Blogs > Simply Fit

Simply Fit, by Cindy Haskin-Popp, will help you make physical activity a part of everyday life. The health benefits of regular exercise and overall daily physical activity will be discussed. Fun, practical and easy-to-follow tips on an exercise program will be shared, as will the most current research. Fitness tips for families and seniors, on fitness centers and on buying proper and affordable equipment will be regularly given. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Do you Own A "Bat" Bike?

Chris Popp on the "size cycle" during a bike fitting session at Peak Performance Ski & Bike in Sylvan Lake, Michigan.

Chad Johnston, professional bike fitter, at Peak Performance Ski & Bike located in Sylvan Lake, Michigan.

     A "bat" bike, a term coined by head mechanic, Daryl Case, at Peak Performance Ski & Bike (formerly Skier's Peak) in Sylvan Lake, is a bicycle that has been hanging from the rafters in your garage unused for months, maybe years.  If you own one, you're not alone.  Many people who were once enthusiastic about bike riding soon found out that their bicycle was the source of pain and discomfort.  Hence, their bike found its rank in the colony of "bat" bikes that roost in garages around the world.
     A "one-size-fits-all" mentality is not always the best rule to follow when it comes to selecting a bike.  Keep in mind that the standard bike ("stock bike") was designed for somebody, but no one in particular.  Its dimensions were chosen to hit the mean in a range of different body sizes to increase its salability.  
     An improper fit to your bike, even if off by just a few centimeters, can cause big problems for your musculoskeletal system, such as knee pain, achey shoulders, a stiff neck and/or back, and numb, tingling hands, among other things.  It can also hinder your performance by decreasing your power output and by making you less efficient.  These factors can lead to a frustrating and unenjoyable ride.
  The solution?  Proper "bike fit."  Bike fitting is a process that results in a bike that has been designed to fit your body - a bike that allows you to be in the best position for comfort and performance.  Bike fitting should not be confused with bike sizing.  Bike sizing entails selecting a standard bike frame size based on certain measurements of your body, such as your height and inseam.  Minor adjustments to the seat height and handle bars may be made to improve the fitting during the bike sizing process.  However, the results of bike sizing will be less than ideal when compared to bike fitting.  Bike sizing tries to fit you to a standard bike where as bike fitting results in a custom bike that has been designed and created to fit your body.
     Bike fitting, as opposed to bike sizing, is more of a science.  It takes into account various factors that go beyond the mere consideration of your body's proportions relative to that of the bike.  Bike fitting considers your anatomical alignment, weight distribution, range of motion, and biomechanics (how your body moves through your range of motion).  Another factor that comes into play with proper bike fit is the type of bike riding that you will be doing (mountain vs. road; short vs. long distance; sprint vs. endurance, etc.).
     The best way to ensure a proper bike fit is to have it professionally done.  A fit-centered bike dealer will have a professional, who has been trained and certified in bike fitting, conduct the fitting session.  To see what these sessions involved first-hand, my husband and I made an appointment with Chad Johnston, a professional bike fitter, at Peak Performance Ski & Bike in Sylvan Lake.
     The bike fitting studio was equipped with a size cycle and various bike parts, a video camera,  and a computer.  Johnston uses the V1 Video Analysis Software for Sports developed by Interactive Frontiers, Inc. in Plymouth, Michigan.  This allows him to get dynamic measurements from the video without having to interrupt the client's pedaling.  A break in the pedaling to obtain a static measurement could lead to inaccurate measures if the client ends up shifting his/her weight as a result of having to stop.
     At the beginning of each session, Johnston conducts an initial assessment that includes questions about prior injuries and goals for biking.  He also measures range of motion and flexibility.  Johnston states that this information gives him "a picture of what the client is like off of the bike" which helps him find the best position for the individual on the bike.  During the testing session, Johnston asks the client how he/she is feeling and makes adjustments to the size cycle, such as changing the handle bars or hoods, to optimize the clients position on the bike.  
     Johnston's goal during the session is to determine the best position for the rider in terms of performance and comfort.  Once the best position is determined, then a "bike can be designed to them."  The measurements and information obtained from a ride on the size cycle creates a blueprint that Johnston can then take to a bike manufacturer for them to make "a bike that fits under the client."  Johnston states that a pitfall many people fall into is to purchase a stock bike that their favorite elite cyclist rides.  The problem with this is that the bike was designed for that particular athlete's biomechanics on the bike.  The client's riding style maybe completely different from the athletes.  The end result - increased risk of discomfort and injury and decreased efficiency and power for the client.
     If you want the best bicycle, and hence ride, for you, I recommend a professional bike fitting.  Johnston states that the average session lasts about 2 hours but can take longer if needed and the cost per session is $250.00 (at Peak Performance Ski & Bike).  Sessions are scheduled by appointment.  For further information on bike fitting, call Peak Performance Ski & Bike at (248) 454-1188 or visit the store on 2129 Orchard Lake Rd., Sylvan Lake, MI 48320.

Note:  Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, a physician's approval should be obtained, especially for older adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.

