MET-Fitness Blog

Exercise, Nutrition and Health

Youth National Championship Recap

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Yesterday was my third time coaching at a weightlifting national championship. It was Taylor's first national meet, and only her 5th meet ever. Taylor has been competing in weightlifting for almost a year, after coming to the sport from a gymnastics background. From day 1, I could tell that Taylor was a strong competitor. Her first national championship was no exception.

Taylor's strength as a competitor showed right away when she found herself further from her weight class than expected. After checking her weight on meet scales Thursday, we knew that Taylor was going to have to follow a very specific nutrition and hydration routine to compete in her weight class on Sunday. Over those 4 days she was incredibly disciplined, and it payed off. Taylor successfully made weight in what I can only describe as the most impressive attempt I have seen. And, she did it the right way, staying healthy and safe.

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Becoming Intrinsically Motivated

It’s that time of year again, the time when most of us resolve to exercise more.  It’s also the time of year when we look for something to keep us motivated, so that the resolution doesn’t fall flat by March.  In my experience, however, long-term motivation is created, not simply found.  Research shows that long-term drive for a given behavior is the result of intrinsic motivation.  Intrinsic motivation refers to behavior that is driven by internal rewards. In other words, the motivation to engage in a behavior arises from within the individual because it is intrinsically rewarding. This contrasts with extrinsic motivation which involves engaging in a behavior in order to earn external rewards.  For example, studies have shown that when someone engages in a behavior for a reward, that reward becomes less motivating over time.  The person begins to expect the reward, and it is no longer as meaningful to them.
 
On the other hand, if we engage in a behavior because of how it makes us feel, then it is less likely that our drive will diminish over time.  For example, one powerful intrinsic motivator is the increase in feel-good neurotransmitters such as dopamine that flood our system during and after an exercise session.  Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain's reward and pleasure centers and it enables us not only to see rewards, but to take action to move toward them. The dopamine response to exercise can elevate our mood and produce a general sense of well-being.  There is also a confidence and increase in self-esteem that is reported with regular exercise.  All of this provides intrinsic motivation that is resistant to change over time.  Other intrinsic motivators include the feelings of strength, competence, and independence that accompany exercise.
 
What if you currently lack motivation?  How do you become motivated to exercise?  The answer isn’t simple, nor is it the same for everybody.  Still, evidence suggests that there are three elements that are consistent among quality and effective intrinsic motivation.  The self-determination theory (SDT) states that individuals are more motivated to engage in long-term behavior when it involves a sense of autonomy, relatedness, and mastery.  Autonomous behaviors are ones that you choose yourself, not behaviors you feel pressured into by a reward, guilt, or any other extrinsic motivator. For example, if you choose to take a walk because you enjoy the relaxing feeling you get, that is an autonomous reason for exercising.  Conversely, if you decide to walk because your doctor has told you to, that motivation is unlikely to last.  Relatedness is another important topic that SDT identifies.  The theory suggests that you are more likely to remain motivated when you feel connected to others.  When you meet the same group of people at MET-Fitness each day, you’re related to those individuals by your common goals and reasons for exercising.  That feeling of community is linked to long-term success.  Finally, a sense of mastery is important for you to continue engaging in a behavior.  Feeling competent and overcoming the challenges of exercise can foster a desire to keep exercising.  If you regularly feel defeated by your workouts, or fail to progress, you’re likely to lose motivation.
 
