Muscle Confusion

Ever since P90X exploded onto the workout scene in 2003 it seems like the term “Muscle Confusion” has become a new buzzword in the fitness community. What is muscle confusion though, and does it really work? Certainly many people swear by the results they have obtained by using P90X, but were their results obtained through muscle confusion or through consistently performing a strict and regimented workout routine?

What is muscle Confusion

Tony Horton and the P90X team claim that by using the science of muscle confusion in their training program that they are able to create a training system that eliminates the potential of plateauing and will generate maximum results.

Here’s the true secret of how P90X works: Muscle Confusion. P90X uses targeted training phases so your body keeps adapting and growing. You’ll never “plateau”—which means your body will never get used to the routines, making improvements slow down or even stop.

P90X Team

Is layman’s terms muscle confusion is simply changing a workout routine. The idea is to continue to work different muscles or even the same muscles but in a different way.

Does Muscle Confusion Actually Work?

Whether or not muscle confusion generates superior results to “normal” training is a hotly discussed topic. Certainly people can obtain results using a training program centered around muscle confusion. But are these results a a obtained from the muscle confusion or obtained from practicing a strict workout routine?  Many fitness buffs on the web would argue that the only way to see muscle gains is from progressive overload and that the idea of muscle confusion is a hoax.

Progressive overload is a law that states you must continuously increase the amount of weight or reps lifted each workout in order to increase muscle mass.

Fitmole

In a sense the idea of progressive overload, or continuously increasing the amount of weight or reps lifted each workout, is a form of muscle confusion. Muscle confusion at its core is simply changing a workout routine.  This change could be a result of changing the exercises themselves, the number of sets performs, the number of reps performed, intensity or any other factor of a workout.

Muscle Confusion
To confuse or not to confuse? Photo Credit by NYC Fit

My Recommendation

I would recommend to change your workout up at least once month. Whether you call this change muscle confusion or progressive overload is your call. Most experts seem to agree that a change of some type is necessary to generate optimal results. It is also a good strategy to avoid becoming bored at the gyms as well as gives you a way to target even more muscles in a variety of different ways.

So get out there and start confusing those muscles! And let me know your thoughts below.

Are You Getting Enough Sleep?

Sleep affects nearly every aspect of our lives. We feel better after a good night’s sleep but we don’t all recognize all the benefits associated with sleep. Experts still don’t fully agree on why we as humans need sleep, there are many different theories and likely a combination of them is true. Regardless of the scientific explanation for why we sleep, there are many benefits associated with sleep that the experts do agree on.

Benefits of Sleep

The benefits of sleep seem numberless, sleep affects almost every aspect of our life. Proper sleep helps your body to recover (both physically and mentally), improves your immune system, helps you retain and remember information, reduces stress, reduces inflammation, helps control body weight, decreases injury rate, decreases mood swings and elevates overall mood and quality of life.

When we are sleep deprived, our focus, attention, and vigilance drift, making it more difficult to receive information. Without adequate sleep and rest, over-worked neurons can no longer function to coordinate information properly, and we lose our ability to access previously learned information.

Harvard Medical School 

 

 

How Much Sleep

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Photo by the National Sleep Foundation

It is unknown still how much sleep is required for optimum health, but we do know that the exact amount of sleep depends largely on the individual and that individual’s age. It is believed that as we age, our bodies require less sleep. A new born infant would require up to 17 hours of sleep or more in a single day whereas an older adult could remain healthy with only 7 hours of sleep. The general rule of thumb of 8 hours of sleep a night seems to be a healthy amount for anyone in their teens or older. Refer to the chart to the right from the National Sleep Foundation for a good reference of required sleep by age.

Russel foster, in the Ted Talk at the bottom of this post, mentions that if you need an alarm clock to wake up in the morning then you are probably not getting adequate sleep. This simple rule is a good reminder that we all cut ourselves short on sleep almost every morning when our alarm clocks have to pull us out of bed in the morning to get us to work on time.

