Mandatory Monday

By: Mike Klaus RKC, FMS

MondayWhat is your opinion of Monday? It is typically seen as the worst day of the week, the day most people dread. However, there are some who see Mondays as a springboard start to a productive and successful week. No matter what your profession is, you have an option to stew in misery or make the very best out of each day and opportunity. The same is true with health and fitness. Imagine the difference in your week if you do or do not workout on Monday. Are you more likely to get more workouts in? How would you sleep that week? What about your food choices? Would your mood be better?

For the most part, gyms are full on Mondays. This is a good thing! These are people who are getting a jump start on their week. This is a practice I whole heartedly believe in. Health and fitness does not happen overnight, it is a process. The work has to be put in and like anything else, getting started is the key. There are many benefits to making your Monday workout “mandatory.” Here are my top 5 reasons why you MUST train on Monday!

  1. You are more likely to train throughout the week. After starting your week with a productive workout, odds are you will continue that trend.
  2. Sleep improves. Mondays are usually packed with tasks. Having 45 minutes to an hour in a workout where you don’t think about work or other stressors will help to ease your mind. You will also be physically tired and in need of recovery.
  3. Nutrition will more likely be a priority. It has been proven in studies that people who work out make more of an effort to eat better. Are you more likely to choose fettuccini alfredo and rolls for dinner or grilled chicken with roasted veggies and goat cheese and beet salad?
  4. Your mood improves. Exercise releases endorphins. Endorphins make you feel good. A morning workout can start your day off right. An evening workout can help you burn off steam. Also, in my opinion it is a great tool to help with depression or anger. Do yourself and everybody the favor of talking your aggression out on the iron!
  5. Erase a weekend that was less than optimal for your health. Did you put down a couple of cocktails? Were queso dip and chips  on the menu for dinner? Work that wild or lazy weekend off!

Make your Monday workout mandatory and set yourself up for success the rest of the week!

Warm It Up and Cool It Down

Nick Lape ACSM, FMS

Beautiful woman doing stretching exerciseAs far back as just about anyone can remember, especially in places like your elementary school P.E. class, we have been taught to warm up before activities were done. It wasn’t long after that we started learning about something called a cool down. It is no different now than it was 15, 20, or even 30 years ago. They are absolutely essential parts of making sure that your body is ready for what you are about to put it through and then ready to recover afterwards.

 We all remember having that one teacher who made sure you stretched before the class started. A classic example would be the hurdle, or runner’s stretch. And while stretching does have its place, we have come a long way from static stretching. Nowadays we know that using dynamic movement is probably the biggest key to unlocking the body before strength training, and even cardiovascular training. If I had a dollar for every person that I’ve seen not warm up and say, “Eh, I’ll be fine,” and then ‘tweaked’ something in that workout, I would have, well, a lot more money than I do now.

One part that some people don’t understand isn’t so much the fact that you are moving your body through ranges of motion, but the fact that you are connecting your brain neurologically to the different joints, bones, and tissues involved in each movement. If your brain is asleep, especially you morning gym goers, it is imperative to make sure that you wake it up with dynamic movement patterns before you start adding large amounts of weight.

There is always one question that goes along with the whole ‘brain’ explanation. Why? The best explanation that I have is to think about when you first roll out of bed. Is the first thing you think of doing a deadlift or stretching REAL big to get your body going? I highly doubt it. If you didn’t stretch, you wouldn’t break up connective tissues that get stiff while you sleep. Same thing goes for a workout. If the first thing you think of when you get to the gym is doing heavy deadlifts and nothing else you set yourself up for failure.

The second part of this is the cool down. The same way you get your body warmed up is almost the same way you want to cool down. Taking your body through some very low intensity dynamic movements and breathing patterns is perfect for getting your heart rate down. Adding some soft tissue work to the mix can help with relaxing any muscles that feel a little tense. Possibly the most important part of the cool down is the breathing though. Again, it goes back to the brain and making sure that you are taking your body out of that heightened state in order to start the recovery period.

Not doing either of these things and rushing into and out of a workout can actually end up being a recipe for disaster. Some people think that saying you could get hurt is just a way to scare them into warming up and cooling down. These are the same people that see it as a waste of time. I’ll also bet that most of these people don’t see the results they wish they could have. Why? (There’s that question again.) When the body is in a heightened state and hasn’t been properly warmed up or cooled down, you are in this constant state of flight or flight, which leads to prolonged recovery periods, plateaus and other not so fun gym terms. Do yourself a favor, warm up before and cool down after. Your brain and body will thank you, and you may just see more and better results than you did when you weren’t doing those things.

