Function and Fitness Blog
Function and Fitness Blog
Coach Jess
6:19 PM

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 - 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 (https://www.muscleforlife.com/8-signs-of-overtraining/) “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.

Coach Ara
10:15 AM

Why HIT Training?

Since the mid-1990s, many studies have shown the effectiveness of "High Interval Training" (HIT) for fat loss. One Canadian study compared the fat-loss effects of interval training versus a traditional, slow cardio regimen. The traditional regimen burned twice as many calories as the interval regimen, but those who performed intervals lost more body fat.

Researchers from the City of Eugene’s FitCity Wellness Center in Oregon recruited 21 mostly active adults to participate in a HIIT group exercise program three times per week for 10 weeks. Each class included a brief warm-up and then body weight exercises following a two-to-one work-to-rest ratio. The average class lasted just over 27 minutes, and participants were encouraged to take minibreaks outside the structured rest periods if necessary. 

At the end of the study, participants showed reductions in body weight, body fat percentage and body mass index. There was a slight increase in fat-free mass. The group also experienced reductions in circumference measurements of the upper arms, chest, waist, hips and calves. Thigh measurements changed very little. 

“HIIT three days per week for 10 weeks produced significant reductions in body weight, BMI, body fat percentage and body circumference measurements except for the thighs,” explained study author Steven J. Auferoth, director of health and wellness for the center. 

Auferoth believes HIIT could be a boon for fitness instructors, personal trainers and fitness facilities, owing to its potential to help clients make significant physiological improvements in a time-efficient manner. Professionals might also see a bump in revenue, since the short time investment makes it possible to see more clients per hour.(Halvorson, 2013)

Halvorson, R. (2013, September 19). The benefits of group high-intensity interval training. Retrieved October 28, 2016, from http://www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/the-benefits-of-group-high-intensity-interval-training

Coach Jess
9:12 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, PhD, 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 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!

Coach Jess
2:24 PM

Pop-Quiz: Is Popcorn Bad For You?

It’s a question I’ve been asked more than a few times: “Is popcorn really that bad for you?”

We all know corn has a bad reputation, but what about it’s popped version? For years “low-fat” popcorn was touted as “good” and (our fave buzzword) “low-cal.” But if it’s corn, and we know corn is bad, then how is it possible that popcorn in healthy?

Well, I decided it was time to do a little digging. And here’s what I’ve come up with.

As reported by Today in 2012 researchers at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania reported popcorn actually has more polyphenols than fruits and vegetables. Those polyphenols are actually antioxidant substances - good stuff that has been shown to reduce heart disease and certain cancers. So popcorn actually has more of the “good stuff” than fruits and vegetables.

It’s also whole grain which means it’s a really good source of fiber. In a 4 cup portion you get five grams of fiber. And yup, it’s low-cal!

So popcorn isn’t all that bad on its own.

But let’s not pretend that the story stops there. Let’s talk about what you are putting on that popcorn. You know what I’m talking about - that buttery goodness, or that full salt shaker that’s not really all that full anymore, or (if you’re like me) those Reese’s Pieces candy pieces that taste really amazing when they half mellllttt… okay, calm down. Let’s get back on track. The “popcorn story” is not complete without the “topping story,” and that’s where we gotta draw the line.

We all KNOW movie theater popcorn is the worst. I’ll cite Today again. A report from the Center for Science in the Public Interest revealed a medium tub purchased at Regal Movie Theaters has 1,200 calories and 60 grams of saturated fat. That’s the same as three McDonald's Quarter Pounders. Yup, I said “three.” OOF!

And those microwave popcorn bags? Well, they are bad for other reasons.

Even the steam you breathe in is bad. As explained by Oprah, a report by the report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that “delicious” steam contains almost four dozen chemicals. And I already know that YOU KNOW that there are other additives and tons of salt thrown in to make those microwave popcorn bags utterly irresistible to those snack-craving tastebuds.

So here’s the bottom line: if you’re going to pop - keep it simple and pop them on your own. It’s easy! Really! Here’s a recipe from Simply Recipes. And you know what to do with those toppings - leave them off! Okay, I realize that’s crazy - so here are some other options to keep it fun: curry powder, Italian seasonings, or rosemary, thyme, and a little olive oil. Let’s get popping!

Coach Ara
2:48 PM

How to Master an Exercise?

One of the important things that any client or athlete needs to understand is before you are moving to next phase of your workout or an exercise you need to master that exercise.

How to master an exercise?
The answer is easy "repeat repeat repeat"
you repeat more, you will learn more. Make sure you can breathe during your exercise. If you can breathe at the end and return of your exercise the same way that you breathe at beginning that means you own that move and by doing more you will master that move or exercise.
As Bruce Lee says: I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.

Coach Ara Keshishian