Getting Fit for Golf – Are You Ready?

This time of year, amateur and professional golfers alike head outdoors to enjoy the sport.  If off-season and pre-season conditioning exercise programs have been neglected, pains, injuries and physical limitations frequently set-in. The most common include: tight or sore chest muscles; decreased flexibility and range of motion, particularly in the torso; strained shoulders and back discomfort. Professional golfers usually have more repetitive motion injuries from extensive hours of practice, while amateurs are more likely to get injured due to lack of physical conditioning; poor swing technique and improper club grip. Body mechanics and core strength play a key role.

Golf and Core Strength

Golf requires the body to habitually bend and twist (tiresome, repetitive motions) that can eventually strain the back and shoulders and create multiple muscle imbalances that precede an injury. To help prevent injuries while increasing performance, golfers should focus on lumbar stabilization, body alignment, stretching exercises and power to increase rotational strength for the swing. Weight lifting for golf may prove beneficial for over-all strength gains; however, it is of little use without enhanced flexibility and a strong core. Core muscles assist in maintaining balance, improving back health and increasing the safety ability to move the trunk through all planes of motion. For example: If a golfer can utilize the force of trunk rotation instead of brute force from supplementary muscles to drive the ball, the chance of a shoulder or low back injury can be decreased.
Muscle Symmetry
A golfer’s healthy playing stance begins with the maintenance of muscle symmetry and correction of muscle imbalances. Players need collective strength and stability in the upper body, lower body, postural musculature and rotational core muscles in order to enhance muscular symmetry. Asymmetry becomes prevalent when a golfer favors a dominant side. In this case, stronger muscles on one side of the body become too tight, while the weaker side has too much elasticity. When muscle symmetry is improved with conditioning exercises, muscle imbalances decrease and the body is less likely to suffer from unnecessary injuries.

Core Exercises for Golf and Torso Stability

  1. Basic Crunch – Works the entire abdominal wall.
    1. Crunch with knees bent and feet flat on the floor or mat. Hands support the head and neck, but do not lock the fingers behind the head.  Exhale on the crunch. Inhale as you lower.
    2. Increase intensity by elevating heels in a resting position on a bench or large fit ball.  Hands still supporting the head and neck, but fingers are not locked behind the head or neck.
    3. Crunch from side to side; elbows open.
    4. Crunch while lying on a fit ball.
  2. Standing Wood-chops or Wood-chops seated on a fit ball.
    1. Hold a Dumbbell or Medicine Ball with both hands.
    2. Perform a twist from low to high position as you move the dumbbell or free weight in a diagonal motion across the midline of the body.
  3. Plank or Side Plank Variation
    1. Plank in a push-up position or lower to the forearms if it hurts your shoulders or neck. Hold until fatigue.
    2. Side plank with feet stacked or slightly staggered. Forearm option if needed to protect shoulders or neck.
  4. Lying Oblique Twist
    1. Lie with knees bent at 90 degrees. Slowly lower you knees to one side without touching the floor. Return to starting and repeat on the other side.
    2. Variation – you can also do this exercise with straight legs (the more advanced version).
  5. Russian Twists
    1. Sit on the floor with knees bent at 90 degrees. Hold a medicine ball or dumbbell and twist from side to side.
    2. Increase intensity by raising one or both legs off the mat.
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Why Most “Diets” Often Fail in the Long Run

Why Most “Diets” Often Fail in the Long Run

As we proceed into the spring season of another New Year, I reflect on upon two of the top “New Year’s resolutions” in our society today – weight loss and healthy eating (Statistic Brain). Yes, good intentions are set; people obligate themselves to an intense “diet” plan and promise to workout diligently. After about two weeks, they hop on the scale frustrated to see that their expected results much less than anticipated. When this occurs, most people get fed up and GIVE UP! Hence, one of the many reasons most “diets” fail. Here’s why.