Chad Johnston, professional bike fitter at Peak Performance Ski & Bike

"How to Fit a Bicycle," White, P.J.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

General Health Tips for Baby Boomers

     Each generation has nutritional and exercise requirements unique to its age group.  The period during which you were raised influences your health behavior and practices as an adult.  Advancements in the field of medicine and a greater understanding of the importance of healthy lifestyle habits has changed the view of aging for the baby boomer population.
     However, advancing age, regardless of fitness level and nutritional status, does result in inevitable changes to the body.  One of the better known physiological changes is a decrease in muscle mass, at an average rate of 0.5-1.0% per year after the age of 40.  Bone mass also declines.  Energy needs change as a result of these alterations in body composition.  In the baby boomer generation, compared to the preceding generation (individuals born between 1926-1945, a.k.a., the "silent generation"), increased rates of obesity at an earlier age have been noted.  Associated with this is an increased relative risk of arthritis for boomers.
     Another age-related change of which the boomer needs to be cognizant is a decrease in gastrointestinal (GI) function.  GI tract motility is reduced and the absorption of calcium, Vitamins B6 and B12, and possibly iron and zinc, is decreased.  
     Older boomers may experience a decreased capacity to dissipate heat, increasing the risk of developing heat exhaustion or heat stroke during exercise.  With advancing age, blood flow to the skin is reduced and sweat production per gland is decreased.  Both processes are mechanisms by which the body cools itself.  
     As a result of these age-related changes, there are some general health tips that the boomer should follow.  It is important for members of the boomer generation to note that, as they age, their nutritional requirements change.  Thus, protein needs may be higher to attenuate muscle mass loss.  However, since many Americans already consume more than the RDA for protein (46 grams/day for women over 31 years and 56 grams/day for men over 31 years), baby boomers should concentrate on the form, not just the quantity, of protein that they consume.
     Boomers should aim to meet the RDA for protein by eating protein sources that have a high biological value (contain the essential amino acids).  These sources are referred to as complete proteins and include eggs, lean meats, poultry, fish, and low-fat dairy products.  Foods that have a low biological value, also known as incomplete proteins because they are missing at least one essential amino acid, can be combined to constitute a high biological value protein source.  These sources include whole grains, vegetables, legumes, and seeds.
     Other nutrients that members of the boomer generation should concentrate on getting adequate amounts of are calcium, folate, zinc, and Vitamins B6, B12, and D.  Fiber and fluid consumption should be increased to counteract the changes in GI tract motility.  Adequate fluid replacement will also help to prevent dehydration, especially from exercise.  Boomers should note that with advancing age, the desire to eat may lessen interfering with consuming the proper amount of nutrients.  Eating smaller, more frequent meals may help to overcome this. 
     Regular exercise of at least 150 minutes per week at a moderate-intensity level will attenuate changes in body composition and decrease the risk of chronic diseases.  The overweight boomer should aim to get in at least 250 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week for weight management.  Strength training exercises should also be incorporated to improve body composition and to promote bone health.  Individuals with arthritis may find it best to participate in low-impact activities such as swimming and bicycling.
     Although the physiological changes associated with aging are inevitable, baby boomers can attenuate these changes by adopting and adhering to healthy lifestyle habits.  By so doing, they increase their likelihood of living an independent and active life in their golden years.

The Coaches Guide to Sports Nutrition, 2007; pp. 213-219. Benardot, D. and Thoompson, W.R.

American Dietetic Association,

ACSM's Certified News, November/December 2008, "Nutrition and Physical Activity for Baby Boomers," p. 9-10. Volpe, S.

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Session Three, Walking a Straight Line

     It is important to perform core strength and balance exercises in positions other than an upright stance.  Positions such as kneeling alter your center of gravity.  This challenges your brain to adapt to a different pattern of weight distribution.  Practicing the exercises below will help you to participate in physical activities that require a kneeling position, such as gardening.

Pushup Plank/Two Point Balance - works glutes, shoulders, upper arms, and lower and upper back muscles; engages core stabilizers
Step One:  Keeping your back straight and your head in line with your spine, assume the pushup position on the disc.  Your hands should be slightly wider than shoulder width apart.
Step Two:  Tighten your abdominal muscles and extend one leg behind you.  Concentrate on contracting your glutes as you lift your leg.  Your lower back should not be arched.  Hold for a count of two.  Slowly bring your leg back to the starting position.  Repeat.  Perform 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions per leg.

Kneeling on all Fours - works glutes, back extensors, and shoulder extensors; engages core stabilizers
Step One:  Kneel on the disc with your knees shoulder width apart and placed at its center.  Your hands should be flat on the floor in front of you.
Step Two:  While tightening  your abdominal muscles and contracting  your glutes, extend one leg behind you.  Hold for a count of two.  Slowly return to the starting position.  Repeat.  Perform 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions per leg.
Alternate/Challenge:  Follow the instructions for Step Two, but extend your opposite arm as you extend your leg.  Hold for a count of two.  Repeat.  Perform 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions per arm/leg combination.

Note:  Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, a physician's approval should be obtained, especially for older adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Session Two of Walking a Straight Line

     Everyone can benefit from incorporating core and balance training into their exercise routine.  These exercises can be performed on alternate days and/or on rest days from your aerobic activity.

Seated Balance - works abdominal, obliques, hip flexors, and lower back muscles
Step One:  Sit on the center of the disc.  Your knees should be bent with your feet flat on the floor.  Your arms should be raised out in front of you.
Step Two:  While tightening your abdominal muscles, slowly lean back raising your feet off of the floor.  Hold for a count of two.  Slowly return to starting position.  Repeat.  Perform 2-3 sets of 8-10 repetitions.

Stepping - engages all stabilizers.  The purpose of this exercise is to train your body to make adjustments when you transfer from one medium to the next (e.g., from solid floor to unstable balance disc; sidewalk to grass).
Step One:  Stand in front of the disc with your eyes fixed straight ahead.
Step Two:  Step onto the disc with your right foot, placing it just to the right of the center. 
Step Three:  Step onto the disc with your left foot, placing it just to the left of the center, so that your feet are shoulder width apart.  Hold for a count of two.
Step Four:  To dismount, step back with your right foot then with your left foot.  Repeat.  Perform 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions per lead foot (e.g., 10 reps stepping with right foot first, then 10 reps stepping with left foot first).

