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How Accurate Is A Heart Rate Monitor For Strength Training?

24 Mar

I had no idea that a heart rate monitor (HRM) could be less accurate for strength training than for cardio. I figured that if your heart rate is elevated, you’re burning calories, which will be measured by the HRM. Well, this may not be the case.

how accurate is your heart rate monitor Background Image via Compfight cc

I was reading an article recently on the accuracy of heart rate monitors on SparkPeople which discussed this very topic.  Here’s what they had to say about it:

A heart rate monitor (HRM) is capable of estimating calorie burn pretty accurately—but only for aerobic (cardio) exercise, not for strength training. Here’s why:

A HRM won’t give you an accurate idea of how many calories you burn during strength training, because the relationship between heart rate and calorie expenditure is not the same during strength training as during cardio exercise, which is what the HRM’s estimate is based on. Unless your weight training is very vigorous circuit training, the heart rate monitor will be overestimating your calorie burn by a fair amount.

Why will it overestimate the amount? Because apparently calories burned has to do with the number of muscle cells activated to perform an activity. These cells use energy while they are doing the work. While your heart rate may be elevated during strength training, the muscle cells aren’t using as much oxygen and energy as you would be by doing cardio – which is when you’re using several muscle groups at once. This is why you may sweat more and feel your heart rate is more elevated when strength training larger muscle groups, like legs, than smaller ones such as arms and shoulders.

Another writer on MyFitnessPal wrote about this as well, explaining it this way:

The increased heart rate that occurs with aerobic exercise is the result of the need for increased cardiac output–the heart must pump more blood to meet the energy demand of the activity. Heart rate increases because of a VOLUME load.

The increased heart rate that occurs with strength training is the result of changes in intrathoracic pressure and an increase in afterload stress. There is no corresponding increase in cardiac output, and thus only a modest increase in oxygen uptake. Heart rate increases because of a PRESSURE load.

Very interesting…

He also goes on to say that HRMs are very useful when doing any sort of cardio exercise, or even circuit training style lifting (HIIT, bootcamps, CrossFit).

So should you ditch the heart rate monitor? I don’t think so. If you already wear it for strength training exercises, you can keep doing so. I think it’s still a good GENERAL idea of what you’re burning but just be aware that it could be off, either by a small amount or a significant amount.

Both articles stated that HRMs are pretty accurate when it comes to cardio, so if you’re wearing it already then you’re all set!

I guess you learn something new everyday 😉

Do you wear a heart rate monitor while training? What do you think of these articles?

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The Thigh Gap

10 Mar

Trigger warning: I will be somewhat discussing eating disorders.

When I first started my blog on Tumblr in 2010, a lot of posts I saw were “thinspo” or “thinspiration” which included pictures of girls with thigh gaps. It took me back to the days where a friend told me she wanted a thigh gap, and that your thighs shouldn’t touch. At the time, I wasn’t a personal trainer yet, so I didn’t think much of this, and didn’t think it was unhealthy or anything to want a thigh gap. I was remembering all of this because I saw Cassey from Blogilates posted on her Facebook page about searching for #thinspo, #thighgap and #skinny on social media platforms…I’ll get to that further below.

If you’re not sure what a “thigh gap” is, look it up on Google and a ton of pictures will show up.

thigh gap myth

The Problem

As with any desire to change a certain body part, it becomes a problem when it is something one obsesses over. From what I’ve seen through social media platforms like Tumblr, it seems that younger girls are really striving for this. Looking through the hashtags on thigh gap pictures, you may find things relating to eating disorders. There are lots of workouts that also target this “thigh gap.”

thighgapworkout

Why It’s A Problem

Having a thigh gap could be an unrealistic goal…something many girls may never achieve. Why? Because part of it depends on your hips. If you have wider hips, you may naturally have a thigh gap. If you have narrow hips, you probably don’t and won’t – no matter how many exercises you do. Here’s a good visual (and post explaining the thigh gap) I found on Tumblr:

thigh gap

Girls are chasing something that they may never achieve, and may be doing unhealthy things in order to get the thigh gap (like eating less).

