Archive

Monthly Archives: October 2012
18

Foam Rollers: They Hurt So Good

Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

Foam rollers are an excellent tool for a group fitness class or personal training session, both for resistance training and for myofascial release (aka muscle release). In essence, a foam roller can be used both for a workout (especially for the core), and a self-massage, using your own body weight.

Quick kinesiology lesson

Don’t worry, nothing you can’t handle. The kinetic chain is made up of the:

  • soft tissue system (muscle, tendon, ligament, and fascia)
  • neural system (nerves and CNS)
  • articular system (joints)

All of these parts make up a whole that is interdependent. For example, muscle tightness restricts the range of motion that a joint may be moved (i.e., tight hamstrings can affect hip and lower back mobility). If you’re confused, please refer to this handy chart:

Foam rollers help with tension and release

Odd as it sounds, for a muscle to gain strength, the tissue has to receive enough stress to cause micro-tears. Once that’s occurred, you can help your muscles recover by using the foam roller to break up adhesions in the muscle tissue and/or fascia. When these “trigger points” are decreased, blood flow increases, which is good!

Alexandra: I like to use the foam rollers for myofascial release with my group fitness students every so often, mostly because I always get a laugh out of their moans and groans when they discover their tight iliotibial (IT) bands.

Kymberly: I admit up front that I love foam rollers! Roll, roll, roll in zee … Hey, that really hurts so good. (Insert silent scream here as I roll out my tight hammies and upper back. Did you get the movie reference I just made two sentences ago?)

Different than Operation: Find the Iliotibial Band

My, oh My, oh Myofascial Release

Alexandra:  I was starting to think it was about time to introduce the foam roller to this quarter’s “crop” of university students when I found out about an app called Roll Release Techniques, which has 100 different videos for using the foam roller for self-massage.

 

My feeling at discovering an app that I could take onto the teaching stage with me was something like this:

Release Me, Baby!

 

This app packs in 100 videos, more than 25 different muscle groups, and demos that show up to 4 different levels for each group. The creator of the foam roller app, Dr. Ryan Emmons, is the one demonstrating the moves, and it’s simple to use and follow. Tap the muscle you want, then tap the level you want (regression, main, progression or advanced). Simple to follow along; simple to use.

As a fitness instructor who doesn’t use foam rollers enough to know all the possibilities by heart, I found the Roll Release Techniques App super handy. For a fitness enthusiast at home who wants to get some quick myofascial release, it’s also super because there’s no need to know the names or function of any muscles; you can just tap the picture of the muscle you want to work.

Usually I’m a bit snobby particular about the fitness information I’ll purchase and use, but this app totally rocked and rolled; well, it rolled! As you can see by the facial expressions on my students’ faces in these pictures, foam rollers are an effective tool!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roll your fingers over your keyboard and subscribe to our YouTube channel and this blog. Follow us on Twitter: AlexandraFunFit and KymberlyFunFit. Please also follow us on Instagram: KymberlyFunFit and AlexandraFunFit, especially if you like shots of Santa Barbara and nature. The icons in the right sidebar are a quick way to link to us as well.  We follow back.

Readers and Rollers: What fitness apps do you use?

FitFluential LLC compensated me for this Campaign. All opinions are my own. Alexandra used her own money to purchase this app because it was totally worth $2.99 to get all the video demos.

Photo credit: Man jumping  kreg.steppe

 

9

Sleep Your Way to A Better Brain & Body

Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

The Tooth and Nothing But the Tooth!

Just as toast goes perfectly with jam, so does sleep go with total fitness. When you’re asleep, numerous good things happen to your mind and body (including the occasional visit from the tooth fairy)!

Memory & Learning:
One very important benefit of proper sleep is the help it gives you with learning and memory. Whether you’re 60 and trying to navigate the intricacies of Facebook (the fastest growing segment of Facebook users in the past 2 years has been females aged 48-64), or a 20 year old college student trying to study for an exam, getting some sleep after going through the material will help you master the information.

Time for a nap!

In a 2010 Harvard study, volunteers learned a complex maze. Some of them then took a 90 minute nap. The only people who increased their performance on a second attempt at the maze were those who dreamed about it during their naps. The researchers concluded that the brain was reactivating and reorganizing the recently learned material during the nap.

