5 Tips to Improve Your Physical Fitness Level

 

Sorry for not being so regular with my blogs lately. Training clients and handling family life can be overwhelming! Thanks again to everyone that voted for Bring It Home Personal Training in the clickondetroit.com “Vote 4 the Best” contest. If you haven’t heard, we did win the contest! That’s the last I’ll mention it. Let’s get back to blogging…

These 5 tips are my best tips for improving physical fitness levels:

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A standard push-up is a great example of a strength training exercise that improves muscular strength and endurance.

1. You must do strength training at least twice a week. Total body workouts are great for building muscular strength and endurance.

2. You have to do cardiovascular endurance training every day for at least 30 minutes. Your heart is the most important muscle in your body. Keep it strong!

3. Be sure to stretch all muscle groups every day! Stretching may help to prevent injuries and will certainly help you to release stress and relax.

4. Drink plenty of water throughout the day. A good rule of thumb is to drink approximately half of your body weight in ounces of water per day. For example: if you weigh 120 pounds, you should drink approximately 60 ounces of water a day.

5. Get plenty of sleep, at least 7 to 8 hours a day. Your body grows and repairs itself when sleeping. A good night sleep will help you to get through a long day of school and/or work and leave you with plenty of energy to exercise.

Obviously there are many more healthy tips out there. These are just five of my favorites to help improve physical fitness levels. Of course, be sure to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, complex carbohydrates, and lean proteins. Improving your physical fitness level can be accomplished at any age. As you’ve heard from me in the past, consistency and motivation are keys to achieving your goals. Stay active and eat healthy!

 

What is the Best Exercise?

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I have many people ask me this question every week. What I tell them is that there is no “best” exercise. All exercise is good. You just have to find the “best” exercises that suit your needs, physical fitness level, and lifestyle. For me, the best exercise is jumping rope.

I’ve been jumping rope for 20 years now. I had gotten out of the Marine Corps and got a membership at my local Bally’s Total Fitness. My first day working out there I saw a gentleman in the aerobics studio jumping rope all by himself. I watched him in awe. The way he moved.  Swift, steady, precise, and rhythmic. I had visions of watching the movies Rocky, Rocky II, and Rocky III from when I was a kid. Trying not to disturb this obviously “in-shape” man, I entered the aerobics studio, picked up a jump rope, and attempted to jump rope on the opposite side of the studio. I thought, “I’m a Marine, if he can do this so can I”. Ha! My attempts to find rhythm, steadiness, and precision were replaced with clumsiness, stumbling, and continued misses on the jump. I felt a little embarrassed, especially since we were the only two in the studio.

The expert rope jumper obviously watched me struggle and stopped to offer advice. He gave me these 3 following tips:

  • Start slow and low – “Low” meaning you should not jump high when jumping over the rope. You should jump just high enough to get the rope under your feet. “Slow” meaning when you are first starting out with this endeavor go slow to get the rhythm, coordination, and reaction time when the rope is coming around.
  • Keep your body tight – “Tight” meaning keep your arms and shoulders tight and let the rope turn from the wrists. Don’t waste energy moving your arms in big circles. The more movement you have, then the quicker you will burn yourself out.
  • Start with the most basic foot work that you learned as a kid – Meaning just try skipping over the rope. Don’t try the fancy “Rocky” moves right away. You must get a feel for the rope and learn timing and coordination. Once those 2 things are accomplished, then move on to more advanced foot work and speed.

Those 3 tips were just the beginning for me as they are for everyone else that has learned that jumping rope is much more than just skipping and jumping for 30 to 60 seconds at a time. Over 20 years of training with the rope, I have developed skills that are very advanced. Not only has my reaction time, coordination, agility, and speed increased, but I’ve found that my muscular endurance and cardiovascular endurance has drastically improved also. I can easily jump rope at a high intensity level for 30 minutes now. Jumping rope can get boring just like any other cardiovascular exercise, but once you know a good routine of tricks, foot work, and movement, you’ll find that it is not boring at all. Quite the opposite!

