Exercise is Essential for Well-Being During COVID-19 Pandemic

  • That’s where I can help…by meeting with you online or in person, outdoors, to provide the individualized training advice you may need.

How do COVID-19 closures and stay-at-home orders affect exercise routines?

COVID-19 closures of parks, gyms, fitness studios, and other public places are resulting in reduced opportunities for physical activity — particularly for people who are not able to exercise at home. Social distancing may further affect people’s ability to exercise, especially if outdoor physical activity is not an option due to shelter-in-place orders, crowded outdoor spaces, bad weather, or other factors.

If you are working from home, you may find that you are sitting for more extended periods. And, changes in your daily routines — such as caring for children who are home from school — may make it more challenging to find time to exercise.

Why is exercise important during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Regular exercise is essential for everyone under normal circumstances. However, here are a few reasons why exercise is especially crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Exercise boosts the immune system: Research shows that regular, moderate-intensity exercise has immune-boosting benefits that may help your body fight off infections, including COVID-19.
  • Exercise may prevent weight gain: Exercise can help you burn extra calories caused by dietary changes and offset the effects of sedentary activities.
  • Exercise reduces stress and anxiety: Exercise is a proven mood-booster and can help adults reduce stress levels and build emotional resilience.
  • Exercise improves sleep: There is evidence that suggests regular exercise helps you fall asleep faster and improves sleep quality — and getting a good night’s sleep has also been found to boost your immune system.

Exercise may be especially beneficial for older adults and people with chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, arthritis, or heart disease. Regular exercise can help to improve balance, flexibility, strength, mobility, and cardiovascular health. Plus, it can boost energy and overall well-being.

How can I stay physically active despite COVID-19 closures?

Here are a few suggestions to help you get moving:.

  • Get outdoors: Walking, cycling, jogging, and hiking can help you get some much-needed fresh air while staying safely away from others. Don’t have time for a full-length outdoor exercise session? Consider breaking your workout up into several 10-minute sessions. You’ll be surprised at how quickly a few brisk walks around the block can add up to a full workout.
  1. Follow along with online exercise videos or schedule a ZOOM or in-person w workout with me: Whether you enjoy yoga, cardio kickboxing, Pilates, strength training, barre, dance, or another type of workout, chances are you can find a service that offers online videos. However, if you want personalized, workouts designed especially for you with equipment provided. an online or in-person (outdoor) workout can provide the missing link.
  • Challenge yourself: Set an exercise goal — such as doing three sets of three strength trainng exercises three days per week or beating your best 5K time — and make a plan to work toward achieving it.

The bottom line: Although it may take some effort to create and adjust to new fitness routines, regular physical activity can help you optimize your health and well-being during the coronavirus pandemic.

2020 Wellness in 2020

If any of these are your health goals: lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol, clean up your diet, get stronger and more fit or lose weight…then try some of these tips. Share them with friends. Gradually make adjustments in your daily habits. Your reward? You’ll not only protect yourself from heart disease, stroke and cancer in the long term, but you’ll be strong, lean and fit. You will also be calmer and feel more energetic almost immediately.

  1. Pump up healthy protein: Stick to 3-4 ounce servings (women) or 5-6 ounce servings (men) of meat, chicken or fish or eggs. Please choose grass-fed meat, free-range poultry and eggs, and wild-caught sustainable fish. Vegetarians can obtain protein from beans, nuts and bean/nut products.
  2. Join the dirty plate club. When dining in a restaurant, order off the appetizer menu or ask the waiter to pack up half your entrée before bringing it to the table. In your kitchen, measure foods until you can automatically eyeball a healthy portion.
  3. Hide your salt shaker: The main ingredient in salt is sodium, which raises blood pressure. Try salt and herb mixes or sesame seed/salt mixes. And avoid all packaged foods…they are loaded with sodium.
  4. Snack on nuts: A Canadian study found that eating about an ounce of almonds a day reduces LDL cholesterol levels by more than 4 percent. Nuts are high in calories, but their “good” fat makes them a satisfying snack that keeps you full longer and provides energy. Limit to 1/2-1 cup/day.
  5. Take a tea break: Substitute green tea for coffee; it has less caffeine and contains immune-boosting antioxidants. Don’t like green? A recent small USDA study showed that drinking five cups of black tea daily can reduce LDL up to 11 percent in 21 days. Cutting back on caffeine can help lower blood pressure and make it easier to fall asleep, too.
  6. Work out at least three times a week: The fitter you are, the less fatigue you will feel. Do interval workouts…you will burn more calories, burn more fat, increase anabolic hormones, improve cardiovascular conditioning, strengthen type II muscle fiber, and experience a drop in blood pressure that lasts up to an hour. Intervals also increase HDL cholesterol levels.
  7. Eat more fruits and vegetables. There really is not limit to the amount of non-starchy fruits and vegetables you can eat. Man thrived on fruits and veggies for hundreds of thousands of years. Carry fruit or raw veggies with you to work, in your car or in your workout bag so you will never be forced to buy a muffin from the 7-11 when you’re famished. Calories are low and micronutrients of all kinds are high. Your complexion will benefit, too.
  8. Build more muscle: Be sure to include two sessions of weightlifting a week. If you are already training, add a third session, increase the weight by 10%, or change the type and order of exercises to keep your muscles stimulated.
  9. Get a massage: Women who received 15-minute back rubs showed an immediate drop in systolic blood pressure in a recent study.
  10. Wait to eat. Make the most of the calorie-burning benefits of exercise by refraining from eating one hour before and one hour after exercise…your body will look for stored calories to burn. Also, don’t eat too little and then force your body to conserve energy by holding on to calories!

