News from Shape Up America!
July-August 2005
 
 
Shape Up America! Newsletter

Greetings!

Hiking Through History
A Walk on the Lewis and Clark Trail
This year we are celebrating the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark Expedition and here is a great way to learn all about it and have some family fitness fun at the same time. Ted S. Hall of Missoula, Montana has devoted seven years of his life to studying the 407 miles covered by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark between August 24 and September 26, 1805. The result of Hall’s research is presented in a book called The Trail Between The Rivers (published by Stoneydale Press – www.stoneydale.com). This colorful book maps out in detail nearly every step of the arduous journey taken by the explorers from Camp Fortunate to the headwaters of the Columbia River.

Since one mile is equal to approximately 2000 steps, you and your family can easily use a pedometer (a step counter) to virtually re-trace this famous expedition. You can go for daily walks, use the pedometer to calculate the distance you travel each day, and then use the book to determine what you would have encountered each day of your virtual journey. The book is packed with maps and colorful photos that allow you to walk “in the footsteps” of Lewis and Clark.

A good pedometer costs from $20 to $30 (the simpler the better, but don’t buy one that is so cheap it breaks easily). The book costs about $25 and will make a fine addition to your library. So for $55 or less you can get some exercise and learn about the important contribution Lewis and Clark made to our country’s history and to our understanding of the topography and natural flora and fauna of what was then the Wild West. Here’s another idea: why not plan now to visit Montana or Idaho next summer and walk a portion of the Lewis and Clark trail that is described in the book. It is a great way to make history “come alive,” visit some spectacularly beautiful country and get some physical activity all at the same time.

Training the Lower Leg
~Guest Contributor: Michael Roussell~
Last month we focused on bodyweight squats to strengthen the upper portion of our legs. This month we will finish off leg training by looking at the lower portion of our legs. The back portion of our lower leg is known as the calf muscle (made of the gastrocnemious and soleus muscles. The main muscle in the front of the lower leg is the tibialis anterior. The calf is responsible for any movement that requires pointing your feet towards the ground while the tibialis anterior is responsible for moving the feet up towards the sky.

The tibialis anterior is a muscle that is greatly neglected by just about everyone in the world of training. Taking just a couple minutes to work your tibialis anterior three times a week can help cure or prevent shin splints (an injury common to active people often due to a muscle strength imbalance of the lower leg).

The Workout: We will be adding 2 movements to our routine this month – one for the calf and one for the tibialis anterior. The movements will be done in what is called a superset. A superset is basically completing two or more exercises consecutively without resting between sets.

Calf Raise - The first exercise will be a basic calf raise; for this you will need to find a set of stairs. Place the ball of your left foot (we will work one leg at a time) on the edge of the step so that the rest of your foot is hanging off the edge of the step. Let your heel drop below the step so you feel a stretch in your calf muscle. At that point push down with the ball of your foot, raising your heel as high above the step as you can. From here you should be able to feel your calf muscle contracting. Hold the contraction for one second and slowly lower your heel until you feel the stretch again. That is one full repetition. CAUTION: Take special care to choose a step that has arm rails on both sides that will allow you to maintain your balance as you work on this exercise and the exercise below. Also, as you are placing your weight on the ball of your foot, take care to place your weight properly so that your foot does not slip off the step. A note of warning – your calf muscles will start to burn the further you get into the set. Don’t be alarmed, this means you’re doing it right.

BEGINNERS: You can start out with as few as 5 reps but you should aim to eventually complete 1 set of 15-20 reps. Twice a week is often enough. But if you can only complete 2 or 3 reps to begin with, that is OK. Slowly work up over a period of several weeks to a complete set of reps. INTERMEDIATES: Start out with 10 reps twice a week. Your goal to achieve after several weeks or months is to complete 2 sets of 15-20 reps twice a week. ADVANCED: You should aim to complete 1 set of 15-20 reps twice a week, but slowly work up to completing 3 sets of 15-20 reps twice a week.

Tibialis Anterior Raise – After you complete one set of calf raises you should go directly into this next exercise. For the tibialis anterior raise you will still use the step again but this time your heel will be on the step and your toes will be hanging off (use banister to maintain balance). Let your foot hang down off the step as far as they can go (unlike the calf raise you will probably not feel a stretch at the bottom of the movement). Now lift up your toes and the front half of your foot as if you were trying to point them to the sky. When you cannot lift any higher hold the muscle contraction for 1-2 seconds and slowly lower your foot slowly back to the starting position. The goal is to match the number of calf raises that you completed in the exercise above with the same number of Tibialis Anterior raises so that you are working both the front and the back muscles of the lower leg in a balanced manner. Therefore, as you work your way up from beginner to intermediate to advanced, your final goal will be to eventually complete 3 sets of 15-20 reps twice a week. Remember this will take many weeks to months to achieve this goal.

This lower leg workout should go pretty quickly and can be done after your bodyweight squats (see June 2005 Newsletter). Remember that strength training exercises like these need not be done every day. Twice a week is often enough. Train hard and next month we’ll move to exercises for the upper body.

Sharp Pencils, Sharp Minds and Healthy Bodies...
What does the TV remote control, the computer mouse, and a child’s bedroom have in common? They are all connected to the growing problem of childhood obesity and academic performance. Dr. Tom Robinson of Stanford University has done it again. He and his colleague have published a very important study demonstrating that children who have a bedroom television set perform more poorly academically. On the other hand, the good news is that children who used a computer for academic purposes achieved higher test scores. Since children are watching too much TV and becoming fat in greater numbers than ever before, this study provides one more compelling reason to remove the television set from the bedroom and to restrict the use of the television to no more than two hours per day in school aged children. [Note: Infants and preschoolers should not be watching television at all.]

If you decide to take the step of removing the TV from the bedroom of your child, consider the following. Children learn from your own behavior. They are particularly sensitive to (and will rebel against) the hypocrisy of a statement such as “Do as I say and not as I do.” So if you have a TV in your own bedroom, consider removing it as well – at least until your children are grown. Because increased TV viewing is linked to the development of overweight and obesity, your own waistline may benefit from such a move and the message to your children will be clear and consistent.

Removing the TV from bedrooms and restricting its use are an important foundation upon which to build a healthier more active lifestyle. Parents are in a position to do more to help their children avert or reduce obesity. Here are a few things you can do as a parent:

  • Bring healthier foods into the house (like fruits and veggies for meals and snacks)
  • Avoid bringing soda, chips, cookies, ice cream, cakes and crackers home
  • Plan and prepare healthier meals and snacks to be eaten at home or taken to school
  • Carefully screen restaurants and avoid those that do not offer healthier choices
  • Encourage children to use plain water instead of soda to quench thirst
  • Learn the principles of portion control and weight management so that you can set a good example for your children
  • Exercise together each day by going for a walk or a bike ride
  • Encourage your children to play outside every day
  • Encourage opportunities for vigorous physical activity for your children
  • Demand high quality daily physical education for your child in school
  • When old enough, teach your child what a calorie is (see our Shape Up & Drop 10 program for a refresher course on calories) and how to read a food label.

The Portion Teller – Portion Control Demystified
portion1a Are you ready to get serious about portion control? As you know, eating less is the key to weight loss (moving more is the key to weight maintenance). To eat less, you have to learn about portion control. If you are ready to “dig in” and learn what you need to know about portion control, purchase a copy of Lisa Young’s new book, The Portion Teller [published by Morgan Road Books – www.morganroadbooks.com] Her book is filled with interesting information on how portion sizes have doubled or tripled over the past 30 years, and provides lots of tips on how to get your portions under control, even when you are eating out.

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