How swimming transformed my fitness program

photo by john ashworth

written by john c ashworth, ma, cscs, ces

Nothing has enhanced my energy, strength, vitality, and pain levels over the last year than my swim time in the pool. And before you go assuming that I possess a wildly aggressive swim regimen, let me tell you that the true secret to this new staple of my exercise program has been the consistency of it, and the combination of both cold water (~88 degrees) and warm water (~94 degrees).

About a year ago, my physical therapist at the time recommended I try the warm water pool to help address pain levels in my back that were related to an injury I had sustained. Yes, even trainers get injured. In fact, now that I’m 44 years old, I’m reminded almost every day about the pounding my body took as a highly competitive soccer player.

I soon started adding some cold water time with my warm water time over the first few months, and can now boast that for a year straight, I’ve been to the pool at least 3-4 days per week. Not bad.

The reason I decided to make this the topic for tonight’s segment on NBC with Leigh Mills is this…

Time in the pool holds many benefits. I’ve greatly improved my strength, my stamina, and my overall sense of well-being by making my loyal trips to the gym each week. The most compelling, however, is that time swimming in the pool accomplishes even more for someone like me (and likely you). The modern day over forty Bohemian Athlete trying to stay in shape in the context of a busy life, and inside a body that is always getting older, needs something like the pool for recovery and to help minimize impact on the body.

Here is my core list of swimming benefits.

First of all, your skin is your biggest bodily organ. So by covering yourself in the water for 15-30 minutes a day, you completely and almost immediately begin to calm down your nervous system, which helps tremendously with pain, stress, tightness and tension in the body. It also helps that when you dip yourself into the water, you unload your spinal discs by 40%. That’s why it feels so good so immediately 🙂

Secondly, strength throughout your entire body is built as you pull yourself through the water each day. And this not only makes you a lot stronger in a much more functional way, but it also builds a level of strength that you feel throughout your entire body from head to feet. As an example, I can’t believe how much stronger I feel now when I work with the stability ball now.

The third benefit I want to mention is what I now call the “Recovery Factor.” No one ever thinks enough about what they are doing to recover from their fitness regimen. Most people expect the body to automatically respond adequately to any training stimulus they provide. Of course this is not the case. You always need to consider what you are doing to recover, because it is in the process of recovery where you are building increased levels of health and fitness. Pool time aids in this process. I don’t swim long distances every time I’m in the pool. And in general, my swimming distances are not that impressive. I swim between 150 and 500 meters depending on how I’m feeling. And I either proceed or follow that with my warm water pool time. On Friday’s I look forward to adding strength training to this pool program at the end of the day. A vintage way of ending my week. I start with the strength training and then recover in the pool.

Lastly, and directly related to the first three…this combination of the relaxation effect, strength building, and recovery always leaves me feeling completely transformed for the rest of the day or evening. Yes. The rest of the day. This feeling is so powerful that I now look directly to my time in the water as a cure for the ailments that challenge all of us. Pain, stress, tightness, lack of exercise, and a means of elevating my heart rate that doesn’t beat up on my back and my joints.

OK, that’s it. What are you waiting for?

-John

 

 

Have we created a culture of “The Living Dead?”

written by john c ashworth, ma , cscs, ces

I wrote an article here a little more than a year ago about the death that trap sitting can become. In fact, Leigh Mills and I did a segment on that very topic and you can view that here if you like.

Today’s topic for our Friday Fitness Segment has a similar theme with a new twist.

Not Exercise, Activity throughout the day…

If you work a sedentary job during the day ask yourself the following question…”How many time do you get out of your chair during the day with the sole purpose of moving your body in a way that transforms the dormant death-like state that that results if you don’t?”  Probably not as much as you know you should, right?

I know all the talk about death probably seems a little over dramatic, but if you look closely inside the physiology of your body once you’ve sat for a couple hours, you would see that the dormant state your body takes on is not very life like.  For more on that, you can read my previous article on the subject.

Reinforcing the need for both exercise and increased levels of daily activity, in a recent study in the journal Preventive Medicine, researchers found that over 4 years, those who used cars daily for commuting tended to gain more weight than those who did not commute by car. In addition, the difference was even greater among those who were physically active during leisure time.  In other words, you need exercise AND increased levels of leisure time and work time activity in order to stay lean.

You mean exercise is not enough?

Well, it turns out that even if you exercise regularly, when you sit around too much for the rest of the day, you actually lose many of those benefits. All of the sitting has too powerful an effect on your body’s willingness to go into that hibernation-like state.

Even if you don’t want to or can’t cycle to work. And even if you are not exercising regularly now, the moral of this story is that you really do need to find ways to move more during the day. If you don’t, the weight stacks on over the years, you don’t age well, and you’re body quietly becomes ill.   Don’t allow this to happen to you.  All you have to do is get up and move!

You’ll feel better, I promise.