Strength training weekly sufficient for older adults

Many of my clients are older adults, and many only train with me once per week. Is that sufficient to make a difference?

Great news for healthy older adults who may not be able to weight-train more than once a week. For 60- to 75-year-old men and women, supervised whole-body resistance training once weekly for six months led to significantly less inflammation, lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels, and better overall well-being.

Individuals who trained three times per week received the same benefits and had significantly less body fat and more muscle mass. Participants saw increases in HDL cholesterol whether they trained once, twice or three times weekly, but significant reductions in LDL occurred only in those who trained three times per week. These findings are published in Frontiers in Physiology (2019; doi:10.3389/fphys.2019.00032.)

University of Jyväskylä researchers in Finland led the study to evaluate the effects of resistance training frequency on older adults’ body composition, inflammation markers, lipid levels and glycemic profile. Researchers randomly divided 106 subjects into four groups: resistance training once, twice or three times weekly, and a control group. Training sessions consisted of 2–5 sets of seven to nine total-body exercises, with 4–12 repetitions per set, for 6 months.

“We found that individuals who were close to having high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood glucose, or high levels of inflammation improved the most,” said principal investigator Simon Walker, PhD, faculty of Sports and Health Sciences at University of Jyväskylä. “Training two or three times per week didn’t provide greater benefit in these individuals.” He noted that for maximum strength gains, muscle growth and fat loss, training more times per week was better. “But for other measures that are important for older people, such as the ability to perform activities of daily living, once per week seemed sufficient.

Don’t believe these three fitness determinants propagated by the fitness and fashion industries (part 3)

#1 Your scale indicates your level of health
#2 Your daily workout ”routine” will make/keep you fit
#3 All calories are created equal.

In my last two blogs, I discussed why your scale weight is not the true measure of your level of health and why a daily workout routine will not make you more fit.

Today I will discuss the myth of the calorie.
All calories are created equal…don’t believe it

We’ve been sold on the idea that we can eat whatever we like (and favorable health and fitness will result) so long as we stay within our predetermined calorie count. Going over that number means we will gain weight; going under that number means we will lose weight.

This idea is the driver behind Diet Coke, Snackwell’s low-calorie cookies, and Breyers fat-free ice cream (low calorie foods with nonetheless horrific health consequences)

All calories are not created equal. A calorie from chicken breast has a fundamentally different hormonal effect in our bodies than a calorie from M&Ms. A calorie from yogurt has a different hormonal effect than a calorie from avocado, and a calorie delivered from fruit juice precipitates a different hormonal effect than a calorie obtained from pistachios. These differences in hormonal effects makes calorie counting nearly meaningless.

Here’s how it actually works:
• There are three macro nutrients: protein, fat, and carbohydrate. Each plays an essential role in hormonal balance and the subsequent regulation of blood sugar, and you need all of them. In my examples above, chicken is a protein source; M&Ms, yogurt, and fruit are carbohydrates; and avocados and pistachios are fats.
• When you consume carbohydrates, your blood sugar rises. This provides energy for immediate use, with sugar being used first at local muscle sites and within the brain, and with any remaining sugar then stored as body fat. •    • Storage is accomplished via insulin, a hormone secreted by the pancreas.
• When you consume protein, stored body fat is mobilized to provide energy. This is accomplished via glucagon, another hormone secreted by the pancreas. You can think glucagon as a counterbalance to the insulin storage mechanism.