You will certainly see the following improvements when you add jumping rope into your daily exercise program along with practicing healthy eating habits:

  1. Improves overall body composition by decreasing body fat, increasing muscle mass, and increasing weight loss (health-related component of physical fitness)
  2. Increased cardiovascular endurance (health-related component of physical fitness)
  3. Increased muscular endurance (health-related component of physical fitness)
  4. Decreased blood pressure
  5. Increased agility (skill-related component of physical fitness)
  6. Increased coordination (skill-related component of physical fitness)
  7. Increased reaction time (skill-related component of physical fitness)
  8. Increased mental focus
  9. Increased speed (skill-related component of physical fitness)

So, my best exercise is jumping rope. It improves 7 of the 11 components of physical fitness. It is a total body workout. It is challenging. Most importantly, jumping rope is fun! Thank you to that expert rope jumper I met at Bally’s. If it wasn’t for him, I may have given up and never found my “best” exercise.

Find Time to Increase Your Physical Fitness Level!

 

Physical fitness has been defined in many ways. I believe that physical fitness can be defined as one’s ability to carry out day-to-day activities without physical exhaustion and injuries and to maintain high levels of energy to accomplish daily tasks. I know that by the end of my 11 to 12 hour work day and after training 10 to 12 clients I am extremely tired and my energy levels have diminished. However, at the end of the day, I still feel capable to play with my sons, read books with my youngest, and help Stacie tuck the boys into bed. As my clientele base has steadily grown and my business demands more hours than I’m humanly capable, I’ve found myself losing time to work-out and less inclined to keep myself in shape. Sometimes I think some of my clients are in better shape than me. These clients have regularly set time aside in their busy schedules to train witbih-joggingh me or on their own. That’s what it comes down to, time.

We must set aside the time to exercise or incorporate physical activities into our daily routine in order to improve our physical fitness levels and be healthy. I’ve found that even a little bit of time devoted to a light work-out or high intensity work-out helps to keep me healthy and at a high level of physical fitness. Setting aside 15 minutes in the morning to walk outside or on a treadmill is certainly a good way to increase your physical fitness levels. I recommend this to a long-time client of mine at least every other week. He routinely asks, “Is that enough?’ My response is always, “YES! Fifteen minutes is better than doing nothing at all.” Studies have shown that small bouts of cardiovascular exercise, such as walking, can decrease blood pressure, reduce your risk of strokes and heart disease, and pro-long life (along with several other positive changes).

Our lives have become overwhelmed with work, school, family, social events, and sports for the kids. Finding the time to take care of my health is a major priority in my life. It should be for you as well. So, make time in your busy lives to exercise daily, even if it’s for just a little bit, 15 minutes, even 10 minutes. A little bit adds up to be a lot in the long run. That little bit of time spent getting your heart rate up will help to increase your energy levels, lift your mood, and, overtime, will increase your physical fitness level. Make your health a priority and get moving. Find the time!

3 Best Tips for Aerobic Exercise

 

Aerobic exercise, also called cardiorespiratory or cardiovascular fitness, is a good measure of the heart’s ability to pump oxygenated blood throughout the muscles. Oxygenated blood carries the nutrients the body needs to function effectively. A healthy heart can pump great volumes of oxygenated blood with each beat and will have a high level of cardiovascular fitness.

Jeff AngelHeart disease is directly associated with the cardiorespiratory and cardiovascular systems. One of the primary signs of heart and lung diseases include becoming winded with mild exertion. Individuals with heart or lung disease often become fatigued when performing day to day tasks that most of us take for granted. Aerobic exercise can help increase the body’s utilization of oxygenated blood pumping throughout the body, thus making our bodies stronger and more efficient performing everyday activities.

I’m often asked what are the most important tips I can give for aerobic conditioning. I find myself continuously telling clients and friends three very important factors that will help to improve one’s cardiovascular health. These factors include: know your target heart rate zone, know your intensity level, and be consistent.

