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A Pain or A Strain?


Gold's Gym Fitness Institute orthopedist Evan Ekman decodes common workout aches so you can tell the difference between "Ow!" and "Out for a month."

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We've all heard the saying "No pain, no gain," but not all pain is created equal. Many motivated gym goers have been put out of commission because they couldn't tell the difference between post-training soreness and a serious injury.

"Many people don't pay attention to their body, and as a result the pain can last the rest of their life," says Evan Ekman, a South Carolina-based orthopedic surgeon and Gold's Gym Fitness Institute member. He believes much of the problem stems from not being in tune to the location of the discomfort. "Part of an effective workout is making yourself sore, but that soreness should be in the muscle belly—the big bulky part of the muscle," he says, whereas pain in the joints or tendons might be an indication of a problem.

Here we look at six examples of gym pain gone too far and what to do about them. As always, consult your physician before starting an exercise regimen.


Your legs can easily tire after a hard workout, but how do you know when you've pushed your hamstrings too far? According to Ekman, you may be dealing with a more serious injury if you experience pain when pressure is put on the ischium bone in the pelvis, often felt when you sit down or if you have difficulty running.

What to do: First, control inflammation by applying ice to the area and wrapping the leg. Then gently perform a hamstring stretch: Sit on the floor, with legs spread. Keep your left knee straight as you reach toward the toes and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the right side. If you recognize the pain early, a hamstring injury might keep you out of the gym for a few weeks or less.

Snaps, Cracks and Pops

Some body creaks we all seem to have (like the back cracks your eccentric uncle shows off at parties). Others may be your body's way of sounding an alarm. Ekman says there are two ways to tell if it's something to get worried about: if you experience pain when it makes that noise, or if your body didn't make that noise before you worked out and now it does.

What to do: Because the noise could be anything, get to a doctor for a proper diagnosis.


It's normal for the biceps to engorge with blood and, as a result, appear bigger during and immediately after a workout, but if the swelling lasts more than a few hours, you may have suffered a bicep strain or rupture of the tendon biceps. Another telltale sign of injury is discoloration or bruising. If you can't tell for sure, don't do another rep until you get checked out.

What to do: A rupture may require surgery—get to a doctor ASAP. If it's just a strain, you'll need some time off from the gym to rest the muscle, taking anti-inflammatories in the meantime. The next step is light exercises that develop your range of motion. Begin with gentle stretching at the elbow, work your way up to bicep curls with band resistance, then finally light dumbbells.

Pectoral Muscles

Bench press is a popular lift at the gym, but using too much weight or trying for a maximum one-rep lift before being properly warmed up can lead to pectoral tears. "Most of the time it's easy to tell when you have a pec tear because the pain is intense," Ekman says. But you can also tell by a deformity—often a divot on the side of the pec near the armpit—or extreme tenderness that doesn't go away between workouts.

What to do: Immediately see an orthopedic doctor—this could mean a long haul to recovery.

Rotator Cuff

If you're having trouble reaching during your workout, it may not be time to work through the pain; it may be a rotator cuff injury. Other signs are tenderness during a military press or when lifting weight away from your body.

What to do: Avoid lifts that involve raising your hands above your head and shoulders, and work to strengthen the four muscles of the rotator cuff—the supraspinatus, the infraspinatus, teres minor and the subscapularis. Often this is done through external and internal rotation exercise. For the first, let your arm hang at your side with your elbow bent 90 degrees, then bring the hand across your body, as if you were shutting a door. For the latter, bring the hand in the opposite direction, away from the middle of your body.


Though it's great to feel the burn on the squat machine, persistent aches—such as shooting pain, a slight burn or anything that limits daily movement or makes it painful to walk—may be a sign of a stress fracture to the femur, a rupture or even a contusion in the quads. Another warning sign of injury: deformity, or any change in shape and texture to the muscle so that one leg is noticeably different from the other.

What to do: If it's a strain, you may be out for four to six weeks while taking anti-inflammatories, icing and performing basic stretching and strengthening exercises. If it's a rupture, surgery is likely to be needed.

Drink This For A Better Run


Sure, water's a great hydrator, but knows that sometimes you long for something more interesting.

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Here are four sips that give runners what they really need—without adding gobs of calories. Fill in the blanks, and see which drink is ideal for you.

