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Beyond The Weight Room With Melissa Leier: Find Your Fitness Personality

posted by Fitness Focus    |   May 6, 2013 16:40

Now that we’re a few months into the New Year, if you have committed to new fitness practices, you’re likely either enjoying new activities while planning to keep on going with what you’ve started or you are struggling to keep doing what you committed to and wondering where that crazy idea came from in the first place! For many, that’s often the case after trying something new. If it’s not the right fit for you, you may give up due to frustration, boredom, difficulty or lack of enjoyment.

The American College of Sports Medicine suggests that both exercisers and trainers can align fitness regimens with personality types to best structure a lasting routine and recognize pitfalls. Figure out what drives you and use that knowledge to help you stick to it and enjoy it. The key to thriving in those fitness challenges you set for yourself toward long-term goals is to find your fit and work with your personality, rather than against it. For example, consider if you like consistency in your day to day or prefer an ever-changing environment? Do you work best with specific goals set or do you like to go with the flow? Are you an early riser getting your obligations out of the way first thing or are you more spontaneous, taking opportunities to be active as they arise or at random times during the day? First things first, what is your personality?

Are Weight Loss Goals Part of Your New Year’s Resolution List?

posted by Fitness Focus    |   January 3, 2013 17:20

This next year will be different, and you're going to make a fresh start this New Year. Around this time of the year, a lot of us find ourselves reflecting on what we accomplished in the past year and decide what changes we want to make to make a positive difference in our lives for next year. After all the prioritizing, you make your big decisions, and then within a month or so, the ‘New Year’s resolutions’ are all but forgotten.

Weight loss goals don’t have to be another promise to yourself which got lost along the way. Setting a goals is only part of the work; plan smart and get ready for the task and make it a success and avoid being in the same spot next year.  Weight loss doesn't have to be hard; it's all in your approach. Try asking yourself and this is very important; is it that you want to lose the weight or is it that you don’t want to eat or live the way you have been any more? The later is a lot harder if your heart’s not in it.  Long-term planning is important; you have to define your path, not just where you want to be.

1. Be realistic

It's been said a million times over, be realistic in when trying to make changes in your life.  Be honest with yourself about what is possible and what suits your lifestyle.  Planning to lose too much weight in a short period of time will only lead to failure and discouragement.  Make your decision with reality in mind. What is it that you can do, and how much time do you have to spend in exercising or follow a meal plan and so on. Start with what you can’t do and then build around it.

2. Enjoying the holidays

This doesn't mean you should give in to all urges and have massive eating spree, but just eat sensibly.  The smart thing to do at times like these is, for a few days, try not to diet on the holidays. Eating sensibly isn't the same as constantly sticking to some lettuce and cabbage diet while everyone around you is allowed to enjoy all the goodies that come with the season.

Try looking at it this way, everyone loves the holidays and they only come around once a year. If you don't take advantage of some of the holiday treats you'll be depriving yourself of all the Christmas excitement.  Why spend your holidays hating every minute of it.  By the end of all the festivities, you will be so sick of the dieting you have been sticking to and will find it harder to stay with that good eating plan as long as you had planed.  Don’t stress yourself about your food intake for a few days over the holidays, relax and eat sensibly.

3. Small is bigger

There is no need to go to completely radical lengths to lose weight. Usually it's the small changes we can comfortably make are the ones that last the longest and make the biggest difference.  Lifestyle changes, even the smallest of changes, like replacing certain snack foods with for veggies and greens; you can also cut down or space out your portions into more-smaller meals rather than attempting a very low restrictive diet.

Simply losing weight doesn't mean much if you don't change your eating and lifestyle habits as well.  Set a goal that you'll start walking to work every day instead of saying you want to lose 8 pounds in a month. Small commitments like that will add up expending extra calories.  These types of lifestyle changes are easily made permanent by incorporating it into your day to day lifestyle.

4. Measure the results

It's the reason you want to make changes in the first place, you want to see change and results. You don't want all your effort and time invested to be all in vein.  Measure your results to reassure yourself that you're on the right track. Measure your results consistently at the same time every week. And don’t just look for a change in your weight, results can come in many different ways.

Take Measurements at your waist or other parts of your body right before you start down this new path.  Your weight can be influenced by a few factors, one being water retention, but your waist may have shrunk or that your clothes feel baggy, it all counts because desired result are the biggest motivator. Record your results so you can actually see your progress and all the results.

5. Keep it interesting and keep it moving

The most frustrating part of weight loss and weight management are plateaus.  It happens to everybody at some point in time. This is what happens when your body adapts to the changes you previously made. If you are following a specific diet or workout regime maybe swap regimes every month or every 3 weeks. This may also help in keeping things interesting and battle boredom. Allow at least 2 weeks for any adaptations before changing your diet.

