Do You Need a Gym for an Effective Workout? – A Fit Mom’s Experience - Working out at home can be liberating, fun, and just as effective as training at a gym. When I work out at home, I can watch a movie and laugh out loud; I never forget my intra-workout drink (the kitchen is nearby); there are no haters, judgmental onlookers, or self-proclaimed know-it-alls critiquing me from a distance. Most of all, my focus is 100% on myself. As a young, broke mom, I worked out at home for five years before ever joining a gym. I developed a six-pack for the first time a month after giving birth to my son, and a few months later, my legs were toned for the first time. I had my first taste of muscle growth and progress with exercise. I developed so much strength and solid conditioning that when I joined the military a year later, I was awarded Top Female Physical Readiness Trainee and Warhawk. I created my own exercise schedule, starting at just three days per week, then I gradually moved up to doing something every day. My trainer was Fit TV, and my primary TV instructor was Cathe Friedrich, whom I can credit with the strengths I gained that led to my military fitness awards. Given those results, it took quite a bit of convincing from reading books by several professional coaches to encourage me to join a gym (based on my then-goal: muscle growth). After training at home for five years, being a personal trainer at various gyms for eight years, and working out at gyms for a decade, I know reaching your desired physique and performance goals can be achieved without a full-blown gym. I know many skilled, impressive, and well-built athletes who train at home gyms, some even train outdoors in the grass or utilize bars, wood planks, and other equipment at local playgrounds. The question isn’t whether you can effectively exercise without a gym, it is what kind of setup is required for you to effectively reach your goals. To help you best visualize the role your goals play in where you work out, this article is organized by general goals, focusing on the optimum setup for maximum results, based on my experience as a personal trainer and broke single mom with 18 straight years of dedication to health and fitness. Fat loss Fat loss exercise requires little to no equipment. In fact, I’ll go with the latter: fat loss requires zero equipment. Unlike exercising on a machine that provides momentum, such as a treadmill or elliptical, when propelling your body on the ground or on a floor, you get no assistance from the momentum of a machine. 100% of the force that moves your body comes from you, amounting to more caloric burn. Wasting time driving to a gym (in which you’re sitting down) and spending money on a gym membership simply to lose fat is a flawed approach. Instead, find an empty 6’x6’ space in your home or hit the pavement or grass; train immediately, with no travel time or money lost. You’ll also gain the bonus of high-caloric burn from using your own body’s resistance and strength, not the momentum from machines. Utilize the floor and pick up, hit, throw, drag, push, and pull objects. If being at home doesn’t motivate you, the outdoors is ideal for fat loss. It provides an abundance of space for the type of multi-joint, metabolic exercises that will maximize fat loss. Muscle Gain/Tone A gym with varying weights is ideal for the progressive overload required to stimulate muscle growth. It is possible to gain muscle at home, even with limited equipment, but muscle growth potential can vary by body type and genetics, and limited options for progressive overload can exasperate this. Assuming an appropriate diet with a caloric surplus has been implemented to aid in muscle growth, bodyweight exercise, for example, which is common in home workouts, can present limited opportunities for progressive overload for many people. This is because progressive overload in bodyweight training requires mastering the body in ways that aren’t as easily attainable as picking up a heavier weight. For example, advancing from a pike push-up on the floor to a freeform handstand push-up can require months and sometimes years of work. This is because the body must make many strength, balance, proprioception, stability, mobility, flexibility, and joint adjustments to enable someone to advance through each progression. That’s a lot of slow, mindful work that does not leave much room to focus on muscle gain, rather skill is emphasized. Beyond advanced bodyweight work, muscle growth and tone can still be achieved at home. The safest bet is equipping your home gym with gear such as bands, sandbags, and weights to ensure progressive overload can be executed regularly. Maintenance Save your money, train at home. When working to simply maintain your current body composition and fitness level, the primary benefit of the gym: loads of equipment, is most often unnecessary, unless maintaining your level of fitness involves access to a variety of equipment and weights. In which case, if you’d like to save money on a gym membership or enjoy the aforementioned perks of working out at home, perhaps consider investing in a home gym. The total cost can be cheaper than years of paying for a gym membership. Skills Home or the outdoors is sufficient for this goal. Of course, a gym can be used for varied equipment, but much of those pieces of equipment can be emulated outdoors or within your own home for skill work: bars, poles, walls, etc. Flexibility, Mobility, Functionality Save your money, train at home or outdoors. A gym is definitely not needed for optimal flexibility, mobility, or functionality. 500 years of ballet dancers acquiring extreme flexibility and mobility using little more than horizontal bars, walls, and floors confirms this. This high flexibility and mobility translate to great physical functionality. Nuff said. The Verdict Currently, I’m rebuilding my home gym, spurred by COVID-19 lockdown orders. My goals are a mixture of functional strength, mobility, flexibility, gymnastics skills, and muscle retention/gain. I have a bare-minimum home gym setup. I purchased a yoga stand primarily for pull-up, muscle-up, and ring work that I have learned to use for leg exercises, and I’m creating new exercises as I go along. Because my goals involve muscle retention and building, I also plan to buy a few choice weights — that is, as soon as they’re available again owing to the COVID-19 exercise equipment shortage. Since March, when I returned to training 100% at home, I’ve finally been able to hold a handstand for longer than 10 seconds – and I’ve been working on handstands for three years! My splits have improved dramatically; my muscle-ups are finally getting somewhere; and my glutes are developing better than before, now that I can do publicly unacceptable glute exercises without shame. Although I love having access to the many heavy weights available at full-scale gyms, at home, I’m much more relaxed, at peace, and I have no judgers, onlookers, commentators, think-they-know-it-all-ers adding an air of negativity to my workout. So, no, a gym is not required to exercise effectively. People can work out anywhere. However, a lack of certain types of equipment can make it more difficult and inconvenient to reach your goals. Sure, many people advocate picking up random objects at home to use as weights, but that can be impractical and even dangerous because weights sold specifically for exercise are designed to be safe to grip and store away. If you’d like ideas on how to build your own home gym, read: “Best Home Gym Equipment for COVID-19 Self-Isolation.”
