"These fit fine yesterday": get your jeans to fit every day. Curb the many causes of abdominal bloating with these deflating strategies
Muscle & Fitness/Hers, April-May, 2002 by Lisa Mulcahy
So here you are, feeling bigger than that girl who turned into a giant, swollen blueberry in the movie "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory." Many women can relate to the discomfort that bloating can bring, whether caused by PMS, what we eat or drink or the effects of stress. The good news: You don't have to grin and bear it. You can beat the bloat through understanding how it occurs, then figuring out how to prevent or alleviate it through smart nutritional, physical and supplemental solutions.
Life: Crunch time
MPG Newspapers, by Ashley Varese
When the clock strikes midnight on New Year's Eve, thoughts of new beginnings spring to mind. The idea of a fresh start encourages people to set goals for the next 12 months. Whether you want to spend more time with the family, accomplish more at work or even become more organized, the New Year is a time to say goodbye to old habits and pick up new ones.
Ten ways to fight fitness fears
Vibrant Life, January-February, 2003 by by Kendra Cordero
If you haven't joined the health club craze ... it's time! Health clubs are not like the ones of the past. The new and improved clubs offer the latest in equipment and health information, activities from rock climbing to spinning, and even after-workout massages. Even with all the benefits, first-time members usually feel some degree of anxiety. There's a tendency for new members to walk into their first workout with the realization that they don't have a clue as to what is going on. Well, help is on the way!.
Coping with sports injuries
AHF, February-March & April-May, 2005 by Lisa Mulcahy
Sprain or strain a muscle? Here's everything you need to know in order to heal the right way.
This morning, you were enjoying a brisk winter jog - until you hit that patch of black ice, Now your twisted ankle is exploding with pain, What should you do? Well, first of ail, don't panic The good news is that your particular workout injury is extremely common, and can easily be understood, treated and rehabbed properly.
This two-part series will examine a variety of frequent sports injuries using solid medical information, safe, alternate exercise activities (so you don't have to give up carclio or strength training while you heal), and clear, concise advice on how to prevent re-injury in the future.
"These fit fine yesterday" (cont.)
What Causes Inflation?
Fluid retention in women is frequently due to the hormonal changes that happen right before your period arrives. Bethany Hays, MD, medical director for True North: A Center For Health and Healing in Falmouth, Maine, explains: "There are brain hormones and brain chemicals that affect the gut; estrogen and progesterone are actually brain chemicals. They affect the brain and nervous system, and have an effect on the motility, or movement, of the gut. So a lot of women will have bloating in the premenstrual phase of their cycle."
Abdominal fullness or distention is often accompanied by gas. "Bloating really just means that a person feels abdominal gas," notes Lin Chang, MD, of the UCLACURE Neurenteric Disease Program. "The feeling of being bloated can come from several possibilities. The first is that you just produce more gas; that's usually dietary. The second is that the transit time, or the time it takes for gas to go through the intestine, is slowed. Medical conditions that can cause this include chronic constipation, irritable bowel syndrome and motility disorders, where the intestinal muscle doesn't work as well -- from nerve damage, nerve dysfunction or muscle dysfunction. The third is an enhanced sensitivity or perception to gas: You don't necessarily have more gas, but your perception of it is more bothersome and increased."
Sometimes bloating is simply due to dietary changes, a laxative or a lot of fiber says Chang. But it can also be associated with a more serious condition, so if it just won't go away, especially if you're older, see your doctor.
"In a woman who gets bloated only on occasion, it maybe related, to the food she eats," Chang states. "If bloating is caused by food, it's usually due to something like fruits and vegetables. Those will get fermented and make a lot of gas." Such foods include apples, broccoli, foods and fatty foods (like bacon, sausage and oils). Diets that include protein powders and bars can also cause bloating. The artificial sweetener sorbitol, found in some sugarless gums and candies, can contribute to bloating, as can the consumption of alcohol, caffeine and even nicotine. "Also avoid dairy products that contain lactose -- milk sugar -- if they seem to worsen your bloating symptoms," recommends Donna Madonia, a nutritional chef, certified personal trainer/aerobic instructor and the owner of Dynamic Training at Old Iron Gym in Wareham, Massachusetts.
Sodium can be another major bugaboo when it comes to bloat. Althea Zanecosky, spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, explains that sodium consumption contributes to the amount of water your body stores, and that in turn can make you experience bloat. "What you want to do is reduce the sodium-to-water ratio, but this can be hard if you have cravings premenstrually,". she warns.