When I run I …
feel sluggish and tired

If this is you: Sip a cup of green tea 20 to 30 minutes before you run. The caffeine will pep you up and power you through to the last step, and its antioxidants may help with endurance, too.

When I run I …
always get a side stitch

If this is you: Try coconut water; it's chock-full of cramp-preventing potassium (15 times that of most sports drinks) and has fewer than 50 calories per cup. Try eight ounces before or during your run to stay pain-free.

When I run I …
get really sore the next day

If this is you: With its perfect ratio of carbs to protein—plus the calcium—chocolate milk is an excellent way to help your muscles recover post workout. Drink a cup within 30 minutes of finishing a long run, when muscles are most receptive.

When I run I …
sweat a lot

If this is you: A sports drink, with body-replenishing sugars and electrolytes, is the best way to stay hydrated. Choose one that's free of artificial colors, flavors and preservatives, and sip four to six ounces every 15 to 20 minutes during your workout.

Get Your Child Off The Couch


With one in three American children now overweight, how do you keep your kids from joining the heavy ranks? Gold's Gym provides you with an expert plan for children of all ages.

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When First Lady Michelle Obama chose to focus on the fight against childhood obesity, she pointed a spotlight on an alarming and growing problem. "Over the past three decades childhood obesity rates in America have tripled," according to a statement by the First Lady's "Let's Move!" initiative. "If we don't solve this problem, one-third of all children born in 2000 or later will suffer from diabetes at some point in their lives." In an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers stated that due to obesity-related conditions like diabetes and heart disease the current generation of youth could have a shorter life expectancy than their parents—for the first time in American history.

There's a simple reason: Technology has made us less active while food portions have as much as quintupled. Most children spend up to seven hours a day, at the computer or TV. In fact, only a third of them get in enough aerobic activity (the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends 60 minutes per day) and many schools are cutting back on physical education programs.

So how can you encourage your kids to keep active—and make sure that they grow up instead of out? We asked Len Saunders, an American Heart Association spokesperson on childhood obesity and a former member of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition.

First, he advises, bear in mind that as a parent, you hold the key. "You're the role model," he says, "and if your children see you living an unhealthy lifestyle, they are going to mimic that." So make sure that your family places a high priority on healthy eating and regular exercise.

"Second," he says, "try not to use television as a babysitter too often." You don't want your child to make a habit of plopping down on the couch—the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests setting a two-hour limit on screen time—and a recent study showed that children who are continually exposed to food advertisements down 45% more snacks. Saunders realizes that most parents have busy schedules that make it hard to entertain their kids and get through their to-do list—"I went for a jog at eleven last night," he admits—but getting your kids to be more active is easier than you think. "You just need to be creative," he says.

Here are surefire ways to get kids of any age off the couch:

Activate Your Toddler

Ages: 2-4
Children in this age group are the easiest to get moving—they have tons of energy and are too young for Xbox addiction. A trip to the local jungle gym might be all the impetus your kids need to run wild—but even if you're housebound, you can get them moving:

• Put the chicken dance or macarena on YouTube and ask them to join in.
• Get their imagination going by having them crawl like a lion or hop like a kangaroo.
• Make letters with your body and have them mimic you. They can learn the alphabet and play at the same time.

Power Up Your Primary School Age Child

Ages: 5-9
While most five-to nine-year-olds feel the draw of technology, they still have tons of energy and a constant drive to play. So swap out video game marathons for these activities:

• Have them help you with housework. "Most kids this age actually want to vacuum; they think it's fun," says Saunders.
• Organize pick-up softball or ultimate Frisbee in your backyard, or sign them up for a Little League team.
• Once they learn to ride a bike, schedule family fun rides and find safe routes that they can take when you are too busy to go out.
• During the fall and winter, make a game out of who can clear the most leaves or snow in the quickest time. Winner gets hot chocolate.

Motivate Your Tween

Ages: 10-13
As children's ages hit the double digits, so does their sense of independence. "They are going to want to stay up later and spend more time on the computer," Saunders says. He suggests a two-for-one swap where the kids get one minute of computer or television for every two minutes of exercise (his cap on technology is two hours). "This is a way to find some middle ground," Saunders explains. "You aren't saying they can't use the computer—you're making a reward out of it."

