Ask anyone who has ever used exercise to make a drastic change to their life and they will likely tell you that consistency is the foundation to long-term success. Yes, we all know that behaviors like regular physical activity and proper nutrition are an essential component of long-term health, but in the hustle and bustle of modern life it can be difficult to make the necessary changes to adopt new lifestyle habits.

When it comes to exercise, focusing on the positive aspects of changing a behavior can make it a more pleasurable experience. The brain rewards pleasurable experiences by increasing levels of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. Learning how to enjoy the process of exercise could elevate levels of these transmitters so that exercise becomes a positive and rewarding experience. The result is that the more you exercise, the better you will feel, which could lead to long-term behavior change and a healthier life.

Use the following five steps to help shift your focus so that you approach exercise to a healthier life, which is essential for making it a daily habit.

  1. Treat yourself. Give yourself a small reward after completing a workout, doing all of the workouts you scheduled for yourself in a week, or when you hit a goal. No, this does not mean enjoying a meal with three times as many calories as you just burned off, but it does require a little planning to have the right reward ready.  Reward yourself with a new piece of exercise clothing when you achieve a goal, or allow yourself to enjoy a favorite snack after a tough workout.  Whatever it is, treating yourself to a reward activates the pleasure centers in your brain, which helps to establish a positive outlook toward the role that exercise plays in your life.
  2. Schedule your workouts. If you live by your appointment calendar, it may sometimes feel as though your schedule takes over your life and limits the amount of time available for a workout. However, if you take the time to plan your schedule and include time for exercise, it is more likely to become a regular habit. Take a few minutes over the weekend to plan when and where you will exercise and put it in your schedule. Then, if someone tries to make demands for your time, you can say, “Sorry, but I’ve already got plans.”
  3. Set a learning goal. There are two primary types of goals: outcome and learning. Outcome goals focus on the result of performing a task, such as completing a marathon. Learning goals, however, focus on the process or steps required to achieve an outcome, such as learning how to exercise with a kettlebell. Focusing on the process of learning a new exercise technique or format could help release more dopamine, which is released in response to positive learning experiences, so that your brain associates exercise with pleasure.
  4. Change your mindset. Refocus your outcome goals to focus on quality of life rather than trying to achieve some media-defined appearance. Instead of focusing on using exercise to change how you look, think of exercise as a means for improving your health and enhancing your quality of life. If you shift your focus toward using exercise as a means for achieving and maintaining better health, you might be surprised at how motivated you will become to maintain a more consistent workout schedule.
  5. Find a workout buddy. Taking the steps to initiate behavior change by yourself can be tough, so having a friend along with you for the journey could help make the process a little easier. Enlisting a friend or family member to be a workout partner can give you someone to exercise with, which helps the time pass more quickly. It also makes you and your partner accountable to each other, which means you’re less likely to skip your workout if you know someone is counting on you. If you and a workout partner commit to exercising together, chances are greater that you will enjoy the experience, which is essential for establishing a long-term habit.

Taking these steps to focus on the positive aspects of working out could help change your perception of the benefits of exercise so that it becomes easier to make it a consistent habit. It is only when exercise becomes a regular habit that you will experience lasting and long-term results from your efforts.

Have you ever heard of mind-muscle connection? Simply put, it's an aware and deliberate focus on a target muscle contraction. The reason this is important is because it helps recruit more muscle fibers which leads to better muscular development.

 

How many times have you seen people doing a squat half way down or pull-ups half way up? Maybe they’re doing cable pull-downs with too much weight and rounding their shoulders and pulling with their biceps. The problem with half of a repetition is that usually there’s too much weight on the bar or weight stack and the person cannot complete the full range of motion. Why is this important? Because when performing exercises like squats, squatting deeper recruits more of the much needed gluteal muscles.

 

 What happens if you can’t do a full range pull-up? I would suggest using a band or the assisted pull-up machine. Chances are, if you are doing a “half-way up” pull-up, you are using your biceps and shrugging muscles to do the movement, not the needed back muscles like the lats or rhomboids.

 

And if it’s a flexibility issue for squats, that should be addressed before the heavier lifting. There are many types of dynamic warmups and stretches that would help improve one’s range of motion.

 

 

Tips:

 

Any questions on how to do any of this? Please ask one of our trainers who will gladly help.

Part 3: Why Your Workouts Aren't "Working Out"

After years of scouring through fitness and nutrition research, I have discovered quite the assortment of tips and tricks to ‘maximize results’ in the gym. By this, I mean I have put in considerable time and effort towards understanding all the ways to help my clients most efficiently and effectively reach their fitness goals. Throughout this research, I have come to find that much of the ‘big picture’ or ‘fundamental’ truths for fitness seem to be glossed over, neglected for the sake of defining and understanding the minutiae. In other words, we often seem to “miss the forest for the trees” when seeking or giving advice to make progress in the gym. Many of the popular articles in the news and on the internet are announcing the next ‘breakthrough technique’ or product that will ‘take your fitness to the next level’. While we are obsessed with finding the cutting-edge difference-makers, we forget that fundamentals are… well… just that: fundamental. The “tried and true” basics of how to be successful in the gym aren’t shiny, sexy, new, or exciting. So, while we frantically search for the next secret to make that 1% difference, we forget to attend to the other 99%. Among the chatter of all the ‘new research’, we seem to no longer hear about what has worked for so many people over so many years prior.

In this three-part blog, I would like to introduce the major errors I see fitness enthusiasts make that prevent them from reaching their goals or their fullest potential. The intention with this article is that you use it as a sort of “checklist”. As you read through each bullet, consider whether any of these fundamental missteps sound familiar. If this is the case, addressing this factor could be the missing link in truly accelerating your health and fitness goals. With that, I also recommend treating this list in sequential order, working from top to bottom. If you find that there are multiple points you need to work on, start with the upper-most point (closest to #1) and work your way down. The higher on this list the point is, the more foundational it is. If you don’t resolve any issues in the earlier points, any changes in the later points will not have as significant of a result, if any. Whether you are starting a new fitness journey or have been working out consistently for years, this list is essential to ensuring you find a fitness plan that works for you.

As this is a 3-Part blog post, be sure to read Part 1 & Part 2 prior to moving on to this section.

With that, read on for the top foundational fitness mistakes and how to fix them:

These next two points (#5 and #6) are often the first things people contemplate and seek advice on when they want to advance their progress in the gym. Note that these points are lower on the list because changes in these will yield little results unless points #1 through #4 are addressed first. It is only after you have established a fitting and sustainable approach to fitness that you can address these following points. Ensure your approach to fitness considers activities you enjoy, goals that make sense, recovery that sustains you, and focus during your fitness routines before being concerned with the following points.

 

Error #5: You make it to the gym, but possibly too much or not enough.

Frequency of your workouts is a major consideration in many fitness circles. When discussing it, the image of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” is always comes to mind. You don’t want it to be too much or too little – but “just right”.

I can’t emphasize this point enough. Sometimes, it seems the messaging from health and fitness influencers says “more is better”. This couldn’t be further from the truth. With any form of physical activity, there is a point at which increasing your frequency or total volume will not result in any further benefit. In fact, surpassing this limit of maximal benefits can result in regression (not to mention increased risk for injury, illness, and many other issues. Especially if intense activity is overdone). If you recall point #3, recovery is just as important, if not more so, than the effort and activity itself. The point at which no added benefit is gained from increasing exercise frequency/volume is known as “the point of diminishing returns”. In a practical interpretation, this could mean that weightlifting 3-4 times per week is your “sweet spot” for increasing strength, for example. For this individual, lifting weights any more during the week would only interfere with their recovery and likely lead to loss in strength and possibly even injury. While the example I provided is for lifting weights, this principle applies to all forms of fitness.

In other words, there is truly “too much of a good thing”. It’s true. Doing “all the right things” too often can actually hinder your ultimate progress. Spending too much time and effort on “perfecting” a singular piece of your fitness won’t necessarily be the fastest path to results. Sometimes the “scenic route” will yield the best outcomes. For example, a runner may think that the best, and only, way to improve their running pace may be to simply run. It has been shown, though, that performing various weightlifting and agility drills can help enhance speed and power while decreasing risk of injury in runners. From this perspective, including variety in your training won’t just make you a more well-rounded athlete, but a better athlete at your activity of choice.

With that being said, all forms of activity need a minimum frequency and volume of training to result in noticeable progress. While I wish I could give the “magic number” of times you should generally work out each week to maximize progress, any number I would give would be a gross oversimplification. Every person has a different threshold for volume of activity and making progress. This threshold is based on the activity they do, their ability to recover, their genetic potential for said activity, their diet, and much more. To help guide you, I would like to provide you with a rule of thumb: If you currently do an activity or exercise consistently, have not made any noticeable progress within the last couple weeks or month, but also find that you are consistently feeling fully rested and recovered, you are probably ready to explore increasing your frequency. Note: this ONLY applies of you aren’t making progress AND are consistently recovering.

While I know that this is a very broad approach to finding your ideal frequency to train, this is going to be your best method to discovering your individual needs and limitations. Struggling to find that training “sweet spot”? Consider talking to a Western personal trainer about how your current routine could be tweaked to accelerate your progress.

 

Error #6: Your nutrition could be better… and not in the way you think.

“I’d hit my gym goals if I could just stop eating carbs/sugar/junk.”

“It would be so much better if I had more self-control with food.”

“I just need to eat less calories. It’s all just calories in, calories out.”

“I think keto/intermittent fasting/[insert popular diet here] will be the key I’ve been looking for.”

In the fitness community, nutrition seems to be the center of conversation quite often. Just as I mentioned in the beginning of this blog, it seems that we also seem to “miss the forest for the trees” when it comes to nutrition. Take it from a dietitian: nutrition does not need to be complicated. In fact, the belief that you just need to cut out a particular food or follow a certain diet to be fit or healthy only serves to overcomplicate nutrition.

It seems that every year is accompanied by the next new “diet hack” that is guaranteed to make you thinner, leaner, stronger, faster, etc. Despite each “diet breakthrough” spreading like wildfire, it seems that it never sticks long before the next is announced. Case in point; For much of the 1980s and 1990s, eating low-fat was the key to ideal health and fitness. Across grocery stores, low-fat versions of everyone’s favorite foods could be found. Now entering the 2010s and 2020s, a diet that is low-carb (Hello, Keto!) is the key to ideal health. Those very same low-fat foods that filled the shelves have now been replaced by high-fat and low-carb alternatives. Anyone else suspicious about the flip in script?

Hidden underneath the shouts of these “revolutionary diets”, you may have heard the quiet but unchanging mantra of many nutrition professionals, “eat a balanced diet, including a variety of fruits and vegetables.” Is this advice revolutionary, breakthrough, or grabbing any headlines? No. But it never changes, and that is for good reason. This advice, though not exciting, is consistently true. I hate to break it to you, but there is no magic pill, no revolutionary diet, or perfect food. Our human biology has developed over many, many years. As a result, it is unlikely that we will simply discover a way to “hack” our incredibly smart, complicated body. For some, this news may be disappointing. You may not even want to believe it and continue to hold on to hope that the next new diet will be your secret key. Perhaps for some, though, this may be a relief. It may be reassurance that you can stop your searching and rest easy knowing that eating doesn’t have to be complicated.

Despite this, I can still assure you that there are tips and tricks to change your diet for improved fitness and even just general health. Thankfully, these points are short and simple enough to fit on the following bullet points:

Nutrition can be as complicated or as simple as you want to make it. Know that there’s no such thing as a “bad” or “wrong” diet. There are certainly different ways to eat that may or may not support whatever outcome or goal you desire, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with any particular food choices. When in doubt, the smallest and most sustainable changes to your current nutrition habits will have the longest-reaching and most significant impacts.