Deflating Strategy: "Drink more water!" Zanecosky advises. "If you're retaining water, it may seem contrary to drink even more. But you want to crank up your kidney action" to reduce the salt that's making you hold fluid. Excessive diet-soda drinking isn't the ticket either This no-cal fluid usually contains caffeine that may exacerbate your bloating. She also suggests easing up on carbs. "Up your protein the week before, your period. When you eat high carbs, it does store water. If you have sweet cravings, suck on a Tootsie pop, which takes a long time to eat."
When Your Intestines Have Issues
Sometimes, intestinal difficulties and disorders cause bloating. Common constipation, for instance, caused by changes in your diet or physical activity, not drinking enough fluids, chronic use of laxatives or even psychological depression, can give you a bloated feeling.
Irritable bowel syndrome occurs when the speed at which your intestinal muscles contract becomes either too slow or too fast. Bloating and a gassy sensation are among its symptoms. Delayed stomach emptying, or gastroparesis, is another ailment caused by poor muscle functioning (because of which your stomach can't empty itself properly); again, bloating is a symptom.
Deflating Strategy: Madonia says of the clients she trains: "I find when women are bloated they feel sluggish and uncomfortable, and don't feel like exercising. But the best thing to do can be to exercise! Go for a brisk walk or take an aerobics class. This will help move gas through your body. The exercise will also release endorphins and relieve feelings of tension.
Don't overdo if you're feeling really gross, but don't completely lie around like a slug. Do something, even if it's a bit lighter than your normal workout. "Bottom line is, getting any kind of exercise will help keep your body processing foods and will make you feel much better," notes Madonia.
Problems With PMS
The role of hormones in terms of PMS-related bloating can't be underestimated. It can help to get a grasp on exactly which hormones are giving you a hard time in this area, and how they're doing it. PMS symptoms can be due to an excess of estrogen or a deficient amount of progesterone, endorphin withdrawal within the brain, or a faulty metabolism of prostaglandin. When things go haywire with any or all of the above hormones, as will happen tight before your period, your brain chemistry shifts. "Your hormones change, your brain changes," says Hays. "Your brain says, 'I don't feel good. I need sugar' So you start eating chocolate, and basically what you're doing is adjusting your brain chemistry. But unfortunately, now you're throwing a lot of sugar into your gastrointestinal tract, where your yeast has a heyday with it." Before you know it, bam! You're bloated.
Essentially, PMS-related bloating and water retention is caused by an imbalance in your body's ability to transfer fluid. If you're using the Pill, you might retain fluid and bloat. Birth-control pills containing estrogen can alter your body's water metabolism, usually starting the first month you take them, as a result of an increase in sodium. You may find your ankles are swollen, your breasts are tender and you've gained up to 5 pounds. Even your contact lenses fit uncomfortably. Switching to a low-level progestin or estrogen pill and, watching your salt intake may provide relief.
Deflating Strategy: A few studies have been published regarding which supplemental agents might help reduce bloating. A recent one, noted in the Journal of Women's Health, found that 200 mg of magnesium per day reduced fluid retention, bloating and breast discomfort in PMS sufferers by 40%.
Hays suggests that fish oil might reduce fluid retention, too. "About 99% of Americans are depleted in the omega-3 fats, so it's a pretty safe recommendation," she says -- unless you're taking platelet inhibitors, which could pose a danger. "Some of those women who say, 'I gain 5 pounds every month before my period, then have my period and it goes away,' may be helped by over-the-counter preparations that act as prostaglandin inhibitors."
Be wary of over-the-counter diuretics, which can deplete the body of potassium and/or cause additional problems.
"I strongly believe that stress is associated with fairly chronic gastrointestinal symptoms," states Chang. "This whole relation between the brain, the gut, the mind and the body is becoming more studied and more accepted, especially in these types of functional symptoms -- functional meaning we can't really see an anatomic or organic factor or test that shows you have more bloating; it's more that a person just feels it."
She continues; "For a chronic condition like irritable bowel syndrome, even early-life stress can play a role in later life. It makes an individual more vulnerable to developing functional symptoms. Then there can be a stressor, whether it's physical or psychological, that can lead to the exacerbation or onset of these symptoms."
Probably the hardest aspect is a person having the insight to make the connection between the stress in her life and her symptoms. "Once you've established that, you have to address that issue," Chang points out. "Many times that's difficult for people to do. If it's because you're working too hard, you'd have to adjust your schedule, and know that. stress is affecting your body and causing physical symptoms."