1. Know your target heart rate zone.

Your target heart rate zone is the number of beats per minute (bpm) at which your heart should be beating during aerobic exercise in order to promote optimal fitness levels, improving cardiovascular conditioning, and reducing body fat percentages. For most healthy individuals, this range is 60-85% of the maximal heart rate.

Target Heart Rate Calculator

Measuring your heart rate while exercising can be done through two methods. Wearing a heart rate monitor is the easiest and most accurate method of checking your heart rate. A heart rate monitor can be purchased at any sporting goods supplier and ranges from $40 to $200. The least expensive are very accurate and will only display your heart rate. The moderately and highly priced monitors offer a stop watch, warning sounds if your heart rate is too high or too low, standard clock, and many other features.

The second method for monitoring your heart rate is by checking your pulse on your radial artery. The radial pulse can be found on the under side of your wrist using your index and middle fingers held together. Once located, count the number of beats for 15 seconds and multiply that number by 4. This will give you your beats per minute. To be more accurate, count the number of beats in 60 seconds. Both methods are acceptable for determining your heart rate.

2. Know your intensity level.

Once you have determined your beats per minute (within 5 minutes of aerobic exercise), you must ask yourself a few questions:

  • At this intensity, am I in my target heart rate zone? If not, make adjustments accordingly:
    • Above zone, decrease speed or rpms (or incline)
    • Below zone, increase speed or rpms (or incline)
  • How do I feel?
  • Can I maintain this pace for at least 30 minutes?
  • Can I push myself to the upper limits of my target heart rate zone?
  • If so, how long will I hold that upper limit?

Be aware of how your body feels and how you are breathing. If you cannot hold a conversation with someone without catching your breath, you may be going at too fast of a pace. This is what we call the “talk test”.

Intensity levels can vary from person to person and by goals wanting to be reached. Please click here to view the 5 types of training zones which represent low to high intensity levels for cardio conditioning. These training zones will give you an idea of where you should be training for your individual goals.

3. Be consistent.

Consistency is the key when trying to lose weight and body fat. You must stay on your training program and maintain healthy eating habits until you reach your goal weight. Cardiovascular exercise should be done at least 3 days per week for minimal positive aerobic enhancement and reduction of body fat stores. For maximum results, intermediate and advanced trainees should be doing 5-6 days of cardiovascular conditioning per week, for a minimum of 20 minutes and not more than 60 minutes. Exercise modes include any activity (walking, jogging, inline skating, swimming, biking, etc.) that will get your heart rate up into your target heart rate zone.

Know your zone, know your intensity, and be consistent. I believe these 3 tips are most important in improving your aerobic capacity and will help you to lose unwanted weight. Keeping your heart strong is most important in building and maintaining a healthy body.

HIIT, Your Best Shot at Being Fit

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High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT, has been around for years but is finally coming into mainstream fitness for individuals of all ages and fitness levels. Several years ago, HIIT was incorporated into the training regimens of Olympic, Professional, and Collegiate athletes. The benefits of high intensity training for these athletes included higher VO2 Max, greater lung capacity, improved oxygen utilization, delayed onset of lactic acid build up in muscle cells, and greater overall output during practice, drills, games, and competitions.

That’s all good stuff, right? To the average person these improvements don’t mean much. What it does mean to the average person is this: burn a lot of calories in a short period of time while boosting your metabolism and improving your cardiovascular conditioning.

Many of my clients and friends complain of having to do long, tiresome, and boring cardio workouts that leave them wishing there was a better way to “get it done”. HIIT is the way to get it done in a shorter period of time but with a much higher intensity level. You really need to work your butt off to make this work for you!

To start, you must determine your Target Heart Rate Zone (THRZ). This can be done by clicking here. During HIIT, the goal is to get your heart rate up to the upper end of the THRZ, keep it there for a short period of time (1 -2 minutes), then bring it down to the middle of your THRZ for a short period of time, then back up again. This pattern should be performed for 20 to 30 minutes.

