Why Spot Reduction is a Myth

Most newbie clients come to me wanting to spot reduce. They would say, “I want to get rid of this!” while pointing to a specific area of fat on their body. My response: If only we can! I would be a rich woman......

Spot reduction is a claim that if you target a certain area of your body when working out, then that specific area will reduce in body fat. For instance, doing a bunch of crunches will eliminate the fat from your abs. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

There have been many studies done on this subject, showing that resistance training on one specific area actually ends up giving off a generalized fat loss all over your body. In a recent study done by University of Connecticut, participants completed a 12-week resistance training program where their non-dominant arm was exercised - but not the other. They measured their subcutaneous body fat before and after the program and results showed that only overall fat loss occurred, and none specifically in the arm!

The reason? The fat in the fat cells are known as triglycerides and our muscle cells cannot use these triglycerides as fuel. Therefore, the fat must be broken down into fatty acids that enters the bloodstream. This means that the fat broken down can come from anywhere in the body, not just the area you exercised!

So then, you ask...why do we target specific areas when using weights? Why bother doing bicep curls or squats, if fat loss can be from anywhere?

The reason is that even though we can't lose fat from a specific place, we CAN build muscle there! There is no such thing as “being toned” - it is actually just having your muscle pop out after building them! So we need to do some resistance training to build muscle so it can show that defined look you want.

Of course, you still have to have a good diet to get the look you want. However, not everything is about caloric restriction- you want to make sure your metabolism is at a good place before you start cutting calories for fat loss. Otherwise, you can't sustain it for the rest of your life!

Need help with fat loss and muscle gain? Talk to Helen and she can help you get on the right track!

5 Tips to Getting Back in Shape for The Fall

Summer is over and you are getting back into the swing of things. Back to school for the kids, work life resumes, but what about your workout routine? Has it fallen through the cracks during the summer? Are you looking for renewed inspiration this Fall?

Here are some tips to help you get back on track:

1. Eat less processed foods. Processed foods are engineered to make you eat more- period! It's not necessarily less or more healthy than regular whole foods, but processed foods hijack your palate so you want to eat more of it. As you know, processed foods can be so tasty you eat more for no good reason besides the delicious taste of it! Instead of worrying about eating less carbs, or eat more protein/veggies, just eliminate most processed foods so your body can regulate your hunger and let you eat what it needs to to feel nourished! You will be surprised how your body will make good decisions if you stay away from processed foods. Keep in mind places like Whole Foods has a TON of “healthy” processed foods – it's always best to cook your own food that is minimally processed.

2. Try a new activity. Can't get psych on your regular workouts? Try a new activity! Join a running group in your neighborhood. Go to a spin class. Try a random workout class. Go for a bike ride. Do an adult gymnastics course. So many things to try out there- you may surprise yourself. Maybe you are the next Zumba superstar and you don't know it!

3. Get a workout buddy. We all need accountability and sometimes having someone there with you is all you need. You would be surprised striking up a conversation with the person next to you in class, or make new friends at the neighborhood running group!

4. Try working out outside. Get some vitamin D – studies show working out in the sun improves your mood.

5. Get a trainer. Most gym go-ers don't know the best programming for their bodies so they spend hours on the treadmill and wonder why they don't see results. Say you pay $50 a month on a gym membership, that is $600 a year. If you take the $600 and invest even a few sessions in a trainer who can point out YOUR specific mobility issues and build a customized workout routine that benefits YOU, you will get way more out of that $600 than those hours on the elliptical.

Not sure how to get to the results you want? Reach out to Helen at HelenLinFitness@gmail.com for your free consultation today!

Why Building Muscle Is Good for Improving Longevity

We all know working out will help us live longer, but often people turn to running or cardiovascular activities for our workouts. However, studies now show that having muscular strength improves the longevity of our health as well.

How does having muscular strength benefit our health?

  1. It increases our overall strength which means decrease in injuries

  2. It increases bone density

  3. It reduces body fat and increase muscle mass

  4. It increases energy levels

  5. It corrects and maintains posture

  6. It increase metabolism for fat loss

  7. It increase tendon and ligament strength

Do you want to be able to move your arms overhead as you get into your 80s? Do you want to keep your metabolism going high so you can burn calories by sitting still? Do you want to be able to walk upright for the rest of your life?