• Encourage your kids to join teams at school. "Physical activity at this age really helps grow self-esteem," he says. If your children initially struggle at sports, flip on your cheerleader switch and get them to keep trying. "When kids fail early at sports, many go into a cocoon and reach for technology even more," Saunders observes.
• Let them try out karate or another form of martial arts. If lessons are too expensive, use instructional videos on YouTube.
• Get them a pass for the local swimming pool and check if there are open races in your area—there's nothing like some competition to inspire your tween.
• Buy each kid a skateboard or roller skates and a helmet! On weeknights they can freestyle in the driveway; on the weekends they can show off their skills at the roller rink or skate park.
• Sign up as a family for a charity run or walk. Then train together three or four nights a week after dinner.

Train Your Teenager

Ages: 14-18
Once they've made the leap from middle school to high school, most kids are mentally and physically ready to start going to a gym. Teenagers who learn to work out regularly are beginning a healthy discipline that will follow them into adulthood. "Also, this is the time when fat cells can really start developing," Saunders says. "It's much harder for adults who didn't exercise when they were young to lose weight."

If you decide to let your teens start hitting the weights, here are some pointers from Saunders:

• Supervise them closely. Make sure they know the proper way to use the machines and free weights, and check their form.
• Make sure they're lifting the proper amount of weight. Rule of thumb: They should be able to do 12 to 15 repetitions.
• Explain the proper breathing technique: Exhale as you lift, inhale as you release.
• Talk to your kids about muscle recovery. Tell them not to work out the same muscles every day. And explain the importance of taking days off to let the body rest.
• Consider treating your kids to a session with a personal trainer. The trainer can explain the benefits and principles of strength training, point out the different muscle groups, demonstrate how to use a variety of machines and give a lesson in free-weight basics.
• Most important, tell your kids that change won't happen overnight. Many teenagers want to see results right away and get discouraged when they don't. Emphasize that it takes a lot of time and work to get Mark Wahlberg's biceps or Venus Williams's thighs.

Are your friends making you fat?

Are Your Friends Making You Fat?

Weight Loss News Flash
  -- By Liza Barnes, Health Educator
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If your friend who lives across the country comes down with a cold, you’re surely not going to catch it from her. But if she becomes overweight, that just might spread to you.

So say researchers from Harvard Medical School and the University of California, who published research in a July 2007 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine. After analyzing data from 12,067 individuals, they found that when one individual becomes obese, the chance that his or her friend will become obese increases by 57 percent—even if their friend lives far away, and especially if their friend is of the same sex—71 percent in that case. Other members of people's "social network" were also affected: their siblings’ risk increased by 40 percent and their spouses' by 37 percent. In contrast, a neighbor, if not a part of their social network, experienced no increase in risk.

Obviously, weight gain isn’t contagious in the same way a cold is contagious. Rather than being spread through the transmission of bodily fluids, like a virus, obesity is “socially" contagious—it can be spread through the transmission of behaviors and social norms. People within a social network often engage in health-impacting behaviors together, such as Friday night parties with too much wine and cheese or working lunches of fatty restaurant fare. These behaviors may result in weight gain, especially if they become habits. Even more importantly, each person within the social network serves as a standard by which others in the network may compare themselves. The 10-pound weight gain your best friend is wearing makes you feel a little less guilty about the extra five pounds you’re sporting, and if fast-food is an acceptable meal for your sister-in-law, you may develop a more lackadaisical attitude about dinner in your own house.

Action Sparked: Don’t trade in all of your overweight friends for trimmer models just yet. Rather than asking what your friends can do for you, do what you can for your friends. Examined from a different angle, this study shows that while unhealthy behaviors are contagious, so are healthy ones. Instead of waiting for your friends to get on the path to a healthy lifestyle, assume the role of the trailblazer in your group. Suggest hiking instead of a trip to the movies, and you’ll both benefit.

This is one of the basic principles on which SparkPeople was founded. One person, doing what they can to get healthy and fit, can be a powerful influence to many others—a spark that ignites a change. Here are some ideas to “Spread the Spark” so that your healthy habits are contagious to your friends and family:
  • Join a gym with a buddy. Many times, membership rates are lower (and the workouts are more fun) when you're with a friend. And just think of how many people the two of you have the power to influence!
  • Choose social activities that are active. If you’re into sports, organize or join a soccer team. Evening walks with a nearby friend, indoor rock climbing, bicycling, bowling and canoeing are other good bets.
  • Throw a fitness party to share the fun of exercise with your friends.
  • Get connected with a SparkTeam. Be a model of good health habits to other SparkPeople members, and sit back while they positively impact you. You can join an existing Team or start one of your own.
  • Here are even more ideas for you to Spread the Spark to others!
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Design Your Best Workout Plan

Design Your Best Workout Plan

Take an active role in finding a workout plan that fits your personality and fitness goals.