Knee to Chest - works glutes and hip extensors; engages all stabilizers
Step One:  Stand in front of the disc with your arms extended in front and your knees slightly flexed.
Step Two:  Step onto the disc with your right foot.
Step Three:  While slightly flexing at the hips, bring your left knee up toward your chest.
Step Four:  Bring left leg back behind you, stepping onto the floor.  Then step back off of the disc with your right foot.  Repeat.  Perform 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions per lead leg (e.g., perform 10 reps with stepping with your right leg first, then 10 reps stepping with your left leg first).
Alternate Style:  When lifting your knee toward your chest, bring your arms down to your sides.

Note:  Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, a physician's approval should be obtained, especially for older adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Walk a Straight Line with These Balance Exercises

     Developing core strength and improving your balance are key to being functionally fit.  You may recall from my article, "Are you Fit to Function?," that the goal of a functional fitness exercise program is to train your body for the routine and customary movements of daily life situations.  A key element of functional fitness training is that it concentrates on developing muscle integration throughout the body during an activity.  Performing core strength and balance exercises on a balance disc or BOSU balance trainer, such as the ones demonstrated below, will help you to achieve functional fitness.  If this is your first attempt at incorporating core strength and balance exercises into your routine, you may find it easier to do these exercises without the balance disc.  You can incorporate the disc as your balance improves.  These exercises can also be performed using a step aerobics step/platform instead of a balance disc.

Single Leg Squat - works glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, hip adductors, and spinal extensors; engages core stabilizers (abdominal muscles)
Step One:  With your arms out to the side to maintain balance, stand with one foot on the disc.  Your opposite leg should be slightly flexed at the knee.
Step Two:  Tighten your abdominal muscles (to stabilize spine).  While bringing your arms out to the front, slowly lower yourself into a one-legged squatting position by flexing at the hips, knee, and ankle.  Hold for a count of two.  Slowly return to starting position.  Repeat with opposite leg.  Perform 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions per leg.

Side Lunge Toe Tap - works glutes, quadriceps, hip adductors and abductors; engages core stabilizers (abdominal and lower back muscles)
Step One:  Stand on the disc with feet shoulder width apart and arms out in front of your body, flexed at the elbow.
Step Two:  Slightly flex at the hips while you lunge to one side and tap your toes to the floor.  Step back onto the disc.  Repeat with other leg.  Perform 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions per leg.

Single Leg Balance - works glutes, hip adductors and abductors; engages core stabilizers (abdominal and lower back muscles)
Step One:  Stand with one foot at the center of the disc and one off to the side.  Arms should be raised to the sides to form a T.
Step Two:  Tighten your abdomen (to stabilize the spine) and raise your leg to the side.  Hold for a count of two.  Slowly return to starting position.  Repeat.  Perform 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions per leg.

Squat - works glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, hip adductors, and spinal extensors; engages core stabilizers (abdominal muscles)
Step One:  Stand on the balance disc with feet shoulder width apart.  Knees and hips should be slightly flexed.
Step Two:  Tighten abdominal muscles (stabilizes spine) and lower into a squatting position by flexing at the hips, knees, and ankles.  Raise arms forward to maintain balance.  Hold for a count of two.  Return to starting position.  Repeat.  Perform 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions.

     When performing these exercises, it may help to focus on an object straight ahead to help you with maintaining your balance.  Remember to breath during the activity, exhaling as you contract your muscles and inhaling as you return to the starting position.

Note:  Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, a physician's approval should be obtained, especially for older adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Do Shin Splints Have you Down?

     "Shin splints," an overuse injury in which pain is felt over the shin, is a general term used to describe a condition that has a variety of potential causes.  The discomfort can be a result of inflammation of the muscle (tibialis anterior), its tendons, or the periosteum (a membrane that covers bone) of the large bone in the lower leg (tibia).  Inflammation of the bone itself can lead to the pain associated with shin splints as well.  Shin splints are a common obstacle faced by both novice and veteran exercisers.

  • pain, dull aching sensation, and/or tenderness along the inner side or front of the shin
  • mild swelling 
  • flat feet
  • overpronation of feet (excessive rotation of the feet toward the midline of the body)
  • improper shoes for exercise mode
  • old, worn-out shoes
  • increasing volume of exercise too quickly
  • running on hard or slanted surfaces
  • running down hill
  • rest (however, participation in activities that do not aggravate the condition, such as swimming or bicycling, is encouraged to maintain fitness)
  • apply ice for 10-20 minutes every two hours to reduce pain and swelling
  • apply a compression wrap (ace bandage or sleeve) to control swelling
  • non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (e.g., ibuprofen)
  • doctor may recommend physical therapy (ultrasound, deep massage, and strengthening exercises)
  • wear orthotic devices to provide arch support or to correct for overpronating
  • wear proper shoes for exercise mode (e.g. do not wear yoga shoes to run 5 miles) and ensure shoes provide adequate cushioning
  • replace old, worn-out shoes (this would be after about 350-500 miles for runners)
  • gradually increase volume of physical activity (do not increase workload by more than 10% per week and avoid increasing the intensity and duration of the exercise in the same session)
  • cross-train - alternate days of low impact activity with those of high impact exercise (swim one day, run the next) to reduce the stress placed on the shins
  • perform stretching exercises for the calf muscles and the achilles tendon
  • perform strengthening exercises for the front lower leg muscles (e.g., toe raises)
  • avoid running on hard surfaces (e.g., run on the grass) 
When to Contact your Doctor
  • persistent shin pain despite rest and use of ice, compression wraps, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications 
  • increased swelling
  • shin is hot and inflamed
It is important to contact your doctor if you experience any of the above scenarios because another condition that needs medical attention, such as a stress fracture, may be the cause of the discomfort.