Kettlebell training is a popular method of strength training that targets specific muscles in many unique & fun ways. You can create an entire full body program along with a great cardiovascular workout with just a few different sizes of kettlebells. The neat thing about kettlebell workouts is that they can be performed by not only athletes, but the general population as well.

 

One widely known kettlebell exercise across the fitness community is the kettlebell swing. The swing can be performed with one or two hands, or alternating, swinging up and down. On the upswing, the kettlebell should reach about to eye level, and on the downswing, it should swing in between your legs, but not too far. A good way to train your neuromuscular system is to put a foam roller right behind your back when performing the swing. If you knock the foam roller over, you are going too far. You can perform the kettlebell swing with straight, slightly bent legs, in order to prevent hyperextension at the knees. This gives way to a slight hamstring stretch on the downward phase, followed by a powerful swing/jerk motion, utilizing our fast twitch fibers.

 

Another way you can perform this exercise is with a deeper bend at the knees, more so contracting your hamstrings and gluteus muscles. Because of the versatility of the kettlebell, the swing is not limited to just between the legs. You can perform a lunge swing, following the same movement patterns, with the difference of swinging the kettlebell to the right on a left leg lunge, and to the left on a right leg lunge. This “lunge swing” exercise is to be performed with caution at first, as our nervous system, which is the first to adapt to any training program, is still learning the movement.

 

Another potential kettlebell swing exercise is the side lunge “golf swing”. As many fitness gurus know, there are three planes of motion humans can move through. The sagittal, frontal, and transverse plane. Effectively utilizing all three of these planes will maximize our performance in the gym and in anthetic events. The side lunge swing is performed in the frontal, or often referred to as the lateral plane. When performing this exercise, start in a side lunge with the kettlebell out in front of you. Using your core muscles, swing the kettlebell to either the right or the left, depending on your bent leg. This will replicate a golf swing. Be very careful not to hit your knee with the kettlebell when swinging it, however. It is very important that you swing the kettlebell far enough away from your knee in front of you to avoid collision. Another way to prevent this is to slightly turn your squatting leg into external (outward) rotation. This will minimize the chance of the kettlebell hitting your patella (sesamoid knee bone).

 

There are many other exercises besides the swings that can be performed such as: goblet squats, deadlifts, rows, farmers carries, snatch’s, cleans, and front squats, just to make a few. Just about any dumbbell workout can be performed with a kettlebell. Kettlebells tend to present challenges in certain exercises because of the weight distribution. For example, on a shoulder press, it is advisable to keep a strong grip on the handle to ensure proper activation of not only your deltoids (shoulder muscles), but your wrist flexor muscles (grip muscles). When you press the weight up in the air, the weight distribution of the kettlebell poses a great challenge for our wrist flexors to remain activated. If the weight is too much, or our technique is slightly off, the kettlebell will turn over and fall against your hand, no longer being secured by your grip.

 

The kettlebell farmers carry can help improve our grip strength tremendously. Grab one or two heavy enough kettlebells, and walk in a straight line, or safely around your gym. As you proceed on your walk, make sure you retract your shoulder blades and activate your thoracic (upper back) muscles. These muscles (rhomboids, trapezius and others) help to maintain our spinal structural integrity. Make sure you are gripping the kettlebell with a great deal of force. As you return to your starting blocks, if you picked a great amount of weight, you will be ready to just about drop it to the ground. You will notice that your posture will feel a lot more sturdy immediately as your postural muscles have just been activated for a great deal of time. This exercise is great especially for people who live a sedentary lifestyle.

 

Kettlebell workouts are a great way to spice up your routine in the gym. There are hundreds of exercises to choose from that can work your entire body in a very different way. If you are serious about your training and improvement in the fitness world, learning a few kettlebell workouts would be well worth your time.

Part 2: Why Your Workouts Aren't "Working Out"

After years of scouring through fitness and nutrition research, I have discovered quite the assortment of tips and tricks to ‘maximize results’ in the gym. By this, I mean I have put in considerable time and effort towards understanding all the ways to help my clients most efficiently and effectively reach their fitness goals. Throughout this research, I have come to find that much of the ‘big picture’ or ‘fundamental’ truths for fitness seem to be glossed over, neglected for the sake of defining and understanding the minutiae. In other words, we often seem to “miss the forest for the trees” when seeking or giving advice to make progress in the gym. Many of the popular articles in the news and on the internet are announcing the next ‘breakthrough technique’ or product that will ‘take your fitness to the next level’. While we are obsessed with finding the cutting-edge difference-makers, we forget that fundamentals are… well… just that: fundamental. The “tried and true” basics of how to be successful in the gym aren’t shiny, sexy, new, or exciting. So, while we frantically search for the next secret to make that 1% difference, we forget to attend to the other 99%. Among the chatter of all the ‘new research’, we seem to no longer hear about what has worked for so many people over so many years prior.  

In this three-part blog, I would like to introduce the major errors I see fitness enthusiasts make that prevent them from reaching their goals or their fullest potential. The intention with this article is that you use it as a sort of “checklist”. As you read through each bullet, consider whether any of these fundamental missteps sound familiar. If this is the case, addressing this factor could be the missing link in truly accelerating your health and fitness goals. With that, I also recommend treating this list in sequential order, working from top to bottom. If you find that there are multiple points you need to work on, start with the upper-most point (closest to #1) and work your way down. The higher on this list the point is, the more foundational it is. If you don’t resolve any issues in the earlier points, any changes in the later points will not have as significant of a result, if any. Whether you are starting a new fitness journey or have been working out consistently for years, this list is essential to ensuring you find a fitness plan that works for you. 

As this is a 3-Part blog post, be sure to read part 1 prior to moving on to this section, which you can find here.

Error #3: You aren’t chasing your dreams.

Now that you’ve chosen workouts that you love and have goals that align with these activities, it’s time to start focusing on how to continue fueling yourself for these activities. Points #1 and #2 focus on the fitness activities and goals we choose, because this sets the course for our fitness journey. If we are consistently active and working towards goals we care about, we have the foundation needed to make progress. From here, we need to consider other factors in our days and lives that will either accelerate or hinder our fitness progress.

There are many different variables that may come to mind when I say that recovery is critical to making fitness progress. Many health and fitness experts would agree that the quality of your recovery matters more than the actual effort made in they gym when it comes to making progress. This point should not be overlooked, so read it again if you need to. It is very intentional that this point is the very next fundamental to follow up your activity and goal selection.

Don’t believe that your recovery is just as important, if not more so, than your effort in the gym? Consider this: all forms of exercise are a physical stressors. The common lesson many of us receive regarding how a muscle grows and gets stronger stands as an excellent example. As you may have heard, damage is done to a muscle as it works. This damage is known is “microtraumas” or “microtears”. When the body repairs this damage, it is supposed to grow back bigger and stronger. While this is an oversimplification of the process, at its core it is true. Considering this, you may realize how significant recovery is. Without the recovery or repair process, the muscle simply remains damaged. In this case, you’re not just delaying progress but possibly causing regression. It is for this reason that significant progress in any fitness endeavor demands adequate rest and recovery.

With that in mind, we must address sleep. Sleep is the cornerstone of our health. Without adequate sleep, nearly all your health and fitness efforts will be more like an uphill battle. During sleep, your body and brain are restored and repaired from a full, exhausting day. The more you miss out on this opportunity to reset and recover, the less motivated you’ll feel and the less energy you will have for nearly anything else.

Unfortunately, there are many different things that can interfere with our ability to get a good night of sleep. Stress, blue light from screens, caffeine intake, or any number of factors can seriously hinder our ability to drift off to dreamland. Feel like your sleep needs some improvements? Check out this link to find tips for improving your sleep from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Error #4: You make it to the gym, but you aren’t present for the workout.

At this point, you are certain that you have picked forms of exercise you enjoy, you have set goals that keep you coming back to these activities to seek progress, and you are getting enough sleep to recover from all the hard work you put in. This next rule focuses on your mindset in the gym. More specifically, we are concerned with the principle of prioritizing ‘quality’ over ‘quantity’. In other words, it doesn’t matter how long you spend in the gym, but how intentional you are about working towards your goals. To put it bluntly, nobody ever hit their fitness goals staring at their phone. Distractions during our workouts diminish the quality of our workouts and the benefits we will receive from them. Among the top offenders for distractions: phones and stress.

If you find yourself getting sucked into your phone during your usual time for fitness, it may be time to find ways to distance yourself from the phone. If that isn’t a possibility (perhaps you listen to your music through your phone or need to be close to your phone for work), it may be worth at least exploring options to reduce distractions. For some, putting the phone on ‘airplane mode’ or silencing notifications is enough. For others, it may mean putting the phone in the locker or the gym bag. Can’t quite part with your phone during a workout? Try to at least leave it on the other side of the gym. This way, you may be less tempted to pick it up as often.

If you find stress is the main culprit distracting you during your workouts, you’re not alone. Many people struggle with balancing busy schedules and various responsibilities, more than a few of which tend to creep into our mind during our fitness time. In this scenario, having routines or strategies to create a ‘mind-shift’ into fitness mode can be very helpful. Sometimes it may be as simple as having a favorite playlist of music to blast in your headphones. Other times, it may require some creativity. Having a routine or ritual to your workout can help you get into the proper headspace. Some people feel they need an activity that is mentally challenging and stimulating, like boxing or playing basketball with someone else, to pull them out of their headspace and into the present. Other people sometimes find that changing the time of the day that they workout can be a simple fix to stress-levels and distractions. For some, the morning workout is too stress-inducing to squeeze into an already-packed morning schedule. For others, the evening workout is too difficult, as they still have thoughts from work swirling in their head and find they can’t focus. Finding your sweet-spot may take some trial-and-error.

Still feel that you’re struggling to manage your stress and finding that it is hindering your fitness goals? Contact a Wellness Coach here at Western to see if we can help you find effective stress-reducing strategies!

Part 1: Why Your Workouts Aren't "Working Out"

After years of scouring through fitness and nutrition research, I have discovered quite the assortment of tips and tricks to ‘maximize results’ in the gym. By this, I mean I have put in considerable time and effort towards understanding all the ways to help my clients most efficiently and effectively reach their fitness goals. Throughout this research, I have come to find that much of the ‘big picture’ or ‘fundamental’ truths for fitness seem to be glossed over, neglected for the sake of defining and understanding the minutiae. In other words, we often seem to “miss the forest for the trees” when seeking or giving advice to make progress in the gym. Many of the popular articles in the news and on the internet are announcing the next ‘breakthrough technique’ or product that will ‘take your fitness to the next level’. While we are obsessed with finding the cutting-edge difference-makers, we forget that fundamentals are… well… just that: fundamental. The “tried and true” basics of how to be successful in the gym aren’t shiny, sexy, new, or exciting. So, while we frantically search for the next secret to make that 1% difference, we forget to attend to the other 99%. Among the chatter of all the ‘new research’, we seem to no longer hear about what has worked for so many people over so many years prior.

In this three-part blog, I would like to introduce the major errors I see fitness enthusiasts make that prevent them from reaching their goals or their fullest potential. The intention with this article is that you use it as a sort of “checklist”. As you read through each bullet, consider whether any of these fundamental missteps sound familiar. If this is the case, addressing this factor could be the missing link in truly accelerating your health and fitness goals. With that, I also recommend treating this list in sequential order, working from top to bottom. If you find that there are multiple points you need to work on, start with the upper-most point (closest to #1) and work your way down. The higher on this list the point is, the more foundational it is. If you don’t resolve any issues in the earlier points, any changes in the later points will not have as significant of a result, if any. Whether you are starting a new fitness journey or have been working out consistently for years, this list is essential to ensuring you find a fitness plan that works for you.