-John

 

Five ways to burn more calories at work and maybe lose a few pounds this year

written by john c ashworth

I went to an appointment yesterday inside a local office building and for some reason, it really struck me…

People do an awful lot of sitting around at work all day. I wonder what I might be able to do about that? I thought.

And here we are. This Friday Fitness Segment with Leigh Mills is devoted to five ways to burn more calories at work. And I won’t stop there. Because if nothing else changes, and you implement these strategies, you could lose a significant amount of weight yet this year.

Strategy 1: Drink More Water

Researchers estimate that in a year, a person who increases water intake by 1.5 liters a day would burn an extra 17,400 calories. This would have the potential to generate 5 pounds of weight loss. Interesting is that up to 40% of the increase in your metabolic rate is due to the body’s work to heat that water up. So, be sure to drink cold water 🙂

Strategy 2: Go for a 30 minute walk.

All else being equal, do this four times per week for 48 weeks out of the year and you will burn the equivalent in calories of 41 pounds of fat! You likely won’t lose that much, but what about even one third of that? OK, now we’re rolling.

Strategy 3: Find some stairs and use them

There is a Senator downtown here that I spoke with recently who has “never seen an elevator” at the state capital. Can you say the same about your own experience at work? And don’t just avoid the elevator, take a break at least twice per day and climb as many flights of stairs as you deem appropriate for that day. I haven’t done the math and may not have time, but the calorie burn and accumulation over the course of the year will add significantly to your new walking program 🙂

Strategy 4: Stretch

Yes. I know. Doesn’t sound like much, but you need to recover too, with all that walking and stair climbing going on every day. Stretching will help you do that and will help alleviate stress and tension in the body at work. Not to mention, it’s still a whole lot better than sitting in that chair. Come on…Get up!

Strategy 5: Push-ups

Secretly, underneath your desk if you have to. Just a few. And if you need to perform the modified version, or do them on a chair or against the wall or on the edge of a sturdy work table or desk, then do whatever it takes. Because these add up too, and most people ignore their strength training program, so even a few push-ups a day can go a real long way.

And, of course, if you’re not shy, don’t be afraid to crank out a few push-ups wherever the mood might strike you. Maybe the break room table. Your boss’s desk. The hallway. Yes. People will probably think you’re a little crazy, but they will secretly be wondering if this craziness might give them the same kind of energy you seem to have.

Have fun!

-John

Discover The Real “Secret” To Training Harder…

I’ve found that most people skip a good warm-up prior to their strength workouts.  Yes, they might get on the treadmill and walk for 15 minutes, but very little time is spent actively engaging muscle in a way that will maximize power production during workouts.

Why is This?

Mostly I think the reason is that just like with so many other small strategies in your health and fitness program, most people underestimate the physiological impact of a good solid warm-up.  Much in the same way they underestimate the impact of a nutrition program that contains that 2 to 1 carbohydrate to protein balance I’m always talking about.  Or about how important nutrition is in general.  But I digress…

In the end, most people get on the treadmill, the bike, or the elliptical trainer, move for about 5 to 15 minutes and call it a warm-up.

Today I want to share with you a warm-up I’ve implemented in my own fitness program, and that I plan on sharing tonight on NBC 15 with Leigh Mills.  It incorporates the stability ball, and would be a perfect addition to your 5 to 15 minute warm-up walk.

Warming up on the stability ball ramps up your physiology in three very important ways:

1. Working with the ball improves the mobility of your joints.  Especially as we all get older, constant management of our joint mobilization is essential for good training.  I’ve passed the age of 41 myself and at no other time in my life have I placed so much importance on a good warm-up and cool down.  If I skip either of them my training is affected in a negative way.  Lack of either or both of these important training strategies always leads to more soreness and pain, and less effective recovery.  All of which inevitably affects my next workout and the results I gain from my training.

2. Using the stability ball also activates your stabilizer muscles.  These are all of the small muscles that you can’t see in the mirror and that work all the time to keep your spine and joints aligned as you ‘move heavy stuff’ in the gym.  Your treadmill walk doesn’t activate these muscles the way a small amount of work on the stability ball does.  All of which allows you to lift heavier.  And lifting heavier is the key to building not only strength, but two of life’s most precious assets – your muscle and bone.

3. Working with the stability ball also helps build flexibility in your muscles.  Do you remember the phrase I gave you a year or so ago in a previous segment?

That’s right, Length is strength!

Longer muscles are able to generate more force.  Longer muscles also recover more efficiently, and are less prone to injury.  It is vital to remember that all this strength work is great stuff, but that it is also shortens your muscle tissue.  If you’re not doing anything on a regular basis to lengthen your muscles, soon you may be all rolled up into a little sphere – kind of like one of those rubber band balls…

Tune in tonight on NBC 15 here in Madison, WI.  I’ll be demonstrating a short warm-up routine I created using the stability ball.  It involves about 10 different moves that can be done in one continuous string of strength and stability, and will leave you stronger than you’ve ever been for your next workout and for every workout after that if you keep it up.