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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Blister Care and Prevention

     Blisters can cause big problems for your workout considering how relatively small they can be.  Prevention is key to avoiding a premature ending to your workout and/or missed sessions.  

What are Blisters?
     Blisters that occur from exercise are friction-induced burns.  "Pockets" of liquid form in the upper layers of the skin where rubbing from shoes, clothing, and/or sports equipment damages the top layer of the skin, causing it to separate from the lower layers.  The fluid commonly present in blisters is known as serum.  Serum is the watery substance of blood that remains after the clotting factors and red blood cells have been removed.  Blisters may also be filled with blood if a small blood vessel near the surface is ruptured and leaks into the space underneath the damaged top layer of skin. 
     A precursor to a blister is known as a "hot spot."  This presents itself as redness and warmth over the area exposed to the friction-causing source.  Exercise-induced "hot spots" and blisters typically form on the heels, toes, soles of the feet, and palms of the hands.  Blisters form more readily when the skin is moist and the conditions are warm.

Blister Prevention:
  • Wear properly fitted shoes.  Ensure that the seams inside the shoes are flat.  If shoes are new, "break" them in with lower levels of activity.
  • Wear moisture-wicking socks to keep feet dry.
  • Wear two layers of socks (thin first layer and a thicker outer layer).  Wearing two socks places the friction point between the two socks and not your foot and the sock.
  • Apply petroleum jelly, talcum powder, tape, and/or an adhesive bandage over "hot spots."
  • Wear gloves when weight training or using other hand held devices during exercise.
Blister Treatment:
  • If the blister is not painful and has not broken, try to leave it intact.  The skin acts as a barrier against bacteria reducing the risk for infection.  Place an adhesive bandage or foam "donut" pad over the blister.
  • If the blister is painful, the fluid can be drained by making a small hole with a sterilized needle or pin at the edge of the blister.  Wash your hands with soap and water and wipe the blister and surrounding area with rubbing alcohol before draining.  Do not remove the overlying skin as it will help protect against infection.  Clean the drained blister with an alcohol wipe, apply a triple antibiotic ointment, and cover with an adhesive bandage.
  • Do not drain blood blisters. 
Contact your physician before you attempt to drain a blister if you suspect it is infected, you are a diabetic or have poor circulation.  Signs of an infection include unusual redness and warmth around the area of the blister, red streaks going away from the blister, pain, and/or pus.


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Monday, July 20, 2009

wats 'SUP?

My first SUP experience with Tim Shepard, owner of TWC Surf and Sport in Sylvan Lake

Practicing my paddling technique.

Tim Shepard at the end of our paddle around Orchard Lake.

     A new breed has ridden a wave into town and they are paddling their way through our flat waters.  Who is this small but growing group of water enthusiasts?  What is their sport?  They are stand-up paddlers.  Their sport is stand-up paddleboarding/surfing (SUP).  SUP requires you to stand on a paddleboard that is wider and longer than a conventional surf board and to use a paddle to propel yourself through the water.
     SUP has a Hawaiian heritage that dates back to the days when the beach boys of Waikiki would stand on their surf boards and paddle off the shoreline to instruct and take pictures of novice surfers.  The roots of the sport trace back even further to the early days of Polynesia.
     SUP is the ultimate sport offering versatility and a total body workout of which anyone of any age, gender, skill, and fitness level can take advantage.  Those who participate in SUP can choose to surf the waves of the oceans and Great Lakes (using the paddle as a rudder) or opt to paddle the flat waters.  Because of their large size, two individuals can fit on the board, making it a great activity to do with your child.  
     Intrigued by its promise to challenge my cardiovascular system and to test my balance and core strength, I set out to attempt my hand at this sport and sought the advice and instruction of a seasoned paddler, Tim Shepard, owner of TWC Surf and Sport located in Sylvan Lake (  "Its like walking on water" Shepard says as we set out on our adventure.  SUP is not as complicated as it seems.  Acquiring balance comes quickly thanks to the construction of the board (wide and long).  Tracking (going in a straight line) is aided by a fin on the bottom of the paddleboard.
     The paddling technique is important to optimize the fitness benefits of the sport as well as to prevent injury.  Stroking is different for SUP than it is for canoeing.  Bending at the waist will make you less efficient and can lead to back discomfort.  Proper posture is the key to developing your upper body and core musculature and for engaging your stabilizers to maintain balance.  Your body should be positioned at the center of the board, your feet parallel, knees bent, back straight, and eyes focused on the horizon.
     Not only is stand-up paddleboarding a great workout, but it is enjoyment for your soul.  Its peaceful, yet invigorating.  You can become one with nature in a way that is not possible with some other water sports.  "Its fun and exercise at the same time.  You're getting your exercise without knowing it," states Brian LeFeve, owner of Great Lakes Kiteboarding stores located in St. Claire Shores and E. Tawas ( 
     Are you interested in "stepping on board" to join the SUP crowd?  If so, here is some helpful information from LeFeve:

