Is Lack of Sleep Sabotaging Your Fitness Goals?

            When people think about weight loss and fitness goals, the first thing that usually comes to mind is diet and exercise.  But, have you ever considered that the hours you sleep each night play a major role in a diet and exercise regime?

            With all the things we have going on in our lives in this day and age; it’s understandable that most adults do not sleep eight hours each night. Of course, every person’s sleep needs are different, but in general, six hours should be the minimum. A recent study in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that women who slept seven or more hours a night were less likely to put on weight than those who didn’t. Sleep deprivation has been linked to weight gain and higher BMI’s as well. This is because Leptin, an important brain hormone that regulates appetite, isn’t secreted in adequate quantities when one sleeps less than six hours a night.

            When it comes to exercise recovery, sleep is just as important as eating and drinking.  Lack of sleep interferes with the metabolism of glucose, which muscles depend on for energy. If your muscles have no energy, you will not be getting the most out of your workouts.

            Do you feel like you’re always fighting frequent colds? This could be attributed to lack of sleep as well. Sleep less than six hours a night and you will have a compromised immune system. Studies have shown that those who sleep less than six hours have 50% less immunity protection than those who sleep eight hours per night. In addition to all this, lack of sleep causes moodiness, anxiety and irritability.

            So, in addition to a healthy diet and exercise, focus on getting the quality sleep your body needs. 

By Genie Bianchi, RRCA Coach/Fitness Trainer

House Cleaning Exercises

Think you don't have time to exercise? Every little bit counts and there are ways to sneak it in. One great way I "sneak" in exercise, is while I'm house cleaning. If you're like me, and you do the majority of the cleaning, why not try it? House cleaning requires physical movement anyway, so why not add a little more?

- Do alternating lunges with the vacuum. As you push the vacuum forward, lunge with one leg. Then step back, pulling the vacuum back with you. (This can also be done with a mop)

-Clean the floor in plank position. Instead of cleaning the floor on your hands and knees, try cleaning it on your hands and feet in a plank position. Use your core to stabilize yourself and alternate which arm you use to scrub. For example, 10 seconds with the right arm, 10 seconds with the left. Stay in plank as you move across the floor. You will really feel this one!

-Take push-up breaks. Take periodic breaks from cleaning, drop to the floor and do 10 push-ups. Want to add more? Include some crunches too.

-Cleaning squats. -Are you cleaning something you would normally have to bend over for? Why not squat instead? For example, instead of bending over or kneeling as you clean the toilet, try holding a squat in front of it as you clean. Pretend there is a chair that you are sitting on and hold that position. 

There are so many ways to get in some sort of exercise throughout your day. If you have other ideas, I'd love to hear them!

Written by Genie Bianchi, RRCA Coach

Tips on Beating Treadmill Boredom

1. Music / TV

2. Listening to audiobooks. There are many audiobooks that can be downloaded right to ipods.

3. Speed Intervals: Increasing the speed for certain intervals, such as a half mile or the length of a song can boost performance and break up monotony. 

4. Adding Hills: Increasing the incline for a few minutes here and there is another way to challenge oneself and take the mind off of the treadmill. Remember, there is no down hill on the treadmill so after the run, do 20 lunges with each leg.

Is There Such a Thing as "Fake Running"?

I don't know if the winter cold is bothering me more as I get older, or if I'm just getting wimpier (is that even a word?). What I do know, is that I just can't be bothered to get my butt outside at 5:30 am on a bitter cold day to get a run in. When I think about the darkness, the cold air, etc., I just head right to the treadmill. I hate using the treadmill, I am so bored on that's like a form of mental torture after awhile. However, my alternative is darkness, icy roads, and blustery winds. Maybe if I had a running partner I would get out there, but as a woman, I don't always feel so safe by myself in the dark. Unfortunately, my schedule doesn't allow for me to run after the sun has come up, except for weekends. On weekends, I'll do a longer run outdoors.

 I used to think that the treadmill wasn't like real running. Obviously it's wind resistance, changes in elevation, etc. But what was it?  Fake running? I still get a really good workout. I still log the miles each week. I'm beginning to realize I was a running snob (or snobby runner?)! You know who I'm talking about.  The runners who run outside everyday, rain, snow, darkness, hurricanes, tornadoes, etc. and who turn their noses up at treadmill runners... they wouldn't be caught dead on one. (For example, If I don't want to run outside in the pouring rain, then I'm not a REAL runner.) I give those runners all the credit in the world. Good for them for being outside every day, no matter what. But I have decided that I am no less of a die-hard runner than these people, and yes, I use a treadmill.

I once ran a 10 mile training run on a treadmill because I had no one to watch my kids so I could go outdoors. And guess what? It was still 10 miles and it took more dedication and mental discipline to make myself complete 10 miles on a treadmill than it would have outdoors. My point is, no matter where you run, as long as you run, you are a runner.

This week I'll be posting some tips on beating treadmill boredom. Please email me if you have suggestions. I'd like to hear how other people cope...

Written by Genie Bianchi, RRCA Coach

Exercise "Must Haves"

Happy New Year!! I don't know about you, but my holidays went by in a blur. As I get back to normal life and begin a new year, I think about new resolutions just like everyone else. I think the most common resolution people make is to get back into shape, stay in shape, and live a healthier life. I am a person who is intrinsically motivated to exercise...meaning, I love working out. I enjoy my muscles aching from a good run or strength training session. (My husband thinks I'm slightly insane, and I just may be) So, this kind of New Year's resolution comes more naturally to me than it might to other people.

What I've really been thinking about lately are my exercise "must haves". These are the moves I just have to do every day whether I have a workout planned or not. These moves are just as important to me as my coffee in the morning (coffee is part of the reason I get up in the morning). I thought I'd share them just to show that a healthy lifestyle can be started with just a few moves everyday. Try them and let me know what you think. If you have any exercise "must haves" of your own, I'd love to hear them!

Genie's Exercise "Must Haves"

I've said it before, but these are a staple!! I do close grip, wide grip, and regular. Do as many as you can until you can't perform another with good form. Each day, try and add one or two more. You'll be amazed at how your body adapts!

Leg Raises:
I swear by these for a strong lower abdomen and hip flexors. Lie face up on the floor with the legs straight and arms perpendicular to body on the ground. Keep the legs together and knees straight and use the lower abs to raise the legs straight into the air. Lower the legs back down until legs are about an inch off the floor, but don't touch the floor. Repeat. Try starting with 10 reps and increase a little everyday. When you've mastered these, try turning the legs so that both knees are facing the right or left. Then lift as you normally would for an awesome burn in the obliques.

Front Plank:
Get into plank position on forearms and feet. Hold the body in a straight line. Keep the head neutral. Concentrate on keeping the abs tight. Start by holding for as many seconds as you can while maintaining good form. Each day hold for a little longer until you can hold for at least 60 seconds. When you've mastered this, try adding in some leg lifts. While holding the plank, slowly lift one leg, lower and then lift the other. Focus on squeezing the glutes as you lift.

Written by Genie Bianchi, RRCA Coach