With that, read on for the top foundational fitness mistakes and how to fix them.

Error #1: You don’t even like your workouts.

This is the most foundational, fundamental factor in whether someone ever achieves their fitness goals or even finds a good, healthy relationship with exercise or movement. If every workout you’ve ever done or ever do is something you dread, chances are you aren’t very motivated to sustain it. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll want to be active if your current workouts are painful, uncomfortable, or downright boring. Most people doing exercise in a way they feel they “should” instead of being active in a way they want tend to have motivation that waxes and wans. If you instead commit to forms of exercise and activity that you find exciting and energizing, you are much more likely to stay committed for the long-term. Before addressing any other factors for why you might not be seeing progress, consider whether you even enjoy how your time at the gym is spent.

It’s possible you may read this first suggestion and think to yourself, “I hate [insert exercise type here], but how will I ever reach my goal of [insert goal here] if I don’t do that?” For many, this can mean weightlifting to gain strength, running to lose weight, yoga to gain flexibility, and the list goes on. If you’re pondering this conundrum, I’d like to make two argument points: First, assuming that the single activity you’ve committed to (and dislike) is the only way to achieve your goal is neglecting an entire world of fitness, filled with many different ways to achieve the same goals. Just because some book or article you may have read said a particular form of exercise was the best way to achieve a particular fitness goal doesn’t mean it is the only way to achieve that fitness goal. Which leads to my second point: that particular activity (that you don’t like but feel you “should” do) actually isn’t your best way to achieve that goal because you don’t enjoy it. If every fitness session is done begrudgingly, you’re never going to be committed or focused enough to achieve the supposed goal, regardless. Picking an activity that you enjoy and are committed to will keep you motivated enough to stay consistent and reach your goals. Want to gain strength but hate lifting weights? Try a bodyweight workout routine or ashtanga yoga. Looking to improve your endurance but hate running? Try boxing, rowing, or swimming. Regardless of your goals, there is always more than one way to reach them. And whatever your fitness goals may be, the types of exercise that you truly enjoy are going to be the best way to achieve them.

Error #2: Your goals and your activities don’t really make sense.

If you’ve made it to this point, we’ve already established that you enjoy your workouts (or have changed them so that you do enjoy them). Now it is time to evaluate your goals and decide if they align with the activities you regularly participate in. For example, your cardio might improve if your workout of choice is playing basketball, but you’ll probably never gain significant amounts of strength. Further, many forms of yoga may build strength and flexibility, but they likely won’t improve endurance. Perhaps one of the best quotes I can reflect to you is from my old cross-country coach. During practice, the team would often complain when we had a more challenging practice planned. Coach would announce that we had one of our longer runs and the team would erupt in a chorus of groans combined with some whiny complaints of, “But why…”. At this point, coach would have a devilish grin and repeat the mantra, “The only way to get better at running… is to run.” While this may sound obvious, it is an excellent reminder when we establish our fitness goals. When setting your goals, frame them from the activities you enjoy. If you like yoga but hate running, you may need to let go of any goals of running a marathon. If you like basketball but hate weightlifting, having a goal of a 300lbs barbell squat makes little sense. Set your goals within the activities you enjoy, and you’ll fuel your motivation rather than fuel the guilt of being unable to achieve a goal you feel you “should” have. The only goals that matter are the one’s that keep you coming back and focused on the fitness activities you enjoy.

To continue this point, I’d like to recall the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” In other words, choose the activities you love, and set goals that will continue to motivate you in those activities. To continue our example, you may have previously been lifting weights to get stronger but changed to doing more basketball because you enjoy it. If that’s the case, your new goal could be to improve your layups. It might take some time and reflection to realize that the past goals you once held weren’t truly your own and wouldn’t actually deliver you any happiness or satisfaction. Setting and achieving goals in activities you love will be consistently rewarding, making it so that you don’t have to delay feeling happy ‘until you reach [insert goal here]’. Life’s too short to do a workout you hate. Love your workouts and set goals that keep you coming back for more.

Stay tuned for Part 2!

Every December 31, many of us start thinking about what the new year will present to us. We set goals, we break them. We make other goals and break them as well. It's hard to create new habits; oftentimes harder than we realize!

What’s your goal? Do you want to lose weight? Run a marathon? Sleep more? Or do you have a physique that you’re working towards? At the root of it all, a plan with self-discipline will get us to where we need to go.

In order to keep a New Year’s resolution, breaking down our goals and creating smaller, short-term results is key. Do you want to lose 40 pounds this year? For many, the sound of it sounds unattainable or unrealistic. But, does losing one pound in two weeks sound possible? Absolutely.

Do you have a plan? Do you need help creating a plan? A plan is like a road map. If you don't know what you’ll be doing, how to do it, or even where you’re going, getting to a specific destination is really difficult.

Below are some strategies you can use to assist in your New Year’s resolution.

  1. Start with small, short-term goals. They’re easier to achieve and create momentum for the next one.
  2. Set reasonable goals and write them down.
  3. Create a schedule. Come to the gym on a set schedule. Consistent routines are key to forming a habit.
  4. Utilize Western’s registered dietitian! He has expert knowledge that can help set you up for success. (Learn more about Tad at westernracquet.com/wellness-coaching)
  5. Speak with a personal trainer. It’s not just a workout you’d be looking for; it is a partner who holds you accountable, creates a personalized workout plan to match your goals and lifestyle, and makes sure you exercise with correct form to minimize risk of injury. In my experience, nothing derails progress like pain and uncertainty. Speak with one of our great trainers to make sure you’re moving in correct movement patterns and using a plan that makes sense for you! (Visit westernracquet.com/personal-training to get matched with the right trainers for you!)
  6. Go to group classes. Western's group fitness classes have a reputation for being fun, energetic, and taught by excellent, passionate instructors. A team dynamic is very motivating and going each week will give you a set schedule. And even better? There are over 40 group fitness classes at Western that are completely FREE with your membership! (Visit westernracquet.com/group-fitness to see a full schedule of classes.)
  7. Workout with a friend. You hold each other accountable and push each other. Also, people tend not to skip workouts because they don’t want to let their friend down. Tip: Choose a friend who pushes you or has similar goals as you. You'll be that much more motivated!
  8. Keep your weekly goals in a visible place like your refrigerator or somewhere you’ll see it daily.
  9. Do you have to make dramatic, life altering changes? No. The key is small changes and moderation. Remember to take things slow!
  10. Do what you like to do. Do you hate running? Don’t do it. Does the thought of hopping on the stairmill for an hour give you anxiety? Don’t do it. Do you like walking your dog outside in the evening? Do that! Do what you like because you’re more likely to continue doing it. Fitness isn’t a cookie cutter lifestyle. Do what you enjoy so it becomes fun.
  11. Most importantly, ask yourself "why" and then keep asking "why". Get to the bare root of why you have this goal. If you ask yourself "why" enough times and it triggers an emotional response, you’ve found your reason. When the going gets tough, you can always look back on that core reason to help keep you motivated.

 

Happy New Year from me and all of us here at Western! We can't wait to help you with your goals in 2022!

With the recent Labor Day weekend wrapping up we now officially enter one of the busier times of the year for gyms and health clubs everywhere. Many people find themselves overwhelmed during the summer months with an abundance of traveling, sporting events, family activities, etc. and simply fall out of their regular fitness routines. If this sounds familiar to you then there is simply no time like the present to reassert your commitment to your health and fitness. That being said, what is the best way to go about doing this?

There are a plethora of different ways to get back into shape and you ultimately need to do what is best for you. For some people this will mean group fitness classes, others will hire a personal trainer, or people who love running may dust off their shoes and start hitting the pavement once again. No matter which avenue you choose to go down there is one thing all these methods will need in order to be successful - a combination of both short and long term goals.

Long term goals are extremely important because they offer you something you can strive to achieve over an extended period of time. Some examples of long term goals would be: lose 20 pounds, decrease your body fat percentage by 5 points, run a marathon, or increase your squat max by 50 pounds. Long term goals are more successful when they are something you truly care about, so make sure you pick out something that is important to YOU. It’s also important to pick out a goal that is measurable. While “living a healthy lifestyle” is important there is no true way to dictate whether or not you are legitimately achieving this goal. My last point on long term goals is that, while they are extremely important for achieving long term success, they need to be coupled with short term goals. This is necessary because long term goals can be intimidating and overwhelming. There is no way to quickly achieve long term goals and this can create a mental roadblock for many. However, if you also create a series of short term goals you can succeed at in a shorter period of time the feeling of accomplishment will push you and become a motivating factor.

What are good short term goals? Just like long term goals, short term goals will be met with success more often when they are personal and something you care about. Also, just like we mentioned with long term goals, make sure you pick out something that is measurable so you can quantify if you are actually reaching or surpassing these milestones you set for yourself. A good example of long term goals vs short term goals could be, I have a long term goal to run a half marathon (this training could take a year depending on where you are starting) but my goal this week is to run 10 miles over 3 sessions. Never hesitate to give yourself a reward for achieving your milestones, it often time will help to give yourself an incentive to push it harder!

For anyone reading this, I challenge you to take 15 minutes this week and write down some short term goals and long term goals for your health and fitness. You may find this is something that is really helpful for you when it comes to achieving being the best version of yourself!

Self-myofascial release (SMR) is a popular form of self-massage used to reduce soft-tissue stiffness, aid post-workout recovery, and maintain normal muscular function.  SMR can be done with a variety of tools such as foam rollers, lacrosse or tennis balls, and handheld rollers.

SMR works by applying pressure to tight or knotted muscles in order to trigger relaxation.  It can be an intense experience, but consistent use will maximize the benefits and decrease the discomfort.

The Benefits of Myofascial Release:

SMR is great to use as a warm-up, a post-workout recovery routine, or as part of your daily mobility routine.  Watch the videos below to see how to release various muscles using a tennis ball.

Calf: Place the ball under the mid-calf.  Slowly roll the calf over the ball until you find a tender spot.  Flex your ankle back and forth a few times, or hold pressure on the ball until you feel the trigger point release.  Repeat for other tender areas around the calf.

Hamstrings: Sitting on a box, place the ball under the mid-thigh.  Keep pressure on the ball and extend at the knee until your leg is straight.  Relax your leg and repeat for a few times.  Move the ball to a different area of the hamstrings and repeat.

Glutes/Piriformis: Place the ball in your glute and lay back.  Grab on to your knee and gently pull it to your chest.  Release your knee and repeat.

QL: Lay back with the ball above your hip and to the side of your spine (be sure to not be on bone).  Grab your knee and pull it to your chest.  Relax the tension on your knee and repeat.

TFL: Place the ball below your hip bone (where your pocket would be on pants).  Flex your knee to 90 degrees and slowly rotate your foot back and forth.

 

Pec Minor: Pin the ball between your chest and a squat rack or door frame.  Raise your arm up as high as your can while keeping pressure on the ball.  Slowly lower your arm and repeat.

Suboccipitals: Lay back with the ball directly under the base of your skull.  You can roll the ball from side to side, nod your head yes, or just relax with pressure on the ball.

“Summer shred” is a common phrase or phenomenon around the gym. If you aren’t familiar with this term, it is otherwise known as working on the “beach-ready body”. This pursuit often pushes gymgoers to hop on a treadmill or elliptical and pound away for hour upon sweaty hour. The belief is that burning enough calories will whittle away the fat, shedding pounds and revealing a physique akin to those of Greek statues. Unfortunately, it’s more common than not for many ‘summer shredders’ to burn endless calories and still not end up looking like Michelangelo’s David. If the science says that staying in a calorie deficit helps to burn fat and lose weight, why does it still feel like all that running on the treadmill is really going nowhere?