Lack of Truthful Education

Many times “diets” fail due to a lack of truthful education. I’ve had people tell me they put on two pounds over the weekend… “It must have been the extra cheesecake I ate”. Physically, it is very hard for our bodies to gain two pounds of fat in two days. One would have to consume an additional 7,000 calories over and beyond normal, daily intake to gain that much weight. It is, however, very easy to consume an extra 100-150 calories per day (a serving of chips, a couple of cookies or extra slices of bread) and put on an extra ten pounds over the course of a few weeks. If you truly want to lose weight and shed body fat, its important to be mindful of what you eat on a daily basis, and realize additional calories add up over time. When this occurs, you’re back to square one. Starting another “diet”.

Emotional Eating

“Diets” can also lead to emotional eating. If you restrict yourself too much, emotions of frustration, depression, feeling angry, bored and deprived set in. All these emotions are likely to drive you to the kitchen pantry for a handful of something to curb your emotions and feelings of depravation. The immediate satisfaction of this “trigger food’ sparks a craving to eat more, and more and more. Once this pattern has been established, it’s very hard to break. This is why most nutrition experts recommend eating several times a day (small feedings every three to four hours) while choosing foods from all the major food groups (protein, complex carbohydrates, good fats, whole grains, fruits and vegetables). When you do this, your body will maintain a sense of fullness and your metabolism will stay elevated throughout the day.

Over Eating

“More people die in the U.S. from too much food than too little” quotes John Kenneth Galbraith in “The Affluent Society”. Many individuals who “diet” often skip meals in order to enjoy indulging on excess food consumption later in the day. If you are one of those people who absolutely cannot resist food temptations no matter what, the best advice is out of sight, out of mind. If you know you can eat a whole box of cookies once you get started, don’t buy them. If you can eat a whole bag of chips during a Monday night football game, don’t buy chips. Try opting for something with less calories and fat. For example, air popped popcorn. Another way to cut back on over eating is portion control. Make a conscious effort to eliminate going back for second helpings, attempt to eat slowly and take pleasure with each bite. There is no reason to gorge.
Bottom Line: Too much or too little of anything is not good for you! If you are considering going on another “diet”, choose a plan you can live with for a lifetime. Think of fueling your body with nutrient rich foods, rather than consuming imitation products full of chemicals and artificial additives. I personally believe it’s important to pay attention to calorie intake, but highly disagree with extensive calorie restriction and depravation “diets” that fail in the long run.
If you are one of the many who are fed up with diet and exercise programs that don’t work, please feel free to contact me for additional tips and strategies that will get you the results you deserve.

Believe in Yourself! You are the Greatest!

Have you ever started your day with good intentions but went to bed feeling lousy and emotionally depleted? Have you ever been stuck in traffic and started feeling impatient or sensed you were about to become unglued? As humans, typical responses may sound something like this: “Why me?” “What have I done to deserve this?” “Things never go my way!” “I doubt tomorrow will get any better.”

Unfortunately, life deals us these experiences all the time and characteristically we often respond with adverse feelings. Sometimes it’s so automatic, we don’t even realize it. Having been similar situations, I am convinced that what we ponder becomes a reality. Subsequently, if you find yourself trapped in a mind-set of “never having things go your way”, don’t be surprised if you’re proven right. It’s a form of self-justification for perceived failure… a voice in our head that can also discourage us from eating right, exercising, getting enough rest and feeling our best.

For example, think about some of the things you have said to yourself over the past week. What do you tell yourself when you look in the mirror? “Gosh, I’m getting old.” “Look at my stomach.” “Boy, I look tired and worn out.” “I can’t keep up with anything anymore!”

Luckily, we can turn this all around with confidence in a fundamental truth. Success comes to those who work hard and expect to be successful. “If you can believe it, you can be it.” This thought alone may be an effective approach for overcoming objections and apprehensions associated with exercise and eating. Stat by allowing yourself to maintain confidence in your abilities! See yourself achieving your health and fitness goals! Picture yourself physically fit, healthy and active. When you put your brain in action, overcoming obstacles and motivational challenges becomes easier than justifying failures with excuses.

Expect that you are the greatest you can be, even before you are. It works!

Turning Objections into Successes!

#1        “I don’t have time to exercise.”          “I have all the time in the world!”

