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Fitness - A Lifetime Perspective on Exercise - Part 1

Spending as much time as I have training clients who range in age from early 20s to early 90s, has caused me step back and form a longer-term outlook to this discipline of exercise we all strive to stay committed to.  Here is some of what I've learned along the way. Lesson #1: You’re Capable of More than You Think You Are You may have noticed the quote on our studio wall that says “People can push themselves a lot harder than they think they can.”  That was from my wife’s cousin who is a Marine, used to be a Personal Trainer, and was asked if he would approach Personal Training differently now that he’s a marine. Leave it to our featured client of the month to be the beginning and end of this argument.  Darlene came to me over three years ago.  Then she was in her early 50s.  She hadn’t really done much in the realm of exercise.  A push-up?  Never done one.  A pull-up?  Forget it!  Form?  What’s that?  Drive?  She has it, like few I’ve seen.  Among her house records (which are too numerous to list here) are FIFTY perfect-form push-ups in a row (how many guys do you know that can do that many?), a plank for over 12 minutes, a 300 workout in less than 24 minutes, 24 inch box jump 50 times in a row.  The woman has world-class fitness level for her age. Is there any way I could have guessed what this cute, little (almost 5’ tall) firecracker was capable of?  NO WAY!  Does it make me wonder what my other clients are capable of if they can get their mind right?  Absolutely!  Much could be said here but suffice it to say that often our biggest limitation is really not our ability but our willingness.  There is so much to learn about yourself, and so much confidence to be gained, when you legitimately find your limits with exercise—not stopping when you want to stop, but stopping when you physically cannot continue.  There is something freeing in feeling the exhaustion of a heavy rep, a completely gassed muscle, and picking yourself up off the floor to say…I did that!  When was the last time you felt that way? Oh, and Darlene has done 6 chin-ups and 4 pull-ups by the way.  Her metabolic age fluctuates between late teen and early twenties.   Stay tuned for the day she accomplishes the one arm push-up! Lesson #2: Live to Fight Another Day With all that said about pushing your body's limits, the flip side of that coin is the old saying "Rome wasn't built in a day."  If you want to hit a particular exercise or body composition goal (which I would hope all of us have), give yourself a realistic amount of time, and progress intelligently toward it.  If I'm right, and you see exercise as a lifestyle choice like I do, then what's the rush if I bench press 200lbs this month or it takes me three more months to get there?  The important part is that I get there when my body is ready and don't set myself back by trying to do too much too fast.  If you've ever pushed your limits much with exercise, sooner or later you'll start to discover where your body's weak spots are.  Everyone has them, and it's what we know (or don't know) about what to do with those weaknesses that makes all the difference in reaching your goals and aging gracefully. If you've spent much time around me in a context of a health discussion you've probably heard me say that achieving and maintaining vibrant health is more of an art than it is a science.  What do I mean?  Well, your health is slightly different today than it was yesterday.  Today you may be more nourished, hydrated, focused, rested, or stressed than the day before.  Today your immune system may be working on something and tying up a large portion of your energy, or you may have slept awkwardly and one of your joints is letting you know it didn't appreciate that.  Point is, creating a workout that accounts for those (and other variables) comes back to listening to your body...each day...each workout.  Some days are the days to push your limits, other days are days to go for a moderate effort and hit it hard again the next time. If you feel your body telling you a particular joint doesn't want to do a given exercise, warm it up a bit more, if it still protests, today may not be the day.  Never let yourself make excuses that keep you away from exercise, but don't ignore a loud protest from a vulnerable body part.  If one or more of your parts routinely protests your exercise efforts, first check your form (or have a fitness professional help you).  If form is good and the part still protests, know that your body is not uninterested in healing that part, it's just that you have not yet figured out what it needs from you in order to heal.  Keep searching.  There is a good discomfort and bad discomfort that comes with exercise.  Listen to your body's signals to help you know the good discomfort from the bad.  The best way to figure this out is to gauge how you feel the next day.  If your energy is good and you’re somewhat sore, great.  If you feel “injured,” you probably tried to do a bit too much.  Set your goals high, but know that reaching them is not always a linear process.  In other words, there are probably more turns on the road of your journey toward better health and fitness that you had been expecting.   When the body tells you too, go moderate, and live to fight another day. Christian Elliot

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Is Your Pantry a "Dead Zone"?

