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     The Official eNewsletter of TODAY! Fitness

vol. 2011 issue 2



Stand Up Straight!

With so much focus around creating the perfect strength training and cardio workout, many people forget about the importance of good posture.  Considering that the spine, skeleton, soft tissue, connective tissue and joints make up our structure that is not unlike that of a frame of a house, you would think we would pay more attention to it. These are what keeps our bodies together and allow us to walk, run, and work.

Bad posture, such as slouching can affect the way we feel and can make us more prone to joint, bone and soft tissue injuries due to misusing them. Various occupations can put us at risk. Many of us work at a desk with computers, as cashiers, assembly workers or nurses and nurse's aids and risk repetitive injuries as is seen in Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, back and neck pain and 'pinched' nerves. The strain on the spine, muscles and uneven stress on the joints can lead to debilitating and permanent damage.

Back pain is the second most reported occupational injury in the U.S. and the U.K. Studies found 95% of lower and middle back pain is due to bad posture while standing, sitting and even exercising.

Benefits of Good Posture

Increased Confidence Levels
The first way in which good posture is going to help you is by increasing your confidence levels. Confidence is one of the things that will dramatically impact how other people view you, so by straightening up your posture, you can instantly come across as more attractive to others.

Not only that, but typically when you use good posture you will also feel better about yourself in general as well, so it carries through impacting more than just how other people see you. Feeling good about yourself will increase your mood levels, so this is something you definitely do not want to overlook. This simple change will really impact your image.

Improved Airflow Throughout The Body
The next benefit to using good posture is increased airflow throughout the body. When we are not standing up straight, our lungs are not going to be able to take in as much air as they potentially could, so straightening up solves this problem fast.

As you use good posture, you will notice that your chest does open up, and itís this that allows more air to circulate throughout the body. To help further drive this point home, when using good posture, focus on squeezing the shoulder blades together, since this is the mechanism that alters the body position.

Decreased Risk of Injury
As anyone who has ever experienced an injury before knows, injuries are extremely frustrating. Using good posture however will decrease your risk of experiencing an injury since all the body parts will be in proper alignment.

This is especially the case when you are participating in activities like strength training or sports, since incorrect form while performing the variety of movements that you do will really put you at a high risk for injury. If you donít understand what proper form is for any exercise you are about to do, get help first. Itís far better to be safe than sorry as far as proper form and good posture are concerned.

Enhanced Energy Levels
Finally, the last major improvement youíll notice when you start using good posture is increased energy levels. This is partially due to the increased airflow moving through the body as touched upon above, and also because when the body is in the natural good posture stance, the muscles will not be quite as stressed, thus are less likely to feel as fatigued.

Practicing Good Posture

Poor posture is a learned behavior and can be unlearned. Start by checking your posture. In an ideal posture, the feet should be shoulder width apart with the thighs elongated. Watch the lower back and avoid arching or leaning back. The tail should be slightly tucked down. Lift the breast bone, your shoulder blades should move down and create a distance between the hipbone and the rib cage. The chin should be level and the head and upper back should be the highest point on the body.

A good way to check your posture is the wall test.
Stand with the back of the head touching the wall. Heels should be six inches from the baseboard. With your butt touching the wall, check the distance with your hand between your neck and the wall. If you're within two inches at the neck, you are close to a good posture. If not, the neck posture is too forward and can be subject to deterioration of joints and discs.

Good posture should be continued in walking, sitting, driving and in almost every activity. In walking, start with a correct standing posture. Walk heel to toe and as you walk, your head should be balanced over your head and shoulder, shoulders should be rolled back with the spine slightly lifted. Take steps of equal length.

When walking upstairs, most of us tend to lean forward and take the steps with the balls of our feet. The proper way to walk up stairs is to stand straight and place the entire foot on the steps. This does feel awkward at first as most of us have been doing it wrong for years.

When sitting, feet should be placed on the floor or if you are short, feet should be placed on a foot stand. The knees and hips should be bent at about a 135 degree angle. Don't cross the legs. (Yes, I know, many of us do that) When sitting in a chair, make sure your tail is back against the chair and maintain an arch in the lower back. Sometimes, using a lumbar roll will be comfortable to support the arch. These can be purchased or made by rolling a towel or pillow length-wise with a length of about 12 inches. If sitting for long periods of time, get up from the chair and walk or stretch to keep your muscles toned and to relieve stress.