6. Keep a food diary

Try it, by the end of the day chances are you don't remember everything you consumed over the past 12 hours.  Maybe you're eating more than you think you are or more than you subconsciously want to admit.  Keep a diary of everthing you consume including drinks; it is surprising how much extra sugar and calories you probably consume through drinks.

Keep the diary before you start your diet and then see how many things you can change to lose the weight. To be honest the Christmas week may not be an ideal representation of your average week but it can provide you with an idea of what your actual eating habits are like.

Understanding Gluten Foods and Gluten Free Diets

posted by Fitness Focus    |   December 21, 2012 10:11

A very common term that you might have heard recently is "gluten-free diet".  It is a relatively new term, meaning a diet that is structured around excluding foods that contain gluten. Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat (including kamut and spelt), rye, malts and barley. It is commonly added to foods in the processing phase in the form of a flavoring, stabilizing, and thickening agent. Gluten free diets are the only medically accepted treatment for celiac disease, the related condition dermatitis herpetiformis, and wheat allergy.

Gluten free eating might also exclude oats. Medical Advisors are divided on whether to exclude oats or not; it is questionable as to whether they are an actual allergen to celiac disease sufferers or whether it is a matte rof the oats becoming cross-contaminated in milling facilities or in transport by other allergens. Contamination is even possible when oats are grown in rotation with wheat when wheat seeds from the previous harvest sprout up the next season in the oat field and are harvested along with the oats.  A growing body of evidence suggests that a majority of people with celiac disease that follow a gluten-free diet can safely consume oats in small, conservative amounts.

The term gluten free is typically used to indicate a seemingly harmless level of the gluten protein rather than a complete absence of it. The precise level that gluten is harmless for anyone with celiac disease is unknown as well as controversial.  In 2008, a systematic review tentatively conducted and concluded that consuming less than 10mg of gluten for celiac in one day is not likely to cause any physiological abnormalities, as it is still a relatively newly discovered disease few reliable studies had been conducted.

There are however, certain starches and grains that are considered to be acceptable that can be included in a gluten-free diet. The most frequently used are rice, corn and corn starch, potatoes, quinoa, and tapioca (derived from cassava). Other grains and starch sources generally considered suitable for gluten-free diets include amaranth, arrowroot, millet, montina, lupin, sorghum (jowar), taro, teff, chia seed, and yam. Sometimes various types of bean, soybean, and nut flours are used in gluten-free products to add protein and dietary fiber.

An unrecognized substitution is Almond flour.  Almond Flour is a conciderably low-carbohydrate alternative to flour, it also has a low glycemic index. Although the name suggests otherwise, buckwheat isn't related to regular wheat. Buckwheat, for the most part, is generally acceptable for gluten-free diets.  Commercial buckwheat products on the other hand are mixtures of wheat flour and buckwheat flours, and therefore can't be included in a gluten-free diet. Gram flour, not to be confused with Graham flour, is derived from chickpeas, is also gluten-free.  Graham flour is not gluten-free as it is made from wheat.  With such similar names, this is why it is important to thoroughly read your food labels. Gluten is used in foods in some very unexpected ways; sometimes added as a stabilizing agent or thickener in products that need to maintain consistency like ice-cream and ketchup.

People that must maintain a completely gluten-free diet must also be aware of the ingredients of certain over-the-counter or prescription medications and vitamins.  Again, check for a gluten free symbol or the words "gluten free" near the product information on the back of bottle. Women should be aware that cosmetics such as lipstick, lip balms, and lip gloss may contain gluten.  Even these trace amounts can cause gluten related reactions, so these products should be investigated before use.

Cross-contamination issues

Restaurants have started recognizing the growing trend among patrons and now offer specific gluten-free menus. People who are gluten-sensitive must always be aware that there are a variety of cooking procedures used in kitchens and grills that increase the likelihood of cross contamination between foods. This especially is the case in buffets where utensils typically are used in different food bowls by customers.

Trusted Saskatoon Presents Talk to the Experts on Newstalk 650 Saskatoon

posted by Fitness Focus    |   December 18, 2012 12:26

This latest show we are featuring is the TRUSTED SASKATOON  HEALTH & BEAUTY SHOW

On December 15, 2012, Newstalk 650 Radio and Trustedsaskatoon.com presented to you, Talk to the Experts with 3 local Trustedsaskatoon.com businesses, Spa Ahava, Hairstyle Inn and Fitness Focus. The 3 experts on the panel were answering questions asked by the trustedsaskatoon.com fans on the topics of beauty, health and fitness.  All of the Trusted Facebook Fans who entered a question had a chance to win a prize package from the 3 Trusted Businesses worth over $500 as host, Brent Louks chooses the best question!