You have decided to eat healthier. Your refrigerator fruit drawer is a rainbow of red apples, dark purple grapes, bright yellow lemons and even your vegetable drawer has monochromatic varieties of dark green awaiting your salad bowl (That does describe you, right? :).  Wonderful, because these foods are live, full of nutrients, enzymes and minerals, ready to be broken down by the body easily in order to get into the blood stream and flood your cells with energy and vitality. If your refrigerator drawers are full of foods that are alive, we will refer to your pantry as the “Dead Zone”, because most people’s pantries are filled with foods that can sit there for years and show no sign of age. They are the boxes packed with preservatives, the cans nuked of all enzymes, and the grain products filled with processed vegetable oils known for their long endurance on a shelf.  If these foods are dead, it’s easy to imagine that they are not bringing much life to your cells. Purging the Food-Like Substances So here you are, committed to your health, realizing that these foods are not. Therefore, it may be time for a pantry purge, and we are here to help! Below are some simple guidelines that will help you identify those things that can be an obstacle to feeling and performing your best.  It is a short list, but a good start. Toss into the trash any foods containing:
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Artificial flavors
  • Hydrogenated (and partially hydrogenated) fats
  • Soy ingredients
  • Food dyes (red #40, yellow 5 &6 Blue 1…)
  • Oils such as sunflower/safflower/canola oil.
  • Sodium Nitrates or Nitrites
  • Saccharin, aspartame, sucralose or splenda
(for a more complete list of dangerous food additives click here) Now that the cabinet looks cleaner, time to inspect the refrigerator door rattling with condiments and expired salad dressings. Gone are the days of simply looking at the calorie content on the back label of a package, right? You have a much bigger, and in our opinion, a much more important assignment in your mission toward health, because its evident that if those calories are from clean and natural sources, your body will start running the way it was designed. Replacing the Health Destroying with the Health Promoting It would be terrible if we left you here, alone in your kitchen, surrounded by jars and cans of garbage, hungry and with nothing to eat.  Below we have created a list of healthy alternatives for your go-to kitchen staples.  Try our one or more of them. Simply replace your:
  • White flour pasta with spelt pasta
  • Canola/vegetable oil with coconut oil and olive oil (when a baking recipe calls for vegetable oil, melting coconut oil over a pot of boiling water works perfectly, and is a much healthier alternative than the omega 6-super processed fat in vegetable oil).
  • White table salt, with Celtic sea salt
  • Pasteurized honey with raw honey. This provides valuable enzymes, powerful antioxidants and is a natural germicide! Take a spoonful before a hard work out for an extra boost!
  • Margarine with pastured butter. Pastured means: Butter from cows that ate grass and in turn produce the most nutritious butter. If you need something spreadable try Ghee.
  • Flavored yogurts with plain, whole milk yogurt (add frozen organic berries for some flavor it you would like).
  • Canned beans with bulk dried beans. I know this is a huge step, and not nearly as convenient as opening a can…but soaking a cup of beans in a bowl of water and throwing it in a pot to boil later in the day isn’t so difficult either. Beans that have been prepared fresh can be frozen after cooking for a quick addition to soups, rice dishes and salads!
  • Fortified breakfast cereals with old-fashioned oats. Saves money, adds nutrition to your breakfast and with a little planning the night before (learning to soak your oats in water and yogurt-see my grains cooking demonstration) makes for a fast meal!
  • Bottled dressings with a commitment to learning a few home made salad dressings using expeller pressed olive oil, raw vinegar and fresh herbs
  • Store bought-commercially produced eggs with eggs from a farmers market, or pastured eggs from a health food store. The difference in quality, taste and even color will astound you!
  • White sugar with 100% maple syrup as a sweetener in your coffee, yogurt and most places you would use sugar.
We understand that any change can take time. If a major kitchen overhaul in one setting seems overwhelming, give us a call and we will be happy to schedule a nutrition consultation or even a grocery-shopping trip with you. Also, stay posted for updates on my cooking demonstrations when I will be teaching techniques on how to make whole foods convenient and delicious.  Great health is built one meal at a time and we hope to give you the proper tools so that you can feel and be your very best. Written by Nina Elliot

