A weekly/bi-weekly column delivering solid, yet simple, health and fitness advice... with a smattering of irreverent humor added just for fun.
Editors... In these difficult, unprecedented times, people across the country - in small towns and large cities - are feeling more isolated than ever. Your Personal Trainer connects with readers of all ages and is ideal for adjacent advertising (restaurants, health food stores, supplements, gyms, yoga studios, meditation, sporting goods, and more).
Each informative and humorous column answers a reader's question and ends with a link to the HarryKFitness website where readers can learn more about exercise, view healthy recipes, and more.
Here are the latest Your Personal Trainer columns. Scroll down for links to past columns.
Push-ups and Goats
So, this morning while I was working out in my home gym (aka my garage), my cat, Kitty, wandered in. (Yes, my creativity in naming cats knows no bounds). Kitty approached me while I was doing push-ups. She then proceeded to climb on my back and made herself comfortable. I allowed her to stay as I really did appreciate the extra eight pounds of resistance to an already excellent, all-around exercise. The push-up works a number of upper body muscles, including the chest, shoulders, arms (triceps), abdominals, and your serratus anterior (the little wing muscles just under your armpits). There are also a number of variations to the push-up (knees on the ground, hands wide, hands narrow, feet elevated, and more) that can help you target different muscle groups. Kitty stayed with me for my first two sets and her presence got me thinking about animals and exercise. Walking your dog or riding your horse are fairly common human/animal rituals, but then my mind made its way to Goat Yoga. Yes, it’s a thing! People practice yoga poses – which are difficult to maintain in their own rite – with a goat on them. Yes, a real goat; the farm animal goat; the one Old MacDonald had; e i e i o. Are we really in a place in society and culture where we practice the ancient spiritual art of yoga and then throw in a goat for good measure? I don’t think I’m even comfortable with goat milk or goat yogurt – of course that may be a direct result of my lactose intolerance. I mean no disrespect to the Goat Yoga community and I don’t want to say anything disparaging, but… here I go anyway. What could have possibly been going on where someone was practicing yoga and a goat wandered in, à la Kitty, and climbed on their back. And then, instead of freaking out because, well, there was a goat on them, they said to themselves, “Huh. This works. How about downward dog with an upward goat?” Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah: Push-ups. Push-ups should be a mainstay of any home exercise routine. Keep your body straight – as if you have a board (not a cat) resting on you from your heels to your shoulders. With your hands about shoulder width apart and your elbows tucked in (as opposed to sticking out sideways) push yourself up almost locking your elbows and then S-L-O-W-L-Y lower yourself down until you almost touch the ground, then repeat. Try 3 sets of 8-12 reps each. Push-ups benefit your chest, shoulders, arms, and your abs as you try maintain that straight position. Try push-ups 3 days a week to start – ensuring you have adequate rest on the days in between. As I noted before, you can try variations of the push-up to achieve different results and target different muscles. Bodyweight exercises are great, especially for beginners, but your muscles need to be constantly challenged in order to grow. Elevating your feet while performing a push up targets the upper portion of your chest – and it’s harder! You may end up grunting e i e i oh! (sorry). Perhaps having the added weight of a goat on your back and trying to maintain your pose while the goat does whatever it is a goat does, really would improve your strength and balance. Huh… there just may be something to this Goat Yoga thing after all! No goats or cats were harmed in the writing of this column.
If you enjoyed reading this, then please visit www.HarryKFitness.com where you can find more fitness information along with my Healthy Recipe of the Week: Italian Vegetable Bake.
