physical fitness

Beating Back the Couch Monster

Get out and be active today! Remember, it takes less than 25 minutes of moderate intensity exercise (i.e. brisk walking) a day to improve your aerobic health. Don’t let the couch monster prevent you from being healthy. The Real Housewives of Orange County marathon will still be on after your workout, trust me. Make time for your fitness today, it’s worth it (Photo & quote courtesy of fitbie.com).

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The new anxiety medicine: Exercise

Last year, my father made the decision to retire from his job after 37 years of service. I was very happy to hear he was retiring because I had a good idea of how physically and mentally demanding his job was. My happiness quickly turned to surprise when I heard that he was updating his resume shortly after his last day at work . As demanding as his job was, I wondered why he wanted to continue to work. Did performing manual labor for at least 8 hours a day bring him some degree of pleasure? As odd as that question may sound to people of my generation, science suggests that the answer is yes.

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The benefits of engaging in physical activity on a regular basis include:

  • Reduced risk of developing a chronic disease (diabetes, hypertension, etc.)
  • The release of endorphins, which block pain signals to the brain and produce happy feelings
  • Lower tension levels
  • Elevated and stabilized mood
  • Better sleep
  • Better self-esteem

Exercise has even been shown to have comparable results to that of prescription medication in the treatment of individuals diagnosed with depression. Even with all this data, less than half of American adults perform 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity physical activity (i.e. walking) per week. I believe the lack of physical activity is a major contributing factor to the 40 million American adults who have been diagnosed with anxiety related disorders. Personally, the period of my life that was filled with the most anxiety coincided with a lack of physical activity.

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As I mentioned in the initial post on Elementaltampa.com when I completed my undergraduate program and entered the workforce, being physically active was not high on my priority list. I had earned a degree, I had obtained a job, but beyond that my life consisted of sitting on the couch watching TV or playing video games. I quickly became overweight and my self esteem rapidly deteriorated. I do not remember what specific event compelled me to attend my first martial arts class, but I know since then I have become much more proficient at dealing with anxiety. I truly believe developing a daily routine that includes a portion dedicated to physical activity has allowed me to excel both professionally and personally.

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This post is meant to highlight the benefits being physically active can have on individuals dealing with anxiety and stress. It is NOT a post disparaging the use of prescription medication by individuals suffering from anxiety related disorders. I certainly understand and appreciate the need for these types of prescription medication. I am someone who at a young age received professional help to learn how to cope with stress. I did not to need medication but I know not everyone with issues similar to mine are as fortunate. Regardless if you are taking medication for anxiety related disorders or not, it is my belief that incorporating physical activity into your daily life will improve you physically and mentally.

If my Dad is reading this, you were right. Hard work does pay off, in more ways than you think.

 

The Community is a Reality

This past Sunday was the first time in a long time that I would describe the weather here in Tampa as truly enjoyable. Temps were in the low 70s, humidity was essentially nonexistent, and there wasn’t a cloud in sight. The setting for the first Elemental Training Tampa (ETT) group class was almost too good to be true. I set up the mats while Shannon wrote out the day’s workout on the whiteboard. The post workout snacks were arranged on the table and the soundtrack for the class was pumping – I believe it was the 80’s cardio station (which ended up being pretty popular). We were visually prepared, but right before the class participants arrived a thought crept into my mind that made me wonder if I was mentally prepared. The thought was, “Can I do this?”

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I have taught fitness classes in the past where I was frequently responsible for creating the exercise format for the class. What I had planned for Sunday was nothing I hadn’t done before, but in a way it was. In the past I was simply an instructor representing a larger entity, but on Sunday I was representing myself and my creation, ETT. If I was unable to provide an engaging workout and/or atmosphere, it would certainly hurt future interest and the word of mouth I was relying so heavily on would most likely be less than complimentary. The pressure that I created for myself was a little unnerving, but the feeling only lasted a moment, because I suddenly remembered something: diamonds are only made under constant pressure. Once I came to that realization, I essentially welcomed the feeling of pressure because I knew it would help motivate me to create and lead excellent group workouts. These feelings all took place over the span of 10-20 seconds, and the thought of, “Can I do this?” quickly changed to, “I am going to do this.”

Soon after my little mental epiphany, the class participants began to arrive. Before long I had eight individuals standing in a single-file line facing me waiting for instructions. An hour of class flew by in a blink of an eye. I’m sure I flubbed some words, spoke a little too quickly, and my voice definitely cracked like a 13-year old boy at least twice, but I knew that I had led a great workout. After the training session ended, everyone grabbed some healthy snacks and began chatting with each other about the class they just completed, other workouts they had performed, races they were going to take part in and other fitness related topics. When I saw that, I knew that ETT no longer existed only online. The fitness community that I had been hoping to create was coming to life right in front of me.

