Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Back to School Monday, September 7th, 2009

One thing that is painfully obvious the first week of school is the tremendous influx of students who are in the gym. The second week invariably arrives and attendance has dropped significantly. There are different theories for why this occurs.

One is that there is nothing really happening the first week of school so everyone has plenty of time to check out the gym again. By the second week, one of two things can happen. The first is that homework builds up, classes start teaching harder and more material, and people simply find themselves busier. The second is that people realize that working out is not nearly as fun or glamorous as they had anticipated. Personally, I find the first to be a moderate excuse on the surface and the second to be simply pathetic.

I would argue that people blame being busy as a reason why they do not have time to work out to cover the actual reason- they do not want to work out. Virtually no one is busy enough to not have time to work out. Take a close look at what you do during the day, do you watch a couple hours of television? Do you spend hours hanging out with your friends? How many hours do you spend per day wasting away on Facebook or playing computer/video games? These are fair questions to ask because I am certain that the amount of time spent doing these activities could be reduced to fit in an hour workout every day. If people are truly interested in working out, they do not offer excuses for why they cannot work out, they make every effort to go to the gym.

Not liking working out is a horrible reason not to go to the gym. Life involves pain, that is an absolute truth and there is no getting around it. The reason why most people quit working out is that they lose their vision for why they started working out in the first place. It is hard to remember when you are exhausted why you are working out, but if you can keep that vision and be disciplined enough to follow through on your goals, all the effort and suffering spent will reward you later.

I would encourage everyone who worked out for a week and then quit to continue working out. The health benefits are tremendous as well as the psychological and emotional benefits. During school you are probably already paying for membership to your school’s gym, so you might as well use it. Developing the habit of working out now is far easier than after college when you have a job, family, and will have to pay a large sum of money for a gym membership.

Next time I will continue the “Running” series.

Running- Why You Should Not (Just Starting) Sunday, March 29th, 2009

Running has long been regarded as the ultimate form of cardio; if you want to get in shape and be healthy the common thought is that running is the answer. This is highly inaccurate and can create a lot of harm if this type of thinking permeates the way you look at exercise and health in general. Today and the next couple of weeks I will provide reasons why running can be more harmful than productive and then following that I will list some of the benefits of running.

Americans increasingly are out of shape and overweight knowing little to nothing about how to get healthier. This lack of familiarity with exercise many times leads to the abuse of running; many people go out and either have high expectations of what they can accomplish and fail or they have low expectations and find themselves unmotivated and quit trying, both are harmful. Having high expectations can lead to premature and excessive physical activity which is potentially harmful.

The mental aspect of beginning an exercise regimen can be one of the biggest hurdles or one of the greatest motivators. If you expect to achieve great results immediately, it is probably not going to happen; they usually come slow and steady. Running is one of those activities that are hard to see an improvement in right away which causes a lot of people to stop and return to their old lifestyle. Committing to getting healthier and knowing that results might come slow will change your outlook on working out and when you see good results it will be a pleasant surprise.

When starting any exercise program it is wise to realize where you are at, usually in poor physical condition, which means that you should ease into exercising, this allows the body to be able to respond in a favorable manner instead of crashing or failing and causing injury. Starting to run after a significant amount of time being idle adds tremendous stress on the body, particularly the leg muscles, joints, heart, and lungs. After achieving a fair level of confidence and conditioning is the time to push harder. Real life is not like The Biggest Loser, you will probably not have constant supervision by trained professionals. A personal trainer can mimic part of that atmosphere and I encourage you to contact one, especially if you are just starting to work out. They will be able to assess your physical state far better than yourself and can train you safely. However, if you do not have a personal trainer, continue to pursue information that will increase your understanding of how to exercise safely.

Running can be dangerous for those just beginning to work out. Pushing too hard or not pushing hard enough can be dangerous and disheartening. If you are trying to change your lifestyle, get healthier, and get in better shape, I would encourage you to forget running and instead use an elliptical or stationary bike to begin, even a treadmill; these are infinitely safer and deliver amazing results, even compared to running.

Gym Etiquette- Grunts and Slams Saturday, March 21st, 2009

To finish off this series on gym etiquette I will discuss a topic that will probably elicit different responses. However, I think that my view is probably the majority view so please take that into consideration while reading. Every now and again there will be someone lifting weights in the gym who makes terrible sounding grunts and groans. There are also those people in the gym that feel it is necessary for them to drop or slam their weights to the ground. Both of these actions are annoying and the second is potentially very dangerous.