If your Thanksgiving was anything like mine, you’re still feeling full. I was good with the turkey, controlled with the stuffing, and conservative with the mashed potatoes. I was even mindful of the size of the slice of pecan pie I had. Unfortunately, it was the two slices of apple pie that followed that did me in. I’m weak, I know! But I also know that I can easily negate the caloric effects by walking it off. A brisk 30-minute walk can burn up to 200 calories. Keep in mind, the more you walk and the quicker your pace, the more calories you'll burn. I’ve walked the neighborhood just about every morning since Thanksgiving (sometimes twice a day) so I was able to keep those extra holiday calories in check. Besides burning calories, walking yields a number of surprising benefits. According to arthritis.org, they include improved circulation, arresting bone loss for those with osteoporosis, improved sleep, and strengthened muscles. Walking even freshens your breath! When walking, your breathing rate increases, causing oxygen to travel faster through your bloodstream, helping to eliminate waste products. If your breath is already minty fresh, consider these additional benefits according to Harvard Medical School: Walking counteracts the effects of weight-promoting genes, it helps tame a sweet tooth, it reduces the risk of developing breast cancer, it eases joint pain, and walking even boosts immune function. In addition to the many physical benefits of walking, there are a number of mental benefits as well. A Stanford University study found that walking increased creative output by an average of 60 percent. That actually makes sense, when we consider science has shown that engaging in activities that allow our minds to wander promotes a mental state conducive to innovative ideas and “ah-ha!” moments. According to a study by Miller and Krizan, just 12 minutes of walking resulted in an increase in joviality, vigor, attentiveness and self-confidence versus the same time spent sitting. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we could all benefit from more joviality. The ease of walking combined with the noted benefits should put walking at the top of everyone’s to-do list. Before you venture outside, however, it’s very important to ensure your safety. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. This includes shady characters as well as bike and car traffic. It’s recommended you walk facing oncoming traffic. Ensure your path is well lit, have your phone with you for emergencies and to listen to music or a podcast (I listen to music using a bone-conducting headset, that way I can still hear approaching traffic). Be mindful of the terrain. Although walking on sand, grass, or dirt can actually help you burn a few extra calories and work your leg muscles a bit more, the likelihood of a twisted ankle or stumbling is higher. If you have the time and can do it safely, take a short, brisk walk after lunch. If you’re walking after dinner, it’s going to be dark, so wear something reflective and/or carry a flashlight – anything to help you be seen. So, after dinner, which tends to be the largest meal of the day, you should try to go for a walk. It can also be quality time spent with the one you love. Recently, after dinner, I suggested to my wife that we wander into the bedroom. She looked at me, shook her head, and told me to go take a hike! That wife of mine, always looking out for my health.
If you enjoyed reading this, then please visit www.HarryKFitness.com where you can find more fitness information along with my Healthy Recipe of the Week: Make Your Own Snack Mix.
What’s the best general exercise advice you can give? - Janice S. 10-22-2020 Janice, remember the old adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me”? We’ve since learned that names can and do hurt people. Words matter. In exercise, the same is true. You hear about reps, sets, muscle, fat, carbs, and more. But I’d like to share with you what I consider the three most important words in fitness: Persistence, Consistency, and Patience. They’re not the three most exciting words – I certainly wouldn’t advise using them in your dating profile - but they are important. Allow me to “mansplain”: Persistence: “firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition.” Huh? It means you keep going despite wanting to stop. You didn’t get that muffin top in a week and you’re not going to get rid of it in a week, either. But, if you are persistent in your efforts, you will lose it and look and feel great! Set your sights a few months ahead (more on that a bit later) and stick with it. You don’t need to (and shouldn’t) check the bathroom scale every day. If you must check it, do it every couple of weeks. Better still, use the mirror as your guide; it’s 100% accurate. Consistency: “steadfast adherence to the same principles or course of action.” This is very similar to persistence, but there’s an important difference. If persistence keeps you going for three months, consistency will keep you honest during those months. Walk every morning; have that protein drink every afternoon; hit the gym every (other) day, and so on. Be consistent. Create a schedule that works for you and stick with it. Have you ever had antibiotics prescribed where the directions say to take one every day at the same time? Doing that maintains a constant level of the medication in your system. Consistency in your diet and exercise routine does the same thing – it keeps the level of fitness, the stress on your muscles, and the quality and quantity of calories even over time so your body is neither overwhelmed nor under nourished. Patience: “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.” There are so many quotes regarding patience, it must be worthwhile. “Good things come to those who wait.” “All good things come in time.” The same is true for diet and exercise when the person is persistent, consistent and patient. Remember I said to set your sights a few months ahead? Well, here’s the reason why, and it’s good news! In the instance of resistance training, beginners (or those who have not exercised in a long time) see the most positive results (fat loss, muscle gain, endurance) in the first three months of embarking on a fitness routine. Progress is a great motivator. Exercise instructors will tell you to stick with it, because they know you will get results fairly quickly. After three months you may encounter a plateau where your progress slows. That’s your cue to change things up. Try different exercises, speed things up, slow things down, add more weights, or walk/run farther. Your friends may ask how your fitness journey is going; or if you’re still at it. Within just a few weeks you will probably have had your share of ups and downs and may answer, “I’m trying!” If you keep in mind Persistence, Consistency, and Patience then you can be confident you’re being honest with yourself. As long as you’re honest with your efforts, your mirror won’t let you down!