German researchers did a study in 2015 on muscular strength and reported that an increased level of muscular strength was significantly associated with lower rates of mortality. Grip strength seemed to have been an indicator of living a longer life. Grip strength is a measurement of muscular strength or the maximum force generated by your forearm muscles. It has been used as a screening tool for the aging population as a measurement of upper body strength and overall strength.

Overall, having a greater grip strength was associated with an 8% lower risk of mortality. The mortality risk was highest for men and women with the lowest grip strength and the highest obesity measures.

Weight training can increase not only your grip strength but all the muscles in your body for increased overall health. Being strong has carry over in every aspect of your life including having better mobility, stronger joints to support your body, and reducing the risk of injury as we age.

Don't know what to do for weight training? Get a personal trainer and have him or her show you some basic movements with proper form! You would be surprise how much better you feel after a good weight training session.

Contact Helen at HelenLinFitness@gmail.com for your free phone consultation!


Why Eating Less Can Cause You to Store More Fat

A common problem I see with female clients is that the minute they want to lose weight, they cut calories drastically. And by drastic, I mean anything under 1200 calories is way too low, if you are over 5 feet tall. What makes me crazy is that there are articles out there saying “1200 calories” is the perfect amount for many people – that make no sense! Everyone has different metabolisms.

But, at the same time, I get it. I went through this myself — if you want to lose weight, you create a caloric deficit. You can do this by eating less or working out more. Some people choose to do both at once (which I don't recommend but that's a whole other topic).

However, when you eat less than ideal for your body weight, the problem most people run into is that after a certain amount of time, it slows down your metabolism. Your body is smart- it is always trying to be efficient and saving energy. If you eat a lot, your body is like, “Hey! Food is plentiful so we can keep using the energy stores!” But if you eat less, your body thinks, “Oh crap, survival mode so let's slow down the metabolism to store the energy as fat for later!”

How do you know when you are eating too little? Some potential signs:

  1. You don't feel hungry a lot. When your metabolism is slow you don't feel as hungry as frequently or at all. (Keep in mind you can also eat too MUCH and never feel hungry so this is varied from person to person).

  2. You workout frequently and feel tired. If you are active (do some physical activity everyday) but you feel tired a lot, then your body is telling you you may not be eating enough.

  3. You track your foods and are under 1200 calories a day.

How to Change Your Metabolism to Lose Fat

  1. Lift heavy weights with compound movements with appropriate rest intervals.

  2. Lift consistently – at least 2-3 times a week.

  3. Eat enough calories to support your heavy lifting. On days you lift, you should definitely be upping your calories with healthy carbs and protein.

  4. Get your calories up to a decent amount before cutting. Decent amount should be at least over 2500 calories for a woman. (Yes ladies, I am blowing your mind that you can eat this much and not gain weight). This strategy is called reverse dieting.

  5. Get a trainer to help customize the best food and training program for your goals.

Contact Helen to help you with changing your metabolism to a roaring one, to a point where you can burn calories while sitting on your butt at work! Email HelenLinFitness@gmail.com for your free phone consultation today.


Why We Should Focus on Function over Aesthetics

Every client comes to me wanting to lose weight or to look better.  When I first got a personal trainer, I wanted to look like fitness model Zuzka Light until my coach told me she was at an unhealthy level of body fat.  It was then I realized I had no idea what “healthy” looked like.  And that is because healthy looks different for different people, and there is no set “look” for health.

Why focusing on our looks does not represent good health:

1.       You can look like a fitness model and have an unhealthy relationship with food.  In fact, a lot of them do! Becoming obsessive over food choices and restricting certain foods can end up an eating disorder for some people.  Not to mention you would also have some nutrient deficiency.

2.       You can be skinny fat. 

3.       You can have diabetes and heart disease and look thin. 

4.       Looks are fleeting and relative.  For some people you may look big and others you look small.

5.       The scale means nothing if you weight train.  Muscle and fat weigh the same (no, one does not weigh more than another) but muscle takes up less space than fat, so you look leaner, but scale numbers do not change – sometimes it will go up!

Why focusing on function and performance is better for your health (and looks!):

1.       You can measure performance and strength.  Are you increasing in weights each week? Are you moving better? Are you more flexible? If YES, it’s progress!