Now, I’m not saying that people with thigh gaps are unhealthy. I’m saying that we shouldn’t be so focused on one body part, no matter what it is.

Social Media & Its Role

While social media certainly helps promote thigh gaps and helps girls spread these “thigh gap workouts” and “thinspo,” social media platforms are also doing a good job of letting users know that searching for these key terms isn’t necessarily healthy. Cassey from Blogilates reminded me of this (as I mentioned in the first paragraph). I knew Tumblr had a pop-up message, but wanted to explore other pages as well.

For example, when I searched “thigh gap” on Tumblr, this was the message I got:

thigh gap warning

I think it’s a great message, and helps to promote healthy goals, as well as possibly help those who need it.

Here’s a message from Pinterest:

pinterestthighgap

If you can’t read that it says, ” Eating disorders are not lifestyle choices, they are mental disorders that if left untreated can cause serious health problems or could even be life-threatening. For treatment referrals, information, and support, you can always contact the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237 or www.nationaleatingdisorders.org

Cassey mentioned that no posts came up on Instagram for “thigh gap” and I searched as well, and it comes up as blank. However, if you search #skinny, a similar text pop-up as the Pinterest and Tumblr ones comes up.

Nothing yet for Twitter.

Final Thoughts

Whether it’s thigh gaps, flat stomachs, “toned” arms, etc. I always feel disheartened when someone is so focused on one part of their body. Sure, I want to lose some belly flab, but I know that there are healthy ways to go about it, and also know that it’s possible I may never have a visible six-pack. As I mentioned, it’s a problem when something like this is obsessed over, and the sole goal of eating “healthy” and working out.

Like I said, I’m not bashing anyone with a thigh gap. We shouldn’t focus on whether or not we have one…but why not shift the focus to how strong our legs are? Girls should strive to make their legs stronger, whether it’s through running, lifting, CrossFit, etc.

I’m glad social media platforms are also standing up and trying to help those who may need it. It’s a step in the right direction.

What do you think about the thigh gap? Have you heard of it before?

Time to be positive: Leave a comment with your favorite body part and why you love it!

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Being Creative

21 Feb

How often do you set aside time just to explore your ideas and creative thoughts?

That was the topic of one of the sessions I went to last night, called “Exploring Deep Creativity.” This was part of Social Media Week NYC.

I really, really enjoyed this session, and thought a lot of what we covered would be relevant to many of you, especially those who have blogs.

One of the quotes in the presentation last night.

Creativity. What does it even mean? This session was a panel, and each member discussed how they define creativity, and their tips for harnessing those ideas you have.

One of the main things we touched upon was having set times for creative sessions. If you’re a blogger, do you set aside time to brainstorm ideas? Or do you let them come to you? There is no right answer here.

The panelists talked about how each person has their own “sacred space” and you should now what yours is. Do your ideas come to you while working out or running? Or do you work better sitting down at your computer with headphones in? Personally, I like being in a quiet room when I’m reading and writing. And a lot of my ideas come late at night, or even when I wake up from a dream 🙂 Though I still haven’t gotten a notebook to keep at my bedside table to write all those ideas down…

Another point we talked about was taking time to disconnect. Seriously, who takes time to be disconnected from the internet and their phone in order to have a brainstorm session? I honestly can’t remember the last time I did that. They gave 2 ways you can do this:

  1. Have a creative session alone or with a friend, where you write down ALL of your thoughts and ideas on a blank piece of paper. It doesn’t matter if it makes sense or not. Don’t worry about the details, just write it down. No distractions. They also suggested doing this with a glass of wine 😉
  2. Go to a coffee shop with no WiFi and just have a work sprint session. 25 minutes of a “work sprint” with a 5 minute break. Use this time to write or work on developing your ideas and action plans. I definitely need to work on doing this more often.

Lastly, one of the things discussed was work/life balance. Who knows people who say things like, “I worked 12 hours today!” or “I worked 80 hours this week,” but mean it kind of in a bragging way? Since when does amount worked validate quality of work being done? That was a key takeaway of this session as well: It’s not about how many hours you work, it’s about the final product. You would work 50 hours and still have a mediocre result.

