Muscle Memory

Muscle Memory (or Muscle Science) is a phenomenon whereby it is much easier to regain lost muscle mass than it is to put on new (initial) muscle mass.

Shrinking muscle or losing gains is a fear that many gym goers and lifters fear.

  1. Back when I was in college I broke my ankle pretty severely.  I spent 12 weeks on crutches and lost most of the muscle in my calf.  In fact, the muscle had diminished so much that I would play with it and watch it fling back and forth like a pendulum.  Once I was “back on my feet again” (literally), I was surprised at how quickly I regained the muscle in my leg.
  2. When guys walk back into my gym after taking months off from their training, I watch as their gains increase quite rapidly and their muscles grow so quickly, it’s like they never even stopped.

The reason:  The arc of building muscle size and strength lies in your nuclei.  Nuclei control protein synthesis.  The more nuclei you have, the more protein you are able to turn into muscle.  The first effect training has on your muscles is not actually growth; it’s to create more nuclei, which eventually facilitate the development of more tissue.

Screen-Shot Muscle

Via

Further, our muscle fibers have satellite cells which donate myonuclei.  The myonuclei allows the cells to grow larger.  Once your muscle fibers get bigger, more myonuclei are required because they can’t regulate that size fiber any longer.  They have reached their maximum limit or myonuclei domain.  Resistance training induces permanent physiological changes to your muscle fibers.  The first time you begin strength training, your muscles adapt and become bigger and stronger, which is facilitated by increasing the muscle nuclei (aka myonuclei).

Muscle

Via

Myonuclei are permanent.  Although it was widely believed that once muscles started to atrophy, the cell death, or apoptosis, occurred and the myonuclei were removed. However, current studies have shown that the myonuclei still exist even after period of not training or inactivity.  Previously untrained muscles acquire newly formed nuclei by fusion of satellite cells preceding the hypertrophy.  Detraining or inactivity leads to atrophy, but not loss of myonuclei,  The elevated number of nuclei in muscle fibers in a hypertrophic episode would provide for muscle memory and long-lasting effects of training.  Because they are still present, these cells skip the process of creating new myonuclei, allowing atrophy and gains to occur at a faster rate than the initial gains.  By skipping the first step of satellite fusion and nuclear donation, new nuclei increases new muscle protein synthesis.

Just like riding a bike…

When muscles shrink due to inactivity (i.e. when training is stopped for a significant amount of time), it is much easier to rebuild that lost or shrunken muscle.  And it takes less  time to rebuild that mass, than it took to build it initially.

New myonuclei in muscle fibers are added before any major increase in size during overload.  Old and new nuclei are retrained during severe atrophy.  The myonuclei are protected from the high apoptotic activity in inactive muscle tissue.  So, even as muscle shrinks, the nuclei remain present.

If you are someone who has never trained before, then you do not have the accumulation of myonuclei, but it is easy to get, since basically everything we do is a stress.  Unlike someone who is already training, who will find that it becomes harder and harder to stress the muscle out.

And although you may lose the muscle, you don’t lose the myonuclei.  Any myonuclei accrued from previous training remains in the muscle fiber.  So, even though your muscles have gotten smaller because you haven’t used them, you still have the results of your previous hard work – this being the myonuclei – so you can bounce back fairly easily.

When training is resumed, muscles are able to grow rapidly because the initial stage of adding nuclei is skipped and, once the nuclei are roused, they can set about synthesizing protein pretty quickly.

Muscle memory is also why physiologists recommend filling your muscles with as many nuclei as you can while you’re young.  Building muscle gets harder as you age, whereas maintenance is easy.  The type 1 fibers dominate when you get older, and the type 2 fibers (the fast-twitch fibers) tend to wane, but they’re still there.

So, get to the gym and take advantage of building myonuclei while you can.  And just as importantly, if you’ve been pumping away for a while, afraid to take a break because of fear of loss of gains, go ahead and rest.  It takes a very long time to lose the gains you’ve worked so hard to accrue.  And, as per my recent post, Rest Days are just as important in attaining your goals.

~FB

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Why Women Should Strength Train

There is an old adage that women should not lift weights because they will get big and bulky and manly.  So, let’s just scrap that idea now.

BW Lifter

A woman’s strength and muscular development are predetermined by hormones, physiology, and genetic make-up.  Generally speaking, women have about 1/10th of the amount of testosterone compared to men.  Because of the smaller amount of testosterone, the average woman does not have the ability to “bulk up” like her male counterparts.  In addition, women do not possess the same size muscle fibers or amount of lean tissue as men.  So, unless you are a professional bodybuilder – or have an overwhelming amount of testosterone (whether natuarally or by supplementing) – you are unlikely to turn into the Incredible Hulk

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s focus on the reasons why you should be lifting weights.

Boost Your Metabolism Naturally

Although cardio burns more calories than strength training (during the first 30-minutes of your session), lifting weights burns more calories overall.  When you build muscle by adding strength training into your life, your resting metabolic rate (your ability to burn calories and fat) also increases.

