How Can I Tell If I Am Working Out Too Hard?

How Can I Tell If I Am Working Out Too Hard?

There are certain tell-tale signs that you are working out too hard. You just have to look for them and then adjust your training routine, before they take their toll. You are probably over training if you suffer:

Sore Joints

If you do a new routine that works muscles that you are not used to being worked, then you expect to be a little sore the next day. No pain, no gain right? However if you have such soreness that it interferes with your normal daily routine, then you might have tried to do too much too soon. For example if you were working your biceps and the next day you have pain in your elbow, you either tried to lift too much weight or were lifting it wrong.

Pain While Training

If you are pushing past pain to do a particular exercise, then you probably should not be doing it. Instead try to find an exercise that doesn’t cause pain and then go to your doctor to find out why you are having pain when exercising that particular muscle or muscle group. It could be the root of something more serious.

Fatigue Even After Recovery

If you feel constantly fatigued, even after your one day per week recovery period, you could be pushing yourself past the limits of your body. Try backing off another day of training per week so that you have two days off per week and see if it helps you feel less fatigued. Also most fitness experts agree that serious fitness buffs should take a week off about every 6 to 8 weeks so their body has an extended period to heal, rebuild and repair.

Frequent Injury

If you seem to suffer more than your share of injuries while training, you may be going at it too hard or trying to lift too much weight. If you are strength training, try reducing the amount of weight you are lifting, or the number of reps/sets. If doing cardio, shortening up your routine or reducing the intensity. Also avoid exercising the injured area until it is healed.

These four signs where your body is telling you that it is being pushed harder than it should. Listen to it, make adjustments and find a happy medium where you feel you are making progress, but still at a level your body can support.

Strength Training Can Lead to Healthy Bones: Here’s How

Strength Training Can Lead to Healthy Bones: Here’s How

People strength train for different reasons: toning muscle, burning fat, losing weight, improving sleep, just to name a few. However, one important reason to get involved in weight training – especially for women – is to build bone density. Bone density loss numbers are staggering. It is estimated 10 million Americans are afflicted with it.

One of the functions of the hormone estrogen in women is to build bone density, thus keeping their bones strong. However, as women age, their estrogen level gradually drops, along with it their bone density, at around the rate of 1% per year after age 40. While women are the most susceptible, men can lose bone density too as their testosterone level drops. Later on either gender can be diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis depending on the severity of bone mineral loss.

This can lead to falling later in life and breaking a hip – the number one cause of older women having to go to a nursing home. Many never fully recover their independence they had prior to that break. Some have even broken bones just bending over to tie their shoe!

But once in post-menopausal is not the time to start strength training, but it won’t hurt anything either if done with light weights or resistance bands. In fact, it may help retain what bone density is left. Numerous study results show strength training not only slows the loss of bone mineral, but it can build bone, which in the end means keeping most what you have left instead of losing more. Starting while still young gives you the best chance at having strong bones later in life.

Strength training for strong bones is only part of the equation. It also improves muscle mass and connective tissue strength which supports bones, along with improving balance and flexibility which in turn help reduce the risk of falling in the first place.

The enhanced feeling of stability can lead to doing more aerobic exercises which burn calories and help maintain weight – weight gain being another common age-related dilemma that puts additional stress on bones.

The lower body, because it carries most of your body weight, is at the most risk. Lunges, squats and step-ups, either as bodyweight exercises or weighted by holding a dumbbell in each hand, work the lower body the best. A good alternative to using weights is to use resistance bands instead. They come in varying degrees of resistance. Exercises that target the spine and support abdominal core and wrists are also beneficial as these bones are also prone to breaking.

Regardless of what level of strength training you pursue, be sure to do some type if nothing more than using just bodyweight. You’ll be glad you did as you age.

How to Set Realistic Fitness Goals

How to Set Realistic Fitness Goals

Setting a goal can keep you focused and help steer you toward a particular objective. However to be successful at reaching your goal, it has to be specific, realistic and achievable. For example, let’s take the goal “I’m going to go to the gym every day”.

Specific: To be specific, the goal would have to be amended by adding two things: How long am I going to go to the gym every day? And what am I going to do once there? A goal can’t be open-ended. It has to have a defined ending point. A better goal would be “I’m going to go to the gym every day for the next two months.” But as you’ll see next, that goal is not realistic.

Realistic: To be realistic, I have to have a reasonable chance of attaining my goal. The goal of going to the gym every day is not. One of the generally agreed upon tenets of fitness is the body has to have at least one day per week off so it can rest, rebuild and repair itself. A stated goal of going to the gym every day does not allow us that one day per week off. A realistic, better stated goal would be “I’m going to go to the gym six days per week for the next two months.”