How to Sleep Better

The National Sleep Foundation and the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School list the below tips for getting a better, deeper more restful night’s sleep:

  1. Avoid Caffeine, Alcohol, Nicotine, and Other Chemicals that Interfere with Sleep
  2. Ensure Your Bedroom is Quiet, Dark and Cool
  3. Establish a Soothing Pre-Sleep Routine
  4. Don’t Be a Nighttime Clock-Watcher
  5. Keep Your Internal Clock Set with a Consistent Sleep Schedule, Even on Weekends
  6. Nap Early—Or Not at All
  7. Lighten Up on Evening Meals
  8. Balance Fluid Intake
  9. Exercise Early
  10. Turn Off Electronics Before Bed

Related TED Talks

Now that you understand the importance of sleep, and how to get a better night’s sleep, allow yourself to get some hard earned rest and recovery.

How Not to Overtrain

Overtraining is a common condition experienced by most athletes at some time in their lives. Overtraining can impede results and hinder continuous improvements from workouts, the good news is that it can easily be avoided by following a few basic steps.

Prevention

Rest

Overtraining is the result of not getting enough rest between workouts.  To avoid overtraining ensure that you are properly resting your body.  Workouts break your muscles down and it is during the rest phase that your muscles actually repair and become stronger. The majority of this rest occurs during sleep so it is important to get seven to nine hours of sleep every night. If you begin to feel like you may be entering a state of overtraining then it is advised to take 48 hours off from working out to allow your body to properly heal. If you continue to workout during a state of overtraining you could experience chronic overtraining which could require multiple weeks of rest to fully recover.

 

Diet

In order for your body to recover and your muscles to become stronger you need to supply your body with the proper nutrients. It is imperative to supply your body with sufficient macro-nutrients, especially carbohydrates and proteins. If you begin to feel the onset of overtraining it is wise to increase your caloric intake to ensure that you are getting enough nutrients. While you increase your calories be sure to consume nutrient dense foods such as vegetables and fruits as well as lean proteins. Competitor has identified a list of the top-30 super foods based on the ANDI (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index) which includes: Collard, Mustard & Turnip Greens, Kale, Spinach, Brussels Sprouts, Berries and more. Competitor has also developed a sample diet for the average athlete fighting off overtraining.

Planning

A properly planned workout routine is essential to avoid overtraining. A properly planned workout will include plenty of rest, a combination of high intensity workouts and low intensity workouts, and it will not increase duration or intensity of workouts too quickly.

A good workout plan should include plenty of rest. It should include one to two rest days a week, depending on the intensity of workouts. It is important that your plan include rest weeks as well as rest days.

It is wise to not increase your weekly training volume by more than 10% from one week to the next. This is refereed to as the 10% rule and can help keep inexperience athletes from trying to increase their workloads too quickly.

Photo Credit

If you begin to feel the onset of overtraining then be sure to get ample rest, eat a clean nutritious diet and plan accordingly. Comment below on what you do to recover from overtraining.

Are You Overtraining?

Overtraining occurs when your body does not have enough time to recover between workouts. Workouts break your body down by inducing stress on your muscles, it is during the rest phase that your muscles repair and actually become stronger. When you do not give your body ample time to repair and heals itself and you continue to work out and break your body down more and more you enter a state of overtraining.  Overtraining is often referred to as “burnout” and is experienced most often by athletes who are participating in high intensity training.

Causes

The sure fire way to cause overtraining is to not allow your body to recover sufficiently in between workouts. The three main reasons why your body may not have had time to recover are: too frequent high intensity workouts, not enough sleep and/or improper diet. Working out for over 90 minutes during any single session, working out every day with no rest days or having multiple high intensity workouts in a row are red flags that you may trigger overtraining to some degree. Another red flag is if you are getting less than 7 hours of sleep each night. It is during your sleep that your body does most of its recovering and healing. Shoot for 7-9 hours of sleep each night.

