Are you stuck in your workout routine?

If you know me, then you know how much I love exercise. My passion for fitness led me to study exercise and metabolism in college. Obtaining a degree in Exercise Science and earning 3 different fitness certifications allowed me to share this passion with others and provide guidance for leading healthier, more-fit lifestyles. Over the past 12 years, I have learned a lot about the body, metabolism and fitness capacities through research, practice and personal experience. During that time I have learned what works and what works better.

are you stuck in your workout routine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First and foremost, you should always start with an activity that you love. This is especially true for those who are just starting out on their fitness journey. The most basic principle to remember about exercise is that your body was designed to move and any form of physical activity accomplishes that objective. Nature never intended for us to sit for 8 hours a day at work, drive umpteen hours during the week and engage in sedentary activities such as watching TV and playing on our smartphone devices. Do what you love and be happy, because if you’re not, it’s highly unlikely that you will stick to your exercise routine. This recommendation is for general health, not necessarily for those wanting to push their fitness to the next level.

nature

That being said, some forms of exercise may not be best-matched for our fitness or physique goals. All throughout college and even into my mid-20s, I was a cardio junkie. Because nothing burns a ton of calories like a good hour of sweat, right?  Sure, I would strength train and teach a variety of classes, but my workouts were still dominated by long, aggressive cardio sessions. To the untrained eye, I appeared “healthy” but looking back, old photos of me reveal I had skinny, cardio-arms and a cortisol-provoked pooch. Overdoing it on cardio workouts left my body chronically inflamed and extremely sensitive to changes in my normal routine.  I would gain weight very easily which would in turn drive me to add extra workouts to burn off more calories. This cycle repeated itself over and over and over.

cardio

 

 

 

 

 

I began journaling my workouts and recorded how I felt after using different training methods. Surprisingly, I would always feel the best after a good weight lifting session, but it would still be years before I made strength-training my primary form of exercise. It’s easy to think that the longer your workouts, the healthier you’ll be.

In 2013, I finally entered the world of Crossfit, fell in love with it and we’ve been happily married ever since. Crossfit is a strength and conditioning program that focuses on functional movements such as weight lifting, running and rowing that are performed at various levels of load and intensity. It can be applied to individuals of all ages and fitness levels. I’ll be perfectly honest with you, when I started Crossfit I merely wanted the aesthetic benefits of it.  My goals were purely extrinsic, like they had always been with exercise. As I became more immersed in the Crossfit culture, something unexpected happened. I found myself surrounded by a group of people who all shared the same passion for hard work as I did and these people are now my fit family. A Crossfit gym is unlike any other gym you will ever experience. It separates itself by the presence of spirit and camaraderie. As I continued with my training in this new environment, my goals became more fitness-oriented and less and less about my looks.

Today, I am constantly striving towards a new challenge and to make myself a better and smarter athlete than the day before. What’s crazy is that when I finally let go of the whole “gotta look good” concept of exercise, my body naturally transformed on its own. My metabolism has never been healthier. I eat twice as much as what I used to, have excellent energy levels, more positive moods and have never felt more beautiful and confident in my body. I also learned that my rest days are just as valuable as my training days. It all happened when I traded in the treadmill for a barbell.

treadmill

Many would agree that Crossfit has a “less is more” approach to fitness. Some days, all I do for a workout is perform 5×5 back squats. The old Amanda would think, “That is hardly a workout” while the new Amanda says, “I can’t wait to see what my body can do today”!

I know what you’re thinking. Can you get injured doing Crossift? Sure can. You know what else you can get injured doing? Zumba, running or picking a toy off the ground. Crossfit is not injury-prone, people are. When skillfully guided by a certified trainer, Crossfit can be a safe, effective and motivating way to train the body and metabolism.

This whole concept of high intensity interval training has caught on like wildfire in the research world. What was once considered a form of training for the elite athlete is now being applied to our clinical population. Numerous studies have shown that not only is HIIT safe for the clinical population, it has shown to have greater benefits in both cardiorespiratory fitness and physiological parameters (weight, BMI, blood sugar and insulin control, blood pressure to name a few) when compared to older standards of recommended exercises such as moderate-intense cardio prescriptions. This further strengthens the need for health practitioners to be not only educated but exposed to alternative forms of exercise that includes strength and interval training.

So, if you feel like you are stuck in your exercise routine, hopefully this article will help generate the idea of pursuing alternative fitness goals. Become comfortable with the uncomfortable. For me, Crossfit served as a gateway to deeper wellness: teaching me to nourish my body better with whole food ingredients, rest, and recover properly. And I now surround myself with people that make me a better person, both inside and outside of the gym. The difference between who you are and who you want to be is what you do. It’s a very simple formula. Love. Laugh. Lift.