If you miss the segment, tune back to this blog over the weekend and look for the archived video at the top of this post.

Have a great weekend!

John

PS  The Nomad Kick Start program has already sold out in April.  If you would like to lock in a spot in May, I suggest you go right now to http://www.NomadKickStart.com to lock-in your spot.  If you don’t want to wait that long, we are also currently accepting applications for our semi-private training program.  You can find more information about that program here: http://www.madisonpersonaltraining.com/semi-private-training.html

PSS Two weeks from today I will start an 8-week Yoga program that will meet on Fridays from noon to 1:30 PM every Friday.  I have one spot left in this program for the right person.  If you’re interested in this program, don’t call the studio and don’t send email.  Call me directly at my personal office at 608-663-5045.

5 Musts for Your Winter Time Exercise Habit – As Seen on Channel 15 News on 1/15/2009

Alright, it’s damn cold out there right now.
In fact at 10:30 PM on Thursday night it’s a
whopping -10 degrees with a wind chill at -27.
No one’s going outside right now, except to
see what it’s like 🙂

This weekend, however, when the weather
warms into the 20s, it will be time to get back
outside for all of the winter fun and games.

Before you do that though, check out these
5 tips for staying warm and safe. I will be
covering these in detail on Channel 15 news
Friday at 5 PM. And you should know that these
segments have become so popular that they have
moved them up in the line-up to 5:05 PM! So,
get home and tune in, or at least check it out
at the top of this blog over the weekend or on
Monday.


5 Musts for Your Winter Time Exercise Habit

Winter comes and we all spend more time
inside. It’s cold. The days are shorter,
and let’s face it, there’s nothing like
curling up by a nice fire and reading a book
on a cold and snowy day.

The problem is that our winter hibernation
has the potential of quelling even the most
avid fitness enthusiast.

So, fold up that blanket you have wrapped
around you, put on a warm coat and stocking
cap, get outside, and get moving, or
shoveling, or whatever it takes.

Outdoor winter exercise is a sure cure for
cabin fever and your winter blues. It will
double your energy level and boost your
immune system as well. Studies show that
moderate exercisers get 20 to 30 percent
fewer colds than non exercisers do.

But before you go, here are 5 things you MUST
keep in mind for your winter exercise
routine:

1. Lay it on, baby!

One of the biggest mistakes cold-weather
exercisers make is overdressing. When
exercising outside, you have the potential of
generating so much heat that it will actually
feel 30 degrees warmer than it actually is.

This can result in a quick chill when you are
finished, leaving you very little time to get
back inside before you get too cold.

The solution is to dress in layers that you
can remove and replace as needed.

Start with a thin layer of synthetic material
such as polypropylene, which draws sweat away
from your body. Avoid cotton, which stays wet
next to your skin. And try fleece for
insulation.

Top this with a waterproof, breathable outer
layer. A heavy down jacket or vest is a
terrible choice, because it will cause most
people to overheat.

Also, once the temperature dips below 10
degrees, you should really wear a face mask
of some kind for protection from the wind.

2. Protect your extremities.

When it’s cold, blood is shunted to your
body’s core, leaving your hands and feet
vulnerable to frostbite. Try wearing a thin
pair of gloves under a pair of heavier gloves
or mittens lined with wool or fleece. You
might want to buy exercise shoes a half-size
larger than usual to allow for thick thermal
socks or an extra pair of regular socks. And
don’t forget a hat or headband. Remember, 30
to 40 percent of your body heat is lost
through your head.

3. Remember sunscreen.

It’s as easy to get sunburned in winter as in
summer. In fact, it’s often worse in winter
due to the sun’s reflection off the snow
and/or when exercising at higher altitudes.

Make sure and wear a sunscreen that blocks
both UVA and UVB rays and has an SPF of at
least 15 or higher. Use a lip balm that
contains sunscreen, and protect your eyes
from snow and ice glare with dark glasses or
goggles.

4. Pay attention to wind chill.

The wind can penetrate your clothes and
remove the insulating layer of warm air that
surrounds your body. Fast motion such as
skiing, running, cycling or skating also
creates wind chill because it increases air
movement past your body.

When the temperature is 10 F (-12.2 C) and
the air is calm, skiing at 20 miles an hour
creates a wind chill of minus 9 (-22.8 C). If
the temperature dips well below zero (-17.8
C), choose an indoor activity instead.

5. Drink plenty of fluids.

Drink water or sports drinks before, during
and after your workout even if you’re not
thirsty. You can become just as dehydrated in
the cold as in the heat from sweating,
breathing and increased urine production.

Click Here for Immediate Access to Your Nomad Fluid Pyramid