Tuesday, November 29, 2016

How to Design the Best Fitness Plan for You Part 1: the Eight Basics for Optimum Fitness

There's a lot of diverse information out there about fitness plans – and that's putting it mildly!

For one thing, exercise science is a rapidly evolving field that's learning new things about our bodies all the time. For another, fitness is a huge business, and it can seem like everyone and their uncle has a different routine that you just have to try.

Given all the competing voices talking about health and fitness, looking to the Internet for information about fitness plans can feel kind of like trying to get a sip of water from Niagara Falls.

With that in mind, I'm creating a series of posts with lots of health and fitness basics to make your life easier. We started a few weeks ago with How to Choose the Right Personal Trainer for You.

Next up, it's time to start talking about how to create a fitness plan that will really work for you. With that in mind, here are the eight basic components to create your optimum health and fitness:

  1. Strength training: Whether you choose to work with resistance machines, free weights, or body weight exercises, strength training is literally an essential building block of optimum health and fitness. The lean muscle mass we build through strength training helps promote a healthy weight because muscle burns more calories than fat. Not only that, but strength training also promotes bone density, and there's even evidence that it helps prevent disease.
  2. Cardio training: Exercise that raises our heart rate for an extended block of time – vigorous walking, running, dancing, and more – strengthens our hearts and lungs. Additionally, cardio exercise can reduce stress, provides temporary relief when we're depressed, promotes brain health, and helps us sleep better.
  3. Nutrition: Just like you wouldn't put Regular gas into a high-performance engine, it's a bad idea to put junk into your body if you want to achieve optimum fitness. On the other hand, you can do wonders for your body just by eating the right foods!
  4. Flexibility: Stretching to increase our flexibility increases blood flow to our muscles – which, in turn, makes our muscles perform better. In addition, increased flexibility through stretching helps prevent injuries – which makes everything from cardio and strength training to everyday activities easier and more enjoyable.
  5. Balance: Good balance isn't something that just happens – just like all the other essentials of a solid fitness plan, our sense of balance needs to be trained and reinforced. In return, balance training prevents falls and other injuries that can have a hugely negative impact on our overall health and fitness.
  6. Stress management: Both positive and negative stress have so many impacts on our overall health and fitness that I could (and probably will) devote an entire article to the importance of stress management alone! For the moment, it's enough to say that stress management techniques are good for our heart rates, blood pressure, and immune systems.
  7. Posture: Proper posture does everything from preventing spinal injuries to supporting our internal organs. At the same time, most people spend the majority of our waking hours engaged in activities that are absolutely horrible for our posture – and that's why exercises to counteract the effects of these activities and improve our posture are a hugely important part of any fitness plan.
  8. Sleep: When we don't get enough sleep, or enough good sleep, we pay for it. Sleep is vitally important for everything from our immune systems to preventing obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

Looking over the eight basics that are essential to a solid fitness plan, you've probably noticed that they all work together. Proper posture, for example, makes cardio and strength training much easier. Good nutrition, other things, lets our bodies get the most possible benefit from the exercise we do. Meanwhile, exercise is a great part of any plan for stress management – while managing stress well frees up energy that, in return, allows us to enjoy our workouts.

All eight basics, put together correctly, create a fitness plan that will go a long way to keeping you healthy and fit for life. But how do you put them together? That's the topic for our next post in this series.

Looking for help to start creating and working your fitness plan right now? Here are some options:

Check out Better Living Fitness' personal trainers and consider signing up for a FREE initial consultation. Every Better Living Fitness trainer has the training and experience to help you create the right plan to help you achieve your health and fitness goals.

Look into the list of classes at Better Living Fitness Center and consider becoming a member. Some of our fitness classes will help you focus on just one or two of the eight basics outlined in this post, while others – notably, Full Body Fit – combines exercises to improve your strength, cardio fitness, posture, AND flexibility.

***Image courtesy Jurgen Appelo via Flickr.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

5 Tips for a Healthy and Fit Thanksgiving

You Can Have Your Turkey (and Stuffing) – and Your Fitness, Too!

Welcome to the winter holiday season – the most challenging season of all for those of us who are working on our nutrition and overall fitness!

