Slow and steady always wins the race

It’s the beginning of a new year and there are quite a few new faces at the gym I frequent. I go there, but I don’t spend a lot of time IN there. I like my workouts how I like my women, short and sweet! When I workout at the gym, I’m in and out in about an hour. This includes changing in the locker room, warm up and workout, cool down, shower (and brush teeth!). There is a trend that I notice among exercise newbies though – they spend a WHOLE lot of time in the gym. I’m talking 1-2 hours a workout, sometimes 5 days a week. That’s 5-10 hours a week exercising! The more the better though, right? Not necessarily.

Exercise is simply a stressor which stimulates our neuromuscular system. It activates our fight or flight response, which has three phases: the alarm, resistance, and exhaustion phases.

Alarm Phase – In terms of exercise, this is when you’re working out and your heart rate increases, blood vessels expand, and your body starts series of chemical reactions to provide energy for these movements.

Resistance Phase – You’re finished, and you’re a sweaty, stinky mess. Now your heart rate begins to return to normal and you start healing from that workout (i.e. returning to homeostasis.)

Exhaustion phase – You’re feeling sluggish all the time. You’re tired. You feel weak. You’re much more likely to get sick. Your performance in the gym has decreased and you find it hard to want to do it anymore. YOU ARE TOO STRESSED. Welcome to the exhaustion phase. Your body is having a hard time returning to normal, and things are starting to break down. One of two things typically happen here with newbies – they keep pushing to the point of injury, or they stop for a few days to recover and those few days turns into a week and just snowballs from there. Then poof! All those gains are gone and you have to pass go again, but you don’t collect $200.

What you want to do is stay within the first two phases, alarm and resistance. To do that, you have to find a balance. You do that by starting slow and not trying to push yourself too hard at first. Keep it to 40 minutes tops at first (listen to your body, it knows what’s best for you!) For a complete newbie, going from almost no working out to 1 – 2 hours is only giving you a one-way ticket to exhaustion phase. Same holds true if you’re not a newbie, but have been off for a while (more than a month of no activity.)

Don’t buy into the hype that more is better when it comes to exercise. Quality is king. Quantity can make you sick. Ease into things and you’ll have much better results. Promise.

To your health and wellness,

Martin Arroyo, CPT

If you have any questions related to this post or health, wellness and fitness please contact me! I love talking to others about my passion!

The science of willpower: Kelly McGonigal on why it’s so dang hard to stick to a resolution

A lot of what is discussed in this article on willpower and the ability to reach goals which we set are absolutely true. I learned many of these lessons, and continue to learn them, on my own transformation journey. If there is one thing to take away from this, let it be that we shouldn’t fight our emotions, our cravings. We shouldn’t beat ourselves up for having them. Rather we should acknowledge that they are present within us, then allow ourselves to make a better, more conscious choice from that place.

TED Blog

By the second week of January, that resolution that once seemed so reasonable — go to the gym every other day, read a book a week, only drink alcohol on weekends — is starting to seem very … hard. As you are teetering on the edge of abandoning it all together, Kelly McGonigal is here to help. This Stanford University psychologist — who shared last year how you can make stress your friend — wants you to know that you’re not having a hard time sticking to a resolution because you are a terrible person. Perhaps you’ve just formulated the wrong resolution.

McGonigal has, for years, taught a course called “The Science of Willpower” through Stanford’s Continuing Studies program and, in 2011, she spun it into a book, The Willpower Instinct. The TED Blog spoke to McGonigal this week about how willpower is often misunderstood, and what we each can do…

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The One Lifehack that Will help you Eat Less (without dieting!)

I’m a clean plate eater. Have been that way since I was first able to eat without my mom having to make airplane noises while feeding me. Coming from a Latino family, eating EVERYTHING in front of you is expected (you can seriously catch some hell if you don’t finish!) While there’s nothing inherently wrong with this mindset (who wants to waste good when people are starving elsewhere?), but if you couple this with our tendency to eat fast, it can easily do damage to your waistline. I know, if I feel like it and it’s in front of me, I could eat an entire Dominoes pizza quick, just because it’s there and I feel hungry.

Have you ever been so hungry that you grab the easiest meal you can get your hands on, scarf it down and feel bad about it afterwards? Worse yet, do you feel hungry about an hour later? They say that it takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that it’s full. So here’s my lifehack to help you listen to your stomach, feel fuller, and eat less. Benefit: It could help you lose weight and keep it off.

Here’s how to get started with the 20 Minute Rule today:

-Set aside the time to eat your food. The rule here, of course, is 20 minutes. If you’re crunched for time, say, at work (15-30 minute break only) try to prepare your food ahead and you won’t have to worry about the hassle of going out to grab something.

– On your phone, set the timer for 20 minutes (Pro tip: Start the timer AFTER you Instagram your food)

– Once the timer’s set, EAT. Important: Chew slowly, and savor the flavor of the food. Put the fork/spoon down every so often. (Pro tip #2: Take a deep belly breath every so often. You’d be surprised how that can make you feel fuller faster.)

The MOST important part to doing this successfully: There must either still be food on your plate when the timer goes off, or you’re just about finished with the entire meal. If you have leftovers, great! Save it for later (can you say “budget hack“?)

There you have it. An easy rule of thumb that you can start doing today to feel fuller longer and potentially lose weight. No diet added here.

To your health and wellness,

Martin Arroyo, CPT

Forgive Yourself to stay on Track

According to many different sources, January 6, 2014 was the most depressing day of the year. Why? Because that’s the day when most of us return to the daily grind after the holidays, and all of that built up good cheer seems to wear off. It may also be the first day where that “New Year, New Me” motivation began to really fade. Funny thing about motivation, is when that fire starts to wane, we find it hard to rekindle it. There is one thing that you can do and you must learn if you want to keep it going: forgive yourself.