Can You Lose Weight Without Exercise? - Written by Aj of Losing weight without exercise requires a calorie deficit. You need to consume fewer calories than your body uses every day. The right filling foods and getting rid of water weight can get you well on your way to weight loss extreme and even losing a pound a day. I’ve always struggled with my weight, and it started impacting my life. Clothes fit strangely because of a disproportionate belly. Strangers sneered and looked at me like a lazy low-life. I had to make a change, but I find workouts difficult, and frankly, I haven’t always got the time. So it got me thinking, can you lose weight without exercise? It turns out you can. How to Lose Weight Without Exercise The process of losing weight is a simple one—on paper. If it were as easy as I’ll make it out to be, everybody would be stick-thin, and I wouldn’t be writing this article. It’s putting it into practice that causes problems. How Weight Loss Works The premise is simple. When you burn more calories than you consume, you lose weight. That doesn’t sound too difficult, does it? Consuming Calories Every day you consume food containing calories. According to the US Department of Health, the average adult man needs 2,000–3,000 calories, while adult women need 1,600–2,400. But you see, it’s not that simple. How many calories you need depends on copious variables. Sex, age, weight and activity level are the main culprits that make caloric intake needs confusing. Other factors might include genetics or underlying conditions, but I’ll let you discuss that with a doctor or nutritionist if you need to. Most people will be able to figure out how many calories they need from a helpful chart or a calorie calculator. Once you figure out your required daily intake, then your journey to the fat loss extreme can begin. Creating a Calorie Deficit Now you know how many calories you need to maintain your weight, it’s easy to go on. To lose weight, simply eat less than you need! One pound of fat is about 3,500 calories. That’s more than you need in a day—so it’s unlikely you’ll be able to lose a pound a day without exercise. By this logic, burning 3,500 calories gets rid of a pound of fat. You don’t need some magical negative-calorie food to shed it; you just need to be smart and create a calorie deficit. How to Create a Calorie Deficit You might think you’ve discovered a goldmine with this article. All you have to do is create a calorie deficit! It sounds easy. It’s even easier when you consider how easy it is to burn calories without exercise. Burning Calories Pretty much everything you do burns calories, such as walking, standing and sitting, and sleeping. Even thinking. Yes, thinking. Doing anything that requires energy will burn calories. Your metabolism converts the calories in your food into energy. Thus, burning through them to keep your body functioning. Losing calories while thinking seems entirely obscure, but I’ll explain it to you. Research shows the brain uses 20 percent of the body’s resting metabolic rate, or RMR. It’s sometimes referred to as BRM, basal metabolic rate. RMR varies from person to person, but what it is is simple. Your RMR determines how many calories you burn per day. And considering thinking uses up so much of it … yes, it burns calories. But you can’t think your way to thin. It’s just a contributing factor showing how easy it is to burn calories, even with the simplest activities. Creating the Deficit Now you have the following pieces of information: How many calories you need to consume daily. How many calories it takes to burn a pound of fat. How easy it is to burn calories. The connection is simple. You need the calories you need because that’s how many your body usually uses. But you can survive on fewer calories than your body uses every day—you have body fat. Your body can convert these fat stores into energy. Let’s assume you need 2,500 calories a day to maintain your weight. Simply cutting your daily intake by 500 calories means you’re taking in 3,500 fewer calories a week. Therefore you’re burning a pound of fat a week by doing no exercise and eating less. People with more body fat who need, let’s say 3,000 calories a day, may be able to cut even more. Cutting 1,000 calories a day means you’re cutting 7,000 a week—losing 2 pounds a week. I don’t recommend consuming less than 1,000 calories a day, though. Try to keep your deficit to 500–750 a day, regardless of weight. This will ensure you stay safe, healthy and you aren’t depriving yourself of anything. How to Cut the Calories If you want to do this the slow and steady way, it shouldn’t be too difficult to slash the 500–750 calories. Or 1,000, like I said, if you need or consume 3,000 or more each day. Your biggest enemy will be your will-power. I see ice cream, I see pizza, and I want to eat the entire tub or box. On the logic that I’m consuming 2,000 or even 1,500 calories a day, I could do this—but couldn’t eat much more that day. Cutting calories at a basic level isn’t about what you eat. It’s about how much. It’s about self-control and will power. You can still eat everything you’ve been eating up until now—just trim it. A smaller bowl of cereal. Two slices of toast, not three. One slice of pizza, not two. Half a cup of ice cream, not a whole tub of Ben and Jerry’s. But it’s all easier said than done, I’m afraid. Yet if you have the right mindset and motivation, you should be able to achieve it with some simple changes. Replace sugary fruit juice with water, tea or coffee. Cut out the snacks. Don’t eat when you’re bored. Only eat until you’re full. Count calories—round up or down, don’t get obsessive—and