So this was kind of a brain dump of things I learned yesterday, but I knew it may help other bloggers and others who like to have a creative process. I can’t wait to implement some of these, and have already scheduled a WiFi-less coffee date with my sister for this weekend.

Do you have a creative process? How does it work?

What is your “sacred space” for ideas?

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You Love Working Out…But Your Significant Other Doesn’t

6 Feb

I love working out. I love going to the gym and lifting. I love running. I love finding new, healthy recipes to try.

The problem? My boyfriend isn’t that into it.

Well, that’s the point of this post…is it actually a problem? Should you care/worry if your significant other doesn’t share your passion for health & fitness? Will this eventually lead to a break up? Hopefully not!

workingout

While I am passionate about all of those things listed above, I know that Dan isn’t, so I don’t try to push him to do anything. I know we will probably never run a half-marathon together, but that’s okay. I always see couples working out in the gym, but that won’t be us – at least for now.

I know that things may be different if we lived together. We could go to the gym and try new recipes together, especially because he’d be more apt to try them if I cooked them 😉

I don’t need him to lift or run with me, or share the same passions as me, but what I want is for him to be healthy. I want him to stay healthy down the road, which starts with what we do now.

Recently, he has started going to the gym more, and is trying to eat more vegetables. I’m not going to force him to do anything he doesn’t want to do, because that is not the way to get people to exercise. I would never suggest this to one of my personal training clients, so why would I do it to a loved one?

His passion and hobby is sports. He likes going to games of his favorites teams, and reading sports blogs…much like I love fitness blogs 😉

It’s okay to have different hobbies. But I also think it’s good to try each other’s hobbies at least once. You never know if it’s something you’ll fall in love with! I went to my first Devil’s game with him back in 2008, and now my favorite sport to attend or watch is hockey.

Back when you had actual cameras with date stamps as opposed to smartphones lol #feelingold

He said he would do a 5k mud run with me, which I think he would actually like, so perhaps we will do that this summer! We’ve also talked about the NYC Urbanathlon 😛

Tips

So you want to try to get your significant other into fitness? Here are some tips:

  • Try something they’ll like that is active – Dan likes playing basketball outside, so in the past, we’ve gone to the basketball courts a few times. It is a good workout too!
  • Plan an active date – Go for a hike on a nice day, or swimming in the summer.
  • Talk about the future – Tell them about how you want them to be around for a while, and how certain actions could help increase their health (or the opposite). Just don’t sound preachy! People stop listening once it sounds like a lecture.
  • Try something totally new together – There are plenty of challenges out there, whether it’s for a week, or 30 days like Whole30. Whether it’s a weight loss challenge, or a squats/push-ups challenge, do something neither of you have tried.
  • Find another workout buddy – If he/she won’t run with you, it’s not the end of the world. Just find someone who will! I am grateful to have my mom as my daily running/lifting partner.

In the end, don’t force something down his/her throat. You wouldn’t like that either. I have been open to discussions with friends about being a vegetarian, and even tried it for a bit, but if someone started lecturing me or telling me what I do is bad, I’d be turned off by it all together.

Just because your significant other isn’t running or lifting daily with you doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing! Just find activities you will both enjoy, and once they start committing to a healthy lifestyle, support them and be there for any questions they may have.

Do you and your significant other work out together?

If you’re single, is a partner who is into working out a necessity? “Make it or break it” if you will?

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Coffee: Healthy Or Not?

6 Feb

I got the idea for this post a couple days ago when my brother called me a coffee addict. I drink coffee every once in a while when I feel like I need it, but I used to drink it 2 times a day. He goes, “Did you know caffeine is the most consumed drug?” and I said, “Yeah but coffee is not bad for you like people think, there are health benefits.” He responds, “Yeah, OK.”

So that’s how I got here!

coffeehealthy

I wanted to talk about coffee, and whether it is “healthy or not.” We all know coffee has caffeine, which is a stimulant. That’s what gives you energy and wakes you up. There are lots of sources of caffeine (supplements, Red Bull, etc.) but I’m going to focus on coffee, because that’s really the only intake of caffeine I use. Plus, 54% of Americans over 18 drink coffee every day!

