04-04-2016

5 Things You Should Know Before Starting WeightWatchers

I just finished up month 2 of WeightWatchers and I love it! I have lost 7 lbs so far, and I’m pretty happy with that. Especially since I’ve had multiple weekends where I stopped counting points because I’ve been out with friends, etc. The main thing it has taught me is portion control. Turns out I was majorly overeating before. And the actual portion size of pasta still makes me sad…

I wanted to share with you all a few things about WeightWatchers, and hope it might be helpful if you’re considering joining or know someone who is. I love it and for some reason it has much easier for me (and holds me more accountable) than simply counting calories. I really can’t explain why but I think it’s so much easier this way, even though I realize it’s essentially the same thing.

The main thing I like is that you count your points and have a set number of points for each day, AND you get bonus weekly points so you can splurge a little on things you want. So anyway, here are 5 things you should know before starting WeightWatchers:

Here are 5 Things You Should Know Before Starting WeightWatchers | http://reach-yourpeak.com

You might be really hungry in the beginning

There is definitely an adjustment period, which can be said for any new nutrition plan you might start (IIFYM, Paleo, Whole30, counting calories, etc.). Especially if you have been overeating, like I was. I felt like I was always hungry, and still starving after my dinners. But that goes away in a week or so. Your stomach needs time to adjust. When you’re hungry, eat some fruit if you need to, which is 0 points. Nowadays, I find that I can stick with 3 meals and 1 snack before a workout, whereas in the past I would have a snack every 2 hours or so. Not that there is a problem with that, but if you’re trying to lose weight, it’s important to know what your total daily intake is, no matter what plan you’re on.

There’s a new points system

I did WeightWatchers in the past with their PointsPlus system and liked that, but now they’re using SmartPoints which is even better. When calculating points, it takes into account protein and sugar. So if something is high in protein, it will lower the points value (since we know chicken, fish, etc. are great sources of protein and should be encourage), and if something is high in sugar, it will really up the points value. I used to buy the WeightWatchers mini cakes and snacks (because I have a major sweet tooth) and loved that they were only 2 points for a little mini carrot cake. However, now those cakes are 4-5 points…so not worth it! There is more to this new point system I’m sure I’m leaving out, but I wasn’t an avid user in the past so I don’t know everything that has changed.

Activity points doesn’t mean you can eat more

This is another aspect of the new points system that a lot of people had opinions on. In the past, if you exercised, you were able to eat back those points. So if running was 5 activity points, I had 5 extra points daily to eat. Now, activity points don’t count towards food. WeightWatchers wrote on their FAQ page:

In a nutshell, no. Exercise doesn’t cancel out food choices, so moving shouldn’t be an excuse to eat more. If you don’t do any exercise at all, you can still lose weight on the Your Way Program. But doing both is of course optimal. Watching your FitPoints™ add up and hitting your weekly exercise goal can be great motivators and there are so many health benefits to gain from regular activity.  

However, if you’re doing high-intensity workouts (for example, training for a marathon or attending multiple spin classes) at least three to four times a week, you might want to swap some of your FitPoints™ for food to account for the amount of energy you’re expending. 

At first I was like, “But I exercise daily I need extra calories!” But like everything else, you adjust. Now if I will be exercising twice in one day and hour long sessions or more, I don’t feel guilty about eating extra, and that’s what those weekly bonus points are for anyway. I think what they say makes sense, and I know I’ve been guilty of thinking runing 45 minutes means I can eat extra…when in reality those 45 minutes only burn 300-400 extra calories. 

There’s a great support system

There are many online forums for WeightWatchers users, but the app itself has its own social media platform. It’s a great way to connect with like minded people and get any questions answered from other users. You can upload photos as well, and it’s almost liek a combination of Facebook and Instagram. The WeightWatchers website has a lot of resources and recipes to help get you started. And of course, you can find a myriad of recipes on Pinterest! Oh also, the app gives a lot of values for popular restaurants. You might be shocked to know how many points some of your favorite entrees have. I was when I found out French Onion Soup is around 20 or so (insert crying emoji).

It’s flexible and non-restrictive 

I think this is my favorite part of it. I can’t believe that even with weekends of drinking and eating whatever, I’ve still lost 7 lbs. in 2 months. I mean, I’m also exercising but I haven’t been able to lose weight in  years and have just been stagnant. Since you get weekly bonus points (around 28) it really allows you be flexible and still indulge. I usually try to save almost all of those for weekends when I know I will be going out with friends. Or you can also have extra points daily if you want to have that sweet treat after dinner or a glass of wine :) According to WeightWatchers, even if you use all of your weekly bonus points, you should still lose weight.

