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, April 27, 2011

The Strength of THOR, "God of Thunder"

Paramount Pictures and Marvel Studio's THOR (directed by Kenneth Branagh) hits theaters on May 6, 2011. (Courtesy of Paramount)

Paramount Pictures and Marvel Studios plan to give you a thundering jolt into the mystical world of the Norse gods on May 6, 2011 when their motion picture adaptation of the Marvel comic book superhero “Thor” strikes theaters. Thor (played by Chris Hemsworth) is the mighty, but arrogant, hammer-wielding god of thunder who lives in the mythical realm of Asgard, where magic and science are “one and the same.” Thor falls from the graces of his father, King Odin (played by Anthony Hopkins), after his heedless actions reignite an ancient war with the Frost Giants of the frozen realm of Jotunheim. As a result, Odin strips him of his enchanted hammer (from which Thor acquires his supernatural strength and the ability to control the storms) and casts it, and Thor, down to the lower realm of earth, where Thor is to learn humility as a mere mortal.

This action-packed epic will certainly evoke sheer awe of Thor’s might and have you yearning to possess even just a fraction of his superior strength and power. A fantasy you say? Fortunately, there is a facet of human existence in which magic and science meld into one…’s called fitness. That’s right, regular exercise empowers you with optimal health and arms you against chronic diseases. And, proper training can help you develop the god-like physique that Chris Hemsworth acquired for his role as Thor.

Actor Chris Hemsworth trained hard to acquire the muscle mass needed for his role as the god of thunder, Thor. (Courtesy of Paramount)

Hemsworth was able to transform his shape with the help of celebrity trainer Duffy Gaver, a former U.S. Marine Corps Scout Sniper and Navy Seal. Gaver described Hemsworth’s training regimen to me during a recent phone interview. “Building muscle was top-shelf priority,” he said. “If you want to bulk up you gotta get back to body building basics. We bulked Chris by traditional weight lifting.”

Intense, heavy lifting with dumbbells and barbells were often the exercises of choice, but good old-fashioned push-ups and pull-ups and drills in which Hemsworth was “under the gun of the speed clock” were also incorporated. “You do not need expensive equipment or to go to a gym to get fit,” said Gaver. “The military has been getting fit in an open field for years. You just need an open space and something that you can pull yourself up on and/or across the field," he stated. Simply put, to achieve your fitness and health goals, effort is required. “My take on training,” explained Gaver, “is that it is hard work. If you work hard, you will get results.” This is an important point that he raised, because the type of exercise and equipment chosen become irrelevant if you are not willing to give it what it takes to get into shape.

“Chris was ready to go,” stated Gaver. Hemsworth actually exceeded his muscle building goals according to press notes released regarding the production of THOR. Perhaps his attitude helped. To acquire physical prowess, you must have strength of mind. “What you say to yourself is what turns out," Gaver noted. "What you tell yourself is what gets you past and to the next level. If you tell yourself you can’t, then you won’t.” He also explained that you need to “train without thinking about it.” That is, “approach it as you would brushing your teeth,” Gaver suggested. “You don’t think about having to do it [brushing your teeth], you just do it. You should look at training the same way. You have to take for granted that that is what you do, you train. Tell yourself that you will train.....[it is] just what you would do as a part of life.”

Only those who are "worthy" are able to lift the enchanted hammer. (Courtesy of Paramount)

Gaver noted that in addition to weight training, nutrition and rest also played a role in Hemsworth’s muscle mass gains. “You do not get big in the gym. You get big by resting [from the workout]. In the gym you are tearing yourself down. When you eat the right foods for repair, your body will recover and you will get bigger,” he explained. These are noteworthy points. While you sleep, your body repairs and rebuilds itself. And, it can only do that when it has sufficient quantities of the proper nutrients. Gaver stated that Hemsworth met with a nutritionist who added protein to his diet and took away extra starchy carbohydrates.