When you consume fat, you slow digestion and increase satiety (the feeling of being full). In practice, fat consumption slows the rise of blood sugar in your bloodstream caused by eating carbohydrates, thereby slowing insulin release and limiting fat storage while simultaneously signaling that you should stop eating.

Generally, we want storage (via the carbohydrate/insulin mechanism) and mobilization (via the protein/glucagon mechanism) to be balanced.Too much storage, and you get fat. Too much mobilization, and you won’t have the energy reserves necessary to sustain daily activities. Further, we want to take in significant enough amounts of fat to curb our appetite and slow the entry of sugar into the bloodstream.

Notice that none of these effects are calorie dependent. Rather, they are determined by hormones. Therefore, it is not excess calories that make us fat, but rather more carbohydrate storage resulting in rises in blood sugar. Thus, the source of each calorie is profoundly important in determining body composition — and a calorie is never just a calorie.

The takeaway: Forget calorie counting, and learn to balance your macro nutrient intake, consuming proteins, fats, and carbohydrates at every meal. Aim for consistent protein consumption and eat low-glycemic index carbohydrates such as fibrous fruits, vegetables, and leafy greens), and if you’re consistently hungry, increase your fat intake. I provide clients with an easy-to-follow system call “The Metabolic Effect “ to accomplish just that.

Don’t believe these three fitness determinants propagated by the fitness and fashion industries (part 2)

#1 Your scale indicates your level of health
#2 Your daily workout ”routine” will make/keep you fit
#3 All calories are created equal.

In my last blog, I discussed why your scale weight is not the true measure of your level of health.
Today I will discuss the myth that your daily workout routine will keep you fit.

Your daily workout routine will make you/keep you fit…don’t believe it.
I meet people all the time who have been led to believe that that you can work out at moderate intensity, repeating a single stimulus, and achieve results.

This could be the casual daily walk, or a long slow run or a circuit through the same gym machines or using three-pound dumbbells in yoga class. This is the lie of every device you see marketed at 3:00am. It is the lie of routine.
Improving your fitness requires effort and some difficulty. You must run faster than before, you must lift more than before, you must do more work in less time than before. This fact follows from a fundamental principle of exercise science known as SAID or specific adaptation to imposed demands.

Stated differently, SAID says you’ll get precisely the physical adaptation your workout demands of your body — and no more. Jogging three miles per day at a pace of ten minutes per mile will result in a body capable of precisely that, three miles in thirty minutes. It will result in a body-fat percentage, muscle mass, and aerobic fitness consistent with that pace. Once that adaptation is achieved through repetition, there will be no further gains.

And so to become more fit or lose weight, you must push. You must run faster. You must lift more. You must include variance in your “routine,” finding new ways to impose demand on your body. .Above all, you must do things you don’t normally do, varying activities, rep schemes, loads, and distances to create new adaptations. Certainly that does not mean pushing and becoming injured, but it may mean pushing beyond your comfort zone, at least on some of your exercise days.

The takeaway: There is no such thing as a daily workout “routine” that works to improve fitness, strength or weight loss. If you want results, you must seek the discomfort of new demands. I have people ask me frequently for a daily workout program. To truly become more fit, lose weight or build muscle, you need a varied exercise program that places new demands on your body, at a pace and level that benefits you wherever you are at this moment. I can help find that for you.

Don’t believe these three fitness determinants propagated by the fitness and fashion industries

#1 Your scale indicates your level of health
#2 Your daily workout ”routine” will make/keep you fit
#3 All calories are created equal.

Today I will tell the real story about the most insidious of the misinformation from the fashion and fitness industry…the scale indicates your level of health.
(Over the next two weeks, I will also discuss the downfalls of a daily workout “routine” and the mistaken idea that all calories are created equal. )

The scale indicates your health….don’t believe it.
Rather than worry about your scale weight, focus on your body composition.This is a much more comprehensive measure of your health, one that takes into account the underlying components of your weight: how much of your body is fat, how much is muscle tissue, and how much is bone and water.

By focusing on body composition and working to reduce your proportion of stored fat to muscle, you’ll look leaner, you’ll be more fit, and you can safely ignore the scale.
But you may find you weigh more as you develop a better body composition. This doesn’t seem right to many clients, and I understand the frustration this causes. But when your diet and exercise are in order, muscle begins to replace fat, and your density actually increases, leading to a higher scale weight despite improved body composition.

This is where many fitness adherents, especially women, go off the rails. They dial in diet and exercise, they lift and run, and they find their scale weight stays the same (or increases), leading them to believe they’re not making progress.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. Tape measurements or clothing sizes may decrease as body fat vanishes, but the scale doesn’t necessarily follow suit — and once you’re healthy, it never will.