Cat nap or Car nap?

 

 

But let’s face it – few people have 90 minutes in the day for a nap. If we did, we’d probably just get the 8-9 hours (20 year olds need 9-10) of sleep that our bodies actually need each night. Good news – a German study found that a short, six-minute nap helped participants recall a list of 30 words they had memorized earlier.

How can he sleep through those stripes?

 

Weight Loss:
In our recent post about the 3 stealth saboteurs of weight loss, we mentioned how less than 6 hours of sleep can be correlated with weight gain. According to research from the University of Michigan, an extra hour of sleep each night can help you drop 14 pounds per year. Maybe because you are sleeping instead of snacking! Also, hormones are a tricky thing, and being awake so much can rev up your appetite! And in a study that just came out today (Oct. 25, 2012), a review of 15 years of research “indicate an effect of partial sleep deprivation on body weight management.” Partial sleep deprivation, an energy imbalance, and weight gain prevention and weight loss promotion are all linked! More than 35 percent of American adults are obese and more than 28 percent sleep less than six hours a night, and the study authors found these two to be correlated.

To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub.

Creativity:
The Harvard study also discovered that those whose naps were long enough to enter REM sleep did 40% better on a test of creativity than nappers who didn’t get any REM sleep and non-nappers. That REM sleep gave the brain time and the ability to work creatively on the problems that had been posed for the test.

So forget the caffeine and alcohol; forget the all-nighters; and forget whatever it is you forgot because you’re overtired! Acting like “an adult” is just making us overweight, grumpy and dull. Better to act like a kindergartener and take a nap!

Stay awake long enough for your twitchy finger to press the subscription buttons for our YouTube channel and blog. Follow us on Twitter: AlexandraFunFit and KymberlyFunFit. Please also follow us on Instagram: KymberlyFunFit and AlexandraFunFit. Or click on the icons in the right sidebar.

Photo credits:  Melody Campbell (Dream Tree),  modenadude (Man in Car),  marsmet551 (woman with alarm clock),  AntEater Theater (man in striped shirt)

25

Don’t Be a Pretender: Protein Satiates Appetite

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Product Review of Special K Protein Line

(Be sure to scroll down to enjoy the song we rewrote for this occasion.)

Possibly because Kymberly is known in some circles as “Special K,” we were sent samples of the new “Protein Effect” bars, shakes and cereal by Special K (or maybe because Kellogg’s knows we like to eat)!

I Don't Have to Pretend to Like Protein

We each got four protein meal bars: chocolate peanut butter, cranberry walnut, caramel peanut, and chocolate chip, three protein shakes: strawberry banana, French vanilla, and milk chocolate, and a box of the Protein Plus Special K cereal.

Alexandra: As many of you know, we are all about making healthier choices that are realistic. Heck, even I, a vegetarian who bakes, cooks, has chickens that lay organic eggs, and drinks fruit smoothies every morning, wouldn’t expect you to eat wheat grass and tofu all the time (for the record, I like tofu. Notice how I diplomatically left wheat grass out of that sentence?). So we were very happy to try these products. Meal bars went into my gym bag for my university students who show up for class having had no breakfast, then wonder why they get faint during class. As to the shakes and cereal, the pictures will show you how I got all clever with my bad self!

So "Four-tuitous" that I have these to share with my university students

More Protein In Sack Lunch: Special K Pecan Muffins

French Vanilla Fruit Smoothie: Ooh la la, délicieux!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kymberly: As for me, I noticed that having the reformulated Special K cereal for breakfast did fill me up for the morning. The combo of rice milk, Special K protein cereal, strawberries, and one metal ring that accidentally dropped into my bowl off my cell phone kept me energetic through mornings of teaching fitness, running errands, dinking around on the computer, and sweeping the floor.  Normally I want a midmorning snack. Instead the protein effect kicked in and I stayed snackless until lunchtime. Then creative thinking started. “Where did my mind wander,” you wonder? Over to the perfect song for this product review. Basically, the words “I’m Special, So Special” kept running through my head. “I gotta have some of your attention. Give it to me!”

