Resistance Bands: My secret weapon

I’ve been using resistance bands for 20 years, and they are some of my favorite workout gear.  Bands started out in physical therapy, but trainers and athletes saw the benefits of bands when not in rehab. There are advantages of using resistance bands over weights: bands have a variable level of resistance through the range of motion, unlike weights, which are constant.  Bands are safe to use in ways that weights aren’t always–you can use a fast or slow motion when working with bands, and you can create resistance in any direction and in multiple dimensions.  They’re also much more portable and less expensive than weights.  For an example of great ways to use resistance bands, check out my video on YouTube below!

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Fit after 50

My best advice for people over fifty (which I would extend to most people who are not competitive athletes) is to respect the limits of your body.  High-impact exercises and heavy weight lifting are very stressful on your body and you should try to minimize them if possible–especially as you age.

In my practice, I focus on functional fitness, which means that I use mostly body weight exercises and exercises that work in three dimensions–using resistance bands, medicine balls, kettlebells, and other free-range-of-motion exercises.  These exercises are especially useful for people for whom stability and balance is a priority.  These exercises can help prevent injury more than one-dimensional (machine) exercises can.

As you get older, you should also allow yourself more rest days.  Working out is great, but you have to spend some time “working in”, by which I mean doing yoga, meditation, tai chi, qigong, and other forms of activity that are designed to restore energy, rather than expend it.  These activities will help your body and mind stay healthy well after 50.

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Stretches you can do while watching TV

For each of these stretches, do them on both sides, hold them for five to ten seconds, and don’t go past the point of pain.

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This stretch loosens your neck and chest muscles.

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This releases tension in your wrist and elbow, helping mitigate repetitive stress associated with computer and phone use.

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This stretches out your thighs, and if you keep your shoulders pressed against the floor it can also help with posture.

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This stretches your spine and chest.

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This stretches and strengthens your spine, legs, and chest.

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This opens up your chest and pelvis, which is good for your posture.

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This is a kind of modified cobra pose that limbers up your core and spine.

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This increases coordination and stretches out your spine and upper arms.

You all know I don’t advocate a sedentary lifestyle, but if you must “Netflix and chill”, you should take advantage of the downtime to keep your blood flowing and gain some strength and flexibility!

Is a Mid-day workout a good idea?

I was recently asked if a mid-day workout would be a good idea. The short answer is that you should work out whenever you can, but here are some reasons why a workout over the lunch hour can be especially beneficial:

A workout during lunch will motivate you to choose healthy organic meals since you can’t work out with a stomach full of greasy, bad food. (You can, but you’ll be miserable.) Secondly, it will increase endorphins which will make you more productive and happy at work. After sitting all morning at your desk it’s good to do standing exercises to recruit the muscles that have been sleeping while you’ve been sitting down. If you do rhythmic exercises such as walking, it will balance your hormones, blood sugar levels, and mind.

If you make time to exercise during your work lunch hour, it will show your manager that you have a strong, self-motivated work ethic and you’re always trying to stay one step ahead, both at work and in health.

 

Another note:
Many of you are long-time corrective exercise clients. I love that aspect of my job, and I’m going to continue giving it 110%, but I’m also trying to expand my business to target clients who are specifically interested in fitness for golf. Be sure to let your friends know that I’m available for that. I’m going to be launching a new companion website to offer online training for golf fitness, and I’ll keep you updated on the progress.

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Exercise with a group for extra motivation

One of the best ways to get yourself motivated to exercise is to do it on a regular basis with friends. Not only does it make working out more enjoyable, but it also adds an element of commitment that’s easier to keep when you know someone is expecting you to show up.

Group exercise can be a great thing. It can even bring a community together to make it healthier. For example, one of my clients is a physician, and he is involved in a weekly event called “Walk with a Doc”. It’s an opportunity for people to get together and get some exercise, and also an informal way to share your medical concerns and get some basic advice on a healthy lifestyle.

I read about another great example just recently. Researchers did a study where they gave pedometers to 70 women in a community and asked them to walk at least 150 minutes per week for 10 weeks. In the middle of the study, at week 5, the researchers offered a raffle challenge to increase the women’s steps by 10% for the remainder of the 10 weeks. The women ended up walking significantly more during the second half of the study. An element of competition certainly doesn’t hurt a group exercise program.

So get together, stay motivated, and enjoy your exercise! You will live better and longer if you do.

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Too Busy to Work Out?

“You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day–unless you’re too busy, then you should sit for an hour.”
-Zen Proverb

“If you want something to get done, give it to a busy person.”
-Common Saying.