So that’s that! I will continue to use WeightWatchers until I hit my goal…another 10-12 lbs. to go! It has taught me good portion control and even when I’m out and not tracking, I still know how much I should be eating and about how many points everything has. 

What do you think about not counting activity points towards extra calories/food points?

Do you find you eat more when you workout and justify with “Well, I worked out today sooo….” :)

*****************************

Follow Reach Your Peak: 

03-21-2016

5 Yoga Tips For Beginners

Happy Monday! I know I haven’t been writing as often but things have been pretty hectic. But I will be trying to write more regularly this week.

Today I wanted to talk about yoga. Last week I went to yoga classes and I really want to try to keep going more often. I always prefer running or spinning to yoga but after I leave a yoga class I’m always thinking, “wow I really need to go more.”

I did have strength class last week with my sister and really loved it….and even learned how to do a variation of compass pose! I really didn’t think I was going to be able to do that at all.

My sister was kind of nervous to go to this class because she’s only done one or two yoga classes before. And that’s why I wanted to write this post. I wanted to give some insight to fellow newbie yogi’s since I am one as well. So here are a few tips and insight before you go to your first or one of your first few classes.

Just starting yoga? Here are 5 yoga tips for beginners! | http://reach-yourpeak.com

Don’t Be Intimidated

It can be scary to go to a class thinking that you’ll be the only one who can’t do certain things or that you’ll be surrounded by super flexible people. And while you might be surrounded by super flexible people (like I am in my class) it’s totally OK. Yoga classes are so open and accepting and that’s why I really love them. No matter what your ability is, the instructor will help you and talk you through poses. My instructor was very hands-on and adjusting my feet making sure they were the right width apart along with showing me how to properly do exercises so I don’t get hurt. She also spoke with my sister and I after class about how to do certain things to aid our neck pain and wrist pain. Your yoga instructors should make you feel comfortable and excited to continue learning and practicing.

Be Ready To Sweat

While yoga might seem like this relaxing meditative thing (and obviously some classes can be), you should also be ready to sweat. We went through a flow in my strength yoga class that had me dripping in sweat all within just a few minutes. Make sure you bring water to your class along with a towel if you sweat a lot like I do. An extra towel on your yoga mat can also help with hand grip if your hands start sliding.

You Might Get Gassy

This might be a little TMI but gotta throw it out there. I asked Christine of Love, Live, Surf about this (she is a yoga instructor) and she assured me it’s totally normal. In yoga classes, since you’re doing a lot of twisting and inversions, you might start feeling a little bit gassy. And obviously that can be embarrassing. I really don’t have a solution to this but just know that it’s a possibility haha. Christine said that instructors really don’t think anything of it and my thorough Google searches confirms that. But obviously that doesn’t make it any less embarrassing!

Use Props

Props are there for a reason such as blocks blankets and straps. Don’t be afraid to use them. Those aren’t just for the more experienced yogi’s. Those props can help you get into poses and in better alignment during poses. For example, I still can’t do triangle pose, so I use a block so I’m able to get to where I can as opposed to forcing my body to stretch beyond its abilities.

You Can Always Go To Child’s Pose

Whenever you feel like you need a break or you’re not comfortable with a pose you can always go into child’s pose. Instructors encourage that and should remind you of that throughout the practice. I really love this because if I can’t do something or I’m just feeling tired, I will go into child’s pose for a few seconds to catch  my breath. Child’s pose is such a great restorative pose and something you should add to your regular routine as it is! I love doing it after runs.

I really do want to go to yoga classes more often and I need to make that commitment. I even ordered myself a Jade Yoga Mat! It’s a bit pricier than any yoga mat I have had but I love how grippy and cushioned it is.

So now I just need to actually make it to classes! My goal is 2 times a week. It’s just so hard balancing running, cycling, yoga and strength training. But I also know that if I am able to do all of these things now it will make me much stronger for when marathon training starts in July.

How do you balance multiple types of exercises during your half marathon or marathon training? Share your schedule with me please so I can get some ideas!