track your eating habits. You might start to miss your daily glass of orange juice or soda. You may feel dissatisfied with one less scoop or mashed potatoes. You may even feel hungry if you haven’t been eating the right foods. That’s another thing that makes this so tricky. If you haven’t been eating filling foods, cutting calories can make you feel hungry more often. Now cutting calories doesn’t seem so easy—for some people, it’ll involve a hefty dietary or lifestyle change. Foods That Aid Weight Loss Your impending lifestyle change doesn’t involve a gym membership and jogging shoes, don’t worry. The answer to “can you lose weight without exercise” is still yes. It just won’t be as easy as you thought from my initial description. Cutting the calories and losing weight forgoing exercise involves eating the right foods. The ones that keep you full for longer and give your body the energy it needs. You can eat less of them, meaning fewer calories, for a bigger nutritional benefit. Filling Foods If you want to stay full while eating less, there are a few ingredients to consider cooking with. They’re low calorie, nutritious and should help with that nifty deficit you’re after. Some of these low-calorie filling foods include: Oats—oatmeal, oatmeal cookies, oat milk, oat flour Greek yogurt Soup Berries—strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, alone or in smoothies Eggs Popcorn—try air-popped popcorn with no butter or salt Chia seeds—excellent on oatmeal or in smoothies Fish Cottage cheese Potatoes—try to go light on butter and cream, but seasoning is always a must Lean meat—chicken, turkey, even red meat with low fat content Legumes Watermelon With this list of healthy, nutritious, filling yet low-calorie foods, you should create a deficit in no time. Zero-Calorie Foods I doubt there are any foods that contain no calories at all. However, there are some foods where you burn as many calories digesting them as they contain. Some people seem to think negative-calorie foods exist. Your body burns more calories digesting the foods than they contain. However, many others disprove this theory. Really, there’s little knowledge on the negative/zero-calorie diet to go off of right now. Hopefully one day, we’ll have an answer we can all agree upon. That being said, there are a few low-calorie foods where most people do burn the calories off digesting them. Here are some of them: Tomatoes Apples Carrots Watermelon Broccoli Grapefruit Celery Cucumbers. Lettuce Carrots Arugula Beets Asparagus Cabbage Brussel sprouts Cauliflower Garlic—great in those filling potatoes! These foods have high water content, and water has no calories. That’s what makes them so low-calorie in the first place. For example, 100 grams of celery has only 14 calories and contains 95.43 grams of water. So, with a change in diet and/or lifestyle to include these foods, the fat should start to melt away. A healthy 1–2 pounds every week. How to Lose a Pound a Day Maybe a pound or two a week isn’t going to cut it for you. I understand completely—I was the same. Wouldn’t it be nice to lose a pound a day instead? Well I’ll tell you this—it’d be tough. Especially without exercise. Spend an entire day panting at the gym, and it’s definitely doable, especially if you don’t eat much. But that may not be good for you, and that’s probably not what you want. Instead of walking you through some fad diet claiming to burn a pound of fat a day, I’ll tell you the truth about it. Sometimes you can burn a pound of fat a day—but it’s not going to last. When Losing a Pound a Day Is Possible When you’re just starting your new diet, you may lose more than the 1–2 pounds a week. This may be done with little effort on your part. Your body stores water. Glycogen, the energy your body stores, is bound to this water. When you create a calorie deficit, the body goes straight for those glycogen stores. This causes your body to release the water weight you’re carrying. Once you’ve burned through all that water, then your body moves on to using fat. Now I’m no scientist, but I’m pretty sure it’s easier to lose water than burn through fat. If you’re carrying a lot of water weight, you might have some extreme weight loss in the first week. Even as much as a pound a day. Unfortunately, this isn’t sustainable as the water has to run out at some point. Why You Carry Water Weight Carbs You may be carrying extra water weight due to carbohydrate consumption. That’s why you hear so many people swear off carbs when on a diet. But there are good carbs and bad carbs, and your body needs the good carbs. Glycogen is made heavily of these carbohydrates. And glycogen pulls in water. So, the more carbs you consume, the more glycogen can hoard water. Be careful with your carb intake to keep the water weight down. Try and aim for the good carbs, in foods such as: Vegetables Whole fruits Whole grains Peanuts Lentils Kidney beans Seeds Nuts Salt Salt is another culprit of water weight. The more sodium there is in your diet, the more water weight may crop up. Decreasing salt shouldn’t be too difficult. Don’t use it to over-season. Perhaps switch to garlic if you like that flavor. I feel it adds so much more to a meal, in taste and nutritional value. Cut salt out of any recipes where it doesn’t add much to the finished product. For example, when I make a small pizza base out of oat flour, I go without salt and oil. It tastes and holds up the same, sans the sodium. Reducing salt in your diet is a guaranteed way to lose water weight. In the beginning, maybe up to a pound a day. Easy Exercises to Help You Lose Weight You can lose weight without lifting a finger, as I’ve...