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-7Hy7uAb_eU[/youtube]

Brass In Pocket by the Pretenders

SING ALONG TIME!

Got box in my mail
Got hunger I’ll outsmart it
My tummy, It feels so rumbly
Want my protein, protein, protein right now

Got hunger Ain’t getting younger
Need Protein Keeps Me So Lean
No Defects, Need Protein Effect
Want my protein, protein, protein right now

Gonna use my bowl
Gonna use my spoon
Gonna use my cookbook
Gonna use my lunchbox
Gonna use my blender
Gonna use my, my, my protein effect, yeah

‘Cause I gonna eat good stuff
There’s no other food here
That’s good enough
I’m so full, yeah, so full
I gotta have Special K protein Give it to me

‘Cause I gonna make you see
There’s nobody else here
No one like me
I’m special so special
I gotta have some of your attention give it to me

Got K Shakes I can’t miss a beat
Made muffins, They’re so sweet
Hey meal bars,  I’m thinking of you
Want my protein, protein, protein right now

‘Cause I gonna eat good stuff
There’s no other food here
that’s good enough
I’m so full, yeah, so full
I gotta have some Special K protein Give it to me

Readers: What tips do you have for people who are trying to “outsmart” their hunger, yet might be tempted to grab an unhealthy snack instead?

Be smart and special when you subscribe to our YouTube channel and our blog. Follow us on Twitter: AlexandraFunFit and KymberlyFunFit. Please also follow us on Instagram: KymberlyFunFit and AlexandraFunFit. Or click on the icons in the right sidebar.

FitFluential LLC compensated me for this campaign. All opinions are my own.

 

51

I Am Awesome: You Can’t Fake Awesome

Alexandra Williams, MA

I just walked (and ran a bit) the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in San Francisco. I will pause for a moment before letting you know how completely AWESOME and AMAZING that makes me!

Waiting for the start of the half marathon

Sure, lots of people have done full marathons, running no less, but none of them were me! I don’t run. I hate running. I loved soccer. For soccer, I ran. Then I had an injury that left my knee hanging on just by skin! I was 38 and the doctor said that was old. I gave the doc my best stink eye when he said that. This summer I had to get my big toe joint fused; again, related to an old soccer injury. And I’m 16 years older than the knee injury (did you just stop for the math?). My chronological age is set according to my birth date, but my physical age is whatever I do to take care of my body and mind.

The Sleepover Girls Danced to Cheer us On

Sometime in August, I was invited by Yurbuds (They make earphones that stay in your ears. They are designed specifically for women. They are amazing and come in fab colors) to participate in the race. I said yes, mostly as a way to set a surgery recovery goal for myself, thinking “If it works out, fine. If it doesn’t, that’s fine too.” But as the race got closer, I realized I actually wanted to challenge myself to train and finish the half marathon.

Inspire for Women

Stupid would have been aiming for running or a full marathon. Smart was aiming for something difficult, yet achievable and safe for my foot (and knee).

I Rule!

I can. I did. I will again.

It’s really hard to say why I trained and then walked a full 13.1 miles (I even beat the time I had set for myself), because I don’t truly know. It’s hard to know why I started crying at the finish line, because I’m not particularly sentimental. It’s even hard to understand why I might do it again even though it was outside of my comfort level. Maybe I just wanted to prove that injuries and surgeries and aging don’t mean I’m limited; they mean I choose new directions and challenges. Nike lost my race time, but I know what it was. It was ME time! Look at the smile on my face in these pictures – I’m having fun because I am a winner. It feels good to be a winner.

That Lion Didn't Stand a Chance, 'Cause I Roar Louder!

I truly am grateful to Yurbuds and FitFluential for the opportunity to join the 25,000 other winning women of all ages who ran and walked in the marathon. I would never have considered doing a half marathon prior to receiving their invitation. I wish you could see the cool t-shirt they gave me, but sadly, I put it into the bag I picked up for another runner and it’s now on its way back to me via the postal system. Our mail carrier’s truck caught on fire, so the mail got burned. But that’s another story. You can at least see the headband and bright lime green earphones Yurbuds gave me.

