I recently discussed the importance of body composition and how it matters not so much what you weigh, but rather how much of that weight is fat vs. muscle mass. For more information, check out this blog post: The Significance of Body Composition.
Now that we have reviewed the importance of knowing how much fat you carry relative to muscle, let’s discuss the importance of determining where that fat is.
An easy and effective way to measure what is really going on in your body is by calculating your Waist to Hip Ratio. All you need is a tape measure, which is portable, inexpensive, and will help you overcome Scalitis, that nasty disease that keeps you tied to your bathroom scale as a determinant of your self-worth!!
I have a client who is obsessed with what he weighs, so much so that his mood du jour is determined by whether the number on his scale goes up or down. This is no way to live, nor is it an accurate report of the health of your body, i.e., how much of your body is fat vs. how much of your body is muscle mass.
Excess body fat is undesirable for more reasons than simple aesthetics. Fat is a storage site for carcinogens, and the more fat you carry above a healthy range, the more you risk hormonal imbalances which set you up for many diseases including diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, or cancer of the breast, cervix, colon, esophagus, ovaries, and prostate, to name a few.
A recent study by the American Cancer Society found that approximately 90,000 cancer deaths every year are due to excess body fat. I advise my clients to worry less about what they weigh and concern themselves more with what comprises their weight. In other words, focus on body composition, or the percentage of fat relative to the percentage of muscle on your frame.
Have you ever heard an old man brag that his weight has not changed since he was twenty-something? That’s great, and as a trainer I am always thrilled to hear that people are keeping their weight in check as they age. However, as a trainer I am far less concerned about the number on the scale and far more concerned about how much of the weight is lean muscle mass and how much of it is fat mass.
Let’s consider the old man again: at 23 years old, his 175 lb. frame probably had a good bit of muscle, and his torso was the shape of an upside down triangle, with broad shoulders and a tapered waistline. Now at 83, if he has not been doing anything to maintain his muscle mass, his 175 lb. frame likely looks like a triangle, only right side up! His broad shoulders and small waist have now become narrow shoulders and a wide waist—but he still weighs 175 lbs, so he does not see the problem.
From a health perspective, however, there is a problem. As we age, both men and women will lose muscle mass and increase fat mass. Since muscle is metabolically active tissue, meaning it requires calories just to exist, the more muscle you have on your frame, the easier it will be to stay lean.
That added body fat also increases the odds that you will suffer from any one of a number of diseases that can be prevented, including diabetes, metabolic syndrome, different cancers, and heart disease.
Have you ever wondered how to train aerobically to most efficiently lose body fat? I get a lot of questions about aerobic exercise training, and it seems that there are many misconceptions about how to train effectively, so I want to clarify some points.
Years ago, we instructors were taught to encourage our clients to stay in their “target heart rate range.” This range is also called your “target zone” or your “aerobic heart rate range.” This range simply gives you the number of times that your heart should beat per minute while exercising aerobically. The number represents about 60% to 80% of your heart’s maximum capacity. We were taught that this is the range in which we most efficiently use fat as a fuel source for exercise. Hence, the mantra, “lower intensity, longer sessions,” was drilled into aerobics instructors everywhere as the way to help clients burn body fat.
For my clients that have heart disease or any other cardiovascular complication, I encourage the use of a heart rate monitor that is worn strapped around the chest. This will provide an up to the minute, accurate reading of your heart rate. This population needs to be careful not to exceed 70% of their maximum heart rate without permission from their cardiologist.
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Live with Simplicity,
After training clients one on one all of these years, I find myself having the same conversation with people. This conversation is about not only what they are willing to do to get what they want, but what they are willing NOT to do to get what they want.
Think about it: I am sure that you, like everyone else, would like to set some new goals for your fitness and nutrition plan and make some changes to your body. You must ask yourself two critical things:
1. What am I willing to do to achieve these goals?
2. What am I willing NOT to do to achieve these goals?
Consider this: in order to achieve a goal, be it losing body fat, increasing muscle mass, increasing flexibility or increasing your cardiovascular capacity, you have to identify the things that you will need to do in order to achieve your goals. This is how you build your plan, or road map, to success.
Are you having trouble sticking to an exercise routine and a healthy eating plan? Here are some practical tips that you can put into practice right away!
First of all, forget about motivation! Relying on motivation doesn’t work, and neither does relying on will power. Instead, you need to decide what you want! Do you want to lose body fat, do you want to increase your muscle mass, gain flexibility? Whatever you want, clearly define your goals and write them down.
I am always asked what I do to get my glutes so round and developed. Since I have designed a very detailed leg/butt routine that consists of thirteen different exercises (doing 4 to 10 sets per exercise), I tell people that there is no brief answer to the question.
However, if I had to choose the top three exercises (of the thirteen in my lower body routine) that really have developed my glutes, I would select the following:
Are you having trouble designing the perfect exercise program to reach your goals? If you can’t afford a pricey personal trainer and need to create a balanced, effective exercise program on your own, consider the F.I.T. PRINCIPLE. F-I-T stands for frequency, intensity and time. These three variables can be manipulated to generate different results based on what you are trying to achieve.