*****************************

Follow Reach Your Peak: 

02-03-2016

My First Week Of WeightWatchers + My Grocery Store Picks

So I started WeightWatchers last week…and so far have lost 3 lbs.!! I have done WeightWatchers in the past but I was just calculating points based on calculators I found online. This time I decided to join the plan in order to get recipe ideas from them as well as their handy dandy app. Plus, I only really stuck with it for 3 weeks last time.

This time, I’m determined to lose at least 15 lbs. by summer. I just have not been feeling great about myself and need to lose fat. I store fat in my midsection which is even worse (this is the worst place to store fat).

Anyway, I decided to join WW with a friend. They’ve changed their point system to account more for added sugars and protein, which I really like. For example, one of their carrot cake snacks used to be 2 pts. and now it is 4. I think it’s important for people to cut down on their sugar intake.

So like I said, I lost 3 lbs in week one! This is a combination of my diet as well as working out way more than I have in recent times. I’ve been trying to do spin in the mornings and run in the evenings, though sometimes I run before spin, or I’ll do a run, then one of Ride & Reflect‘s 30/30 classes (30 min. spin and 30 min. yoga). This may seem like a lot but I have hit a plateau and knew I needed to switch things up and do more. I think many people, such as myself in the past, grossly overestimate how much they are burning in, let’s say, a 4-5 mile run…which leads to eating more, which leads to not losing weight.

I was running consistently, but definitely overeating. Here are a few things I’ve learned so far with WW:

  • My portions were too big. The first few days I was shocked by how “little” I was eating…definitely was not supposed to be eating that much pasta :) but I always justified it with, “I just worked out, I can eat this for dinner.”
  • When I’m tracking my food, I have more motivation to say no to things. I went to Starbucks and really wanted something, but all their snacks were at least 10 points or more! I knew that would leave me with very little for the rest of the day, so I said no.
  • Drinking tea helps. I’m sure you’ve all heard this, but drinking tea can help with cravings. So now before bed I drink this detox tea I bought, or a lemon ginger tea for digestion.

I’m really liking the program so far. I needed much more accountability with nutrition, and this is helping me stay on track. For some reason, if I’m just tracking calories on my own in MyFitnessPal, I just am not as motivated. Oh, I also got a food scale which I love! It’s been eye-opening seeing the actual portion sizes of things, like chicken or beef.

One last thing: I posted a new YouTube video on my channel today! It’s just a quick video of some of my favorite picks at the grocery store. Check it out:

And lastly, don’t forget to sign up for my 5 day fitness challenge! 5 days of workouts sent right to your inbox and one lucky winner will win a PlantFusion prize pack! You can sign up below:

Sign up for the 5 Day Fitness Challenge!

* indicates required

 



Let me know if you sign up!

Have you ever tried WeightWatchers or a similar program?

What is harder for you, consistent exercise or consistent healthy nutrition?

*****************************

Follow Reach Your Peak: 

02-01-2016

3 Reasons Exercise Programs Fail & How To Overcome Them

It’s February 1st! A new month…a clean slate…

Did you know that a third of those who make New Year’s Resolutions don’t even make it to the end of January? We need to stay strong and committed as a new month rolls in!

Many people make resolutions to be healthier, work out more, etc. So why do they fall off within a month or two? That’s what I wanted to talk about today AND invite you to participate in a FREE 5 day fitness challenge that starts next week, so we can hold each other accountable and motivate each other. I’ll talk about that more in a bit.

Here are 3 reasons why exercise programs fail, and how to overcome them. + a FREE 5 day fitness challenge to re-ignite your goals and motivation! | http://reach-yourpeak.com

Getting to the gym is a hassle

For many people, in the beginning they’re going to the gym every day, and then it starts to taper off. Why? Because getting to the gym might be a hassle. If you’re going after work, you might have to sit in traffic to get there. If you’re going in the morning, you might opt out because you don’t want to lug your work clothes, towel, shampoo, etc. for the post-workout shower. These small annoyances might start leading to, “I’ll just go tomorrow.” Here are a few ways to get back on track:

  • On days you get out of work late, or you wake up not wanting to drive to the gym, do an at-home workout video. Even if it’s just 15 minutes, it is better than nothing, and you’ll feel great. I love Fitness Blender on YouTube for home workouts.
  • Sign up for fitness classes. I’ve been staying consistent with my morning cycling classes because if I cancel I have to pay $20. When you have a commitment, you’re more apt to go. A second idea is to schedule a workout time with a friend…you can’t bail on your friends!
  • Create your own dumbbell workout routine that you can do at home. I wrote more about creating a full-body routine here.