Grunting, moaning, or yelling while lifting weights is partially understandable; it gives some people that extra motivation or exertion to push harder and lift the weight. I do not think there is any scientific data that supports this idea but many people believe it does give them an advantage. While this may or may not be true, it is still not necessary and not appropriate for a public gym setting. Try to keep noises within while working out; it is highly distracting when you have a person working out next to you expelling sounds reminiscent of a dying animal. Even excessively loud breathing can be highly frustrating when trying to work out. Again, just try to not make a lot of needless noise.

A scenario that often occurs in the gym is a thunderous crash of weights slamming against the floor. Why? This happens when people are obviously trying to lift weights that they are incapable of lifting safely because they cannot even put them down with any semblance of control. I do not buy the argument that someone would drop the weights out of sheer exhaustion; this certainly is possible, but I have only seen a few people in my life who would qualify for this classification and none have been in the gym. A more likely explanation is that people want to draw attention by declaring with the sudden, sharp noise that they are lifting a weight heavy enough that people should look at what they accomplished. Rarely have I seen someone lift an inspiring amount of weight and those people who do lift a mountainous mass of weight are usually able to put the weight down in a controlled manner. Letting go of weight carelessly is also a safety hazard for not only the person dropping the weight by also those who are nearby.

Consideration for other people in the gym is the reoccurring theme that I have tried to emphasize in this series on gym etiquette. When in the gym you should focus your efforts on yourself but your efforts should not interfere or distract others from theirs. So next time you are in the gym, remember, try not to make any weird sounds, meaning anything except breathing, and absolutely refrain from dropping weight, it is really not that heavy and you are certainly not that tired and if you want attention, get over yourself and learn to be humble. After all, the gym is a great place to learn humility.

Gym Etiquette- Space and Equipment Misuse Sunday, March 1st, 2009

One of the things that I have noticed in the weight room is that some people insist on doing various exercises in the wrong part of the weight room. Sometimes this is not a huge problem but other times it can prove to be highly inconvenient for other people and even a hazard in some cases.

The most common exercises performed in the wrong part of the weight room are pushups and sit-ups. Some people use the benches by the weight racks to do various abdominal exercises. I can see how they might be beneficial for a workout, but they are not made for doing ab work and in the Rec Center’s weight room their purpose is to have people lift weights on them. There are mats in the back by the treadmills to work on abs. Each piece of equipment in the gym is there for a specific reason and reserved for those who are going to use it in accordance with that purpose. People who are doing abs are usually moving their legs around which can lead people to encroach on other people’s space. I also see people doing pushups near the weight racks as well. This causes the same problems except that they are performed on the ground which takes up a lot of space and can be highly inconvenient. Again, the mats in the back are where pushups are supposed to be done; please do them there.

One exercise that I see done all over the weight room is the lunge. Lunges can be an odd sort of problem because they are so slow, they need a lot of space to be performed, and there is not a set place for them to be done in the weight room. The worst place that I have seen them done is in front of or behind the benches near the weight racks. This creates tremendous problems for everyone who is working there because people are moving around putting weights on the rack and taking them off, going to get water, or travelling to change exercises. If someone is there taking forever doing lunges, the people who are supposed to be there have to maneuver around the person. Perhaps the best place I have seen people doing lunges is in the hallway leading back to the rec gym. It is a fairly long and wide space so people who are walking back to the gym or to the activity room have more than enough room to walk by and there are no people there working out to interfere with. I have seen people doing lunges by the machines and also by the treadmills and bikes. Both of these places are too small and have too many people continuously walking through for the space to be used by people doing lunges.

The main point that I am trying to convey is to, once again, be considerate to people while working out and to do exercises in the specific part of the gym that they are designed for. Each piece of equipment has a specific function and each part of the gym is designed for specific activities. If people follow the layout of the gym and use equipment properly, the gym will be a safer and more enjoyable place for everyone.

