you perform your fitness and leisure activity. Besides sitting incorrectly, your biggest enemy to good walking is the wrong shoes. Your feet are a marvelous feat of engineering. But they aren't designed for all the high heels, artificial support and never ending inches of foam cushioning. 

Well, what shoes are bad?

Enemy #1
High Heels
High heels limit the range of motion at the ankle. Take a moment and think about standing on your toes all day. That causes your heel cords and calves to be in a shortened position (flexed). When you start to miss out on ankle range of motion your body will compensate by turning your feet out. Walking in high heels also pushes your center of mass forward which puts unwanted stress on your spine. My tip would be to reserve them for special occasions only if you can. 

Enemy #2
Dress Shoes
Yes they are shiny and look amazing with a nice pair of slacks. You look distinguished and dapper. Like high heels, this type of shoe has firm heel caps and stiff leather which kills ankle mobility. Stiff shoes ruin your sense of your foot position and movement. They destroy your walking mechanics by making you feel comfortable with striking the ground with only the heel of your foot. 

Enemy #3
Cushioned Athletic Shoes
These shoes are popular. At some point the shoe world got a hold of us and led us to believe that we should feel like we are walking on air. That soft cushion gives you a false sense of reality because they can absorb the shock generated by poor mechanics. But cushy shoes only exaggerate all the negative adaptations that come along with walking poorly. I'll put it like this. What if you walked around with padded gloves on your hands all day? It would effect how you picked things up off the ground and it might even lead to some carelessness because you had this tool that was protecting you. 

Enemy #4
Flip Flops
When you wear flip flops you have to clench your big toes to keep the shoes on your feet. How can that not change the way you walk? I love that flip flops are flat but you are not reaping the benefits by clenching your feet in order to take a step. Common injuries are achilles problems, plantar fasciitis, and overly stiff ankles

Shoes should provide grip and protection from sharp objects. They shouldn't change the way our biomechanics operate.  

When I rehab poor walking mechanics the first thing I recommend is being barefoot as often as possible. It improves your balance, posture and gives you better self awareness. Don't be the creepy person in the grocery store with no shoes on. But you can def start by not wearing shoes around the house. 

I get that shoes are about style. But there are companies out there that understand people are getting a grasp on this health kick. More zero drop shoes are coming to market now. Cross Fit Nano, New Balance Minimus, Merrell Trail Glove and the Nike MetCon are some of my favorites. 

I'm sure you have a job that might permit you to wear a dress shoe. But is it possible to change out of them at your work station? Wearing high heels, dress shoes, or flip flops a few hours a week won't hurt you. But if you are wearing them day in and day out then we have some work to do to restore your good foot mechanics.