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Medically reviewed by Cynthia Haines, MD
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According to the National Institutes of Health, lack of physical activity, along with poor diet, is the second leading preventable cause of death in the United States. "Many Americans are overweight and most don't exercise regularly. Both of these contribute to cardiovascular disease, the number one killer in the world," says John Higgins, MD, assistant professor of cardiology and an exercise physiologist at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston.

If you aren't getting at least 30 minutes of vigorous activity every day, pick a workout plan that works for you and get started.

Designing a Plan That Fits Your Needs

"The key to reaching your fitness goals is consistency," says Troy Tuttle, MS, an exercise physiologist at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston. The best workout plans are the ones that are realistic, accessible, and repeatable."

Here are some factors to consider when creating a fitness routine:

  • Pick something you like. Your chances of sticking to a workout plan that you don't enjoy are slim. "After every workout you should ask yourself, 'Did I enjoy this activity and how it made me feel?' If not, continue to explore other exercises until you can answer yes," advises Tuttle.
  • Consider your personality. If you prefer to exercise alone and enjoy solitude, you might want to build your fitness routine around a home gym or think about hiking, biking, or walking. If you're interested in the mind-body connection, activities like tai chi, Pilates, or yoga that combine exercise with focused breathing and meditation might be a good fit for you. If you enjoy the company of people and are motivated by exercising with others, consider group activities such as aerobics or dance classes.
  • Splurge if you can. If you can afford it, joining a gym or getting a personal trainer are options to explore. Ideally your workout plan should include aerobic exercise and some strength training. "All these exercises are available at most gyms, so I would recommend joining. Not only are you more likely to go to the gym because you're paying, but it's easier to work out and get motivated with others around. In addition, personal trainers can assist you and format an exercise program to meet your needs and goals," says Dr. Higgins.
  • Exercise for free. "I recommend the ‘front-door workout plan’ as a way to get started,” says Tuttle. “You simply find 20 minutes in your day, put on your athletic shoes, and walk out the front door. Take a look at your watch, walk for 10 minutes, turn around and walk home. No gym membership is needed, no expensive equipment, just your desire to exercise and the space around where you live or work."
  • Identify your fitness goals. If you're already in good shape, your workout plan can include lots of different activities that you enjoy. If you are just starting to exercise and your goals are to lose weight and get healthier, you need to start slowly. "When you are a beginner, go easy and increase your exercise by no more than 10 percent per week. I would recommend starting by walking for 15 minutes three days a week, and on alternate days do some strength training at a level that is easy for you," says Higgins.

If you have any medical issues, check with your doctor about your workout plan. "You should get a physical from your doctor prior to beginning. Once the doctor has evaluated you, he or she will clear you for either unrestricted exercise or exercise with certain limitations," explains Higgins.

Eating Right for Exercise

Eating Right for Exercise

Using a simple, well-balanced diet formula, you can figure out what to eat and when so you have the energy you need to exercise.

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You need energy to exercise and energy comes from food. Make sure you've eaten adequately before any fitness activity and eat to refuel afterwards, says Sue Travis, RD, PhD, of the division of nutritional sciences at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.
exercise diet

Fitness Food: The Right Diet for Exercise

The amount of food a person needs will varies with age, sex, weight, and activity level. The rate at which you burn calories depends not only on the type of exercise you do, but also on how vigorously you do it.

Travis emphasizes that it’s important to divide your calories between carbohydrates, protein, and fat:


  • Carbohydrates. Carbohydrates — sugars and starches — are broken down by the body into glucose, which muscles use for energy. Excess carbs are stored in the liver and tissues as glycogen and released as needed. It’s glycogen that provides the energy for high-intensity exercise and prolonged endurance. Some good sources of carbohydrates are whole grain breads and cereals, fruit, vegetables, pasta, and rice.
  • Protein. Protein should be part of each of your major meals because it will help slow absorption of carbohydrates. Fish, eggs, chicken, meat, and beans are excellent sources of protein, and 3 ounces per meal is enough.
  • Fat. You need some fat in your diet, too, says Travis. Low-fat dairy products, like 1 percent milk, and lean cuts of meat will give you the fat your body needs.