Board Styles:
  • Basic/recreational paddleboards tend to be longer and wider averaging around 11-12' long.  Their size increases stability on the water.  They are great for paddling on flat waters and for beginners.
  • Touring paddleboards are more narrow than the basic to make them glide more smoothly and faster.  They are designed for cruising long distances.
  • Wave boards are shorter than the basic board (8.5-9' long) and are narrow like the touring paddleboard.  They are designed for wave surfing.  The paddle is used as a rudder to speed up and slow down.  Wave boards typically have one large fin in the center and one smaller fin on either side to track on the wave and to do bottom turns.
  • Hybrid paddleboards are a cross between a wave board and a touring board.  They can be used to both surf and flat water paddle.
Paddle Basics:
  • Paddles are typically cut to size.  The standard being cut to 7-10" over your  height if you are using them for recreational fitness or touring.  If you will be surfing, 3-6" over your height is recommended because of the crouched position you must assume and the frequent switching of sides of the paddle.
  • Although more expensive, a carbon paddle is recommended because it is lighter in weight, delaying fatigue, and rebounds quicker, increasing speed.
  If you're looking for a new form of exercise that keeps boredom at bay, I highly recommend stand-up paddleboarding.  There is no monotony with this sport.  Each downstroke brings you closer to a new adventure as you paddle off into the horizon.

Note:  Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, a physician's approval should be obtained, especially for older adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.

For more information on this sport, contact either Tim Shepard or Brian LeFeve at the sites listed above or the phone numbers listed below.

Tim Shepard, owner of TWC Surf and Sport, 2133 Orchard Lake Rd., Sylvan Lake, MI 48320, (248) 681-1300.

Brian LeFeve, owner of Great Lakes Kiteboarding, 22600 Greater Mack, St. Clair Shores, MI 48080 or 211 Newman St., E. Tawas, MI 48730, (586) 822-6511.

Standup Paddle Magazine, Winter 2009.

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Get Sculpted: Session Three - Lower Body

Try these great toning exercises for the lower body.

Toe Press - works calf muscles
Step One:  Sit with one leg extended with toes pointing up.  The other leg can be flexed with foot flat on ground.  Wrap resistance band around the ball of the foot of the extended leg.  Take up slack.
Step Two:  Point toes away from body.  Hold for a count of two.  Slowly return to starting position.  Repeat.  Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions per foot.

Leg Press - works thigh (quadriceps) and hip extensor muscles
Step One:  Sit with legs in flexed position.  Place resistance band under one foot.  Take up slack.
Step Two:  Extend leg forward until knee is slightly flexed.  Hold for a count of two.  Slowly return to starting position.  Repeat.  Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions per leg.

Hamstrings Curl - works hamstrings and calf muscles
Step One:  Tie resistance band around both ankles so that feet can be positioned about 1 inch apart.
Step Two:  Flex knee of one leg to 90 degrees (you may need to support yourself against a tree/post to maintain balance and proper form).  Hold for a count of two.  Slowly return to starting position.  Repeat.  Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions per leg.

Side Step - works buttocks (glutes) muscles
Step One:  Tie resistance band around both ankles.  Place hands on hips.
Step Two:  Squat down as far as you can while maintaining your balance and good form.  Step to one side and hold for a count of two.  Slowly return to starting position.  Repeat by either stepping to same side or to opposite side.  Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions.

Note:  Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, a physician's approval should be obtained, especially for older adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Get Sculpted: Session Two - Upper Body and Core

Get toned with these great arm and core exercises:  triceps press (top); biceps curl (middle); the plank (bottom)

Biceps Curl -  works upper arm (front) muscles
Step One:  Place one foot on the end of the resistance band.  Grip the other end of the resistance band with your hand of the same side.  With arm extended grip resistance band and take up the slack.  Your palm should be facing up and your elbow close to your body.
Step Two:  While keeping your wrist straight, curl your arm, flexing it until your wrist is even with your chest.  Hold for a count of two.  Slowly return to starting position.  Repeat.  Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions for each arm.

Triceps Curl - works upper arm (back) muscles
Step One:  Grip resistance band in both hands.  Take up slack so that one hand can be crossed over and resting on your chest while the other hand is near hip level. 
Step Two:  Extend your arm that is near your hip, down and back.  Hold for a count of two.  Slowly return to starting position.  Repeat.  Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions for each arm.

The Plank - works shoulder, upper back, abdominal, thigh, and buttocks muscles
Step One:  Tie resistance band around your ankles and get into the plank position.  Hold for 12 seconds.
Step Two:  While maintaining a flat back, separate your feet as much as possible.  Hold for another 12 seconds.  Return to starting position.  Repeat.  Perform 2-3 sets of 5-10 repetitions.

Note:  Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, a physician's approval should be obtained, especially for older adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.

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Friday, July 17, 2009

Sculpt Your Upper Body in Your Own Backyard! Session One


Boost your strength with these exercises: shoulder extension/flexion (top); seated horizontal row (left); chest press (right).

Need a midsummer "mix-up" in your strength training routine?  Take it outdoors with these easy-to-do resistance band exercises.

Shoulder Extension/Flexion - works shoulder, back, and upper (inner) arm muscles
Step One:  Grip the resistance band in front of your body, with your hands about 12 inches apart and one arm slightly higher than the other.
Step Two:  Flex the shoulder of the arm that is higher while you extend the shoulder of the arm that is lower.  Hold for a count of two.  Slowly return to starting position.  Repeat.  Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions for each side.