Is Walking Good Exercise? - Written by Aj of Walking is your body’s natural movement. To count as exercise, you should aim to walk at a brisk pace for about 30 minutes, at least four times a week. Pay attention to your posture and footwear choices, and always warm up and cool down after your walks. I’ll go through some of the benefits of including walks into your daily routine. You’ll also need some pointers on the kinds of shoes you should wear on your walks. On top of running, you can also add some other exercises to help increase your heart rate and burn calories. Benefits of Walking While many people wouldn’t don’t consider walking as exercise, it certainly benefits you in many ways, both physically and mentally. Physical Condition Walking at a moderate intensity for at least 30 minutes, five times a week is the minimum recommended amount of exercise. In particular, walking a longer distance at a faster pace will provide even more benefits. People who walk regularly were found in a study to have a 31 percent decrease in their risk for cardiovascular diseases. Other benefits include: The stress release from walking will help you sleep better. Your overall health will improve as you lower your blood pressure and cholesterol. Like any exercise, it helps you maintain muscle tone and bone density. Walking will also help you burn some calories. Depending on your age and weight, a brisk 30-minute walk can help you burn an average of 129 more calories a day. If you’re also following a healthy diet, this can add up in the long run and help you lose weight. Mental Well-being If you take your walks as a moment to get in contact with yourself, you’ll get benefits that go far beyond the physical impact of the exercise. Exercise at even a moderate intensity can help reduce stress and anxiety and even improve cognitive function. You can use walking to get an active start to your day and a moment to focus on your goals for the day. You can also take a walk at the end of the day to unwind and release stress. How to Turn Walking into Exercise Walking is a natural movement of your body. It’s low-impact and meditative and helps you crank up the steps on your Fitbit. If you don’t do any exercise, starting a walking habit will certainly be an improvement for your health. It’s also a lot easier for your joints than running, especially if you’re overweight or have underlying problems. This is what makes it a good way to get active for beginners. But for such a low impact, is it even exercise? Yes, if you do it correctly. While some may consider walking an inferior form of movement, it’s a good way to burn calories and add activity. However, walking as an exercise doesn’t mean peacefully strolling around. To be an effective exercise, walking needs to be brisk. This means you have to be a little winded and feel your heart rate going up. Your pace should be fast enough so that it would be hard for you to talk while you’re walking. How Long Does it Take to Walk a Mile? You should be able to walk a mile in fifteen minutes for it to count as brisk. If you’re not able to do this at first, take your time and work on increasing your speed. Give yourself a goal to get a minute or 30 seconds out of your mile every time you go out. You’ll get to a 15-minute mile in no time. Good Walking Form The right form and speed are the most important things to get the biggest benefit out of your walks. Warm up your muscles at a slower pace before starting and cool down after you’ve finished. Always stretch after your walks to maintain and increase your mobility. Back: Keep your back straight, your shoulders back and your head high—that means no looking at your phone! Shoulders: Try to relax your shoulders and keep your arms slightly bent and swinging freely. Breathing: Focus on your breathing correctly, taking profound inhales. Feet: Try to walk as neutrally as possible, with your toes pointing forward. Land on the heel at first and then let your weight move naturally toward your toes. Engage: Keep your core and your legs and glutes engaged. Walking Equipment Walking for exercise doesn’t require much equipment to be effective, but you may need to pay attention to your clothes and shoes. You can also invest in some poles to try out Nordic walking. Comfortable Clothes Make sure you’re wearing comfortable clothes that don’t inhibit your movement or cause other types of discomfort. Your regular workout clothes will be fine, as long as they’re stretchy and don’t have seams that will make you chafe. Rather than wearing your regular comfy clothes, go for specific lightweight activewear. These offer protection from the elements while keeping you warm and will wick moisture away. A Good Pair of Shoes Walking is free, but you might want to invest in the most basic piece of equipment before you get started: shoes. The right shoes are the most important thing to take into consideration when you’re starting a walking hobby. The first thing is to wear shoes that are made for exercise and are comfortable. They need to have enough support and cushioning to help you get through many miles of walking without injury. Running Shoes vs. Walking Shoes Running shoes aren’t your best bet for walking practice. The two patterns of movement impact your foot differently, so you should give your foot the support it needs for the specific movement. Running will impact your heels more as they’re the first point of contact with the ground. Walking puts more pressure on the middle of your foot. That’s why running shoes have more cushioning in the heel, whereas walking shoes usually focus more on arch support. Finding Your Perfect Shoe Depending on your previous underlying conditions, you might need to find a shoe that adapts specifically for them. For example, people with flat feet need a little more support for the arch. If your arches are very high, you may need to balance them out to correct the alignment. This will help keep your ankles, knees and hips safe from unnecessary strain. If you have plantar fasciitis, you may need more cushioning in the heel to keep it slightly elevated. Spend some time figuring out whether you have flat or high arches or if your gait is neutral or if you tend to pronate. Then, make sure you’re wearing shoes that are right for you. Nordic Walking Poles Nordic walking can be helpful for people who are rehabilitating from injury. It can give some assistance in your upper body movement when walking and prevent your shoulders from curving forward. This is especially important for older adults. Nordic walking also helps you burn more calories since it gets your whole body moving. You’ll be using 80–90 percent of your muscles by engaging the upper body instead of 50 with normal walking. This helps you burn up to 67 percent more calories every time you work out. When