“I’m too busy to work out.” I hear this a lot–more than any other excuse, in fact. A lot of people would work out, so they say, if they had more time. Let’s unpack the statement “I’m too busy to work out.” Okay, so there are a certain number of things you have to do to keep your job, keep your family together and happy, and meet your most basic needs. Now, is there anything else that you do? Anything that isn’t absolutely necessary to keep your life together? Then what you mean when I say “I’m too busy to exercise” is “There are things I do with my discretionary time that are higher priorities than exercising.” You might watch TV, play video games, read the news, talk on the phone, whatever.

Are you okay with that notion, that being healthy is just not as high a priority as those other things? Then be my guest and do those things instead. Otherwise, if you want to make your health a priority, then MAKE YOUR HEALTH A PRIORITY.

“But Jeff, there’s more to it than that…” I know, sometimes it seems like there isn’t enough time in a block to get your exercise in. In that case, you might need to re-think your idea of how much time it takes to exercise. You don’t have to break a sweat, and you can get in some meaningful exercise in ten to twenty minutes. Some of my past newsletters have great ideas for short, energy-boosting workouts in them.

Another thing you can do with ten to twenty minutes? Work IN. In my life I make a distinction between working out–expending energy to get physically stronger–and working in–generating energy to get mentally stronger with activities like meditation and tai chi.

You can also find ways to make longer blocks of time when you can exercise. Every day before I get out of bed, I assess my day and my schedule. Sometimes things can be moved around to create longer blocks of time. Sometimes they can’t, but then I fall back on my short workout strategies.

Another thing that I do to increase the number of long blocks of time I have to exercise is to go to bed very early and get up very early. Most people get up just in time to get the kids to school and make it to work on time, and then stay up later. This leaves a lot of time in the day after work, which also happens to be the time of day when you are most drained and least able to act according to your priorities. By shifting my day around, I end up having more time where I am active and alert that I can devote to keeping myself healthy.

You will find that the more you take the opportunities in your day to work out (or work in) the easier it will be to find more of those opportunities. You will get more energy back out of fitness than you will spend getting fit.

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Setting Smart Goals for the New Year

It’s a commonly held idea that most people make some New Year’s resolutions, but very few stick with them. How can we improve our ability to keep our commitments to ourselves?

Making a New Year’s Resolution is just a seasonal way of saying “Setting a Goal.” Setting and sticking to goals is a very important skill to learn, and there are a few principles you can follow to help them come true:

1. Write the goal down.
It doesn’t seem like much, but just the act of writing a goal down makes it 80% more likely that you will accomplish that goal. In 1979, Harvard asked its MBA class if they had set clear, written goals for their future. Only 3% of the graduates had written goals. 13% had goals they had not written down, and 84% had no goals at all. Ten years later, they interviewed the class again, the 13% who had unwritten goals were earning an average of twice as much as the 84% who didn’t. The 3% who had written goals were making an average of ten times as much money as the other 97%. It’s that important.

2. Set deadlines.
If you make a commitment to yourself, make it as specific as possible. a deadline is a great way to increase your level of commitment and the likelihood that you will accomplish your goal. Still, don’t set yourself up to fail by making an unrealistic deadline. Give yourself the time you really think you might need. Even if you miss the deadline, keep going. It may just mean that the deadline wasn’t realistic. Only you can know if you’re putting in the effort.

3. Remember that goal setting is the key to happiness.
Wait, what do you mean by that, Jeff? I once read a quote: “Happiness is the progressive realization of a worthy goal.” I realized your sense of happiness is directly related to your sense of progress, and your sense of control over your destiny. You can only have meaningful control over your destiny if you choose what your destiny will be–in other words, set goals and stick to them.

How Titleist Pros Get Ready

As many of you already know, I’m a Titleist-certified golf fitness specialist.  I’ve posted a number of times about correcting physical limitations in order to improve your ability to swing the club with good technique.

Some time ago, the Wall Street Journal visited the Titleist Performance Institute and shared their observations.  I’ve chosen some quotes from the article that represent the goals and philosophy of Titleist Performance training.

About the effect of physical limitations on the golf swing: “The most intriguing work carried out at TPI involves…research into the negative cascading effect that physical limitations and dysfunctions like a stiff ankle, can have on a player’s ability to hit the ball efficiently…The staff can propose workarounds or pinpoint physical therapy regimens that, with time and discipline, can correct the flaws.”

About Functional Fitness and how it’s changed golf as a sport: “‘A lot of the old guard still blame equipment for the increased distance on the Tour, but so much more of it is the quality of the athletes…The stuff we do these days is all full-body, functional movement.  Nobody’s doing bench presses anymore, that’s for sure.'”