Try to have a combination of items from all three of these food groups at each of your major meals, says Travis. For a healthy breakfast, have a high-fiber cereal (either oatmeal or another whole-grain cereal), a low-fat dairy product, and fruit or a glass of juice. The easiest lunch might be a sandwich made with lean meat, poultry, or fish on whole-grain bread, with raw veggies and fruit served on the side. Protein and energy bars can be useful, but don't use them as a meal replacement, warns Travis. Look for bars with at least 10 grams of protein and some carbohydrates, rather than products with a high protein content and hardly any carbohydrates.


If you exercise in the morning and don’t have something to eat first, you can use up all of your stored energy. If you'd rather not have breakfast before you exercise, try eating a small piece of fruit.

If you’re planning a strenuous workout, eat a meal high in carbohydrates at least three to four hours beforehand. Choose foods that are easily digested. Travis suggests that you experiment with different foods to see what gives you the most energy.

Fitness Food: Factor in Fluids

It’s particularly important to drink fluids before, during, and after exercising. If you exercise strenuously, try to drink fluids even if you’re not thirsty.

Water is a good choice for most activities. If you exercise continuously for 90 minutes or more, you might benefit from a sports drink that contains electrolytes and carbohydrates. But sports drinks are designed for people who are doing endurance activities for prolonged periods. They probably aren’t necessary for the average person.

Caffeine is dehydrating. Travis suggests that you drink an equal volume of water if you drink coffee or another caffeinated beverage.

The bottom line on fueling for exercise? If you drink plenty of fluids and eat regular meals that include carbohydrates, protein, and fat, you should have all the energy you need for your workout plan.

The Best Athletic Shoes For Your Workout

The Best Athletic Shoes for Your Workout

Choosing the right workout shoes is as important for your foot health as for your performance.

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While the clothes you choose for a workout are important, the sneakers you select can make a huge difference in how you perform your fitness activity, while the wrong athletic shoes can hurt your feet and even cause injury to other parts of your body.

Athletic Shoes Tailored to Your Activity

Before determining which athletic shoes will be best for your feet, consider what type of exercise you'll be doing. The exercise will help determine which athletic shoes offer the best features for your needs.

  • Running. If running is your main form of exercise, look for running shoes that provide plenty of cushioning, traction, and stability. They should also be lightweight and flexible.
  • Walking. Walking shoes should offer a comfortable cushion that absorbs shock, and a sole designed to support the natural walking movement of the foot.
  • Court shoes. If you play tennis, volleyball, basketball, racquetball, or other court sports, find a shoe with a sturdy, stable sole that can support your feet during constant back-and-forth movement.
  • Outdoor field sport shoes. If you're looking for footwear for baseball, soccer, golf, or football, you'll want shoes with cleats, spikes, or studs for better traction.

A quick tip to check a shoe's stability before you buy: Bend the shoe, holding it at both ends. It should bend naturally behind where the ball of the foot would be, since that's where your foot naturally bends. Also, make sure the heel counter is sturdy. The heel counter is a stiff cup that surrounds the heel part of the shoe. Squeeze the heel counter and make sure it doesn't cave in when you apply pressure.

Athletic Shoes: Fitting and Testing

Trying on shoes in the store can be different than wearing them during your workouts, but there are ways to make sure your shoes will fit well when you're in the middle of a hard workout:

  • Shop in the afternoon. If you try on athletic shoes toward the end of the day, when your feet are more swollen, you'll get a better idea of how they fit.
  • Shop in socks. When you look for athletic shoes, wear the socks that you use during a workout. You want to make sure the shoes fit properly with your athletic socks.
  • Go large in the toes. Make sure that your shoes have about half an inch of wiggle room between the end of the shoe and your longest toe. If your feet are different sizes, opt for the larger shoes for better comfort.
  • Snug fit in the heel. New athletic shoes shouldn't slip on your heels, but they shouldn't be too snug in the toes, either. Make sure that the ball of your foot fits easily in the widest part of the athletic shoe.
  • Try them out. Test out the shoes for at least 10 minutes in the store, or even outside if the store will allow it, before you decide to buy.

