Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Avocado - Toad in a Hole

by Lisa Beach, Ph.D.

Recently, as I've been trying to add healthy fats to my diet by eating more eggs, avocados, nuts, seeds, and coconut, I've discovered a wonderfully filling and satisfying breakfast! It's full of fiber, vitamins, healthy fat, and even protein!

The traditional Toad in a Hole breakfast is made with bread, but this one uses an avocado!

Here's how you do it:

1. Slice the avocado lengthwise so you get a thick (3/4" - 1") slice from the middle--leave the skin on!
2. In non-stick skillet on medium-low, heat olive oil, coconut oil, or butter.
3. Cut a larger hole in the middle of each avocado slice (with a cookie cutter or knife).
4. Place avocado slice in the pan, and crack an egg into the middle.
5. Sea salt and pepper the top, and add parmesan cheese if desired.
6. Cover the pan and let it saute until the egg is "done."

You can make guacamole with your extra avocado pieces! Or, you can hard boil some eggs, and repeat the egg-avo combo for lunch or dinner in avocado-egg-salad.

What is your favorite thing to do with avocados? Eggs?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Coconut Mousse and a Different View on Saturated Fat

by Lisa K. Beach, Ph.D.

Coconut oil is high in lauric acid, which is also found in high amounts in breast milk, butter, and beef. It has antimicrobial properties, and is also high in medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). These MCTs cannot be stored in the body---they must be used. So a person consuming them experiences higher energy levels, and even a metabolism boost. It has been used therapeutically (3-4tbsp a day) to address mild and borderline thyroid issues.

Several decades ago, the midwest cattle farmers decided to feed their cattle coconut-based feed (it made sense---increase saturated fat intake and increase fatness of cattle). Their goal was to fatten the cattle faster---they wanted fat lazy cattle that could yield profits sooner. After a couple weeks of the coconut feed, however, they noticed the cows had actually experienced the opposite---they were all becoming more lean and active!
Quickly, they switched to corn and soy based feed, and then got the results they were looking for....what does this tell us?!

How can you add more coconut oil to your diet?
Buy coconut oil and cook with it. It's solid at room temp (melts at 77 degrees F) and has a very high smoke point. Cook with it and avoid consuming rancid oils as a side effect. Use it in baked goods (in which you've reduced/cut out the white sugar and flour). Use coconut cream for puddings and smoothies, and coconut spread for a thickener and a spread on sprouted grain or whole grain toast.

Here's what I've been doing with coconut cream and coconut spread lately:

Coconut Mousse
8oz. coconut cream (I used the Wilderness Family Naturals brand - not from a can, but if you can find a non-BPA can that's an ok choice too)
2 scoops protein powder (I used vanilla Jay Robb)
2 droppers full of liquid vanilla stevia (you should probably do this to taste) or other sweetener (erythritol or ZSweet would be my second choice)
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (or to taste---it could have used more to be more chocolate-y)
couple splashes of milk (whatever kind you like!)

Whip/Whisk this until it is blended, while you are simultaneously melting 1/4 cup coconut spread (you can make coconut spread yourself---just dump unprocessed coconut flakes in the food processor and let it run till it turns into goo---nut butter consistency). Be sure to get the coconut spread really quite hot or it will not emulsify in the pudding. Drizzle it into the coconut cream mixture with the whisk/mixer on high, and mix until fluffy and thickened.
Store in the fridge. It will get thicker as it chills. Note: there might be little tiny chunks of the hardened coconut spread after it's refrigerated. At first, I didn't like that---but it's almost like having tiny chocolate chips in it (only tasting like coconut and a little softer). This seems to depend on how hot you get the coconut spread (hotter=fewer or no chunks).

I also like to use measuring cups as a dish when I eat this--helps with portion control!

If you want it to be 100% smooth, then leave out the coconut spread. It will be a little thinner, a little lighter, and completely silky. The spread adds thickness and makes the texture really amazing!