Gym Etiquette- Weight Hogs Saturday, February 21st, 2009

There is another group of people who have the tendency to rile me up- circuit trainers. Circuit training certainly has its place in the gym and is a very beneficial exercise regimen if employed properly; the problem is people who insist on performing a seemingly never ending circuit. When using a circuit style of training, it is more beneficial for the workout if weight is left in a certain place or left on bars. This becomes a huge annoyance when weight is left on the bench press, for example, for the duration of a circuit. This can last anywhere from between ten minutes to over an hour. With the limited facilities in the Student Rec Center, no one wants to wait around for much more than ten minutes to use the bench press.

There are some solutions to this problem that generally work. One of them is to let someone use the equipment when you are on a different part of your circuit. This may seem like common sense, but all too often I see someone get angry because someone else is using their weights or equipment when they come back to that part of the circuit. There is no reason why you cannot let someone use your equipment while you are elsewhere, so do not throw a fit if you see someone using you weights… please. This method is also applicable when a person is doing a ton of sets on one piece of equipment or using one set of weights. I understand that there are benefits to hitting one specific body part and particular exercise hard, but while you are resting, let someone else jump in and use the machine; be courteous.

Another solution is to simply not take so terribly long doing a circuit. Instead, break up your circuit into smaller circuits, this way less time is spent with your weight sitting idle and taking up space for others. This is actually a more helpful workout in many aspects whether you are training for endurance or strength. Less rest time in between reps of the same exercise is going to propel your results.

There is another problem with circuits that is less obvious and many times there is no solution. When a lot of people see weight on a machine or near a bench, they know someone is using it, so they avoid it and move on. People, even though they want to use certain equipment, are unwilling to ask someone if they can use it; also, many times the person who is performing the circuit is off in some other part of the gym so even if someone is willing to ask if they can use the weight, there is no one around that weight to ask. Like I said before, there is often no solution to this problem; keeping the circuits to minimal length is perhaps the best way to prevent hording weights. Some discernment also helps, if you realize someone is looking at your weight or seems like they are waiting, ask them if they want to use it while you are not. The overriding principle is to be considerate of others in the gym while still getting the type of workout you desire.

Gym Etiquette- Modesty Friday, February 13th, 2009

Escaping from the rigors of academia is an absolute necessity to retain sanity at the Colorado School of Mines. My favorite way of doing this is by pumping iron at the gym; I know many of you feel the same way. The gym should be a place of solitude, a place where you can release anger and stress beneficially by transferring that energy into improving physical fitness. One of the many distractions encountered at the gym is the disregard for modesty. The gym is a place to improve your body, not show it off, if you want to do that, go to the beach.

For men, problems include shirts that are ripped nearly all the way down the sides, loose and short shorts, and extremely tight shirts. Each of these items reveals a lot of body that most people do not want to have to look at when they are working out. I realize that while working out you can build up a sweat and that less clothing means more cooling. Suck it up! If you can lift weights, you can certainly put up with a little sweat; sweat releases toxins stored in your body, so wearing more clothes actually helps you out as long as you remain hydrated. If you are going to be doing exercises where you lift your legs, make sure you have compression shorts on or are wearing some form of pants. The reasons should be obvious.

Many girls also have the problem of not wearing very much clothing in the gym. My question is, why? What part of your workout is inhibited by wearing more clothing? Girls seem to have an obsession with wearing very short, tight shorts or tops. This can be very distracting to the male population, especially at Mines where there are very few girls in the gym and numerous guys. The gym is a place to get away from distractions, not be faced with more.

Another common problem is flexing in front of the mirrors. This is mostly performed by the guys in the gym but I have also witnessed girls flexing as well. The mirrors are there to watch your form while lifting to help ensure safety and to maximize the benefit of a certain exercise; bad lifting technique is a sure way to not see results in the gym and even face possible injury. No one cares how big your muscles are but you, and there is certainly no one that wants to be distracted by seeing you flexing while they are trying to work out. So save the flexing for home and pay attention to your workout, the only thing that matters within the confines of the weight room.

Modesty has been and probably always will be a problem at gyms. This is not a reason to neglect your individual responsibility to partake in modesty; it is something that you can find solace in. Not distracting others from their workout is required of everyone in the gym to maximize the quality of the atmosphere. If you are someone who thinks you are huge and must show off your muscles around a bunch of smaller guys to make yourself feel good, or think you are an attractive female and enjoy having guys watch your every move- replace your pride with the clothes in your gym bag, and think of others before entering the place that gives some people their only source of relief from this school.

