Fitness and nutrition in 2011: What you need to know

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Pete McCall,Jennifer LaRue Huget,Lenny Bernstein
Thursday, January 13, 2011; 12:00 PM

Submit questions for a live Q&A with exercise physiologist Pete McCall and Post columnists Jennifer LaRue Huget and Lenny Bernstein.

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Jennifer LaRue Huget: Hi, and welcome to today's chat about being well in 2011!

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Low Carb diet and Diabetes II: Is a low carb diet a solution to type II diabetes?

Jennifer LaRue Huget: Low-carb diets are gaining popularity again as evidence mounts that they can help with weight control. But I don't think any responsible person would call them a solution to Type II diabetes. If you have T2D, you should consult with a physician about the best way to manage your condition; that conversation should include a discussion about what kind of diet will serve you best.

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DC: Hi Pete,I need a new exercise that targets my lats. I do pulldowns and rows and pullups, but i only seem to feel it the next day in my upper back and biceps. Any suggestions? Thanks.

Pete McCall: think of different movements for your back--mostly pulls and rotational type movements; here are two of my current favorites:http://www.acefitness.org/exerciselibrary/239/jammer-torso-rotationsthe TRX is an AWESOME piece of equip for back and shoulders:http://www.acefitness.org/exerciselibrary/92/trx-reg-single-arm-row

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If not crunches, then what?: Number 4 out of the 11 pieces of advice is to replace crunches with "a series of plank-type exercises." Could you please explain what that means, and give some examples that could substitute for crunches? My ignorance shows that I need all the help I can get in this area! Thanks.

Lenny Bernstein: It's harder than it sounds and believe me it really works your core. When you get that down, you can do "traveling planks"--hold the plank position, go down to the floor, resume the plank position, every 5 seconds or so. And there are "side planks" that call for you to hold a rigid position propped up on your forearm with your side to the floor. You really need diagrams/photos, which can be found online, or someone in the gym to show you the first time.here is a pic of a plank from our exercise library:http://www.acefitness.org/exerciselibrary/32/front-plank

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yoga: Hello,Thank you for doing this chat. I would love to see more fitness/nutrition online chats on the Washington Post!I have started doing yoga and was wondering if it counts as a "strength-training" exercise. I know that strength training is ideal to help you lose weight, and wasn't sure if yoga would count towards that. Thanks!

Jennifer LaRue Huget: I'll let the fitness fellows answer this, too, but let me share my personal experience: I was an avid yoga practictioner for years before embarking on my Me Minus 10 weight-loss campaign last February. I had thought that all that core work and the arm and leg strength I gained from yoga would help me lose weight, but it wasn't until I started using resistance bands to actually build muscle that I started to see results. Yoga is fantastic in many ways, but for most of us it doesn't tax those key muscles enough. I still do tons of yoga, though! the primary type of strength training is developing the isometric force output of a muscle -- meaning the muscle is contracting but there is no joint movement; this will not improve overall muscle strength against an external resistance (like a freeweight) but it will use all of your muscles and condition the muscles to be effective at contracting and metabolizing fuel for energy.Yes, yoga counts

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Losing weight: Is oatmeal a good food to eat while dieting?

Jennifer LaRue Huget: Absolutely! It's full of fiber and is very filling, both of which are helpful when you're trying to lose weight. But one caveat: I got in a bad habit of dumping lots of brown sugar on my oatmeal, which added way too many calories and made that bowl of oats much less healthful than it should have been. Even adding too much honey has the same effect. Nowadays I add a bit of chopped nuts and a handful of frozen blueberries for a delicious, nutritious bowl of good-for-you stuff!

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Trainer: I have an estabished exercise program but am looking to improve and diversify. How do you find a good trainer? What should I look for in a trainer? What questions should I ask a prospective trainer?

Pete McCall: our organization has over 40,000 certified professionals here in the us; you can find an American Council on Exercise Certified Personal Trainer using the trainer locator on our web page:http://www.acefitness.org/findanacepro/default.aspx The trainer should ALWAYS ask about your needs; if the trainer spends most of the time talking about his or her accomplishments then your first exercise is to walk away and find a trainer who is interested in you and your needs.