On making adjustments for clients, and a little bit going a long way: “‘When a guy tells me he’s willing to work out for 90 minutes four times a week, I interpret that, from experience, as 15 minutes, three times a week,’ Mr. Gill said. “But I can give him a focused 15 minute workout that will still make a big difference in his game.”

Here’s a link to the article: WSJ: How the Pros Get Their Bodies Ready

I’m a big advocate of full-body, functional fitness, and I maintain that it will give you the greatest benefits whatever your physical goals are.  I just happen to have specific training in applying these principles to improving your golf game, but as a trainer with 20 years of experience, I can design a program for almost any goal.

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I uploaded a new video on how to warm up dynamically, check it out:

How and why to warm up

Many people don’t warm up–or don’t warm up thoroughly–before exercise.  I think a part of the reason why is that they don’t understand why you do it.  Today I’m going to talk about how and why to warm up.

A number of things happen when you warm up:

  • Joints move through a full range of motion.  This helps prepare them for exercise and prevents injury.
  • Your pulse increases gradually instead of suddenly, which is less stressful for your circulatory system.
  • Blood reaches every part of your body, even the extremities.  That helps ready the tissues to absorb nutrients and remove waste.
  • And maybe most importantly: your brain gets your body into workout mode.  It’s a subtle thing, but it’s vitally important that your brain switch gears to paying attention to your body and its movement through space.  This simple factor helps you prevent injury and improves performance.

So that’s the “Why”, now for the how.  Exercise comes in three basic flavors: resistance training, sports, and cardio.  Each type of exercise benefits from different types of warm-up.  Before I get into those types, I should say that it’s more important for you to warm up, period, than it is to get exactly the right warm-up for your activity.  That said, here are the types of warm-up I recommend based on the workout you’re doing:

Resistance training:

Use dynamic stretches.  That means move your joints through full ranges of motion rather than holding them steady.  Full stretches where you hold the stretch for several seconds aren’t appropriate for warm-ups, because they can cause your muscles to relax too much, leading to injury.  Some examples of dynamic stretching that you can do are shoulder rolls, torso rotations, hip circles, and ankle rolls.

Sports:

Mimic the movements of the sport you’re about to perform.  For sports that require rotational movement, like baseball and golf, do some torso rotations.  For basketball or soccer, do something like high knee marches and ankle rolls.  After you’ve gotten in some of these dynamic stretches, you can switch to more strenuous warm-ups like jumping jacks and lunges.

Cardio:

Many people skip warming up all together with cardio, because they view the activity itself as a warm up.  That’s a mistake.  Before cardio, do some dynamic stretching to signal your brain that you’re going to get into activity mode.  Then when you do start, start slow and easy in order to bring your heart rate up gradually.

Whatever kind of workout you do, make sure your body is ready for it.

If you found this information helpful, please remember to share it with anyone who might also benefit!

Eating Healthy on Thanksgiving

When it comes to avoiding overeating on Thanksgiving, my best portion control tip is to eat slowly, chew thoroughly, and eat a lot of vegetables.  Your side dishes can be made with organic ingredients, and remember that you don’t have to overeat just because it’s Thanksgiving.  You’ll enjoy yourself more if you don’t.

I have heard that the Friday after Thanksgiving is the biggest day for appendicitis all year.  Appendicitis can be caused by fecal matter backing up into the opening of the appendix, so if you’d rather avoid that, it’s best not to overeat.

As a fitness professional and nutritionist, I can say for certain that skipping breakfast in order to eat more (or to “balance” the number of calories you’ll eat later in the day) is not a good idea.  Your eating habits shouldn’t change just because it’s a holiday.  Healthy living is a lifestyle, not something you do sometimes and not others.

As far a boosting protein intake in the morning, it’s not necessarily beneficial.  Your body relies on carbohydrates to start your day.  Fuel up with something like organic fruit.  Even on a holiday, eat a normal lunch.  I believe in eating clean, and as raw and natural as possible.  I have something like hummus with raw crackers and vegetables.

Starting the big meal with a bowl of soup or salad may be a good idea to control your appetite, but not if it’s a creamy soup or a salad loaded with store-bought dressing.  The best thing to have would be a large, organic salad with some olive oil and sea salt.

The healthiest way to eat turkey is to eat a healthy turkey.  You should source a local, organic turkey if possible.

The healthiest dessert?  No dessert at all.  Most holiday desserts are ridiculously calorie-dense and full of additives, preservatives, and toxins.

On Thanksgiving, be thankful most of all not for the fact that you can pig out (which, frankly, most people in America can do any time they want.)  Be thankful instead that you have a working, healthy body, and express that thankfulness by treating it well–eat healthy, exercise, drink water, and sleep.

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