Granny Smith Apple Green

I listen to Adele singing “Set Fire to the Rain” on them because I set fire to the race course, even though it was misty and rainy!

Music to My Marathon Ears

After the race, I discovered that Yurbuds had an oxygen station. I sat on a stool and breathed in the scents of berries and citrus.

Happy Scents for the Senses

I wish for you the same kind of satisfaction and joy that comes from taking on a new challenge. It’s cool to be a winner. But of course, you already know that!

Crossed The Finish Line

Photo credits: me. I took them with my iPhone. 

Yurbuds provided me with the entry invitation to the marathon, plus they gave me the green earphones shown above. All opinions and song preferences are my own!

21

Diet Cheat Days: Yes or No?

Dear Fun and Fit, K and A: I’ve heard that a “cheat day” will boost my metabolism and increase leptin hormone levels. I’m currently losing weight by eating 1250-1350 calories daily. My normal intake is about 1750. Today I ate about 3600 calories for my “cheat day.” Is that too much or is it okay? I’ll go back on my diet tomorrow. Will this all boost my metabolism or cause me to gain weight? Thank you, and greetings from Helsinki, Finland Mira

Cheat Days are High Calorie Days

Hello Mira:
We love your name; it means “wonderful” and “peace.” We’re going to tell you right up front that we are NOT fans of “cheat days” for a whole bunch of reasons. We shall now do our best to talk you out of eating this way.

* Just the name implies you’re a cheater. Who wants to feel that kind of shame and have that label? It’s all negative. We hate the whole concept of looking at food as good or bad. Food isn’t moral; it’s fuel.

Food is not moral; it's fuel. Shift away from bad & good thinking in order to lose weight,… Click To Tweet

1 kabillion calories

*Also, what do most people (and probably you) eat on those 3600 calorie days? Salad? Roasted veggies? Fruit with yogurt? Suuuuuuuure. More like ice cream, candy, chips and all kinds of high fat foods. Sadly, that fat makes its way to your brain, telling it to ignore the “I’m full” signals that those lovely hormone regulators – leptin and insulin – are trying to send. Think of them as your parents, yelling “Put the spoon down,” and the fat as earbuds that you stuck in your ears so you wouldn’t have to listen. It’s not good to become resistant to leptin and insulin because they are your BFFs, and want to help you.

One Cheat Day Can Affect You Half a Week

* This “fat high” can last for up to three days, which means you will spend half of the next week wondering why you’re extra hungry, especially for those high-fat foods. Basically, it’s a short-lived addiction, and willpower cannot overcome addictions.

Sign up to start "youthifying" today.

Count Your Calories: New Math Tool

* Math has an uncomfortable way of butting in to your weight loss business. If you reduce your caloric intake by 500 calories a day, you’ll lose about a pound in a week – 500 X 7 = 3500. Everyone is different, but these numbers are a great place to start. You say you normally eat about 1750 calories per day – 1750 – 500 = 1250 (the low number on your diet plan). It will take more than a week to lose a pound of weight if you are at the higher, 1350 amount. But on that 3600 calorie “cheat day,” kowabunga – you just got yourself an extra 1850 calories (3600 – 1750 = 1850). So in 6 days you reduced your intake by 3000 calories, but on that seventh day you took in an extra 1850 (3000 -1850 = 1150). So for the entire week, you had a total reduction of 1150 calories, which means you’re losing less than half a pound a week.
* If you jogged in place during the above math lesson, you might have burned some extra calories! If you hate math, that section just above said, “Cheat Day = Bad Idea.”

Metabolic System Explained in 472 Easy Steps!

Reduce Calories and You Risk Reducing Your Metabolic Rate

* You also asked about metabolism, so let’s go over some weird “opposite day” type of stuff – When you eat less, you expend calories at a slower rates – meaning your metabolism slows down. It has a fancy name – diet induced adaptive thermogenesis. If you want to speed up your metabolism, you should ditch the cheat day AND the diet and just go for 4 or 5 small meals/ snacks a day. Mostly choose healthy food, yet leave space for a few of the treats that you were saving for cheat day. Moderation beats the Restriction – Overindulgence cycle you’re in.
* And we wouldn’t be exercise experts if we didn’t ask, “Mina, are you also exercising?” You had better say, “ kyllä.”  That’s fancy talk for “heck yeah.”

