The Microscopic Work Out

Working Out Is Good for Every Cell in Your Body!

 

Even the biggest fitness enthusiast may think that exercise mainly benefits muscle cells, building them up and stretching them, but exercise is actually healthy for every single cell in your body. You may notice that everyone’s favorite gym rat looks a little young for their age. They have a healthy glow. This is because not just their muscle cells are in top shape but working out actually changes you at the cellular level.

 

When I first began working out I listened to other trainers who encouraged me to get into the fitness business. I remember telling one friend how great I felt after my rigorous kickboxing class. I said that I felt cleaner on the inside, like every bit of waste and all the toxins were cleaned out of my body after a good workout. My friend told me I was weird and said that I was just getting an endorphin rush, a rush of natural ‘feel-good chemicals’ and by my own growth hormone which is released by exercise. It turns out that I was right.  A new study confirms the way I feel after working out; exercise does help clean out your body at the very deepest level.

 

The latest research reported in the publication, Nature, and in the New York Science Times this month, suggests that exercise helps a long a process called autophagy, by which cells rid themselves of waste products. A recent study was conducted by Dr. Beth Levine, of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. The New York Times said, “Dr. Levine and her colleagues concluded that an increase in autophagy prompted by exercise, seems to be a crucial step in improving health.” They termed the findings, “extremely exciting.”

 

Exercise also increases your mitochondria, or the energy producers in your cells. This means that a person working out can potentially have millions more little energy producers in their bodies than someone who does not. This is one of the reasons why exercise increases your energy level.

 

Working out also helps your nerve cells, by preserving them and by increasing their power to channel the electrical currents that make the nerves function. As we age, our nerve endings begin to degenerate. This is one of the reasons why senior citizens lose their balance and are prone to falls. Exercise is proven to help preserve the nerve endings and increase nerve-to-muscle communication.  A proper exercise program for people over age 50 should include several  balance exercises to keep the nerve cells healthy, and help prevent falls. Exercise also helps improve the  parasympathetic nerves. These are your involuntary nerves, which, for instance, tell your heart to beat and your lungs to breathe. The increased heart rate and increased respiration brought on by exercise simulate the parasympathetic nervous system to its maximum capacity.

 

These are just some of the myriad ways through which working out benefits every cell of your being. As medical science continues to prove, as if you couldn’t recognize it on your own, exercise is not just for your muscles anymore.

 

 

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Alternative Approaches to Pain Management

 

Pain is something that we all have to deal with at times. And it’s a valuable messenger because it tells us when something is wrong, when to stop doing something, and when to be careful with our bodies.

 

Traditional medications such as acetaminophen are great but I have some alternative suggestions if you are looking to go a different route with no side effects to get rid of some regular aches and pains.   

 

After an especially hard workout you may notice that you are sore for 2-3 days. This is called delayed-onset soreness, and it is a good pain. This means that there are microscopic tears in your muscles caused by working out that are going to heal over and create all kinds of new muscle cells for you and make you all buff.

 

The best remedy for this type of pain is some light stretching to the sore area, and hot baths with Epsom salts. The Epsom salt bath is not only is a very pleasant and relaxing way to get rid of pain but it is also a great way to get some magnesium into your system. Yes, all of that wonderful mineral absorbs right into your skin in an Epsom salt bath!

 

Another tip that I often give clients: Don’t clench up or stress out when you are in pain. Muscles tense up around painful areas as way of protecting the areas; this “protective muscle tensing” can cause pain to become chronic when muscles begin to lock up permanently. This muscle-locking process that causes chronic pain works in the following way: First, the muscles start to lock to protect the painful area, and then the nerves get constricted due to the muscle pressing down on the nerves. Then, because proper electrical conductivity is compromised, the way messages travel through nerves to the brain is off. The nerves start to misfire like short circuits and tell the muscle to contract all the time when such contraction is not needed.

 

The next thing you know you have a rock hard muscle that is painful. The locked muscles also constrict blood vessels in the locked area, preventing oxygen and nutrients from getting into the locked area, which makes the pain and locking even worse.

 

This process is a major cause of chronic pain, especially in the neck and shoulders. Understanding this process and consciously trying to relax can help prevent an injury from turning into chronic pain.  

 

One technique that I use when I am in pain is mental technique I call “relax into the pain.” Our normal reaction to pain is to get upset and think “I am in pain, oh no,” which makes us get all stressed and clench up our bodies. This is good for a new pain that needs attention. But for pain where the cause is known, such as chronic back pain from stress or menstrual pain, using this relaxation technique instead can keep pain from getting worse, help to relax your mind, and help the stress levels that are caused by pain to lower.