These would also be great as a dessert topping or dip!

Are you a coconut fan?
Thursday, December 15, 2011

Homemade Yogurt: Simple, Inexpensive and Healthy!

by: Lisa K. Beach, Ph.D.

At this time of year, it can be pretty easy to slip outside of our normal healthy lifestyle patterns, to splurge a little more on unhealthy foods and exercise a little less. In the spirit of keeping things positive, I always like to focus on how I can add value to my day in terms of what I eat and what I do. One way I've done this recently is by making yogurt at home. It's something I learned about recently that I previously thought would be too complicated (and possibly a little creepy!).

My conclusion? Making yogurt is not only very easy, but it's also fun and economical! I recommend consuming probiotic rich foods everyday in order to maintain a healthy digestive flora, and yogurt (with cow or goat milk) is a great way to assist with this.

Here's how you can do it:
Step 1: Choose your milk. I chose a local favorite!

Step 2: Heat up to 1 gallon of milk to 185 degrees F. (If you don't have a thermometer, that's ok. Just heat the milk until it barely starts to boil). If you're using a yogurt maker, check the instructions to see how much milk you should use.

Step 3: Cool milk to 110 degrees F (or if you don’t have a thermometer, just cool it till it feels like body temperature—check by sticking your clean finger into it!).

Step 4: Add the starter. Put a cup or so of the milk you heated/cooled into another bowl, stir in (1) yogurt starter or (2) a container of good quality plain yogurt, until thoroughly mixed. (here's an example of yogurt starter you could buy, and you can often find products like this in a health food store or even a regular grocery store)

Step 5: Add the starter you made to the entire batch of milk, and stir until mixed.

Step 6: Let the Magic Happen! (you have two options for this step)
Option 1: pour into containers of a yogurt maker, set timer according to yogurt maker instructions. Note: It's completely unnecessary to buy a yogurt maker, but they are relatively inexpensive.

Option 2: Pour into glass canning jars (lids off). Heat oven to warm, and then turn it off. Put the jars in the oven, and leave uncovered overnight.

Step 7: Transfer to fridge with lids on! Let the yogurt chill for at least three hours before you consume it. There may be some yellowish gunk on top--this is whey. You can scoop this off and discard or eat it (it's safe and healthy to eat).  This yogurt will keep for about a week in the fridge.

Add what you like for flavor--my favorite things to mix in are vanilla stevia (liquid) for sweetness and some berries.

Have you ever made yogurt?! 

What would your mix-ins of choice be?
Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Strategies For Stress Management


Hello.  Welcome to the Center for Health and Wellness Blog.

Well….I am still on Jury Duty and it looks as though that is the way it is going to be for the remainder of my assignment…..no early dismissal.  The stress and tension caused by this major disruption in my schedule has dissipated.  What is left is a mild irritation.

This experience has reinforced the value of developing stress management skills.  As I review the events of these past few weeks, and this past week in particular, I am able to see the benefits of the stress management strategies I used:

ü Maintaining my exercise routine helped me release tension and encouraged a sense of physical strength. 

ü A supportive network of friends helped me by allowing me to rant.

ü Asking for help from my colleagues reinforced my sense of community. 

ü Using my calendar to schedule and re-schedule my commitments was an aid in seeing the big picture and kept me on task. 

All of these strategies were the basis of developing a positive outlook.  Choosing to keep my focus on the possibilities opened my mind and spirit to the needed solutions.  Once I was able to see different ways to adhere to my commitments, I was able to take action which improved my self-esteem.  This then encouraged the continuation of searching for alternate ways to live my life with the new commitment of Jury Duty.  I can see how each action pushed me to the next action and continued to reinforce a positive outlook keeping me living in the moment. 

 positive outlook = possibilities=solutions=actions=improved self-esteem

This reminds me of words attributed to Albert Einstein: 

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”

Thank you for spending this time with me. 

Have a joyous holiday as you look for the possibilities.

Andrea G. Shenkman, M.S.