This episode's' Trusted Saskatoon Experton the topic of fitness is Garret from Fitness Focus a Trusted Saskatoon Gym There were over 100 questions submited and the 3 partners will answer all the questions in later trustedsaskatoon.com blogs..so If your didn't hear you answer on the show they will still be answered by the experts...enjoy!

Click here to check out the full show

 

1. Becky Laliberté - In terms if fitness and health, what are some ways for an almost 40 year old woman to help improve flexibility and strength without having to spend hours at a gym. Are there instructor led classes that might be better for this? Or is weight lifting and stretching enough?

Stretching is always a good thing to practice for your overall health and to prevent injuries in day to day activities. Stretching is incorporated into every group fitness class but is also something you should learn to do on your own.  For such a vital part of ones wellness, the benefits are well worth the time spent; and it really only takes 10 to 20 minutes to get a good thorough stretch. Remember, it’s something you can do at home too; either in the morning before you start your day or in the evening to help unwind and relax.

It is recommended to stretch after a light warm up, before you begin your workout; but stretching throughout your workout between exercises can be very beneficial and time saving.  As blood gets pumped into your muscles as you use them, a good stretch will help push the blood out and make way for fresh oxygenated blood. You can also improve your flexibility by weight training with proper (full) range of motion through the exercise.

 

2. Laura Ellis- Fitness Focus: As a female who is not an avid "gym rat", I find the gym can be an intimidating place. Insecurities about not being in as good of shape as I would like to be to start tend to keep me away, along with all of the new types of equipment and my lack of knowledge in using them. I tend to feel lost in the midst of everything. Short of personal training, what do you recommend for someone who wants to get in better shape, but is reluctant to take on a gym membership?

It’s important to remember that everyone is at the gym for the same reason, because they want to improve themselves in one way or another.  One way to overcome the intimidation factor is to have a workout partner, everyone feels better when they have a friend with them. Having a workout partner is also a good way to stay on track and accountable, to make sure you show up on time for your workout everyday.  You may also feel a little less intimidated if you choose a workout time when the gym is a little less busy.  The majority of people try to get their workout done immediately after work around 4:30 – 6:30.  If you prefer the gym to be on the quiet side try to avoid these busier times, at least until you’ve become more acquainted with the equipment.

 

Your health does take a certain degree of dedication, but before committing yourself and your money to a gym, take the gym for a test drive.  Look for a facility that won’t pressure you and that offers a free-trial period that’s yours to test the waters, find your comfort zone and see if it has all the amenities that meet your needs.  A trial period is the perfect time to ask questions about equipment and get familiarized with the gym; staff should always be willing to give you some direction to get started out in the weight room.

 

3. Neils Thor- Fitness Focus-I use interval training to keep in shape. What other methods maximize my time to keep fit?

The idea behind interval training is to keep it is fast paced.  This same principle can be applied to a traditional style of weight training by increasing the intensity.  Lower the rest time between exercises will keep the heart rate up, thus working your cardiovascular system.

 

4. Holly Stasiuk Fitness Focus- Please explain what is a spin class? Costs? Also, how much does a personal trainer cost?

Spin Class is an instructor-led group class on stationary bikes.  The instructor takes the group through a 45 minute to one hour workout at varying paces and difficulties.  It’s a very thorough workout and great class for anyone from beginners to experienced class-goers because the user chooses their own difficulty on their bike.

 

5. DeAnne Robblee-  Fitness Focus: I have arthritis in one knee which makes squats, running and even walking very difficult sometimes. What kind of equipment do you have that I could still get a good cardio workout without killing my knee?

When it comes to arthritis and some of the major movements such as squats, progression is the best way to go.  Start doing the exercises with virtually no resistance/weight. For cardio, keep things very low impact.  Stationary bikes are one of your best options, we have upright style and the recumbent (laid back) style, as well as spin bikes. We have elliptical cross-trainers are a close simulation to running combined with skiing and have very low impact.  There are also steppers that don’t involve much impact; a person would have to try to see if that would work for them.

 

6. Fanterra Fisher- What kind of training is required by your staff to have to work at the spa? Please comment on standards of cleanliness as well. Thanks

There are several different areas of expertise at Fitness Focus that all have their own required skills. Most importantly, all staff is CPR and First Aid Certified.  Main Gym Staff are knowledgeable about the layout and mechanics of the gym to make your time here as convenient as possible.  Personal Trainers and Group Fitness Instructors have years of experience with proper certifications and insurance in their respective fields.