The takeaway:  Stop relying on the scale. take measurements with a tape measure. Have your body fat measured. (I can help you with both these measurements.) Just don’t believe a thing the scale tells you. It is not the true measure of your health and fitness.

Burning Fat: Myths and Facts

A popular myth is that there is a specific range of heart rates in which you must exercise to burn fat. Even many cardio machines display a “fat-burning zone” on their panels, encouraging people to exercise in a specific heart rate range. Have you ever wondered if you really have to exercise in a specific heart rate zone to lose fat? And what happens if you venture out of that zone? Jason R. Karp, PhD, a nationally recognized speaker, writer and exercise physiologist who coaches recreational runners to Olympic hopefuls through his company, RunCoachJason.com, sheds light on this issue.

Fuel Use During Exercise
You use both fat and carbohydrates for energy during exercise, with these two fuels providing that energy on a sliding scale. During exercise at a very low intensity (e.g., walking), fat accounts for most of the energy expenditure. As exercise intensity increases up to the lactate threshold (the exercise intensity that marks the transition between exercise that is almost purely aerobic and exercise that includes a significant anaerobic contribution; also considered the highest sustainable aerobic intensity), the contribution from fat decreases while the contribution from carbohydrates increases. When exercising just below the lactate threshold, you are using mostly carbohydrates. Once the intensity of exercise has risen above the lactate threshold, carbohydrates become the only fuel source.

If you exercise long enough (1.5–2 hours), your muscle carbohydrate (glycogen) content and blood glucose concentration become low. This metabolic state presents a threat to the muscles’ survival, since carbohydrates are muscles’ preferred fuel. When carbohydrates are not available, the muscles are forced to rely on fat as fuel.

Since more fat is used at low exercise intensities, people often assume that low-intensity exercise is best for burning fat, an idea that has given birth to the “fat-burning zone.” However, while only a small amount of fat is used when exercising just below the lactate threshold, the rate of caloric expenditure and the total number of calories expended are much greater than they are when exercising at a lower intensity, so the total amount of fat used is also greater.

The Bottom Line
For fat and weight loss, what matters most is the difference between the number of calories you expend and the number of calories you consume. Fat and weight loss is about burning lots of calories and cutting back on the number of calories consumed. For the purpose of losing weight, it matters little whether the calories burned during exercise come from fat or carbohydrates.

Workouts for Fat Loss
To maximize fat loss, I design interval training workouts with all of my clients. Interval training, which breaks up the work with periods of rest, not only allows you to improve your fitness quickly; it is also more effective than continuous exercise for burning lots of calories during exercise and increasing your postworkout metabolic rate. My clients often do interval workouts such as:

5–6 rounds of 3 minutes of exercises at 95%–100% maximum (max) heart rate (HR) with 2-minute active recovery periods.
4 rounds of 4 minutes of exercises at 95%–100% max HR with 3-minute active recovery periods.
8–12 rounds of 30 seconds every minute with 30 seconds recovery.
Each of these interval workouts include a warm-up and a cool-down.

Go Very Long
Long runs or bike rides (? 1.5–2 hours at 65%–70% max HR) that stimulate mitochondrial synthesis and promote the depletion of glycogen threaten the muscles’ survival, since carbohydrates are muscles’ preferred fuel. In response to this threat, muscles “learn” how to use fat more effectively and over time become better fat-burning machines.

Small training groups workouts for week of Nov. 9

We have a new time and place for Tuesday’s small training group workout…4:00 pm at Memorial Park in San Anselmo.  We should be finished by 5:00, just when it is getting dark.  Here’s the rundown for the week of Nov. 9:
Tuesday, 4pm, Memorial Park, San Anselmo
Dumbbell squats and thrusters, dips, snatches, leg lift crunches plus a 10-min amrap.
Thursday, 8:00 am, Forest Knolls Park
Single Leg Dead Lifts, dumbbell floor press tempo, Turkish Get Ups or alternative get ups plus a 16-min emom.
Thursday, 4:00 pm, beginning, Women’s Fitness Center
Single Leg Dead Lifts, barbell floor press, Turkish Get Ups or alternative get ups plus three three-min amraps with 60 sec. rest between each

From the folks at Eat to Perform: “Are you ready for Halloween?