With all of this said, exercising for any reason is to be commended.  There are a number of healthy motivators that are more extrinsic in nature.  It is normal to become motivated by the encouragement of a loved one, or coach. It is also very motivating to see the number on the scale go down.  Being complimented on how much healthier we look is also a strong motivator.  Unfortunately, as we continue exercising, the encouragement can come less often, you may meet your goal weight, and folks stop telling you how good you look.  At that point, it would be normal for your motivation wane.  So, while external motivators may get you started exercising, it helps to be looking for your personal connection to fitness along the way.  You can try to choose physical activities that you enjoy, one’s that challenge you in a way that you can progress, and in a setting where you feel connected to others with similar goals.
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Top 5 Tips for Surviving Holiday Meals

images/content/blog/Healthy Thanksgiving Recipes

The holiday season is here. With today being Thanksgiving, I thought I would address one of the most common questions I get this time of year. How do I survive the holiday meals? The thing to remember is that Thanksgiving is just one day. There’s no harm in indulging some, but try not to overindulge. It’s just that simple, right? I understand that it’s not, which is why I have included my top 5 tips for staying healthy on the holiday.

#1           Start the day with exercise. The biggest benefit here is that you will feel better all day long. Yes, you may burn some calories to help counter the meal that’s coming, but don’t make that your primary focus. Try to do something that you enjoy. It’s a holiday after all. Run a Turkey Trot 5K, take a group class with family or friends, hop on the elliptical, lift some weights. As long as you’re moving, you’re good. If you’re looking for a convenient workout to do at home, check out our holiday routine.

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The R.I.G.H.T. Program

This time of year you’re bombarded with ads for the local gym, infomercials that promise to get you in the best shape of your life, and commercials touting effortless weight loss. With countless exercise programs out there, how do you know if yours is the right one?  This is a challenging question, one that could be answered several different ways.  I like to remind clients that if you're exercising at all, you're on the right path.  Still, there’s a better way to tell whether your exercise routine is appropriate.

I like to begin with the question, "Is my exercise program R.I.G.H.T. for me?"  Ask yourself whether your routine is Realistic. If you’re a beginner, do your exercises match your fitness level? Additionally, consider whether the time commitment is realistic. You might have every intention to exercise for an hour, 6 days a week, but this could be setting you up for failure. Instead, try to incorporate your workouts into your existing routine. Take the time to put your exercise on the calendar. Once on paper, it will be easier to see whether your plan is obtainable.

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Holiday Workouts

It’s difficult to maintain your exercise routine during the holidays. Compound that with large meals and holiday parties and it’s no surprise that weight loss is the number one New Year’s resolution. Thanksgiving has come and gone, but we still have the majority of the holiday season in front of us. Try the workout below to stay ahead of the January 1st gym rush.

This routine can be completed as a 3 round, 30 minute circuit, or broken up and done 3 times throughout the day. Try to complete each exercise as many times as possible in 1 minute, minimizing rest between exercises. Perform the first 5 exercises slowly during your initial circuit in order to warm up. Attempt to increase the number of repetitions that you complete each circuit. Cool down with light stretching when you’re through.

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Evidence-Based Practice for the Exercise Professional

Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) first gained attention in the 90's when its use exploded in the medical community. Before that, healthcare decisions were often based on medical training, textbooks and professional experience, all of which can become outdated quickly. It is estimated that by the time a medical text goes to print, it is already one year behind the most current evidence and best practice. The greatest advantage of basing one's practice on scientific evidence is that decisions are influenced by the most up to date information, as it evolves. This is not to say that medical training, text resources and professional experience are worthless. On the contrary, they provide the prerequisite knowledge to be able to critically evaluate new research.

The challenge comes when practitioners have a bias towards an outdated methodology, are resistant to change, unaware of how to effectively use EBP, or all of the above. Unfortunately, too many in the fitness industry fall into one or more of those categories. Nowhere is this more evident than the area of personal training, where there is a serious lack of understanding when it comes to EBP. Sadly, personal trainers aren't required to demonstrate a minimal level of competency before working with clients. And while most personal trainers are certified, not all certifications are created equal. Several certifying organizations offer credentials after just a weekend course, or allow candidates to complete an exam from home. Consequently, there are a number of personal trainers that lack formal education or training in exercise science and nutrition. The problem with this scenario is that these trainers don't possess the required knowledge, skills and abilities to properly incorporate the best evidence into their practice, putting clients at risk.

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