Mindfulness in Strength Training

Break your training plateau and bring your fitness to the next level with mindfulness.

Many of you are probably familiar with the term “mindfulness,” which is appearing more and more frequently amidst popular health-culture circles across the globe. While “mindfulness” is most commonly associated with meditation practices or psychological health, let’s examine how mindfulness, and more specifically the incorporation of mindful strength training, can be applied to your routine in the gym to achieve exceptional results!

Don't go through the motions, go through your emotions.

Mindfulness is defined as “the state of being consciously aware.” It refers to active examination of the present moment, including the internal and external sensations observed and/or experienced by a person. In regards to training, consider for a moment your own fitness routine. While we love dedication and consistency in training, the word “routine” itself can be indicative of a health plateau, stagnation, or a sense of “going through the motions” – in other words, a lack of progress.

Someone once said, “The brain is the most important muscle you can exercise,” a sentence that contains numerous levels of truth. Without getting into the nitty-gritty science of it, by being mindful of an exercise’s target muscle (or muscle group) throughout the entire motion, neural pathways between the brain and the connected muscle fibers are strengthened and eventually the muscle will contract harder and more readily. This increases the efficiency of movement and range of motion, thereby yielding greater force production, more power, better coordination, and improved endurance, just to mention a few!

So how do we strengthen the mind to muscle connection? The process is actually quite simple and does not require extreme changes to your usual routine; however, mastering this technique requires discipline, patience, and active focus. To begin, identify the target muscle (or muscle group) of the exercise to be performed. Before initiating the exercise, focus your attention on the target muscle, contract it and relax it. Now, with proper form, begin the exercise, focusing all your attention on the contraction of the target muscle. Maintain an active mind throughout the set and reset between repetitions if necessary. Don’t forget to breathe!

Discipline, Patience and Active Focus

To illustrate this idea, let’s take a look at a specific example: the bicep curl. This simple movement is commonly seen in a gym setting, but we often perform the motion throughout our daily lives as well. Consider this: you pull a gallon of milk from the refrigerator. Although you have essentially just performed a bicep curl, it is likely that zero thought was given to the movement or to the muscle it subsequently engaged. The next time you reach into the fridge for a cool glass of protein-packed 2%, focus on squeezing and flexing the actual bicep muscle to pull the milk jug from its place. This is the mind to muscle connection: being consciously aware of how you are performing an action and what muscles are being used to complete it. This mentality should be implemented for every single exercise you perform. The same idea can be applied to posture. When taking a seat in your office chair, your gluteal muscles should engage (think squat form) and take the main “weight” of the action. Similarly, when walking up stairs, be aware of your muscle engagement and weight transfer. Pushing off with your heel instead of your toes will engage your posterior kinetic chain (glutes, hamstrings, and lower back muscles) and will reduce strain to the knees. These are the ways in which we build strong neural pathways to strengthen the mind to muscle connection. It can be as simple as a change of mindset!

So whether you are the beginner, looking to gain a solid foundation in fitness through strength training, the veteran bodybuilder, hoping to reverse old habits or correct bad form (and possibly find your inner Zen, eh?), or the mellow yogi, wishing to apply the power of your mind to other physical feats, developing a strong mind to muscle connection will benefit you in all aspects of fitness and allow you to better achieve your individual goals!

Practice Mindfulness Today

Get behind our fitness philosophy today by allowing us to design an individualized program for you! We are mindful of various lifestyles, so we offer in-home personal training for residents of Akron, Cleveland, Canton and the surrounding northeast Ohio area, and are able to design personal online programs as well to fit all your training needs! Please call or text at (419)-906-0204 for more information. If you have a question about this article or suggestions for future articles, please contact us at [email protected]

Exercising For Energy

Today, most jobs require a variety of different types of energy. This could be cognitively, physically or in my case, both. I am in a profession that requires a lot of physical and cognitive energy.  Being an Akron Public Schools kindergarten teacher it is a necessity that I have extreme amounts of enthusiasm about everything. On the cognitive side of my job, there is constant differentiation and classroom management. This is something that appears to be extremely difficult when my little kiddos come into the classroom at 8:15 in the morning. Being 5 to 6 years of age, you are never tired (even if you are) and need to be entertained/intrigued in order to learn something. In this kind of profession you would think a lot of rest would help prepare me for such daily endeavors (yes, absolutely it does) BUT, there is another part of my life that really helps me be more successful at what I do.

Exercise is a huge part of my life. Even after a long day of teaching and planning, I will always make my way to the gym. Why? Well, let’s think about the word energy and what it means. Energy is the strength and vitality required for sustained physical or mental activity. Now, when we think about working out and fitness, a word that we may relate to this is strength. When we actually think about it, we need to be strong in order to be able to maintain our “strength” for our daily routines and tasks.