Between short, colder days and your great aunt's incredible Thanksgiving stuffing, it's really no wonder so many of us struggle with our health and fitness plans this time of the year.

But there is hope, and a lot of it. You don't have to choose between severely limiting your enjoyment of Thanksgiving (not to mention the holiday treats to follow) or giving up your fitness and nutrition plans until January.

There is a better way – a way to have your turkey (and your great aunt's stuffing) and to maintain the progress on your health and fitness that you've worked so hard to achieve up to now.

To kick the holiday season off right for your body and your taste buds, here are five tips to help you have your Thanksgiving dinner and maintain your waistline, too:

  1. Exercise before -- and after: If you're a Better Living Fitness Center member, come on in for Full Body Fit at 5:30 this Wednesday and either the 9:30 am Cardio and Core (if you want to get up early) or our 12:30 pm Full Body Fit class on Friday. But don't stop there! Even a brisk walk before you sit down to that heavy, groaning Thanksgiving table will leave you feeling less full and groaning after you eat. Click here for our fitness class schedule.
  2. Eat breakfast: It might be tempting to “save up” your appetite for Thanksgiving dinner, but hitting the table extra hungry will make it much harder to avoid overeating. Instead, have a good-sized breakfast tomorrow morning to keep your metabolism higher throughout the day – but not just any breakfast. Go with a higher-protein, low carb start to your day: for example, Egg Beaters with onions and peppers (maybe with a bit of low fat cheese), and a side of a low-glycemic fruit like berries.
  3. Use smaller serving spoons: Thanksgiving dinner isn't a normal meal –
    it's more like a buffet, because there are so many wonderful foods to choose from. By using smaller serving spoons you can still have a taste of everything, without taking a full-size portion of each yummy thing you want to try.
  4.  Take your time: On average, Americans spend five hours preparing Thanksgiving dinner – and only thirteen minutes eating it! Eating quickly is a sure way to overeat. On the other hand, taking our time doesn't just allow us to know when we're getting close to having enough – it also gives us space to savor the special Thanksgiving textures and flavors. Besides, doesn't it make sense to bring up the average time we spend eating the meal when our loved ones spend so much time making it for us?
  5. Try on a new family tradition: Thanksgiving may be America's big eating holiday, but that doesn't mean dinner needs to be the only focus of the day! If the people you're celebrating the holiday with are open to the idea, try to
    schedule something fun in addition to your dinner. Take a walk together in a nearby park, play some touch football, or even bring out the board games or a deck of cards for awhile. Physical activities are obviously best from the perspective of your overall health and fitness, but anything fun that distracts people from the constant temptation to eat (and eat, and eat…) will help.

Thanksgiving is just the first holiday of an entire season that encourages us to fill our plates and overfill our bellies. The good news, though, is that you don't have to choose between feeling left out or rooting through your closet for your old pair of “fat pants.” Add a few extra exercise sessions, enjoy Thanksgiving dinner and the season's other tasty foods in moderation, and you'll be in great shape to start reaching for even bigger health and fitness goals come January!

...and remember, the entire staff at Better Living is here for you. Contact us today for whatever support you might want to help you get through the holidays with your health and fitness intact, from nutrition counseling to personal training sessions. We're here to help!

Here's wishing you and yours a happy, healthy, and love-filled Thanksgiving day!

Photos courtesy churl, Peter Barker, and Nathan Rupert via Flickr

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

A Passion for Fitness Results: Introducing Better Living Fitness Trainer Jesse Richards

Jesse Richards' career as a personal trainer and fitness expert started with a cadaver.

He admits that this sounds a bit creepy, but as a student at Hope College, Jesse took an anatomy class – a class that included a visit to Hope College's cadaver lab.

And while some people might have found the experience uncomfortable, Jesse says it inspired him to learn everything he could about how our bodies work.

“I decided I wanted a greater understanding of how God created us, and to learn the purpose of each of our muscles, organs, tendons, and joints,” he says.
Jesse with Better Living Fitness Client Joey Mullick

Jesse followed his passion all the way to a Bachelor's degree in Exercise Science. Along the way, he was selected for internships as a strength and conditioning trainer for student athletes at Hope College, Oakland University, and the University of Michigan.