 

Whenever I have this type of chronic pain I try and relax and tell myself, “Yes you are in pain, but it will go away soon, so just relax.” And then I try not to tense up. It may not be the same as taking a Codeine pill, but it does keep the pain from getting worse and/or chronic due the constant stressing out and muscle clenching. The Epsom salt baths are also very helpful for locked-muscle pain and stress-related pain.

 

There are all kinds of analgesic balms and ointments available at all different prices; they work pretty well, but my favorite from traditional Chinese medicine called White Flower Analgesic Balm works wonders.

 

White Flower Analgesic Balm has no side effects, but like most skin creams, it shouldn’t be used on sensitive areas, mucus membranes, or cut or broken skin. This balm has some very simple but effective ingredients such as camphor, menthol, wintergreen, lavender, eucalyptus, and peppermint. At about 3 or 4 dollars for a 20 ml bottle at most Asian markets, the price also cannot be beat. Even better, I have seen small bottles for a little as $1.25. This stuff lasts forever, too; you only need a few drops. It’s a great deal that really works. The balm does have a strong smell, is but it is not unpleasant.

 

Arnica creams and preparations, also known as “Dancer’s Secret,” are also recommended for pain. Although I do not find Arnica as helpful as the White Flower Balm for pain, Arnica does seem to help tremendously with bruising. Arnica preparations should cost you about $10 a tube. They are available in homeopathic and herbal compositions. I have found both kinds helpful. Again, Arnica has no known side effects.

 

Pain can be unpleasant but these easy, inexpensive, and gentle pain-relief techniques have worked for my clients and me. So relax and enjoy a nice Epsom salt bath next time you feel hurt.

 

 

A Personal Trainer’s Surgery Week Sessions

 

Last week was one of the most interesting weeks I have had at work in a while. I had one senior client who was about to go into surgery, and another client who was recovering from knee surgery who wanted to train in a group. I had to do some brainstorming and very specific planning, but had some great results in the end.

 

The first session with a the senior client (who is way over age 75) involved making sure the muscles in the area where my client was going to be cut were in the best shape possible before they were going to be cut and traumatized. I did lots of deep core work with her, including something called the “drawing in maneuver,” an exercise that has you bringing in your belly button as close to the spine as possible and holding it there for 10 seconds or more. Try this — it is not as easy as one would think.

 

Emotionally it was a difficult session; I have had this client for more than a year, and it was hard for me to see her anxiety over the surgical procedure. So I gave her loads of encouragement and support throughout the session.

 

A week after her operation, I went to visit my client with some yellow roses as a “get well” gift. She was doing fine; the four small incisions in her abdomen were doing quite well. I left expecting not to see her for at least a month.

 

To my surprise and delight my client was cleared for exercise by her doctor in only three weeks, no small accomplishment for someone way over 75, when the body’s healing processes take longer than they do in youth. She has made a full recovery and is doing great!

 

The same week I was asked to train an occasional client that I work with while she is in town. This client recently had knee surgery, and two other women wanted to join the session. This workout took almost all week to plan. All three women are not only fit and beautiful but they are all complete workout heads. They take all kinds of classes such as yoga, TRX, Physique 57, and even Kangoo Jumping where you wear special boots and jump around as a workout. One of them lives in California no less, the workout Capital state. In other words, I had to really drive these women hard and make them sweat while considering a knee surgery. There could be no running, jumping, or Burpees (which is a quick way to get a client going). Rather, the whole class had to be off the feet yet as hard as possible.

 

Although I did not have to do any research, I had to do some serious thinking for this one. I brainstormed by thinking of every super-hard exercise there is that doesn’t involve the feet or bent knees and then put them in workout order, which is  that the largest muscle groups getting trained first before ending the workout with the smaller muscle groups.

 

The time for the session arrived and I was a little nervous about everyone enjoying it, but I had done a little over planning just in case.

 

I started the session by having all three women sit on stability balls and do back and chest moves that involved leaning back on the ball to make it harder and engage the core muscles. Then we switched to arms and shoulders with two different-size weights in each hand, such as a five-pound weight in the left and eight-pound weight in the right hand. This forces you to use your core even more than one would with equal weights in each hand, a technique that I learned from one of my fitness idols Michele Olson, PhD*, one of the creators of The Firm workout DVDs.