Achievable: From the achievability aspect, how much time each day do I have free that I can devote to going to the gym. 30 minutes, 45 minutes, 1 hour; and what am I going to do once at the gym? You don’t know. Just going is not working toward a fitness goal. We have to have a specific plan of what we are going to do each day while there.

The Restated Goal: A better stated goal would be “I’m going to go to the gym six days per week for the next two months; four days will be a one-hour cardio routine each day while two days will be a one-hour strength training routine.” Now our goal is specific (planned out and includes the type of training and routine) realistic (six days per week at the gym with one day off), achievable (having one hour a day to devote to exercising). See the difference? Specific, realistic and achievable.

Write It Down: The fourth thing with goals is they have to be written down and posted somewhere where you will see them all the time. Usually on the refrigerator is a good place as you’ll see them multiple times per day. If not written down, they are soon forgotten.

When stating a goal, don’t set yourself up for failure. Make sure your goal is attainable with a definite end result.

3 Benefits of Working Out in Cold Weather

3 Benefits of Working Out in Cold Weather

Getting out of a nice and cozy warm bed to go outside and exercise when it is freezing cold may not be your idea of a good time. But exercising in the cold has several benefits over doing it in warm weather. Specifically, it:


It’s true, exercising outdoors in the winter ramps up your metabolism and in the end, you burn more calories than if you had exercised in warm weather. Part of the reason is it takes more energy to keep your body warm when it is cold outside. Depending on what you are doing, the exercise itself can burn a lot of calories. Take cross country skiing at a brisk speed for example; calories burned are 544 per hour. Snowshoeing is another high calorie winter sport at 476 calories per hour. And both sports are something different from your normal routine so they can prevent boredom, and enjoy wonderful landscapes you’ll see.


Your body must work harder in the winter to get the same amount of work accomplished. Thus, it builds your heart and cardiovascular system, along with increasing lung capacity. Workout all winter outside and you’ll be in much better shape when spring comes around. This means you can do more right off the bat instead of having to work up to the performance level you were at before winter set in.


There is just something about doing intense winter workouts outside in the cold. For one, it will add some rosiness to your cheeks; the air smells fresher; because you are out in the sunshine, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is less of an issue; you are getting your vitamin D; the list of benefits go on and on.


However, working out in cold weather does have some cautions to be aware of:

  • Dress in layers so that as your body heats up, you can peel off a layer or two to remain at a comfortable body temperature. Otherwise it is easy to get overheated.
  • Wear a hat and gloves. Frostbite can be a real issue in cold weather. Covering extremities will prevent it. Don’t forget about your feet by wearing a thick pair of socks.
  • Wear sunglasses. Snow blindness is prevalent when out in the snow. If you have ever had it, you already know how uncomfortable it is.
  • Wear a scarf over your nose and mouth. Breathing in cold air can cause some respiratory issues, but by breathing through a scarf the air is warmed more before it gets to your lungs.
  • Keep hydrated. Even though you may not feel like you are losing water, you are both through perspiration and breathing.
  • If you are running or walking, watch where you are going. Avoid stepping on ice. If you must cross it, do so with caution.

Ok, now you have no excuses for not working out in cold weather. Get off your butt and enjoy the cold weather instead of vegging out in front of the TV and eating food that is not good for you, or being cooped up inside a sweaty gym. Enjoy the winter season!

Should You Exercise When You Have a Cold?

Should You Exercise When You Have a Cold?

Research has shown that it depends on the type of cold you have as to whether you should exercise or not. If your symptoms are no more than having a runny nose and sneezing, then it is probably O.K. to exercise in moderation.

In one study 24 men and 21 women, ages 18 to 29 with varying levels of fitness, were deliberately infected with the rhinovirus, the common strain responsible for about 1/3 of all colds. All caught head colds and two days later when symptoms were at their worst, they were evaluated while running on treadmills at varying intensities. The results showed no impaired lung function or ability to exercise even though the participants reported feeling tired.

Does exercising speed recovery from having a cold?

To answer these questions, we have to once again to turn to research. In one study on cold symptoms and duration, 34 young men and women infected with the rhinovirus were split into two groups.
One group exercised on treadmills every other day for 40 minutes at 70% of their maximum heart rates; the other half rested. At the end of the study, researchers did not find any appreciable difference in their symptoms nor was there any difference in how long their symptoms lasted.

What about exercising with fever and chest congestion?

That is a completely different story. If you have a fever and/or chest congestion, you are most likely better off not exercising until those symptoms pass. Why? Because with chest congestion, breathing is hard in the first place. Exercising will just make it harder to get your breath and can actually result in breathing problems.

Plus if you have chest congestion, and are taking decongestants, the medication may have elevated your heart rate, which exercising could elevate it even higher. Knowing this, why take a chance in overtaxing your heart when it is already in a stressed condition. If you have asthma, forget about it altogether as exercising could trigger an attack.