Chest Press - works chest, shoulder, and triceps muscles
Step One:  Place the resistance band on your back across your shoulder blades.  Grip the resistance band so that it fits snugly against your back.  Your hands should be beneath each underarm.
Step Two:  Press your arms forward.  Hold for a count of two.  Slowly bring arms back to start position.  Repeat.  Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions.

Seated Horizontal Row - works upper back and shoulder muscles
Step One:  Sit with legs extended (knees may be slightly flexed).  Place the resistance band under the balls of your feet.  
Step Two:  Grip the ends of the band and pull with both hands toward your torso, keeping hands level with the chest.  Hold for a count of two.  Slowly return.  Repeat.  Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions.

Note:  Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, a physician's approval should be obtained, especially for older adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Apples, Onions, and Exercise

     What do apples and onions have to do with exercise?  Quercetin.  Quercetin, a polyphenolic flavonoid of which apples and onions serve as good sources, was the topic of a study published online last month in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism.  The study investigated the possible effects of quercetin on exercise in humans.  
     Results of animal studies indicate that quercetin may improve performance.  These studies have found that it provides a variety of health benefits due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.  These studies have also indicated that quercetin increases the number of mitochondria (the "powerhouse of the cell" from which the cell gets most of its energy) in the brain and muscles.  Research regarding these effects in humans is lacking.
     A team of investigators from the University of South Carolina's Arnold School of Public Health, led by Dr. Mark Davis, investigated the effects of quercetin consumption on maximal aerobic capacity (a measure of how physically fit you are) and exercise endurance in twelve healthy and active, but not highly trained, college students.  The study involved two testing trials, each a week long.  For one of the weeks, 6 of the subjects consumed 500 mg of quercetin dissolved in Tang twice a day, while the remaining 6 drank Tang with a placebo twice a day.  At the end of the week the subjects performed an endurance ride at a constant workload to the point of fatigue and a graded exercise test to evaluate aerobic capacity.  For the second trial, the subjects were crossed over to the other supplement and then performed the exercise tests at the end of the week.  Therefore, all subjects were exposed to both the quercetin and placebo conditions.  Neither the subjects nor the researchers knew which drink was being consumed during the trial periods.
     The results of the study revealed that maximal aerobic capacity was positively effected by quercetin supplementation.  Maximal aerobic capacity was greater by about 3.9% with the quercetin dose when compared to the placebo trial.  Endurance capacity was also enhanced by quercetin supplementation, with an increase of about 13.2% being noted.
     The researchers did not specifically investigate the means by which quercetin enhances exercise performance, but they offer the following hypotheses:
  • It could increase mitochondrial biogenesis (assumption based on animal research).   An increase in the number of mitochondria is a primary factor in improving exercise endurance.
  • Its antioxidant property may play a role in protecting the cell membranes from oxidative damage, subsequently delaying muscular fatigue.
  • Its "caffeine-like psychostimulant effect" may delay fatigue by blocking adenosine receptors in the brain.
     The investigators indicate that further research is needed in this area to fully understand the role that quercetin plays in improving exercise performance as well as in health promotion and disease prevention overall.  Although eating a well balanced diet that includes a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables is your best bet for optimal health, you can increase the amount of quercetin in your diet by consuming the following foods:
  • Apples
  • Onions
  • Cherries
  • Berries
  • Buckwheat

International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 2009, 20, 1-13 "The Dietary Flavonoid Quercetin Increases VO2max and Endurance Capacity," Davis, M.J. et al.

The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods, 2005, p. 670, Murray, M.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Cereal and Nonfat Milk Prove to be "Gr-r-reat!" for Recovery from Exercise

     Tony the Tiger, the mascot for Kellogg's Frosted Flakes cereal, was right about one thing - cereal can be "Gr-r-reat!" for your health.  However, you'll want to make sure that the cereal you choose is whole grain if you are looking for an effective exercise recovery meal.  That was the form of the cereal tested in Lynne Kammer's study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, on May 14, 2009 (
     Kammer, an exercise physiologist from The University of Texas at Austin, set out to compare the physiological effects of everyday foods, such as whole grain cereal and nonfat milk, with those of carbohydrate-electrolyte sports drinks.  In the study 8 male and 4 female trained cyclists/triathletes served as their own controls and performed a typical cycling session for 2 hours at moderate-intensity on two separate occasions that were at least 4, but no more than 12, days apart.  The test sessions were randomized so that during the initial trial six subjects ingested 2, 20-ounce bottles of a sports drink (6% carbohydrate) while the remaining six subjects consumed a typical sized bowl of whole grain cereal and nonfat milk (73 grams of Wheaties, General Mills, Inc. and 350 ml of nonfat milk).  Blood samples were taken before and after exercise and at 15 minute intervals after ingesting the trial meal/beverage.  Muscle biopsies were performed after exercise and 60 minutes after supplementation.
     Results of the study indicate that the supplement of whole grain cereal and nonfat milk was just as effective at replacing glycogen stores after exercise as was the 6% carbohydrate-electrolyte drink.  Furthermore, some factors of protein synthesis (muscle repair) were better after consuming the cereal and milk than they were after drinking the sports beverage.
     Kammer et al. concluded that a post-exercise meal of whole grain cereal and nonfat milk proves to be an acceptable, and cheaper, option to the consumption of sports drinks.  The researchers further note that the easily digested high-quality protein found in milk can aid in protein synthesis, unlike the 6% carbohydrate-electrolyte sports drink.


Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, May 14, 2009, "Cereal and Nonfat Milk Support Muscle Recovery Following Exercise," Kammer, L. et al.

Medical News Today. The new sports supplement: cereal and milk.

