Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Nutrition and Exercise During Pregnancy: The Basic Facts

Given that the majority of people I know are either pregnant, have recently been pregnant, or will be pregnant soon, I figured that exercise and nutrition during pregnancy is a great topic to cover.  Most women fear the body changes that come with pregnancy, especially the idea that it is going to be difficult to lose the baby weight.  The key is to maintain a proper nutrition and exercise routine before, during, and after pregnancy.  Sure, many exercises must be modified during pregnancy, and it is certainly not a time for you to attempt to set any personal bests, but exercising during pregnancy is good for you and your baby.

When monitoring intensity of exercise while pregnant, it's important to use the "talk test."  This means that if you can talk comfortably while you are exercising, the intensity is just right.  Doctors used to recommend that a pregnant woman's heart rate not exceed 140 beats per minute, but that rule no longer applies.  The "talk test" is an easier and effective way to monitor your exercise while pregnant.  Depending on your stage of pregnancy, you might not be able to get into certain positions, like lying on your back or on your stomach.  In order to keep your core strong during and after pregnancy, planks are a fantastic exercise (see video in post Challenge #2 - Water & Exercise).  While you probably don't want to take up any new sports or try to learn a completely new way to exercise while pregnant, you can safely continue with your current regimen while modifying as needed (always check with your doctor!).  If you need extra help, seek out a pre/post natal exercise specialist in your area.  I also highly recommend checking out some pre-natal yoga classes!

You know your body better than anyone else.  Listen to it.

Your doctor will give you the necessary vitamins and supplements to take during your pregnancy, and typically these will include the following: Vitamin B12, Folate, Vitamin D, Calcium, Iron, Zinc, and Fatty Acids.  During your second and third trimesters protein intake should also be increased by about 25 grams per day.  LOTS of lean protein and veggies are key.  In fact, a pregnant woman can easily follow the 5 Simple Tips to Eating Healthier I recently posted.  Always choose whole foods over supplements as a way to get all important vitamins and minerals.

WARNING!: You are not really eating for two.  Typically, a pregnant woman only needs an extra 300-500 calories per day, closer to 500 if you are exercising regularly.  Overeating or eating low-quality foods while pregnant is bad for both mom and baby and can have lasting consequences.

You are going to gain weight when pregnant, and the best way to ensure a quick bounce back after you deliver is to focus on high quality foods and to keep moving!  Sugars, transfats, fast foods, and all of those bad foods that taste good are bad for pregnancy.  If they are bad for you, certainly you don't want your baby to ingest them!  By eating a whole food based diet, most women should expect to gain the following amounts of weight (Precision Nutrition):

-Underweight/average women gain 25-35lbs
-Overweight women gain no more than 15-25lbs
-Women 5'2" and under gain 10-25lbs

Of course your doctor will give you the specific details on what you individually should expect out of your pregnancy with guidelines to follow.  It is likely that you can continue the same nutrition plan you were on while pregnant when you are nursing.

What are they keys to a quick bounce back?  Stellar nutrition focused on whole foods (lean protein, fruits and veggies, whole grains) and commitment to an appropriate exercise routine.  Take care of yourself better than you ever have while you grow your baby.  The reward is not only a quicker return to your pre-pregnancy state but also a healthy, happy baby!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Avoiding Exercise: What's Your Excuse?

This is a question that both perplexes me and that I can completely relate to.  Even those of us who LOVE exercising and watching our bodies become stronger drag our feet to our workouts on some occasions.  I feel amazing when I'm finished training; exercising gives me confidence, provides me with the body I desire, and I know exercising will benefit me as I age.  So why is it sometimes a struggle?

I completely believe that "getting old" is a choice.  Sure, you can't change the fact that your age is increasing in years, genetic factors, or sudden illnesses, but you can choose HOW your body ages.  There is a reason that my 80 year old, amazing grandmother still loves to hit the tennis court, never misses a day at the gym, and is as healthy today as she was in her 40's.  In fact, I'm not sure she's aged at all since I was a child (with the exception of lighter hair and extra wrinkles)!  There are 100-year-old marathoners, senior-citizen body builders and figure competitors, and 70-year-olds with 6-packs.  I think about these people when I don't feel like training, and then I realize I have no excuse.