Please be sure to visit my website www.HarryKFitness.com for the latest Healthy Recipe of the Week: Cold Fusilli Pasta with Summer Vegetables
I’ve received so many letters all asking about a multitude of diets and eating plans, that I thought I should write one, easy-to-understand column on weight loss. Weight loss, fat loss, diets, diet books, meal plans, meal replacement drinks, protein bars, exercise machines, and on and on. It’s a billion-dollar industry that’s sprinkled with facts, fads, and added sugar. I think I gained 2 pounds just snacking while doing my research! So, I’ve got a friend who swears by the Keto diet, and he’s lost quite a bit of fat and he looks and feels great. My neighbor simply modified his eating habits while adding mountain biking to his daily routine. He’s managed to lose over 50 pounds in the last several months! Yes, 50, and he looks and feels great. Both swear by their diet and exercise routines and they each seem to have found what works for them. Meanwhile, my brother is trying the Doritos, lounge chair, and Netflix system. It’s similar to the hardcore P90X system, but without any nutrition or exercise. I’ll keep you posted on his progress. I’m joking, but for some, trying to lose weight is no laughing matter; it’s hard. Some might even say, impossible. But take heart; it’s not. Here are the basics… the “what you need to know” about weight loss – preferably fat loss. You don’t have to be proficient at math to understand that if you spend more than you earn, your bank account is going to get real lean. Conversely, if you take in more than you spend, your account will grow. Well, the same goes for calories – and weight. This is often referred to as “calories in vs. calories out.” Simply put, if you burn more calories through exercise or daily activities than you ingest through what, and how much, you eat, you’ll lose weight. If you ingest more calories than you burn, you’ll gain weight. So, let’s say your weight is fairly consistent; you’re not gaining weight, but you’re also not losing any weight. In fact, you like what you eat and how much/often you eat. So then all you need to do is up your caloric burn. Add, or increase, exercise/activity. I include activity as some people may not exercise, but are active. In this case, just try a few tricks like parking farther from your destination and walk a bit more. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, do some yard work, or walk your dog just a bit farther – he/she will love you for it. Now, if you’re happy with the amount of exercise you’re doing, then you would just need to modify what, and how much, you eat. I’m not suggesting you cut your portions in half, as that wouldn’t be realistic and you’d probably go for seconds. Instead, try one less scoop, one less slice; ease back just a bit. In fact, when you do this, no one else may even notice – but you will! I’m not a fan of porridge, but Goldilocks had the right idea. If you’re still hungry after a meal, you’re either not eating enough, or you’re eating too quickly. If you’re stuffed and full (and sweating and burping), you’ve eaten too much (and you’re kind of gross). Be like Goldilocks and find the amount of food that’s just right for you. So, option one is to up your caloric burn with activity. Option two is to decrease your caloric intake through a modification of portions, but there’s also a third option. Option three is to do just a little of each. Cut back just a bit on your food intake and increase your daily activity by just 10 or 15 minutes. The important thing to remember is that you don’t have to go all in and commit to some unrealistic diet that deprives you of vital nutrition or commit to setting your alarm for 4:30 in the morning to pound the pavement or hit the gym like Rocky. Maybe your solution is Keto or mountain biking, or… hmmm, there’s two seasons of Cobra Kai on Netflix, with a third season just announced. Perhaps my brother is on to something!