Boosting the intensity of a workout routine too suddenly can cause excess stress on your body that can lead to overtraining as well. Always follow the 10% rule.

Symptoms

One of the most sure ways to tell that you have overtrained is if you are experiencing an elevated resting heart rate. To check what your resting heart rate check your heart rate before getting out of bed in the morning.

exhaustion
Photo Credit

Many of the most common signs and symptoms are:

  • Exhaustion
  • Excessive Muscle Soreness
  • Trouble Sleeping at Night
  • Constant Dehydration
  • Headache
  • Depression
  • Increase in Injury or Illness Rate
  • Nagging Injury or Illness that Wont Heal
  • Decrease in Performance
  • Performance Plateaus
  • Decreased Motivation
  • Elevated Resting Heart Rate

Leave a comment below if you have overtrained and how you managed to do it.

 

 

 

 

Proper Hydration

The human body needs three things to survive: oxygen, water and food. Proper hydration is thus key to our survival and its also key to good health. The human body is composed of roughly 60% water, and it takes constant maintenance to maintain this healthy percentage.

Benefits of Water

Photo by USGS

Water is crucial for all the body’s cells and organs. Your body requires water to regulate its temperature, lubricate it joints, remove and dilute waste and allow your cells to reproduce. Being properly hydrated also makes you feel more energized, powerful and alert. It also allows your body to recover quicker and feel well.

How Much and When to Drink

The debate of exactly how much to drink is ongoing.  It is safe to say that if you experience signs of dehydration then you are not drinking enough water. See below for some common signs of dehydration:

  •  Darker Urine
  • Little or no Urine
  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Thirst
  • Cramps
  • Nausea

If you experience any of the above symptoms then it may be wise to increase your fluid intake. The classic thought of drinking 8 glasses of water 8 times a day is a good starting point and is easy to remember but may not be sufficient hydration for everybody. Depending on each persons own body as well as their activity level, everyone’s precise hydration needs will be different. According to the Mayo Clinic:

The Institute of Medicine determined that an adequate intake (AI) for men is roughly about 13 cups (3 liters) of total beverages a day. The AI for women is about 9 cups (2.2 liters) of total beverages a day.

Even the Institute of Medicine’s recommendation could be low however if you are working out intensely. FamilyDoctor.org does an excellent job summing up how much water to drink before, during and after exercise:

The American Council on Exercise has suggested the following basic guidelines for drinking water before, during, and after exercise:

  • Drink 17 to 20 ounces of water 2 to 3 hours before you start exercising
  • Drink 8 ounces of water 20 to 30 minutes before you start exercising or during your warm-up
  • Drink 7 to 10 ounces of water every 10 to 20 minutes during exercise
  • Drink 8 ounces of water no more than 30 minutes after you exercise

Athletes may want to measure how much fluid they lose during exercise to get a more specific measurement of how much water to drink (16 to 24 ounces of water for every pound of body weight lost).

Water is not the only way to stay hydrated. Sports Drink (although some are excessively high in sugar) and some foods can be an excellent source of water as well as provide your body with essential electrolytes. Coconut water is a good Sports Drink substitute that is packed full of electrolytes without all the added processed sugars. Watermelon and bananas are also good fruits for remaining hydrated. Watermelon mostly consists of water and bananas are full of the electrolyte potassium.

Hyponatremia

Beware that it is possible to have too much water, Hyponatremia is a rare condition that results from over hydration. It occurs when you consume so many liquids that you dilute the sodium levels in your body. This causes your cells to swell with water and not function correctly and can lead to swelling of the extremities, a comma and even possible death. Typically this is not a condition that the average Joe needs to be concerned with; extreme endurance athletes are more susceptible to it.

 

Hill Training

Hill training is a incredibly simple way to supplement your training routine. There are a variety of ways to use hills to achieve the results you are looking for, and the benefits of running up hills are tremendous. Below I will discuss a couple of the benefits as well as a few of the more versatile ways to perform hill training.