ACTION: Have us come to you two days a week when you subscribe. No cheating, just accurate, helpful, doable active aging advice. Enter your email in any of our opt-in subscription boxes. Collect your bonus while you’re at it.

Photo credits:  Christian Cable, CollectionAgency, lejo72, P.K. Cerda

Alexandra Williams, MA

17

Cardio is Dead; Long Live Cardio

 Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

Have you seen recent headlines telling us to “forget cardio exercise as it’s a waste of time” followed by “include cardio in your workout routine nearly every day!”

Queen of Quardio Quymberly Steps Lively!

Mamma mia. What are we to do if we want to get more fit? Are you confuzzled yet? I know I get overwhelmed by the barrage of seemingly conflicting advice.

Just the other day an email arrived in our Fun and Fit inbox entitled: “Newsflash: Cardio is Dead.” As a longtime fitness pro and proponent of aerobic exercise, I was bothered by this announcement in a cranky, “oh, great, now people will exercise even less” kind of way.

Is cardio really “dead?” Or are we going to be soon if we stop doing aerobic exercise and drop even more activity from our lives?  For years we’ve been told to work out aerobically 5-6 days per week. Now we’re told to forego it. What fitness tips should we follow and what is hype we can safely ignore?  How can you know what actions to take (aside from reading our blog and sending us your questions to address)?

What’s Really Being Defined?

One trick is to check definitions and terms before accepting the headline or sound bite. What is really being touted? In this example, the article discussed the difference between long, slow, steady state endurance exercise compared with intervals of high and mid-intensity cardio. The gist of the argument was that long duration, low intensity cardio doesn’t train the heart to build resistance to stress. To reduce the risk of heart disease, we need to alternate intense exertion with active recovery periods.

Long Live Queen of QiDANCE Alexandra

Now we’re getting somewhere. We are really comparing Steady State Cardio to High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) relative to stress resistance. Two considerably different types of workouts. The low and slow cardio approach was once crowned queen of all “Fat Burning Zones,” which has been rightly sent to the “Dying Myth Zone.” Certainly a ton of studies and headlines have courted the new ruler, HIIT. (HI)It’s alive!  But is the former type really “dead?” Or as the participants in our group fitness classes say “just tell me what I am supposed to do. Is low intensity cardio out and high intensity now in?”

Which brings me to the second key question we need to pose when faced with bold, exciting, eye catching, sparkly-flashy headlines:

What Are Your Goals?

No Cars, but lots of Cardio here!

Sticking with this example, why do you do cardio workouts in the first place? To lose weight? To reduce menopause symptoms? To complete a marathon? To avoid those darn heart attacks that run in your family? To climb to the top of the Eiffel Tower … and back down… after swimming there from New York and across the English Channel?

Your particular, personal, prioritized goals will guide you through the maze of confusing headlines. Let’s say your top goal is to lose weight for an upcoming trip. Then high intensity cardio might be your best choice and the low, slow cardio needs to retire before you do. But what if a high priority is to stay cognitively aware and sharp as long as possible? Then low intensity cardio is NOT dead and may be what keeps you sharp as you live longer and smarter. For brain boosting, casual cardio rules! Love live cardio! For the pounds-away program, long live the other cardio! Can you see why you have to be willing to spend a little time and attention when faced with the latest and faddiest media bites?

Tempting as it is to believe headlines, the juicy bits are in the details: what’s really being discussed (definition of terms) and who is this news really for (goal dependent)?  Option three is also good:

Ask Fun and Fit/ Kymberly and Alexandra

That’s why we write this blog — to help solve your workout dilemmas and answer your fitness questions. By the way, if you want to really rock out at sorting through information overload flotsam and jetsam, read Understanding Studies from our friend and fellow FitFluential Ambassador, Tamara Grand.

So hail to the queens of cardio (well, yes, I do mean my sister and me, and YOU too!) Play well and work out successfully in the cardio court that is right for you.