you start with Nordic walking, make sure you’re using the right technique: The poles should be kept low, instead of ahead of your body. You should slightly swing your arms forward and back. Walking for Weight Loss Walking can be very therapeutic and a great way to aid you in weight loss. Keep these pointers in mind to get the most out of your walking workouts. Calories The basic equation of weight loss is that the calories you ingest need to be lower than the calories you use in a day. Your calorie expenditure depends on many things, from your weight to your age and general activity level. According to Health Department guidelines, an adult woman would need around 1,600 to 2,400 calories per day. A man would need from 2,000 to 3,000 calories a day. You can evaluate the calories you’ve burned with exercise with many apps or online calculators. Keep in mind that these are always rough estimates according to your body weight, as people have very different metabolisms. Also, remember that weight loss is dependent on a healthy and balanced diet. Half an hour of walking won’t help you burn through hundreds of extra calories, so make sure your diet is in check. Difficulty Try to challenge yourself with your pace. Increase your velocity slowly when you get more comfortable. Another way to increase the intensity of your walk is to choose a terrain you’re not as familiar with. Walking on the beach will add some real difficulty to your workout. Hiking up a hill will also help you burn extra calories and target your leg and glute muscles more. Intervals Doing intervals is also very beneficial for your weight loss goals and can help you improve your aerobic capacity faster. You could end up burning 20 percent more calories by simply changing your pace. This is also great if you’re having a hard time keeping up with a faster pace for longer periods. Try increasing your speed for a couple of minutes at a time and then relaxing it for another minute or two. It’s good if you can add these intervals to your walks a couple of times a week to really see improvements. Treadmill Walking If you’re walking indoors on a treadmill, you can easily make it more intense and add to the calorie burn. You can use different speeds and adaptable inclination to make your exercise more varied and interesting. Try starting slow and gradually increase the inclination on the treadmill to a degree you can handle for a couple of minutes. Then go back, give yourself a breath, and repeat. You can also try some intervals at a higher speed. Keep in Mind One important thing before you head to the treadmill, however, is not to hold onto the supports. You’ll end up relying too much on them and even putting some of your weight on top of the handles. This will not only make the exercise less effective but will also affect your posture in the long run. Keep your chin up and your arms swinging from side to side just like you would outdoors. If you need to grab the handles to give yourself a breath, only do it for a couple of seconds. Curved Manual Treadmills You might have seen the curved manual treadmills at your gym in recent years. They’re non-motorized, which means you move the treadmill with your steps. Since they’re concave, each step you take propels the movement of the treadmill. What’s great about this device is that it significantly ups the intensity of your exercise. It helps reduce the impact on your joints, while at the same time making it harder for your muscles to keep up. You can also make it more difficult by turning on the resistance of the treadmill. These kinds of treadmills can be a bit hard to master at first, especially with the balance. Ask a gym instructor for help, and lightly hold on to the railing until you’re sure you’re balanced. Overall, a curve treadmill can be a nice addition to your walking routine. Try to switch it up between a normal treadmill and walking outside to avoid affecting your gait. Other Exercises to Aid With Walking Getting in some muscle-strengthening exercises will help you have more power in your legs and improve your endurance and speed. It will also help your general wellbeing and, if done correctly, keep you injury-free. Another perk for building muscle is that it will help you burn more calories. While fat is more of a passive component, muscle needs calories to maintain density. This is why your body will burn more calories, even when resting when you have more muscle. Legs: Do basic squats or lunges to improve the strength in...
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What is the Best Time of the Day to Exercise? - Written by Aj of The best time of the day to exercise is in the late morning, heading into noon. By this time, your testosterone levels—important in muscle building—have peaked. You’re also on your way to the peak of your alertness at noon. On a personal note this is also my own preferred time to exercise. I’m guilty of working out any time I have 10–20 minutes to spare. It’s not the most productive way to go about it. It may also be why I’ve never gotten many results. So, I decided to pencil in a set time every day for my workout. To make sure I got the most out of it, I had to figure out one thing: what is the best time of the day to exercise and why? Do I Need to Exercise Every Day? A workout every day doesn’t hurt. It’s beneficial if you’re trying to lose weight or get fit. But you don’t need to exercise every day so long as you remain as active as you’d usually be. Most people would say a minimum of three times a week is enough. I’m inclined to agree. An hour-long session of some high-activity exercise should be sufficient. But when should this hour be? Your Body Through the Day Throughout the day, your body changes and adjusts. This is why you’re shorter in the evening, or why you wear out as the day goes on. Because of all these changes, you might wonder if there’s a time that’s best for exercise. Let’s break down how your body changes as the day goes on and make suggestions based on that. Your Morning Body In the morning, you’re at your tallest with your joints at their best, and you should be at your freshest. You’ve woken up from a rejuvenating sleep. You’re on your way to being energized and incredibly alert. Your testosterone—even in women—should be peaking now too. That’s a positive in terms of working out. Testosterone is responsible for muscle growth. Excellent for getting you strong and fit. Because of your increased testosterone, your body can also handle stress better in the morning. Another pro for the workout. The rest of this article is available at    