If this resonates with you, the source of your frustrations may be boiled down to an observation of human biology and metabolism known as “Setpoint Theory”. This is likely a phenomenon you, yourself, have experienced but maybe didn’t realized has a name or scientific explanation. While this theory can be explained through an intricate interplay of metabolism, genes, and hormones, I feel this theory is best represented by a rubber band. Imagine you have a rubber band wrapped around an immovable stake in the ground. That stake is your body’s current “setpoint” weight. This is the weight that your body would prefer to be at, based on the many interactions of your physiology. The rubber band is your genes trying to always pull you back to your setpoint weight. Your pull on the rubber band, wrapped around this stake, is like your efforts to change your weight. It is true that you can pull and stretch the band, but note that rubber bands become much harder to pull the more they are stretched. In the same way, your weight is malleable, but only to a point. Truly, your weight will move more easily when it is closer to your setpoint weight. As you continue to stretch that rubber band, it becomes more and more difficult to pull the further from the stake it is. In the same way, your weight becomes harder and harder to budge the further it is pushed from the setpoint. Your efforts to ‘stretch the rubber band’ are reflective, usually, of dieting and exercise to try and lose weight. The more you slave away on the treadmill and lose pounds, the more the weight-loss slows to a crawl and, eventually, a dead-stop. In this instance, you’ve pushed your limit on how far you can truly push your weight from your setpoint. Further, what happens to the rubber band once you release the effort to stretch it? It snaps back toward the original length, looped around the metal stake. This is the same with our efforts to diet and exercise to burn calories. Once all the efforts stop, the body settles back towards the setpoint weight. Note, this theory applies to weight/muscle gain, as well.

So what do we do? Do we despair in the hopeless efforts to change our weight, only to have our genes snap us right back to our setpoint? Not quite. There are various lifestyle and dietary factors that can actually make it easier to move away from our setpoint (and stay there). Some choices, like eating fresh fruits and vegetables, managing stress, and engaging in exercise that supports muscle mass and a healthy metabolism, can all serve to reduce your body's pull back to the setpoint. Some lifestyle factors can even effectively move your setpoint! In the case of our rubber band, our changes in nutrition and fitness are like swapping out our current rubber band for a much thinner one. In this way, the pullback to our setpoint (the stake) is much weaker. In other words, your weight change goals not only become easier to achieve but also more sustainable. These changes often require that you try things you might have never thought to try or develop habits you might have never even considered. For you it could mean trying meditation, cooking a new recipe, attending a new yoga class, having a trainer guide you through a new workout plan, or getting nutritional guidance from a professional.

Don't waste energy and time pulling on that thick rubber band pulling you back to your setpoint. Choose a new approach and swap in a thinner rubber band for greater success in your health and fitness goals.

Are you going to the gym to train or to exercise? Are they the same thing? Exercising can be defined as any activity that requires effort carried out to improve health and fitness. Perhaps you go on a morning run, or play tennis, or do your “routine” in the gym. Often, many come to the gym every day and walk on the treadmill for 20 minutes, move to the elliptical to another 20 minutes, go into the weight room and pick up some weights, do 15 reps of certain exercises, get a sweat going, perhaps do a circuit, finish with some ab work and stretch out. All are really great forms of exercise to be doing consistently. If you’re doing one, some, or all of these, you’re on the right track!

 

Training is different. It is often geared for competition to reach a particular goal for a sport or hobby. Training uses programs to reach these goals. There are progressions, overloading muscles, planned rest days, one rep max testing, and many other ways to reach a specific goal. For example, if a person wanted to increase her vertical jump for volleyball, she might start by measuring her current jump height. The program for her might look like: Box jumps, followed by power cleans, squats, and some hamstring curls. Each of these would be tailored with weight, repetitions, speed, etc. Then perhaps in a few weeks, she’d retest her jump height again.

 

Or, perhaps someone would like to lose 10 lbs.  One could easily do cardio every day, do a workout routine, and try to eat healthily. Will this work? Possibly. But a person would have a better chance of reaching a goal with a training plan. The assistance of a registered dietitian to help measure your carbs, proteins, and fats is a fantastic tool. A personal trainer could create a plan for helping make a person become stronger, leaner, and more flexible.

 

Both approaches to fitness are great. The main difference is “exercise” is a little broader of a goal and “training” is specific to a person’s goals.

If you have a specific goal in mind or are stuck in an "exercise rut" and need some guidance to get you to that next level reach out to our Personal Training department today and get connected with the right trainer to help you customize a plan that will help you succeed!

This week I would like to take this opportunity to discuss the box squat. I will be going through an explanation on why the box squat can be beneficial to you, how to properly perform the squat, and a few other details regarding different training variables. A few great reasons to try out this squat are the fact that it will help reinforce proper form as well as help break through strength plateaus.

When you have a target below you and you get to briefly pause on the box, you can pinpoint certain weaknesses in your form. You will not have any momentum to help you up from the bottom of the squat which will also help you increase your strength over time. To set this move up, you will need a squat rack with a barbell and a box to sit on.

Generally speaking, a common goal is to squat with your upper legs parallel to the ground. Everybody is at different levels when it comes to mobility and injuries so I would suggest using a box that you feel comfortable with. You can slowly decrease the height of the box as you become stronger with this move. However, depth is not the most important factor and I do not want anyone to feel like they are forced into an uncomfortable position, do what works for you!

Once you have your box, place it in the rack about one step behind you. You will step under the barbell, put the weight on your upper back and take a step back so you are over the corner of the box. Position your feet around shoulder width and point your toes forward or slightly out. Break at the hips first by pushing your butt back and then follow by breaking at the knees. As you descend you want to focus on keeping your back neutral and your knees in line with your toes. Once you control yourself to the box you will sit down and pause briefly to take any momentum away. Then drive through your feet and stand up.

Posture is also very important with this squat variation. Make sure you can control the weight down and you don’t smash into the box, this will add unwanted stress on your lower back. As I mentioned earlier, this can help pinpoint issues in your form. If you drive up from the bottom and see you knees cave in or you feel you back rounding, you can start by taking some weight off and correcting those issues. If you are making those mistakes with a box, there is a high chance you’re making them without the box as well. I am describing a slow and controlled movement but if you want to train more explosively, the box squat is an excellent option.

You will repeat the same form but when you touch down on the box you will explode up with power and drive to the top as fast as you can. When you look at rep ranges for this type of move you have tons of variety. If you want form, 2-4 sets of 10-15 reps are a great start. If you looking to add size or strength you could shoot for heavier weight and rep ranges closer to the 5-10 mark.

At the end of the day if you are pushing yourself and focusing on good form don’t worry about getting caught up in the little details.

The snow has melted, the sun’s out, you know what that means… tire flipping season is right around the corner! I bet you thought I was going to say, “sun’s out, guns out.” In a way that is true too, but we are talking about a hardcore full-body workout this time!
With every exercise, there is a right and wrong way to do it, that is why form is so important when doing any exercise. Tire flipping requires a checklist for correct formation before performing. First, when approaching the tire, you are going to be standing with a wide stance with your toes pointed slightly outward. You start in the position because you will follow by going into a deep sumo squat. When in that position, you’ll find a comfortable spot for your hands under the tire. Check to make sure your back is not rounded - a small part of this exercise is lifting the tire and pushing it over with your upper body, most of the work is done with your legs. You will use the power from your legs to hoist the tire up, engage your core to hold the tire before using your upper body to push it over.
DO NOT lift with your back! I cannot stress this enough. Your glutes should never be in the air before lifting, that is why we make sure our back is not rounded and our body position is low to the ground. Listen to your body, if the tire is too heavy when you attempt to lift it the first time, do not force it. Again, form is very important so if you are lifting something that may be too heavy, you will lose your form and risk serious injury. Start with a smaller tire, have a partner do it with you, and/or ask a trainer for help if you feel you may be doing it wrong.

It’s been over a year. A full year since I last wrote a blog expressing how lost I felt without Group Fitness classes running, expressing how it felt when we were not seeing our members on a regular basis, not hearing the bass drop in the studios, not watching my Instructors doing what they love every day, numerous hours a day. Over 80 classes a week of Group Fitness ground to a halt. A wide variety of modalities all created by my staff of 50 went suddenly -poof!-  A staff and a schedule that we built, studio by studio, class by class, year by year. We were so proud of that schedule. We brought in the education for each format, purchased the best equipment, and practiced a lot so we could give our members that absolute best Group Fitness experience.

 

Throughout the year, we (over)used the word "pivot" and I admit I probably added some words before "pivot" that I won't type out in case my Mom is reading this. Our members took our pivots in stride, stood by our side, cheered with us, cried with us, and were game for anything as we figured out how to do Group Fitness in a COVID-19 world.

 

If you followed our journey in the Group Fitness Department since March 2020, you might think "wow, they did this with such ease, such grace."  Well, I am here to give you a "behind the scenes" look at the many pivots (and somersaults and ‘I don’t wanna’ tantrums) that happened to me more times than I can count this past year.

 

Heres' the blog I wrote for Western when we had to shut down last spring: https://old.westernracquet.com/its-just-a-fitness-class/

I signed off with a short story about it being "just a fitness class" because I felt foolish crying so many tears and stressing out SO much over "just a fitness class" when so much was happening in the world. I remember always saying "the world is so dark, people are dealing with so much, it’s just a fitness class." But if you know me, my heart, my passion, I was freaking the heck out. I didn’t want to lose all that we had built. I didn’t want the relationships and the community to end. I wanted people to find any way they could to stay healthy, sane, and fit but also didn't want anyone to forget about us! I could see Pelotons being bought, memberships put on hold, some cancelling and I had to roll with those punches. If I am truly in this for the right reason I shouldn’t care HOW people are staying healthy, sane, and fit - just that are! But in my mind I was thinking, "Don't leave Western! Pick me. Choose me. Love me. Come back to me and my staff!"

 

I remember when we truly thought it would be just be two weeks to flatten the curve and then we'd be back. We closed Western and posted that we would be back soon and that we would take this on a case by case basis and we did! Every week. Then every 2 weeks. Maybe next month. With each passing day, we knew things would be so different. We could feel a shift in our world and it was hard to imagine starting over and rebuilding, much less trying to figure out how we work in this new world - this world when so many found fitness through technology and away from their community gyms.

 

Throughout the first few weeks, we posted "homework" for you to do on your own. I remember seeing other clubs jumping on Facebook Live, Youtube, and Zoom providing their members with live classes and I thought "I’m not doing that. I am not opening that can of worms - what if they never come back!" I remember my wonderful instructor and Western's Corporate Director, Katie Dubois, telling me each day, as nicely as she could, that members wanted some live classes. After stomping my foot, I said FINE but I am NOT teaching in my house. I have no space, my husband works nights, my stepdaughter is home from college trying to do her senior year online. There is no way I could make this work!

 

Guess what? I figured it out along with a dozen other staff. We upped our wi-fi game, bought different cables we never heard of, mixers, microphones, lights, and someone even bought a cat hammock so her 4 hairless cats could hang out while she taught (I know, weird, right?).

 

We found our niche. We magically found ways to connect over the computer. We added different, creative, classes and we even team-taught with coordinated outfits and all. It actually…..wasn’t that bad!

 

Fast forward to when we could open. Once again I thought, "No way am I going to teach in a mask and I will not make my instructors do that!" I believe I also said "Making people stand on an ‘x’ and spread people apart? NO!" <insert Kario stomping her foot> Well, the need to be with you all led me to create an in house schedule, measuring spaces 6 feet apart, throwing classes outside, renting a tent, a storage pod, buying speakers, more microphones, AND teaching in a mask.  It actually….wasn’t that bad!