Gym equipment is confusing

Alright so maybe you get to the gym, but then what? There are so many pieces of equipment, how do you know which to use OR if you’re even using them properly? This overload can cause some to feel intimidated and stop going to the gym all-together. Check out the link above on how to create your own routine. You can also use sites like bodybuilding.com that have a ton of workout plans and show how to do each exercise. My advice is to just stick to dumbbells or kettlebells. You can get a great workout with just those pieces of equipment, and oftentimes a BETTER workout than using a machine.

No accountability

If you’re trying to go at this alone, it will get tough at times. Even though I train with my mom, there are days I dread going to the gym or running. And that is even with a workout partner, so I can’t imagine if I didn’t have her! You need people to hold you accountable. Find someone to go to the gym with or run with a few times a week. Tell yourself you can only do X if you go to the gym that day (watch Netflix, get a manicure…whatever you think will work for you!). It doesn’t necessarily have to be a workout buddy either. Tell people about your goals and ask them to check in with you. When you know that people know what you’re working towards, you’re more apt to actually achieve those goals. Which is why my 5 day fitness challenge is perfect for you if you want accountability…we will all be checking in with each other and supporting each other!

So what will this 5 Day Fitness Challenge entail?

  • Daily 15 min. workout videos by me, sent to you for 5 days so you can work out right at home (and you only need dumbbells)!
  • PDF printables of the workouts in case you want to do it at the gym.
  • Instagram hashtag so you can connect with other challenge members and support each other.

AND

  • PRIZES! One lucky winner will win a PlantFusion prize pack with 1 full-size PlantFusion product of their choice (Thanks PlantFusion!). PlantFusion is a plant-based protein powder (which I love) that is perfect for smoothies and post-workout recovery shakes.

So here are the quick details:

WHEN: Feb. 8 – Feb 14

HOW DO I SIGN UP: Click below and enter your email to sign up. I will send you all the details before Feb. 8 so you’re ready to hit the ground running!



 
Leave a comment below and let me know if you signed up! :)
 
 
What do you think is a reason many people “fall off the resolution wagon” come Feb. or March?
What steps do you take to make sure you stay strong and committed?

*****************************

Follow Reach Your Peak: 

01-26-2016

Indoor Cycling Tips For Beginners

Guys…I seriously am obsessed with my cycling classes. Before I start, apparently they aren’t actually called “spin” classes because that is trademarked. So from here on out, I’ll refer to it as cycling (or try to remember to refer to it as cycling).

But anyway, I have been loving taking cycling classes at Ride + Reflect in Bernardsville, NJ. I remember taking cycling classes before and counting down the minutes until it was over (mainly because it was so hard for me), but these classes fly by. The instructors are great and push you hard, the playlists pump you up, and before you know it, the workout is over.

I’ll admit, that first class I took (and it was only a 30 min. class) was hard. I was like, “how will I survive 45 minutes of this??” But, as with any exercise such as running or lifting weights for the first time, the first day will always be hard. Once you get over that hump, you’ll feel great and get stronger each class.

While I’m obviously no expert (this is only me second month of classes at Ride + Reflect), I wanted to write a few tips for those who might want to start cycling or tried it but didn’t love it at first. If you’re a runner, check out my previous post about how cycling can make you faster.

Here are 5 indoor cycling tips for beginners. Don't be afraid to take a class - it's a killer workout! | http://reach-yourpeak.com

Dress Appropriately

You will be sweating a lot. I need 2 towels on the handlebars to wipe my sweat (but I also sweat more than the average person…or at least I think so). You definitely want to be wearing a sweat wicking shirt as opposed to cotton. Go for capris or longer shorts too. I wore shorter spandex shorts once and they were riding up the whole time and distracting. I love UnderArmour and Nike tops for any workout. My favorite is actually Coach Marc’s TrainWithMarc team shirts (by Nike). I swear I sweat buckets and that shirt stays dry(ish). He sells tanks too.