From the folks at Eat to Perform: “Are you ready for Halloween? If you have kids, there WILL be candy (won’t there?) and you WILL be “testing it” for safety. If you work in an office environment, chances are there’s a party to attend, and the rest of the world can’t resist the opportunity to throw a shindig in honor of the spookiest night of the year either.
There will be people in ridiculous costumes, there will be alcohol, there will be food (maybe in the shape of brains or eyeballs or something macabre like that) and you have two choices if you care about your long-term fat loss or performance goals:

a) avoid it all and be an antisocial pariah for Halloween instead of going as Darth Vader for the 20th year in a row or
b) head into the festivities with a plan that allows you to enjoy your life and stay on track for your goals at the same time

The bottom line is that like everything else in your daily life, nutrition requires forethought to be effective. You need a plan to get where you want to go.”
If you are doing the Whole Life Challenge, there should be stop gap measures already in place for you to help manage the carnage that can ensue on a night like Halloween. If you are not participating in the WLC here are some nutritional truths about what excess sugar intake does to your body (the link takes you to the full article but here are some excerpts):
  • Today, an average American consumes about 22 teaspoons of sugar per day, which amounts to 77 pounds of sugar per year
  • The human body is not made to consume excessive amounts of sugar, especially fructose. It is actually a hepatotoxin and is metabolized directly into fat – factors that can cause a whole host of problems that can have far-reaching effects on your health
  • One study found that fructose is readily used by cancer cells to increase their proliferation – it “feeds” the cancer cells, promoting cell division and speeding their growth, which allows the cancer to spread faster
  • As a general recommendation, keep your total fructose consumption below 25 grams per day, including that from whole fruit

knowledge is (will)powerNow, let’s talk about what’s in those little “fun size” candy bars. We’ll use as an example, one of my favorites–the Nestle Crunch. Remember, this is the “fun size version”. One Fun Size Nestle Crunch bar contains 70 calories, 3.3g of total fat, 1.7mg cholesterol and 20mg of sodium. The total carbohydrate count is 9.7g, 8g of which come from sugar. Remember, the WHO Guidelines for sugar intake for adults is no more than 25 grams per day. This is total sugar in all of your food for the entire day, not just “added sugars”. The AHA goes a step further and breaks it down to include that children should not exceed more than 12 grams (3 tsp.) per day. In other words, about 1.5 pieces of that Nestle Crunch Bar should do for a child, and that’s if they didn’t eat any other foods with carbohydrates in them.

I’m not saying that you’ll be able to pry the candy from your child’s grip tomorrow evening, or that you will necessarily be able to keep yourself from overindulging. BUT, if you are armed with knowledge, you at least have a fighting chance to try to be responsible about your diet and what you decide to put into it. Be safe out there and have a wonderful time!


About Target Heart Rate

It is well known that in order to improve cardio respiratory (CR) fitness, the CR system must be stressed so that it will adapt and improve. How much do you have to stress the CR system?  For years we’ve known that there is a linear relationship between heart rate and work, which means the harder we work, the higher the heart rate goes.  Therefore we can use the heart rate as a thermometer of aerobic work. The higher the heart rate, the more one is performing.

What is the magical target heart rate range that will guarantee that you are working hard enough to elicit an improvement in the CR system?  Bottom ranges are generally at 50-70%, and top ranges are generally from 75-85% of maximum heart rate. Over 85% one is in the anaerobic ranges, meaning the heart is using glycogen and phosphagen for fuel rather than oxygen.  It is difficult to sustain this for very long, but it is an important area to exercise.

The range of heart rate chosen also depends on whether exercisers are beginners, intermediates or advanced. Do you want to be conservative or aggressive in training?

Karvonen formula…most accurate

MHR = 220 – age _____= ____bpm

RHR = ____ bpm

HRR = MHR ____ – RHR ____ = ____

Training Intensities:

70% TI = HRR ____  x .7 + RHR ____ = ____ bpm

85% TI = HRR ____  x .85 + RHR ____ = ____ bpm

95% TI = HRR ____  x .95 + RHR ____ = ____ bpm  (anaerobic)

Gradual program

Week               Duration                      Frequency                   Training Intensity

1                      20                                4                                  70%
2                      20                                5                                  70%
3                      30                                4                                  70%
4                      30                                5                                  70%
6                      30                                4                                  70% -85%
7                      30                                5                                  70% – 85%
8                      40                                4                                  70% – 85%
9                      40                                5                                  70% – 85%
10                    40                                4                                  70% – 95%      (2x intervals 4::1)
11                    40                                5                                  70% – 95%      (3x intervals 3:1)
12                    45                                4                                  70% – 95%      (2 x intervals 2:1)


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