Another pertinent issue that Gaver addressed is that you need to have fun with your workout. “The best exercise is what is fun to do, because you will do it,” he stated. “It’s not worth bringing the intensity of a workout down a notch just to make a client do the exercises you want him to do. If there is an exercise that he likes, then you incorporate that into the routine. You will get the same result, just a different route,” he explained. Adding variety and attempting new exercises are ways to make working out more enjoyable and can help you develop a desirable physique like Chris Hemsworth did for his role as the titular character Thor.

If you want a taste of what it is like to be the hammer-wielding god of thunder, then let the science of exercise bring you the magic of good health by incorporating the Thor-inspired exercises depicted below into your routine. NOTE: Recommendations are for the general public interested in improving strength to enhance overall health. If you wish to achieve large muscle mass gains, such as Hemsworth did to play Thor, then consider seeking the advice of a certified personal trainer or fitness professional for a personalized program. To find one in your area, visit the website of the American Council on Exercise.

“Hammer” Lift (Wide-Stance Dead Lift) – works the glutes (buttocks), hamstrings (back of thighs), hip adductors, quadriceps (front of thighs) and erector spinae (lower back).
Technique: Assume the squat position with feet wider than shoulder-width apart and pointed out at a slight angle. Grasp the dumbbell, and in one fluid movement, pull back your shoulders while extending your hips and legs to push your torso upward while lifting the weight. Hold the position briefly and then slowly lower your body to the start position. Perform 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions using the heaviest weight that allows you to complete your set without compromising your form.

Single-Arm “Hammer” Swing- works glutes (buttocks), hamstrings (back of thighs), quadriceps (front of thighs), core stabilizers and deltoids (shoulders)
Technique: Flex your knees and hips until your torso is approximately at a 45 degree angle to the ground with the dumbbell between your legs and your arm straight. Forcefully extend the knees and hips to swing the dumbbell up to chest level while assuming an upright position. For the downswing, flex your knees and hips while bringing the dumbbell down through your legs. NOTE: The momentum of the swing comes from the flexion and extension of the hips, with comparatively minimal involvement of the shoulder and arm muscles (which are to be used only to guide the weight). Perform 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions per side using the heaviest weight that allows you to complete your set without compromising your form.

Warrior’s Lunge-works the glutes (buttocks), hamstrings (back of thighs), quadriceps (front of thighs), hip abductors, core (midsection) and obliques (sides of abdomen)
Technique: Hold kettlebell with the horns at chest level. Step back with one leg while flexing the knee of the other and rotating your torso toward the side of the lead leg. Hold briefly and then return to the start position. Perform 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions per side using the heaviest weight that allows you to complete your set without compromising your form.

Strike of Thunder (Wood Chopper) – works the core (midsection) and obliques (sides of abdomen)
Technique: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly flexed while holding the dumbbell with both hands. The dumbbell should be held over one shoulder with outstretched arms. Recruit your core muscles to bring the dumbbell down, across your midsection toward the outside of your opposite leg. Hold briefly, then return to starting position. Perform 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions per side using the heaviest weight that allows you to complete your set without compromising your form.

THOR opens in theaters May 6, 2011.

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.

Duffy Gaver, Celebrity Personal Trainer; April 19, 2011 Phone Interview.

Paramount Pictures: "THOR" Production Information

Muscle Mechanics: Correct Technique for 65 Resistance Training Exercises, Second Edition; Everett Aaberg; 2006.

Fitness Professional's Guide to Musculoskeletal Anatomy and Human Movement; Lawrence A. Golding, Ph.D., FACSM and Scott M. Golding, M.S.; 2003

Body Sculpting with Kettlebells for Women; Lorna Kleidman; 2009

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Monday, April 18, 2011

Get Simply Fit at SELF Magazine's Workout in the Park Event!

Embrace fitness. Embrace health. Embrace yourSELF this Spring during SELF Magazine's 18th Annual Workout in the Park. SELF's Workout in the Park is an outdoor festival taking place in Chicago (May 21, 2011), New York (May 7, 2011) and San Francisco (April 30, 2011) that encourages women to get fit and healthy so that they can become their best selves. Information on exercise, nutrition, fashion and beauty will be at the fingertips of Workout in the Park attendees.  Both the Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the Cosmetic Executive Women's Cancer and Careers organizations are charitable partners with the Workout in the Park event.