So based on these two research studies, there isn’t any physiological reason not to exercise if you have just a head cold, even though you may not feel like it. However, if you have a fever or chest congestion with your cold, rest until at least those two symptoms pass.

Knowing this can be important especially if you are training for an athletic event and don’t want to interrupt your training program. Be able to determine when and when you shouldn’t train can make the difference of being ready for the event or not.

How to Set New Year Fitness Goals That Are Actually Attainable

How to Set New Year Fitness Goals That Are Actually Attainable

We’ve all done it – set a New Year’s fitness resolution and after a few weeks or months failed. But have you ever stop to think why you failed? Most likely it was because your goal was either too lofty or not well enough defined.

This year when you set your new fitness goal, make it SMART:

  • S – Specific
  • M – Measurable
  • A – Attainable
  • R – Realistic
  • T – Timely

Let’s use a common New Year fitness goal “to get fit” and apply the SMART concept to it.


Specific: The “S” refers to the who, what, when, where and how of your goal. A better defined goal that is specific is to alternate between cardio and strength training five days per week, 30 minutes each day.

Measurable: With a goal of “to get fit”, how fit is fit? You have to have some way of measuring your progress to know if you are making progress or not or to know when you have reached your goal. A measurable goal would be to be able to run and complete a half marathon.  

Attainable: Is your goal something that you can reasonably complete? It is counterproductive to set a goal that you have no chance of success. Be honest with yourself. Coming in first in your first half marathon probably is not attainable, but completing it is.

Realistic: If you hate running, is successfully running a half marathon really a realistic goal? At this point no, but it could be if your view of running changes. Some non-runners actually come to like running once they start training for it. However if you have never been coordinated enough to run efficiently, choosing a better suited goal is probably advisable.

Timely: To be successful, most people need a timeframe to be at goal. If your goal is to run a half marathon, it is not timely, but to run in the annual Fourth of July Half is timely. Now you have a timeframe for which you can back plan. Based on your current fitness level, you can figure out milestones and when you have to hit them to be ready to run that half marathon on July 4th. When a goal is set using the SMART system, your chance of successfully attaining that goal is much greater. While “to get fit” was our original goal in this article, the SMART system can be applied to any goal, whether business or personal fitness-related or not. Be SMART about setting yourself up for success.

Ask the Doctor…

How Exercise Can Help Beat the “Winter Blues”

How Exercise Can Help Beat the “Winter Blues”

During the winter many people are afflicted with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) commonly called the “winter blues”. Thought to be caused by a decrease in the hours of sunlight, typical symptoms of this mood disorder include a lack of energy, sleeping more, overeating, depression and a general overall lethargic feeling. If you are one that suffers from SAD, you have to take control of it or it will take control of you. Otherwise all the hard work you put into looking and feeling good across the other three seasons will be for naught with a gain in weight as a result.

Exercising works at beating the winter blues for these reasons…

Increased Blood Flow

When exercising, your heart rate increases thus pumping more blood throughout your circulatory system. More blood over a given time means more oxygen going into the cells and more wastes coming out.

Increased Metabolism

Any exercise increases the rate at which your body burns calories, but cardio training tends to burn more than strength training. Because people afflicted with SAD tend to crave carbohydrates more in the winter, it is important to do exercises that give you the most calories burn per minute of exercise. However, be sure to include at least a couple days per week (but not in a row) of strength training for toning and definition.

Increased Oxygen to the Brain

Exercising not only increases blood flow to your muscles, but also to the brain. As a result of the additional oxygen, brain function increases making you more alert and cognitive.

Improved Mood    

Because the winter blues is a mood disorder, anything you can do to counteract its affects will make you feel better. When exercising, a hormone called serotonin is released. In the running world, although it is not limited to just runners, the release of serotonin is known as a “runners high”. This feel-good feeling can last for hours after exercising.

If it is too cold or blustery outside to exercise, your only option is to do it inside. Whether you choose to exercise at home or at a gym, the important part is that you force yourself to do it. With SAD, it is easy to talk yourself out of exercising, but don’t do it. You’ll feel better and be able to minimize weight gain, by continuing exercising during the winter.

If you live in an area where the winters are not too bad, take your exercising outdoors. You will feel better from the just breathing in the fresh air and soaking up the sunshine, let alone the benefits gained from exercising.

Indoors or outside; the point is to push through the effects of the winter blues and keep exercising. You’ll thank yourself in the spring.