Adjunct Professor, Stress Management

Kaplan University

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Strategies For Stress Management


Hello All.  Thank you for visiting the Center for Health and Wellness Blog.

I chose the theme “Live InThe Moment” because of the added stress in my life due to a Jury Duty summons.  Well, I’m still on-call for Jury Duty which means my life is on hold until my release from the summons.  And, although I have not had to report to the Court House since Wednesday, I need to call each day at 5:30 p.m. to find out if I remain on-call or am activated for service.  Of course, this means having to ensure that all of my commitments are covered which means that my colleagues who are assisting me are also “on call”.  One of these professors said to me on Friday in response to my umpteenth (is that a word!) thank you:  “We are all Americans and glad to have this opportunity to help.”  

One of my stress-inducing habits is a perspective involving my thinking that I have to do it alone.  This Jury Duty experience is reminding me of the benefits of reaching out to others and remembering to use the “help” word.  I am proud of my can-do independence which is rooted in my American heritage.  However, there are times when I need to be reminded that I do not have to do it all and that it is a good thing to rely on others.  My colleague’s comment humbled me and reminded me that there are good people in my life willing to assist….all I have to do is ask.

There is a Chinese Proverb that states:  Tension is who you think you should be.  Relaxation is who you are.  Maintaining a positive attitude is helping me see the opportunities life presents on a daily basis.  Seeing the opportunities, reduces the tension.

I’ll keep you posted. 

Until the next time, look for the possibilities.   

Thank you for spending time with me.

Andrea G. Shenkman, M.S.

Adjunct Professor, Stress Management

Kaplan University      
Wednesday, December 7, 2011



Hello.  Welcome to the Center for Health and Wellness Blog.

It’s December and we are in the middle of the holiday season.  This busy time of year means an increase in our stress levels.  Many of us experience a combination of joy and frenzy during this time, the result of too much to do and too little time in which to get it done.  Each year, my goal is to enjoy all the festivities and traditions of the holiday while attending to my normal routine.  This year my challenge is greater than ever…..I’ve been called to jury duty for the first two weeks of December.   And, I must admit that all that I want to do is to shriek at the top of my lungs and pour me a good dose of the poor me’s!  I did engage in a few ranting and raving sessions with friends but then I pushed the thought of jury duty out of my head for several days.

I teach stress management and often say that one of the strategies to use to alleviate stress is to “live in the moment”.  In his book, Managing Stress (6th ed.), Brian Seaward, PhD, states that “Relaxation is said to be achieved when the present moment is fully experienced and appreciated.”  I have been using these words to look at my commitments during this two week jury duty summons to explore solutions for readjusting my schedule.  Looking at my calendar with a positive perspective gave me the ability to find the needed solutions.  As a result of all this extra work, my connections with the colleagues I reached out to for assistance in covering my teaching commitments has strengthened.   And, I’m relying on technology more than usual to provide continued support to my counseling clients.

At the moment, I am “on call” for jury duty.  This means that I have to call-in twice a day to find out if I need to report to the Court House.  I’m staying close to my home office and am getting caught-up with my paperwork.  My desire to shriek, to rant and rave, and to throw things has dissipated.  Ramping –up my exercise routine and maintaining a positive perspective are strategies that are proving to be effective in keeping my emotional balance during this highly stressful period in my life. 

I’m sure that I’ll have need of additional stress management strategies for the duration of my jury duty.    I’ll keep you posted.

Until the next time, look for the possibilities.

Thank you for spending time with me.

Andrea G. Shenkman, M.S.

Adjunct Professor, Stress Management

Kaplan University


Monday, December 5, 2011

Colds and Flu : Prevention and Coping

By Mary Oleksowicz, L. Ac MSTOM 

Many of us are dreading the impending cold and flu season. As we become more conscious of those around us who are sick , what are some steps we can take to prevent the seemingly inevitable winter illness?