Workout in the Park will show you that exercise doesn't have to be a drag, it can be fun. Participants can expect to sculpt their bodies through invigorating exercise classes led by fitness instructors from Crunch, a chain of state-of-the-art gyms that unite fitness with entertainment. Some of the new class offerings this year by Crunch include "LaBlast" which will get you dancing up a sweat like contestants on Dancing with the Stars and "Kama Strength" (Kama sutra fitness) designed to strengthen your muscles and boost your libido. 

In addition to getting some serious exercise during SELF's Workout in the Park, participants can expect to get a little pampering from Garnier.  Attendees can visit tents to get mini-facials and consultations on hair coloring. Free samples and prizes will also be available.  The offerings of SELF's Workout in the Park does not end there, however, participants at the Chicago and San Francisco locations can expect a guest appearance by Alison Sweeney, host of The Biggest Loser and author of "The Mommy Diet."  Attendees in New York will get benefit from special guest emcee Danielle Monaro from Z100's Elvis Duran and The Morning Show.

The cost of SELF's Workout in the Park is $20.00 per person and includes a one-year subscription to SELF Magazine. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the Cosmetic Executive Women's Cancer and Careers organizations. If you purchase tickets today, April 18, 2011 you will also receive a free gift that includes a water bottle and SELF notebook to record your progress and caloric intake. To purchase tickets visit

Skirt Public Relations

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

"Blade Runner" Redefines What is Possible

Have you ever thrown in the towel prematurely? That is, have you given up on something before giving it your all? Many have, myself included.....but, no one can accuse double-amputee South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius of this. Dubbed the "Blade Runner," twenty-four year old Pistorius uses carbon fiber prosthetic blades made by Ossur to compete in the 100, 200 and 400 meters sprint categories. He is a Paralympic gold medalist in these same events and the Paralympic world record-holder in the 400 meters, with a time of 45.61, which he set last month at South Africa's Provincial Championships in Pretoria.

Pistorius was born without the fibula (a bone in the lower leg) in both legs; therefore, his legs were amputated below the knee when he was just 11 months old. He aspires to compete against able-bodied runners in this year's IAAF World Championships and the 2012 London Olympics. He will get his shot at achieving the qualifying time of 45.25 for these race goals on June 11, 2011 when he makes his debut at the Adidas Grand Prix in New York, according to yesterday's press release by the organizers.

At the June 11 event, Pistorius is expected to compete against three-time Olympic gold medalist Jeremy Wariner. In the press release, Pistorius states "I expect the race to be a challenge and one that I am looking forward to.....I have no doubt there will be athletes running 44s, but if this is where I aspire to be I need to run against the best. Running in New York will be a great honor for me; it has an exceptional history from track in the U.S. and I'm very excited for it." Pistorius' sentiment and accomplishments are an inspiration. He is creating the possible for himself out of what many would deem the impossible.

Often we call it quits too soon and end up falling short of what "could be." The lesson to be learned is that your limitations do not define you or what you can accomplish; rather, you have a choice in setting what your limits will be--strive to create the possible from the impossible.

Ossur: Life Without Limitations

Samsung Diamond League News: "Blade Runner" Oscar Pistorius to Compete in New York

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Monday, April 11, 2011

Successful Weight Loss: What Behaviors Increase Your Chances?

When it comes to weight management, you are deemed a winner if you can successfully lose weight and keep it off. Unfortunately, this accomplishment eludes many; however, some individuals prevail and we can learn from their triumph. Weight loss maintainers have certain behavioral traits in common that play a role in weight control. Findings from the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) shed light onto these successful characteristics.