6 Tips for Sticking to Your Exercise Routine Throughout the Holidays

6 Tips for Sticking to Your Exercise Routine Throughout the Holidays

The hectic holidays should not get in the way of your exercise. Can holidays be stressful, busy and time-starved? Of course they can. But this doesn’t mean that a smart approach to your physical fitness should take a back seat to celebrating this special time of the year. The following 6 tips will allow you to enjoy your holiday revelry, while also seamlessly sticking to your exercise routine.

1 – Plan and perform traditional holiday activities all year long. Why wait until the holidays to go shopping for gifts and decorations? What’s wrong with planning your Christmas party or Thanksgiving dinner in July? Spreading your holiday tasks throughout the year means plenty of time for even the most intense exercise regimen.

2 – Why not wake up one hour earlier than normal? Hey, we get it. You consider the holidays as a time to sleep late and be lazy. But that’s not why you are exercising. Rising early 3 to 5 days a week to exercise and workout fills you with natural energy all day long, and doesn’t get in the way of your hectic holiday schedule.

3 – Pick your spots. You may regularly exercise for 1 hour at a time, 5 times a week. Due to an incredibly busy holiday schedule, you may have to alter that frequency and duration. Squeeze in 15, 20 and 30 minute sessions of exercise wherever and whenever you can to satisfy your weekly goals.

4 – Eat to support your workout. This means limiting the amount of unhealthy, nutritionally poor foods and beverages you consume. Drinking 4 cups of eggnog, gorging on sugar-filled holiday treats and finishing the evening with 3 or 4 glasses of wine or adult beverages is not conducive to fitness fuel the next day when you have planned to exercise.

5 – Don’t mentally flog yourself if you miss a workout. The holidays should be times of creating and sharing wonderful memories and activities with those you love and care about. So what if you miss a workout? Just remember holiday exercise tip #3, and make up that workup later.

6 – Get someone else involved. You are probably not the only person you know who struggles with sticking to an exercise routine during the holidays. So why not team up with someone else who is experiencing the same problems? Get a friend, coworker or family member involved in your holiday exercise plans, and you can help each other achieve your fitness goals.

How Many Calories Do You Consume Through Alcohol?

How Many Calories Do You Consume Through Alcohol?

With the holidays fast approaching, the annual parties, get-togethers and big meals will mean consuming more calories. Many of those extra calories are hidden in alcoholic drinks. Just how many? Let’s take a look.

Generally, you’ll consume between 97 to 168 calories per drink depending on the type of drink. Beer varies between 103 to 153 calories per 12 ounce serving depending on if it is of the light variety or not.

Red wine is around 125 calories per 5 ounce serving. Whites are slightly less at 121 calories. Distilled spirits (80 proof) vary from a low of 97 for 1.5 ounces of gin, rum, vodka, whiskey or tequila to a high of 165 for the same amount of a liqueur (because of the sugar). Cocktails start at 112 calories for a daiquiri and top out at 168 for a Margarita. We won’t even talk about Pina Coladas at 490 calories!

The problem with drinking alcohol is two-fold. One: we like to be sociable and this means having something to drink with appetizers and while standing around talking before the meal. This means a lot of calories are consumed even before the actual meal starts. Two: the more we drink the less conscious we become in regard to how many calories we are consuming. Before long we have consumed many more calories than what our body can burn. The excess calories are stored as fat.

Keep in mind that to keep your weight the same, you have to burn as many calories as you take in. To lose weight, you have to burn 3,500 more calories per week (500 per day) then what you consume. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 5 hours of moderate exercise per week to maintain weight or that amount of vigorous exercise per week to lose weight.

Assuming you have a couple servings of wine, you would have to burn off those 250 calories by running at 5 mph for 30 minutes, or walking at a brisk rate for an hour. What is the likelihood of that happening after eating a big meal? Not much, unfortunately.

So the next best thing we do is make weight loss our New Year’s resolution (which in many cases fails shortly after the first of the year). The point is by consuming fewer calories through alcohol, you’ll have less to burn off to keep your weight the same or to even lose. There are other drink choices you can make that will keep the calorie count down but still allow you to remain sociable.

Kids Can Help Prepare Your Family’s Holiday Dinner

Kids Can Help Prepare Your Family’s Holiday Dinner

Eating a holiday dinner is fun, but helping get everything ready for the big meal can be a lot of fun too. Here are a few things that kids can do to help out. Plan the menu. Talk with your family about what to have for your holiday dinner. Pick a couple side dishes to go with the main course, like vegetables, potatoes and salad. Then pick something for dessert. Lend a hand in the kitchen. There are lots of dishes to get ready for a holiday feast; ask how to help. Maybe mashing the potatoes or putting rolls in a serving dish. Offer to set the table and clean up. Give parents a break when dinner is over and help with clean up. Your parents will be so happy to have your help. After a full day of cooking, eating and cleaning up, you can all enjoy a slice of pie for dessert.

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