Deflating Strategy: Try to identify what might be causing anxiety in your life. For many people troubled by bloating, simply staking out a stress-free zone may help. "That can be quitting your job or getting divorced, or it can be something less radical, like meditating or going running," Hays suggests. Try to relax, first and foremost. Chang also notes that behavioral therapies like deep breathing, meditation and even hypnosis are self-help treatments that readers might try and might want to take instruction in how to do them correctly.
Soon, your jeans could be zipping up with ease, the day will look a lot brighter--and you'll have beaten that bloat!
- Lisa Mulcahy is a multimedia writer whose additional magazine credits include Glamour, Marie Claire, Seventeen and Girl's Life. She's also a screenwriter and an Off-Broadway playwright. Allworth Press will publish her forthcoming book.
- COPYRIGHT 2002 Weider Publications. COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group.
Ten ways to fight fitness fears (cont.)
"Do I Have to Wear That?"
Nothing is worse that the thought of wading through a mass of spandex and muscle shirts in your oversized sweat suit. Make sure that what you are wearing is comfortable and conducive to body movement. Find a comfortable pair of loose shorts and a T-shirt. Also, don't be afraid of spandex. It's great to wear under your shorts so that you will be able to use all of the equipment while maintaining your modesty. Remember, it's a workout, not a fashion show!
Sweatin' to the Oldies
Invest in a Walkman. Thirty minutes on the treadmill can be torture if you are bombarded with heavy-metal muscle music, and at the same time, Anne Murray isn't going to help you bench-press 250 pounds. It's impossible for a club to please such a wide variety of members, so instead of plugging your ears, it may help to pick your own music.
"Help ... Security!"
Just as in any other place, theft can be a problem. Leave your wallet and anything of value at home or locked in your trunk.
The Dreaded Cottonmouth
Dehydration is a serious problem that can sneak up on you. Even if you don't feel thirsty, your muscles are. Bring a squirt bottle full of water to each workout. Be sure to drink a full glass of water an hour before your workout, continue taking small amounts throughout, and drink a large amount at the completion of your workout to replenish your body.
Don't Be Afraid
Have you seen some of the equipment coming out these days? Every club has trainers who will show you how to use the equipment. Don't try to figure it out on your own. Also, don't be afraid to ask a second time. Trainers are very understanding about the anxieties of new members.
Join a Class
Most aerobics classes can be joined at any time. Ask for a description of the classes and just jump in. If you're a beginner, be sure to let the aerobics instructor know so they can give you some extra tips that will help you in class.
"I Weigh What?"
Stay away from scales and pay attention to how your clothes fit. Weight can fluctuate by as much as five pounds from day to day ... even more if you are weighing at different times of the day.
Ready for a Splash?
After a long workout, a dip in the pool or a refreshing shower is a great idea. One problem ... no towel. The best thing is to always bring your own. Even if your club provides towels, most of them wouldn't even fit around your leg.
Take Time to Read Signs!
Most clubs post signs with information ranging from canceled classes to upcoming events. If you don't read, you may be missing out and not even know it.
Have a positive attitude. Make sure you are joining a club for you, and take advantage of everything it has to offer.
- Kendra Cordero writes from Keene, Texas.
- COPYRIGHT 2003 Review and Herald Publishing Association. COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group
Be all that you can be (cont.)
* SIT-UPS (which strengthen the abdominal muscles and provide support for the internal organs and back): Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground a comfortable distance from your body. Hold your abs in tight, keeping your lower back and torso in a neutral spine position. Place your hands behind your head and do a curl, bringing your head, shoulders, and rib cage up and forward in a slow controlled motion. Now return to your starting position without dropping your head and shoulders to the ground. Make sure you maintain a consistent, moderate contraction of the abs as you repeat each sit-up.
* PUSH-UPS (which strengthen the muscles of the chest and arms): Position your hands so that they are the width of your shoulders or slightly outside shoulder width apart. Keep your hand placement very straight; hands should be positioned slightly forward of your shoulders.
Don't lock your elbows; keep your head in line with the spine. Separate your legs so as to evenly distribute your body weight between your arms, legs, and upper torso. Perform your push-up using a smooth motion, leading with your chest. If you're a beginner, feel free to use a tree or park bench to push against.
Intermediate exercisers may perform push-ups on the knees. Advanced athletes should be able to do a straight-leg push-up.