1.WASH YOUR HANDS for at least 20 seconds with soap and water! This is probably the number one thing you can do to prevent illness. Singing the Alphabet song is a wonderful way to time yourself. Be sure your children are washing their hands often.

2. Don't touch your face. Even if germs are on your hands, they can't enter the body unless you touch  a mucus membrane such as your eyes, nose or mouth. Teach your children the same. If they must rub their eyes or noses , teach them to use their wrist instead.

3.Open your windows ! Letting fresh air into your home at least once a week even if it is extremely cold outside. Studies have shown that the air inside your home is 2 to 5 times worse than the air outside. Allowing fresh air in will help to get stale, germ-filled and dust filled air out !

4. Eat immunity boosting foods ! Foods rich in Vitamin C such as fresh fruits and veggies as well as pro-biotic yogurt can help reduce the likelihood of infection. Avoid store-bought orange juice which has high amounts of processed sugar. 

5. Get plenty of sleep. Studies have shown that reduced sleep lowers immunity and increases the likelihood of illness.

6. Stay away from others if you are sick . This may mean a day or two home from work or school but your colleagues will thank you.

7.  Reconsider the use of cold and flu products with anti-histamines. While designed to eliminate common cold symptoms such as runny nose , anti-histamines actually suppress the immune system . While they may provide short-term relief of symptoms, your cold of flu may be prolonged by use of them .

8. Be sure to use disposable plates, cups when family members are sick to prevent cross and re-infection.

9 . Be sure to dispose of or sanitize toothbrushes and baby bottle nipples ( or those to sippy cups) . These places are havens for germs and can allow for re-infection.  

10. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids to allow your body to work properly both before and during illness.

I wish you a healthy holiday season
Thursday, December 1, 2011

What is acupuncture “good for”?

By Mary Oleksowicz, MSTOM, L. Ac

In my last blog series, I addressed the most common question I am asked, “How does acupuncture work ?" The follow-up question that I usually receive is “So, what is acupuncture good for?”

Both the NIH (National Institutes of  Health ) and WHO ( World Health Organization) have issued statements regarding the range of symptoms and conditions that acupuncture has proven effective for. There are over one hundred items listed between both statements. If you think that is a large number, you are right ! 

So how would one decide when is the right time to “see” an acupuncturist? Acupuncture, regardless of the condition, is best used preventatively or at the onset of a condition. However, more frequently people often wait until allopathic methods have not provided the expected results. Placing this factor to the side, acupuncture is most commonly used for:
  •              Musclo-skeletal pain including back aches and arthritis. Treatments for muscle disorders often  involve a “ trigger point “  release action while skeletal pain is regulated through the reduction of inflammation.
  •      Emotional disorders including insomnia and anxiety. These disorders are regulated through stress-relief and endorphin release.
  •             Gastro-intestinal disorders including diarrhea , constipation , “heartburn” and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) , especially if these symptoms are exacerbated by stress.
  •       Low energy and/or immune system dis-harmonies such as allergies or chronic infection.
  •     “Annoyances” – Chronic, seemingly un-related conditions such as ringing in the ears, night sweats, hot flashes, and eye “floaters”.
  •      Menstrual disorders across the life span including cramps, clots,  irregularity, infertility and menopause–related issues.
  •      For people who have been told that clinically, “There is nothing wrong with them” yet feel un-well.
Please note that the success of all treatments are based on several factors including:

  • The “constitutional” health of the client an
  • Patient compliance which means  not only receiving acupuncture regularly but also adopting nutritional and lifestyle changes as recommended.
I hope this article has piqued your interest in using acupuncture for your health concerns . Perhaps you will even add a session to your holiday wish list ! 
Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Forget Consumerism… Save Thanksgiving! Parts 2, 3, 4, 5…Ad Infinitum

The Sacrificial Lamb!