My Lunches in Pictures: 2017-2020 - The gallery of images that follows is in no way all the lunches I’ve had from 2017 to 2020. It’s a snapshot to show the basic composition of lunches, a macro scheme I’ve followed from 2007 when I first read and adopted the nutrition principles in Burn the Fat Feed the Muscle by Tom Venuto and Nutrient Timing by sports nutrition scientists Dr. Robert Portman and Dr. John Ivy. Adhering to the knowledge in those books and making adjustments based on my evolving goals, I’ve maintained muscle and stayed between 13-16% body fat from 2007-2020. What do all these meals have in common besides being my lunches? Balanced Macros: A Lean Protein, A Complex Starch, and A Fibrous Carb Incorporating balanced macros into your daily nutrition is simple. Macros are just protein, carbs, and fat. The trick to losing fat and staying lean is eating the healthiest versions of all three: lean, complete proteins; complex, unprocessed carbs; and a variety of vegetables (organic is best). Nutrient Timing The time element is often overlooked. As a result, one can miss out on optimizing caloric utilization, meaning eating what the body needs when it needs it. Optimal caloric utilization translates to easier fat loss and minimal effort to stay lean year after year, decade after decade. Knowing what time of day to best utilize these three macros is the secret sauce to keeping body fat down. There is only one macronutrient that truly requires intelligent time management to keep body fat down: carbohydrates. Simply eat carbs around activity (pre- and post-workout) and earlier in the day to ensure your body burns more carbs than it stores. You can also optimize your body’s utilization of protein by considering the element of time. The body requires protein throughout the day because, unlike carbohydrates, protein is not stored throughout the day for ready use by the body during activity. Solid protein is superior to liquid protein for much of the day, particularly because it is the most thermogenic macronutrient (meaning it burns a lot of calories simply to digest), but also because supplementation science still fails to beat nature when it comes to the nutrient complexity of natural proteins. However, post-workout, it is vital to get protein in your blood stream as soon as possible to maximize exercise recovery, especially after strength training, making liquid protein (e.g., protein shakes) a smart choice after and even during that activity. Finally, fat is the third element of a balanced daily macronutrient ratio. Fat contains more than two times the amount of calories/gram of protein and carbs: Protein = 4 cals/gram, Carbs = 4 cals/gram, Fat = 9 cals/gram. If you’re staying away from sources of saturated fat, you’ll likely hit your required fat intake per day (~ 20% of daily macro ratio) with no conscious effort required, unless you’re following a high-fat diet, which BSMF does not advocate as part of its lifelong fitness philosophy. More info on the above is to come. For now, here are some informative supporting resources for your review: Nutrient Timing by Dr. John Ivy and Dr. Robert Portman: Burn the Fat Feed the Muscle: Carbs stored by the body throughout the day: Protein and increased thermogenesis:
Why Women Should Build Muscle - In a recent survey on the Broke Single Mom Fitness (BSMF) Facebook page, followers voted muscle growth as their number one goal for engaging in exercise. But if you’re not a BSMF Facebook follower and aren’t interested in packing on muscle size, you can still benefit from this post. Your objective should be, at minimum, to retain the muscle you have. This is because muscle mass declines with age, and it is muscle that maintains our posture and provides firmness and tone to our bodies. Further, building muscle can benefit women in many other rewarding ways, below are six compelling benefits that can motivate you to make some #gainz. 1. Look Younger The physical training required for muscle growth and repair, releases growth hormone (GH), which is responsible for rebuilding and repairing all the cells in our bodies. Babies, children, and young adults, in that order, have the highest levels of GH, which manifests in firm, youthful skin, and – at least for centuries prior to the internet era – lower body fat levels and healthy lean body mass (muscle) ratios. GH peaks during puberty and starts declining yearly in our twenties. The effects of lower GH means the cell turnover responsible for rejuvenating our skin, repairing our bodies, and retaining healthy lean body mass levels is less efficient. Growth hormone (GH) serves important roles in adult life, including maintenance of lean body mass and bone mass, promoting lipolysis, thereby limiting visceral adiposity [fat], and regulating carbohydrate metabolism, cardiovascular system function, aerobic exercise capacity, and cognitive function. – Jose M. Garcia, MD, PhD, George R. Merriam, MD, and Atil Y. Kargi, MD. A steady strength training routine is an avenue for increasing GH levels naturally, and the more regularly you engage in strength training, the more frequently you can benefit from increased GH levels, compared to a training program that does not emphasize muscle growth or repair, such as endurance cardio, which is more catabolic (muscle-wasting) than anabolic (muscle-building). 2. Burn Fat Not only does the body burn calories during strength and resistance training but continues to do so days after every session while rebuilding and strengthening the muscles exercised. This is the primary calorie-burning advantage strength training has over cardiovascular exercise: extended afterburn. 3. Retain Firm, Strong Muscles as You Age Muscle mass declines as we get older, which translates to less strength and looser skin. By at least retaining muscle through strength exercise, we can slow muscle atrophy and reinforce joints, strengthen and correct posture, and prevent bone deterioration. 4. Support Your Bones The average person over 70 has or will experience a deterioration in their overall body frame, changing the shape of their bodies, e.g., widening hips, rounded back, stiff gait. Aging plays a role in this muscular-skeletal degeneration, but major causes are due to lack consistent physical exercise over a lifetime, poor nutrition, and loss of bone density. To mitigate or delay the onset of these body frame ailments, and worse, the effects of it: pain and risk of life-threatening injuries that can result, make strength training a part of your long-term fitness lifestyle. 