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Client Corner: Darlene

Current Fitness Goal(s): One Arm Push-up How many days a week do you train? 5 hours of Personal Training What is/are your biggest motivator(s)? Not to long ago her mother was going through serious health complications.  Living in a different state from her mother, who needed round the clock assistance, took not only a financial toll, but was also physically and emotionally draining on Darlene and her family. It was then that Darlene decided she would dedicate whatever resources she had into preserving her own health in order to avoid her family the heartache of caring for her as she aged.  Thankfully her mother is better, and Darlene is setting the bar higher and higher for herself every year. What is the most significant change you have made/noticed since coming to Health and Wholeness? There have been many changes over the last three years.  I am paying more attention to nutrition, have become a huge fan of the benefits of muscle activation therapy (thank you, Jeremy), and learned to like sweating.  Perhaps the most significant change I've noticed since coming to H&W is that now matter how far I think I can push my body, it can always give a little more (with the possible exception of being able to bench press my weight)! What advice would you give someone starting on his or her own health journey? “Trust your trainers. They will set a strong foundation of fitness in order to enable you to do things you never thought possible.”

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News From Around the Block

Last BOOT CAMP of the Year!

Rev up that metabolism with our final Boot Camp of 2010.  It is a great, economic way to make sure you don’t neglect exercise and gain weight this holiday season.  Forget doing boring “cardio” to burn extra calories.  Come try an exercise experience that feels more like play than a workout. Worried about your pre-camp fitness level?  Don’t fret; the workouts are a go-at-your-pace event, and all fitness levels are welcome.  Put in the effort and you will love the results.  No two workouts are the same; all will be challenging.  Nina will be leading the classes M, W, F mornings at 6:00 here at the Avalon at Arlington Square Basketball Court.  Call 571.242.4775 or visit our website for more details.

NEW SERVICES: Pilates You may have noticed that funny looking blue “chair” sitting unassumingly on the floor of Studio B.  Admittedly, looking at it is underwhelming…until you try it.  Check out some of the pictures on our website of Heather using it.  Pssst…she makes it look easy.  It’s not!  If you’ve ever wanted to develop deep core strength (or a precise control of any of your muscles for that matter), let Heather take you through a Pilates session or two or ten.  I did.  Funny thing is, Heather looks so cute and innocent while she is teaching you what to do.  She even smiles while you feel a stirring/burning in regions you didn’t know could contract.  And then the “are you kidding me” aspect of the workout sets in?  Somehow you finish the session barely sweating, fully confident you got a great workout, and thinking…”man I gotta try that again.” Martial Arts/Self Defense In addition to being a seasoned Personal Trainer, Ty is an accomplished Martial Artist and we are excited to bring his skill set to our team.  We wanted to create a unique experience of Martial Arts that is more client-centric rather than program-centric.  We are even more excited that we get to couple his skill set with our unique training environment.  If you’ve ever thought of taking Martial Arts lessons, but don't know which discipline(s) you'd like to study, Ty may be just the answer for you.  What we have created (and are still creating) is a personalized version of some of the best martial arts world.  Whether you are new to the arts, wanting to earn a black belt, or a fighter looking to improve technique and conditioning, we can help.  Click here to learn more. STUDIO C – Operation “Hurry Up and Wait” 2010 has been a year of learning that in business, often things take longer than you expect.   After starting our lease negotiations in December of 2009, we were finally able to sign a lease in August of 2010.  Almost 3 months later we are still waiting on both Arlington County and our landlord grant permits and renovate the space.   Needless to say we are chomping at the bit to create the space we have envisioned, a facility like no other you will visit!   Not only will we have more “toys,” and experiences you will not likely find anywhere else, but opening that space will also allow us to offer another fantastic wellness service…but that detail is for another newsletter. :)  For now our estimated opening date of Studio C has been pushed back to January or February of 2011.  You can follow our Studio C updates here, and on Facebook and Twitter.   Can’t wait to change lives in our newest place! Christian Elliot

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