This type of training is called high intensity for a reason. It is challenging and tough to do. You will breath heavily and sweat a lot when performed properly. The goal is to get your heart rate up as high and as safe as possible in a short period of time in order to burn high amounts of calories. Depending on your training schedule, HIIT can be performed 2-3 times per week.

The following HIIT programs are some of my favorites to do. These are just examples. I recommend you consult with your physician or a professional fitness instructor before trying these HIIT programs. Be sure to monitor your heart rate to make sure you are at the upper end of your THRZ. It will take approximately 7-8 minutes to get the heart rate up that high. If your heart rate gets too high and you have trouble catching your breath, then lower your intensity by decreasing speed, incline, or pace of exercises. Good luck!

Treadmill HIIT (for beginners):

  1. Brisk walk at 4.5 mph at 2% incline for 2 min. (this may be a slow jog for some of you)
  2. Run or Jog at 6.0 mph at 1% incline for 1 min.
  3. Brisk walk at 4.0 mph at 5% incline for 2 min.

Repeat 4 more times then do 5 minute cool down (walk at 3.5 mph)

Total Time (including cool down): 30 minutes

Outside HIIT (for intermediate trainees):

  1. Jog at your own pace for 2 min.
  2. Sprint for 30 seconds
  3. Walk for 1 minute 30 seconds

Repeat 5 mores times then do 5 minute cool down (slow walk)

Total Time (including cool down): 25 minutes

HIIT Using Calisthenics (for advanced trainees):

  1. Jumping Jacks for 45 seconds
  2. Mountain Climbers for 30 seconds
  3. March in place for 30 seconds (for a rest; brings heart rate down a little)
  4. Burpees or Squat Thrusts for 45 seconds
  5. Scissor Jumps and Jabs for 30 seconds
  6. March in place for 30 seconds
  7. 10 Push-Ups

Repeat 5 more times then do 5 minute cool down (slow walk)

Approximate Total Time (including cool down): 20 minutes

As you can see, HIIT can be done a variety of ways. The ways to do High Intensity Interval Training is endless. The key items to focus on are your heart rate and your breathing. If either gets to high for your fitness level, then decrease your intensity.

Putting together a HIIT program takes a little bit of thinking and imagination and a lot of hard work and motivation. However, this type of exercise will certainly get you in shape, burn a high amount of calories, and keep your metabolism running high all day long.

 

 

Do You Do Functional Fitness Training?

 

Functional fitness training combines exercises that train your muscles to perform everyday activites safely and efficiently. Most people exercise in order to improve their health and quality of life. This is exactly what funtional fitness training does. Training and developing your muscles in this way will help you to perform daily activities such as carrying groceries, shoveling snow, walking up and down stairs, or just running around the backyard with your kids.

According to the Mayo Clinic, functional fitness exercises train your muscles to work together and prepare them for daily tasks by simulating common movements you might do at home, at work, or in sports. As I teach my clients these multi-muscle group movements,  I emphasize the use of core stability and strengthening in each exercise. I encourage clients to perform these exercises on a BOSU, balance discs, or balancing on one leg.

Functional exercises should involve multijoint and multimuscle group exercises. For example, instead of doing just a standing bicep curl moving only the elbow joint, perform a squat on a BOSU with a bicep curl. Or, take a basic lunge. You can make this more challenging by adding a lunge and shoulder press together. Some examples of functional fitness training using multimuscle group exercises can be seen on our YouTube channel and in our Photo Gallery. Performing theses exercises properly and consistantly may help to improve your overall quality of life and reduce injuries as you age.

Older adults and seniors will certainly benefit from functional fitness exercises. These exercise will help to increase overall strength, coordination, and balance which may reduce the risk of falls. Funtional fitness training is a weight-bearing activity and can help to prevent and, in some individuals, reverse osteoporosis.

If you are new to exercise, are elderly, or pregnant, it is best to check with your doctor before performing multimuscle group funtional training. This type of training is a little more advanced and requires focus and concentration and will be sure to get your heart rate up. Always remember, if there are more muscle groups moving at one time then the heart must pump higher amounts of oxygenated blood throughout the body to keep those muscles moving. Therefore, you are not only strengthening your muscles, you are also making cardiovascular improvements as well!