* SQUATS (which strengthen the buttocks, the quadricep muscles at the front of the leg, and the hamstring muscles at the back of the leg): If you're new to squats, holding on to a park bench or tree can help until your legs strengthen and you become more accustomed to the movement. Place your feet shoulder width apart, keeping knees and toes facing forward and in the same direction. Position your body weight in heels, not toes. Contract your abs, holding your rib cage and shoulders back and relaxed. Squat by lowering your torso until thighs are just about parallel to the floor, using a controlled motion. Don't drop your hips below your knees (keep the image of sitting in a chair in mind instead).
During the lowering phase of a squat, your tailbone should point to the rear as an extension of your spine; you should not arch your back. To finish the exercise, straighten your legs without locking your knees.
* SQUAT THRUSTS (variation): This exercise takes the same basic form as a squat. The difference is that you hop off the ground on your way back up from the squat position, heel first, then rolling on your toes as you ascend into the air.
* CHIN-UPS (which strengthen arms and back, and boost upper body strength): Using an underhand grip, and keeping your arms shoulder width apart, pull your body up with your chin to the secured bar you are using. Descend slowly.
- Lisa Mulcahy is a writer who lives in Fitchburg, Massachusetts.
- COPYRIGHT 2003 Review and Herald Publishing Association. COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group
Basic training: it's no wonder that boot camp survivors look and feel so lean, fit, and healthy. Simple commonsense exercises, as practiced by the military, really get the job done—and can work for you, too!
Vibrant Life, January-February, 2003 by Lisa Mulcahy
Sound off! One, two, four, That's right, soldier. I'm talking to you--yes, you, couch potato! Do you have any idea how pitifully pudgy you're getting as you spend yet another evening slumped in front of Everybody Loves Raymond, stuffing your face with fatty chips and tossing back sugary sodas? Change your life! Get up off that sofa, drop, and do 10 push-ups pronto!"
Be all that you can be: essential tips for executing boot camp exercise
by Lisa Mulcahy
There's a right way and a wrong way to do a sit-up. In order to get the most out of your workout, Donna Madonia offers some solid advice to properly put you through your paces.
Basic training (cont.)
Have we gotten your attention? OK, so we at Vibrant Life aren't slave-driving drill sergeants. Still, there's no doubt that a basic training routine is a great way to firm up your body quickly and effectively. New recruits to the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines are immediately plunged into a practical, tough workout regimen from day one. Such military training is meant to prepare participants for the ultimate challenge of warfare by whipping their bodies into the best shape possible. Push-ups, chin-ups, squats, repetitive running, and more--doesn't it all sound too hard to master? Think again! No matter what fitness level you're currently at, a straightforward, no-frills routine can get you into top shape and can be done easily on your own without any special equipment.
"Going back to the basics will increase your overall fitness and energy level, improve bone density and strength, and increase endorphins," explains Donna Madonia, a certified personal trainer/aerobic instructor and the owner of Dynamic Training in Wareham, Massachusetts. Read on to learn about the roots and specifics of basic training exercises and then understand how this ideology can be adapted for lower-impact workouts at the beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels.
Where Basic Training Begins
To properly implement a basic training regimen into your life, it's important to have an understanding of this fitness philosophy's core essentials. Historically, military boot camp gave birth to the concept of basic training. Boot camp exercises are chosen to build strength and total body conditioning through repetition, duration, and gradual intensity. A typical day of full basic training in the U.S. Army consists of eight and a half hours of physical training, consisting mostly of exercise drills, running, and wind sprints. Marine boot camp is no less demanding. The daily workout regimen within this branch of the service includes six limbering exercises, followed by "the daily dozen"--leg lifts, hops, rowing, bends and thrusts, side bends, toe touches, trunk twisters, push-ups, bend and reach exercises, body twists, squats, and mountain climbing/runs. These moves are intended to be done as fast as possible to make them even tougher. Plus, as the weeks go on, boot camp workout regimens typically grow longer to maximize physical improvement results--time and mileage are added on to scheduled runs, for instance.
These basic workout strategies require little in the way of elaborate equipment to execute, yet are well-known for effectively sculpting the muscles and giving a lean, cut look to the body.
Why does this happen without the use of, say, free weights? "You're working with your own body weight," Madonia explains. "Overall, for executing boot camp exercises, your abdominals should be tight, you should keep your neck in line with your spine, and you should focus on the muscle you're going to be performing a specific movement with."
Bring It On!