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Getting the Fitness "Buzz" with Caffeine

     Are you one of those people who can't function during the day unless you have a cup of coffee?  If so, you might be saying that about your coffee and exercise performance.  Caffeine - a central nervous system stimulant naturally found in coffee, tea, and chocolate - is known to increase alertness, enhance the ability to concentrate, and offset drowsiness.  It can act as an ergogenic aid as well.
     Performance for endurance physical activity can be improved when caffeine is consumed an hour before or during exercise.  Doses of caffeine between 3-13 mg/kg of body weight have been found to be effective.  Drinking 1-2 cups (236-472 ml) of coffee or tea should suffice.  However, it should be noted that there are adverse side effects associated with caffeine consumption.  They include:
  • Restlessness/jitters
  • Increased heart rate
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Gastrointestinal distress
     Taken in excess, caffeine can lead to dehydration because it acts as a diuretic.  However, this effect can be offset if adequate fluids are consumed.  New research has found that ingesting moderate amounts of caffeine does not lead to dehydration or electrolyte imbalances.
     Beware of high-energy drinks containing caffeine.  These drinks, when taken in excess or in combination with other stimulants and alcohol, can be potentially dangerous.  Furthermore, some may contain more sugar than you need.
     Both the benefits and risks associated with caffeine consumption should be considered before you make the decision to use it as an ergogenic aid.  It is recommended that you consult your physician and/or a sports nutritionist regarding the safety and effectiveness of this stimulant for you.

Caffeine Content of Some Beverages
  • Drip coffee (6 oz.):  60-180 milligrams
  • Black tea (6 oz.):  25-110 milligrams
  • Green tea (6 0z.):  8-16 milligrams
  • Cola (12 oz.):  29-99 milligrams
Vegetarian Sports Nutrition - food choices and eating plans for fitness and performance, 2007, pp. 145-147, Larson-Meyer, D.E.

The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods, 2005, p. 670, Murray, M.

ACSM's Certified News, October-December 2008, volume 18, issue 4, "Nutrition: Popular Supplements for Performance and Recovery," p. 8, Barret, J.

Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 2009, "Joint Position Statement: American College of Sports Medicine, American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada - Nutrition and Athletic Performance," p. 722.

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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Exercise Stress Test: What is it?

     An exercise stress test is one of the tools that your doctor can use to evaluate how well your heart responds to the demands placed on it.  It gives him or her an indication as to how healthy your heart is.  Other names that an exercise stress test is known by include: graded exercise test (GXT), stress test, treadmill test, and exercise/stress electrocardiogram. 
     Your doctor may recommend a stress test if you have been experiencing symptoms suggestive of coronary artery disease, such as chest/arm/jaw pain or unusual shortness of breath.  He/she may also want you to perform the test if you have multiple risk factors for heart disease, such as being overweight, a smoker, a diabetic, or having high cholesterol and/or high blood pressure.  If you have been experiencing an irregular heartbeat, your doctor may use the test to see if there is a heart-related cause.  The stress test can also be used to check the effectiveness of a procedure performed to increase blood flow to your heart, such as with bypass surgery.  Or, it may be used to determine your ability to safely resume activities of daily living after a heart attack.  Another use for the test can be to determine your state of fitness so that a safe level of exercise can be prescribed to you if you are interested in starting a program.
     A stress test typically requires you to either walk on a treadmill or ride a stationary bike while the workload becomes progressively harder at specific intervals.  During the test, your heart rate, blood pressure, and the electrical activity of your heart (by means of an electrocardiogram) are monitored.  Furthermore, throughout the test you are asked to rate how difficult you perceive the exercise to be and if you are experiencing any symptoms or discomfort.  
     To increase the sensitivity and specificity of the test, your doctor may choose to have images taken of your heart, such as through echocardiography or nuclear imaging, to be used in combination with the electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG).  Another alternative mode of testing involves non-exercise, pharmacologic-induced stress.  Your doctor would recommend this form of testing if you are unable to exercise due to such conditions as orthopedic limitations, a de-conditioned health state, or the presence of a disease that would not allow you to reach the level of stress needed to produce valid results.
     Depending on the results of the stress test, your doctor may send you for further testing, such as a cardiac catheterization.  Or, he may suggest lifestyle changes that would promote your health and decrease your risk for disease.  If you have any questions before the stress test or after, don't hesitate to ask your doctor.

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Buddy System

     Are you "going it alone" with exercise and finding it difficult to stick to a regular routine?  The key to successfully maintaining an exercise program may be to find an exercise partner.  Humans are social beings.  We thrive on comradeship and social connectedness.  Experiencing social interactions and developing relationships with other exercisers can help you successfully make a lifelong commitment to exercise. 

  • Accountability:  You are less likely to skip a workout if you know a friend is waiting for you at the gym.
  • Motivation:  It is much easier to accomplish a difficult task when you have someone cheering you on.  Furthermore, a little friendly competition between exercise partners can be of benefit.  For instance, whomever wins the tennis match gets to choose where to go for dinner.
  • Validation:  Knowing that someone else is experiencing similar challenges as you creates a sense of connectedness.  This, in turn, can increase your confidence that you can overcome the barriers to exercise, especially if you know you are doing it together.
  • Distraction:  Conversations during the physical activity helps time to "fly by."  Discussing your weekend plans with a friend will keep your mind off of the normal muscular fatigue that you experience during moderate-intensity exercise, allowing you to stick with it to the end.
Who should you choose as a partner?
  • Your exercise partner should have a similar fitness level and ability.  This helps with motivation and validation.
  • Someone who has similar exercise goals.  Accountability and motivation can be effected if your partner wants to use runs as training sessions for a marathon and you are only interested in running a 5K.
  • Your exercise partner should have a healthy attitude in regards to exercise and well-being.  Choose someone that you know is committed to adhering to a healthy lifestyle.
  • A fellow exerciser should be someone with whom you have "good chemistry."  That is, choose someone with whom you enjoy being around.  This will make exercise more enjoyable, positively effecting motivation.
Successful exercise adherence can occur through exercise partnerships.  The social support and validation experienced will have a positive effect on your motivation.  Exercising with someone who brings you joy will help make the journey to better health a little easier.