Random, but remember when people said if you drank coffee it would stunt your growth? I remember when people told us that in middle school about lifting weights too!

Here are results of a study done by Dr. Rob van Dam of the Harvard School of Public Health:

We did not find any relationship between coffee consumption and increased risk of death from any cause, death from cancer, or death from cardiovascular disease. Even people who drank up to six cups of coffee per day were at no higher risk of death.

6 cups?!? I thought my 2 cups was bad…

He goes on to say that most studies base this on 8 oz. cups (not a Venti from Starbucks), and on plain black coffee or with a little milk and sugar (not lattes).

Okay so let’s get into the pros and the cons.

Benefits

Here is another quote from Dr. Rob van Dam:

Research over the past few years suggests that coffee consumption may protect against type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, liver cancer, and liver cirrhosis.

Other articles I found support this claim as well. Other benefits are:

The increase in energy in workouts is why I like to get GU with a bit of caffeine in it. Or I just drink a cup of coffee before heading to the gym.

Now let’s get to the cons…

Drawbacks

  • It may affect your sleep.
  • Jitters/tremors
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Increase in the hormone cortisol, which I talked about regarding my dilemma with running. “Cortisol is normally high in the morning, so if you drink some coffee at 6 a.m. and 10 a.m., you should be fine, as cortisol is naturally elevated at that time of day anyway.  However, your body may not appreciate coffee as much in the afternoon or evening, when cortisol normally drops. At that point, consider tea or something decaffeinated.”
  • Increased calorie and fat consumption if you’re drinking frappucinos and lattes regularly.
  • Two articles I came across discussed “that two or more cups of coffee a day can increase the risk of heart disease in people with a specific — and fairly common — genetic mutation that slows the breakdown of caffeine in the body. So, how quickly you metabolize coffee may affect your health risk.”

So what are we to do? Basically, it comes down to the age old saying: Everything in moderation.

The first study says up to 6 cups of coffee (!!) is okay, though the studies above say that more than 2 cups could affect you, depending on your genes and how your body metabolizes caffeine. So, just try to stick to 1-2 cups of coffee per day, or switch to tea in the afternoon, which is what I have started doing.

When I need an afternoon boost, I drink peppermint tea or decaf black tea, and I still feel a bit more awake after. I think my body just wants something hot for me to think it’s coffee 😉

Overall, I like to think coffee is okay, and there aren’t that many negatives (unless of course, it’s affecting your sleep, digestion, etc.). If you feel it is affecting you, try an elimination diet and see how you feel.

I actually quit cold-turkey once, and started drinking tea. I noticed that I slept much better at night, which helped me feel more awake during the day and not need caffeine.

So it’s really up to you and how it makes you feel! But at least coffee addicts can rejoice because there are a lot of health benefits 🙂

Do you drink coffee regularly? Or tea?

Do you like to use caffeine before runs or workouts?

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Aerie Features Unretouched Models

22 Jan

Lingerie brand Aerie (part of American Eagle) is being talked about a lot for featuring unretouched models in their ads.

Their new campaign features “real” women, and even asks women to use #aerieREAL to share photos of themselves on social media.

Here are a few photos from their campaign:

I read about this through this Buzzfeed article, and my first reaction was, this is great! I think most of us know that models in ads are pretty much all photoshopped, but for a brand to take this sort of initiative sends a positive message.

However, as I read through the comments, I saw that not everyone agreed with me.

A lot of people were saying how these aren’t “real” women (what does that even mean) because they are still gorgeous and not overweight. They said it would be better if Aerie used models who were more overweight.

Other commenters rebutted this opinion by saying, why do they need to be more overweight? We should be celebrating the fact that they have healthy bodies, and that Aerie is featuring them totally unretouched.