 

Now that things are moving forward quite nicely, it was recently suggested that we could teach our Zoom classes from the club if we wanted. Here’s me “I am not going to pack up all my gear, drive ALL the way to Western, to set it all up, and teach when I have an entire studio in my living room.” Oh, how things continue to PIVOT even a year out. Besides, how would that girl with the hairless cats show them off to her Zoom peeps?

 

So I'll leave you with the take away from this little look into the raw and vulnerable emotions I've felt through this past year - if you want something bad enough, if you love something enough, if you want success, you will make it work. Recruit help, ask for shoulders to lean and, well, shoulders to cry on and you'll often find out…the things you thought could never work turn out to be "not that bad". Virtual, masks, spacing is all worth being able to do the job that we love for the people we love….YOU!

 

I am in constant awe of my staff. I admit, most were ready and willing before me. They helped me move forward and take the steps I knew I needed to take because we just wanted to be a part of your lives no matter HOW that looked.

 

Thank you for sticking by us and pivoting….no….EVOLVING to bring the magic inside (and outside) our walls once again. We are moving forward and we have big, big plans.

It’s all about balance, right? In our diets, lifestyle, workplace, and our bodies!

Balance is your body’s awareness. Both internally and externally your body is looking for ways to assess your current condition. It’s rare that we are going to have 100% awareness of our surroundings, but we can build our bodies to optimize our daily, and adventurous, movements. Whether hiking over logs, stepping off a curb, or playing sports, we shouldn’t wait until we injure ourselves to strengthen our balance.

 

And how do we strengthen our balance? Ankle and foot stability, and a little mental override.

 

Below are a few balance and stability progression movements. Start from the top and move on once you are confident and comfortable. Through each movement take a moment to assess your body. What muscles are firing up? What are my feet and toes doing? Where am I looking? Looking to strengthen your feet even further? Try these moves without your shoes! Let your feet hug the ground. Stay safe, keep a chair nearby, and have fun!

 

Progression:
1. Start by standing with feet hip-width apart.
2. Lift one foot off the ground in front of you.
3. Switch feet.
4. Try lengthening the duration of each balance hold.
5. On each foot, add in some eye and head movement. Look left, right, up, and down.
6. On each foot try closing your eyes.

 

Continuing progressions with ankle and foot movement:
1. Standing on a single foot, press up onto the balls of your feet, raising your heel off the
ground. Lower and repeat
2. On each foot, and add in the eye and head movement, while continuing the above.
3. Try closing your eyes.

 

Continuing progressions with lateral movement:
1. Standing on one foot, hop to the side landing on the opposite foot. Land lightly by slightly
following through with the movement.
2. Repeat movement by hopping from side to side and lengthening the stride each round.
3. Add in the eye and head movement, while continuing the lateral hops.
4. Be aware of your surroundings and try closing your eyes.

 

Add balance and stability training into your workouts:
1. Single leg movements
2. Box step-ups
3. Box jumps
4. Lateral movements and ladder drills
5. Progressive movements
6. Mobility work
7. Coordination drills

 

By practicing these movements we are letting our body learn to embrace new movements, body patterns, reactions, and terrain. Strengthen the body, strengthen the mind. Strengthen the mind, strengthen the body. This is just a small list of how to get started on allowing our bodies to trust us more. Add these movements little by little into your daily routine, workouts, or standing at your desk. There’s no better time to enhance your life than right now. Ground our feet, stabilize our ankles, align the body, and our minds will follow.

Friends don’t let friends skip leg day! This has been my motto for a while now and I say it frequently at the club! I know leg day isn’t everyone’s favorite, and it doesn’t have to be, but it should be a part of your normal fitness routine.  Or maybe you don’t have leg “day,” but you incorporate some leg moves throughout your other workouts, which is great! Hopefully, you all know the benefits to including some leg exercises into your fitness regimen, but do you incorporate any single leg moves? Or know the benefits of them?

 

Single leg work is great for balance, stability, correcting muscular imbalances, and increases proprioception and focus. Plus, they are hard and usually get your heart rate up which is a great cardiovascular workout as well!  PT Andy wrote about some great leg exercises a little while ago as well as a couple of single leg ones, so I don’t need to go into those (You can find Andy's blog post about Leg Workout Musts by clicking here.) I will give you some new ones to try though! When you think of single-leg exercises, you probably just think about lunges, but thankfully, there are a lot more exercises out there than just lunges (no offense to lunges as those are a great move as well).

 

What are these other single-leg exercises I speak of? So glad you asked! Check out the descriptions and videos below to help you out. I should note, you don’t need a lot of repetitions with single leg work. Most of these you will want to keep the reps lower to build more strength. Try using a barbell with all of them. You will be able to go a little heavier and really hammer your legs. Rest for 30-45 seconds in between legs and always alternate which leg you start with each set. The nice thing about these single-leg exercises is since you have a little support from the other leg, so balance isn’t that much of an inhibitor. I know a lot of people shy away from single leg work because they have poor balance. Well, these will help increase your balance as well as allow you to go a little heavier while having the aid of the support leg.

Here are four moves to try out.

Kickstand Romanian Deadlift (RDL) – All you do for a kickstand RDL is put one leg back a little bit and do an RDL except for using and focusing on the lead leg. You can put your rear leg up on a bench, or just place it about one foot behind your lead leg and focus on using your front leg only.  Shoot for 4-6 reps per leg.

 

Kickstand squat – Similar to the kickstand RDL, place one foot about one foot behind where you would normally have your foot for a normal squat position and just squat down. Stay up on your back toe the whole time and keep most of the weight on your front leg. Your front knee will travel a little further forward than during a normal squat, but don’t worry! As long as you don’t feel any knee pain, it is good for your knee to get the increased range of motion, especially since you won’t have near as much weight on the bar.  Shoot for 4-8 reps per leg.

 

Jefferson deadlift – This is like a sumo squat but emphasizes the front leg. Stand with one foot on either side of the bar a little wider than hip width apart. Keep your lead foot pointed straight forward and your back foot anywhere from 45-90 degrees out depending on your hip mobility. The main thing is keeping that back foot on the ground and keeping your torso facing straight forward towards your lead leg. Don’t let your back heal come of the ground or let your torso twist so it’s facing at an angle. Pick up the bar in between your legs keeping your back flat and straight, then set it back down. Do 6-10 reps per leg.

Rear leg elevated Kang squat – Kind of a cross between a good morning and split squat. Place one foot on a bench behind you. Bend over like you are going to do a good morning, when you hit parallel or slightly above, drop your rear knee down into a lunge position, then drive yourself up through your front heal. Shoot for 6-8 slow and controlled reps per leg.

 

Try a couple of these by adding them into your workout and let us know what you think.  Check out the videos if you need a better visual and as always, ask one of the trainers for help if you need it. That’s what we love to do!

Let's face it. Nobody likes wearing masks all day. They can be uncomfortable, hot and sweaty. But...we're all in this pandemic together and so close to getting through, so we need to keep working together towards common goals so one day masking can be just a memory!

 

Working out is difficult enough, let alone wearing a mask while doing so. Due to our state mandate and wanting to follow public health recommendations for the safety of our community, we’ve required members to wear the masks to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Just like we’ve done at the beginning of the pandemic to where we are today, we’ve had to adapt and grow with changing policies and knowledge we've all gained throughout this pandemic. We’re learning ways to cope with the masks to make sure we get to the gym, stay strong and stay healthy.

 

Here is the rundown on why masking at Western is so important and how you can help keep your community safe!

 

1. It’s a state mandate, so we follow it! We are stronger when we work together as a state, down to even our smallest communities.

2. It helps reduce the spread of viruses. There’s a reason doctors, dentists, nurses and techs wear them all day, every day. Researches have found in a number of studies that masks led to a more than threefold reduction in how much virus people sprayed into the air. The World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) include face masks in their recommendations for slowing the spread of the virus.

3. It helps members feel safe so we can stay open! We love our members and we want to make sure we can stay open so that our community has a place to keep working on their fitness and wellness, which right now, is more important than ever. Following public health protocols like masking, extra cleaning and sanitizing, and physical distancing helps us stay open so we can keep meeting the needs of our community.

4. It helps the staff feel safe too! Our staff is part of Western's special community too, and many of them spend long hours at Western interacting with members and working hard to keep our building clean, build programming for our members, and run day-to-day operations. When you wear your mask, it gives our staff peace of mind when they go home to their families at the end of the day.

5. No, believe us, we DO NOT like harping on people who struggle with mask-wearing. We know that after a year of dealing with this pandemic, patience is wearing thin and everyone is doing their best to cope. That's why, if you’re not comfortable wearing a mask, we have options for you! If you're a Western member, you can reserve a private studio for yourself for FREE. There are treadmills, bikes, rowers, and weight equipment to use so you can get your workout in without the mask and without risking the health and safety of any of our staff or members. We also offer a large variety of virtual group fitness classes weekly and virtual personal training. Check out westernracquet.com to see schedules of classes and to learn how to reserve a private studio.

6. Please wear your mask correctly, covering both your mouth and nose. Wearing your mask correctly shows respect to everyone around you, and helps also set an example for our youngest members who also come to the gym.

7. Consider upgrading your mask for best performance! If you work out frequently, you may have a better experience when you use a face mask created for exercise instead of a typical surgical or cloth face mask. Check out this list of the best face masks for exercising.

8. Lastly, please wipe down the equipment after use. Handles, dumbbells, barbells, weights, mats, bands, and anything we touch our hands to need to be wiped down after use. Our staff continues to be extra vigilant in our effort to sanitize things around the club, but the effort of our members helps immensely in keeping Western clean and safe.

 

Thank you to our wonderful fitness community for helping each other these unprecedented times! We are all so excited to keep moving forward at Western and continue to work towards beating this virus together so we can keep growing our fitness community!

The sled pull is a dynamic move that will work on your legs, upper back, and grip strength, it's also good for getting your heart rate up. While these pulls do help with multiple muscle groups, this article will focus on the quads and why it is beneficial for your knees. In our gym, we set up the sled pull by attaching a TRX strap to our weighted sled in the carpet area between the cardio floor and weight room. You will then face the sled with the TRX handles in a neutral grip. Then you want to slightly bend at the waist and knees to get into an athletic position, this is followed by extending your arms straight in front of you and keeping good shoulder posture.

The actual movement is pretty simple - just start walking backwards! Posture plays a massive role in protecting the lower back and shoulders when doing this move. Try to focus on squeezing and activating the quad muscles with each backward step. If you are struggling with balance you can start by taking small steps, as you get comfortable with the movement you can increase your stride to your normal length. The reason we want to key on the quad in this exercise is because of the benefits of stronger quads and the protection they can give your knees.

The quadricep is comprised of four large muscles located on the upper, front part of our leg, the rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, and the vastus intermedius. This set of muscles are responsible for a few very important things, first of all, they are extensors of the knee joint, flexor of the hip, and they even help stabilize the knee joint when running. As you can imagine, these are crucial patterns when walking, running, squatting, etc. In other words, we could all benefit from what the sled pull has to offer on the quad involvement alone. In a study published by the Cleveland Clinic, a group of people between the ages of 40 and 79 took part in a test to see how quad strength would contribute to cartilage loss.  After about three years of continued studies, 15% experienced a loss of knee cartilage. 44% happened to participants with quad weakness versus 11% with normal strength. This is one very specific study but I think it is a great example of how the move can truly help our body. Something like preserving knee cartilage probably isn't a specific goal for most people but it will definitely be something we would all appreciate in our future.

Watch the video below to get a moving visual on how to do the sled pull, then come over to Western and give it a try!