Physical Fitness Improves Mental Fitness

According to ACE (American Council on Exercise), new research shows the remarkable effect of moderate-to-vigorous exercise on brain structure and function. A brisk walk during a morning break or a cardio class at lunchtime balances neurotransmitters and other chemicals in the brain (serotonin, BDNF and more). Substances responsible for influencing brain activity related to mood, attention, learning, motivation, and arousal. That’s why you’re likely to feel calmer, yet more alert and better able to focus after exercise. Exercise also helps the brain and body cope better with stress. That’s good news for people who work in high-pressure environments. So for me, the gym is a place to release physical energy to regain my mental energy.

Taking the time to work on myself after working with the children all day has improved my quality of life more than I would’ve ever guessed. My advice is to get through the struggle of the after-work blues / tiredness and find your way to exercise. After about a week of doing this regularly, it just becomes a part of my daily routine! If you struggle with the concept of taking the time to go to the gym, consider hiring an in-home personal trainer and let them bring the gym to you!

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anybody can start today and make a new ending.”

Honey For Your Health

Akron Honey Company x Full Scale Fitness

People often associate honey with Winnie the Pooh or Baloo the bear from The Jungle Book, but don’t typically think about the actual health value that comes with the golden sweetness! Granted, two big lazy bears don’t conjure up the best body images! So, we decided we would ask a local beekeeper and Akronite entrepreneur on the health benefits of honey.

A DELIGHTFUL DISCOVERY

Wesley is the owner of the Akron Honey Company (www.AkronHoney.com) and has established himself as one of the top honey-men in the Northeast Ohio area! Wesley has been responsibly raising honeybees in Akron, since 2013. What is unique to his story and company is that the beekeeping locations are residential and not countryside. His apiary sites are located right in the heart of Akron at Crestland Park, Highland Square (Saint Vincent Saint Mary) and Middlebury.

When we asked for some general information on the health of honey, Wesley stated, “When eaten, it has been known to assist in weight loss, boost energy and the immune system.  It also is excellent at soothing a sore throat, improving the digestive system, and has been known to assist in falling asleep faster and more easily, as well as soothe coughs.” This was supported via our registered dietitian, who informed us of honey having antioxidant, antimicrobial, and general soothing effects for those who partake in the consumption. Our RD also directed us towards the World Health Organization and American Academy of Pediatrics in showing that they recommend it as a natural cough remedy for those >1.5 years of age. Craving honey yet?

It turns out that it gets better as Wesley then added an additional area of wellness that we were not familiar with! There are topical application / wearable benefits of honey. Wesley informed us that, “When we use honey on our skin, the benefits are as equally stunning. It improves skin quality as a moisturizer and exfoliate, softener and soother, prevents wrinkles, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.” Straight from the keepers mouth!

Be sure to check out www.AkronHoney.com and support local Akron businesses! If you have any questions feel free to contact a personal trainer or our registered dietitian at [email protected] or Wesley at [email protected] We hope to hear from you soon!

Why Women Should Lift Weights

Why Women Shouldn't be Afraid to Lift Heavy

I am a 26 year old woman. I want to be strong and I want to be fit, but I don’t want to look like a man. Many women are under the impression that if they lift heavy that they will start to get muscles like a man. You look at the incredibly lucrative weight lifting champions who are women and you begin to think that you are going to look like that. I would like to begin by saying that at the moment I am afraid to lift heavy, because I am 5 months pregnant, and that’s the only time that women should really be avoiding heavy lifting. Other than that, women really shouldn’t be afraid to do some heavy lifting! I would love to explain why women shouldn’t be afraid to lift heavy.

You Won't Get "Bulky"