Recovery: Fitness that Doesn’t Come from a Gym

By: Nick Lape

Time to Recover - ClockJust about every person that I meet asks me what I do for a living. After I tell them I am a trainer, they all respond with what they are currently doing at the gym. More often than not I hear something similar to, “Nick, I just started a weight training program. I work out like 5 or 6 times a week and I hit ALL my muscles every day. I love how sore I’m getting BUT, I can’t seem to lose any more weight or get any stronger. How can I change things up?” When I ask them how much water they are drinking or how many hours of sleep they are getting on average, a huge look of surprise overtakes their face. Many people fail to realize that recovery outside of the gym is just as important, if not more important than their training inside the gym.

The number one thing that seems to be over looked in a training program is the rest or recovery phases. Without these, you will hit plateaus. Fat loss will begin to slow and strength gains will stop happening. You will be stuck because your brain and body are on overload. They don’t want you to do any more. You might tell it to push harder, but at some point your body will say “No.” It will worry more about surviving in this state of overload than losing weight or building muscle. It won’t matter how much harder you push yourself at this point, your body won’t progress until it has a chance to recover. Then you will be back at square one asking someone what to change.

In all honesty, if you are looking to change something there is a good chance that it has nothing to do with the gym. It is something that I personally tell people all the time. Most of your strength and physique changes happen in your kitchen and while lying in your bed, when your internal processes are hard at work. An example of just one of these processes is the release of Human Growth Hormone that helps repair our body as we sleep. All you did with your workout is shock these systems into working more efficiently. If you aren’t getting enough sleep or your diet isn’t feeding your metabolism the way it should, you may as well just concede to your plateau. It won’t be going anywhere for a while.

Recovery, though you may not want to, could mean taking a day off or the gym and just foam rolling or breathing silently. It could also mean adding more veggies, water, and protein and taking out sugar and processed foods. Maybe it means turning off the TV an hour earlier and getting an extra hour of sleep in.  Everyone is different. Everyone will react differently to changes that they make. Plateauing is a common sign of overtraining. That means TOO MUCH training. Change things outside of the gym first and then worry about the next phase of your training.

Three Steps of Stress Management

By: Nick Lape

Stress ManEvery single person at some point during their week has that moment when they think that the entire world is out to get them. Or they have so many things to do they don’t see a way to accomplish it. With work deadlines, kids’ schedules, constant connection to email/the internet, and the want for some time to relax, life can get pretty stressful. Even if you start off fine as weeks progress all of these tasks begin to wear on us if we don’t manage it. During these stressful times it is imperative that we learn to manage ourselves, our nutrition, and our physical well-being.

1. Ask yourself positive questions and get positive answers.

In order to manage ourselves we must first be able to understand what makes us tick. We spend a good portion of our day inside our own heads. We have a constant dialogue with ourselves saying, “Why does this always happen to me?” and “Why am I always so busy? I never get to relax.” What if we stopped asking ourselves negative questions and started asking empowering ones? Instead of searching for negative answers we would search for positive ones. Due to the amount of time we talk to ourselves without anyone else hearing this is truly crucial when it comes to stress management. Empowering thoughts, questions, and answers to those questions are going to be your first defense against the battle inside your head that can consume you. DON’T LET IT!!!! Don’t let it affect the other aspects of your life, especially nutrition.

2. Choose foods that will benefit your health, mind, and mood.

Why do so many people in this country choose to eat during times of stress? Well food does have a way of comforting us. To go along with empowering thoughts, why don’t we take the time to choose something that will empower our mind as well as our body? During times of stress if we haven’t mastered our inner thoughts when it comes to fueling our bodies, it is a lot easier  to choose the easiest route possible to feel better immediately. We choose donuts, twinkies, bags of chips, etc.; foods laden with sugar. Or you could go the other route and swing by McDonald’s or order a pizza. Mastering our thought processes can prepare us for this. When we know a day is going to be painstakingly long or busy planning ahead can be a game changer. Choosing foods that benefit your health like veggies, fruits, nuts, grass-fed meats, healthy fats etc., can easily satisfy your hunger cravings and make you feel better about yourself.

