Mix Fitness's Blog

Cardio or Weights – Which First?

Posted in Uncategorized by mixfitness on July 28, 2009
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“Should I do cardio or weights first?”  This is a question I often get.  Usually, my answer is “it depends.”  Today’s blog will help you identify which comes first if you plan to do both in one workout.

Cardio First

The reason I say “it depends” is because your training goal is a factor in determining which comes first.  Let’s say you are training for a running event.  Whether it’s a 5K or a marathon, your focus is (at least) to complete the race.  Your energy during training should be devoted to accomplishing your planned mileage.  Train yourself in an environment that is as close to the reality of race day as you can make it.  Think of it this way, you wouldn’t lift weights before heading out to the starting line!  Of course, the likelihood of lifting weights after a race is slim to none as well.  But, if you don’t have the time to schedule a separate weight workout, it’s best to train the cardio aspect first.

Weights First

If you have a particularly heavy weight day planned – like if you increased the number of sets or increased weight – it’s a good idea to dedicate your energy towards the resistance portion first.  Also, if your weight training goal is develop strength and power, your body will need to be fresh in order to be effectively trained.

What About the Warm-Up?

Many people hop on a treadmill to get warmed up prior to a resistance workout.  There is nothing wrong with that.  However, there is another way to warm up before your lift.  I like to do a cardio warm up before a cardio workout and a weighted warm up before a weighted workout.  A weighted warm up can be the same exercises you are going to do without the weight.  Consider the squat or lunge.  Both work the majority of muscles in your lower body and can be performed without holding extra weight.  Doing several reps with only your body weight as resistance is a good way to warm up.

Whether your goal is to be more fit or to compete, there is an appropriate workout order for everyone.  Start with the purpose of the workout and go from there.


The “Core”

Posted in Uncategorized by mixfitness on July 20, 2009
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If you’ve attended a group fitness class recently, you probably heard the instructor say something along the lines of “let’s work the core,” or “tighten your core.”  I say these things too.  But, what exactly does it mean?  What do you do when you’re instructed to use your core?  Today’s blog is to help you answer those questions.

As a fitness professional, I’ve heard a number of definitions for the core.  One personal trainer defined the core as “everything from the pits to the hips.”  A yoga instructor stated that the core starts in your feet.  So, there are many interpretations for what the core encompasses.  In general, the core is the mid-torso region….not just the abs.  Furthermore, the abs are more than one muscle – more than the 6-pack.

The core is sometimes referred to as the “powerhouse.”  This is because strength and power for any movement truly starts in the core.  Athletes have amazingly strong cores for better performance, not for looks.  You golf better, balance better, squat better, move better, when you have a strong core.  Let’s talk about which muscles make up the core.  My definition is the abs and low back.  Quick anatomy lesson:  there are four muscles that are the abdominal muscles.  They are the rectus abdominus (which is your 6-pack) internal obliques, external obliques, and transverse abdominus (TA).  Your obliques rotate your torso.  Your transverse abdominus is deep inside and wraps around your torso.  When group fitness instructors say “engage your abs” or “tight core,” they really mean contract your TA.

So, how do you contract your TA?  A pilates instructor will tell you to draw your belly button to your spine.  It’s a small, but visible movement.  And, it’s very different from sucking in to button tight pants!  I like to have my clients identify how it feels when their TA is activated.  To do this, I have them standing with their arms straight at shoulder height, palms touching.  Then, I say “don’t let me move your arms” and try to push their arms to one side.  Try this with someone and feel how your insides, your TA, has to tighten to prevent your arms from moving.

It’s important to train your lower back muscles when training your abdominals.  This promotes not only a healthy back, but also a healthy core.  The abs and low back work together.  One can’t function well without the other being strong.  So, if you do crunches, also do back extensions or “supermans” as they’re usually called.  Planks are a great core exercise as long as you are using your TA.  Next time you are lifting weights, be aware of your TA and if it’s working.  You should feel the difference!

If you have questions about the exercises I mentioned above, please leave me a comment!

Weight Loss: on Track

Posted in Uncategorized by mixfitness on July 13, 2009
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Losing weight takes perseverance especially when faced with summertime barbeques, vacations, ice cream trucks and the like.  The temptations abound, it seems, during warm months.  So, what do you do if you’re trying to lose weight?  The good news is that you can eat what you want….as long as you make room for it.

So many people get off track by throwing in the towel (no pool pun intended!)  If you think that one day of bad eating means your whole week is a waste, you need to change your mentality now.  You will probably over do it while at your neighbors BBQ, but the very next day you have a clean slate to start with.  The longer you stay out of the saddle, the harder it is to get back on.  Don’t lead yourself down the weight-gain path by continuing the cycle.  All diets need wiggle room in order to be successful.

Planning is a key component of achieving your weight loss goals.  Making room for the little slips is important.  That way, when they happen, you haven’t failed.  You’ve simply stayed on course.  Start by knowing when you will be seduced by food.  Then, in the days leading to the event, eat less and/or exercise more.  If you struggle to get to the gym, schedule yourself an appointment by actually writing your workout time down in your planner.  When that hour block is filled, it’s hard to plan something else at the same time.  It’s a mind trick that actually works!  You’ll think:  Hey look – I have something planned at 5pm today.  Try it:)

Another trick is to have a mantra.  I love dessert.  It’s my absolute weakness, but many times I remind myself of my mantra.  I ask myself two questions when deciding if I’m allowed to have it:  1) did I workout today? and 2) am I happy with the way I look in the mirror?  If my answer is no, I can sometimes convince myself to skip dessert.  Notice I said “sometimes.”  It’s not 100% foolproof, but it is powerful enough to stop me most of the time.  Find a mantra that works for you and see how it can lower your caloric intake.

Never deprive yourself of any food you love.  It will only lead to overeating when it is sitting in front of you or calling your name from the grocery shelves.  Enjoy in moderation.  Best of luck to you for the remainder of the summer!

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