Exercise doesn’t have to take a lot of time. You can shorten the sessions, walk in place while watching TV, or do some fast-paced chores around the house. If you are working at a desk, keep a resistance band near by. Stand up, stretch and perform a band exercise for every 20 minutes of sitting.

#2        “I’m too tired.”                                    “I feel great!”

Exercise increases circulation, brings more oxygen to the working muscles and releases feel-good hormones (endorphins) to combat fatigue. If you are felling tired, exercise will pep you up!

#3        “Exercise is boring.”                 “ I love exercise and staying active!”

Exercise doesn’t have to be boring. Pick activities you enjoy! Maybe it’s gardening, dancing, walking with friends or leisurely riding a bike.  Make exercise fun!

#4        “I never reach my goals.”      “I can do this!”

Sometimes we set our goals too high and expect immediate results. If you establish small, realistic goals, you are more likely to achieve them. Instead of trying to exercise 5-6 days/week, try for 2-3 days/week. If it’s weight loss, plan on losing no more than 1-2 pounds/week, not 5-10 pounds/week.

#5        “I don’t like to sweat.”             “It feels good to sweat and release toxins.”

If you truly don’t like to sweat, try non-sweaty exercises like gentle yoga or stretching. If you have access to a pool, swim laps or join an aqua aerobic class.

#6        “My joints hurt.”          “Exercise can help my joint pain.”

Physical activity is crucial for people with joint pain. Lack of exercise can make your joints even more painful and stiff. It weakens supporting muscles around the joint, ultimately creating more stress and more pain.

#7        “I can’t control my eating habits!”     “Eating healthy nourishes my body.”

If you struggle with poor eating habits, keep trigger foods out-of-sight and out-of mind. Be mindful of portion sizes.  Ask yourself if the foods you choose are going to honor your body or supply you with empty calories, excess sugar and fat.

# 8       “I gain weight just looking at food.” “I’m strong, focused and healthy.”

Your eyes cannot control weight gain. You body burns calories based on demand. If you are eating too much and exercising too little, or eating the wrong types and quantity of foods, you will most likely gain weight. If you stay focused, you can lose weight.

Whole Body Training – Top Fitness Trend in 2015

The new “buzz” in the fitness industry, and number one trend for 2015, is Body Weight or Whole Body Training. While free weights and machines can certainly make you stronger, your physical assembly can too! Whole body exercises use an individual’s body weight as resistance for muscle development, balance and bone remodeling – an essential component for enhancing bone mineral density and solidity of skeletal structure. As you master exercise technique, you similarly acquire an increased consciousness (kinesthetic awareness) of supplementary movement patterns associated with other activities and recreational sports. Best of all, body-weight exercises make your workouts portable! They can easily be performed in the privacy of one’s home, used while traveling, do not require special equipment, are time efficient and serve as a great alternative to other workout modes.

Eight Simplified Exercises for a Body-Weight Workout

#1        Squat: A squat is one of the most effective lower-body exercises for your legs, hips and behind. Stand with feet slightly greater than shoulder width apart, contract the abdominals, shift body weight toward your heels, bend knees and squat down while keeping your back straight. Imagine you are about to sit in a chair, then return to starting position. Do 2-3 sets of 15 repetitions. If your knees bother you, decrease the range of motion.

#2        Push-Up: Push-ups target the chest, triceps and core. Begin on the floor with hands slightly less than shoulder width apart, legs lifted up, back straight and parallel to the floor. Maintain a stable core as you perform push-ups to fatigue. For modifications, lower to the knees or do push-ups against a wall.

#3        Plank: The plank is recognized as an isometric (non-moving) exercise targeting the core, back, and shoulders. Begin in a push-up position or modified position with forearms resting on the floor or chair. Contract the abdominals and maintain a strong core without holding your breath. Hold plank position until you lose form or reach fatigue.

# 4       Lunge: A lunge is one of the best exercises for increasing muscular strength in the quadriceps, hamstrings and buttocks. Begin by stepping one leg in front as you bend the knee to a 90-degree angle, weight toward the heel. Pull back (don’t push) to starting position and repeat on the other side. Perform 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions for each leg.