Ask For Help

Don’t be afraid to tell the instructor it’s your first class. In fact, do it! The instructor will help you set up your bike specifically to your height and other factors. The great thing about Ride + Reflect is that they write down your specifications, so whenever you walk into the class, your bike is already set up for you. I know many places don’t do that, so write down your numbers or keep it in a note on your phone so that you remember. Having the right seat height is really important, especially to prevent knee strain. Same with handlebar placement and seat placement (forward or back). Also, by telling the instructor, they will give you tips on the class, fill you in on the link (position 2, position 3, etc.), and make you feel more comfortable.

Cycling Terminology

Let’s talk more about the terminology I used above…though if you don’t remember this, no worries, your instructor will fill you in. Here are a few different things you might hear:

  • Position 2: This means you’re out of the saddle (aka standing up) with your hands on the handlebars closest to you.
  • Position 3: Out of the saddle with your hands farthest away from you on the handlebars. Back is flat, hips are back.
  • RPMS: Rotations per minute. If your bike has a screen, it will flash RPMs. Usually instructors give you a range, like, “Ok you want to be around 90-100 RPMs.” Don’t worry if you can’t hit their numbers, I sometimes can’t either, but it gives you a goal to work towards.
  • Resistance: Cycling bikes come with a knob or lever to increase resistance, or how hard your legs have to work to turn the wheel. Instructors will tell you to increase resistance to go “up a hill” or increase resistance and keep the same RPMs. The higher the resistance, the harder your will be working, and the more your quads will be burning! If you can’t keep a resistance at a certain level, don’t be afraid to take a break, pedal easy for a minute or so, and then get back into it.

Here’s a handy little image I found showing hand positioning on the handlebars:

Photo source

Sit In The Front

Remember in college when professors or advisors would tell you to sit in the front of the class to get better grades? Cycling is similar. Don’t be afraid to sit in the front even if you’re a beginner! By sitting in the front you will see and hear the instructor better, which is very important if it’s your first class. If you’re not comfortable with that, sit in the second row and keep your eye on other spinners to check your form or get cues from them. I usually like to sit in the front row of one of the side seats, so I don’t make awkward eye contact with the instructor lol (I hate awkward eye contact).

Go At Your Own Pace

You might be competitive by nature, like I am, but you always want to make sure you’re going at your own pace. And the great thing about cycling classes is that no one has to know what that is! No one knows what resistance you’re at or your RPMs (unless they are peeking at your monitor I suppose). Everyone is focused on themselves and their own ride. I take classes regularly with this instructor who is an avid cyclist and obviously WAY more in shape than I am. He’s like, “ok let’s crank out 120 RPMs!” and I’m pedaling all out at 100. Go at your own pace, and work your way up. Each class I’m able to add RPMs and total mileage. Just like with running, start slow and you will improve. One day you can barely run 1 mile, then you’re able to run 6 miles no problem. Cycling is the same thing.

So hopefully these tips are helpful! If you haven’t yet tried a cycling class I highly recommend it. It’s a great way to exercise indoors when the weather isn’t the best, and also a good cross-training choice for athletes. The first few classes will be challenging, but once you get into the groove of things, you will feel fit and strong.

PS – I found this link today and it is TOO accurate: 19 Things That Happen In Every Spin Class

Do you take cycling classes? 

Has there been a class (any type of fitness class) that you’ve been intimidated to try out at first but then ended up loving it?

*****************************

Follow Reach Your Peak: 

01-14-2016

Exercising In The Mornings

I did it! I woke up 3 times this week to exercise in the AM! Tomorrow will be 4 since I’m signed up for an 8:30 am spin class.

On Monday, Tuesday and today I woke up at 6:30 am to get my butt to the gym or spin class. Monday I ran in the morning and did a spin class in the evening. I did a track workout on the treadmill and felt pretty strong for not having ran much recently. I really wanted to bail on the evening class but felt so great once I got started:

 

A photo posted by Patty Rivas (@pattyrivas13) on

Tuesday I did a morning spin class and took off from running. It was nice to be done for the day (workout wise) by 8:30 am.

Yesterday I ran in the evening and lifted some weights. Let me tell you, I DID NOT want to go to the gym. I ALMOST talked myself out of it, but said shut up and just do it. I told myself I’d just run for 20 minutes…and then ended up running 45 min + 15 minutes of weights.

Honestly, I have never woken up this early to exercise in my life. Because I am not a morning person at all. I definitely prefer evening workouts. I don’t know what got into me, but this week I am feeling great! I told you all that I want to lose weight, and so every workout I want to skip I remind myself of my goal, and how sitting on the couch won’t get me any closer to losing 15-20 pounds.