Adding functional fitness training to your workouts will certainly improve your overall health and well-being and will make your daily life stresses a little easier to deal with.

Are You Getting Enough Exercise?

 

The American Heart Association suggests at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise (or a combination of moderate and vigorous physical activity). Thirty minutes a day, five times a week is an easy goal to remember, however you will also experience benefits even if you divide your time into two or three segments of 10 -15 minutes per day.

Physical activity is anything that makes you move your body and burn calories, such as climbing stairs or playing sports. Aerobic exercises benefit your heart, such as walking, jogging, swimming or biking. Strength and stretching exercises are best for overall stamina and flexibility.

The simplest, positive change you can make to effectively improve your heart health is to start walking. It’s enjoyable, free, easy, social and great exercise. A walking program is flexible and boasts high success rates because people can stick with it. It’s easy for walking to become a regular and satisfying part of life.

The following chart represents an estimate of caloric expenditure during specific physical activity. Listed are 4 different weight categories. Caloric expenditure is influenced by intensity, mode of exercise, one’s level of conditioning, metabolism, and body weight. Try to do at least three of these activities during your training week. This might help to keep you from getting bored with your weekly schedule and will help to make you a more well-rounded fitness enthuseist. You might even find a new mode of exercise to enjoy. My top two exercises are jump rope and fast-paced calisthenics. My new favorite that’s been around for years… the rowing machine.

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Change Your Workout with Interval Training

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Is your training becoming boring doing the same old routine day after day? Not seeing any changes in your body or your fitness level? Then you are ready to make some changes in your work-out routine. Interval training is one of the best ways to add high intensity into the same old training routine. If it’s good enough for elite athletes worldwide, then it should be good enough for the average person just trying to stay healthy.

What is interval training?
Interval training is simply alternating bursts of moderate to high intense activity with intervals of lighter activity.

For example, walking can be changed into interval training. If you’re in good shape, you can incorporate short bursts of jogging into your regular brisk walks. If you’re less fit, you might alternate leisurely walking with periods of faster walking. If you’re walking outdoors, you could walk faster between mailboxes, trees or other landmarks.

What can interval training do for me?
If you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced exerciser, interval training will help you change your regular exercise program and make you more fit. Here are some benefits of interval training:
  • More calories will be burned. The more vigorously you exercise, the more calories you’ll burn — even if you increase intensity for just a few minutes at a time.
  • Your aerobic capacity will improve. As your cardiovascular fitness improves, you’ll be able to exercise longer and with more intensity.
  • You won’t be bored. Turning up your intensity in short intervals can add variety to your exercise routine.
  • No special equipment is needed. You can simply modify your current routine.

Benefits of Aerobic Exercise

 

Aerobic conditioning, also called cardiorespiratory or cardiovascular fitness, is a good measure of the heart’s ability to pump oxygenated blood throughout the muscles. Oxygenated blood carries the nutrients the body needs to function effectively. A healthy heart can pump great volumes of oxygenated blood with each beat and will have a high level of cardiovascular fitness.

Heart disease is directly associated with the cardiorespiratory and cardiovascular systems. One of the primary signs of heart and lung diseases include becoming winded with mild exertion. Individuals with heart or lung disease often become fatigued when performing day to day tasks that most of us take for granted. Aerobic exercise can help increase the body’s utilization of oxygenated blood pumping throughout the body, thus making our bodies stronger and more efficient performing everyday activities.

Aerobic exercise can be as simple as walking or taking the stairs up to your office, or can be as strenuous as running a marathon or participating in a triathlon. The key point is to be healthy enough to do the activities you want to do.