Well perhaps the heading above is not quite correct. Perhaps instead of “the sacrificial lamb” I should say the sacrificial turkey. And perhaps what I mean by “sacrificial turkey” is…. You! (Gobble, gobble?). Well, not YOU the reader, but you collectively – or “we” collectively – as the Black Friday consumers.
Believe-it-or-not, there are some “sacrificial consumers” out there in consumer-land! Did you know that there are actually fatalities associated with this mad, MAD consumerist day known as Black Friday? Seriously, no kidding! Just Google “Black Friday tragedies.” If you do, you might find something that looks like this:

·         Wal-Mart Worker Dies in Rush
·         Two Killed at Toy Store
·         Three Die in Black Friday Tragedies
·         Wal-Mart Employee Trampled to Death
·         Unborn Baby Crushed in Wal-Mart

(And you thought your grandmother’s Thanksgiving “turkey a la mode” was bad!)

Seriously folks, this is not a joke – at least it is not a joke to me. I mean look at that last headline… “Unborn Baby Crushed in Wal-Mart.” Is this what we have become? Are we so desperate for that “grand deal” that we are willing to become “sacrificial” in our efforts? The sacrificial “turkeys” indeed!!!!

What I find most troubling is that we – and I do mean “we” – all know about the Black Friday madness. More Google searches confirm this:

·         New Times dubs Black Friday “Carnival of Capitalism”
·         Time Magazine calls Black Friday “Full Contact Sport”
·         CBS News described Black Friday as “the Super Bowl of Shopping”

A “carnival,” “full contact sport,” and “super bowl?” And who are the winners at these “games?”  The truth is – there are no winners. It seems as the though our special time with family and friends and our Thanksgiving “blessing” wears off by morning just in time for our id impulses to kick-in. We become the savages that Freud new we were deep, deep, deep in our unconsciousness – savages for a 20% discount at Wal-Mart or Target or Best Buy!

Let the games begin?

Along Comes History – Revisited

Let us pause and think back to what Thanksgiving was – and should be again – for those bravest of men and women, the Pilgrims:

“The purpose of this first “Thanksgiving” was to celebrate a bountiful harvest,
to celebrate kinship with the Native Americans…to give thanks to the Lord…
for family, friends, safety, and the harvest…a focus on cooking…and the sharing
of a bountiful meal with family and friends…not one day, not two days, but three

So, in the midst of a day devoted to consumerism and materialism, I think it is time to remember our Pilgrim predecessors and the “traditional” Thanksgiving that they “carved” (ha ha ha – a pun!) for us. Perhaps too, I think it is time to begin reading Blessed Mother Teresa's "A Simple Path" and take some time for some family bonding and self-reflection. As the Buddha says, the root of all suffering is ignorance and desire of carnal pleasure, material goods, and immortality.

Let us be spiritual – and not savages!

Oh, and by the way…Happy Post Thanksgiving!

Gobble! Gobble!



Saturday, November 26, 2011

Forget Consumerism… Save Thanksgiving!

Well, yes, that is the title of my blog, strange as it may sound. However, I must give credit where credit is due…the title above is not mine, it is the name of a Facebook profile devoted to foregoing the mish-mash of holiday consumerism – especially Thanksgiving’s “Black Friday”  – and going back to the roots of Thanksgiving: the celebration of the harvest (e.g., food) and the giving of thanks for what one has! Sounds reasonable, yes! But do you concur? Have we lost the spirit of Thanksgiving and sacrificed its original intent upon the cross of consumerism?