2.       You can feel the difference.  Less daily pain.  Less achy joints.  You feel stronger.

3.       You can tell energy levels.  You are less tired.  You have more energy at work.

4.       You sleep better.  Your quality and length of sleep improves.  You wake up feeling rested and ready for the day!

The BEST part of focusing on function over looks is that once you start focusing on strength and movement, your looks automatically get better! It’s a win-win.

Think about when you are 80-years old, do you want to be self-sufficient or only LOOK self-sufficient? I think no one can argue that looks may fade but we care about quality of life more.  But the truth is, if I am a 80-year old who can move well and take care of myself, there is no doubt I will look younger.  Resistance training has been shown to reverse aging process.

As your trainer, I care about your long term health and quality of life. I care about making sure you stay active, keep those bones and joints strong, and feeling life without aches and pains.  Focusing on function instead of looks will guarantee you live a long, healthy and happy life.  And I promise you will look great too!


Do You Need a Personal Trainer?

It's February, which means you had a whole month of starting your New Year's Resolutions.  Take a look at where you are now: Did you start? Are you still going strong? Started but stopped? What's stopping you from moving forward? 

The truth is, no matter who you are, everyone needs some help with goal setting.  Elite athletes have coaches who help them perform well and stay injury-free. 

The fact that most of us are not elite athletes means that most people will benefit MORE from a professional helping you with your fitness goals -- since your higher priorities will likely be your family and work.   A personal trainer can help you set realistic goals, introduce you to new food choices and create a plan that work out best for your lifestyle.  

"But I already know what's best for me and I'm already executing it!" That's great if you are someone who is sticking to a good workout regiment- congrats! But even myself, who is a personal trainer, have a coach who helps me with my workouts and nutrition because I know there is always more that I don't know. 

There is so much science around exercise programming and nutrition, not to mention every single person has a different set of genetics, hormones and individual variances that respond differently to different stimuli. How do you know you are optimizing for the best results?

Your health and wellness should be a top priority over anything else - the sad thing is, most people put that last on their list under family and job. But we all know that working out, eating right and sleeping enough only makes you a better spouse, colleague parent. Having a trainer can help you become a happier and healthier person for your friends and family.

Whatever your goals are, my job as a trainer is to give you the tools to help you achieve a greater quality of life.  And hopefully have a little fun in the process! 


Why Cardio Sucks For Fat Loss

Want to lose Fat? Stop doing a bunch of cardio!

Are you someone who wants to "tone" and lose fat but spend your time running or doing a bunch of cardio and wondering why the fat is not coming off? Diet of course is important but also understand what you are telling your body when you do cardio all the time. 


Cardio is great for cardiovascular health.  It is great for improving your endurance.  But it is not going to build you muscle, aka the "toning" you desire.  When women want to "tone", what they really mean is they want to build muscle.  

Our body is a great machine that is good at any adaptation that we throw its way.  When you do a lot of cardio, you are sending an adaption signal to be good at endurance and you don't need a lot of muscle for endurance.  In fact, what happens is over time with excessive cardio, your body starts to store fat.  

Believe me, I was a marathon swimmer- I swam for 3-6 hours in the ocean or pool (5-6 days a week) and not lost a single pound - and my body composition looked the same.  My body had no reason to lose fat because as it adapted, it became more efficient to swim long distances which means it got easier and my body was not using much energy to do it.  

So what's the answer? RESISTANCE TRAINING.  When you do resistance training, you are now sending a whole different signal to your body to BUILD muscle.  

Why build muscle? It increase your resting metabolic rate! Even though side by side, an hour of cardio burns more calories than an hour of weight training, but every pound of muscle you gain you increase your resting metabolic rate by about 50 calories a day.  That's your body burning calories by doing nothing.  

For your cardiovascular health, keep your cardio to twice a week for 30 minute sessions.  Your daily movement can count towards your cardio.   Or a walk around the block with your dog.   But no need to spend 60 minutes on a treadmill each day.  Do resistance training 2-3 times a week is way more beneficial than a daily run (if your goal is to lose fat).  