           = Muscle Growth And Fat Loss

Strength exercises increase lean body mass while decreasing fat stores. The greater your proportion of lean mass to fat mass, the more metabolically active your body becomes, providing an increased metabolic rate, fat oxidation, and energy consumption (which means you burn more calories and fat simply by carrying more muscle!).

oxygen

Via Oxygen

Structural Tolerance

Structural Tolerance (strengthening of tendons, ligaments, other connective tissue) will aide in the ability to sustain greater stresses in training, and greater resistance to injury. Ligaments, tendons, and cartilage hold your bones together. These joints are at risk of injury when they become unstable. Resistance training strengthens the connective tissue, resulting in improved joint integrity, stability, and injury prevention.

Bone Modeling (and “fighting” Osteoporosis)

Bone modeling (and remodeling*) is the process by which bone adapts to load by changing size and shape and removing weak or damaged bone tissue. (*Remodeling affects material properties such as microdamage, mineralization, and collagen cross-linking.) When muscles contract against bone, it creates stress that causes bones to strengthen against the contractions. The stronger your muscles get, the stronger your bones must become to handle muscle contractions. Bone modeling helps prevent fractures and reduces your chances of getting osteoporosis.

As women age, their levels of estrogen decrease.  We lose both bone and muscle mass.  In addition, as women age, we are prone to osteoporosis due to loss of estrogen.  However, resistance training can increase bone density. When bone feels the “pull” from the muscle contractions, bone growth is stimulated. Not only can strength training offset bone loss, it can actually cause an increase in bone density in women who regularly lift weights.
In addition to all of the benefits above, strength training can also provide improved mental health (as with any exercise, you’ll be happier and reduce your stress levels), better sleep, stronger (and more defined) body, a healthier heart, improved posture and balance, reduce diabetes risk, and longevity (that’s right!  Lifting weights can help you live longer!).
With all of this in mind, if you are not already implementing strength training into your regular exercise routine, you should consider doing so.  The benefits outweigh any negative aspects (whether there is truth to them or not).  So, just get out there and start.  You don’t need a lot of equipment or even a gym membership; improvise with what’s around you (laundry jugs, water bottles, cans, etc.) and go from there.
~FB

August Challenges

It’s been a little while since I have posted any challenges, and with the start of a new month just around the corner, I figured…..why not!

So here you go.  I’m posting two separate challenges.  You can do one or both.

The Awesome August Abs Challenge

August Challenge

The 30 Days of Abs and Squats Challenge

30 day challenge

These challenges can be mini workouts or a compliment to your regular exercise routine.

What I love about challenges is that they are a simple, yet effective way to keep you moving almost daily (remember to take your rest days!).  If you are a newbie to exercise, it’s also a great way to begin a workout regime.  AND, you can do the workouts right from your home – if you don’t want to leave the house.

Give one or both of these challenges a-go and see how you make out for the month of August.

~FB

Confessions

Inadequate
I’ve recently had to confess to someone why I’m such a nag.  I’ve owned up to my feelings of inadequacy and why, to this day, I still don’t feel like I measure up.  I can freely admit I have never felt beautiful.
I grew up the little fat girl.  It’s embarrassing to say this still, but I need to speak my truth. I was fat, chubby, chunky.  And I heard about it all the time.  I was teased and called names and shamed – from a tiny child until adulthood.  Being fat was never out of my reach.  And I still feel it.  I still feel like it.
Once I was old enough to figure out I could do something about my weight, I tried.  I did my best.  But, I was a teenager and I didn’t think things through and I took the “easy” route – resorting to eating disorders.  Starving, purging, non-binge purging, excessive exercise.  I damn near killed myself and ended up hurting the people around me.  I screwed up my body, my health, and my mental well-being.  I spent a lot of time getting better.  A lot of wasted time that could have been better spent for a 16, 17, 18 year old girl.
And then I was fat again.
Fast forward to years later and finally really figuring it out – for real – the fitness and nutrition part – and losing that weight and feeling better about myself.  BUT, I’m still the fat girl.  I still feel like the fat girl.  I can’t shake it.  Dammit!  I am still often focused on what’s wrong with me rather than what’s right with me.
And so, I often feel inadequate.  I feel like I don’t measure up to the standards some people have, and I nag them.  I NAG them.  I pester.  And it’s shitty.  Because, I’m not a jerk.  I’m not an asshole.  I just wear my heart on my sleep and I think the worst and I worry.  I still feel like a little (fat) girl.
And it’s even shittier because I’m an adult.  I have a good job, and I’m funny, and I have a wonderful social circle of friends and family; but I feel bad.  I feel like I’m hurting my relationships with people because of my pestering nature and I’m screwing up friendships before they even happen.  Because I still feel like the fat girl and I feel like I have to earn my way.
When my clients tell me they are struggling with their fitness or their nutrition or their self-esteem, I can tell them I can relate – because I’ve been in their shoes (and often still feel like I am).  And what’s really important is that I remind them of their self worth.  I have to remind myself sometimes of mine.
Being overweight or lackadaisical with our exercise habits or nutrition doesn’t make us worth less or worthless.  Yet, we continue to put so much emphasis on what we look like, rather than how we feel and on our physical and mental health.  This may seem hypocritical coming from a fitness and nutritional professional, but being healthy is as much mental as it is physical, and the aesthetic side of it should just be a bonus (rather than the main focal point).
Finding out the root of personal issues (like my feeling inadequate) can often help us let go of whatever is holding us back so that we can move forward with a better, healthier life.  Letting go of what hurts us and hinders us so that we can become fit – mentally, physically, and emotionally.
MiniMe
~FB