                                                        My beautiful grandmother & me

I recently went to a fitness business conference and listened to a lecture by an Army veteran who had one of his legs blown off in combat.  The man was barely out of the hospital before he attempted to run a 5K with a prosthetic leg.  Eventually, he completed a marathon.  Talk about inspiring!

My point is that it is so easy to come up with excuses to not exercise.  I commonly hear people say that life is too crazy between work, kids, pets, travel, etc.  Personally, I feel that getting to the gym is the hardest part.  You have to drive there, change clothing, then drive home.  It takes valuable time.  What's my solution for those days?  I exercise at home.  All you need is space in your living room or backyard to give yourself the life-long benefits of exercise.

                                                  me doing double kettlebell swings at home

Precision Nutrition recommends 5 hours of exercise per week combined with proper nutrition for optimum health, body composition, and performace.  When you are busy, 5 hours can sound like a lot, and I believe you can receive incredible benefits from even less.  Challenge yourself to 15-20 minutes of high-intensity exercise 5-6 days per week...that's less than 2 hours a week!  If you can't find that amount of time in your schedule, email me with your daily schedule, and I will find it for you!

No amount of magazine reading, fitness video watching, or wanting to be fit will actually make you fit!  The drive and motivation has to come from within.  When you are 80 years old would you rather be active with your great-grandchildren or confined to a chair?  You can't prevent every medical condition that may arise, especially if it is genetic, but you can fight lifestyle-related diseases like diabetes and heart disease NOW.  If there was a vaccine against those diseases would you take it?  I certainly would!  But there isn't, and it is up to you to live your best life and be the best version of yourself.

I shared my excuse (which ultimately just means that sometimes I am lazy!  I admit it!).  Please share yours.  You will see that you are in the same boat as so many other people.  Seriously take a step back and assess the benefits of taking a little bit of extra time out of your busy day to give yourself the ultimate gift of health.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Kettlebell Swing: A Tutorial

Want to burn fat, increase your cardiovascular capacity, train most muscles in your body and become more flexible with one exercise?  Well, look no further than the kettlebell swing!

If I was told that I would have to choose one exercise to be the only exercise I could do for the rest of my life, it would be the Hardstyle Kettlebell Swing.  The swing creates a powerful body, burns fat, provides cardiovascular conditioning, flexibility training, and can improve sports performance across the board--all in one exercise.  Strength progressions happen quickly when you swing with proper form.  The first time I swung a kettlebell it was 15 lbs, I believe.  Within a few sessions I was up to 12kg (26lbs).  Since then, I've swung 24kg (53lbs) and 28kg (62lbs) with regularity.  My personal best was swinging the 88lb kettlebell for reps (it's the heaviest I've ever had access to during a regular training session, and I've
wanted to attempt heavier!).

I've taught a lot of people how to swing a kettlebell.  I believe in heavy training for men AND WOMEN!  I've taken mothers and housewives from never having touched a weight to swinging 53-70lb kettlebells for reps.  I've watched obese women in their 50's melt away fat using the kettlebell swing.  What I'm saying is IT WORKS!

Swinging kettlebells (with good form) is suitable for anyone from young athletes who want to improve sports performance to moms that need to lose some baby weight to grandfathers who want to move better and gain strength.  Anyone who swings a kettlebell with regularity will become stronger, more flexible, better conditioned, and will achieve the athletic look most people desire (combined with proper nutrition, of course).

Many of my friends have told me that their gyms have kettlebells, but they don't know how to use them.  Or that they've tried to swing them with either poor instruction or without instruction at all and have injured themselves.  While highly effective, kettlebells can be dangerous when attempted without the instruction of proper form.  Although there is no substitute for having an RKC Certified Instructor train you one-on-one, I suggest watching my tutorial video below (several times!) if you are interested in swinging kettlebells.


Now, I challenge you to perform 5 sets of 20 repetitions of the kettlebell swing! Women start with 15-26lbs, men start with 35-45lbs (or whatever similar weight increments you have access to).  If you're feeling strong, go for 10 sets (200 swings total).

**If you ever decide to purchase kettlebells for yourself, there is no substitute for DragonDoor bells.  They will last you a lifetime.  Buy them here.

Pavel's Enter the Kettlebell will teach you all of the basics.