After the first day, I was like okay…waking up this early isn’t that bad. I feel great after my workout, though in the afternoons I do crash a bit. But once I actually begin the workout, my energy is there. It’s just dragging myself to the gym that’s the problem.

The moral of the story/this post is that when you really don’t want to exercise, just do it. Today I woke up with a sore throat and tired but told myself I’d be disappointed in myself if I didn’t get up to run. I ran 3 miles, and although my shins hurt, I’m feeling good now. Doing a spin class with yoga later today!

One last little piece of motivation…I loved this tweet from Jeanne:

Screen Shot 2016-01-14 at 11.30.52 AM

“I’m still tired and I could’ve run by now.” So true…that will be my mantra from now on ;)

I know so many of you get up way earlier than 6:30 to exercise, but for me that feels like the crack of dawn lol. 

Being a total newb to this, here is what has helped me make it a bit easier/what I do the night before:

  • Pack my gym bag and lay out gym clothes 
  • Pack my work bag 
  • Make my lunch for the next day
  • Plan out what smoothie I’ll have in the morning

I literally get up, brush my teeth, drink my morning tea while I make my smoothie and change, and am out the door. “Do it before your brain figures out what’s going on,” right?

For my morning workout peeps, what tips do you have for people new to exercising in the AM?

*****************************

Follow Reach Your Peak: 

05-12-2015

Printable Workout Log

A month or so I posted two workouts: this full body 30 minute workout, and the 30 minute workout part 2. I’m (still) working on creating an ebook with an 8-12 week workout plan that follows the outline of those workouts.

It combines strength and cardio, and I promise you will be dripping in sweat by the end of those 30 minutes! Each week will get progressively more challenging, which is what will help you hit your goals and avoid a plateau.

So today I wanted to share a printable workout log you can use to track your exercise, either with the workouts above or any workout you do in general. We all know it’s important to keep track of your workouts – it helps you see how you improve over time and get stronger, as well as make notes of how you felt on a certain day, injuries, etc.

You’ll see you have 5 sets listed (not that you need to do 5 sets but I just wanted to give you enough room), as well as boxes to list your weights and reps. For example, even though my 30  minute workouts are AMRAP (as many rounds as possible), you should still be keeping track of how many rounds and reps you do. If in those 7 minutes you only do 2 full rounds and on the third you only get a few reps of an exercise, mark that down. The following week you might complete 3 full rounds, which will show you that you have improved.

It’s important to list the weights you use as well. Not only to remember what you used, but also so you know when to increase your weights. If you have been using 5 lbs. for 2 weeks, perhaps try increasing to 8 lbs. If you need to decrease after a round, that’s fine, just make a note of it. Then, the following week, start with 8 lbs again and try to get further with those 8 lbs. before you decrease back to 5 lbs. Does that make sense?

Here’s the log:

Use this printable workout log to track your workouts!

Or click here to download as a PDF and print –> Printable Workout Log

Do you use a log, write things down in a notebook, or use your phone to track your fitness?

Femme Fitale Fit Club

*****************************

Follow Reach Your Peak:

04-01-2015

“My Knees Hurt When I Squat”

“My knees hurt when I squat.” This is a common complaint, and one I have heard many times as a personal trainer. Because their knees hurt, people end up not doing squats at all, when in fact, squats can help you get stronger and actually decrease knee pain!

Today we are going to talk about why your knees hurt when you squat, and what you can do to fix it. 

How To Squat Without Knee Pain

Okay, if you’ve had a knee injury in the past, then yeah, that might be contributing to your knee pain (and you should see your PT or doctor to discuss whether you should or should not do certain exercises). However, most people have muscle imbalances and weaknesses that are causing this knee pain.

One of the main culprits is not engaging the core (or simply not having core strength) during the squatting motion. As you squat, you should be hinging at the hips and moving backwards as if sitting into a chair. If you don’t, your torso will lean forward, and your knees will be at an awkward angle, causing most of the load to be on your quads…which leads to the knee pain.

Here’s great info from trainer Kevin Yates:

When you lack proper core and hip strength muscle imbalances often result in the quadriceps and lower back over working. This is one of the main reasons for knee pain during squatting.

Movements like squatting and lunging are not bad for your knees and they don’t cause injuries.

Muscle imbalances are the real problem.