Amanda Figge

28 Reasons to Exercise

Why do you exercise? Are you doing it for the right reasons?

Why do you exercise? It’s a simple question that can have hundreds of answers. I polled my coworkers and received a variety of responses: to feel healthy, to relieve stress, to lose weight, to train for a 5K, to feel more energy, to not gain weight, to get away from my husband.

I was inspired to write this blog by a conversation I overheard in the locker room. Two women were talking about their journeys with weight loss and how they were tracking their eating and exercise points using the Weight Watchers system. One woman was particularly upset because she had worked out for an hour and this only gave her 3 extra points to eat according to her Weight Watchers scale. She went on to say, “It’s like I worked out for nothing”.

nothing

That is the phrase that broke my heart. Regardless of how long or short or how hard or easy your work out is, no exercise session should go unappreciated. And, there is no such thing as a wasted workout. Remember, 10 minutes of walking on your lunch break is better than 10 minutes of sitting and playing on Facebook. When your purpose of exercise is solely to burn calories, it sometimes takes the enjoyment factor out of the equation. Also, we shouldn’t view working out as an ability to eat more. While a good sweat session does leave your body requiring more fuel, it shouldn’t be your sole purpose for heading to the gym.

Throughout the years I have worked out for both good and bad reasons. Today, I have a brand new mindset when it comes to exercise. One of my goals focuses on strength gains in the gym and in order to allow my body to adapt, I have to treat it correctly with proper fuel, rest and most importantly, recovery. These goals have been put on a hold for a while since I am pregnant so my focus at the moment is to simply maintain an active lifestyle. Regardless of what your goals are, remember there are hundreds of benefits that are experienced by the body when we simply get up and move!

28 Reasons to Exercise

  1. Helps develop a stronger core and better posture.
  2. Develops stronger bones and healthier muscles.
  3. A chance to enjoy the great outdoors!
  4. Reduces joint aches and stiffness.
  5. Helps prevent falls and fractures.
  6. Elevates mood and improves mental health.
  7. Lowers the risk of stroke.
  8. Reduces the incidence of metabolic syndrome and diabetes.
  9. Improves blood sugar control in individuals with diabetes.
  10. Can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s by 40%.
  11. Exercise induced changes in body’s immune system can help prevent some forms of cancer, such as colon, endometrial and lung cancer.
  12. Reduces blood pressure.
  13. An opportunity to inspire others.
  14. Can reduce mortality and the risk of recurrent breast cancer by 50%.  
  15. Improves sleep habits.
  16. Reduces bad cholesterol (LDL) and can help raise good cholesterol (HDL) levels.
  17. Experience higher blood sugars after a meal? A quick walk can help bring those levels down.
  18. Regular exercise during pregnancy can help better condition the body to handle labor and delivery. Women who work out during pregnancy have a much easier time with bouncing back to their pre-baby body.
  19. Studies suggest that the best time to study, do a project or memorize a speech is after a good sweat session.
  20. Decreases insulin resistance.
  21. Can help reverse the damages experienced in the body from stress.
  22. Improves body image/self-esteem/self-worth, even in the absence of dramatic body changes.
  23. Coined as the “runner’s high”, exercise can produce a sense of euphoria in many individuals.
  24. Creates opportunities to bond in a healthy way with family and friends.
  25. Prevents/slows down the decline in cognitive functioning associated with aging.
  26. Relieves anxiety.
  27. Can help keep constipation at bay.
  28. May help reduce leg swelling from improved circulation.

Pregnancy Update!

Why 28 reasons? Well that’s because I am 28 weeks along and finally in my 3rd trimester! And remember just because you are pregnant doesn’t mean you should take a 9 month absence from the gym! I continue to go to Crossfit 4-5 days a week and enjoy leisure walks with my hubby and our dog, Bamboo. While every woman’s pregnancy is different, I am confident that my exercise habits have continuously contributed to my good moods, energy levels and proper weight gain. Remember to always discuss your exercise routine with your OB-GYN.

Figge’s Summer Trends: Workouts

With a new season comes new trends! The past two weeks I introduced you to some fun gadgets and ideas to get you and your family off the couch and into the yard for some outdoor fun, as well as the latest in tips to improve your diet. This week I’m going over some of the latest approaches to amp up your workout!