5. Digest Carbohydrates More Efficiently Recently, I read that the leaner you are and the more muscle you have, the more efficient your body becomes at breaking down and utilizing carbohydrates (as well as other nutrients). Now, there is more reason for diabetics to lift weights and put on muscle—insulin regulation. This is great news! But now that you’ve learned this, don’t go crazy and overindulge on carbs. The body stores carbohydrates throughout the day, unlike other nutrients, such as protein, which is primarily “stored” by the body as muscle mass but not made readily available for activity hours after being eaten. This is why eating protein throughout the day and even into the night or before bed is important if you train to grow and retain muscle. Carbohydrates, on the other hand, are the body’s preferred source of fuel and is stored for ready use hours after each meal. To keep your carb stores low, eat smart and schedule your carb intake around workouts or early in the day, when they are more likely to be burned and not stored by your body. 6. Workout Less This can vary depending on your goals, but compared to endurance activities, weight training requires less time to be effective. For a sleek muscular build, a workout routine of four days per week, one hour each is sufficient. Of course you’ll want to eat clean and use a split schedule to hit each muscle group sufficiently. Many endurance “athletes” train for hours, for marathons. Their joints, ligaments, and posture often suffer long-term effects and in many cases, let’s face it, they don’t even look like they workout. Well, weight training requires less time per workout to be effective and your hard work can be undeniably visible in a strong, athletic physique. Further, a well-thought-out strength routine re-enforces joints, strengthens and corrects posture, and can prevent bone deterioration as you age. How to Start Building Muscle Hitting the weight room isn’t the only way to build muscle. True, a set of weights or a public gym can be very convenient for access to a variety of weights and equipment to ensure gradual resistance is achieved over time, aka progressive overload, to force muscle growth. However, the amount of resistance, intensity, and progressions necessary for muscle growth can be achieved free of equipment or with very little equipment. The modern calisthenic fitness trend (a great lifelong fitness option, I’ll add) is an excellent example, featuring athletes who practice gymnastics strength training and engage in functional exercise for muscle growth. Below are resources to help you get started with calisthenic strength training, minimal-equipment muscle-building workouts, or making gainz at a public gym. Calisthenics Websites + Videos: Calisthenic Movement Fitness FAQs Thenx Bodybible Step-by-step book: Overcoming Gravity Minimal Equipment Cathe Friedrich Pop Sugar Strength Training Gym Training Download the BSMF free sample Leg Day routine or contact us for a custom routine.   Written by Sylvia Petro & Limus Woods Sylvia Petro is the Founder of Broke Single Mom Fitness and can be contacted at Limus Woods is a Professional Writer/Editor and can be reached at Further Reading: BodyLogicMD. “Growth hormone deficiency and HGH for women.“  Retrieved from L.T. Davidson. “Anabolic Exercise vs. Catabolic Exercise.” Retrieved from Corleone, J. “Foods that promote HGH.” Livestrong. Retrieved from. Fung, J. “Fasting and growth hormone.” Retrieved from Jose M Garcia, MD, PhD, George R Merriam, MD, and Atil Y Kargi, MD. “Growth Hormone in Aging.” Retrieved from Mawer, R. Healthline. “11 ways to boost human growth hormone naturally.”  Retrieved from Mayo Clinic Staff. “Healthy aging.”
Best Home Gym Equipment for COVID-19 Self-Isolation - Spurred into a fitness equipment shopping frenzy by COVID-19 self-isolation orders, I’ve narrowed down some of the best equipment to purchase for living room, garage, or bedroom fitness. I stopped training exclusively at home over 10 years ago, and I sold all my equipment back then. But now that all gyms have closed because of national stay-at-home orders, I’m forced to rebuild my home gym. Instead of getting a bunch of weights (because I was a bodybuilder the last time I had a home gym), I purchased a handful of choice fitness tools to support me as the functional athlete I am now. The primary equipment I ordered are Olympic rings and a foldable pull-up/muscle-up station I can do various bodyweight exercises on. Below are other affordable home gym options that won’t kill your living space by quantity or with bulk.  For convenience, I’ve categorized each piece of equipment by exercise goal. Strength Pull-up Stand Do pull-ups, muscle-ups, hanging ab exercises; attach rings and do ring movements. This indoor exercise stand enables you to do more than the traditional exercise stations at local gyms, which often don’t permit free movement to do muscle-ups, kipping, or aerial movements.   Olympic Rings Rings can help anyone build a strong, functional body with as little equipment as possible and are perfect if you have a tight budget or little room to setup a home gym.     Bands for Full-body Exercise Resistance bands are often underrated for their strength-building capabilities and are often relegated to warm-up and rehab movements. But resistance bands can be used to build muscle and strength. Various resistance levels enable you to incorporate progressive overload in your training with no need for a complete weight rack. Booty Bands   Stackable Weights With stackable weights, you can train your upper and lower body without consuming too much space in your home. The set pictured below is affordable and from the reputable brand Les Mills. Don Oliver BODYPUMP® WEIGHT SET WITH BAR Entry level bar and weight system for strength and cardio training. [More] Price: $130.00 Buy Now Body Weights Maximize calorie burn by incorporating resistance to multi-joint movements or cardio. See some affordable options below that won’t take up more than a corner of space in your home. Ankle Weights Ankle / Wrist Weight Pair by Day 1 Fitness- 10 Weight Options – 0.5 to 10 lbs EACH, Set of 2, Adjustable Straps Weighted Vest Sand Bags Adjustable Sandbags with Filler Bags Stability A workout that incorporates stability and resistance builds strength and muscle, so you won’t have to worry about losing hard-earned muscle during however many COVID-19 stay-at-home orders we’re subjected to. Bosu Ball Stability Ball Exercise Ball (Multiple Sizes) for Fitness, Stability, Balance & Yoga – Workout Guide & Quick Pump Included Balance Board Flexibility Yoga Block + Mat Combo Stretch Helper Fat loss Rebounder Portable & Foldable Trampoline – 40″ in-Home Mini Rebounder with Adjustable Handrail Jump rope Battle rope (garage fitness, backyard fitness) Because businesses deemed “unessential” by world governments are closing, I suggest getting your home exercise equipment orders in as soon as possible. I just put in my order, and (fingers crossed) I should get my equipment later this week. I have a feeling many of us will be trying new exercises and gaining new skills due to our need to get creative to stay fit. I know I will be pushing myself. I wish you all the best of fitness during this strange period in our history.