Here are a few of these comments:

“Great.. now girls can feel bad that not only do they NOT look like the retouched models, but they don’t even look like the “real girls”… A step in the right direction–but a very small step, I’m sure not about to give Aerie a blue ribbon for inclusiveness.. Lets see some girls of different shapes and sizes.”

“Well, they should use people who are fit. I think people should be inclined toward fitness. The average weight in the US is overweight, which is really not good. And i say this as someone who is definitely overweight. If you’re happy being overweight, that is fine. But we should continue to push people toward not being overweight. I see nothing wrong with choosing people who may look “above average” to showcase your product. And really, these women aren’t super thin. They just look relatively fit.”

I thought they did do a good job of showing girls of different shapes and sizes. And I somewhat agree with the second comment-these girls look fit and of average size, what’s wrong with that?

I think this is a good step by Aerie, and hopefully other brands follow. Yes, these girls are still models, and even unretouched look better than I do 😉 But it’s a great thought and a way to encourage women to stop comparing themselves to the photoshopped models we see every day in ads.

What do you think of this campaign? Good? Bad? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Workouts You Need To Stop Doing

7 Jan

workouts you need to stop doing

I stumbled across this article form TODAY Health, entitled “Workouts You Need To Stop Doing In 2014.”

On the list of “fitness fads” are these exercises:

  • Pole dancing
  • Yoga mash-ups (such as hot yoga, stand up paddleboard yoga, and aerial yoga)
  • Gas mask training (gas masks in order to train for high altitude runs/climbs or restrict their oxygen intake for a much tougher workout. While proponents rave about the results, they also readily admit to “seeing stars”)
  • Backwards running
  • Stiletto workouts (Fans of this “fitness” fad say working out in sky-high heels can strengthen your core, improve your balance and give you toned, taut legs.)
  • Mud, obstacle and beer races
  • Stability ball stands

Well…interesting…

Let’s talk about both sides of this story.

Don’t Discourage Others

On the one hand, should we really be discouraging people from doing a workout they love? When I worked at a personal training studio, my boss hated running. He would always lecture clients (and me) about how bad long distance running is, how it increases your cortisol and makes you fatter, etc. It would annoy me so much because at the time I was training for the New York City Marathon! We know running has its benefits, who is he to say that ONLY lifting is the way to go?

He had the same view about yoga, Zumba, spinning, and more. He thought they were pointless and you would only see real results from training with him (and only his way).

As a personal trainer, I want to encourage everyone to do what they feel comfortable doing and love. If lifting with a trainer isn’t your thing, then find something else. While I agree with my old boss that perhaps Zumba won’t lead to a toned physique, that’s not the goal for many people. It is still exercise, still getting your heart rate up, and that’s what matters.

Is That Safe?

Now, on the other hand, some of the above mentioned workouts sound straight up dangerous. Workout out in high heels? Wearing gas masks? The doctor quoted in the article states,

“When you wear high heels, you’re shortening your Achilles tendon, throwing off your center of gravity and putting stress on your lower back. And then there’s what happens in your feet.” ER doc Stanton is more blunt: “Anything in stilettos is an ankle injury waiting to happen,” he says.

Throwing off your center of gravity is a big reason why many trainers do not advise lifting while on BOSU balls or an unstable surface as well. But I’ll discuss that in another post 😉

The gas mask thing I just do not understand. It can not be good to be struggling for air while working out…while your heart is pumping and asking for air.

BUT, some things on this list surprised me. Yoga? Obstacle races?

I actually did a 5K mud run in 2012, and it was awesome. I have read about many injuries, and sadly, deaths, due to these races. They are dangerous, which is why you need to train for them. It’s not just a fun little race where you jump over things.

If obstacle runs are what gets you out there, then go for it! Make sure you do the right training, and include cardio and strength workouts. I think mud runs are a fun way to encourage people to be active, especially those who aren’t that into running.

I’m all about people getting out there and being active, especially when we are supposed to get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.

But use caution when trying something new, such as some of the workouts listed above, and do research as well. Will the exercise of your choice help you in reaching your goals? What are the benefits? Contraindications?

Does advising someone not to do a certain workout make you a fitness snob?

What do you think of these workouts? Which have you done?

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