Figge's Summer Trends- Outdoor Fun

Express Workouts. Why work out for 60 minutes when you can possibly get better results with just 20 minutes or less? Workouts that are 30 minutes or shorter are all the rage and who wouldn’t want a quick workout and more time to spend outdoors this summer? These programs can include HIIT, Crossfit and cardio-strength that can be easily viewed through medians such as On Demand. In fact, P90X reformatted their workouts to be 30 minutes long versus their previous 60 minute workouts. The concern with chronic HIIT is that it can be quite taxing on your body. Generally, you shouldn’t perform these high intensity workouts more than 3x per week and you should be allowing your body proper rest between workouts. I highly recommend performing HIIT under supervision whether it is your Crossfit coach or an established program.

Back to the Basics. The ACSM predicted that body weight training would be the leading fitness trend of 2015. Body weight exercises can include movements like lunges, squats, planks, push-ups and burpees. These are some of my favorite exercises because not only do they target multiple muscle groups, you don’t need equipment to perform them. Not only do these exercises provide good strength-training, they can also be programmed as part of a cardio workout too! Don’t believe me? Try performing 20 walking lunges followed by 10 burpees. Repeat that 3x and see how high your heart rate is!

Living and Breathing What I Teach

Living healthy, active lifestyles is not only something that I encourage on all my patients, it’s something that I value in my own life. I strive to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle, not only to set a good example for my patients but more importantly to lead a long, healthy life for myself and my family. To show proof, here is how I spent my Friday.

5:15am:Alarm clock! Yes, I did snooze for 9 minutes then quickly got up, dressed, brushed my teeth and out the door we go to Crossfit.

6:00am: CrossFit WOD

Bench Press (close grip) 4-3-2-1
    (75 lbs, 85 lbs, 95 lbs, 100 lbs)

Thruster 8 min EMOM (every minute on the minute) 3-5 reps
(4 reps @ 83 lbs)

5 Minute AMRAP- 1 Turkish get up (each arm), 3 strict pull-ups, 10 wall balls (14 lbs)
3 rounds

7:15am:1 scoop of whey protein powder + 8 oz of almond milk.

9:30am:Breakfast (in between patients) of 5 eggs whites sautéed with mushrooms and spinach and ½ cup sweet potatoes + ½ avocado. I always make my breakfast and lunch meal the night before so I am stocked up and ready for the day.

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12:30pm:Lunch. Typically I have leftovers that consists of meat and veggies but since the leftovers are used up at the end of the week, I threw together a salad and plan on cooking tonight. Salad ingredients: mixed greens and baby spinach, artichokes, craisins, mushrooms, avocado, grilled chicken and walnuts with balsamic vinaigrette dressing.photo 4

2:30pm: Snack time. Gala apple with peanut butter.

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5:00pm:Pack up and head home but not before having a little fun after clinic-hours. Who doesn’t do a handstand after work to celebrate on Fridays? I also munched on some mixed nuts on my ride home and to the grocery store.

handstand

6:30pm:Dinner is fixed. Kept it simple tonight with my rosemary herbed chicken, garlic-roasted butternut squash and garlic mashed cauliflower. Can you tell my love for garlic??

photo 3

9:30pm:8 oz of chocolate almond milk–delish!

10:30pm:Lights out. Early morning Crossfit workout and lots to do on Saturday!

Eat clean, move more, spend time with family, value your sleep and make a point to have a little fun each day!

Figge’s Favorite Things (Part Two)

Happy Holidays and welcome to the second part of Figge’s Favorite Things. Here is the second half of my personal list of favorite things to keep you happy and healthy this season.

7. Amy Dixon-home fitness workouts Amy Dixon has always been one of my favorite fitness experts. I have had the pleasure of meeting her at several fitness conferences and learn more from her with each new session that I go to. Whether you’re an avid athlete or beginner to exercise, Amy and her team demonstrates a variety of levels and modifications to guarantee you will have a safe and effective workout. You can find her DVDs on her website or at select Costco stores.crockpot

8. Crockpot I never thought I needed a crockpot until we received one as a wedding gift. This kitchen must-have saves valuable time for making healthy and delicious meals.

9. www.steepandcheap.com This is a great website for your outdoor adventure needs. Don’t wait too long on the deals, because they are only available for a limited amount of time.

photo 310. DIY projects Last year I made my very first appearance in the DIY world. My first project I selected was from Michaels and was a Family Name banner.To my surprise, it was quite rewarding and made awesome gifts. DIY projects can save you a lot of money in gift-giving and provides opportunities to test your creative skills.

11. CrossFit Instinct. My crossfit journey began a little over four months ago. A co-worker had asked me if I would join her in one of the free Saturday morning classes they offer and I have been hooked ever since. Excellence shines in the coaching staff and programming at Crossfit Instinct. In just a few short months, I have accomplished fitness goals that I never thought imaginable such as unassisted pull-ups and dead-lifting over 150 lbs.65 Check out a free on-ramp class for yourself and see what your body is capable of doing!