Today, Jesse says, he loves working with Better Living Fitness clients because he's thrilled when his clients achieve the results they're looking for.

“When I was working with student athletes I had a huge passion for athletics and seeing my students get results on and off the field,” he says.

“As a personal trainer, my passion has shifted. Instead of helping a swimming star improve their time by a few seconds, now I get to help people heal injuries that have bothered them for years – and I get to be there when one of my clients, who hasn't been able to lose a pound in ten years, is able to drop twenty pounds.”

While he doesn't currently have any athletes as personal training clients, Jesse says he works with a wide range of people, from folks who are athletic to others who have never exercised before. But whether a new client is a weekend-warrior athlete or a member of Couch Potatoes Anonymous, Jesse says that he particularly loves working with people who are motivated to reach their goals and willing to try new things to help them reach those goals.

In addition to working with clients, Jesse's favorite aspect of working at Better Living Fitness is our team approach to helping clients with their health and fitness.

“Every one of the trainers on the Better Living staff has different areas of expertise, so we can help each other out. If I have a client with an issue I haven't seen before, I can bring that issue up in one of our staff meetings – and someone else will have an answer that I can use to help my client succeed,” he says.

“This team approach is pretty different from any place else I've worked as a personal trainer.”

Work out with Jesse: click here to schedule your first personal training
Jesse with Better Living Fitness client Dawn Weirauch

Take a class with Jesse: Jesse teaches Full Body Fit on Thursdays at 5 pm, and CVT at 8:15 am on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Check out our memberships, which include these fitness classes, here.

Monday, October 31, 2016

How to Choose the Right Personal Trainer for You: 4 Quick Questions

There are a lot of personal trainers, and companies that offer personal trainers, here in Ann Arbor. I did a quick Google search for “personal trainer Ann Arbor,” just to see what would happen, and got over 200,000 results!

Obviously, there's no way our town has over 200,000 personal trainers – not counting home football game days, the entire population of Ann Arbor is only a bit over 100,000. But, after quickly scrolling through my search results, I think it's safe to say that Ann Arbor offers well over 100 individual trainers specializing in helping clients with their health and fitness goals.

With all of those options, just finding the right personal trainer could start feeling like a workout by itself.

To make the process easier and let you start your fitness program faster, here are four questions to help you choose the right personal trainer for you:

1. How much training and education does the trainer have? The State of Michigan doesn't have licensing requirements for personal trainers, but most if not all fitness centers require their employees to have at least one certification. In addition, there are several community college and university degrees (both at the Bachelors and Masters level) that would-be fitness professionals can pursue.

As a general rule, the more education a trainer has, the more able they will be to help you meet your goals while avoiding injuries in the process.

Also, while degrees are wonderful, don't discount experience! For example, two of Better Living's trainers, Mallory and Jodi, collectively have over 30 years' experience as personal trainers in addition to their certifications. 

2. How much ongoing education is the trainer involved in? Exercise science is changing almost daily as research tells us more about our bodies and what they need to be healthy and fit. To get the best results from your fitness plan, it's best to find a trainer who keeps up to date on these developments.

3. What are the trainer's specialty or specialties? If you're a 50 year old woman who just wants to make sure you'll be able to walk and carry your own groceries when you're 80, you don't necessarily want to work with a personal trainer who specializes in getting people ready for triathlons. At the same time, a trainer who is all about functional fitness may not be the best choice to help you train for your first marathon.

4. How willing is the trainer to customize a program so that you'll not only meet your goals but also enjoy the process? As a rule, any solid health and fitness program will include exercises to increase your strength, cardiovascular health, and flexibility – but there's a lot of “wiggle room” within that rule to cater to people who love some specific exercises but who can't stand (or can't do) others.

Deciding to start a health and fitness program is a big decision. So is choosing a fitness professional to help you achieve your goals. But finding the right personal trainer for you doesn't have to be that difficult. First, decide what you want to accomplish. Then, using the four questions above, narrow your search.

With all the personal training options that Ann Arbor offers, it shouldn't be that hard for most people to find the right fit.

Looking for specific help in selecting a personal trainer to help you achieve your goals – or help defining your goals in the first place? Give us a call (734-747-0123)  or send us an email and we'll be happy to help!