A growing number of civilians have declared they're up for the basic training challenge by signing up for boot camp exercise programs. The Navy SEAL PT program of New York City is a two-week superimmersion training program that tests the mettle and tones the muscles. Each weekday morning, participants meet in Central Park at the crack of dawn to be instructed by actual commandos. The moves include intensive running, bodybuilder exercises (such as push-ups, sit-ups, squats, and jumping jacks), "chasing the rabbit" (running in place on your hands and feet), "bear crawling" (movement on hands and feet), and more. No matter what shape a recruit may be in at the start of the course, typically, weight pours off, pant sizes shrink, and body fat ratios plummet by the end of training.
In the Boston area FitBoot is a highly acclaimed exercise organization that utilizes basic training techniques to develop muscle, teach physical skill, and aid weight loss. It also teaches its participants important nutrition/lifestyle enhancement lessons. FitBoot was founded by a former Marine Corps captain, Charla McMillan, and offers a six-week training cycle zeroing in on upper and lower body strength, flexibility, agility, cardio, and, additionally, mental concentration improvement. You must earn a passing score in the course to graduate, following Marine standards. When you do so successfully, you're encouraged to continue your training at an advanced level.
Fitness testing is required when entering these and all other reputable professional exercise programs. Plus, it goes without saying that before starting any exercise regimen, you should visit your doctor for a complete checkup to rule out any health problems. So let's say you get the all clear--how do you begin basic training on your own?
Donna Madonia has designed The Back-to-Basics Boot Camp Workout especially for Vibrant Life readers to benefit from. "This is a fun program I highly recommend for all fitness levels," she says. "It's effective and can be done by beginners or intermediate and advanced athletes." You can easily do it outdoors, too. Make sure to pay attention to your own body, working out gradually in terms of time/intensity as you feel comfortable. Here are the how-tos.
The Back-to-Basics Boot Camp Workout
Madonia explains: "You will do two sets of 15-30 repetitions or until you feel you can't do any more, with 15-30 seconds of resting time between sets. Challenge yourself each set; each day you do your boot camp exercises, always try to add more reps. This will improve your bone density and increase your overall strength, skill, and energy levels."
||Begin by walking for five to 10 minutes to warm up--walk briskly or slow jog.
||Stop and do push-ups.
||Resume walking or jogging for five minutes.
||Stop and squat or squat thrust.
||Resume walking or jogging for five minutes.
||Stop and do jumping jacks .
||Resume walking or jogging for five minutes.
||Stop and do chin-ups, as many as you can. If you're outdoors, utilize, for example, playground equipment such as a jungle gym or sturdy bars to execute chin-ups.
||Resume walking or jogging for five minutes.
||Stop and do one set of push-ups.
||Do one set of squats.
||Do one set of jumping jacks.
||Do one set of chin-ups.
||Cool down with a five-minute walk or jog.
||Finish up with a set of sit-ups.
The Back-to-Basics Boot Camp Workout should be done three times per week (every other day) for best results.
For advanced athletes Madonia suggests, "Kick it up a notch--run a little faster and a little longer. Be creative. Challenge yourself!" In a nutshell: keep it safe, work hard to see results, and don't forget to have fun!
Life: Crunch time (cont.)
One of the most popular resolutions is losing weight. According to local health clubs, January is the most popular time for new members to join, accounting for a decent portion of their annual membership.
"It's absolutely insane," Deb Case, manager of Powerhouse Gym, said. "It's like that from January through May. They trickle in right after Christmas, sometimes with gift certificates, but the real insurgency is right after the first. The following weekend there's a big push."
While most people are gung-ho about joining the gym and losing weight for the New Year, most health clubs try to instill the idea of lifestyle changes, rather than losing the weight and leaving the gym shortly after reaching their goals.
"Everyone's going for the resolution idea," Case said. "We try to teach them that it's not a resolution change, but a lifestyle change."
Case sends reminders to members who still have memberships but haven't worked out in a while.
Because she lives in Plymouth, Case sees Powerhouse members all over town.
"I give them the guilt-ridden face and ask them where they've been," she said. "Then they come in here with their tail between their legs."
Case said since the gym opened three years ago, more and more people join each January. With a membership base of 2,000, Case said 167 new members joined in January, 2002, and 331 new members signed up last year.
"We sign people up all year long," Case said. "It's like the tide; a few go out, and some more come back in."
I know that if I want to maintain my weight and keep fit, 1 have to keep keep it up."