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Limited time, maximum benefit: Pete - I woke up late this morning and ended up having only 30 minutes on the floor of the gym. When this happens what can I do to give me the biggest bang for the buck, so to speak? I ended up doing 4 sets of 12 burpees with 15 lb weights (squat to a pushup then up to a shoulder press) interspersed with crunches (12 center and 12 to each side) then followed up with about 15 minutes of interval time on a stationary bike (the treadmills were all spoken for). I was assuming the interval was the way to go and doing something that covered the whole body (or at least large muscle groups) was better than targeting a specific muscle. Was I on track?

Pete McCall: to increase your work-rate (caloric burn) do it in a circuit format--4-6 exercises in a row before resting for 1-2min.the following workout uses a bench a little bit, but most of the exercises can be done standing:http://www.acefitness.org/workouts/7/#program

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are long runs bad for you??: A friend told me that my 5-6 mile runs (I run a 10 minute mile) were not doing me nearly as much good as interval weights or sprints and actually might cause me to gain weight -- something about impacting my metabolism. I find it hard to believe. He pointed me to this: thebodyyouwant.com/newsletter/newsletter-28I don't find running boring, but I also don't want to be wasting my time or actually moving myself in the wrong direction. The 50 minute run is actually a workout and a nice mental break for me a couple of times a week and it gets me outside instead of being stuck in a gym.

Lenny Bernstein: Intervals will do somewhat less to burn the fat you already have--long slow runs are better for that--but remember that they still consume calories. Also they will improve your speed and your cardiovascular capability. And lifting weights will give you more lean muscle, which also helps you burn calories faster.keep in mind that if you do the same distance all of the time your body will become extremely efficient running that distance and you'll use less energy each time, so switch up your distance or route on a regular basis--have 1 short run, 1 intermediate and 1 long run and alternate between them and that will be enough fo r your health and peace of mind.

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Spare Tire/Flexibility : I can't wait for February when my gym clears out again!I'm a 31 year old woman with a large lower half (thighs, backside, stomach) and small, but untoned, upper arms. I love, love, love the standard elliptical (with the cross ramp and no moving arm bars). I can spend more than an hour on it everyday. I hate the treadmill, bike, stair master and regular elliptical. I've been experimenting with intervals and resistance training. What can I do to burn massive calories and get rid of this huge spare tire below my belly button? I've read that crunches do and don't work, and while the elliptical tones my backside, thighs, hamstrings and calves, I cannot seem to get this part of me to whittle down in any way.I also used to be a dancer but have lost all of my flexibility. I hate yoga- any ideas for stretching?Thank you!

Jennifer LaRue Huget: Any chance you could convince your husband to go to the gym with you?It is very hard for many of us to find time for our daily workouts, and it's harder yet when those around us aren't as supportive as we'd like them to be. devise a plan? Good luck!

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Rolfing: I've been having some shoulder and piriformis tightness on my right side and someone recommended rolfing -- I did a little research and it sounds painful. Might this be a way to loosen up my tight muscles?

Pete McCall: If that is the case then a good rolfer would be a great option for addressing the underlying issues.

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Motivation: I consider myself a pretty healthy person--overall I enjoy healthy food and eat pretty healthy (lots of veggies and fruit, no soda, not a lot of refined sugars and over-processed things) but for me, the greatest hurdle is trying to incorporate exercise as a regular activity in my life. I don't hate exercising--I go through phases where I'm very active (I've even run a half-marathon!) but then I go through phases where I can't motivate myself to make it to the gym. It's a cycle, I know. The more I don't go, the more I don't want to go. The hardest part for me is trying to find the time to actually do it--in the evenings, I'm just too exhausted from the day to do it, I can't do it at lunchtime at work (just not feasible), and I would do it in the mornings, but my husband gets very angry when I wake him up with the alarm (he's a light sleeper) and either ends up forcing me back into bed or we end up in an argument over it....I really don't know what to do but I find myself becoming less and less motivated.

Jennifer LaRue Huget: Whoops! I answered your question in response to the other reader's question about her spare tire! Sorry about that! Have a look, and check in again, please, if that doesn't address your needs!

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kettlebells: I hear that kettlebells is all you need for working out. Can you provide any informatin on this and how often should you work out with kettlebells.Thanks

Pete McCall: We sponsored some research which found that a kettlebell circuit (described in the attached article) can burn the same amount of calories/min as uphill cross-country skiing (approx 12-15cal/min, which is a LOT and is tough).http://www.acefitness.org/getfit/studies/Kettlebells012010.pdf the cool thing is that I get a great workout with my kettlebells; I have 2 24k and 2 16k and that's all I need for some heart pumping circuits when I work out at home...Good luck and have fun!

