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The Bullhorn, Issue #004 -- Monthly Motivator for July 2006
July 15, 2006

Just the right push to succeed!

Measure What Matters!

When it comes to measuring our improvement, the bathroom scale seems to be the tool of choice...but is it a fair gauge? Most diets don’t provide long-term results because they are focused on short-term measurements. Take for example a dieter that has lost 5 pounds in their first week of dieting. They are overjoyed with the result...but what did they really accomplish? Their 5-pound weight loss is a combination of: 1-part stored energy (fat converted into glycogen); and 3-parts of water which is needed to burn it. So that 5 pounds on the scale may be more reflective of only 1 pound of actual fat loss.

Weighing yourself at different times of the day can also give you varied results, as your levels of hydration will vary significantly as the day goes on. That recommended 8 glasses of water per day that we should all be drinking equates to over 4 pounds of weight...and these are good pounds, my friends. Drinking water has many, many health benefits, so its temporary weight is well worth it. In fact, water helps the kidneys filter waste products from the body. Not enough water and your kidneys will turn to the liver for help. If the liver is ‘tasked’ with filtering waste, it will decrease or suspend its primary function of mobilizing stored fat for energy. Therefore water indirectly burns go ahead and have another glass.

If the scales are short-term gauges, how should we measure our long-term improvement? The best way is to measure our body fat percentage. This is a superior long-term gauge of success and will not significantly fluctuate with a bowl of ice cream or a glass of water. I personally like the circumference method, which by taking a few simple measurements you can record and calculate your body fat percentage. This measurement is best done every few weeks or even just once a month. It’s more reassuring than a weight number and it’s much more rewarding as you’ll actually see a decrease in size. By measuring your waist, hips (women only), and neck circumference with a cloth tape you can easily figure out your body fat percentage.

In summary, measure what matters. The bathroom scale is a good gauge of weight, but it will only display part of the story. By measuring your body fat percentage, you’ll be able to really see the long-term improvements of your fitness plan both on the measuring tape and in the mirror!

The Yin & Yang of Fitness

Balance is necessary in all aspects of our lives - including our fitness plans. Here are just a few of the many things in our fitness routines that require some balance to achieve success:

  1. Exercise & Nutrition:
    The balancing act between exercise and our diet is crucial to our long-term success. You can workout for 2 hours a day and still gain weight if you don’t watch what you eat. If you (like me) have a hard time giving up life’s many tasty treats…try to cut back on just a few of your indulgences. Make sure your input and output are balanced to take you to your goal. Without monitoring both your exercise and your diet, your fitness goals will be very hard to achieve.
  2. Strength & Flexibility:
    If one of your goals is to increase your strength, be sure to focus on your flexibility as well. Strength training workouts can cause micro-tears in our muscles which will cause them to contract as they heal. Stretching the muscles after workouts will prevent this shortening and reduce the chances of strains and overuse injuries from tight muscles. Stretching without strength training will only weaken muscles and connective tissue over time. Together stretching and strength training will improve muscular function and performance and decrease the chances of injury.
  3. Front & Back Muscles:
    Running primarily uses the back muscles of our legs (hamstrings and calves), so why do so many runners get quadriceps injuries? We need to balance the strengthening of our muscle groups. If your activity primarily uses your hamstrings, include some quadriceps exercises. If it’s your biceps that are primarily used, include some triceps exercises. If you want to reduce strain on your back, add some abdominal exercises. This balance will greatly improve your performance and reduce your chances of injury.
  4. Stress & Rest:
    We tend to focus so much on the workout, we often forget that the actual improvements we want are achieved while the body is resting and recovering. Without stressing our muscles, we’ll never improve. Without resting our muscles, we’ll never improve. Be sure to have a healthy mix of stress and rest to achieve your fitness goals. If your workout routine has been the same for the past several months, chances are that you’re not stressing your body as much as when you first started. Mix up your routine and add some increased repetitions or difficulty to challenge yourself when you can.

Balance is necessary for all of our goals in life. Learn to balance the items above in your fitness plan and watch the synergistic results take you to whole new levels of improvement!

Exercise of the Month:
The Mighty Crunch

We use our abdominal muscles every day in just about every activity and sport you can think of. They form the trunk of our bodies and help provide support to our spine and back muscles. The strengthening and upkeep of these muscles should be a part of our daily routine. The crunch is a simple (not to be confused with “easy”) exercise and can be done anywhere with many variations. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your hands behind your head. Lift your upper torso 10-12 inches off the ground while slowly exhaling. Sit ups may seem better than crunches because of the greater range of motion, but they actually work the abs less and work the hip flexors more. Crunches can strengthen your abdominal muscles quite effectively. For variations try doing them with your feet off the floor, or do one elbow to your opposite knee to focus more on the oblique muscles. A set of 15-50 repetitions will only set you back a few minutes from your morning shower...try adding them to your daily routine.

Keep up the great work & stay focused on your goals. Best of luck!

Encouragement to Succeed!

P.S. - Please feel free to forward this to a friend!

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