Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Planes of Motion

Over the years I've earned personal training certifications with ISSA, ACE, and NASM. I learned a lot of good things from each organization, but I really like the emphasis that NASM puts on postural assessments and body movement. One area they focus on is different planes of motion and I'm not talking about Boeing. Below is a summary of the three planes of motion our bodies work within.

Sagittal- The sagittal plane divides the body down the middle into left and right halves. Exercises in this plane include walking, running, pushups, curls, lunges, rowing, squats, etc. (any type of activity that involves flexion and extension)

Frontal- The frontal plane divides the body into front and back. This involves abduction and adduction exercises. (sideways movements) Exercises that take place in this plane include lateral raises, shrugs, and jumping jacks.

Transverse- The transverse plane divides the body at the waist into upper and lower body sections. This deals with rotation types of movements. Common exercises include cable wood chopping, Russian twists, and swings for tennis and golf.

Some exercises will involve different planes of motion depending on how strict one's form is and if one is doing pullups or chin up variations instead.

The reason I like the emphasis on different planes of motion is because we do not move like robots. Think of a football running back starting and stopping and spinning as he jukes a defender or how dancers move. They are smooth and flowing and don't just move in one plane. Our bodies make fluid, twisting, compound movements, yet many people's exercise routines and most machines at the gym involve isolated movements that are dominant in the sagittal plane. I'm not bashing isolation exercises, I just think it is beneficial to incorporate some functional fitness into your workout too.

If we want to prevent injury and strengthen our bodies, then we should train them how they will be performing in real-life scenarios. Using multi-planar angles can help you work out in different planes of motion and give you a better rounded workout. If you are in the habit of doing only single plane exercises, then I'd encourage you to experiment with making variations to your exercises so your work out will better prepare you for real life movements and activities.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Portion Control Tips

"I can't believe I ate the whole thing."
Getting control over food portions can be one of the most important things you do to help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. Eating smaller portions is a simple habit that doesn't necessarily require counting calories.

Sometimes we have no discipline or common sense and we eat until we are completely stuffed much like a snake after it eats a large animal. (Sorry for the disgusting picture) This causes us to feel too full, bloated, and lethargic. We've all probably regretted eating too much at times like after having thirds for Thanksgiving dinner.

Here are some tips to help you eat smaller portions.

Use smaller plates- This might sound simple, but it works. I used to eat food like cereal and ice cream out of a large popcorn bowl. Using smaller plates and utensils is a great way to keep you from eating too much.

Eat slower and enjoy your food. Food is not the enemy. It should be savored and enjoyed by eating it slowly. Take you time to enjoy what you eat instead of inhaling it. Sit down to a table for meals instead of mindless eating while you drive or while watching TV.

Eat more frequently but eat smaller meals. Think of grazing throughout the day as opposed to gorging yourself and then going into hibernation. If you skip meals or wait too long between meals you may get really hungry and are more likely to overeat.

Dish up away from the table- If you have large containers of food within your reach you are more likely to help yourself to seconds or thirds. Don't serve and eat your food in the exact same spot.

Go heavy on the veggies- Fill most of your plate with salad or vegetables. It is a healthy alternative to the higher calorie entrees. If you want seconds, eat more salad, not the main dish.

Split a meal- My wife and I went to Texas Road house for our anniversary. We were shocked at how big the portions were. We could have easily split an entree and still been full. You can also ask your server to put half your meal in a doggy bag for later before you even start your meal.

Don't finish your plate- Despite what your parents told you, leaving a little food on your plate can be a good thing because it puts you in control. I still struggle with this one because I hate wasting food. When you leave a few bites on your plate it sends a subconscious signal that you are full, but it you lick your plate clean it says 'I'm still hungry."

Kids Meals- I am not advocating fast food, but if you are going to eat a hamburger, get a kids meal or a small item off the dollar menu instead of a large one. It may not be the healthiest option but it's the lesser of two evils.

Track your food intake- Over the years I have noticed that most people over estimate their activity level and under estimate their calorie consumption. One way to make sure what you think you are eating matches with reality is to track your food intake. These days it is easier than ever to track the food you eat with free software or apps like "My Fitness Pal."

Weight loss is impossible if you are consuming more calories than your body needs. One of the easiest things you can do to help the battle is to develop the habit of eating smaller food portions. If you control your portions, you can even afford to have the occasional dessert, or higher calorie foods that you love so you don't feel like you are depriving yourself.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Fitness vs. Athleticism

The basic components of physical fitness are cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, and body composition. It would be ideal to develop a balance in each of these areas, but most people have obvious strengths and weaknesses when it comes to these categories. Some people may meet the above criteria and be considered physically fit and healthy, yet may still not be very athletic.

In addition to being physically fit, an athlete's performance will be benefited by developing many of the following skills and components listed below. Depending on the sport or activity, one will want to focus on many of these specific skills. Developing these skills can make a huge difference to an athlete's performance.

Agility, Power, Strength, Speed, Quickness, Balance, Endurance, Flexibility, Reaction Time/Timing, Coordination, Stamina, Accuracy, Concentration, Experience, Competitiveness, and Mental Preparation.

I can't tell you how many times I've made the mistake of judging a book by it's cover. I once played basketball against an older guy who was very over weight, and only about 5'10". Despite his appearance, he went off for 30 points in the game and nobody could stop him. I saw him do the same thing all season long. At other times I've been in awe of amazing physical specimens, but the intimidation stopped when it became apparent that they could hardly dribble a ball and breathe at the same time.

Being physically fit may be more beneficial in the long run than developing specific athletic qualities, but as a society we certainly seem to value those who run the fastest, jump the highest, or lift the most weight, as opposed to just being healthy.

Another aspect of fitness to consider is the ability to stay healthy for the long haul. I'm sure you've seen professional athletes who retire and a few years later, they've let their bodies go to pot. Sometimes participating in athletic events can take a toll on your body. It's not uncommon for athletes to experience concussions, dislocations, and joint injuries that can slow them down later in life.

Longevity is another area to consider when contrasting fitness and athleticism. If I had the choice of setting world records in my 20's or being in good enough condition to compete in the senior games in my 70's or 80's, I'd take the latter because of the positive health implications later in life.

There are many physically fit people who are also great athletes, so it's not like you have to pick one or the other, but if you did, which would you value more, fitness or athleticism?