 

Cleanliness is a very important part of the gym; a dirty environment can dramatically affect a member’s experience. All staff takes part in our daily cleaning routines of the exercise areas, front end and washrooms.  There are several hand sanitizing stations for members to use. We also have after hour cleaners working to sanitize the washrooms and commons areas from top to bottom.

 

7. Kimbrolina Linke -Fitness focus: what are your memberships?

Details about different membership types and prices are all available on the website (www.fitnessfocus.ca).  Membership types are very flexible and you can set a membership up either on a biweekly payment plan with No Contract, or purchase a term membership.

 

8. Jessalyn Monette - As a Saskatonian I am always looking for the best places that will give me the best results. For the three trusted Health and Beauty Partners what makes your establishment unique to Saskatoon?  I am someone who not only looks for good quality, but I want to ensure my money is spent on a good experience, atmosphere and creativity. Does your establishment offer these qualities?

In an industry that is becoming dominated by corporate gyms, we feel that as a locally owned fitness facility we hold many of the same values and standards as our members. We understand the importance of a comfortable and friendly gym setting, and that keeping a mature and positive atmosphere is vital to creating that. Our success is only possible through the success of our members which is a direct result of their positive experience.

Our approach is a little different than the traditional fitness centre in that we operate without contracts.  This sets us apart because our members can rest assured that we are working our hardest everyday to meet all their wants and needs.

 

 

9. Ann Lyte-Maille- fitness focus, is there a time of day that is best to exercise? Or is just good to try when you can?

Everybody is different; some people function well early in the morning whereas others are on their game later in the day.  There are certain benefits to planning a workout at a specific time of day.  For morning workouts you might find you have better longevity throughout the rest of your day.  A morning workout will also boost your metabolism, this will help regulate (steady) your appetite for the day which aids weight management.  On the other hand, a workout later in the day is a good chance to burn off some excess calories before bed or relieve stress from a long day.  Many of us tend to binge eat later in the day; occupying your time in the evening with a workout is a good way to eliminate those habits.  Ultimately the best time of day to workout is when you personally will have the most drive, energy and focus.

 

Being Aware of Gluten Free Labels

posted by Fitness Focus    |   December 12, 2012 02:15

The Accuracy of Gluten Free Labels

The legal term of the phrase "gluten free" does vary from country to country, however current research is suggesting for people with celiac disease the maximum safe level of gluten in a finished product is probably less than 200 parts per million and possibly as little as 20 parts per million.

Certain standards only allow the "gluten-free" label to be used on foods with less than 5 parts per million of gluten, 5 parts per million being the smallest percentage that we are currently able to detect. The following ingredients are typical ingredients found in food that does contain gluten:
  • Wheat Flour contains 80,000ppm
  • Wheat Starch contains 200ppm
  • Maltodextrin, Dextrin, Glucose Syrup all contain 5ppm
  • Caramel Color has varying amounts of gluten depending on the processing method.  It can still affect those with celiac and gluten intolerance.

Wheat flour contains almost 12% gluten; such a small number is still a very significant amount.  Even the tiniest trace of wheat flour can cross-contaminate a product that is gluten-free.  A certain degree of care must always be taken to avoid cross-contamination of foods. 

Gluten Free Bread- Fitness FocusGluten-free diets rule out many of the normal foods that we are all used to eating on a regular basis.  The foods in question span from ordinary breads and pastas to many convenience foods in our diets such as crackers, chips and cookies.  Gluten rich foods are food that also use certain thickeners such as gravies, soups, and sauces thickened with rye, barley, wheat or other flour. Gluten hides in many of our favorite day to day food choices. More and more these days various gluten-free bakery and pasta products can be found in specialty retailers.  Large chain grocers are now dedicating sections of their shelf space to gluten-free pruoucts.  Gluten-free foods tend to cost more than non-gluten-free foods, due to the higher cost of production and contamination prevention.

Other unexpected sources of gluten are non-foodstuffs such as certain medications as well as vitamin supplements, mainly the ones available in tablet form, may contain gluten as a binding agent. People with gluten intolerances might require specialist compounding of their medication.  There are also vitamins available without gluten, the package or label will have symbols indicating so, you may also see after any exclaimers the words "gluten free".