One of my favorite trainers, Tony Gentilcore, has a great post about fixing your squat and avoiding knee pain. His tip, box squats, was something I practiced regularly with my clients.

Basically, you set up a box or bench behind you in the squat rack. Your goal is to squat back and touch the box with your butt before coming back up (do not actually sit on the box and then come up, you are just tapping the box).

Tapping a box or bench helps you with that movement of sitting backwards. Your weight should be on your heels and not your toes during a squat. I’ve talked about squat tips in the past, and how you can improve your form. I’ve mentioned putting a plate under your heels. Why? Because if you have a muscle imbalance or tightness, your heels might be coming up during the squat movement. Elevating your heels a bit helps you get deeper and keep the weight in your heels.

From Tony Gentilcore:

If squatting hurts your knees—and you’re not suffering from an injury—it’s because you’re making your knees do more of the work than the hips. Learning how to utilize the hips during a squat is important if you want to make them more joint-friendly. Box squats can do that.

Squats and lunges are not bad for your knees! That’s a myth similar to that of running being bad for your knees and cracking your knuckles leading to arthritis. Squats and lunges, if anything, help improve your knee health. Start working on your core strength to take the pressure off your quads and knees.

One more thing before I move on to talking about your quads…if you’re having trouble sitting back into your squat, try doing front squats and goblet squats. Since the weight is in front of your body as opposed to on your back, it will make it a bit easier for you to sit back into the squat. I talked about that in this post about squatting tips.

Moving on…another thing that might be causing your knee pain is quad weakness. If your knees hurt during walking lunges or after running, this might be why. In order to fix this, you just need to work your quad muscles a bit. Focus on exercises like the split squat, and progress to a reverse lunge. Avoid doing any forward movements like (duh) forward lunges or walking lunges…just until you build up your strength.

Here’s one of my first YouTube videos showing the split squat.

Similar with the squat, you should be going straight down NOT forward. If you are moving forward as you’re performing this you will probably feel that knee pain. Cues to repeat to yourself are: chest up, shoulders back. Your front heel should stay planted on the floor – if you come up on your toes, step your back leg further back/away from your front leg. 

My dad had knee pain during running and leg exercises, but once he started doing more split squats, his knee pain disappeared. He now runs 3 miles most days! Progression ideas for this exercise (once you master the split squat) would be: reverse lunge, front foot elevated split squat, rear foot elevated split squat, step-ups, and walking lunges.

***Remember though, please talk to your PT or doctor if knee pain is something you have regularly dealt with. Of course there could be some underlying issue that is not as simple as a muscle imbalance or lack of strength.***

Do you squat regularly? Have you ever felt knee pain?

*****************************

Follow Reach Your Peak:

 

02-25-2015

How Do I Get Into Crow Pose?

This is something I have not mastered yet. I’ve been doing yoga sporadically throughout the past couple of years, and my flexibility has really increased. This year my goal is to practice more challenging poses, like crow pose and handstands (I’m no where near being able to do a handstand).

I can occasionally get into crow pose. Proof:

Crow Pose
But the problem is I can literally only hold it for 2 seconds before my hip flexor cramps up. Why does this happen?? It’s just gets tight and feels like a Charlie horse. I have tried the little tricks like placing a block under my forehead so that mentally I don’t feel like I’m going to topple over, and I’ve tried looking a few inches in front of me as opposed to straight down. Still can’t get into the pose!

So for all of you who are working on this like me, I found some more tips online to share with you (and that I’ll be trying). And if you CAN get into crow pose (jealous), here’s an article on how to make it even more challenging.

Tips For Getting Into Crow Pose

  • Place a block under your toes so that you’re more lifted (Peanut Butter Runner) – This makes sense. Perhaps this will help my mental block of feeling like I’m going to fall over.
  • Start in tripod headstand (POP Sugar) – I’m not even sure I can do this, but with the help of a wall, maybe I could and then get into crow?
  • Jump into it from downward dog (POP Sugar) – This seems kind of scary but could make sense…I’ll try not to crack open my head ;)
  • Use the block as support (FitFluential) – When I placed the block in front of my head it was mainly for mental support, it wasn’t touching my head. This video shows you how to use the block as an extra source of support by placing your forehead on it before putting your knees on your arms. Interesting!
  • Purposely fall forward (Antranik.org) – I like this tip. He suggest placing a pillow in front of your face and purposely falling forward. This helps you get over your fear of falling and allows you to feel when your body will go too far forward.
  • “Flex the bananas out of your abs.” (Antranik.org) – I don’t think I’ve been doing this. I think I’ve just been trying to balance. (He also shows how to jump into crow from downward dog)

Now I’m really excited to work on this. I need to go back to the yoga studio. I had bought 10 classes over the summer and probably still have 7 left. It’s just hard to balance yoga, cross training and lifting with running! How do you do it?