Benefits

1) Intensify The Work Out

Hill training can greatly intensify your work out. Hills are an excellent way to gain strength, in fact they are arguably better at gaining running strength than lifting weights. Running hills activates all the muscles of your legs and core and makes them work in symphony with each other increasing overall muscle coordination. Because of this, hills are an exceptional way to increase endurance and stamina as well as increase overall speed. Hills burns more calories that running on flat ground as well. According to Shape.com:

There’s a pretty big difference between a totally flat treadmill and one with a five percent incline — almost 100 calories in difference.

 

2) Easier on Your Body

Another big benefit of running up hill is that it is easier on your joints. Running hills has been shown to reduce the likely hood of getting shin splints compared with running on flat ground. It also has lower impact on all your joints specifically you knees.  Going down hill in turn is harder on your joints and thus it is recommended to climb hills with high intensity and descend hills with low intensity during training.

Photo by Angry Jogger

Types of Workouts

Competitor does an excellent job of explaining three of the more versatile hill work outs you can perform.  I will summarize them below:

1) Short Sprints

Short uphill sprints would consist of running up a 5%-15% grade at full intensity for 10 to 15 seconds followed by a complete recovery, usually 2 to 3 minutes. A work out like this is awesome for increasing blood flow through the heart, which in turn will decrease your heart rate in the future and make your heart more efficient.

2) Long Hill Repeats

Long hill repeats are similar to short sprints in nature just slightly longer in duration and on a slightly less steep hill. Long hill repeats are generally about 90 seconds in duration and are excellent at increasing VO2 max while increasing running strength and overall fitness.

3) Rolling Hills

Rolling hills are essentially going for your typical long run but on a hilly course.  This is the most effective method for increasing your ability to race on hills.  Rolling hills are also effective at improving form over longer and more gradual hills.

Find a hill near you and try one of the above workouts to supplement your next training day!

 

Tennis – Life Long Health

I personally identify as being  a “runner”  I understand both the positive and negative consequences that running has on our bodies. While running is an incredible exercise for overall long term health it can be hard on joints, particularly the knees. Running is a sport that is difficult to perform regularly for  the duration of your life due to the beating it takes on your body. Contact sports administer even more of a beating, and are extremely hard on your body when played over numerous years. Knowing this I have been searching for enjoyable lifetime sports.  Lifetime sports, as defined by LiveStrong.com are:

…physical activities that people can enjoy throughout their lives. In contrast to contact sports such as football, ice hockey, boxing and wrestling, less strenuous sports such as tennis, badminton, archery and fly fishing are suitable for people in all stages of life and can serve as physical and social outlets. Another aspect of lifetime sports is that you can continue to develop mastery and skill as you get older, with wisdom and experience helping to make up for reduced reflexes and physical abilities.

One lifetime sport I recently began playing is tennis.

Tennis is the epitome of a lifetime sport. It is well suited for all age level because of its low impact nature.  It has tons of other benefits as well, from physical and mental to social. Tennis is a great social activity to play with friends and family member but is also a tremendous way to meet new friends. It helps reduce stress and promotes getting outside under the sun and breathing fresh air. It can increase your strength, agility, flexibility and reaction time.  It’s a cheap and convenient game to play, rackets range in price from $20 to about as much as you want to spend, and the courts are littered all over every city in many parks. Most importantly for me though, tennis is a fun and exciting sport.  It is what you make of it, it can be an incredibly competitive match or a relaxing enjoyable time to catch up with an old friend. Make it whatever suites you and get out there and play!

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3e/Tennis_Racket_and_Balls.jpg
Photo by Vladsinger

For other resources on the benefits of Tennis, check out the links below.

https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/tennis-health-benefits

https://www.usta.com/Improve-Your-Game/Sport-Science/114688_Health_Benefits_of_Tennis_Why_Play_Tennis/

www.active.com/tennis/articles/5-health-benefits-of-playing-tennis