National Health & Fitness Day Act

posted by Fitness Focus    |   December 9, 2012 15:48

It was recently announced that MP John Weston of West Vancouver introduced a private memberís bill to establish a National Health and Fitness Day. The bill encourages local governments to open the doors of their facilities on a complementary basis on the first Saturday of June each year. This act hopes to benefit Canadians by encouraging participation in healthy physical activities at a time when obesity-related conditions such as diabetes are taking an increasing toll on our health and economy.

National Health and Fitness Day Saskatoon

This September, Statistics Canada reported that 31.5 per cent of Canadians between ages five and 17 are over-weight or obese. Weston makes it very clear in his statement that he is NOT proposing to create a National Skinny Day. He wants to create a day which revolves around educating Canadians, young and old, about the importance of staying fit through physical activity.  In turn, this Bill will encourage individuals of all demographics to participate in physical activity in order lead a healthier lifestyle.

 Weston has the support of all four parties represented in the House of Commons. Two MPs, the NDPís Peter Stoffer of Nova Scotia and Liberal Kirsty Duncan of Ontario, have publicly endorsed Westonís initiative. With the assistance of the fitness industry, this Bill has a high potential of passing. Currently, many fitness facilities have also shown their support towards hosting National Health and Fitness Day. Some clubs who have already shown their support include, Curves (national), Cambridge Group of Clubs (Ontario) and Fitness Focus (Saskatoon). We are hoping that we can get as many fitness facilities and clubs on board as possible to promote this initiative.

Melissa Leier’s Beyond The Weight Room: Whipping Santa Into Shape

posted by Fitness Focus    |   December 7, 2012 18:47

Mrs. Claus wrote to Saskatoon Well Being Magazine and, much to their surprise, it wasn’t about a lack of a chimney at the publication’s office. Apparently, Mrs. Claus has enjoyed reading the first eleven issues and has especially enjoyed my column on getting in elite physical shape. She said that she and Santa were planning a beach vacation in the spring and thought Santa might better tolerate the heat and humidity if he dropped a few pounds between Christmas deliveries and the trip. So the Well Being honchos called me and said they had an assignment that was big, red and essential. “Santa? That’s a little preposterous,” I said. “Hasn’t he heard of Jillian Michaels?” A week later they called me again. “We need you to whip Santa into shape,” they said. So I said, “Yeah, probably not. You try to get him off milk and cookies without a television audience to hold him accountable!” The owners of Well Being can be rather persuasive though so I finally agreed.   -Melissa Leier-

Wow, this was going to be a challenge! Well, maybe more of an opportunity; an opportunity to tackle supporting a lifestyle change for someone who has been comfortable with a pattern of behaviours for years. Based on the initial inquiry from Mrs. Claus, I had to wonder if Santa himself actually wants to make a lifestyle change and what that might look like in his eyes. I thought that I had better find out.

Starting off with a readiness assessment and to establish a baseline for Santa, I learned that he has been contemplating becoming more active for a while, but hadn’t taken the next step. Recently, his annual physical check-up indicated a good level of overall wellness and, with some recommendations, he was not only medically cleared to become more active, but encouraged to do so.

When I asked what he had in mind for long-term goals, he replied that, yes, he knew he should exercise and eat better. When I asked him what that meant to him, it turned out that he really wasn’t sure.

Rather than just telling him what to do based on my knowledge and expertise in health and fitness, and then hoping he bought into the ideas I suggested, I decided that I would take more of a collaborative approach to help him establish his own plan. Ultimately, as a fitness coach, I need to remember that these are his goals—not mine— and my role is to guide him to where he wants to be. I needed to find out what was important to him and what was going to motivate him toward a positive lifestyle change.

Santa explained that what was really important to him was to be able to be healthy enough to play catch with his grandchildren, go hunting and fishing with his son, to have many years to come of vacationing with Mrs. Claus and to have fun without excessive stress on his body during the busy hectic times of the holiday season.

I asked him what it would look like for him six months down the road if he was achieving his goals and he said that he saw himself sustaining a habit of regular activity three to four times per week in combinations of cardiovascular, strength activities and recreational sports with his family. He also hoped to have developed a better understanding of fuelling the body effectively to feel great and satisfy his taste buds.

We discussed what kind of opportunities might exist to incorporate changes right away and he told me that he has a local community centre with a walking track that he had been curious about trying out, especially when it is too icy outside to risk slips and falls. The facility also has a variety of classes to take part in, from circuit training to swimming and yoga programs that he thought would give him some variety. Mrs. Claus was interested in a couples’ cooking class every Sunday that was focused on recipes for heart health. There was also a Saturday night dancing group and he did like to put on his dancing shoes and hit the town two-stepping!