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Muscular soreness: Do I keep moving?: Hi!Yeah for 2011!! I've started my exercise routine with a bang. I enjoy exercising in many forms. On Monday I started a Capoeira class for beginners and enjoyed it immensely. I've found myself really sore and not sure what to do. Do I still stretch when I'm this sore or wait until it feels less painful? Do I continue my planned exercising? For instance, I was really sore Tuesday morning, but rode my bike to work regardless, the soreness increased thru the day. I did stretch but wasn't sure if I should. I walked for 30 minutes and then stretched for 20 minutes. I rode my bike back home that night. Wednesday I did strength training for my upper body only. Today I rode my bike to work and will ride back home (8 miles each way). I'll ride to work and back on tomorrow too. A dance class on Saturday and outdoor activities on Sunday at a local ski resort. Too much or continue to go for it? I'm in good shape for my age but slowed down during last year due to a knee injury. I was able to run my first full marathon in October but an old hip flared up and I was off until now. Please, I'd love to have your advice because I love, love, love being active! It makes me happy.

Lenny Bernstein: Some people believe the post-workout stretch is so important that it's worth shortening your workout a bit if your time is limited. Anyway, it'll help relieve the soreness that develops in that 24-48 hour period after exercise. Although some soreness has to be expected when you're working muscles that you haven't used in a while. And btw, stretching before your workout is critical as well. Warm up your muscles for 10 or 15 minutes and then do a good thorough stretch. I know it's time-consuming, and I cheat all the time. But it really works.

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Health issues and weight loss: Hi,In your experience, have you ever encountered someone with Lyme disease and trying to lose weight? I've been struggling with a thyroid problem and then diagnosed with Lyme. I've been told it's near impossible to lose weight while on the antibiotics. I've gained weight despite a regime of running, weight, and vegetarian diet. Thanks!

Pete McCall: interesting question...I lived in DC for a number of years and used to run in rock creek and mtn bike in VA and MD; in '04 I got Lyme disease (apparently the DC region is a hot bed of the disease). when I had it just a walk around the block kicked my butt, but after the 30-day antibiotic treatments and anothe 2-3 weeks of rest I was able to start exercising again.the thyroid issue is a more important one since it produces hormones which help regulate your metabolism; make sure that you're staying in constant contact with your doctor to ensure that your exercise will not stress the thyroid any more than necessaryon that note keep in mind that exercise is physical stress on the body and when your body is sick or has an issue (like with the thyroid) then it is already stressed so adding additional exercise stress might not be the best idea; instead focus on a good diet, rest and focus on the recover

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Abs: Hey Pete! I need some pointers on new workout ideas! I used to be an avid runner but certain obligations have hindered my running time. How do I get good cardio and strength workout without putting hours in for a long run or speed work daily? I am not a fan of gyms but feel myself losing muscle as I run less and less.

Pete McCall: using the trx system is a great way to combine muscular strength and cardiovascular training in the same workout; here is a sample workout from our website:http://www.acefitness.org/workouts/1/#programwww.fitnessanywhere.com is the site for the manufacturer of the system. Drew Brees is a huge fan of it and uses it to help condition in the off season and maintain fitness during the season.

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Elliptigo : That thing looks frightening!! What do you guys think of foam rollers as a way of relieving very tight hamstrings (I am a runner)? Good ways to use it for tight hamstrings and hips?? Thanks!

Lenny Bernstein: Sometimes it can really hurt, I'm told.I'm going to try the Elliptigo when the weather warms up. I'll let you know how it goes.try this: reach down touch your toes, then do the exercise below for 30-45 sec on each leg, then touch your toes again, you will notice a difference. tight hip flexors chance the position of the pelvis which pulls on the hamstrings creating the feeling of tightness; so stretching the hip flexors can reduce tension in the hammies.this is the stretch:http://www.acefitness.org/exerciselibrary/142/kneeling-hip-flexor-stretch

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Yoga: how much and when?: I do yoga to supplement my aerobic exercise (brisk walking), but in my home practice I can't realistically expect to spend more than 20 minutes a day on yoga. Should I try to do that 20 minutes all at once, or would it be okay to break it up into two 10-minute segments: say, 10 minutes when I first rise in the morning and another 10 minutes when winding down at the end of the day? Thanks for your guidance.