Maintain proper posture while driving to relieve fatigue, especially on long trips. Sit as close to the steering wheel as possible to avoid having to stretch the arms to reach it.  Adjust the seat so your back is vertical and is supported by the back of the seat. Knees should be bent to reach the pedals. The knees should be as high as or higher than the hips. Elbows should be bent slightly and relaxed.

Sleeping posture is often times overlooked until we awaken with a stiff neck or other body aches. Sleeping on the stomach puts extreme pressure on your back. The ideal sleep position is on your side, (no, it doesn't matter which one), with the knees bent, or sleep on your back. Use a pillow to support the head and align it with the spine, but avoid using thick or double pillows as this will throw off the alignment of your head and spine. Sleep on a slightly firm mattress, again to support the spine. You don't want a mattress so soft that you sink to the floor.

Learning good posture will help keep the spine in good shape and prevent injuries or pain in the lower back. Exercise to strengthen the muscles and to tone them. Remember, we only have the one body, take care of it by paying attention to it.

Ref:   Susan Findlay BSc RGN, Kathy Eastwood, Yahoo! Contributor

Muscle Splits

Workout routines are what exercises, how many sets, how many reps etc. that you do for each muscle. For example, 3 sets of the flat bench press, 3 sets on the incline bench press, and 2 sets of flat bench dumbell flys is an example of one of the many chest weightlifting workout routines. A workout split is a term given to how you split up your workout. What days you do what muscle on. For example, doing biceps back and legs on Monday, and doing triceps, shoulders and chest on Thursday is a workout split.

One rule when making weightlifting workout programs is to make sure to split it so that you aren't overtraining. Doing chest on Monday, then triceps on Tuesday, then shoulders on Wednesday will overtrain your triceps. Why? Because just about every chest and shoulder exercise works the triceps secondary. And almost every back exercise works the biceps secondary. Muscles should have at least 48 hours of recovery before they are trained again. 

Here are several options you can consider when making your workout routines and splits:

  • Work chest, triceps and shoulders on the same day, and biceps and back on the same day so that it's ok if the secondary muscles get worked that day, because your doing them anyway.

  • Separate those muscles that work a secondary muscle so that they are far enough apart not to overtrain you. For example, do Chest Monday, triceps on Wednesdays, and shoulders Friday... and biceps Monday with chest, and back Wednesday or Friday.

  • Do chest and triceps Monday, and shoulders Thursday, and back and biceps together on Friday.



Bodyweight Exercise of the Month!

Side to Side Push-Up


No matter how you slice it, push-ups of any kind are still an outstanding exercise.  The side to side push-up adds additional shoulder mobility and core stabilization to this push-up variation.  There are many types of "traveling push-up" styles out there which can include moving forward, backward, side to side, and stepping up and down various obstacles.  As with any of these variations, correct form should be maintained before experimenting with any additional challenges.


Target:  chest, shoulders, triceps, core (pectoralis major, deltoids, triceps brachii, rectus abdominis)

Count:  2 count

Description:  Start in the "down" position of a push-up, but with your feet about shoulder width apart.  Press up to the standard high-plank position, then move your right hand and foot next to your left, shift your weight over, and move your left hand and foot out.  Be sure to maintain a tight core and straight back the entire time.  Repeat this motion back and forth in each direction for reps.

Snow Fitness?

I don't know about you, but when I come in from my shoveling duties, I certainly feel like I got some exercise!  Hey, if you have to go out and move that snow anyway, you might as well make the most out of it, right?  Whether you really want to get in a workout while you are out there, or you just want to get the shoveling done, you should keep in mind some of the same safety and health principals that you would use when working out.

Shoveling snow is a sure way to work up a sweat and burn off some of those holiday pounds.  According to the Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health, just 15 minutes of snow shoveling counts as moderate physical activity! And seeing as how the optimum stay-in-goal for aerobic activity is 30 minutes of moderate physical activity at least 3 times a week - then shoveling snow certainly fits the bill!  This activity burns approximately 395 calories per hour for an average, 145-pound person (LiveStrong).

Shoveling represents an intense workout even for healthy college-aged students! A study performed by researchers at North Dakota State University determined that, based on heart rate, shoveling was a moderately intense activity for college-aged subjects most of the time but was vigorous activity during about one-third of their shoveling time of 14 minutes.

Shoveling snow is considered cardiovascular exercise, as well as weight lifting exercise. This makes it a great form of functional exercise. You end up releasing cortisol, epinephrine, norepinephrine, growth hormones, insulin-like growth factor 1, (IGF-1), which are all are released when you do other forms of moderate exercise.