Gym Etiquette- Groups Thursday, February 5th, 2009

It is already a month into the New Year and the influx of people using the Rec Center at the start of the year due to New Year’s resolutions, or some other reason, has not diminished. With all of the new faces there are bound to be problems; many of the unspoken gym rules are sure to be broken, some people will get frustrated and some will be embarrassed. It is an annual phenomenon. Following is the start of a series focusing on some of those unspoken rules that beginners might not know and also some general tips for people of all experiences levels that will aid in a positive, safe, and courteous time at the gym.

One of the most annoying things when working out is to have a large group of people standing around and talking to one another. The gym is a place to work out. Period. Groups of people take up a lot of space in an already cramped gym and people who are focusing on their workout do not want to have to continuously maneuver around a group or always question whether or not a group of people is using a certain piece of equipment. Groups also tend to be rather loud which is also a distraction from a workout; people do not want to listen to you discuss your problems and especially do not want to constantly hear loud laughing. Working out should be enjoyable, but it is not a place to be telling jokes and messing around. When you are working hard, fighting through immense pain, trying to maintain a high level of intensity and concentration, the last thing you want to hear is someone laughing. It simply shows ignorance on the part of those partaking in the offense. Saying hello to a friend for a minute is acceptable and even encouraged; it is good to get to know others working out in the gym because they are a great potential source of information and encouragement that you can utilize as you progress toward your fitness goals. Talking is not the problem either, as long as it is quiet and only with your workout partner. Again, having friends in the gym is one of the great parts of being there and is a fantastic chance forge a deeper friendship; struggling together forms a bond that is difficult to match.

If you are working out as a group one of the best things you can do to remain courteous to others is to spread out. Everybody in the group does not have to congregate around the bench press or the dumbbell rack, form pairs and do different exercises; when done with one exercise, simply switch. Being serious is another key component to being in the gym. It is easy to joke around with a group of friends but this should be avoided. Forming pairs is a great way to avoid being excessively noisy. The main point I am trying to make is that if you go to the gym to converse, you are going to the wrong place. Go to the gym with a serious attitude, planning on getting something done with limited conversation because it is awfully hard to get a good workout when you are talking all of the time.

Body Type: Mesomorph Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

This is a continuation of last semester’s series on body types.

The third and final body type is the mesomorph; this body type is the “ideal” one, or what most people look upon as the most genetically favored. They always seem to be at the perfect weight, the athletic look, and have less fat and more muscle than the normal person. If you are a mesomorph, you should be very thankful that you have the easiest to maintain body type; that is not a reason to be lazy or neglect fitness, however. Here are some tips that will help maximize your genetically gifted body.

Nutrition is a key factor in everyone’s life- that includes mesomorphs. It may seem like mesomorphs can eat whatever they want, whenever they want and not show any adverse effects. This is only partially true; while it is true that many times the outward signs of such eating habits do not show, it is the inside of the body that suffers most. Fat does not simply disappear and will stick to anything that it can inside your body, particularly organs. This can become a huge disaster that obviously can go unnoticed, but one that can wreak havoc on your body. So just because someone is skinny certainly does not mean they are healthy. Mesomorphs should pay just as close attention to eating clean as everyone else. It is often necessary though for mesomorphs to eat a good deal of food. While exercising, the body will burn a tremendous amount of calories, and this body type is primed for building muscle and burning fat during this time period. Protein and carbohydrates should be consumed in high quantities as well as calories; sugars should be avoided as should a lot of fat.

Working out as a mesomorph can be very effective and it is fairly simple to change fitness plans based on what features of the body are desired. For example, you might want a lean, toned looking body in which case you should be doing higher repetitions per set. Other mesomorphs might want to gain a lot of muscle and have a bodybuilder type body; this would require eating a lot more calories and lifting heavier weights with fewer repetitions. Results should come easier for a mesomorph than for one of the other body types, but again, if you are lazy, your body cannot respond to idleness and you are wasting a genetically gifted body. The same training principles I gave for the endomorph and ectomorph will also work for the mesomorph; the endomorph techniques will help you stay toned and fit while keeping the fat off, and the ectomorph techniques can aid in building muscle mass. The extremes should be avoided meaning, a mesomorph should be doing cardio and still is able to while gaining mass. A large amount of food should be eaten, but not as much as an ectomorph will need.