Getting started with Santa, I asked him to keep a journal of his nutrition intake for a week, including amounts and portion sizes, as well as timing. I encouraged him to balance each meal throughout the day with fairly similar content and volume, rather than one large meal at supper. Another suggestion was to try to balance each meal with a lean protein source, low-sugar carbohydrate source and many fibrous vegetables. I also asked him to track his water intake.

Just starting a journal alone is a great way to bring a new self- awareness of what it is we are putting into our bodies and to recognize patterns. It also helps keep us accountable to fuel our bodies with better nutritional choices.

Melissa Leier SaskatoonPhoto by Tyler Harris
The second step was to examine patterns that his journal revealed and to develop action plans. Some quick fixes we found to help clean up his daily nutrition included:

• No need to add salt to meals. Most of the time, we actually get enough sodium from the salt that occurs naturally in foods such as meat, eggs, milk products, fruit and vegetables. A high salt diet increases the risk of developing high blood pressure. Herbs and spices, blends like Mrs. Dash, lemon juice, onion, garlic, etc. can be used to flavour foods instead of adding salt.

• Drink more water. Skip the pop and fruit juice since they’re empty calories and basically just all sugar.

• Learn to prepare meals by planning time to grocery shop and buy fresh produce and lean cuts of meat, rather than packaged, canned and processed foods.

• Use the right cooking methods. Use non-stick pans and non-stick cooking spray when needed, instead of dumping in oil or margarine.

These changes would help reduce his blood pressure and decrease his risk of diabetes, which would allow him to enjoy the odd cookie or treat once in a while, rather than possibly having to avoid them completely. This was also a chance for Santa to learn to prepare delicious meals with his family, using creativity with spices and flavours. Don’t forget about the cost savings of preparing his own food instead of ordering take-out. More money for that vacation with Mrs. Claus!

Regular activity goes hand in hand with nutrition. The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP) and Health Canada suggest that the minimum guidelines for older adults, age 65+, would be to take part in at least 2.5 hours of moderate to vigorous intensity aerobic activity each week. No, this doesn’t mean once a week Santa should run a marathon and he’s good—that would not be beneficial or safe. This activity is best done spread out into sessions of 10 minutes or more throughout the week. In addition to the cardiovascular activity, it is also imperative to add muscle-strengthening activities using major muscle groups at least twice a week to help support bone health and improve posture and balance.

So, if Santa goes dancing Saturday evenings, walks for 30 minutes every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon after his strength training circuit and then takes a swim or goes to a yoga class on occasion, he’s doing great! With his strength training circuit, he should target the major muscle groups of the legs and gluteal muscles, back and chest. Exercises to start with could be body weight squats and walking lunges, kneeling push-ups and a pull-down or row exercise. To add in some core and shoulder stability, he can include an opposite arm and leg raise from a kneeling and palms-down position on an exercise mat. Strength training can have a profound effect on improved bone health, arthritis relief, increased metabolic rate and reduced risk of heart disease.

I’ll make sure to check in with Santa in a few months. It will be no surprise at all to hear that Santa has experienced a significant improvement in his blood pressure and has lowered his cholesterol levels. He may be down three notches on his belt and he should be able to load up his sleigh full of packages and presents with ease and sleep like a baby at night. Most importantly, he will achieve a new self-awareness and establish enjoyable healthy lifestyle habits that will put him on track to being in great shape for Christmas 2013!

Do You Know What Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance Are?

posted by Fitness Focus    |   December 3, 2012 16:30

Studies now shows that celiac disease and gluten intolerance, affect around 15% of the North American population.  It is possible that you are one of these people. It is important that you are able to identify gluten intolerance symptoms?

We first need to identify the difference between celiac disease and gluten intolerance. Celiac disease is an immune reaction. It is a sudden and severe onset allergic reaction to the wheat protein called gluten. Gluten can be found in several different but very common grains such as wheat, rye, barley and oats. Celiac disease is initially a disorder of the auto-immune system, it is also a disease of malabsorption because essential nutrients are not able to absorb into the body. One of the most devastating symptoms of celiac disease going undiagnosed is malnutrition.

Typically, gluten intolerance often has a much slower onset than celiac disease, and tends to be harder to diagnose due to the wide range of symptoms and the many sources in which it is hidden.

Imagine a continuum of gluten intolerance symptoms; celiac disease would be found at the most extreme end with immediate autoimmune reactions. There are people with celiac disease that may not immediate symptoms, but internally the malabsorption of all these essential nutrients can erode one's health over many years. It is important to note that both celiac disease and gluten intolerance can be exacerbated by infection, surgery, emotional stress pregnancy and childbirth. Not everyone with a gluten intolerance or allergy will experience the exact same symptoms or to the same degree.  This creates a great challenge for medical practitioners trying to do a diagnosis.

