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Function and Fitness Blog
Function and Fitness Blog
Coach Jess
5:00 AM

Where Is This “Rest Muscle” And How Do I Train It?

It’s not uncommon for people just starting to work out to want to go hard - like 7 days a week hard. And here’s a little confession from me (when I'm not pregnant) - it’s not uncommon for me to want to go 7 days a week (maybe even 8 or 9 times a week) hard when it comes to exercise.

We’ve been programmed to think “more is more,” but that’s not actually the case when it comes to exercise.

Here are just some reasons for why we need some R-E-S-T:

REBUILD. Your body rebuilds when it rests. During the course of your workout, we’re asking your body to do a lot of work. We’re essentially ripping up the muscles. During your rest days (and while you’re sleeping - more on that “sleep thing” in a later blog) your body rebuilds those rips and rebuilds them to be stronger. No rest = no rebuilding.

DECREASE RISK OF INJURY. While injuries can’t always be prevented, we CAN do some things to decrease injury potential. When you’re body is fatigued, it finds ways of compensating - and quite often those “ways” aren’t the best ones. It’s kind of like when you’re so tired your feet are literally dragging. Sure, you’re still walking, technically, but we want that “pep in your step” - especially when you’re doing step ups.

OVERTRAINING CAN MESS UP YOUR ZZZZ. It can get in the way of your sleep. You’d think that more exercise would mean your body wants to sleep more. But more exercise can also get in the way of your sleeping ability. As explained by Muscle for Life “your sympathetic nervous system can remain excited at all times and you’ll feel restless and unable to focus, and your sleep will be disturbed and broken.”

NOT RESTING CAN GET IN THE WAY OF WEIGHT LOSS. Okay, so this might be number one. Not resting can get in the way of weight loss. Yup! Read that again! If you’re trying to lose weight and you’re not resting, all that work you’re doing could be for not. WHY? It kind of goes along with #4. With that increased feeling of energy, the adrenal system kicks up in order to deal with the extra demands being placed on it. This can cause spikes in insulin. When insulin increases, fat burning decreases and your body starts to store exactly what you’re trying to get rid of with all that exercise.


So how do you train that “rest muscle”? By actually resting it.

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Coach Jess
5:00 AM

Training the Willpower Muscle

“I just have no willpower.”

It’s a phrase we’ve all said. And newsflash - no one has willpower.

Whether it’s Salt-and-Vinegar flavored potato chips, Halloween candy, or those awesome bakery-fresh croissants with a Sunday brunch mimosa, we all have those triggers that cause us to exclaim “what’s willpower?!”

But guess what?!

We all have willpower and we can strengthen it!

First, we have to know what it is. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), “willpower is the ability to resist short-term temptations in order to meet long-term goals.” What that means is resisting that urge to open a bottle of wine on a Friday (who are we kidding?! More like a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday… you get my drift) night so that we can fit into that dress for our best friend’s wedding.

Sound impossible? Maybe. But maybe just because your “willpower muscle” just hasn’t done enough overhead dumbbell presses.

Willpower researcher Roy Baumeister, Ph.D., a psychologist at Florida State University, breaks it down like this: First, establish the motivation for change and set a clear goal. Second, monitor your behavior toward that goal.

As you see, once again we’re back to that idea of “what’s your why?” Why do you get up at 4:30 every morning to get to the gym? Why decide to reach for an apple instead of a chocolate covered almond? Is it because you want to be around for your grandkids? Is it because your doctor just told you that you’re pre-diabetic?

Is Willpower a Limited Resource?

Even more interesting/annoying is the fact that willpower has also been shown to be a limited resource. So after resisting all the temptations you might run into at work - those doughnuts that Mary brought in, or that always M&M filled bowl on John’s desk - you come home and binge on that box of Famous Amos that has been burning a hole in the back of your pantry.

As explained by APA, there are a number of different studies that have been done that show willpower might be a limited resource. I won’t go into all of those studies (you can check them out here) but it’s been shown that people whose willpower was depleted by self-control tasks had decreased activity in the anterior cingulate cortex part of the brain, a region involved with cognition. In another study, subjects asked to exert they willpower during lab tests had lower glucose levels (glucose fuels all of our functions) than the subjects who did not go through willpower lab tests.

So What Can You Do?

So now that we’ve gone over how it’s not your fault that you “don’t have willpower,” let’s figure out what we can do to train the little willpower that you DO have. So here’s your program for training that willpower muscle:
Employ the “out of sight, out of mind” principle - keep the snacks in the pantry, or better yet, in the grocery store (see what I did there?)
Set one goal at a time
Plan for “dangerous situations” with “if-then” statements. For example, "IF I go out to dinner with my friends and they all order martinis, THEN I’m going to order a soda water with lime."
Find your motivation - remember that “WHY?”
Eat regularly. If you make sure you’re eating healthy foods at regular times, you’ll be less likely to have that “I’m so hungry I’m going to literally eat everything in my kitchen, even those disgusting 3 year-old jelly beans that my mother-in-law bought me that one Christmas that I keep saving for who knows why.”
Exercise. And I’m going to quote APA directly here: “Regularly exercising their willpower with physical exercise, it seemed, led to better willpower in nearly all areas of their lives.” So, literally - you CAN flex your willpower muscle!

So yes, you DO have willpower - you just need to load it up with some “strategy weights” and get to flexing it!