Mesomorphs may have the best genes when it comes to body type, but they have no excuse to not work hard to be healthy.

Body Types: Endomorphs Monday, November 17th, 2008

Today I will talk about the endomorph, the opposite of the ectomorph. An endomorph is someone who has a natural disposition toward a high body fat percentage, always seems overweight (or big-boned), has a big body and finds it difficult to gain a toned physique.

The name of the game is burning calories for the endomorph. To lose excess fat, slim down, and expose the muscles underneath, you must be burning more calories than you are taking in on a day-to-day basis. This means cardio should be done regularly and for decent amounts of time. If you are just beginning, start with around 20 minutes of cardio three times a week, and then try to build up to an hour of cardio three to five times a week. Interval training is a great method for building up your level of fitness and endurance. Instead of going the same pace the entire time, change it up; spend some time doing fast, intense cardio, followed by doing less intense, moderate or light cardio. By constantly changing, the body is unable to sustain a rhythm which leads to muscle confusion and in the end, usually a more interesting workout as well as more calories being burned.

Weight training is also important for the endomorph just as it is for every body type. You need to have muscle before you can see muscle. While weight training, focus either on high volume or high intensity training, and you could even try a combination of both because everyone’s body responds differently to training. High volume training means using a higher rep range, around ten to fifteen reps per set, which will increase the amount of time you, spend lifting the weights and thus, the amount of calories being burned and it will also have more of a toning effect on your muscles. High intensity training does not necessarily mean a high rep range but just that the amount of time you rest in between sets is decreased to between thirty seconds and a minute, or even lower if you already have a high level of fitness. Of course you could combine these two methods by increasing the reps and decreasing the rest time.

Food is another component for fat loss, but one that is commonly misunderstood. I have touched on this briefly before, but the endomorph should not decrease the amount of meals eaten. That will actually drive your body to gaining weight and cannibalizing the muscle that you have. You should instead be eating an ideal five to six meals per day, the same for each body type. The meal portions should be controlled though and sugars and high levels of fats should be avoided. Eating small and eating often will allow your body to digest the food that you eat completely before being served another portion. This gives the body an opportunity to sort through the fat and sugar you ate and burn it instead of storing it.

So remember, if you are an endomorph, be aware of your body type and adjust your exercise accordingly. There is no reason you cannot have lean, defined muscle, it is a very real possibility with some time and effort. Keep your motivation up and believe you can get there; I also recommend getting a workout partner so that you can keep each other going and help each other stay committed.

Myths: Soft Drinks Monday, November 10th, 2008

I promised to dispel some more myths and that is my goal for this week. There is a lot of knowledge floating around about the topic of health and fitness, some of it is right, some of it is partially right, and some of it is simply wrong. Today I am going to cover sports drinks.

Sports drinks such as Gatorade and PowerAde are full of slogans trying to get you to buy their product. A common selling point is that they contain essential electrolytes; this is true, but is nowhere near reason enough to buy the product. These products contain high amounts of sugar, which creates more harm than good. Electrolytes are nothing more than salts usually; so if you think you are lacking this nutrient, put some salt in some water and call it good, there are then no negative sugar effects. This might not be the best tasting alternative, but for most people there is no reason to consume extra electrolytes anyway because there are plenty of salts in our daily eating habits.

People who are training upwards of five hours per day should keep a careful eye on their salt content and will probably need to get some added electrolytes to their bodies. This is an extreme lifestyle and is not going to be done by the majority of us, so stop worrying about electrolytes.

Sports drinks are also known for their corrosive properties to tooth enamel, the protective layer covering your teeth. Most dentists detest these drinks and for good reason, the excessive amounts of sugar and artificial colors and other chemicals can wreak havoc on not only your body but also your teeth.

Vitamin water is another popular substitute for heavenly nectar, aka water. Vitamin water is a joke, an utter waste of money, unless you prefer the taste and added calories and spending money. For the lousy amount of vitamins actually contained in the water, you are basically paying for flavored water. In my opinion there is no better tasting drink on the planet than fresh mountain water. Now I realize that many people have to put up with city water, but here in Colorado even city water is fine.

Stop wasting money on drinks that live off of their advertising and good flavor; do not get caught up in the fad of thinking you are doing your body good by consuming these drinks.