Leg workouts are a tough day for anyone. They’re hard, they’re exhausting, they hurt in good ways and sometimes in bad ways. Knees, hips and back hurt occasionally. Most of the time, the pain part is short term. Oftentimes, it’s a lingering ache that we just ignore and keep pushing through. Muscle and joint pain are usually signs of dysfunction somewhere in the kinetic chain. Short and long term overuse, weakness, muscle imbalances, tightness, poor posture, among other issues are reasons behind lingering pain. When “leg day” pops up during the week, many of us experience pain stemming from these dysfunctions.

Not every leg workout is the same, but it should have the same components. Below are exercises and movements that should be incorporated in your leg workout to keep the muscles strong from all directions. Not all need to be incorporated into one workout but maybe spread out over two workouts during the week.

Squats
Sit down and stand up. We do this all day long. It’s a basic functional movement and also an athletic move. You don’t need to lift hundreds of pounds (how often will you be lifting hundreds of pounds from a sitting position?) but you should be able to lower yourself and stand up again.

Single-Leg squat
The single-leg squat is a great exercise to complement the double leg squat and it’s a simple movement to do. It helps correct muscular imbalances, improves balance, coordination and requires focus. Single leg movements should be used in every leg workout to help strengthen stabilizers and, oftentimes, neglected muscles.

  1. Place one foot about 2-3 feet in front of a bench.
  2. Put the other toe on the bench behind you.
  3. Bend both knees and shift the hips back so the gluteal muscles absorb most of the body weight.
  4. Once both knees are 90 degrees, push through the heel and come back up. Repeat 10-15 repetitions.

Lateral lunge or Band shuffles
Both of these movements are great because we live in a world where everything we do is in front of us. Being able to move powerfully and quickly in a lateral direction in sports not only reduces the chances of injuries but also makes one’s game more efficient and stronger.

Lateral lunge

  1. Step to the side about three feet
  2. Extend your arms out in front of you and squat down, putting your hips back.
  3. Push off the heel and squeeze your gluteal muscles.

Band shuffles

  1. Place band around ankles
  2. Put your hips back and take steps about a foot apart to one side. Be sure not to take too big or small of a step. I usually tell people to lead with their knees, not foot, so you’re not walking in the “knock knees” position. Knees stay over the feet.
  3. You should feel this in your gluteal muscles

Single-Leg Hip Hinge
How often do you pick something up off the ground? Have you ever picked up something and felt a tweak in your back? The kinetic chain wasn’t firing correctly and the gluteal muscles did not do the work they were supposed to do. This exercise helps strengthen them and correct the imbalance and misfirings.

  1. Make sure your back is straight when lowering to the ground
  2. Using your gluteal muscles from the foot on the floor, squeeze to bring yourself back to standing position.
  3. Start with no weight and gradually increase as you see fit.

Transverse Lunge
Just about every sport has some sort of rotation in it. Swinging a bat, a club, a racquet, kicking, throwing, etc. are some movements we need to be strong in if we want to excel in a sport. Unlike squats which are up and down and lateral lunges which are left to right, the transverse lunge is a movement with a rotational element to it. It stabilizes the core and teaches the body to move in a controlled direction, focusing on balance, stabilization, power, and flexibility, among others.

Hamstring curl
This is a staple in just about every leg workout. Why do we need strong hamstrings?

  1. When they’re weak, they’re usually easier to pull and injure yourself
  2. The quadriceps, thigh muscles, become dominant and tight. This often leads to patellar tendonitis
  3. If they can’t help support the knee, more severe injuries are likely to happen such as ACL tears.
  4. There are many ways to do this. It can be done on the machines, a ball, or TRX.
  5. As you bend your knee, pause and straighten again. You should feel the “burn” behind the legs in the hamstrings.

The key to any workout is balance. You need to workout opposing muscles in different planes of motion to prevent potential injuries. So keep mixing up your program, incorporate the above exercises, and reduce your risk of injuries so you can continue doing the activities you love. If you have any questions, please ask a trainer because we love helping!

About 85% of women will become pregnant at some point in their lifetime. Exercise is an important aspect of growing a healthy baby inside you as well as for the mother's well-being. Most doctors recommend exercise throughout pregnancy if the mom is cleared to do so. There are many benefits of working out throughout pregnancy. There are also some do’s and don’ts to follow. If done right, keeping an active lifestyle throughout the duration of the pregnancy will lead to easier delivery and quicker recovery. As always, consult with a doctor before beginning or changing a fitness routine during pregnancy.

According to The Bump, the benefits of exercise of pregnancy include:

Exercise in general makes you feel good, have more energy, sleep better, improved heart health, and increased self-confidence. So why not keep doing it while you are pregnant? As long as it is done safely and effectively, there is no need to skip the sweat sessions while creating a new life!

So now you know it’s good for you, but what should you do or not do?

Speaking from experience, as I’m in the process of growing human number three, the most important thing is to listen to your body. If something doesn’t feel right or uncomfortable, stop doing it or try something else. There are really only a handful of exercises that should not be done, which include activities that have an increased risk of falling down - things like skiing, rollerblading, horseback riding (fast), gymnastics, etc - and activities that require you to hold your breath, like scuba diving, or certain weightlifting or yoga breathing techniques. You want your baby to get all the oxygen it can. Temperature-extreme workouts like hot yoga or cardio sessions in extreme weather- should also be avoided. Some women also get lightheaded when they lay flat on their backs, so instead of doing a regular bench press, opt for a machine chest press version or dumbbell incline chest press.

30 minutes of cardio activity three times a week is a great way to achieve some of those benefits. Swimming, walking or jogging, biking, or using the elliptical are all great ways to get that heart rate up a little. Upper and lower body weightlifting, as well as core work, is also a great way to grow a healthy baby and look good and feel good while you’re doing it. Just remember, keep hydrated, use common sense, get your doctors approval, don’t keep your heart rate super high for extended periods of time, and don’t let your internal core temp get above 98 degrees. As always, if you have questions, feel free to ask me or one of the other trainers; we would love to assist you! Otherwise, have fun and be proud of the miracle that is growing inside you by showing off those moves!

One of my personal favorite leg day exercises is to do pistol squats. For those of you who do not know what a pistol squat is, it is a single leg squat that requires a great deal of balance. The idea of the pistol squat is, while standing on one leg, squat to the lowest point without letting yourself fall back or rest on the ground.

Benefits: Develop full range of muscle recruitment, isolation of each leg for balancing strength deficits, increases flexibility and mobility, increases ankle joint mobility and flexibility, and greatly improves balance.

The best way to start a pistol squat in the beginner stage is to use a cable or TRX straps. This way, you will have some assistance and you can get into the habit of correcting your form as well as becoming familiar with the range of motion. As you progress to more difficult stages, such as using a BOSU ball to balance on or adding weight, it is important to be aware of your limitations. It is exciting to push yourself and watch yourself accel at something you have never thought to even try, just me, I am one of those people. But injury can set you back in more ways than just exercise, so be cautious when attempting a difficult workout. Also, please do not be afraid to ask one of the trainers on the floor or behind the desk for help! It is our job to help, so don’t hesitate if you need it.

 

In the current state of today’s world, it has become imperative that we take care of our bodies in order to stay healthy. Many of us are beginning to re-think or re-focus how we go about daily activities that would normally have never required a second thought. This attention to detail, which keeps us from getting sick, is a concept that can also help us stay healthy during our workouts.

As a new member of the 30-year-old club, my body is starting to remind me that, if I want to continue to work out at a high level, I need to make sure I am properly warming up and cooling down properly. For example, while coaching softball just last week, I decided to join in during practice and play the outfield when we were short a few kids. I did not warm-up, I did not cool down, and I paid the price with three days of feeling like I got hit by a truck and not being able to work out.

My point here is not to let you know I’m not as young as I used to be; many of my friends already remind me frequently. What I want to express is that our bodies are amazing machines that can perform at a high level, but we need to maintain them regardless of our age so that we’re not paying the price later. For many of us, adding a proper warm-up and cooldown to our routine is somewhat of a foreign concept that we need to wrap our brain around, so here are a few things to keep in mind to help cement the way you think about those parts of your workout.

Warm-ups and Cooldowns Are for Everyone. Many people, including myself at times, think, “I don’t need to warm-up before and stretch after my workout. I know my body.” I’m here to tell you that these concepts are not individualized; they are important for everyone. There is science behind how our muscles perform when warm and loose, and this science applies to everyone, including you and me.

Warm-ups and Cooldowns Save Time. This is a weird concept to think about, right? But, let me ask you this: how much time will you lose if you have to sit out in order to recover from an injury? Weeks? Months? That’s a long time without any workout. When you think about it in that context, a five-minute warm-up and five-minute cooldown seem like a pretty good use of time to help prevent those injuries.

Recovery Is as Important as Your Workout. We all have a reason that we work out. These reasons are called goals. To reach your goal in the quickest and most efficient manner possible, your body needs to function at its peak. This cannot happen if you aren’t taking care of yourself and allowing your body to heal. Pushing our limits is great, but those limits will push us back if we don’t let our bodies recover. Many of us fall into the mindset that we are lazy if we take a rest day, but that’s not the case. In actuality, we are allowing our bodies to do more because they will be healthy and recovered.

If you are unsure of how to get the most out of your workout, with a proper warm-up and cooldown, get in touch with one of our trainers. We’ll keep you safe, healthy, and at peak performance for years!

Are you looking to mix up your fitness routine this summer? Being active for 60 minutes can be fun if you find activities you enjoy. Even get your kids involved in the summer activities planning!

Here are some fun ways to stay active this summer:

The sunny day may be your motivation to be outside and exercise, but the summer heat can be risky. Here are some tips for being safe while staying active this summer:

Pick multiple activities to do this summer, or just choose one that appeals to you. Get outside, be safe, and get active this summer!

COVID-19. No groups larger than 250. No groups larger than 50. Keep 6ft of distance between each other. No groups larger than 10. No groups...at all? But...but what about our Group Fitness Classes? I know, I know. It seems so minor in comparison to what is going on all over the world. In fact, I was a little embarrassed at how much and how hard I cried, how I loudly I sobbed, how horrific my face looked, I couldn’t breathe, I made sounds I have never heard before - it was so obnoxious that Popcorn, my hairless cat, didn’t know what else to do than to show me love by rolling his whole body over mine over and over again and giving me so many head butts that it left a mark. I remember that Monday. The night I walked out of Western's doors and knew that we would be closing. Yes, I cried for the world and yes, I cried for "just a fitness class".

It wasn’t a few hours later that I saw our instructors and members connecting on social media more than ever. Our members with a fear of missing their classes and their routines and especially their buddies that stand by them in every class. Missing the sweat and energy. The family and community they know and love. I knew we had to take action. Yes, the world was turning upside down but I know, first hand, how fitness can save you, it can help, even just for that 45 minutes. I wanted to make sure we could still take care of our group fitness community. I NEEDED to give them workouts, and fun memories to smile at, and a chance to just check in.

I remember seeing an Instagram post by Alissa Cotter, who has taught for Western for over a dozen years, with a hashtag that read #groupfitnessinstructorwithoutagroup

Alissa says: “Group Fitness Instructors love what they do because of the group aspect of working out together. The camaraderie and energy of the participants are what they feed off of so when there are no groups for the instructors to lead, they feel a little like fish out of water. A Group Fitness Instructor without a group is just a person wearing a microphone working out."

It might seem like a minor thing if you're not the one on the mic. But when you are the one wearing the mic, spending hours planning classes and even more hours planning just the right music, moves, and special surprise finales. The one who brings back a move that you know Kris in the back row center LOVES. The one who arrives early and stays late, buys their own decor, dice, and songs. The one who makes sure every single person in their class leaves feeling successful, happier, and healthier. Unless you are that person, or the person that comes to classes and makes it a lifestyle - it might just seem like a minor thing.  After all, it is just a fitness class…..

