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

Why We Don't Do Sit-Ups

For years the standard exercise routines looked like this: push-ups, squats, pull-ups and, OF COURSE, sit-ups. So whenever we mention that we don't do sit-ups in our gym, there’s no wonder that we get a lot of puzzled faces.

Here’s why we don’t do them:

Crunches are actually terrible for your back.

As Dr. Richard Guyer, president of the Texas Back Institute explains, crunches place an unhealthy strain on your back at your back’s weakest point.

“There are only so many bends or a ‘fatigue life’,” in your spinal disks,” says Stuart M. McGill, professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo. As McGill explains, there's a mucus-like nucleus inside each disk of your spine, and “if you keep flexing your spine and bending the disk over and over again, that nucleus slowly breaches the layers and causes a disk bulge, or a disk herniation.” Yikes!

So how do you get those sculpted abs without the old-fashioned sit-up?

I’m always going to answer this one with the age-old adage: “abs are made in the kitchen.” We might laugh, but it’s true! We all know that you can’t exercise your way out of a bad diet. And you’re going to need a lower body fat percentage to actually see those cut abs.

But how do you get those “cut, strong, ripped” abs? And even better yet, how are you going to train your body to feel it’s best? By training your abs in a way that strengthens their function and what they are actually supposed to do: keeping your spine straight and secure while also providing power for your movements. As McGill explains, “the abdominals are braces.” When you’re doing any form of movement - in the gym or out of the gym —“the spine is in a neutral posture, not flexed, and the abdominal muscles are contracted to brace the spine.”

And how do you train in a way that best serves your ab’s purpose? With all those awesome core exercises we do! For example:
planks
anti-rotation cable press out
push-ups (it’s a moving plank)
USB press-outs
basically every move we do in the gym, because YES! Your core should be engaged!
So if you’re wondering why we don’t do sit-ups, think of it this way: we’re just trying to “have your back!” As in, literally, we’re trying to save your back. And besides, you always hated sit-ups anyway.

Coach Jess
5:00 AM

Reading Food Labels: Sugar

You’re trying hard to “clean” up your eating game, but when it comes to those labels, where do you start? This week we’re starting a series on how to read food labels. Today I’m going to sweet talk you - with the 411 on Sugar.

It’s no wonder that food-makers create confusing labels - if our customers are confused they’ll just give up and buy our product. But there are ways we can outsmart these witty marketers - you just have to know the tricks they use.

Why is Sugar so Bad?

Let’s talk about why you need to be on the lookout. Sugar has been linked to diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s disease, and breast, endometrial, and colon cancers. And that’s just to name a few things. If you want to read a little more on exactly HOW sugar is processed by your body, take a look at this article from Women’s Health

As Robert Lustig, M.D., professor of pediatrics in the division of endocrinology at the University of California – San Francisco, explains, "You could make dog poop taste good with enough sugar, and the food industry does.” The truth is food-makers add a ton of sugar to things - even when we don’t need them to! That translates to you getting way more sugar than your body actually needs.

How Much is Too Much?

According to the World Health Organization, sugar should be 5% of your diet - that equates to 6 teaspoons per day. Yup! That isn’t a lot!

All the Different Names for Sugar

Before we eliminate all the unnecessary sugar in our diets, we’re going to need to know what to look for. Here are just a few of sugar’s “alter egos” you’ll want to look for when you’re perusing those labels:
Agave Nectar
Buttered Syrup
Blackstrap Molasses
Dextran
Dextrose
Diastase
Diastatic Malt
Fructose
Galactose
Glucose
Invert Sugar
Lactose
Maltodextrin
Maltose
Muscovado
Rice Syrup
Sorghum Syrup
Sucrose
Now that you know what you’re looking for you can tackle the sugar part of reading your labels!

Coach Jess
5:00 AM

Reading Food Labels: The Ingredients List

You’re trying hard to “clean” up your eating game, but when it comes to those labels, where do you start? This week we’re continuing our series on how to read food labels. Today I’m whittling down ingredients - as in - the ingredients list.

When it comes to food labels, marketers know how to complicate things, but I’m going to let you in on a little secret - a kind “go to” when it comes to deciding what you throw in your cart.

Number One Rule: If you can’t pronounce it, you shouldn’t eat it. That means if you’re seeing a lot of sucroslaxatosiniumblahblahblah it’s probably not something you should be eating.