Remember, every athletic shoe is different, as is every foot, so don't rely on a style you find attractive or a shoe that you like on someone else. Be clear about your needs and any special foot problems you have, try on lots of different styles, and test them out in the store

How Much Exercise is Enough?

How Much Exercise Is Enough?

It depends on whether you want to lose weight, increase endurance, or reach other fitness milestones. Learn about exercise guidelines and the importance of determining your exercise goals.

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Before you make a decision on how much exercise you need, you should have a good idea of your exercise goal or goals: Are you exercising for physical fitness, weight control, or as a way of keeping your stress levels low?

Exercise: How Much You Need

"How much exercise is enough for what?," asks David Bassett, Jr., PhD, a professor in the department of exercise, sport, and leisure studies at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

For general health benefits, a routine of daily walking may be sufficient, says Susan Joy, MD, director of the Women's Sports Health Program at the Cleveland Clinic.

If your goal is more specific — say, to lower your blood pressure, improve your cardiovascular fitness, or lose weight — you'll need either more exercise or a higher intensity of exercise. So figure out your goals first, then determine what type of exercise will help you meet them and how much of that particular exercise you'll need to do.

Current Exercise Guidelines for Americans

Muscle-strengthening activities are designed to work one or more muscle groups. All of the major muscle groups — legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms — should be worked on two or more days each week. Lifting weights, working with resistance bands, and doing pushups are all are forms of muscle-strengthening activities.

Adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week, in addition to muscle-strengthening activities. If activity is more vigorous in intensity, 75 minutes a week may be enough. For even greater health benefits, though, more activity is better: 300 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity, or a mix of the two.

It's best to be active throughout the week, rather than concentrating all of your physical activity in one day. That means 30 to 60 minutes of exercise, five days a week. You can break it up into even smaller chunks: three brief periods of physical activity a day, for example. In order for it to be effective in improving health and fitness, you need to be sure to sustain the activity for at least 10 minutes at a time.

Exercise: What You Need to Lose or Maintain Weight

A combination of dieting and exercise is more effective for weight loss than dieting alone. To lose weight, 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity on most days is recommended. Physical activity is also important to maintain weight loss. Moderate intensity physical activity for 60 to 90 minutes on most days will help maintain weight loss. Of course, a healthful, low-calorie diet is also important for both losing and maintaining weight. The amount of exercise you need for weight loss or weight control depends on what you eat, as well as on the type of exercise you choose.

Know what you want to achieve, and then you can answer the question: How much exercise is enough?

Measuring Your Personal Fitness Level

Measuring Your Personal Fitness Level

Body shape, lifestyle, genes, and cardiovascular ability all help to shape your individual fitness factor.

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Evaluating your fitness level is not a one-size-fits-all process. Differences in lifestyle, muscle tissue, genetic makeup, and overall health all help determine your personal fitness level.

"It is an individual measurement that is not always dependent on how much physical activity you do," notes Jim Pivarnik, PhD, president of the American College of Sports Medicine and director of the Center for Physical Activity and Health at Michigan State University in East Lansing .

So how can you tell if your exercise and healthy diet habits are paying off? There are several ways to measure your fitness level.

The Five Components of Fitness

"Measuring fitness is multi-dimensional," explains Pivarnik. "Long-distance runners have excellent cardiovascular health, but if all you are is legs and lungs, you won't have a lot of strength or flexibility. By the same measure, someone who is overweight and aerobically fit is healthier than someone who is in the normal weight range but doesn't exercise.”

Overall physical fitness is said to consist of five different elements:

  1. Aerobic or cardiovascular endurance
  2. Muscular strength
  3. Muscular endurance
  4. Flexibility
  5. Body composition

Working to optimize each of these five components of fitness is crucial to enhancing your overall fitness and general health.