Tell yourself “It’s ok.” It’s that simple. Didn’t make it to the gym today? It’s ok, go tomorrow. Had a donut at lunch? It’s ok, because one donut won’t add inches to your stomach (several of them might, though, so be careful.) We typically beat ourselves up when we fall short of our expectations, even slightly, and lose sight of the forest for the trees.

If there’s one thing I can tell you from my own personal experience in losing weight and keeping it off, it’s this: YOU WILL NOT ALWAYS DO THINGS RIGHT. You won’t always make it to the gym everyday. You won’t always be able to resist that pastry. You won’t always stay within your calorie limit. It’s part of the process, and you have to accept that. And it’s OK.

So instead of beating yourself up, and potentially sidelining your goals, learn to accept what has happened already. Don’t guilt yourself for not meeting your expectations 100% of the time. Forgive yourself, and resolve to do better the next chance you get. Remember, it will happen again too, so what do you do then? That’s right, forgive yourself then too. Let it go, move forward and keep reaching for your goal.

To your health and wellness,

Martin Arroyo, CPT

You are what you pee (well, sort of)

You are what you pee. Kind of. It’s something we normally do without a second thought every day.  Into the bowl it goes and we flush it away. Hold off on flushing for a second though, because your pee can actually give you some insight on your health.

What you want to take note of when you’re checking your urine is its color. Normally, it should be a yellow/gold color. When it’s a light yellow color, it usually means you’re well hydrated and good to go! The darker the yellow typically the more you’ll want to hydrate (drink water and maybe cut back on the caffeine.) On the flipside, if your urine is completely clear and you’re running to the bathroom often, you might be overhydrated and may want to cut your fluid intake back a bit.

Now, sometimes your urine might be a different color. Here are some colors you should take note of and what they may potentially indicate:

Orange – It’s typically a sign of dehydration, but could also mean that you’ve consumed a lot of orange foods like carrots or squash, or had some food with orange food coloring. It can also look like that right after exercise. The darker the orange, the more dehydrated you are. Perhaps you should drink some more water.

Brown – This is usually an indicator of intense dehydration, but could also mean you ate some fava beans. It could also signal a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) or kidney stones. If your urine looks like this often, consult a physician.

Green- Pretty rare, but this could mean that you have an unusual UTI or you had an excessive amount of asparagus. It’s usually nothing, but if it persists see a doctor.

Red – This could mean that you have blood in your urine, or that you ate a lot of beets, blueberries other red colored food (or foods with red food dye). If you suspect that it may be blood, consult a doctor immediately.

Black – Not a good sign at all. See a doctor immediately.

There you have it! A short guide on what your pee can tell you. Next time you go, take a closer look to see what your pee says about your health!

For hydration’s sake, here is a handy urine color chart taken from www.navyfitness.org:

Want to shrink your gut? Suck it in! (No joke!)

Just about everyone dreams of having a flat, toned stomach. You may even be thinking about the best way to do it right now. You want results quickly, right? So perhaps you turn to Google and look up “how to get six pack abs” or “how to shrink belly fat”, etc. You’re hit with literally TONS of articles and products claiming to have the answer to shrink your belly fat fast. Those “solutions” might be some magic pill, some fancy new diet, or some weird new exercise or machine that promises to give you what you want for just 4 easy installments of $29.99! (Those body wraps that you see claiming to help you lose inches are a total load of crap by the way.)

Now, when most people think of working their abs the usual exercises that come up are crunches and sit-ups. Some people insist on doing hundreds of these a day in a vain attempt to tighten their stomach and lose fat. Those exercises are pretty ineffective if what you’re looking to do is to tighten up (and doing hundreds every single day doesn’t really help either!)

What many people don’t know is that crunches and sit-ups only work one part of your abdominals. Your abdominal muscles are actually composed of layers of muscle, with the deepest (and arguably most important) being the transverse abdominus (we’ll call it T-abs for short). Your T-abs are essentially your body’s natural girdle. It supports your spine and keeps everything “together” so to speak, of course with the help of the other layers of abdominal muscle.

When you’re doing crunches and sit-ups, you’re primarily working your rectus abdominus, which are only “assisting” the T-abs in holding everything together. Essentially, you’re working the muscles that are merely ASSISTING in providing support and keeping your stomach nice and tight, while pretty much neglecting the main muscle that holds it all together. Doesn’t make much sense, right?

I may sound like I’m bashing crunches and sit-ups, but I’m not. They do have a time and place in a workout routine, but in order to see the results you want AND to make yourself stronger overall, you want to start working your T-abs. How do you do it? Here’s one way, and it’s REALLY simple:

Suck in your gut – Yes. I really just wrote that. It’s an exercise called the abdominal vacuum and Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Governator himself, used this exercise to help him chisel his famed Mr. Olympia physique. Simply suck in your gut as far as you can and hold for 15-20 seconds at first. It helps to envision bringing your belly button in towards your spine and holding that position. Try going for 3-5 sets of 15-20 seconds each for 3 – 5 days a week for about two weeks. You’ll likely notice that your posture starts improving.

Even better, with a tape measure, measure your waistline. Start doing the abdominal vacuums consistently, increasing the length of your hold by 5-10 seconds per set each week. In 3 weeks time you will likely find that your waist size has decreased anywhere from 1-3 inches.

This exercise is so simple that just about anyone can do it, and you don’t even need a gym! You can do it on the bus, train, in the car, at your desk at work, in bed…the sky’s the limit! Combine it with a solid core training routine and eating right, and you’ll be well on your way to that flat tummy in no time.

Martin Arroyo, CPT