#5        Side Leg Raise: This exercise targets the outer thigh, hip and core. Stand up tall or lie on your side while contracting the core muscles. Lift and lower one leg to the side in a flexed foot position without bending or leaning your body too far forward or backward. Maintain a strong core as you repeat 3 sets of 15 reps on each side.

#6        Triceps Dip: Sit on the floor or chair with palms facing the heels. Lift your body weight up and extend arms to full length without locking the elbows. Bend the elbows, slowly lower to a 90-degree angle (the dip) then return to starting position. Continue dips until you reach muscular fatigue.

# 7       4-Count Burpee: The burpee is a very effective, functional exercise targeting several muscle groups. It can also be incorporated into a cardiovascular routine. Start in a standing position. Lower yourself into a squat allowing your hands to touch the ground. Keeping your arms extended, step (beginner) or hop (advanced) both feet backwards. Return both your feet to the squat position and then to standing. Repeat to fatigue.

#8        Abdominal Crunch: For a basic crunch, lie on the floor, bend the knees and keep feet flat on the floor or elevated on a chair. Gently support head and neck with both hands, elbows out to the side. Contract the abdominal muscles as you lift the shoulder blades off the floor. Do not let your back arch – keep abs tight at all times. Variations: Twist the torso to one side and crunch. Raise legs off the floor and crunch. Do reverse crunches by lifting the tailbone off the floor. A starting goal is 3 sets of 15 repetitions per exercise selected.

Back in Action / Maintaining a Healthy Back

Have you ever found yourself complaining of back pain, or describe yourself as “having a bad back?” If so, you are not alone. Current research indicates more than 65 million Americans suffer from low-back pain every year. Back pain is one of the most common reasons for visits to the doctor, and 50% of all individuals who suffer from an episode of low-back pain will have another occurrence within 1 year (American Association of Neurological Surgeons).  Whether acute or chronic, the likelihood of encountering back problems is quite high. To decrease your chance of becoming another statistic, consider what’s best for an aching back.

Causes of Discomfort

Back pain can result from muscle strains or spasms, joint disorders, prolonged sitting or standing, repetitive bending or twisting, muscle imbalances, overuse, dis-use, improper lifting, weight gain or direct trauma. If you injure your back, immediately stop what you are doing. Rest and apply ice to the affected area (15-20 minute bouts) for the first 48 hours. After 2 days, apply periodic sessions of heat.

For general pain, approximately 90% of individuals experience relief with rest, ice, heat, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, stretching and back exercises. To keep pressure off the spine, take a daily back break! Extend the spine to a neutral position by lying flat on your back with a pillow under your knees. Relax!

If you experience intense pain, weakness, tingling, loss of bladder control or numbness running down an arm or leg, you may have a pinched nerve, herniated disc or sciatica. In this case, you should seek medical attention.

Preventative Measures

First and foremost, you must remove the movement flaws that cause back pain throughout the day. For example: when lifting a heavy object, bend the knees and keep the back straight. Avoid unsupported forward flexion (don’t reach by leaning too far forward at the hips or waist). For repetitive lifting and bending, use a “golfer’s lift”. Reach down with one leg extended backward as a counterweight to forward flexion. Pretend you are extracting a golf ball from the cup.

When performing monotonous chores (gardening raking, vacuuming, etc.) use your core muscles for spinal stabilization. Firmly contract the abdominals without holding your breath. Never let the belly sag as it can pull the spine out of alignment.

To promote muscular development, increase circulation and speed the release of “feel-good” endorphins, include walking in your daily routine. Walking is one of the best, non-jarring exercises you can include for back health.

Yoga and Pilate’s exercises promote balance, strength and flexibility. Significant research indicates both forms of exercise provide benefits for individuals with chronic back pain.

To stretch the low-back muscles, give yourself a reclining hug. Lie on the floor or on a firm mattress. Gently pull both knees into the chest while simultaneously bringing your nose up toward the knees. Repeat as often as you like!