Fitness: How to Develop an Action Plan

If you have specific health problems, check with your doctor before implementing a routine to boost fitness. Once your doctor gives you the go-ahead, you have no more excuses. To improve your fitness level, take these important steps:

  • Follow U.S. guidelines for the minimum amount of exercise. That means exercising at a moderate intensity level for at least 2.5 hours spread over most days each week. At least twice a week, supplement aerobic exercise with weight-bearing activities that target all major muscles. Avoid inactivity; some exercise at any level of intensity is better than none while you’re building up your endurance.
  • Walking is the easiest way to get started. Get motivated by enlisting a friend to join you and adding variety to your routine. "Walking is simple and manageable for anyone," says Jill Grimes, MD, a family physician in Austin, Texas. "Wear a pedometer from day one. Think of it in three parts: a five-minute warm-up of walking slowly, followed by a fast walk, then a five-minute cool-down of walking slowly."
  • Compete only against yourself. No matter what activity you choose for getting fit, never compare your progress to someone else's. "Do set goals, and if you are out of shape and hate exercise, start low and go slow," recommends Dr. Grimes. "Do not compare yourself with your best friend who weighs 50 pounds less and just finished her 10th triathlon." Pivarnik agrees: "Even if the same group of women walked at the same pace every morning, they would not all show the same fitness measures."
  • Avoid overexertion. One preventive step Pivarnik suggests is checking your resting heart rate before getting out of bed every morning and making a chart so you can see a consistent, but gradual, decrease over time. If your resting heart rate begins to increase, you may be overdoing it. Another indicator of overexertion is muscle soreness that doesn't go away after a couple days. "People generally err on the side of not pushing themselves enough," says Pivarnik. "But the worst offenders are those who think they can jump in where they left off — the bunch of 40-year-old guys who think they are still on the high school football team and start running laps, but end up red in the face."

As you work on improving your fitness, take it slow and steady to avoid injury or burnout. Above all, remember that consistency is key — if you keep at it, your hard work will pay off.

3 Overlooked Muscles.

3 Overlooked Muscles
> The Muscle Trio That Has Disappeared from the Common Training Regimen.
> Nobody likes to be ignored. Not your German Shepherd tied up in the
> back yard, not your ultra-demanding Saturday night date, and certainly
> not your iron-hungry muscles.
> In order to build a healthy, impressive physique, you must work all
> your muscles in coordination with each other, not just the ones that
> you so fruitfully desire. Building your body without working your
> shoulders, for example, is like building a house without a roof. The
> job is incomplete.
> Yet, there are many muscle groups that, for whatever reason, trainers
> just refuse to work. They just lounge there in their dormant state,
> weak, miserable, and craving a morsel of attention. Here are perhaps
> the three of the body parts that men neglect the most and why we opt
> to neglect them:
> ABDOMINALS: This tops the here; nothing can make or break your
> physical exterior the way your midsection does. Yet, a vast majority
> of gung-ho muscle blasters have a one-track mind:
> BIG.
> There’s certainly nothing wrong with thinking ‘big’, but when was the
> last time you pointed to a jacked-up specimen and said, “Wow, that
> guy’s abs are huge.”
> Unfortunately, too many male trainers are overdosing on machismo. Their
> primary concerns are focused on bulging biceps, gargantuan shoulders,
> eye-popping lat muscles, and a breathtaking chest. Perhaps the fact
> that you so often see women firing away on their midsections – grinding
> through crunches, scissors, and leg raises – it is perceived as a
> less-than-manly routine.
> Trust me, guys. Without a hardened layer of bricks set above your
> waistline, your foundation is far from complete.
> LEGS: There are three reasons why most of us completely dread doing
> legs:
> Pain, pain, and more pain.
> Sitting in a leg press machine must feel a lot like sinking into an
> electric chair because both drain the life out of you. The proceeding
> leg extensions are often so excruciating, they can truly bring tears
> to your eyes.
> Then when it’s all over, and you feel like your legs have just gone
> 12 with Tyson, you have the couple days of recovery to look forward to.
> That’s when your legs are so sore you need a cane just to get up and
> down a flight of stairs.
> Like your household cleaning day, it’s easy to scratch leg days off
> your calendar. Nobody actually looks forward to them.
> But let’s face it. If you’re built like a gorilla from the waist up,
> yet look like an chicken from the waist down, you’re simply going to
> look as ridiculous as you feel.
> FOREARMS: It’s not necessarily an intentional thing when you abandon
> your forearms. After all, you can get a nice pump in your forearms
> when you’re working your biceps and your back.
> But working your forearms is a lot like flossing your gums. You never
> really think about them.
> But remember, if you’re serious, your arms consist of more than just
> your biceps and your triceps. Completing this family of three are
> your forearms, and there are many exercises – wrist curls and
> reverse curls – to insure that your guns are locked and loaded
> within your arsenal of muscles.
> ____________________________________________
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