    Here are some of the symptoms but not necessarilly limited to gluten intolerance and celiac disease.

  • Fluctuations in weight
  • Nutritional deficiencies, example: low iron levels
  • Gastro-intestinal problems (bloating, pain, gas, constipation, diarrhea)
  • Body Pains
  • Stiff and Aching joints
  • Eczema and Skin Irritations
  • Depression
  • Head aches
  • Exhaustion
  • Irritability and behavioral changes
  • Infertility, irregular menstrual cycle and miscarriage
  • Cramps, tingling and numbness
  • Slow infant and child growth
  • Decline in dental health

If Gluten intolerance remains undiagnosed for a long enough period of time, conditions have been found to contribute to diabetes, cancer of the bowel, anemia and osteoporosis.

So, why are the symptoms of gluten intolerance so varied?

Much about gluten intolerance and celiac disease is still unknown.  Gluten intolerance can affect anyone from children to adults in a variety of ways, but one thing that has been found is the less stress the better for the affected person.  Anecdotal evidence suggests that emotional trauma and stress play a large role in amplifying the symptoms. Several studies have findings that show that the longer a baby is breastfed and the further it's delayed that they start eating gluten rich foods, it will creates a lower chance of developing celiac disease.  Completely avoiding gluten through a pregnancy and in a child’s younger years of development may also raise the possibilities of an allergic reaction, as the child's developing digestive system cannot recognize the substance at all.  Researchers remain unsure but perhaps a more moderate approach is best when attempting to preventing celiac disease, especially if the parents know that there is a genetic predisposition to the disease. Mothers might reduce but not eliminate gluten foods when pregnant, breastfeed for a longer than average period, and start introducing low gluten grains as first foods for baby.

How to diagnose celiac disease and gluten intolerance?

Until recently it was somewhat of a challenge to diagnose celiac disease because it does have such a wide variety of symptoms and are quite similar to a few other common diseases. Some examples of these are Crohn’s disease, chronic fatigue, iron deficiency as well as intestinal infections can all have similar symptoms. There may be in fact a relationship between gluten intolerance and some of these conditions.  An person may have a combination of issues that become worse by food choices that do not agree with their body.  Doctors now know to test for raised levels of certain auto-antibodies in the blood. These antibodies are produced when the body senses a dangerous allergen, such as gluten. If the results indicate an allergy to gluten the doctor may perform a small intestine biopsy. This will reveal the damage to the villi in the small intestine. It is important to eat an ordinary diet including gluten, before being tested.

Look For The Gluten Free Symbol

Another method is to self test for gluten intolerance.  This requires a complete modification of a person's diet. It's a relatively simple thing to do, but does take a little bit of commitment.  For it to work properly a person needs to remove many normal things from their diet and resort whole/natural foods without wheat gluten such as rice, fruits and vegetables, and any fresh meat.  You can trust packaging that has a "Gluten Free" symbol on it.  Foods that contain gluten will have ingredients on the packaging that include Maltodextrin, caramel color, and wheat flour.  At this point it becomes important to understand how to read a food ingredients label.  If a person is feeling any of the possible gluten intolerance symptoms at the start of this process, they should begin to recede within a week or two.  At the time when the symptoms have all subsided, other foods can start to be introduced back into the diet a little bit at a time. It then takes a conscious effort to be aware if and when the symptoms begin to return.

Fitness Focus Gift Certificates For Christmas

posted by Fitness Focus    |   November 30, 2012 15:29

Fitness Focus Saskatoon

Its cold outside, the snow is blowing, and the cabin fever is likely starting to set in. Get to the gym and bring a friend! Gift certificate for a membership at Fitness Focus are a perfect gift for Christmas; especially since winter means that most of us are stuck at home waiting for summer to get active again.

Gift Certificates are available for nearly any denomination. Start a new membership for someone or you can add some time to someone's existing membership.

 

Pick up a gift certificate at Fitness Focus today 1250 Ontario Avenue, or purchase over the phone.

Please feel free to contact us with any questions: info@fitnessfocus.ca

Beyond The Weight Room: Standing Straight With Back Basics

posted by Fitness Focus    |   November 6, 2012 14:21

by Melissa Leier

STRENGTH TRAINING YOUR BACK MUSCLES
can help create a nice, shapely V, but aside from the muscular definition, developing these muscle groups effectively can have a significant impact on your posture.
Melissa Leier Fitness Training SaskatoonWe’re constantly moving in a forward direction or using pushing movements in day-to-day activities and there are rarely any backward or pulling movements to balance it out. Gradually, your upper back posture will suffer as your shoulders become rounded forward, you slouch or develop a head-forward posture. This posture can then lead to tension in the upper spine, shoulders and neck.
A little fun fact for you: every inch of forward head posture can increase the weight of the head on the spine by an additional 10 pounds.