Along Comes History

As I am sure you know – and as the story goes – the first Thanksgiving occurred in 1621 at Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts when the men and women aboard the Mayflower – those famous England Separatists known as the Pilgrims – broke bread with the Native Americans. According to tradition, the purpose of this first“Thanksgiving” was to celebrate a bountiful harvest, to celebrate kinship with the Native Americans living in Massachusetts at the time, and to give thanks to the Lord (aka “higher power”) for family, friends, safety, and the harvest. What came out of this “celebration of celebrations” was a focus on cooking (and I mean a lot of cooking!) and the sharing of a bountiful meal with family and friends. We are told that this Thanksgiving celebration lasted not one day, not two days, but three days! (Holy cow…and I am stuffed after only one meal and tired after only half a day!).
Some historians (including some Native Americans) debate the veracity of this “first Thanksgiving” story. However, whether or not you believe the story itself seems moot.  What seems most important, at least to me, is the implication of the story: making new friends, sharing with others, celebrating with others, giving thanks to our higher power; generally being mindful of who we are, what we have, where we came from, and where we are going. Well call me crazy but that sounds an awful lot like…like…are you ready for it? – Spirituality! So, it would seem that the “first” Thanksgiving embodied something quite spiritual. (Ha, you knew I was going to bring in SOMETHING about mind-body-spirit in this blog! J). But let me stop there before I continue (and believe me… I do have a lot more to say about this “Thanksgiving versus Consumerism” issue over the next several days).

I would like to hear from you. What are your thoughts about the story of “Thanksgiving” shared above? Do you believe it was a spiritual moment for the Pilgrims and the Native Americans? Do you believe that this “spiritual” moment is the purpose of Thanksgiving? Do you get the sense that we may have lost the original meaning of this first Thanksgiving?

Stay tuned to the next part of this blog, which will focus on Thanksgiving consumerism – often referred to as “Black Friday,” and what this shift to consumerism might mean for the development of our Mind-Body and Spirit!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Taking It one step Further...

Hopefully, your interest has been stirred and you would like to explore more information on these topics! If so, here’s an interesting website, a couple of books, and a movie that I highly recommend:

The Pesticide Action Network. Want the latest scientific information on the pesticides used on our foods today? This is the place:

Green goes with Everything by Sloan Barnett. This book has great, easy to understand information about common household pollutants, the problems that they cause, and green alternatives.

Living Downstream by Sandra Steingraber, PhD. This book is chock full of scientific studies on various pesticides and more. At first glance, you may think it would put you to sleep, but on the contrary—it is eloquent and moving. I love this book. I highly recommend it. If you don’t have the time to read it, you can order the DVD: http://www.livingdownstream.com/

Please take a moment to watch the trailer:

Happy Holidays,

Nancy Silva, ND
Faculty, Health Sciences

Thursday, November 17, 2011

It's Easy to Go Green

This National Resources Defense Council website has information and tips about everything you can imagine from shopping for fish, choosing chemical free sunscreens, controlling fleas without chemicals, to organic lawn care, and so much more! They even have a searchable database where you can get the scoop (health and safety concerns) on common chemicals found in many products on the market today.

Take a moment to check it out:

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Going Green

This week I’d like to offer resources for “living green”. First up is a website discussing body burden.

We literally live in a chemical soup. We are constantly breathing in, ingesting, and/or absorbing chemicals. Our air is contaminated by pollution from cars and industrial emissions, our food is covered in pesticides and herbicides, and we slather ourselves in many chemically laden skin care products. We also sit on furniture with flame retardants, use chemicals to clean our homes, etc, the list goes on and on. Have you ever pondered how much of this stuff enters your body? I have and the information is frightening.

 “Body burden” refers to the sum total of these exposures persistent in the human body. Experts estimate the average body burden is in the hundreds. You can read more about this topic here:

The Coming Clean website:

If you would like to explore the latest CDC National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, please click on this link:

Stay tuned for some tips on how to go green…

Nancy Silva, ND
Faculty, Health Sciences

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Missing Element: Part III

The ground work has been laid and if I've done my job, you now have a basic understanding of the importance of strength training.  And if I haven't done my job, take my word for it and try the darn exercises and experience the benefits for yourself.

As I mentioned yesterday, you don't need fancy machines or a lot of equipment to start getting stronger.  I'm going to give you two tracks to choose from.  The first we'll call "Novice Track" and the second we'll call "I've Done the Stuff in Novice and am Ready for More (More)".  Please note:  Don't jump ahead to the More option unless you've actually done (and are competent with) the movements in Novice Track.