 

The session finished with some Pilates moves on the floor. I used some side kicks that did not involve bending the knee but moving the leg from the hip while lying on your side, hard stuff indeed. Then we ended with some crunches and other abdominal work and 10 minutes of stretching. The woman who had the operation needed to have a specialized manual stretch for her shoulders (when the trainer stretches you with their hands) because her shoulder were tightened up due to her use of crutches.

 

In the end everyone loved the session and said it was wonderful. The woman with the knee operation is doing quite well now.

 

Working as a personal trainer can be so rewarding, especially when you see people with physical issues improve and exercise throughout out their ordeals.

 

 

 

 

* I absolutely worship Michele Olson, PhD! She is a fitness genius, exercise professor, and researcher. Get her DVDs — she is just the BEST!

 

 

Last week was one of the most interesting weeks I have had at work in a while. I had one senior client who was about to go into surgery, and another client who was recovering from knee surgery who wanted to train in a group. I had to do some brainstorming and very specific planning, but had some great results in the end.

 

The first session with a the senior client (who is way over age 75) involved making sure the muscles in the area where my client was going to be cut were in the best shape possible before they were going to be cut and traumatized. I did lots of deep core work with her, including something called the “drawing in maneuver,” an exercise that has you bringing in your belly button as close to the spine as possible and holding it there for 10 seconds or more. Try this — it is not as easy as one would think.

 

Emotionally it was a difficult session; I have had this client for more than a year, and it was hard for me to see her anxiety over the surgical procedure. So I gave her loads of encouragement and support throughout the session.

 

A week after her operation, I went to visit my client with some yellow roses as a “get well” gift. She was doing fine; the four small incisions in her abdomen were doing quite well. I left expecting not to see her for at least a month.

 

To my surprise and delight my client was cleared for exercise by her doctor in only three weeks, no small accomplishment for someone way over 75, when the body’s healing processes take longer than they do in youth. She has made a full recovery and is doing great!

 

The same week I was asked to train an occasional client that I work with while she is in town. This client recently had knee surgery, and two other women wanted to join the session. This workout took almost all week to plan. All three women are not only fit and beautiful but they are all complete workout heads. They take all kinds of classes such as yoga, TRX, Physique 57, and even Kangoo Jumping where you wear special boots and jump around as a workout. One of them lives in California no less, the workout Capital state. In other words, I had to really drive these women hard and make them sweat while considering a knee surgery. There could be no running, jumping, or Burpees (which is a quick way to get a client going). Rather, the whole class had to be off the feet yet as hard as possible.

 

Although I did not have to do any research, I had to do some serious thinking for this one. I brainstormed by thinking of every super-hard exercise there is that doesn’t involve the feet or bent knees and then put them in workout order, which is  that the largest muscle groups getting trained first before ending the workout with the smaller muscle groups.

 

The time for the session arrived and I was a little nervous about everyone enjoying it, but I had done a little over planning just in case.

 

I started the session by having all three women sit on stability balls and do back and chest moves that involved leaning back on the ball to make it harder and engage the core muscles. Then we switched to arms and shoulders with two different-size weights in each hand, such as a five-pound weight in the left and eight-pound weight in the right hand. This forces you to use your core even more than one would with equal weights in each hand, a technique that I learned from one of my fitness idols Michele Olson, PhD*, one of the creators of The Firm workout DVDs.

 

The session finished with some Pilates moves on the floor. I used some side kicks that did not involve bending the knee but moving the leg from the hip while lying on your side, hard stuff indeed. Then we ended with some crunches and other abdominal work and 10 minutes of stretching. The woman who had the operation needed to have a specialized manual stretch for her shoulders (when the trainer stretches you with their hands) because her shoulder were tightened up due to her use of crutches.

 

In the end everyone loved the session and said it was wonderful. The woman with the knee operation is doing quite well now.

 

Working as a personal trainer can be so rewarding, especially when you see people with physical issues improve and exercise throughout out their ordeals.

 

 

 

 

* I absolutely worship Michele Olson, PhD! She is a fitness genius, exercise professor, and researcher. Get her DVDs — she is just the BEST!

 

Best Deals at the Gym: An Insider’s Guide

 

I have been working at gyms for more than 10 years now, so I know a new gym membership can be daunting — all those machines, classes with weird names like “buff yoga,” huge muscle guys wandering around, etc.

 

These things keep many average people from joining gyms, but they shouldn’t! In fact, joining a gym can be one of the best choices that you can make for your health, so let me say again: Don’t be intimidated! Get into the gym!