3. Exercise on a regular basis.

When we talk about feeling better about ourselves one of the best ways is through physical activity. Every person enjoys their “me” time. How you choose to spend it is up to you. When managing stress, doing something that is physically taxing can make you feel less of that stressful burden. Personally, I choose to lift weights, however, running, biking, hiking, or just getting outside and go walking. All of these can have drastic effects on the way you feel. Choosing the healthy road when dealing with stress in this matter can only help.

Everyone in this world goes through stressful times. Sometimes you ask yourself, “How is that person so happy?” when you know personally they have a lot on their plate. The answer is that they have probably mastered a couple if not all three of the things that I’ve mentioned previously. They probably have the ability to manage their thoughts which will empower them to eat well and exercise. The product of all of this is efficient stress management. Ask yourself empowering questions, and answer them with empowering answers. Prepare food that will benefit your mind and your body. And lastly use exercise as your escape. In addition, time management, learning to say no, muscle relaxation, and breathing can help with stress. Choose the things that make your mind and body happiest and healthiest. I can guarantee that if you master these things that you will be the person that people ask that question of “How can he be so happy with some much on his plate?”

Could Your Beer Belly Really Be Anterior Pelvic Tilt?

By: Mike Klaus ISSA, RKC, FMS,

Hi. My name is Mike, and I have an anterior pelvic tilt (APT). Most people do, but mine is excessive and has been the cause of my training plateaus and low back injuries. It also makes me look like have a gut, which is not the case. (I am right around 8% body fat.) So, if you have any of this going on then you may be suffering from APT as well.

Anterior Pelvic Tilt

Anterior refers to the front side of your body and ‘pelvic tilt’ referrers to the pelvis being tilted to one side. APT tilts forward, like in the image below.

Mike Anterior TiltWhile researching APT I came across a wide variation to “acceptable” degrees of APT in men and women. I have come to the conclusion that optimal range for men is between 8-12 degrees and 12-16 in women. Of course each individual is different and more or less could be beneficial. You can estimate your own tilt by putting your back against the wall and measuring the space between the small of you back and the wall. A hand is the ideal amount of space. Significantly more could be problematic.

Initially my remedy was to simply rotate my pelvis externally and tuck my rib cage. I did constant checks and after a couple of weeks did notice an improvement in my posture. However, when I did anything physical my body would default back to that awful APT.  I needed to do more than walk around in neutral. My body needed to be trained so that deficient muscles could hold up to the required resistance I would ask of it.

There are several causes for APT and they include weak hamstrings, weak abdominals, weak glutes, tight hip flexors, and tight spinal erectors. Hip flexors are a group of muscles near the pelvis that move the hip forward during walking and running. Spinal erectors are group of muscles in the back that supports the spine.

In order to fix the problem and bring the pelvic tilt back to acceptable levels you will need to make the hamstrings, deeper abdominals, and glutes stronger and stretch the spinal erectors and hip flexors. Here are a few exercises that have helped me. (Of course be sure to check with your doctor before you diagnose yourself or try to do these exercises.)

  1. American Deadlift – Focus on and over emphasize the pelvic motion using a lighter weight than your typical barbell hinge. The movement ends with the pelvis in a posterior pelvic tilt really squeezing the glutes at lock out. 2-3 sets of 10.
  1. The Posterior Pelvic Tilt Hip Thrust – This is simply a bodyweight hip thrust using the glutes and emphasizing pelvic motion. 2-3 sets of 20-25.
  1. The RKC Plank – Setting up like a normal plank, only the focus is the squeezing of the glutes to achieve PPT. 2-3 sets of 3-5 :10-15 reps.

An anterior pelvic tilt can prevent you from progressing past a certain point in your training, cause injuries, and make you look like you have a big gut. It may require you to take a step back in your training program it is totally worth it in the long run.

The Heart is a Muscle

heart health artworkBy: Nick Lape BS, HFS, FMS, IYCA, CRBC

The media and grocery store are not shy about telling you what to eat for heart health. But, what about what you should physically do to improve your heart? If you think about it in one way it can be very easy to understand. The biggest trick is realizing that the heart is a muscle. In order to make it stronger you must use it. Because, everybody all together now, if “You Don’t Use It You Lose It!”

What does this mean? I guess one example would be to say that in order to make any muscle stronger the tissue must be able to expand and then contract in on to itself. Adding speed and/or overload is where these muscle fibers begin to get stronger.