Jennifer LaRue Huget: Namaste!

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I have no time, but I want to keep up with some type of routine: Hi. My problem: as the full-time working mom of a toddler, with a long work commute, and also going to graduate school I have let exercise slip from my life. I'm swamped at work and eat at my desk, so getting it done during the day isn't going to happen (we've had layoffs and I'm doing extra right now). I'm also already not getting enough sleep so waking up too much earlier than I already do would be painful. What would you do if you only had 20 minutes per day to exercise? I don't want to join a gym. I do have an exercise bike at home, a wii fit, and some 5 and 8 lb free weights. I figure that either when school is done or I can find a job closer to home I can devote more time. Right now I can find 20 mintues and I'd like to use the equipment I've already got at home.

Jennifer LaRue Huget: You might want to consider buying some resistance bands (they're really inexpensive and often come with a DVD showing you how to use them). You can accomplish a lot with them in just a few minutes. Not long after I started using them, a friend commented on how "cut" my biceps looked!

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backpack for running: An odd question, I know, but I want to jog to and from work but need to carry clothes along to change into. I can't really jog with my normal gym bag and my backpack just bounces all over. Have you heard of a backpack for runners that stays put while you run? I haven't been able to find anything like this.

Lenny Bernstein: Excellent question. I've had the same problem. I take my regular backpack and cinch it up really tight so it rides higher on my back, as close to my shoulders as possible. Inevitably it loosens as I go along and I have to cinch it up again, especially if I've got a lot of stuff and water bottles in it.Is there a place where you can leave your clothes overnight so you don't have to carry them in?Or maybe, if it doesn't already exist, we should invent a runner's backpack and make some money.

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Why do people still diet? : Why do we even still use that word? People should talk about nutrition, not diets. I never understood how doing something for a limited period of time can contribute positive results forever. This shouldn't be something you do for a few months. People need to eat right forever.And frankly, that's so much easier than diets. There's nothing I won't allow myself to eat if I want it, but it's all a matter of how much and how often I'll eat the things that aren't good for me. If people can tackle their moderation issues, they wouldn't have to forever ban themselves from eating certain food.

Jennifer LaRue Huget: I couldn't agree more! I actually wrote about the shift from thinking in terms of "diets" toward simply eating more healthfully in my Eat, Drink and Be Healthy column a while ago. I suppose there will always be "diets" and diet books, but I sense that many people are moving away from that mindset toward being more mindful of what and when they eat and making better food choices. Thanks for weighing in!

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upping my weights: sometimes I feel ready to go to the next level of my free-weight exercises -- but it's just a bit too heavy lifting to start that first rep. after that, I am more or less okay. Should I ask for assistance or does this mean I'm really not ready for more weight?

Pete McCall: using a weight machine will allow you to load as much as possible for 2-4 reps without danger of the weight falling on you if you experience failureif doing freeweights then select a load that you know you can do for at least 3-4 reps and ask someone to spot you by lifting from the bar or weight (for example while using dumbells do NOT spot at the elbow, but rather assist at the wrist where the weight is located) your body will adapt to your exercise program after a certain period of time so it is important to change the intensity and work-rate on a regular basis

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Just Do It: Just looking for advice on how to make exercise a habit. I am a former runner (although always a back of the packer), now working full time and mom of 2 great kids. Weekend workouts are not a problem - husband happily watches the kids so I can get about an hour each day in. Right now, that is just cardio, but I would like to work in strength as well. I would love advice on how to fit it all in - I think it needs to be in the morning first thing - or broken up so I am not sitting at my desk all day - how can I make this manageable? 40 is approaching and I want it to be fabulous!

Jennifer LaRue Huget: I admire you for wanting to work exercise back into your busy life! One trick I hear works really well is to schedule your workout -- whatever its duration -- just as you schedule other commitments and appointments: Actually write it down in your calendar. Another idea is to shoot for exercising a certain number of days per week, but don't beat yourself up if it doesn't work out for you on a certain day. Just try again the next day. Before you know it, those kids will be grown up and you'll find it much easier to fit workouts into your day. Good luck!

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Intervals: HiCan you explain intervals and how often you should do them?