I lied a little yesterday.  I said we'd focus on four exercises.  This is true.  But in the Novice program I'm proposing, we're not doing all four of those movements, we'll save a couple for the More Track (hey, it will give you something to look forward to). 

Novice Program
Summary:  You'll do these exercises two times per week.  You'll do 10 repetitions of each and do three sets each session.  The focus should be on good form, not how fast or how many you can do. 

Exercise 1: Body Weight Squat
The squat is a fundamental human movement.  If you lived in a developing nation you would spend much of your day in a squat.  In the developed world chairs have ruined our squats and we are worse for it.  But you're going to correct that and start to squat because squatting makes you stronger in every way.  A picture is worth a thousand words, so watch this video and then start squatting.  But please, focus on deep squats.  Friends don't let friends squat high.

Exercise 2:  Push-Up
Everyone should be able to do push-ups.  Every. Single. Person.  If you haven't done a push-up since grammar school, you may need to modify and start on your knees.  This is totally acceptable.  After a while you'll get stronger and can advance to standard push-ups (on your toes).  Here's a standard push-up with progressions shown.   

Exercise 3: Pull Ups
There are few body weight movements that are as effective for building strength as the good ol' fashioned pull up.  Start doing them.  If you can't do an unassisted pull-up, try using resistance bands for support or a machine at your fitness center.  You can even do "jumping pull ups" (stand with your forehead at bar level and then pull yourself over the bar while jumping). Worst case scenario would be to substitute a lat pull-down, but this is a poor substitute. 

Exercise 4: Sit Ups
Strong abs are key for many of the movements we do in More Track.  Start doing sit ups.  Remember them, you hated them in elementary school too.  I'm not including a video, you know what they look like.

Sample Week of Novice Track
You can do your sets of exercises across (all your squats, all your push-ups, etc) or you can do the format I prefer:

10 squats, then 10 pushups, then 10 pull ups, then 10 sit ups.  Repeat 3 times
Do this two times per week.  It's not a race, focus on good form. 

When you have done this format for a couple weeks, try to progress.  Continue to add more repetitions to the exercises while still maintaining good form.

More Track
Once you feel comfortable with the above mentioned exercises and can do each with good form and relative confidence, it's time to progress and add some new exercises and additional weights.  For this program you still have two strength days, but you will be doing two sets of different exercises:  The squat and the press (day 1) and the deadlift and bench press (day 2).

Day 1: Squat and Press
Nothing makes me happier than squat and press day.  Nothing.  Soon you'll feel the same.  If you've never back squatted before, I strongly urge you to start with a goblet squat.  All you need is a dumbbell.  At first, that dumbbell can be light.  You'll hold it to your chest, and squat in the same manner you did in Novice.  But you've added weight (thus making it harder).  Here's a video.  They use a kettlebell in the video (and you can do) but most of us are more familiar with the dumbbell.    As you progress, your dumbbell should get heavier.  Once you feel proficient with the goblet squat, you can advance to the back squat (which will require additional equipment in the form of barbells and a rack.  You'll need a gym for this).  If you never want to back squat, stick with the goblets, you're still way ahead of 99% of Americans. 

After you do your squats (yes, do them first) you'll do your presses.  I recommend the standing press.  You can again start with dumbbells or with a barbell.  Choice is yours.  Form remains the same. Check it out. 

Day 2: Deadlift and Bench Press
The deadlift may be completely foreign to you, but I'm betting my life savings you know what the bench press looks like.  The deadlift is basically picking-up weight from the floor and standing tall.  Similar to our previous exercises, starting with dumbbells is advisable.  For the deadlift, maintaining good form is critical. Check out the DB deadlift here and with barbells here

After the deadlifts, do your bench press.  I'm not showing you a video, everyone knows how to bench press.  Start with dumbbells.