Day 27 – Combine My Workouts

Day 27 – Combine My Workouts

Today you’re challenge is to combine all the little exercises I’ve given you over the last 27 days:

1. Plank (30 – 60 seconds) x 3
2. Get some steps. It’s a gorgeous day so get out for a walk/run/hike
3. Do the Body Weight Workout from Day 14 (do it twice)
4. Do 50 Push-ups (x1 or x2)
5. Squat. Find the perfect song and squat til you drop. (Well, not really drop.)

You can always find a workout somewhere. #everydayistrainingday

~FB

Day 24 – Drop It Like a Squat

Day 24 – Drop it like a Squat

Pick a song and squat to the whole thing. (I like Take on Me by Aha, or Footloose – both great squatting songs.) Have fun.

squat

Remember to keep the weight in your heels, butt sicks back, keep knees in line with your toes, keep your shoulders lifted (you may tilt slightly). Just think of it as sitting down – without the chair.

squat-infographic.png

~FB

Day 22 – Do My Abs Workout

Day 22 – Do My Abs Workout

We all have abdominal muscles.  Sometimes, we just need a little help “finding” them.  To help you get started with defining your abs, do my workout below:

30 Seconds High Knees / 30 Seconds Scissor Runs / 30 Seconds Crunches / 30 Seconds Bicycles / 30 Seconds High Plank / 30 Plank Jacks / 30 Seconds Leg Lifts (on your back) / 30 Seconds Leg Flutters / 30 Seconds Dead Bug >> Do this short workout (at least) twice. :0)

ab-workout-meme

Tip:

Don’t forget to train the rest of your body. The more muscle mass you have the higher your metabolic rate, even while you’re at rest. Do two to three full-body strength training sessions each week, making sure to take a rest day in between.

You don’t need to rest your abs, however. Because they don’t fatigue as easily, it’s OK to train your abs every day; so aiming for three to five ab-training sessions weekly is just fine.

Cheers.

Day 21- Get Social

Day 21 – Get Social

Lunch with friends, hit up a local pub or cafe for a Games Night, go to a class. The winter can be the most depressing time of year, so stay a step ahead and socialize with friends or family or strangers (make new friends!). Laugh and cohort.

Interacting with others boosts feelings of well-being and decreases feelings of depression. Research has shown that one sure way of improving your mood is to work on building social connections. You may even lower your risk of dementia

In addition, communicating with people face-to-face can help to make us more resilient to stress factors in the long run.

So don’t hesitate…make a plan, grab some friends, and get out (or stay in – together) and have some fun.

SOCIABLE!

~FB

Day 16 – Make a commitment to Exercise (and stick with it).

Day 16 – Make a commitment to Exercise (and stick with it).

working out

I find that when I actually “commit” to something, my success rate is 100%. If I just say I’m going to do something, sometimes I allow myself to fail. When making a commitment, I follow through…I plan, I figure it out ahead of time so that I have success. So, I challenge you to make the commitment to exercise (start off with a commitment to exercise for even to work out and at what times. Will you go to the gym? Will you do a video or take a class or go running? Commit to it and follow through.

Day 15 – Find (aka Make) Time to Meditate, Pray, Reflect

Day 15 – Find (aka Make) time to Meditate, Pray, Reflect, etc.

Whatever suits your religion/belief/lifestyle, give it a try.  Some health benefits of prayer and meditation are:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Sense of Inner Peace
  • Increased longevity
  • Reduced symptoms of depression
  • Alleviation of anxiety, stress, and pain
  • Help with insomnia and physical symptoms associated with chronic illnesses

The time you take to pray or meditate can be your time or time you share with family.  Personally, my prayer time is strictly my time.  It’s personal time I have with God each and every day.  And it has been my “practice” to pray every day since I was a small child.  But, even throughout my busy teenage years, I maintained my prayer time.  And I can’t imagine not having that time each night.  It’s the time I take to reflect on the day and to be thankful for all of the people and things and abilities I have been blessed with.  And most of the time I go to sleep with a clear head and heart.

Your time does not have to be prayer if that is not your believe.  But you, too, can take the time to reflect on your life or your day.  To be thankful for what you have or to look forward to what’s to come.  What’s great about meditation and prayer is that it’s your time and you can make of it what you want.

If it isn’t something you normally practice, try it for a week.  See if you get clarity and joy and inner peace or strength.  At least take the time to reflect.

~FB

 

 

 

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