No, technically, you can’t hand your heart a dumbbell and say go, but what you can do is make it beat faster or add speed. The electronic impulses of the heart can be sped up through cardiovascular exercise (cardio = heart). Many people achieve this by running long distances and while that may work, one of the best ways that I have personally found to strengthen the heart is through short bursts of speed followed by a little rest. This allows the muscles of the heart to pump hard and then rest as if you were asking it to do one set of reps. And again, just like any other muscles, we do multiple sets of exercises. When it comes to the heart you can’t treat it any different.

We look constantly to media sources in order to see what we think our body should look like on the outside, but what about the inside? If we don’t allow the muscles of our heart to work as hard as the muscles in our arms or legs then we are missing a HUGE part of our overall health. The next time you exercise, add a little speed to kettlebell swings/snatches, sprints or any of your exercises — any of these can increase your heart rate. A simple change in your workout can increase your heart health. Let us know if you need our help!

Celebrate Moving Forward

Cheers to a new beginning, to moving forward. We can’t tell you how excited we were to celebrate our grand opening. We want to thank everyone for their support and encouragement! We were blown away by the number of people who came to the celebration.

 Grand Opening Cheers

Ecstatic can only begin to describe our feelings about being Maplewood’s newest fitness facility. We offer group training, personal training, and kettlebell classes. Before you stop reading because you have already grown tired from thinking about lifting a weight know this: we are not your average training studio.

  • We pride ourselves in making health fun. Very few people will continue to work out if they dread it. You will never leave our studio without a smile or chuckle.
  • We watch how you move, learn how you move, and keep watching. This may sound creepy, but it’s not. We screen you using the Functional Movement System (FMS) before we create a training program for you. Think about this in terms of an eye doctor. When you go to your eye exam, you don’t want to be given a random pair of glasses. You want the eye doctor to exam in your eyes to determine what prescription to give you. We aren’t going to give you a random work out. We want to see how you move to write a workout that is right for you! Once you have that workout we keep watching to make sure you stay in good form. We don’t want any injuries.
  • One size DOESN’T fit all. One size usually fits no one. By screening you we can create a workout program that fits YOU!
  • We have a registered dietitian on staff. Nutrition plays a HUGE roll in results. If you fuel your body with foods that promote health, you will see great results.
  • We don’t judge you. We welcome EVERYONE regardless of his/her fitness level. Whether you have never set foot in a gym or make it part of your normal routine, we have something for you.
  • We focus on the future. It can be easy to focus on the past and why things didn’t work out. At forward fitness we focus on moving forward and creating the future you want!

If you have been thinking about becoming active or looking for a better fit, we would love to move forward with you! Please email Suzanne at Suzanne@ForwardFitnessSTL.com to get started.

Don’t Train Before You Do This

By: Mike Klaus ISSA, FMS, RKC and Suzanne Doerries RD, LD, FMS

What is the FMS?

ffjune-205The FMS or Functional Movement System is the screening tool used to identify limitations and/or asymmetries in seven fundamental movement patterns crucial to everyday living. These are movements that not only allow you to train to your full potential, but ones that you do every day. Whether you are walking, carrying your child, moving equipment, gardening, getting up and down off the ground, or going up stairs, you are using at least one of the seven fundamental movements. The FMS shows us if there are any weak links in those movement patterns. It allows us to see how well your body is able to perform basic motor and stabilizing movements. It does this by placing you in positions where weaknesses and imbalances become noticeable if appropriate mobility and motor control is not utilized.

Can you fail the FMS?

No, the FMS is simply a screening tool that allows us to see how your body moves. It helps us to give you the best training possible. We re-screen our members every two to three months to see how their movements have changed. This allows us to make sure your training is current and relevant.

Why screen our clients?

Would you go to an eye doctor that didn’t test your vision before handing you a pair of glasses? Probably not. When you decide you want to start an exercise program, get over a plateau, or set personal records, it is crucial that you are doing movements/exercises that are helping your body, not hurting it. If you don’t have a solid movement foundation you will not be able to reach your full potential. Just like a crack in the foundation of a house, a crack in your movement foundation can cause problems. After we screen you we will know if there are any “cracks,” or exercises that will cause you more harm than good. We will also be able to give you exercises to help improve those movements. When we re-screen you we will hopefully find that those cracks have been repaired and you no longer have issues with that movement. It doesn’t matter if you choose semi-private or group training, every person who walks through our doors will be screened and get an exercise program that is fitted for them.