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The feedback about the first ETT workout has been extremely positive and given me some good ideas for future ETT workouts. The next ETT group training session will be held on October 19th. Check out ETT on Facebook for more details. HIT IT!

Sugar: Friend or Foe?

Before I started doing any research on how to eat healthy, I frequently heard that eating sugary foods would make you gain weight. At my house growing up, treats like donuts, ice cream, and my mom’s famous peanut butter cookies were reserved for special occasions. Luckily for me, grandma’s house did not have the same rules. As I got older, the fear of sugary foods began to extend to items like potatoes, bread and even fruit. Fortunately, my PT certification and subsequent research has educated me on the role sugar plays in our diet. I’ve discovered that sugary foods may not be as bad as some individuals have made them out to be. Please do not assume that the rest of this blog will justify the consumption of foods high in processed sugars (i.e. birthday cakes, cronuts, milkshakes, etc.). Instead, I will simply explain the different types of sugars and the role sugar plays in our body.

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Some people may not know that sugars are nutritionally classified as carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are broken down by the body to provide its preferred source of energy, glucose. Carbohydrates can be simple or complex. Simple carbohydrates are a single sugar molecule (monosaccharide) or two sugar molecules (disaccharide) bonded together. These “simple” structures are easily broken down by the body and are quickly made available to fuel immediate cellular functions. A few examples of food sources that contain simple carbohydrates are:

  • Raisins (glucose)
  • Bananas (fructose)
  • Honey (galactose)
  • Pure maple sugar (sucrose)
  • Milk (lactose)
  • Barley (maltose)

The major source of simple carbohydrates in Americans’ diet is sucrose in the form of added sugar. Unfortunately, besides providing energy for immediate physical activity, this form of simple carbohydrate provides no other nutritional value. The lack of nutritional value is most likely the reason why organizations like the American Heart Association recommend complex carbohydrates over simple carbohydrates.

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Complex carbohydrates are made up of three or more sugar molecules known as polysaccharides, and are usually higher in vitamins and minerals than simple carbohydrates. It takes the body longer to break down complex carbohydrates which means they provide a more sustained source of fuel for metabolic activities. Complex carbs also contain fiber which helps control cholesterol and glucose levels and aids in digestion. Some examples of whole food items that contain complex carbs include:

  • sweet potatoes
  • kale
  • oatmeal
  • spinach
  • whole grain bread
  • pinto beans

Eating complex carbs in the form of whole food items helps you feel full quicker and longer, meaning you eat less over the duration of a day.

It appears that complex carbs are nutritionally superior to simple carbs, so why would a person ever eat simple carbs? As previously mentioned, simple carbs are a great source of quick energy a person can use to help get them through a short duration high intensity workout. Also, there are simple carb sources that can be ingested during long duration endurance activities that are designed to provide fuel while not causing stomach discomfort. If I’m running a marathon, I’d much rather have an energy gel than an apple during the race.

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I hope this blog did more to educate than confuse. I am certainly no nutritionist nor a dietitian, but I feel I can say with confidence that not all sugary foods are inherently fattening. Don’t get me wrong, I am a proponent of rewarding oneself with some “junk” food (unless you have a specific dietary restriction) every once in a blue moon. But I feel the recipe for maintaining a healthy body is ingesting the vast majority of your simple and complex carbs in the form of whole foods while leading a physically active lifestyle. Eat your PB&J on whole grain bread then get out there and get active, because your health is worth it. HIT IT!

The Inception of Elemental Training Tampa

fatfaceSimilar to many people my age, I grew up participating in organized sports and playing outside for fun. This trend of staying physically active continued into high school and college thanks to intramural and club sports that did not discriminate against someone with average athletic ability. Unfortunately, once I graduated from college and opportunities to stay physically active were not as readily available, my physical health and state of mind started to suffer. I was less active, eating poorly, and participating in other unhealthy vices. I was in the worst shape of my life.

Determined to change myself, I walked into a local martial arts school with the hope of regaining my physically active lifestyle. Not only did I regain my former lifestyle, but I learned something that I could never have learned simply lifting weights at a gym.

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Jeff Morris Photography

Studying different facets of various martial arts was both physically and mentally engaging, but the striking arts provided something that I had never experienced before. Punching focus mitts, kicking heavy bags, and knee-striking Thai pads not only improved my physical fitness, but also boosted my confidence, lowered my stress level, and gave me a sense of accomplishment like no other exercise regimen. The benefits that incorporating striking exercises into a complementary training program can provide ANYONE has led me to create Elemental Training Tampa (ETT). The purpose of ETT is to create training programs that combine basic striking techniques with a variety of plyometric, resistance, and core exercises to help individuals reach their fitness goals. This blog will provide ETT workouts that anyone can perform in the comfort of their home along with posts about nutrition, public fitness venues, and eventually information about weekly FREE group ETT classes. Even though striking is often referred to as a science, it’s my mission to help people master the essentials so they can take ownership of their fitness. HIT IT!