Another good stretch is the “Spinal Rock” or “Cat and Camel”. Kneel on your hands and knees. Inhale as you arch your back (hyper-extend), drop the belly and gaze toward the tip of the nose. Exhale as you round the back while pulling the abdominals in and tailbone under. Slowly alternate each position at least five times.

Promising Solutions for Weight Loss Results

The buzz in weight loss these days is to decrease carbohydrates and reduce calories. However, if you decrease carbohydrates too much, blood sugar drops, stress hormones increase (cortisol rises) and insulin levels become imbalanced. When this occurs, the body resists weight loss. A better approach is to modify the types of carbohydrates eaten to allow blood sugar, insulin and cortisol levels to remain stable. Eliminating refined starches and simple sugars is a perfect start.

Next is the selection of quality protein (lean meats, poultry, fish, whey and eggs or egg whites). Increasing protein decreases the potential for weight gain and regain. Higher protein, combined with a lower intake of starch and sugar also has a favorable impact on belly fat.

Fat intake alone will not impact insulin or cortisol levels, but the combination of fat, starch and sugar eaten together spells disaster. The combination of protein and vegetables, however, does not spike hormonal imbalances. Additionally, protein and vegetables sources suppress hunger and increase fiber. This is a powerful punch to enhance fat burning at the cell level.

Obviously some individuals lose weight and burn fat quicker than others, but results are achievable for everyone with a positive mind-set and personal commitment to one-self. Losing weight is a systematic process that takes time. Be patient, results will not happen overnight.

The Fat Burning Plan

A healthy, fat burning plan limits the intake of simple sugar and starch, increases quality protein, vegetables and legumes, includes small portions of low-sugar fruits, advocates healthy fats rich in omega fatty acids and allows for skim or low fat dairy and dairy substitutes. The fat burning plan requires meal spacing and exercise. No skipping these two.

For exercise, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends a minimum of 150-250 minutes of cardiovascular exercise per week and resistance exercise at least 2x/week. You can split exercise sessions into 10-minute bouts performed 2-3 times/day, or cut back the intensity and increases the duration to a do-able amount for your body.

When choosing an exercise plan, pick something you enjoy! If it’s walking the dog, gardening, hiking, using in-home equipment, swimming or biking, make it a routine. Set realistic goals and schedule your exercise in advance. Make an appointment with yourself.

I also recommend self-monitoring weekly activity and food intake. When you have a visual, the success rate increases dramatically. There are several aps to help with this or you can journal by hand.

Finally, when attacking fat stores, expect to lose no more than 1 1/2 to 2 pounds per week. This equates to 5,250 to 7,000 calories burned per week! If you are losing more than 2 pounds per week, the additional loss is likely water or lean body mass.

Dieters Beware!

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Quick and Easy Weight Loss…Not so Fast

According to recent data (MarketResearch.com 2014), approximately a third of the U.S. population, over 100 million Americans are on a weight-loss “diet” at any given time. Americans spend billions of dollars each year desperately trying to lose weight, yet the ability to maintain results remains a mystery for most. One of the several reasons diets fail in the long run is due to an exponential explosion in advertising deception. Marketing campaigns professing their program (product or diet) is the “weight loss solution” for America. These claims are simply false, misleading and ambiguous. Not surprisingly, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported that over fifty percent of weight-loss advertisements make claims that lack scientific data supporting lasting results. As a consumer, you deserve to be aware of the marketing strategies being used against you before embarking on a program or investing in a product that may prove to be deceptive in the long run.

Deciphering Dubious Claims

Most weight loss “diets” have specific rules. Unfortunately, they vary from program to program. Do you cut calories, eliminate fat, reduce carbohydrates, eliminate dairy, increase protein, or select gluten free? Exercise at a high intensity, low intensity, lift weights or perform whole body training? It’s very confusing and the options are endless! To evaluate a nutritional product, exercise program or diet, look at the claims. If it transmits to one of these words or phrases, remain skeptical.

New Discovery                  Mysterious               Easy

Breakthrough                      Magical                    Exotic

Exclusive                              Miraculous               Effortless

Ancient Research             Amazing                   One of a Kind

Money Back                        No Risk                      Quick Start