Pete McCall: highway driving at a steady rate of speed or city driving with all of the starting and stopping?interval training is like city driving, alternating between work intervals and active recovery intervals will help you burn more kcal/min than jogging (or cycling) at a steady velocity.if you can talk while exercising then you're using oxygen and fats for your primary fuel; however if the intensity increases to the point where talking becomes challenging or difficult then your body uses more carbohydrates for fuel (and expends more energy)following an interval training program on a piece of equipment like a treadmill or elliptical will give you a good experience; the other option is to go for a walk:run; here is a sample workout that features that sort of interval training:http://www.acefitness.org/article/3159/?utm_source=Health%2BeTips%2BQuick%2BStart%2BGuide&utm_medium=email&utm_term=December%2B29%2B2010&utm_campaign=Consumer%2BOutreach&CMP=EMC-HET_1210QuickStartGuide

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DCRunner: Hi - I'm currently training for the National Marathon (my 4th) and am unfortunately the heaviest/least-in-shape that I've been in while in training. Up until last fall I was very active doing a mixture of total body conditioning, strength training, pilates & cardio. I know that marathon training is not the time to try and loose weight, but I'm finding that with all the time I'm spending running, I don't have much time for any of the other conditioning. I eat a pretty healthful diet as it is and I know that cutting too many calories at this point in my training isn't an option. Any advice?

Lenny Bernstein: I think you've pretty much answered your own question. The National Marathon is in March, so you're fairly deep into your training now. You can't diet. But you can examine what you're eating--even though you say you're eating a healthful diet--and see if it can be altered to reduce fat and maybe a few calories. Also, as you put in more miles and longer runs, you should start losing some weight. Obviously your previous routine was better, but we don't always have the time in our lives for optimum workouts.

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Personal Trainer: Hello! When I joined [a fitness club] in Alexandria, I also paid for one personal training session. I can't really afford to buy more personal training sessions, so I'm wondering what to ask for during my one session to maximize its benefit. Thanks!

Lenny Bernstein: to feel like I had gotten fully educated on a wide variety of options. I wonder whether the idea here was to get you to buy more training sessions once you had the first. I'd be curious whether you get a hard sell at the end of the first session. Maybe Pete has a less cynical take...

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In Home Workout: Just bought a house and am looking to find a good DVD program I can do at home now that I have the space. Was considering the P90X program - I like the idea of a regular series with a finish line. Keeps me motivated. Any other suggestions?

Jennifer LaRue Huget: My two cents: My brother and some other friends have tried the P90X program and LOVED it -- and seen great results. Good luck!From Pete:for example:monday-power/plyometricTues- yoga/core exerciseswed-strengththurs mod intensity cardioFri: power/plyoSat: strengthSun: restthat's just a brief sample of changing training intensity on a daily basis

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Interval training suggestions: I'm interested in putting together a couple of interval weight training routines to switch between at the gym. I have access to dumbbells and barbells. I don't have the money to hire a trainer, but are there any books or web sites you might recommend to help me put together a couple of different programs to keep things interesting and burn some fat?[Followup from the same person]It is actually the same shoulder and hip - basically everything on my right side feels tight.

Pete McCall:

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TRX: I live in an older apartment building. Would I be able to attach the TRX to my door without having to worry about it coming unhinged?

Pete McCall: you can purchase an optional door attachment which explains the details AND include a "do not disturb" sign so no one opens the door while you're using it.

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sore muscles: I am in the same boat as the previous question on soreness.I am not sure if I understand your answer in what to do.should I wait until the soreness dissappears before resuming workout or should I continue exercising through the pain.Thanks

Pete McCall: it is also important to get plenty of rest and sleep b/c that is when your body repairs itself and the muscle tissue recovers from the applied stress of exercise.if you are in pain , then rest-you will risk injury if you try to work through pain. however if you are simply mildly sore then suck it up and make sure you do a longer warm-up AND (as Lenny mentioned) make sure you give yourself time for a proper cool down and stretching after a training sessionif you are sore a light workout like walking or cycling can help your circulation system remove the excess metabolic waste from muscle tissue which can help you recover quicker.

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Jennifer LaRue Huget: Thanks for the great questions! Here's to a healthy and happy 2011!

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Pete McCall: You can find a lot of info about starting your own workout program on the website for the American Council on Exercise:www.acefitness.org those guys do it right!


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