Quick Leg Day Exercise - Pistol w/ 15lb KB counterweight. Form and depth are more important than speed. View this post on Instagram Pistol w/ 15lb KB counterweight. Form and depth are more important than speed. #pistol #pistolsquat #bodyweighttraining #legday #unilateraltraining #functionaltraining #singlelegsquat #calisthenics #calisthenicsmovement #fitmom A post shared by @ sylviapetrofit on Mar 16, 2020 at 8:32pm PDT
Bodyweight Training: Save Money, Prevent Injuries, and Stay Fit for Life - Bodyweight training is surging in popularity. This trend can be seen in the form of the calisthenics fitness movement and is the foundation of CrossFit training. If you follow any fitness tags on IG, Snapchat, or TikTok, you’ve surely seen posts of people performing gravity-defying yoga stands or difficult strength and technique movements, like planches or muscle-ups. But outside of the amazing strength and skill of athletes shared on social media, anyone can undertake bodyweight training, and there are three solid reasons to do so: it costs nothing, its beneficial for all age groups and levels of fitness, and it can make you stronger than the muscle-isolating, aesthetically geared workouts prevalent in commercial gyms. If you have a tight budget, are lifelong fitness minded, or are simply just alive, these perks of bodyweight training are difficult for other fitness programs to beat. The Logic of Bodyweight Exercise Bodyweight training has always been the foundation of a sound exercise regimen to build basic strength and stability before loading the body with external resistance, like free weights. This strategy, taught in personal training courses and to kinesiology students, prevents short-term injuries and reduces the formation of muscle imbalances that can lead to future injuries. The incremental methodology and synergistic elements that play into a well-made bodyweight routine, firmly place bodyweight training under the umbrella of functional training. Functional and bodyweight training are two complementary methods that lay a solid foundation for injury-free muscle and strength gains. Functional strength is more than how much weight a specific muscle can bear: it involves balance, flexibility, and coordination through whole-body movements. You will often meet people with a fitness model physique who still can’t accomplish much in the realm of functional movement, such as performing pull-ups or a strict-form deep squat. This common phenomenon is evidence that isolation routines in the weight room can make many people look athletically impressive, but their appearance is no reflection of their actual athletic abilities. Focusing on developing “mirror muscles” instead of developing all muscle groups equally, has little long-term practicality and is most often a ticking time bomb for injuries. Even though most of us want the “gym fit” look, functional strength is what we all actually need. Functional training focuses on the way humans move in day-to-day life and in athletic pursuits. Core areas of concern are establishing proper posture and correct movement habits prior to taking on complex exercise routines. If poor movement and posture fail to be corrected, dangerous movement patterns can carry over to a new routine and invite injury immediately or down the line. This is where functional and bodyweight training partner with each other. To address poor movement issues, functional training relies on building up bodyweight mobility and strength to develop core athletic movement sequences. Prevent Injuries Do you have a hunch at the base of your neck? Is one of your shoulders higher than the other? Do you have a hard time sitting on the floor? If you cannot easily squat to pick something up off the floor, bend over to touch your toes, or balance on one leg, these weaknesses should be corrected before engaging in weight-bearing exercises to avoid injury. Functional training can alleviate many forms of chronic pain and restore a full range of motion to the body. When taking on functional exercise, you should learn to assess your movement capabilities to ensure proper form and execution and also track your progress. If you lack experience with this, seek help from a professional trainer who specializes in functional movement and/or corrective exercise. Your training plan should be individualized to address and resolve your body’s specific weaknesses. How to Start Bodyweight Training The Alexander Technique is an ideal starting point for functional training. It cultivates mindfulness around the ways humans use their bodies in daily activities. The changes are subtle and incorporated into everyday life, so it is hard for some people to see it as a fitness activity. However, as you learn to align yourself properly your body will begin to build the strength and balance you didn’t even realize you were lacking. Five functional exercises that everyone should use to build their foundation are the squat, push-up, pull-up, row, and plank. These exercises alone can realign and build the entire body by developing stability, skill, and strength. If you are new to bodyweight training, it may take some time to master these basics. To overcome this introductory phase, spend fifteen to twenty minutes a day practicing the above five recommended exercises until the movements become natural. After mastering baseline bodyweight exercises, free weights can be incorporated into functional training routines to increase intensity and progressively overload muscles to build mass and improve strength. Dumbbells, kettlebells, battle ropes, and medicine balls are equipment commonly used to enhance the functional skill and strength initially gained with bodyweight movements. Final Word Bodyweight training is affordable, can be done anywhere, and is recommended for all fitness levels. Whereas, the muscle isolation-based weight training popular in many gyms and for physique competitions, increases the likeliness of developing muscle imbalances and often does. This reality is why aesthetically geared training should never be a starting point for an exercise regime or the base of anyone’s training scheme. Fitness professionals understand the risks of following physique-based training and are taught to design routines that develop a solid foundation in bodyweight skill and strength to create well-rounded, functional. But that’s not all, bodyweight training can still provide the strength challenges to build a muscular, aesthetically pleasing physique. Further Reading: “Rise of the Body-Weight Workout”: “7 Amazing Things That Will Happen When You Do Plank Every Day”:


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