But, like our instructor Sara Smith, a newer instructor on the team who recently became a Rock Steady for Parkinson's Coach, says: “There is nothing more rewarding than knowing you’ve made a positive impact on someone’s life just by doing what you love. How lucky are we to be the ones to help ignite a 'spark' in others to want to set goals for themselves? Even better yet...we get to help them achieve those goals and celebrate with them! This is what I miss and yes, we can still do this virtually, but I’d much rather do it face to face and to celebrate with high fives and hugs in the gym instead of our homes”

That is what we miss as group fitness instructors. CELEBRATING with each and every one of you. Virtually is good and better than nothing, but, man do we miss our group and the energy in the room and our high fives. Will we ever get to do mandatory high gives at the end of my Monday night Zumba class again? Will Amy Xiong, instructor and Membership Director, ever be able to rub China Gel on our necks again during Savasana? The pitter-patter of her feet making her way around her Yogis? Amy says “I miss the calmness of the studio and the energy of my yogis."

Nothing feels normal right now - for anyone - but this is our new normal for a bit. And we are going to roll with it like Instructor Kimberly Uelman, creator of the clever Showtunes Bootcamp class says: "It’s just not the same getting my fitness on in my living room. I miss the energy and laughs..oh yes and the sweat that Western brings. Keep on keeping on - I can’t wait to see you soon!"

This pandemic has affected every single person you have ever met. Every person you have seen on your TV or heard on your radio. Your children. Their teachers. Business owners. First Responders, Nurses, Doctors, Corrections Officers, Police - the list goes on and on from your mail carrier to your local pet food supplier, to your Group Fitness Instructor. We all succeed with the help of others, by being with others, and now we must find a way to succeed alone, together.

I think Katie Dubois, instructor and Corporate Director, really hits home when she says “I love creating an environment where our members feel like they’re a part of something, feel safe, have fun, and feel like ‘we’re all in this together’ Not being able to teach my classes in person and be with our members in person has created a huge void in my life, and the feeling of ‘we’re all in this together’ has a whole new meaning.  But it has also pushed me to find the motivation to seek out alternative ways to connect with my classes.”

Exactly. This we can guarantee. Your Group Fitness Instructors got you. It will just look a little different for a while. Katie adds “I have been amazed at the effort we have all put into maintaining the Western family we are all a part of.”  Yup. I couldn’t agree more and makes me a very proud Group Fitness Director.

Amanda Boeder, Instructor, Membership Director, laugh-a-holic, sums up the energy we feel so perfectly.  She says “I miss so much about teaching. The energy. The endorphins. The cycling studio. The butterflies in my stomach. The hugs and the high gives before and after class. The goals we hit. But I miss my people, my cyclists, the most."

The people. You people. We miss you. And I am not going to apologize for the ugly cries that happen over ‘just a fitness class’ because it represents so much more than just the class and it has the same feeling behind it that so many others are feeling now.

I want to leave you with something I read online a few days after businesses started to close and everything felt so heavy. It was a few nights after I walked out of Western and not sure when I would be walking back in.  It made me feel like it was okay not to be okay over "just a fitness class."

It's just a fitness class!

4 walls, a floor and a roof.
A stereo and a beat.
Trainers and lycra.
Movement to music.

It's just a fitness class!

Things get built here -
Stronger bodies.
Fitter bodies.
Confident bodies.
Things get broken here -
Barriers.
Silence.
Sweat.

.....but it's just a fitness class!

Friendships are forged.
Community is created.
We rally together in the sad times.
We celebrate the good times.
.....but it's just a fitness class!
We conquer our demons.
We relieve our stress.
We quiet the voices in our heads.
We feel at home here.

.....but it's just a fitness class!

It's the date in our diary we never miss.
It's the time for us to be carefree.
It's the place where we can let go.
It's part of our lives.
It's not just a fitness class.
We will be back. Stronger than ever. Together.

Even when you are not intentionally exercising, you are still burning calories. Whether you are folding laundry or sitting in a chair jiggling your legs. That is NEAT.
Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) is the energy you expend for everything you do that does not involve sleeping, eating, or exercise. NEAT is just one of the four components that makes up your metabolism. Exercise is essential for great health, but so is daily movement throughout the other 23 hours of the day. Our body is designed to move, yet physical inactivity is the 4th leading risk factor for mortality.

Even if you exercise daily, but the remainder of the day you are sedentary, you put yourself at risk for serious health conditions. Are you aware of how many hours a day you spend sitting? The average American spends 12+ hours sitting each day. Being sedentary can involve time spent working at a desk, driving, playing video games, and watching TV.
Most people spend majority of their day at work. So how can you increase your NEAT during the workday, especially if you have a sedentary job? If possible, change your mode of transportation by walking or biking to work. Take the stairs to the 3rd floor of your office building instead of the elevator. Walking meetings are another way to boost creativity and move throughout the day. Move the garbage can out of your office, so you must get up from your desk to throw out trash or recycling. Lastly, if you have a standing desk, try standing more throughout the day than sitting.

Other NEAT examples:
• Taking the stairs over the escalator/elevator
• Parking the farthest from the building
• Performing yard work
• Playing with your kids/pet
• Cleaning the house
• Get up during commercials to do something around the house
• Pace around when you are on the phone
• Fidgeting

When you chose to stand up, sit less, and move more there are great benefits for your health, mind, and body.

HEALTH
• Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease Enhances brain power Increases circulation and blood flow
• Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes Increases energy Improves posture
• Reduced risk of early mortality Increases ability to focus Decreases pain from sitting
• Reduced risk of cancer Increases productivity Strengthens muscles
• Reduced risk of osteoporosis Improves mood Supports bone health

MIND
• Enhances brain power
• Increase energy
• Increases ability to focus
• Increases productivity
• Improves mood

BODY
• Increases circulation and blood flow
• Improves posture
• Decreases pain from sitting
• Strengthens muscles
• Supports bone health

NEAT is a great addition to your exercise routine that doesn’t take time away from your home or family. You could even involve your family members and friends with you! Increasing NEAT throughout the day can assist with weight loss by burning more calories over time due to an increase in daily expenditure. It may be more sustainable to make small changes in your day than finding an extra hour to do more cardio. Try increasing your NEAT activity each day and assess how you feel physically and mentally.

Today I would like to discuss how increasing your ankle mobility can improve your squat form. While increased ankle mobility can help with multiple moves in and out of the gym, today we will key in on the squat. The first issue we need to address is some of the causes of poor ankle mobility. Some common causes include ankle sprains, high-heeled shoes, tight calves, arch pain and even genetics. When the joint and muscles around the ankle are tight and restrict your range of motion, your ankle will not be able to fully flex. This will inhibit your ability to get below parallel when you squat. Two ways to help improve this issue include self-myofascial release and static stretching. Self-myofascial release is basically a fancy word for foam rolling, you could also use a lacrosse ball or barbell to get the job done. Start by sitting down and placing the foam roller under your calf muscle and roll up and down the length of the muscle for 30-60 seconds. If you feel one spot is a little more tender than others feel free to spend extra time on that area. The second strategy involves static stretching which is holding a stretch in one position for around 30 seconds. My favorite way to incorporate these types of moves is finding a small ledge about 4 inches high, I then place the ball of my foot on the ledge and keep my leg straight. Once I'm in that position I will lean forward until I feel a good stretch in the back of my lower leg. I will then repeat the move with my knee bent because that will represent the bottom portion of a squat. If you start with these basic moves and stay consistent this will open up a whole new level of mobility which will, in turn, improve your squat depth.

About 1.6 million car accidents, every year, happen because of texting and driving. According to the National Safety Council, nearly 400,000 people are injured and 1 in 4 car accidents occur because someone was attempting to text while driving. With this in mind, it’s reasonable to consider distracted driving an epidemic. Unfortunately, humans are terrible at multitasking. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, we spend most of our days looking for solutions to accomplish more than one thing at once.

No two people have the same goals and motivations regarding fitness. Some join the gym with the goals of losing weight. Others lift weights because they want to gain muscle. For some, exercising is therapeutic while for others, making it to the gym is just another check on the “To Do” list. One person may be exercising to stay healthy for their family, and another might exercise for aesthetic goals. Some simply see the gym as a socializing opportunity. Nobody’s purpose in the gym is the same, and nobody’s fitness journey looks the same. Some hit the genetic lottery and see nearly instant results. Others aren’t quite as lucky, and it takes them longer (sometimes much longer) to even start to see progress. No two individuals are the same, but there is one factor that determines absolutely everyone’s satisfaction and sense of accomplishment in the gym: intentionality.

Do you have a sense of purpose when you are in the gym? Are you deliberate about what you do and how you spend your time? It’s time to be honest with yourself. If your goal is to shed some fat but you spend more time talking than moving, it may be time to reevaluate your strategy or change your goal. No single goal is more admirable or impressive than any other. Don’t set goals for anyone but yourself. Regardless, whatever you choose, pursue it with passion and intention. If you want to improve your one-mile running time but spend most of the time trotting at half speed, lost in thought about your day, don’t be surprised when you don’t see progress.

We are all guilty of spending time on “autopilot”. You may often find yourself doing something, but your mind is a million miles away. Maybe you feel the need to multitask, like reply to that one email while you ride the stationary bike. Unfortunately, sitting on the leg press while you catch up on texts will not count towards leg day reps. Many people spend much of their life riding through the present on autopilot while their mind is focused on the past or future. Allow yourself to become distracted, and you will never give your full effort. If you never perform to your full potential, you will never reach your full potential. It’s time to live in the moment. Have a sense of intention for what you are doing and eliminate all other distractions. If you set your life on autopilot and allow yourself to become distracted by something else, you are bound to crash and burn.

Goal setting is one of the most important aspects of our fitness lives. After all, how can we know what to do if we don’t know what we want to achieve? There are countless different goals that can be set, but there is one common way to reach them all: be SMART. I’m not necessarily talking about being intelligent, although that is certainly part of it. I’m talking about making our goals smart. They should be:

 

Specific. When we say “I want to lose weight,” there is no endpoint. There is no light at the end of the tunnel where we can say, “I did it!” However, if we make a statement such as, “I want to lose 10 pounds,” we have a way to track our progress. This leads to our goals being…

 

Measurable. We need to be able to track our goal. Going back to the above example, if I weigh-in and see that I’ve lost 5 pounds, I can confidently say I’ve completely 50% of my goal. Being able to see progress helps us stick to the plan. This makes things seem much more…

 

Attainable. A person who has never run a mile in his or her life would be setting themselves up for failure if they decided to start with a 10-mile run. The likelihood of completing that type of mileage right off the bat is extremely low, and the effort could be damaging both mentally and physically. If someone decided that they instead wanted to start with 1 mile, it would not only be more attainable but more…

 

Realistic. There is a difference between challenging ourselves and setting ourselves up to fail. I’m a fan of pushing the envelope; I ask my clients and classes to do it every day in their workouts. When I ask it of them, however, I am asking them to push their limits, not exceed them. Choose a goal that pushes you out of your comfort zone, but that you can achieve if you stay…

 

Timely. Setting up some type of schedule or deadline is a great way to keep your goal at the forefront of your mind. Going back to our first example, setting a general 10-pound weight loss goal could mean 2 months or 2 years! Keeping our attainable and realistic mindset, we may instead recognize that healthy weight loss is 1-2 pounds per week, and choose to give ourselves 10 weeks to lose our 10 pounds.

 

We all have things a reason behind our fitness. Ranging from general health to weight loss to competition, we’ve got something that gets us out of bed or prevents us from going home early so we can train our bodies. Whatever your goal may be, utilize this method and you will be the SMARTest person in the gym!