As you build muscle and have a proper nutrition that goes with it, your body composition will change.  But the scale can go up or down depending on a variety of factors- sleep, diet, carbs (holds water), stress, and/or your workout.   You CAN LOSE WEIGHT AND NOT LOSE ANY BODY FAT!  You can also see an increase in scale when you start to build muscle as well.  That's why it's beneficial to work with a trainer who can help you monitor all these different aspects since the scale is very deceiving when you start doing resistance training.  


WHY WOMEN SHOULD STRENGTH TRAIN - Benefits of Lifting Heavy Part 2

WHY WOMEN SHOULD STRENGTH TRAIN - Benefits of Lifting Heavy Part 2

Last blog discussed the mental hurdles women have to get through to show up in the weight room.  This issue I will discuss the benefits of strength training for everyone, no matter what stage of fitness you are at. 

Are you someone in any of these categories? 

1) Trying to Lose Weight / Change Body Composition - I'm sorry to break it to you but cardio sucks at changing body composition.  Any new stimulus will change your body in the beginning but cardio sends an adaption signal to your body and not muscle building, which means overtime, your body will adapt to any cardio you throw at it.  Women always tell me they want to "tone" their body; that toning is muscle and to build muscle you need to strength train.  

2) Improve Athletic Performance -  Most athletes know that strength training increases power, agility and even endurance. Yes, even endurance athletes need strength training to improve their performance. 

3) Prevent Injury - Everyone has muscular imbalances.  Whether you sit at a desk all day or are a fitness addict, strength training will correct those imbalances from bad posture to overuse from your athletic pursuits.  
4) Combating or Recovering from Illness - Exercise helps speed recovery from illnesses and diseases and strength training is necessary to get your body back in proper range of motion and mobility.  Cancer, Parkinson's, Ehlers-Dahlos...all need some sort of strength training program. 

5) Improve Quality of Life / Combat Aging - We ain't getting younger but we can feel like we are! Improve your mood, libido, sleep and overall daily function.  From personal experience, everyday I strength train, I feel stronger and younger.  If you have kids, you want to be able to pick them up without pulling your back, or even move furniture around with having to pop an ibuprofen after.  

Strength Training doesn't have to some long, tedious, scary-looking workout in a weight room at a gym with huge dudes.  To start, you can do it in the comfort of your own home with bodyweight exercises or something like a TRX.   As a trainer, I will always recommend doing the major compound movements with a barbell but if you really can't get to the gym, I recommend getting a TRX and doing some basic movements I will outline in my newsletters or on my Facebook page.  Once the TRX becomes too easy for you for resistance levels, then you can consider getting some weights or maybe get to your nearest gym!


WHY WOMEN SHOULD STRENGTH TRAIN - Benefits of Lifting Heavy Part 1

WHY WOMEN SHOULD STRENGTH TRAIN - Benefits of Lifting Heavy Part 1

Culturally, women do cardio and men lift weights. For whatever reason this divide happens at every gym, and it wasn't really until Crossfit came along that they did a good job of making lifting seem cool to women.  Now we are seeing more women in the weight room, but it is still in the minority compared to men.  

Popular reasons for women not wanting to strength train:
1) Boredom.  Women often find the same lifts boring and can't stay excited to do it.

2) Lack of Education.  Women often don't understand the full benefits of why they should do it.  "Running is good enough for my health" or "These group exercise classes I do are enough fat burning for my health." 

3) Gym-timdation.  Women often find  the scary looking weights/machines intimidating to approach.  And they have no idea how to use them.  Not to mention the dudes who are grunting in the corner and women are worried the guys are judging or trying to hit on them.
4) Becoming The Hulk.  Women think you lift heavy and BOOM you become The Hulk.  Ladies, those images of shredded women you see take YEARS of training 5-6 times a week and they most likely take drugs.  

Once I became a trainer, I feel like I learned a secret that most women don't know:

Strength Training is the answer to everything. 

Do you want to...

Look sexier and feel more confident? Strength Train
Decrease bone loss as you age? Strength train
Combat and recover from disease and illness? Strength train
Pick up your toddlers or move furniture around without pulling your back out? Strength train
Increase your sex drive? Strength train
Do better at your sport without injury? Strength train
Feel more alert and creative at work? Strength train
Sleep better, improve mood and live a longer life? Strength train

You say, "Well my life is great now, I don't need it! How do strength training solve all these problems anyways?"  Tune into the next blog to find out!