Friday, May 21, 2010

Is It Okay To Be Fat?

--Debut post from Priority Fitness Co-Founder, Chris Maiurro--

Recently, ABC hosted a controversial program called Face Off; a news "debate" (and I use this word lightly) about the issue of weight in America. This, in addition to fervor created by famous directors (Kevin Smith) buying dual seats on flights, Jaimie Oliver's Food Revolution, The Biggest Loser, our constant obsession with fad dieting, and the now obvious health effects that over weight Americans are experiencing makes this an idea worth considering: is it okay to be fat?

The show, which I encourage you to see for yourself
(ABC News), is not exactly the best forum in which to discuss such a serious matter. The panel consists of four oppositional participants with a moderator, and in typical TV fashion the discussion deteriorates rather quickly into "clucking". A strong debate would have had more point/counter-point opportunities, and panelists with better credentials than "plus-sized super model", but they all had personal experiences with weight related issues and in all seriousness that does count for a lot. There is an actual doctor in the audience that they call on occasionally to clear up some facts. He is Dr. Richard Besser (former acting director of the Center for Disease Control - so I figure he knows a thing or two) and it's sort of fun to watch him correct the ignorance of those on stage. That being said, this post is not necessarily a critique for ABC's producers, so on to the real matters. The show does manage to touch on some of the highlights of the controversy: health, insurance costs, and personal and societal value of the fit person vs. the overweight person.

I can say, from a less strict "fitness" perspective (we are trainers, but humans also after all) that it is not a question of "okay". When a client comes to us with a goal we help them understand what is necessary to reach that objective and point out to them that their notion of a goal may be limited by their current circumstance. We take all that information and formulate a plan always with the understanding that they are the one's steering the ship..."okay" is not a factor. Our clients are almost always adults. They can do what they please. If they feel fine, physically, carrying extra body weight in the form of fat, if they aren't troubled by the potential increase in risk factors related to weight, if their personal ambitions don't extend to fitting into a certain size jeans, who are any of us to say otherwise?

However, as trainers our ultimate goal for our clients physiologically speaking, ignoring all the other pieces to the puzzle (the client's own self worth, their relationship to food, their partner's opinion, and the worst...their mother's opinion) is to make them as lean and muscular as possible. A lean, Muscular body is one that performs well, isn't limited in what it can do, and is resistant to disease and deterioration compared, on average, to a fat body (every case is different, but the statistics bear this out).

So the question then is, what isn't okay? This is one that can't be addressed without heaps of personal opinion, but as this is a blog and not a UN doctrine, I suppose I will hazard a response: If you are hurting those around you because of your weight by, for example, dying early and depriving them of that time with you, by creating an environment where they are encouraged to also over eat and not exercise (parent/child, romantic partnership, etc.), or by taking advantage of an already out of control and stressed health care system because of your weight- I would say that these circumstances are not okay. If you are starving yourself to fit into a size 2 or comfort eating because you never will, neither of those things are okay. If you are participating in over consumption on any level (food, land, personal wealth, fossil fuels, or resources of any kind) that is not okay.

We all have different sized and shaped bodies. They all have the potential to be fit and strong and beautiful....and guaranteed they will all look different. Isn't that a good thing?

Thanks for reading the rant.

Oh, and one other thing that isn't okay....if you are a multinational food conglomerate hell bent on profit at any cost, even the lives of the American Public, to the point that you will over process and corn syrup infuse anything and everything, then that also is not okay.

And one more thing: even though I shouted him out in the beginning, I adore Kevin Smith and think he is one of the best film makers/ comic writers ever (especially to come out of Jersey...hey I'm from there too)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Cross-training Rationale, For You....

Yes, we all agree that even the term "Cross-training" sounds cool. Well, maybe that's just me, but that shouldn't discredit its vitality towards a balanced work out routine. Cross-training is defined as training in different ways to improve overall performance. It takes advantage of the particular effectiveness of each training method, while at the same time attempting to neglect the shortcomings of that method by combining it with other methods that address its weaknesses.

For the individual who seeks an increased rate of metabolism, reduction in body fat, increased strength and endurance, cross-training may very well be the training style for you. In order to cross-train, you have to workout in a variety of activities that require the body to be conditioned both aerobically and anaerobically. In other words, if you are just doing cardio or if you are just training anaerobically, you aren't cross-training. If you were compelled to run one day, lift weights another day, sprint the day after that, and then swim or bike later in the week, you would absolutely be cross-training!

Before I go in depth about the body's response to cross-training, let's first understand how the body responds to consistent exercise that doesn't vary in activity. For example, a jogger who's only exercise is jogging has a goal of losing body fat and increasing muscle. If this person goes out for a 45 min run 4 times a week, eats perfect, and even gradually gets faster, do you think he/she will reach their goal? I'll answer it for you... the answer is NO. The problem with just relying on running is the inevitable loss of Lean Body Mass. Yes, even though Body Fat will decrease, so will LBM. Unfortunately for this instance, the more LBM the body has, the faster the rate of metabolism (or BMR). So, not only will this person lose muscle, they obviously won't gain muscle as well. This can be dangerous if there is a break or decrease in physical activity because the "acquired" lack of muscle will result in a daily caloric requirement that is fairly low. So, if this person doesn't track their diet like a hawk, fat will probably be gained due to over eating.
This scenario also works vice-versa for a person who doesn't do any cardio, only lifts weights, wants to gain muscle, and also has a goal to drop a whole lot of body fat. Since anaerobic training primarily breaks down carbohydrates (not fat) for energy, this person is already in a disadvantage to burn fat. The second disadvantage is that in order to gain muscle, your body has to take in more calories than it burns per day (also called a positive calorie diet). In order to lose fat, your body has to take in less calories than it burns per day (negative calorie diet). Well, if you can't burn fat for energy because you aren't engaging in aerobic activity (aka fat burning exercise), you're going to have a problem! Now, some may ask what if you take in less calories than you burn per day and only engage in anaerobic activity (resistance training)? Great question! This can put you into a state of catabolism where you will be breaking down LBM for energy in order to build LBM, a vicious cycle.....

So, what are the benefits of cross-training, you ask? Another great question! Thank you. Cross-training allows your body to burn fat some days, gain muscle other days, and then go crazy and do both if you engage in interval training. The benefits of cross-training also prevent your body from the notorious plateau. Maintaining consistency in different exercises, movements, frequencies, and intensities will always give the body reasons to strengthen different muscles, adapt to different movements, and keep working in progress. Not working with OUT progress. Cross training allows you to strengthen your heart in two ways. Aerobically, you will be able to increase the size of the heart. Anaerobically, you will be able to strengthen the muscle walls of the heart. This will result in a lower resting heart rate, lower blood pressure, higher VO2 max and more!!

If you aren't training for a marathon, power lifting competition, or any other specific sport, try cross-training. Mix it up! Do cardio one day, go for some plyo's another day, and hit the bike for hills and sprints later in the week!

An example of a cross-training week:

Monday- Run 60 min
Tuesday- Weight Training 55 min
Wednesday- Rest
Thursday- Swim 45 min
Friday- Plyometrics and sprints 45 min
Saturday- Pick a sport
Sunday- Rest