 

I think we all know cardio benefits our hearts, but that is not all! Here is how cardio affects your whole body.

  1. Brain: increases blood flow and decreases chances of stroke; improves memory and thinking ability; combats decline in brain functioning with age
  2. Skin: increases circulation, leading to clearer, healthier skin
  3. Blood: helps control blood sugar; improves “good” cholesterol levels and lowers blood fats
  4. Muscles: increases oxygen supply, allowing muscles to work harder; allows muscles to adapt to an increased workload, making regular activities seem easier
  5. Pancreas: improves blood sugar control; decreases stress on the pancreas; reduces your chance of developing type 2 diabetes
  6. Lungs: helps decrease demands on lungs as exercise ability improves; helps reduce fatigue and shortness of breath in those chronic lung problems
  7. Weight: helps maintain a healthy weight by burning more calories throughout the day
  8. Bones and Joints: fights osteoporosis (when bones become brittle and fragile); helps manage arthritis discomfort; maintains joint range of motion
  9. Mood: boosts your mood, especially after a stressful day; combats depression; improves your self-esteem
  10. Anxiety and Stress: releases tension-fighting hormones: serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine
  11. Sleep: helps you fall asleep faster and promotes REM sleep
  12. Energy: releases endorphins, giving you more, lasting energy throughout the day

The following recommendations are based on the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans for how much aerobic physical activity we need to do to be healthy. At least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of both spread throughout the week. That comes out to 30 minutes a day of moderate-intensity cardio 5 days a week or 15 minutes a day of vigorous cardio 5 days a week. If 30 minutes of cardio a day is too much, start slow with 10 minute bouts and gradually work your way to 30 minutes.

Breaking down the intensity levels:

  1. Moderate-intensity will make your heart beat faster than resting and you’ll breathe harder than normal, but you should still be able to talk.
  2. Vigorous intensity will require more effort and you will get out of breath and won’t be able to talk much.

Some types of moderate-intensity cardio activities are: tennis (doubles), brisk walking, cycling (slower than 10 MPH), gardening, dancing, active involvement with children or walking animals

Some types of vigorous intensity cardio activities are: tennis (singles), running, swimming laps, hiking uphill, Stairmaster, cycling (10 MPH or faster), jumping rope, basketball game, soccer game

Include these three elements into your next cardio workout:

  1. Warm-up – Before each cardio session, warm up for 5-10 minutes to increase blood flow to your muscles. Maybe try a lower intensity version of your planned activity.
  2. Conditioning – At your own pace, work up to at least 30 minutes of cardio a day.
  3. Cool-down – After each cardio session, cool down for 5-10 minutes. Stretch in our stretching cage, utilize the foam rollers, or stretching tables to allow your heart rate to return to normal.

Try different types of cardio until you find one you like or join one of our many group fitness classes offered here at Western for a great cardio workout!

Tony Robbins said the secret to happiness in one word. ... “I always tell people if you want to know the secret to happiness, I can give it to you in one word: progress. Progress equals happiness.” That's because reaching a goal is satisfying, but only temporarily. It’s a feeling of satisfaction that needs to be replenished again and again. “Did I get that thing that I want? Yes, Now I’m happy. I didn’t get what I want. Now I’m unhappy.” Happiness doesn’t stay in one place forever and that’s why we need progress over and over because progress is an onward movement towards a destination. And moving forward is the only way to attain goals.

I believe that’s what keeps people coming back to the gym and working on themselves: goals. I don’t think it needs to be totally tangible either (while many are very tangible). Some people come to the gym to work out because they need a social connection every day while some come because they want to lift a particular weight. Some come because they want to make their golf or tennis better and others want to lose 15 lbs. by summer. Some work with a personal trainer towards a specific goal and many others make it a priority to make it to a high energy class a few times a week.

I think having a goal and working towards it is a very important part of progress. And progress leads to happiness.

To everyone out there who makes a goal and is working towards it, no matter what it is, I applaud you. Keep up the great work. If you’re new in the fitness world, my advice is this: Do things you like and keep doing it. If you hate running, don’t do it. Maybe you’d enjoy walking your dog every night for an hour instead. If you want to lose weight but can’t seem to figure out how, start with looking at what you eat. Try eliminating one unhealthy thing like sugary treats, candy, or perhaps cut wine down to a glass per day or every other day. You don’t need to overwhelm yourself with adding things you don’t care for such as grueling workouts. Try the process of elimination. You’re body and mind will respond for the better by default. That’s the start of progress which will lead to happiness.

Why wouldn’t I choose a career working in the County Jail?  Look at ALL the people I can help. The job is different every day.  I don’t have to dress up.  I get great benefits. But what I came to realize year after year and almost 13 years later, is that I didn't like what this type of job did to ME and who it was turning me into.

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I remember thinking, “I am not this person. I want to LIKE people.” A job in Corrections makes it very tough to keep a happy disposition. You see, you hear, and you smell a lot of things you cannot even imagine. You start to lose faith in mankind. For me, it turned me very cynical, negative, and unhappy but I could do the job well. But deep down, I was not fulfilled. I was not meeting the need to really help people like I feel I was born to do. I needed an outlet. I needed to get out of my house and DO something besides work. I wanted to really bond with people again to trust in people again.

I found Group Fitness. I remember taking my first Group Fitness classes and crushing on my Cardio Kickboxing Instructor - thinking she was magic. How does she make the punches and kicks go along with the beat of the music? How is she making my day every day?  And finally - I WANT TO DO THAT FOR SOMEBODY TOO!

That Group Fitness Instructor was Janet Babe and she also ran Group Fitness at the gym where I found this fitness magic. I will never forget Janet coming up to me in class and asking if I was interested in teaching. Man...what a compliment!  My answer?  “Oh gosh, no, I couldn’t do a class like this.” But on the inside? This is ALL I wanted to do. I needed something positive because almost everything in my life at that moment was sad.

Of course, that night I went home and ordered music, starting busting out different ideas with multiple colored markers and thought "maybe I could do this?" Luckily for me, Janet didn’t take no for an answer and started working with me - teaching me the 32ct beat of the music,how and when to cue ‘4, 3, 2 CUE’, and how to mirror my participants so my left is your right and I remember thinking "Whoa, this is harder than it looks!"

One thing she did not have to teach me is to have fun and smile while I was up there because for the first time in a long time, I was having fun and smiling so much my cheeks hurt! Realizing how I can help people just by putting on a mic and giving them an outlet away from their lives just like I had needed was the best feeling in the world.

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So now what? Group Fitness was all I could think about. I taught every chance I could, adding different modalities to my resume. During my free time, I was creating and programming, researching different movements and classes and fusions of classes. I started a Personal Training business where I came to the client's home. "Ding Dong Knock Knock, It’s Kario!" I loved everything about fitness and I was a sponge. I went to conferences, connected with fitness people around the world, read book after book, obtained certification after certification. But all of that didn’t matter as I started thinking about a change of career. My degree wasn’t in fitness so how could I get someone, anyone, to give me a chance? I mean, can my passion count for anything? I knew I could do this full-time!

Enter Western Racquet and Fitness Club. I went for a 7-day trial, just to work out and see a different style of facility. Enter Kat Vanfossen, who was quite persistent with a side order of stalkerish to get me to teach a class - which I finally did! Monday night Zumba every other week at 5:30pm. I remember teaching my first class at Western to 4 people and Kat saying "You have something - you made this 4 person class into a party." She told me a member said "I don’t know who that is, but can we keep her?"  I remember thinking...and I still think...hmm...am I really ok up there? I am simply loving what I do...that’s it! It must show, eh?

Little did I know that behind the scenes Kat was working herself OUT of a job (she was the Group Fitness Director) to get me in the doors as a Part-Time Group Fitness Director. She told the GM that if she wanted to grow Group Fitness at Western that I was going to be her gal. I mean, I di have 5,672,893 ideas brewing in my head!

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/rM6c6e9Ji_jPUUGvajtn13-IMc0cS7zk9ZZ64vLD4K6qnOAyr0ROkxVnCVwvEhJ0HF4Dl244m7cELJ7JlHT5wUnuutu0ZisKjLQ1UN_hUAdwfuMZhn-VHCmlwou7G97-Av_dlcv6

I remember sitting in front of the owners of Western and talking their ears off about everything fitness. That conversation was followed up by a job offer. My dream job….except….part time? In fitness? HOW? How can I leave a County Job that I have been at for 13 years with retirement, protective status, benefits, good pay?

I didn’t know how I would do it, but I knew my happiness counted on me trying. My boyfriend (turned husband that same year) simply said, “Baby, you are not happy. Go take that job and we will figure it out. I got you and we have each other”   It was a BIG change and it was HARD but we did it! AND I LOVE MY JOB.  I love every hour of every day that I am here. I still get goosebumps when I get to put the mic on. I still love that now I am Janet and Kat - and I am telling members "You have what it takes to teach Group Fitness" and then I can teach them the 32ct and how to find their passion in this industry. To pay it forward, over and over again, is one of the most rewarding parts of my job.

The last 9 years have flown by and Western has grown so much. We went from 21 classes per week to over 80 classes per week on the schedule. From 2 studios to 5 studios. We have brought in Water Rowers, TRX, Schwinn Bikes, Barre, Strong By Zumba and kept our original classes such as Step, Cardio Kickboxing, Strength, Core, and Yoga strong as ever. We more than doubled our instructors and with their love and passion for Group Fitness it has made Western a home and community for our members. We are providing the magic that I felt all those years ago and I am thrilled and excited by that every single day.

Nothing beats happiness.  So when I say "Follow Your Dreams" it isn’t just because it’s a cool phrase on the cover of a journal. You can be happy in your career but you must take that leap of faith and work your butt off! But, most importantly, FIND SOMETHING YOU LOVE.

 

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Believe it or not, sometimes our greatest barriers to making successful, healthy lifestyle changes are our loved ones. The key to improving your overall health, whatever the method, is making it a part of your routine and committing to it. As we all know, life tends to get in the way of our commitments. This looks like a number of different things, many of which can manifest from living in an active and engaged family. Maybe you want to try a new diet you read about, but your spouse isn’t on board. You were going to head to the gym after work, but your child has a sports competition tonight. It is the holidays and you spent the whole day traveling and finding healthy food on the go is difficult.

Situations like this are inevitable and unavoidable. The trick to combating these setbacks is to have strategies to engage the whole family in healthy changes. Maybe instead of trying to cook every meal gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free, etc., you can simply try to find one meal a week that you could improve as a family. Instead of “spaghetti night”, try out “spaghetti squash night”. Offer a variety of sauces and toppings so everyone can enjoy their own creation. It is a simple swap that gets the whole family to eat something new and healthy.

Another idea is to get the whole family engaged in physical activity, together. Here at Western, there is a wide variety of classes and programs throughout the year. Take the time to investigate them, and you might find there is something for every member of your family. Maybe lugging everyone, every day, to the gym for a workout sounds ridiculous, but that doesn’t mean you’re out of options. Have dogs? Take them for a walk as a family. How about that old sports equipment gathering dust in the garage? Polish off the rollerblades, sports balls, tennis racquets, or whatever else might be laying around. Head for the nearest park, trail, or even your backyard. Or perhaps you could sign the whole family up for an upcoming event? There are races, obstacle courses, and many more events throughout the year, both in Green Bay and at Western, that are a great way to get moving.

In short, the weather is slowly warming up. Here in Wisconsin, we don’t have a lot of months where you won’t be at risk for frostbite or hypothermia just by being outside too long. Take advantage of any chance you have to get your family off the couch and enjoying some active, health-promoting activities. Not only will your family be physically healthier, but they will be happier and better connected to it.

Tad Taggart
ACSM Personal Trainer

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