12. Mindless Eating by Dr. Brian Wansink. In this book, Dr. Brian Wansink addresses the environmental cues that cause us to overeat or have bad mindless eating habits. By making readers more aware of their surroundings, we can turn our bad mindless habits into good, healthy ones.

13.Dr. Dan’s Cortibalm: The winter months  are always difficult on my lips. Between walking the dog, snowboarding and other fun outdoor activities, my lips are always chapped, cracked and can even bleed sometimes. Dr. Dan’s Cortibalm lip ointment has been a lifesaver. Typically lip balms make my lips peel even more, but this special formula leaves them soft, smooth and protects against the harsh weather.

photo 114. PuppiesBecause who doesn’t love puppies?

In case you missed itFigge’s Favorite Things (Part One).

 

Move to Lose

exercise_MP900442795In the past year I have sprained my ankle while teaching Zumba, strained my back playing softball and got a nasty 5 inch abrasion on my shin at Crossfit. One of my witty family members commented to me, “That’s what you get for exercising.” My response “What does a sedentary lifestyle get you?”

A popular topic in research today is the health impacts of sedentary behaviors, specifically excessive sitting time. In fact, I’ve heard “sedentary behaviors are the new smoking” referenced in several presentations and conferences. Sedentary behaviors have taken over our country. Decreased physical activity patterns have been noted with the rise of technology (video games/tablets), changing modes of transportation and increased urbanization. We generally associate sedentary behaviors with watching television, playing video games, surfing the web, reading and knitting. However, most forget that our job positions are often sedentary activities. In fact, 95% of my day is spent sitting and talking to patients or charting on the computer.

We know that limiting sedentary behaviors is recommended for children. In fact, television or screen time should be limited to no more than 2 hours/day for children. But are there any sedentary behavior limitations recommended for adults? At present, no definitive recommendations can be made on how long adults can sit for or how often they should break up their sitting time. In one Australian study, high levels of television viewing time were associated with metabolic syndrome and its components (abdominal obesity, abnormal glucose and lipid metabolism).3 A 2003 article in the JAMA found that independent of exercise levels, sedentary behaviors, especially TV watching, were associated with significantly elevated risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes, whereas even light to moderate activity was associated with substantially lower risk.1

Sometimes limited physical activity is out of one’s control, such as a job position. Wearing a pedometer can help you become more aware of how sedentary or active you are during the day. The Shape Up America program  recommends individuals aim for 10,000 steps per day (which would be close to walking about 5 miles/day). Ten thousand steps may be too great of a feat for some individuals; however, a pedometer can help track what your average amounts of steps are per day. From there, you can set personalized goals focusing on your own physical activity patterns. For example, if you average 2,000 steps per day, create a goal of increasing that to 3,000 steps per day.

In a study published in 2008, Diabetes Care, researchers investigated the importance of avoiding prolonged, uninterrupted periods of sitting time.2 This evidence suggests that recommendations need to be made to break up sitting time in addition to physical activity recommendations.

What is the best type of physical activity?

Couple Bicycling on Rural RoadThe current recommendation for physical activity for health is a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity accumulated each week or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity each week. While I’d love to tell everyone to start incorporating high-intensity interval training and lifting heavy weights into their exercise routines, bottom line is, not everyone likes the same thing. I am not a fan of running and there is no way that I would wake up before work every day to go for a brisk morning jog. However, I love going to Crossfit and rarely choose sleeping in over going to an early morning class. I never saw myself as an early morning exerciser, but I found something that I love, something that motivates me and that is the reason my alarm clock is set for 5:15 a.m. every morning.

To answer the question, the best type of exercise is the kind that gets you moving!  Sure, many can argue one form of exercise is better over the other, but what matters most is the fact that you are exercising.  I encourage people to find something they love and hopefully its multiple things so that you can vary up your routine. If you can, try to participate in exercise or active movement every day. Remember to take breaks often if you have a sedentary work position, even if you already work out before or after work.

1. Frank B. Hu, et al. 2003.Television Watching and Other Sedentary Behaviors in Relation to Risk of Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus in Women. The Journal of the American Medical Association, 289(14):1785-1791.

2. Healy, G.N, et al. (2008). Breaks in sedentary time: Beneficial associations with metabolic risk. Diabetes Care, 31(4): 661-666.

3. Owen, N. (2012). Sedentary behavior: Understanding and influencing adults’ prolonged sitting time. Prev Med, 55(6): 535-539.