  1. You Won’t Look Like a Man: Let us first stop the myth that you will begin to look like a man if you start to lift heavy. News flash ladies, men and women are different. Men’s muscles show much easier and quicker than women. It is much easier for men to have sculpted arms, strong showing leg muscles and abs, way before women. We don’t have the same balance of hormones or testosterone so we won’t bulk like men. The women who you confuse as men because they are so HUGE are women who are using additional supplements to look like that.
  2. You Aren’t Going to Get Hurt: Stop being a girl about it! Was that too harsh? Look ladies, it’s 2017, the times in which you were afraid to do “tough things” is in the past. It’s the modern day where us women can do just as much as men. The gym is no longer the “man’s place” we must equally have our gender represented. Come on ladies! Buck up! You aren’t going to get hurt lifting weight unless you are doing it wrong. You might get sore, but embrace the soreness!!!
  3. Building Muscle Makes You Stronger: Well duh, of course building muscle makes you stronger! Building muscles is very important. Strengthening muscles can make you healthier, you will be less likely to get hurt when you do things active, you will live longer and the benefits of building muscle goes on and on. These benefits aren’t only for men, women need to build muscle too!
  4. Men DO like Sculpted Women: I am not saying we should only improve ourselves because you want to impress a man (don’t don things for your men…do things for yourself), but I know that I am always striving to look beautiful and sexy for my husband. And you know what? He loves strong women! I am not talking only about the women who stand up for themselves, but physically strong! Long ago are the days when guys want little super model bodies who look like Twiggy. They want strong women who can defend themselves if need be.
  5. Being a Strong Woman is Awesome: If you don’t believe any of these other reasons to lift heavy, then you should know that being a strong woman is totally awesome. You will be a total BOSS if you can flex and your muscles are stronger then the men around you! I remember when there was a live cam at a football game. It was a flex cam that was going around the audience and asking people to flex. They showed a guy who flexed and everybody laughed because he didn’t really have much there. The women next to him stood up and showed her arms. The girl was ripped and the whole crowed roared with applause! That was such a cool moment where the our country thinks it’s amazing that women are lifting weights just like the men.

Life-Styling | Not Dieting

There was a time when I wanted to have a lifestyle not dieting when I was trying to lose weight. I have tried and done it all!  Whether it was trying to do different types of diets, I tried cutting out all things sugar, I tried depriving myself of yummy food, I even tried unhealthy ways (just not eating). It’s not that I was never “fat” but I was never happy with my body. Being a three sport athlete, I still weighed 20-30 lbs heavier than my teammates and I had NO idea how they could be so small by eating worse than me and we exercised the exact same amount. When I went to college my lifestyle changed. I was no longer exercising like I was in high school. My sleeping schedule was horrible, I was sitting most of the time, and I couldn’t afford healthy food.

It's a lifestyle, not a diet.

In high school I was about 150 lbs and when I came home from my first semester of school I stood on the scale and I was 179 lbs! What?! How in the world did that even happen! Some people say Freshman 15, I was more like first semester freshman 30. It was CRAZY! I immediately joined weight watchers and I started working really hard. Even with my hard work,  I only lost 9 lbs! Something had to change! I finally threw everything out; tossing my recipe books, my food diary, I smashed my point calculator and I decided to do things differently.

By the end of it I had lost 50 lbs. and went from 180-130 in about 6 months. I know I had the benefit of only being 21 years old, but I also worked really hard to get there! How did I do that?

The Lifestyle Approach

  1. I found an exercise program that I enjoyed! I was tired of doing exercises and workouts that I hated and would dread. Who would be motivated to follow a routine that they hate? That is why I started my search for an online personal trainer who could write me workouts that I was able to do and more importantly, workouts that I enjoyed doing! This is how i stumbled upon Full Scale Fitness. After reviewing the company and what they stand for, I moved forward with online personal training. From there, they started me on a Phase 1 Program with my personal trainer and I loved every minute of it. This was almost like a reintroduction to exercise. Since then I have advanced into Phase 2 of my programming and I’m having great success.
  2. Meal sizes had to change! I ate until I was comfortable but I never over ate and that wasn’t always the case. Seeing food as fuel helped me eat things that I knew were healthy and good for me, but they weren’t so extreme. I didn’t just eat raw tuna and dry salad for each meal. Potatoes, bread and even cheese were a part of my diet! But I ate it all in smaller doses!
  3. If I was craving something, I would let myself have it. There were times where I wanted some McDonald’s French fries then I would go and get a small fry. Depriving myself from things that I loved made dieting almost impossible and when I would be around that food I would binge eat, because I hadn’t eaten it for so long. I lost WAY more weight by occasionally letting myself have a small craving (small being the important word).

  4.  

    Comfort eating was no longer a “thing” for me. It was hard to realize how much I was eating because I was sad, lonely or bored. I started really thinking about whether or not I was hungry or having emotions convincing me to eat. This was probably the most important development that I had to make!

  5.  

    Drinking more water was a necessity for me. It surprised me how often I was just thirsty instead of hungry. I started drinking 10 cups of water (yes I counted) each day and I would find myself not snacking as much. If I started feeling hungry, I would drink water and if I was still hungry then I knew that I was actually hungry and not just thirsty.

    Remember – It’s life-styling, not dieting! If you need help on your diet or getting your fitness in-line, give us a call! Check out our personal training options here: www.fullscalefit.com/services-all