It’s that time of Year and hiring a personal trainer can be a minefield! Not all personal trainers are created equal.
While their style needs to suit you, and they must genuinely care and communicate well, that doesn’t guarantee expertise. Try asking your candidates the following “trick” questions. More than one wrong, I suggest you move on.
1. Which exercises do you recommend for isolating the lower abdominals?
Answer: No specific exercises exist for isolating and developing the lower abdominals.
The Rectus Abdominis (the Abs) is one muscle and contracts as a unit. The “upper abs” and “lower abs” are not separate. The Abs have one origin, one insertion and one primary function – to flex the spine. Exercises that are supposed to work the “lower abs,” such as knee tucks and leg raises, are actually hip flexor exercises, which are, at best, an inefficient way to develop the abdominals. Many people consider their “lower abs” a problem area and are often misled to believe they can zero in on that area. But, localized fat loss, or spot reduction, is physiologically impossible. Only fat loss, through diet, will reveal your lower abdominals.
2. Is it important to vary the exercises from workout to workout?
A personal trainer who understands physiology and biomechanics knows the best one or two exercises for each muscle or muscle group and stays with them. Adding less efficient exercises for the sake of variety can increase joint stress for no real benefit in strength or muscular development. Switching from an efficient and joint friendly exercise for the sake of variety increases a risk not commensurate with the reward. If a trainer insists on varying your routines, stay away.
3. Does stretching prevent injury and athletic performance?
Many believe that static stretching before exercise or sport activities can prevent injury. However, results of more than 360 studies have shown that stretching is not significantly associated with injury reduction. In fact, pre-exercise static stretches may impair performance, by reducing your strength and muscle power. On the other hand, warming-up has proven to be helpful. Some light activity, like a short spin on the bike, jumping jacks, or other gentle movements, will increase body temperature and blood flow to the muscles. Any trainer insisting on static stretching before and after your workout may not the trainer for you.
4. Do I need to do cardio if I wanted to lose fat?
Fat loss is a multifaceted phenomenon influenced by several factors, including genetics, diet, age, sleep, and muscle mass. A well-rounded diet low in refined carbs and sugar, strength training, and good sleep are the best prescription.
Insulin, the hormone secreted into your bloodstream in response to the carbohydrates you eat, is the primary regulator of how your body stores fat. If your insulin levels are continually elevated, fat accumulates in your fat cells, regardless of your activity level. Eliminating refined carbs and sugar from your diet is infinitely more effective for fat loss than cardio. If your trainer insists, run away (no pun intended).
Can we talk about magnesium for a minute? Call me crazy, but I can get quite effusive when discussing this powerhouse macro mineral.
In the pantheon of essential minerals, magnesium, in my book, is nothing short of a superstar. Of course, all the essential minerals are necessary for good health, and they all deserve their due, but hardworking magnesium is truly a miraculous substance — one that we would do well to focus on for the preservation of our own good health.
Every cell in our bodies needs magnesium to function. It is essential for healthy bones, it helps with protein synthesis and energy creation, it regulates our metabolism, it supports DNA replication, and it modulates our nervous system and mood. Magnesium is also responsible for keeping our cardiovascular system healthy, our blood sugar regulated, our immune system robust, and our muscles functioning properly. All pretty impressive, right? In fact, more than 300 biochemical reactions in the human body are powered by magnesium. Yet, various studies have shown that anywhere from 50-80 percent of Americans may be magnesium deficient.
How Can This Be?
Magnesium is everywhere. It’s found in the earth, in the sea, in plants, and in animals. It is the fourth most prevalent mineral in the human body, where it is stored in our bones and in the cells of our tissues and organs. Fifty years ago, magnesium deficiency was a relatively rare phenomenon, most likely because people ate more whole, unrefined foods back then – especially leafy green vegetables — and were less susceptible to the effects of environmental toxins, chronic stress, and systemic inflammation than we are today. Today’s widespread use of prescription medications and alcohol also contributes to magnesium depletion, as does a diet high in processed foods, sugars, and saturated fats. Regular consumption of carbonated beverages and coffee also works against us in flushing magnesium out of our systems because of their diuretic properties. In short, our modern lifestyle effectively sets us up for magnesium depletion.
How Do You Know If You’re Magnesium Deficient?
Are you feeling “wired and tired”? Do you get muscle cramps or weakness, suffer from insomnia, have nervous tics, or experience an irregular heartbeat from time to time? Do you get dizzy when you stand up too quickly, experience numbness or tingling in your hands, face, or feet, and/or do you suffer from anxiety or panic attacks? All of these may be signs of magnesium deficiency, as are high blood-sugar levels, weak bones, a poor complexion, and digestive disorders.