The flip side of this is that just like any other kind of sports activity -- if youíre going to shovel snow you need to warm up first and stretch out a bit. Think of shoveling snow as an exercise similar to bent-over rowing that you would do with a barbell in the gym. Or compare it to bicep curls with a dumb bell or barbell. You wouldnít just go in the gym and start doing those exercises without a warm-up. Researchers have reported an increase in the number of fatal heart attacks among those who shovel snow after heavy snowfalls. This rise may be due to the sudden demand that shoveling places on an individual's heart. Snow shoveling may cause a quick increase in heart rate and blood pressure. One study determined that after only two minutes of shoveling, a sedentary man's heart rates rose to levels higher than those normally recommended during aerobic exercise.

Shoveling can be made more difficult by the weather. Cold air makes it harder to work and breathe, which adds some extra strain on the body, so think before you shovel. Stretch out first, dress warmly in layers and bend at the knees when youíre hurling that shovel-full of snow. Remember to lift with your legs not your back.

Snow Shoveling Safety

Shoveling snow presents challenges even for those of you who are reasonably fit. The National Safety Council offers the following tips to help you get a handle on safe shoveling:

  • Individuals over the age of 40, or those who are relatively inactive, should be especially careful. If you have a history of heart trouble, do not shovel without a doctor's permission.

  • Do not shovel after eating or while smoking.

  • Shovel only fresh snow. Freshly fallen, powdery snow is easier to shovel than the wet, packed-down variety.

  • Push the snow as you shovel. It's easier on your back than lifting the snow out of the way.

  • Don't pick up too much at once. Use a small shovel, or fill only one-fourth or one-half of a large one.

  • Do not work to the point of exhaustion. If you run out of breath, take a break. If you feel tightness in your chest, stop immediately.

  • A common mistake that people make with physical activity in the cold is not keeping well hydrated.

Snow Shoveling Technique

In addition to she safety concerns, here are some tips to keep in mind for your cardio workout, while you're clearing your sidewalks and driveway...

  • Make sure you have a good snow shovel. Most snow shovels have open ends that allow you to easily toss the snow off to the side.

  • Consider your physical condition. If you are out of shape you should proceed with caution. When you shovel you are simultaneously pushing, lifting and lunging, and this will have a quick effect on your muscles and stamina. Come to think of it, shoveling snow has a lot in common with chopping wood. Snow is heavy and shoveling is hard work - you don't want to risk a serious injury or jeopardize your health. If you have a heart condition or back problems, you should definitely not shovel snow unless your doctor approves it.

  • Work toward the areas where you are depositing the snow so that you have less distance to toss it as you tire. Chip away any ice that you find under the snow and remove the chunks with the shovel.

  • Spread rock salt over the cleared area to avoid icing. Sand any areas that remain slippery. As snow falls, you will find yourself outside shoveling every few days, which coincidently is what you want to be doing if you want to feel the benefits of shoveling snow!

Shoveling snow can be an ideal way to stay fit during the holidays and winter season... Just donít overdo it!

ref:  Gary Picariello, Yahoo! Contributor Network

It's Go Time!

February, March, April... that's about 90 days before we get into the beach and pool weather that starts back in May and June.  90 days... There's a LOT that can be accomplished in 90 days.  Heck, just take a look at some of the success stories (and pictures) on the P90X blogs and infomercials.  However, it's important to keep in mind that great results don't just show up at your door one day.  Results take determination, commitment and hard work... basically outside of the comfort zone that you are used to right now.

90 days... 12 weeks... 3 months... a quarter of a year... do you think that you can buckle down and commit to yourself for this period of time?  Once you get into the swing of things, and your diet and exercise are both looking good, you're talking about a potential loss of 12-24 pounds of fat by May (1-2 pounds per week is a safe recommendation).  Let me say that again... 12-24 POUNDS OF FAT!!!  

Can you picture what you would look like with that kind of success?  Does that motivate you?  Get a program and work hard to stick to it for the next 3 months and you can make it happen.  A pound of body fat is about 3,500 calories... to loose a pound per week you would need a deficit of 500 calories per day compared to what you are doing currently.  This could be a combination of restricting your diet by 250 more calories and burning 250 more calories at the gym.  Get the picture?

Your choice folks... I'm just trying to provide you with the facts and motivation so that you can have a realistic picture of your potential.  If this is something that you want to do, now is the time to do it... not when it's time to sport the swim suit again!

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Exceed Your Potential!

Pete Mazzeo, CPT



"Eyes are for sight. The Mind is for vision"

youtube of the month --> Stop Being So Tired
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