 

Here are some tips to get you into the gym, save some money, and find the best fit for your fitness and health goals.  

 

  1. Consider your ideal workout schedule. Will you be working out during your lunch break at work? On the weekends, mornings, or night? Figuring out how going to the gym will fit into your lifestyle is key. And the thing that will get you the most for your money is location, location, location. A less-expensive gym membership that is far away might not be worth it if you feel you have to trek too far for a workout. Choose a place that you can get to easily from work or home, whatever time you want.
  2. Consider cost and location: While a closer, yet slightly more costly, gym is more likely to get you in shape, overall cost is a factor. The good news is some health insurance companies will help pay for gym memberships. You sign up for a gym program and the insurance company will reimburse you for memberships based on how many times you check into the gym. You get a voucher from your insurance company and have the front desk stamps the voucher, and submit it at the end of the month. These programs save health insurance companies money so it is worth it to them. Find out if your health insurance company has a program like this. The healthier an insurer’s exercising customers are, the less they will pay to treat them for sickness.  
  3. Take a walk: A walk in the door is the first step to your good health. It also can tell you a lot about a facility. When you go to the gym look around: Is it clean? Does it smell (the first sign of a good gym is cleanliness)? Do the machines look new or rusty? Do the members look happy? Are the trainers working or just standing around? Is the shower moldy or nice? Do the people coming out of the classes look happy or like they just got ripped off?
  4. Negotiate with sales staff: The next step is the gym salesperson. Gym membership sales people and trainers almost always work on commission. This can lead to some hustling and dishonesty. It’s your job to negotiate the best price. Go ahead haggle, you can get a better price than first offered. One way to save money is joining in the summer (it’s the slow season for the fitness industry); there are better deals to be had from July to early September. Also ask if the gym offers an “off-peak” membership, as this can save you hundreds a year if you don’t want to work out on weekends.

 

A word on clean gyms: Gyms can be dangerously filthy.

Always shower after going to the gym. Use towels when you sit on the machines and always wash your hands thoroughly when you leave the gym. Most gym members are not so considerate and do not wipe down the machines after they use them. I know someone who got MRSA, a drug-resistant bacteria infection from, most likely, a top boxing gym. They had to have a part of their thigh removed and almost lost a leg. I worked at a high-end gym once that was almost $100 a month to belong to and never once stepped in the sauna because I knew the staff never cleaned it. There were piles of dust stuck together with sweat stuck under the cardio machines.  Bringing your own mat to the gym is a good idea. Use flip flops when using the gym shower. Gym towels are usually safe, as gyms have very powerful, high-heat industrial dryers for their towels. A good gym will have hand sanitizer and gym wipes available for the member to use.

 

Choosing your trainer

 

Did you know that trainers at the gym might not be certified? It is a common practice at the gym. Choosing a trainer is like picking a doctor: You need a good one.

The trainers at the gym are under a lot of pressure to make sales. Do not be surprised or offended if trainers approach you at the gym and offer free workouts. You might not always want to go with who the gym staff recommends.

 

It’s mostly the top-selling trainers that get recommended by the gym staff. The best salesperson might not be the best match for you. Take a look around and see how the different trainers work.

 

The hot guy with the six-pack abs who always seems busy might not be the right guy for you, but the older-looking trainer working with an overweight person in the corner of the gym might change your life.

 

I will never forget the time my gym set up a woman who was not only recently post-partum (she had just had a baby), but had a joint disease and over 20 surgeries with a body-builder trainer who was on steroids. She was scared of the guy and approached me about training. I am very small but have trained some 300-pound men, so we were a good trainer/client match. Take your time to choose the right person for you.

 

When evaluating potential trainers ask if they are certified, how many certifications they have, and how much experience to they have. The more certifications the better (I have nine). Take advantage of starter package deals and free sessions. There are often three sessions at a discounted rate offered with the beginning of your membership. This can help you find the right person. A good trainer should ask this question first: “Do you have any injuries or are you on any medication?” If he or she doesn’t ask this stay away.  One time I had a job interview and a sample session with a Pilates instructor I wanted to hire for a gym I was managing and she hurt my back because she did not ask that question.

 

When getting your first session with your new trainer, you should be interviewed by the trainer to find out what your needs and issues are. The trainer should also listen to you, and not be giving you a big lecture. They should start with a fitness assessment and design your program from there. It they just come up to you and start to work you out it could not be safe.

 

There are some amazing fitness specialists out there. It is worth it to find the best one for your needs.

 

In the end your new gym membership will be one of the best things you can do for yourself.