Sample Week of More Track
Day 1:  3 sets of 10 squats then 3 sets of 10 presses
Day 2:  3 sets of 10 deadlifts then 3 sets of 10 bench presses

And there you have it.  Once you learn the movements there is no limit to how strong you can get.  You can change the exact number of reps and sets over time and be sure to add weight (if you want to get stronger, which you do).  To my knowledge, the world record in the back squat is 1,268 lb and the world record in the deadlift is 1,015 lb.  When you get close to these numbers let me know and I'll take credit for your training.

Posted by Rachel L. May, M.S.
Adjunct Faculty, College of Health Sciences

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Missing Element: Part II

Are you giddy with excitement thinking about the new strength training program you're going to begin this week?  Perhaps you went out and bought a home gym with barbells and dumbbells, perhaps even a kettlebell or two.  Or maybe you still think I'm full of _____ and you're just going to keep on runnin'.  Let's hope it's the former.

Before we discuss exercises, let's address some of the concerns I typically hear from clients when I encourage them to begin a strength training program.  We'll review the ones from yesterday's post. 

1) They don't realize it's included in the Guidelines and is a critical component of fitness. 
ACSM includes strength training in the Guidelines "at least two times per week" with a focus on major muscle groups.  Shocking, I know!  But if it wasn't important for fitness, good health and heck, looking good naked, the fine folks at ACSM wouldn't have included it.  They would have said, "Do lots of cardio, and if you're bored and have time on your hands, lift some weights."  But they didn't.

2) In a time-crunched world, strength training takes a backseat to aerobic activity.  If a client only has 30 minutes a day, I find they focus on the cardio thinking they are getting the most out of their time.

Is aerobic activity important?  Absolutely!  But being strong is important too.  Being strong promotes bone health, functional movements and decreases the risks of falls as we age as well as increases the chances we'll live independently in our golden years.  Personally, I'd prefer to be able to care for myself at 90 than have to rely on someone else to do it for me. 

3) They think only aerobic activities promote weight loss.
Actually there is considerable research that shows that moderate intensity aerobic activity over long periods of time (over 30 minutes) can actually decrease muscle mass -- ever heard of "skinny fat"?  You may weigh less on the scale, but be higher in fat.  No one wants that (or shouldn't)!  Focusing on the scale is the wrong objective, focusing on fat is correct.  Increasing muscle (which burns more calories than fat at rest) should be a goal.  Plus, muscle looks better than fat (see: look good naked above).

4) For women, they think if they do strength training exercises they will "get big" and end-up looking like a masculine, professional body builder.
If a woman has huge, masculine muscles she is on drugs. It is that simple.  Show me a woman with huge biceps and quads, and I'll show you a woman on drugs.  Women do not have enough testosterone to produce big muscles.  If we did, we'd be men.  To the women who say they "get big" when lifting weights, they may.  But that's not big, bulky muscles. That's slightly larger muscles underneath fat -- and this is a nutrition issue.  As my favorite saying goes, "You can't out-exercise a bad diet."  Muscles are under there whether you have a layer of fat covering them or not.

5) They think a strength training program involves many different exercises, scary looking machines and many hours in the gym.

Not only do you not need machines, if you're new to strength training, all you need is your body weight.  The exercises I encourage you to incorporate into your program involve only four movements (though I'll give you some additional choices should you feel froggy) and involve either dumbbells or barbells -- standard equipment at any decent fitness center (or available for purchase at a reasonable cost for a home gym).  Don't use machines -- be the machine!  As for the time requirement, well, how long do you think four exercises can take?

I hope I've convinced you (or at least given you reason to consider) that incorporating strength training (and the right kind of strength training) into your fitness program is important.  No, not important, critical.  Tomorrow we'll discuss the only four exercises you need to know to get stronger:  the squat, press, deadlift and bench press.  As mentioned, I'll give you additional options, but these exercises when performed correctly work nearly every muscle in the body and do so in a way that is relevant to human performance and daily life.   Stay tuned for the good stuff!

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Kaplan Center for Health and Wellness
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