But take heart! Magnesium deficiency can easily be resolved, given proper attention to getting a sufficient supply of magnesium-rich foods in our daily diet, as well as possibly adding in a high-quality magnesium supplement. If you begin incorporating some of the following foods in your normal eating regimen, you should soon feel the amazing benefits of the “magnesium boost”: more energy, a sense of calm, better quality sleep, and fewer aches, pains, and digestive upset. In short, having sufficient magnesium on board brings your whole body into better balance and alignment.
Best Food Sources for Magnesium
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of magnesium is 400-420 mgs/day for men and 310-320 mgs/day for women, an amount that should be easily attainable. The following foods all serve as excellent sources of magnesium:
- Pumpkin Seeds (150 mg per oz.)
- Leafy Green Vegetables (especially Spinach, Kale, and Chard) (156 mg per cup/cooked)
- Cashews (82 mg per oz.)
- Almonds (80 mg per oz.)
- Walnuts (45 mg per oz.)
- Dark Chocolate (70-85% Cocoa) (64 mg per oz.)
- Black beans, Adzuki beans, and Kidney beans (avg. 120 mg per cup/cooked)
- Whole grains (especially Quinoa) (avg. 118 mg per cup/cooked)
- Split Peas (71 mg per cup/cooked)
- Avocados (58 mg per avocado/medium)
- Fish (especially Halibut, Mackerel, and Salmon) (avg. 53 mg per half fillet)
- Tofu (53 mg per 3.5 oz. serving)
- Flaxseeds (40 mg per tbsp.)
- Bananas (32 mg per banana/medium)
So, take some time out from your daily grind to make self-care a priority – including getting adequate doses of magnesium! Have a cup of hot cocoa, munch on some almonds, and savor the moments. Life IS better when we FEEL better, and magnesium provides us an excellent path for doing that. Don’t ignore the gift of good health that magnesium offers us. A little attention to dietary change can go a long way. Here’s to your health!
The true, universal value of exercise boils down to only one thing – your quality of life.
Despite tragedies out of our control, genetic dispositions both physical and metabolic, and our society’s
shared struggle to prioritize exercise above the myriad seemingly more pressing responsibilities,
heedlessly trust that deprioritizing concentrated physical exertion is tantamount to forfeiting the
opportunity to live your longest and most enjoyable life possible. Our functional ability and stamina
depend on our physical strength – the more we have, the more we can do, and the better we will age
(and the more fun we will have doing it). Put simply, use it or lose it.
As modern professional women, we do it all these days: career, family, interests, social networks,
higher personal development, etc. But if meaningful exercise isn’t carved out, do know that your
quality of life takes the hit. Whether that hit presents in your real-time, day-to-day living or in the
ultimate cultivation of a possibly-avoidable, better managed, or even reversible genetic pre-
dispositions. You will pay the opportunity cost somehow, at some time.
While we continue to be a visually oriented society, having long exercised predominately to “lose
weight,” the presumption is often still that if we look good, we feel good, and as a corollary, are fit
and healthy. That presumption is dead wrong, so even if just for a moment, ditch the notion of
exercise having anything to do what’s attractive, and focus on your health.
More skeletal muscle, in conjunction with a balanced diet will ensure that your insulin levels remain
steady and suppressed. Alternatively, high insulin triggers your stress hormones, adrenaline, and
epinephrine to activate a process to metabolize large amounts of fat. Your insulin will block fat
metabolism and will instead direct that sugar to be stored as fat, and the resulting body composition
will put you in metabolic danger of diabetes, heart disease, obesity and sarcopenia.
Or, if you’re one of the millions of women suffering from osteoporosis (or at risk), building muscle
directly increases bone density by putting increased stress on the bones, making them stronger,
healthier, and less prone to fractures and breaks. Not only does increased bone density slow the
devastating bone loss associated with getting older, it also helps to counteract any future loss by
building additional bone matter. Your new muscle mass will also serve to protect your bones,
guarding them against injury and cushioning the blow in case of a fall.
Aesthetically, well-developed back and shoulder muscles will improve posture, toned arm and leg
muscles, calves too, improves appearance (and helps prevent the formation of varicose veins),
pectoral muscles enhance the lift of the bust, etc. If you are after a younger looking, more vibrant
feminine body, you want more muscle. And, added muscle improves our appearance with definition
and helps to fight gravity, holding up our desirable body fat in the right places.
Building muscle is the best way to proactively combat the myriad problems associated with ageing,
supercharge the metabolism and increase cardiovascular endurance. Indeed, osteoporosis,
diabetes, impaired cardiac function, weight gain due to decreasing metabolism and loss of glucose
sensitivity, joint pain, loss of balance and injury, etc., can all be traced back to the fact that we lose
vital muscle as we age. Logically then, one of the best things you can do to enhance your overall
health and fitness now is to build muscle, whilst arresting the natural course of muscle loss that
occurs as we age. Remember that our skeletal muscles serve as the engine, chassis, and shock
absorbers of our bodies.