Cardiovascular exercise should be done at least 3 days per week for minimal positive aerobic enhancement and reduction of body fat stores. For maximum results, intermediate and advanced trainees should be doing 5-6 days of cardiovascular conditioning per week, for a minimum of 30 minutes and not more than 60 minutes. Exercise modes include any activity (walking, jogging, inline skating, swimming, biking, etc.) that will get your heart rate up into your target heart rate zone.

Benefits Of Aerobic Conditioning:

  1. Improves blood pressure
  2. Decreases risk of developing colon cancer
  3. Reduced insulin needs
  4. Decreases risk of cardiovascular disease
  5. Lower mortality rates at all ages from all diseases
  6. Decreases serum triglycerides
  7. Helps to reduce body fat
  8. Increases HDLs (the good cholesterol)
  9. Improved glucose tolerance
  10. Decreases LDLs (the bad cholesterol)
  11. Enhances performance of work and recreational activities
  12. Relieves symptoms of depression and anxiety

Short on Time? Cardio or Weights?

 

Every week I hear from a client, “I don’t have enough time to get in my cardio and weight training this week, which one should I skip, which one is most important?” My response, “Don’t skip either, both are important and need to be done with consistency.”

If you are on a mission to lose weight, the cardio is going to help you burn off that stored energy, otherwise known as body fat. The strength training can’t be skipped either, your muscles need to be stimulated weekly in order to promote proper growth and development so your muscles become stronger and shapelier.

When you are short on time, the best way to get in your cardio and strength training is through what I call High Intensity Circuit Training (HICT). This type of circuit training involves high intensity cardio bouts mixed in with weight training. What makes this type of training great for people with little time, which is most of us, is that you combine your cardiovascular conditioning with resistance training. This will give you a total body workout. You’re not only burning calories and body fat, but you are also strengthening your heart and improving your muscular strength and endurance. High Intensity Circuit Training can be accomplished many ways with no equipment, minimal equipment, or with a fully loaded gym.

My favorite way to train clients is by incorporating basic calesthetics with strength training. You must first get your heart rate up high, at the upper end of your target heart rate zone, in a short period of time, usually 45-60 seconds. Once the heart rate is up, continue on to a 3 to 4 exercise strength training circuit. For example, do 60 seconds of jumping jacks, then, with no rest, move on to 15 push-ups, then on to 20 jump squats, then on to 15 ball push-ups, then do 20 lunges. Repeat the circuit 2 more times. Now this is just a very basic example of HICT, but nevertheless you are accomplishing your cardio and strength training in a short, very intense period of time. I have several of my advanced clients doing up to 16 different exercises in one circuit and burning over 700 calories in 60 minutes (I typically have clients do three sets for each circuit).

When choosing high intensity cardio bouts, you can’t go wrong with calesthetics such as jumping jacks, scissor jumps with jabs, squat thrusts, or mountain climbers. All of these will get your heart rate up very high in a very short period of time. The cardio bouts don’t have to be calesthetics. You can also incorporate cardio equipment such as the treadmill, elliptical, and stationary bike. However, I find that a high intensity cardio bout on a piece of equipment takes a little more time to get the heart rate up. So you might want to increase the time to 2-3 minutes rather than 45-60 seconds. You must be going as fast and as hard as you can on the piece of equipment you choose at the time.

The weight training circuit following the cardio bout can be set up in a variety of ways. This is where you have to be creative and piece together a total body circuit, or just lower or upper body combinations or super sets. If you want to view some great examples of this, go to my YouTube Channel. There are currently 4 circuits posted that will guide you through a variety of High Intensity Circuit Training.

High Intensity Circuit Training may not be for everyone. This is an option for more intermediate to advanced trainees that are short on time. However, beginners can go slow and at a lower intensity to accomplish such training. Remember to always check with a doctor or fitness professional to be sure this type of training is right for you.

Your options are endless when it comes to High Intensity Circuit Training. The combinations of exercises for your entire body will continue to grow if you are thoughtful in setting up your circuits. So, don’t skip weights or cardio when you have a busy schedule. Take advantage of what little time you have to exercise and maximize every minute of your workout by doing High Intensity Circuit Training.