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Coach Jess
5:00 AM

How Pregnancy Ruined My Healthy Kick

You were going so strong for a while. Three workouts a week. Walking on your days off. Getting the nutrients that you needed - fats, carbs, and proteins at every meal. Snacking in a healthy way. Drinking all your water.

And then it stopped.

Maybe you had a big blow-out dinner one night that sent you spiraling. Maybe Easter happened. Maybe Christmas happened and you still haven’t gotten back on the wagon. Maybe you got pregnant... Huh?

Yup, okay, here we go. I’m about to make this real personal. But only because I want to prove that it’s difficult. For everyone!

Prior to getting pregnant, I was in pretty darn good shape. I was working out, eating well, and basically trying to hold true to what I preach. Sure, I had my stumbles, but I truly believe that you have to walk the walk to talk the talk.

And then I got pregnant. As some of you know, this pregnancy has not been an easy one for me. From nausea to just full on tiredness, I have not been feeling 100%. And what did that translate to? Let’s just say a whole lot of grilled cheese sandwiches.

From the beginning, so many people have been so kind - oh, you’re going to have no problem at all because you’re so healthy. Well, I’m just going to say it right now - I haven’t been healthy. There have been full on days - okay, maybe weeks - where I haven’t touched a vegetable. Seriously. I had a couple of days where I thought drinking water was just going to make me throw up. So what did I do? Cut back on water - in a big - like, fruit juice only - no water, thank you - kinda way.

So why am I confessing all this? Because I want you to know that it happens. We all fall off the wagon for one reason or another. Whether that be pregnancy or a vacation.

What matters is how we get back on the wagon.

For me, it’s been small steps. Adding vegetables back into my scrambled egg breakfast sandwiches. Grabbing strawberries when I really just wanted a bowl of Lucky Charms. Making sure that there was at least one vegetable in my day. I even got back to eating broccoli - which was a giant “please, no” in those early months. It all comes down to small decisions. Yes, those decisions can be incredibly hard, but they are do-able when you remember your “why.”

Why do you need to change your diet? Why do you need to get back on the wagon? Remembering that can mean all the difference. For me, it’s obvious that a healthier way of life is (uh duh) healthier for this little growing child, but it’s also crucial for my own health. And even if you’re not pregnant, I’m guessing it’s the same for you.

If you’re struggling with getting back on the wagon, reach out to any of us! We’ve all gone through it and we’re here to help!

Coach Jess
5:00 AM

Sneaky Exercise

“Getting exercise” isn’t all about getting to the gym every morning at 6am. Sure, a regularly scheduled (and attended) workout is important, but it’s also about what you’re doing the rest of the day. Here’s a quick list of “sneaky” ways to get a little more exercise into your day:
  • Park at the back of the parking lot
  • Ride your bike or walk to work (if possible)
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator
  • Walk on your lunch break
  • “Deskercise” - why not add a few push-ups or squats in every now and then? Fell silly? Close your door.
  • Have in-person conversations with co-workers rather than rely on email
  • Convert “happy hour” to “hiking hour”
  • Take the dog for a walk - it’ll do both of you some good
  • Clean the house
  • Stretch while you watch TV
  • Take a “fun” class like yoga or hip hop
  • Play outside with your kids
  • Switch out your chair for a stability ball - it will encourage you to engage your core instead of slumping at your desk
  • Take all calls standing up
  • Hand-wash dishes
Leading a healthy lifestyle is all about how you incorporate healthy habits into your everyday flow. So get out there and move a little! And then move a little more!

Coach Jess
5:00 AM

The Myth of the Fat Burning Zone

It’s something you’ve most likely heard before - or maybe you’ve even seen a color coded posting on a treadmill or elliptical machine - the infamous “Fat Burning Zone.” If you haven’t seen or heard of this, let’s review.

The “Fat Burning Zone” is based on the idea that you can get your heart rate to a certain low-intensity level - meaning a low percentage rate of its max capacity. And if you’re able to stay in that low-intensity range for a prolonged period of time, you’ll burn the most fat. For years the treadmill and elliptical - steady state “cardio” - machines and companies touted this “fat burning zone” as the best way to lose weight. Hop on the elliptical for an hour and you’ll burn more fat that a HIIT workout.

So is there really a magical Fat Burning Zone?

Here’s where it gets complicated. And if you want even more in-depth info, check out this article. Yes, you can exercise at an intensity in which the body will be using more fat as fuel (versus glycogen, which is the stored version of carbs). The body burns a greater percentage of fat at lower intensities than at higher intensities. For example, at lower intensities, the body may burn 50 percent of the calories from fat, while at higher intensities it may only burn 35 percent.

But here’s where we’re going to burst your mystical Fat Burning Zone dreams - let’s remember that weight loss comes down to calories in and calories out.

At higher intensities you burn way more total calories (which is how you lose weight) than you do at lower intensities. This is why high-intensity intervals will always “outweigh” steady state exercise such as walking on a treadmill (without ever increasing speed or elevation) when it comes to burning calories. For example, in 30 minutes of low-intensity exercise you will burn 200 calories, and much of that will, yes, be from using fat as fuel. But in that same amount of time, you’ll burn 400 calories in a higher intensity workout. The majority of that will use the glycogen in your body as fuel. So which one would you choose? The 200 or 400 for the same amount of time? Yeah, that’s what we figured too.

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