Highest to Lowest

Product ingredients are listed from highest to lowest amount. That means the “most used” ingredient is listed first. For example, if you are buying peanut butter, ideally peanuts are the first (and only) ingredient. Take a look at the first three ingredients - those are probably the largest parts of what you are eating - then refer back to the number one rule: can you pronounce them?

How Many Ingredients?

Another way to make sure you’re not eating a lot of junk is to look at how long the list of ingredients is. Longer than 2 to 3 lines? Chances are it’s highly processed junk.

Do Your Research

If you run across something you’ve never seen before - such as acacia gum or xanthan gum or even what “refined” versus “unrefined” is - I suggest you pull out your phone and look it up. Knowing exactly what ingredients actually are can help you decide what you want to put in your body. When it comes to the list of ingredients, knowledge really is power.

So here’s a quick checklist when you’re standing in that grocery aisle:
What are the first three ingredients?
Can I pronounce them?
Are there any odd things I should look up?
Is the list 2-3 lines or 23 lines?

Hope that helps you whittle down while you’re trying to “whittle” down your maybe not-so-clean eating habits.

Coach Jess
5:00 AM

What Are You Doing Outside of the Gym?

One of the hardest things to hear as a coach is “this just isn’t working.” Believe me when I say that we hear the frustration in your voice and we truly want you to be successful in achieving your fitness goals.

That being said, I’m about to drop some “real talk” on you. Getting fit is 95% what you're doing outside of the gym. Yup, I said it. I’m even potentially diminishing just what we can do for you, but the bottom line is if you’re giving 100% in the gym and then giving 1% to what you’re eating and how you’re moving the rest of the day, then all that work can be for naught.

On average we see a client for 3-5 hours every week. While we can monitor how well you are moving for those 3-5 hours, we can't be with you for the remaining 165-163 hours in the week. If we could, you’d most likely hear us - all day, every day - saying things like, “don’t eat that” or “you should get up and stretch,” or “it’s time for you to drink some more water.” The truth is, we can’t be there all the time - though we can try to support you as much as possible!

So how can you ensure you’re working just as hard outside of the gym? Here are some tips:

Set a reminder to drink water. You should be drinking half your body weight in ounces of water every day. What does that mean? If you’re 100 lbs, you should be drinking 50 oz of water every day. Yes, every day

Invest in a fitness tracker. Tracking your steps can help inform you on how active you are outside of the gym. 10,000 is a good goal, but if you’re usually super active, you’ll want to set a higher goal.

Get up and stretch. We all know that our current lifestyles have landed most of us behind a desk. So what can you do to be proactive in the fight against tight hips and sore backs? Get up and stretch. If this seems awkward, close the door to your office, do a couple stretches in the bathroom stall, or step outside for a quick walking/stretching break.

Watch what you’re putting in your mouth. I don’t need to go into detail on this one - you know what you should and shouldn't be eating. And if you don’t ask us for advice!

We’re all here to help you - in the gym - and out of the gym.

Coach Jess
5:00 AM

Do You Need to Workout Every Single Day?

Someone recently asked me if they needed to workout every day to see results.

Honestly, it’s a hard question to answer, and here’s why:
You need days off - especially if you are weight training. You actually don’t build muscle while you are lifting - you build it when you are recovering. As The American Council on Exercise explains, “The workout is the stimulus, while recovery and improvement is the physical response.” Basically, you work the body and your muscles hard during your training, and the body rebuilds and responds to that work during your rest.

But does that mean you shouldn’t do anything (a.k.a. be a complete couch potato) on your “rest days”? Again, I’ll throw it to The American Council on Exercise: “A rest day is really any non-training day—a day where you remove the challenge of hard exercise.” “Hard” being the key word here. A rest day does not mean you get to just be a lazy-sweat-pant-wearing-couch-laying-sloth (sorry!) Sure, you shouldn’t be going all out on your rest day, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t move. Use your rest day (and the hour not spent in the gym) to go on a walk, golf, play hide and seek with the kids, or even engage in a lighter type of workout, like a light yoga class or light stretching - essentially anything where you aren’t lifting weights or going to your all out max. All of these things will help you feel less sore, and also keep your body moving - which is something you should always do.

So do you need to workout every day? No, but you should definitely get off those old bones and move every day!