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Setting and Keeping Health and Fitness Goals in 2017

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The New Year is right around the corner, and you may be starting to think about what kinds of goals and resolutions you want to set for 2017. It’s a common practice, but most people end up giving up on their resolutions at some point in the year, often as soon as February. It is possible to stick to health and fitness goals. Here are some tips for setting and keeping your New Year’s resolutions.

Set Attainable Goals

You’re much more likely to keep your resolutions if the goals you set are within your reach. They should still be a stretch, but should be something you can reasonably accomplish. Running a marathon by June when you’ve never even run a mile isn’t a reasonable or attainable goal. For example, running a 5K race is a great goal for a beginning runner.

Be Specific

“Get in shape,” “lose weight” and “eat healthy” are great goals to have, but difficult to stick to because they’re so vague. It’s hard to see the results because they aren’t specific enough. When setting goals, be really specific so you have a way to measure your success. For example, instead of eat healthier, try eating three vegetables a day or only eating sweets once a week. Instead of saying you want to get in shape, set a goal to lose ten pounds or work out five days a week.

Create Mini Goals

A year is a long time to wait to see results. By setting mini goals throughout the year, you’ll have a quantifiable way to measure your results and see how far you’ve come. If you want to run a 10K race by the end of the year, maybe you set mini goals to run a mile without stopping by March, run a 5K over the summer and do a 10K before Christmas.

Write Them Down

There’s something about physically writing down a goal that makes it a little easier to accomplish. You can put into words exactly what you want to do, and create a plan for how you’re going to do it. Getting specific and setting mini goals will help with that plan. You should also post your goals in a prominent place so that you see them all the time. That will help you stay motivated to keep going.

Find Your Motives

When it comes to health and fitness goals, it’s not enough to just want to do something. Consider what your motives are. If you just want to look good, that’s often not enough of a reason for most people to stick to a strict diet and exercise regimen. Figure out the deeper reason—you want to feel better about yourself, have more energy or live a long time for your kids and family. Maybe you want to be able to take a dream hiking vacation or play with your grandkids. Figure out your motive and let it be the driving force throughout the year.

Reward Yourself

While you should definitely reward yourself when you reach your big goal, you should give yourself small rewards throughout the year, too. If you finish that 5K race in the summer, treat yourself to a new pair of running shoes. It doesn’t have to be fitness related—you can see a movie, go to a spa or take a weekend vacation.

What to Look For in a Personal Trainer

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You’ve decided that you want to seriously improve your fitness. Whether you’re a fitness fanatic looking to step your game up or a newbie trying to get in shape for the first time, a personal trainer can work with you to help you reach your goals. They work with you to create a personalized plan, push you through tough workouts and help you with your form so you don’t get hurt. Still, a personal trainer can be a big expense, so you want to make sure that you’re hiring the right person for you. Here’s what to look for in a personal trainer and some things to consider before taking the plunge.

Credentials

First thing’s first—a trainer should be able to show you their qualifications. In the age of the Internet, it’s very easily to get a certification online with minimal training as long as you’re willing to pay. Make sure that they’ve passed an exam and received their certification through an accredited organization such as The American Council on Exercise (ACE), the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) or the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).

Experience

A trainer with more experience who can show you proven results from other clients will likely be able to help you reach your goals. Keep in mind that there are plenty of great, new personal trainers out there, so experience isn’t everything. Plus, a more experienced or in-demand trainer may cost more than someone who’s just starting out.

Personality

You want to make sure that the trainer’s personality is compatible with yours, and that they’re coaching style matches your training style. If you need encouragement and positivity, a trainer who shouts, insults you and acts like an army general might not be for you. If your personalities don’t mesh, you may wind up quitting. See if you can do a trial session before committing.

Exercise Philosophy

The way your trainer sees exercise should match your personal workout style. Is the program going to be mostly indoors at the gym, or can you do the workouts outside? Do they place a heavier emphasis on cardio or on building strength? Make sure their exercise philosophy matches your personal style and aligns with your goals.

Availability

If you want to hire a popular trainer, they may be very busy with other clients. If you’re dedicated and disciplined enough to stick to your program even when your trainer isn’t there, you might be okay meeting once a week or even less. You’ll also need to consider whether he’ll be able to meet at different times, or whether you’ll have to schedule appointments weeks in advance.

Cost

Personal trainers can be expensive. You’ll need to look at what you can reasonably afford. Remember that this is usually an additional cost on top of a gym membership or equipment. Even if you can’t afford regular one-on-one sessions, some trainers offer group sessions or even packages that come at a discounted price.