The National Weight Control Registry is an ongoing investigation that began in 1994 under the direction of Rena Wing, Ph.D. of Brown Medical School and James O. Hill, Ph.D. of the University of Colorado. The goal of the NWCR is to identify traits associated with successful weight loss and its maintenance. To date, the registry has studied over 6,000 successful weight loss maintainers (i.e., individuals who have lost and maintained a minimum of 30 pounds for at least one year). Information regarding the health behaviors and demographics of NWCR participants have been obtained through questionnaires and annual follow-up surveys. Here is what has been found:
  • Physical Activity: Approximately 54% of the participants expend more than 2,000 calories per week through exercise, with walking accounting for the physical activity mode of choice for 52.2 percent of NWCR enrollees. Other common activities include: biking, weight lifting and aerobics.
  • Decreased Sedentary Time: NWCR participants spend less time engaging in sedentary pursuits, with 62% of members watching less than 10 hours of TV per week.
  • Diet Composition: On average, weight loss maintainers consume a low-calorie (approximately 1,380 calories per day) and a low-fat (less than 30 percent of total daily intake from fat) diet. In fact, 92% of successful weight loss maintainers limit foods high in fat and sugar.
  • Dietary Behaviors: Approximately 78% of NWCR participants eat breakfast. They also tend to eat regularly throughout the day (about 5 times compared to the average American who eats 2 to 3 times per day). In addition, individuals who are successful at weight loss maintenance prepare and eat most of their meals at home. Furthermore, they eat consistent diets that vary little and they adhere to the same pattern of eating even during weekends and on holidays.
  • Self-Monitoring: NWCR members keep track of their progress. The majority of NWCR participants monitor the amount of fat and total calories consumed daily. Seventy-five percent weigh themselves at least once per week.
It should be noted that the NWCR is a fairly homogeneous group, with 77% of the participants being female, 95% white, 64% married and 82% college educated. The weight loss practices of these individuals may not necessarily provide the same benefit to individuals of different demographics.

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.

The National Weight Control Registry

ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal; "The National Weight Control Registry: A Study of 'Successful Losers'"; J. Graham Thomas, Ph.D., et al.; March/April 2011

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Monday, April 4, 2011

The Simple Walk to Good Health

How would you like to learn about an exercise that engages many of the major muscle groups of your body, strengthens your cardiovascular system, is weight-bearing to promote your bone health (yet is low-impact so it is easy on your joints), is relatively inexpensive with a minimal need for exercise equipment and can be performed virtually in any place and practically on any terrain? Well, I have information on a mode of physical activity that offers all of the above, plus it is so basic to human nature that many toddlers can do it. That's right, it's walking. Walking isn't just a means of locomotion, it's your passport to good health.

Whether it's a stroll in the park for the previously inactive, a trek in the woods for the outdoor enthusiast, or a means of healthy competition for those who have mastered the race walk technique, the act of walking can be adapted to accommodate nearly all skill and fitness levels. Unfortunately, despite the relative ease and versatility of this mode of activity, not enough Americans are walking to promote their health when compared to other countries, according to a study published in the October 2010 issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. Thankfully, resources are available to help Americans step up the activity. One online source that I find to be highly informative is the Every Body Walk! website powered by Kaiser Permanente.

Every Body Walk! is an educational campaign devoted to increasing the awareness of the multiple health benefits associated with walking. I believe in this initiative and strongly support their efforts to spread the word that walking just 30 minutes a day, five days a week can get you one step closer to better health. The information presented on their site is accurate and user friendly. In addition to providing information on the health benefits of walking, it offers tips on how to begin walking, how to find a walking group in your area, how to start your own club and it even provides information on how to walk with certain health conditions, such as arthritis and diabetes. Walking maps and videos are also among the mix of beneficial material to help you make walking a part of a healthy lifestyle.

To learn more about how walking can benefit you, view this video from the Every Body Walk! website which features advice from Bob Sallis, M.D., family physician at Kaiser Permanente's Southern California Permanente Medical Group, and/or visit  Every Body Walk! to take your first step toward better health.

Every Body Walk! The Campaign to Get America Walking
Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise; "Pedometer-Measured Physical Activity and Health Behaviors in U.S. Adults"; David R. Bassett, Jr., et al.; October 2010

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