 POSTURE AND SYMMETRY

Frequent forward movements in daily activities or even exercising pushing movements in a strength training program, such as chest presses or push-ups, without the balance of exercising the muscles that create pulling movements, can cause strength development to be disproportional anterior to posterior. In addition, the chest muscles can become very tight and start to pull the shoulders into this rounded forward posture, which not only looks less than aesthetically pleasing, but can also cause discomfort. This can even result from the constant or frequent movements we do day to day, such as pushing doors open, working at a computer, driving a car or relaxing into the couch watching TV.

Slouching and head-forward posture can lead to long-term muscle strain, disc herniation, arthritis and pinched nerves. Long-term sustained posture like this can lead to bones moving position and losing range of motion, creating a more permanent hunchback posture.

So what can you do to improve your posture?

Strength training exercises, such as deadlifts, lat pull-downs, barbell or dumbbell rows, wide pull-ups, rear delt lateral raises; all done properly, of course.

Chest stretches and lots of them! Even doing a ‘chest in the doorway’ stretch every hour would help. Extend your arms out to your sides at a right angle and bend your elbows 90 degrees. Place both of your forearms against a doorjamb and lean forward. You can stagger your stance with one foot forward if it feels more comfortable. Hold the stretch on each side for about 30 seconds.

Exaggerating perfect posture and always being aware of your posture, including trunk alignment and chin position.

 CHECKING MY ASSUMPTIONS

There was a time in my training history when I was boxing competitively. Aside from throwing hundreds of punches, I was doing hundreds of push-ups daily. When I would consider my own posture, I thought, “Of course it’s great. I’m young and I’m an athlete.” But then why was I starting to get a lot of stiffness and feeling the need to be constantly stretching to feel at ease? I looked in the mirror sideways in a standing posture that I had thought was relaxed and neural, and it was not even close. My chin wasn’t tucked back where it should be and my shoulders were quite rounded forward. Not only did the muscular tension cause discomfort, but also my posture was nowhere near looking tall, poised and confident, the way I wanted it to be. I decided it was time to make a change.

 LESSONS LEARNED

1. Mind-Muscle Connection

To balance out my physique, improve strength and correct my posture, I started strength training my back with twice the frequency of my chest workouts, stretching regularly and using frequent postural awareness. I started to increase strength by increasing the weight I was using somewhat, but felt my lower arm and bicep muscles taking over and fatiguing before I felt my back really engage.

Working with my professional coach, I learned to use little grip strength in my hands and to pull from the larger muscle group (lattisimus dorsi) in the back while visualizing the muscle I was actually using through its range of motion. In less than a year, I had made significant progress to balance out my physique and it did wonders to reduce my muscle stiffness.

The concept of the mind-muscle connection means getting to know your own anatomy and connecting the feeling of specific muscle contraction with a visual for yourself. You should be able to know you’ve contracted a certain muscle with your eyes closed without having to look in the mirror. The more in touch you can get with your own body, the better.

 2. Patience And Persistence Pays Off

Progressing from an exercise using the cable lat pull-down machine regularly, I went on to try the body weight wide grip pull-up. I started off barely able to do one body weight wide pull-up and an ugly one at that! It was difficult and frustrating trying to do these, but I stuck with it and over several months worked my way up to more than 20 at a time for several sets. Not only did this feel great as the muscles grew stronger and the exercise became a smoother movement, but what a sense of accomplishment to motivate me to continue!

 3. Practice Perfect Posture

You need to purposefully think about your alignment, not just in back- specific exercises, but all exercises. Don’t let your back or shoulders round forward when sitting in the leg extension machine or doing a bent- over dumbbell rear delt raise. Even at home or when you’re going to be working at a desk, before you even dive into the activity, take the time to set yourself up first. Even small and light activities throughout the day count towards your overall spinal health. Focus on maintaining neutral spinal alignment when bending to pick something up, when setting up your pillow for sleep and while driving, keeping your chin tucked under and shoulder blades tucked back.

 Put Your Excuses Aside

I once heard someone say, “Well, I don’t exercise my back. It’s sore already.” I would challenge anyone to question themselves on the decision to not exercise the back. Often, a sore back is the result of a lack of effective utilization and exercise of the back muscles. As long as you are medically cleared to exercise, the back should be one of the most important muscle groups to work to improve!

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