Patience

This is probably the most important thing to look for in a personal trainer. There will be times when you don’t work as hard as your trainer would like, don’t follow his advice or don’t do everything in your program. A trainer who can be patient with you as you work to reach new goals will help you get the results you want. 

Basics of Gym Etiquette

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Your gym probably has a set of rules that you need to follow—always wear shoes, no running on the gym floor, and return weights to their racks. But there are lots of unwritten, unofficial rules that gym goers follow. If you’re new to the gym, it can be confusing trying to figure out how to behave and what unspoken rules you should be following. Here are the basics of gym etiquette

Wipe Down Machines

If you’re getting a decent workout, there’s a good chance that you’ll work up a sweat. You leave sweat behind on benches, weights, handles and machines. You should wipe down the machines when you’re done using them so they’re clean for the next person. Most gyms have sanitizing wipes you can use. You may also want to wipe down equipment before you use it, just in case.

Use Headphones

Just because you love blasting Taylor Swift while you run, but that doesn’t mean that everyone else wants to listen to pop-country ballads. Use headphones while you’re working out so you don’t disturb the people around you. There are plenty of gym-specific styles that will make working out with headphones more comfortable.

Don’t Hog Equipment

You gym has a limited amount of space and equipment, and certain times of the day or year are going to get very busy. If there’s a line for the treadmills, don’t use them for an hour while people are waiting. Stick to thirty minutes maximum on cardio machines. When you’re resting between sets on weight machines, don’t just sit on the machine so no one else can use it. Let another person get their reps in while you recover, then switch off.

Get Off the Phone

Talking loudly on the phone on the gym floor is a big faux pas. No one needs to hear about your issues with your mom or the sordid details of your night out last night. Save the chitchat for your car ride home.

Give Some Space

When you’re working out, it’s nice to have a little bit of space and breathing room. If there are ten open ellipticals, there’s no reason to get on the one right next to the only person using them. Give people a little space and you’ll have more privacy, too.

Don’t Treat the Locker Room Like Your Bathroom

The gym locker room is not your home bathroom. You don’t need to be grooming excessively, taking long showers or engaging in any other more personal habits. You also don’t need to be hanging out completely nude and letting it all hang out. You may be comfortable chilling in your birthday suit, but that doesn’t mean everyone else is.

Use the Mirrors Appropriately

Gym mirrors are not for applying lip-gloss or taking gym selfies. They are there so that people can watch themselves while lifting to make sure that they’re keeping proper form. Don’t take up space in the mirror or walk right in front of someone who’s using it correctly. Leave the preening and admiring for your mirror at home.

How to Build Your Own Home Gym

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It’s a fitness enthusiast’s dream to have their own home gym full of fancy equipment, and maybe even a personal trainer who comes right to your house. No more membership fees, driving through traffic, waiting in line for machines or dealing with obnoxious and rude gym-goers (you know the type). Thankfully you don’t need to spend a fortune or have a mansion to create a quality home gym. Here are some basics you’ll need to get your home gym started.

Mats

You don’t want to work out on a hard floor. Get some mats that you can put down while you’re exercising. You can spring for fancy or thick gym mats, but a couple of yoga mats will work fine, too. Plus, you can roll them up and stash them.

Hand Weights

Hand weights ranging from about 5 to 25 lbs. are probably good for most average fitness enthusiasts, though you can certainly adjust to your needs. Have at least three different weights for different exercises, since you may have to use heavier or lighter weights depending on your strength. 

Resistance Bands

Resistance bands are perfect for strength training and don’t take up a lot of space. You can use them to work your arms, chest, back, glutes and thighs. They’re also great to take with you if you’re traveling.

Stability Ball

Though these take up a little more space than the other items on this list so far, they’re worth it. A stability ball can help you work your core in a variety of ways. Plus they’ll make basic sit ups a lot harder. You can also use them to strengthen your glutes, back and hamstrings.

Jump Rope

While we would all love to be able to fit a treadmill or stationary bike in our homes, it’s not realistic for most people. Jumping rope is a great cardiovascular exercise that requires very little time or space. Just ten minutes of jumping can burn up to 200 calories while strengthening your arms, legs and core. Get a weighted rope for added difficulty.