Stay lively when you subscribe to our YouTube channel and our blog. Follow us on Twitter: AlexandraFunFit and KymberlyFunFit. Please also follow us on Instagram: KymberlyFunFit and AlexandraFunFit. Or click on the icons in the right sidebar ——–> Having you join us makes us happy.

 

32

Challenge Yourself to a Healthier You

Alexandra Williams, MA

Summer is officially over, the new quarter has started where I teach at the University of California, and the lovely outdoor weather of Fall has begun. A perfect time to set yourself up for a fitness challenge.

Training to walk a half-marathon

If you read my recent post about taking on new challenges and aging forward, not downward, then you know that I believe chronological age is a lesser factor in achieving your goals than attitude.

UCSB Students: You are young in body, yet with budget cuts having decimated P.E. throughout your entire school career so far, you might not be surprised to discover that your parents are probably more fit than you. Why? They (and I) had P.E. every single day when we were kids, so we have a history and muscle memory of movement.

My cohorts (Those of us in our 40s and 50s): We know the meaning of the word stamina! We know that we want the second half to be enjoyable and full of possibilities. We don’t want to be limited by health issues or injuries. We get the importance of taking on challenges (notice I did NOT say “dares”).

As the Fall season and quarter kick off (that’s as close to football as I’ll ever care to be), I want to challenge you to create a fitness goal. Something difficult, yet achievable. If you’re one of my 19-year-old students, that might be making it all the way through the quarter to the Tabata class, which WILL make you, er, uncomfortable, want to urp, exhausted, proud when it’s over. For my 80-year-old students, it might just be time to pick up those 7 pound weights instead of those 5s you’ve been hugging for years (yup, that means you).

As to me, everyone who knows me, and I mean everyone, knows I hate running unless there’s a soccer ball involved. But I found out that I am allowed to walk in a half-marathon coming up in two weeks. I just have to finish in a certain time. That’s it. My challenge is to fully kick kiss my foot surgery recovery good-bye and walk 13.1 miles in less than 4 hours. They give 6.5 hours, but I’m aiming for four. And I will do it! I know this because I already decided about a month ago. Now it’s just a matter of plugging in the training. My mind leads and my body follows.

I’m not special (yes, I am). Do you recall English teacher David McCullough, Jr.’s commencement speech in which he told the graduates, “You are not special. You are not exceptional. Because everyone is.” We are all unspecial because we all want to age with all our faculties and abilities intact, with good looks and great legs; with friends and family to encourage and support us; with the ability to walk and talk and do things we enjoy. We are all special because we get to choose for ourselves the means and methods to get there. Maybe I should use the word “path,” because a fit lifestyle is a journey, not an endpoint.

And ladies (sorry, guys, next time), I heard of a great campaign that can help you on the journey. And yeah, there are prizes. Under Armour has begun their “What’s Beautiful” campaign. I define “beautiful” as comfortable and healthy in your body. Strong is Sexy and that’s all there is to it. Under Armour’s campaign is to encourage women to get on a fitness journey, share it, get motivated, and get support (and free swag) from them. Heck, ten women will get flown to Florida to train with elite trainers, work out, get nutrition advice and SPA TREATMENTS. I am not entering the campaign because I want to give you all a chance I’ll be out of town in early January, but you should! Just click on the What’s Beautiful or Under Armour link. It’s free. There’s no catch. Except your breath. You can catch that!

What have you got to lose by challenging yourself, except maybe some weight or bad habits? More to the point, what have you got to win?

This is what I'll probably look like after doing 13.1 miles

This is how I think I'll look after 13.1 miles!

As far as I’m concerned, my knee surgery (from soccer) and foot surgery (also from soccer) were necessary to help me reach my goals, not keep me from them. Here’s to you. And here’s to me. I will be at my most beautiful at the end of the half-marathon because I’ll have a big smile on my face.

What fitness challenge will bring a smile to your face?

Want something to do that’s so easy it’s not even a challenge? Clickity clack on our links and subscribe to our YouTube channel and our blog. Follow us on Twitter: AlexandraFunFit and KymberlyFunFit. Please also follow us on Instagram: KymberlyFunFit and AlexandraFunFit. Or click on the icons in the right sidebar ——–>

 

FitFluential LLC compensated me for this Campaign. All opinions are my own.