Note:  Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, a physician's approval should be obtained, especially for older adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.

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Sunday, July 5, 2009

How Fitness Savvy Are You?

     How much do you know about living a healthy lifestyle?  Grab a pencil and a piece of paper and take my quiz below to test your knowledge.  Answers and explanations are found at the bottom of the posting.

1.  If you are naturally thin, you are already healthy and do not 
     need to exercise.
a.  True
b.  False

2.  If you exercise regularly you do not need to be careful about
      what you eat or the amount of food you consume.
a.  True
b.  False

3.  What is the best type of exercise to do?
a.  Calisthenics only
b.  Strength training only
c.  A combination of aerobic, strength, flexibility, and 
      balance exercises
d.  Mind/body exercises only

4.  How can you tell if you are exercising at an appropriate 
      intensity level?
a.  You can barely catch your breath
b.  When your muscles start to "burn"
c.  When you are sweating profusely
d.  When you are breathing harder but can still carry 
      on a conversation

5.  You only need to strength train if you want to get "buff."
a.  True
b.  False

6.  When you perform strength training exercises, how should 
      you breathe?
a.  Inhale as you lift the weight and exhale as you lower 
     the weight
b.  Hold your breath because strength training is an anaerobic 
      activity and so you do not need oxygen to perform it
c.  It doesn't matter, just breath how you want
d.  Exhale as you lift the weight and inhale as you lower 
     the weight

7.  An example of weight-bearing exercises include all of the 
      following except...
a.  Bicycling
b.  Running
c.  Jumping rope
d.  Walking

8.  It doesn't matter if your HDL levels are low, total cholesterol 
      is the only value you need to be concerned about.
a.  True
b.  False

9.  To get health benefits from exercise, you need to...
a.  Perform 5 minutes of gardening a day
b.  Engage in at least 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity 
     exercise per week or at least 75-150 minutes of 
     vigorous-intensity physical activity per week
c.  You do not need to exercise you just have to eat 
     right to be healthy
d.  Exercise as hard as you can for as long as you can

10.  Exercise can help you to sleep better.
a.  True
b.  False


1.  b, False:  Exercise provides many health benefits independent of weight loss, such as a decreased risk for all-cause mortality and chronic health conditions such as cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.  In fact, individuals who are overweight but regularly exercise are healthier than thin, inactive individuals.  For more information on the health benefits of exercise refer to my March 5, 2009  post "Why Exercise?".

2. b, False:  Exercise and diet go hand-in-hand to promote health.  A diet too high in fat, especially saturated fat, can lead to abnormally high cholesterol levels and an increased risk for a heart attack and stroke.  A high fat diet can also increase your risk for certain cancers, such as colon and breast cancer.  Consuming more calories than you expend will lead to weight gain.

3.  c:  A combination of exercises that includes aerobic activity (e.g. walking), strength training (e.g. weight machines), flexibility (e.g. stretching), and balance (e.g. use of wobble board or BOSU Sport Balance Trainer) is best.  Each type provides important health benefits that can  improve quality of life, preserve functional ability, and promote independence.

4.  d:  In the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, the federal government states that a good gauge of how hard you are exercising is to perform the "talk test."  While performing moderate-intensity activity your breathing rate will be noticeably increased, but you should still be able to carry on a conversation, but not sing.  When engaging in vigorous-intensity exercise, you can only speak a few words before needing to take a breath.  If you are gasping for air, the intensity is too high.

5.  b, False:  Resistance training has many health benefits besides building muscle tissue and strength.  Research has shown that it can decrease body fat percentage, increase basal metabolic rate, promote bone health (decrease risk for osteoporosis), and reduce the risk for lower back pain.

6.  d:  Holding your breath while lifting the weight (exerting force) can compromise safety.  Known as the Valsalva maneuver, this technique can result in a dangerously rapid rise and fall in blood pressure which can lead to dizziness, abnormal heart beat or fainting.  To avoid the Valsalva maneuver, you should exhale as you lift the weight (when contracting the muscle).

7.  a:  Weight-bearing exercises require you to support your own body weight while you move your body against gravity.  While bicycling, your body weight is supported by the bike.  Therefore, it is considered a non-weight-bearing activity.

8.  b, False:  HDL, or high-density lipoprotein, is considered the "good cholesterol."  It carries the "bad cholesterol" (LDL, or low-density-lipoprotein) away from the arteries preventing plaque build-up.  High levels (60 mg/dl or higher) have a protective effect against heart disease.  Low levels (less than 40 mg/dl for men and less than 50 mg/dl for women) increase your risk for heart disease.

9.  b:  In the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, the federal government recommends a minimum of 150-300 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise (e.g. walking at a 3 mph pace) or 75-150 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise per week (e.g. running at a 6 mph pace) to obtain health benefits. 

10. a, True:  Regular exercise can help you to fall asleep sooner and to experience a deeper sleep.

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