Pull Up Bar

A pull up bar can be used for so much more than those standard, gym class pull ups. You can work your biceps, triceps, shoulders, chest, back and abs using one bar. There are plenty of ones you can buy that hang easily over a door, or you could even build one yourself.

Stopwatch or Timer

Since you won’t have the ease of the clocks or timers at the gym, you’ll want to make sure you have a way to keep track of how long you’re doing each exercise. This is especially important if you’re doing interval training (which is perfect for home gyms).

Electronics

If you want to get fancy, adding electronics to your home gym will make it a lot more fun. Playing music while you’re exercising keeps you motivated, and since you’re at home you don’t even need headphones. If you like to do workout DVDs, putting a TV and DVD player in the room will make it a lot easier since your equipment is already there.

Of course, you can always select the best equipment for your own personal needs and preferences, and even expand if you have the money and space. We have tons of equipment reviews right here on our site form experts who have tried hundreds of different machines and equipment.

Relax the Calf: Self Myofascial Release Techniques for Your Calves

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While foam rolling can be a quick and easy way to break up myofascial restrictions, decrease pain and increase range of motion in most areas of the body, the calves are a particularly tricky area to access alone with a foam roller.  Generally, foam rolling guides will tell you to sit on the ground with your legs outstretched, cross your legs at the ankles, and lay the calf of your bottom  legs across the foam roller, while using your arms to lift your hips off the ground, in an effort to put as much downward pressure into your lower legs as possible, hoping to transfer that pressure into the foam roller and achieve results in your calves.  There are, however, several problems with this method.

First of all, it defies basic physics.  Physics tells us that with a long lever arm, such as the full length of your legs, the more muscular effort you’ll have to put into the foam roller to see results.  When you sit your hips on a foam roller, you’re mostly using the force of gravity to apply pressure.  As you move further down the leg, gravity helps less, and your own muscular energy has to make up the difference.

Second, while large foam rollers are great as a generalized tool for large muscle groups, there are more than a dozen tiny muscles that make up the calf, each crossing the ankle and holding your body stable on unstable surfaces.  The larger more superficial muscles that make up the general shape of your calves and fuse into your Achilles tendon may get generalized relief from standard foam rolling practices, but to really impact your ankle mobility and break up fascial adhesion, you’ll need to work a little bit more specifically to see results.

Prepping Your Calves

To get the most out of your self myofascial work, it helps to prep your calves with gentle stretching.  While there are 12 separate muscles in your calf that cross the ankle joint to help stabilize and propel your movements, the two largest and most superficial are gastrocnemius and soleus. 

Gastrocnemius originates above the knee, and forms the thickest part of your upper calf before tapering into the Achilles tendon and crossing the ankle.  Since it’s a two joint muscle, the best stretch is achieved with a straight knee and a flexed ankle, such as in warrior one pose in yoga.

Soleus is a single joint muscle that starts toward the top of your lower leg, below your knee, and also fuses into the Achilles tendon.  It makes up the bulk of the muscle in your lower leg, below what is normally thought of as the calf bulge.  To target this muscle, stretch with a bent knee by flexing at the ankle with your knee bent to take the stretch off gastrocnemius and allow soleus to get the attention.

Reversing the Force

So we’ve already covered why your body weight isn’t particularly effective at generating pressure for the calves on a foam roller.  What if you switched roles, and left your body as the stationary object, using your roller to apply the downward force. 

Sitting up on your knees, with your shins and the tops of your feet on the floor, place the foam roller across the back of your calves.  Engage your core, and reach your hands behind you until your resting your palms on the foam roller.  Using your upper body as the weight, you can slowly work on your calves.

This strategy is still using your body weight, but much more efficiently.  However, it’s still using a large generalized tool, a general purpose foam roller, which is much better suited to large muscles or broad areas.  To target specific areas, you’ll need something smaller.

Using a Bar Bell

Using a standard Olympic bar, you can passively apply force without the strain (and flexibility requirements in your psoas) of leaning your body backward to apply body weight force.  Take a Olympic bar and lay it on the floor near you while you get into position, still on your knees with your shins and feet on the floor.  Lift one end of the bar bell and place it on top of your calves, allowing your body to adjust to the pressure. 

Slowly move the bar bell up and down your calves, one calf at a time, pausing at any troublesome spots.  Roll your calves and feet inward and outward to access lateral muscles.  For more targeted work, slid up further onto the bar so that the part in contact with your calf is the narrow grip portion. 

Be sure to work within your comfort level, and work up to longer sessions to avoid bruising or damaging tissues.