As I mentioned, I do also want to be able to do a handstand eventually. So I think I’m going to try this March yoga challenge by @beachyogagirl on Instagram.

handstand
Any tips you could provide me with would be so helpful and appreciated! Goal is to be able to do both of these by the end of 2015 ;)

Are you able to do crow pose and handstand?

What’s a challenging yoga pose for you?

*****************************

Follow Reach Your Peak:

02-24-2015

The Importance Of Proper Exercise Form

Today I want to talk about proper exercise form. A friend of mine just joined Crossfit and was telling me about an incident. Now before I start, I’m not bashing Crossfit. But I am bashing personal trainers who don’t teach proper form and who don’t modify exercises for beginners.

The Importance Of Proper Exercise Form

My friend is someone who is new to lifting…I personally don’t think she should be thrown into a barbell deadlift right away, but she was. The next day she was telling me how her back was killing her and she couldn’t even stand up straight because she was so sore. I asked her how much weight she did. She said she asked one trainer who said, “Ummm…just do 95 lbs,” which she knew would be too heavy, so she asked another trainer who said 70 or 75 lbs, I can’t remember.

There are some major problems here. One being, why is she doing a barbell deadlift as a beginner as opposed to learning proper form with lighter weights first? Two, what are those weights??? And why are these trainers just throwing around random numbers?? She sucked it up and did it, and then couldn’t walk up-right for a few days because her lower back was killing her, which usually means proper form was not used during the deadlift.

This actually happened to me once too. I went to a group bootcamp class and one of the exercises was a barbell deadlift. The trainer made it heavy enough for the strongest person in the class but it was way too heavy for me, which I expressed. But he told me to try it anyway. So I did (and couldn’t go down far enough either but he kept telling me to go all the way down), and I couldn’t walk for a few days because my back was killing me.

I’ve written about proper form cues for deadlifts before, but I want to talk about it again. Yes, the deadlift does recruit lower back muscles, but your lower back shouldn’t be that sore afterwards. You should mainly feel it in your hamstrings and glutes.

Here are a few key things to remember:

  • As you lower the weight, keep your core tight, which will keep you from only using your lower back.
  • As you lift the weight back up, focus on squeezing your glutes.
  • Keep your back flat throughout the exercise.
  • Keep your neck neutral, don’t look up and crane your neck. Look a few inches ahead of you or down – whatever keeps your neck in line with your spine.

There’s nothing wrong with starting with a lighter weight or modifying exercises. And that’s what personal trainers are for!! That’s what this rant is about. The trainers in the experiences above should have realized that the weight was too heavy, and also been there to provide form cues for my friend so that this didn’t happen. It makes me nervous that as someone who is a total beginner to lifting (she’s only really done exercise DVDs) she’s thrown into barbell exercises and Olympic exercises.

Here are a few glute/hamstring exercises that you can do as you build up to a full deadlift:

  • Glute/hip raises –> make it more challenging by adding a plate or barbell onto your hips
  • Romanian dumbbell deadlifts –> progress it by increasing dumbbell weight until you feel comfortable with this exercise
  • Romanian barbell deadlifts could be the next step from the above exercise.
  • Trap bar deadlifts are a good way to take some load off the lower back.

I’d say my favorite would be Romanian dumbbell deadlifts. Easy to progress and you’ll really feel it building strength in your hamstrings.

If you don’t have a trainer, just do some research on how to progress. Trainers I follow with great tips are Tony Gentilcore and Bret Contreras (“The Glute Guy”).

If you do have a trainer, make sure you hold them accountable. Speak up if you’re afraid something is too heavy or too challenging for you. There is no shame in that! Better to be safe than injured. Ask them questions about the exercise. What muscles should it recruit? Where should you feel it? What’s the point of doing it? What are some modifications?

Okay, rant over ;)

If you’re a Crossfitter, how does your gym help those who are totally new to lifting?

Have you had a bad personal trainer experience?

*****************************

Follow Reach Your Peak: