Personal Training

Beginning a new exercise routine can be a daunting task. The variety of equipment, types of workouts, choice of goals and countless other variables can be overwhelming. Maintaining that routine despite plateaus, boredom and discouragement is just as challenging.

Fortunately, personal trainers can be effective allies in designing and executing workouts, as well as reaching your fitness goals. Read on to learn more about the field, how personal trainers can help, and whether hiring one would be the right move for you.


Why Hire a Personal Trainer?

Many people view hiring a personal trainer to help get in shape as a luxury reserved for the wealthy. But there are many benefits of working with a personal trainer that make it worth considering for the average person.

As the job title implies, a personal trainer will design a personalized program to fit your schedule, health conditions and fitness level. To that end, a personal trainer will also help you to set proper, attainable goals. This is one of the most important aspects of consulting with a fitness professional, because goals that are too demanding may lead to discouragement or even injury, while overly easy goals won’t challenge you enough to make any lasting changes in your health or physique. People working out on their own often fall into these traps, but a good trainer will help you to set and reach progressive goals.

If you are new to exercise, or are picking it up again after a long hiatus, a personal trainer can help you to get acquainted with all of the potentially confusing equipment at the gym. He or she will also teach you proper form to prevent injury and get the most out of your workout.

Eventually, many exercisers hit plateaus, during which they stop making noticeable progress. A few sessions with a personal trainer will infuse some new techniques into your workout and help you to break through it.

One of the biggest reasons people are hesitant to work with a personal trainer is money. The truth is that a good trainer will teach you the skills you need to go it alone, and even a few sessions will give you the tools to design your own fitness routine. Think of hiring a personal trainer as an investment in your health and wellness which, if used properly, could save you money in the future.

Who Should Work with a Trainer?

Anyone who needs a boost in their current workout routine, or is looking to start a new one, could benefit from working with a trainer. If you plan on working with your trainer at home, it’s important to have the best home fitness equipment in your home gym.

Currently, a certification is not necessary for someone to work as a personal trainer. So in order to ensure that you receive the best possible direction, it’s important that you ask for proper fitness credentials when you are considering potential trainers. Be sure that the person you hire also has CPR training and up-to-date liability insurance, just in case of an emergency.

Many trainers specialize in certain aspects of fitness such as nutrition, certain sports or strength training, so if you have a specific interest you should consider a trainer whose education and experience can complement it. Look for a trainer who is professional and personable, who you trust and who motivates you. You might also consider factors such as gender, schedule and style when deciding what type of trainer you want to work with.

A qualified personal trainer who is a good match for you will help you set and reach your individual goals, and bring your fitness to a new level.

Have you ever been helped by a personal trainer? Tell us about your experience!

Good Mood Foods

“You are what you eat.”

We’ve all heard this adage before, but recent research suggests it may be truer than anyone previously thought. As our understanding of how the human brain processes moods and emotions grows, the link between diet and mood has become steadily more apparent. While many foods are said to affect your mood, positively or negatively, the following have been proven to have an effect.

Dark Chocolate

Chocolate has long been considered a “comfort food,” and many people use it for mood enhancement. A recent study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology confirmed that small doses of chocolate improve both mood and mental performance. However, chocolate is an incredibly complex food, containing over 600 different chemicals, and the exact mechanism responsible for its mood-improving qualities is still up for debate. Although these same chemicals are present in milk chocolate, they appear in higher concentrations in dark chocolate.


Omega-3 fatty acids have recently become a buzzword in the health industry, and a huge variety of benefits have been attributed to them. One use of omega-3s that has been clinically proven in several studies is the ability to improve mood – even, in some cases, to decrease symptoms of depression. Omega-3s are vital to the body in creating neurotransmitters like serotonin which control mood. Most fish contain omega-3s, and salmon is an excellent source that also has a healthy, balanced nutritional profile.

Leafy Greens

Mineral rich vegetables, such as kale, Swiss chard and spinach are excellent sources of magnesium. This vital nutrient is necessary in over 300 biological processes, including nerve function, and may have benefits in improving mood and controlling anxiety. Several studies have tested magnesium for mood disorders with positive results, but it is still unclear whether or not the mineral might be useful to otherwise healthy people.


Several nuts contain compounds that may work to improve mood and brain function. Walnuts, for instance, are high in omega-3s, as well as in several minerals which may have a positive impact on mood. Brazil nuts, in addition to omega-3s and magnesium, are very high in other minerals that have been linked to controlling mood and anxiety, including selenium, zinc and B vitamins.

Foods to Avoid

Foods that are heavily processed and high in fat and sugar can have a powerfully negative effect on your mood. Although you may experience an immediate lift because these foods are digested quickly, you will subsequently experience a crash, leaving you tense and probably still hungry. Additives such as preservatives and food colorings have also been linked with an increase in feelings of anxiety.

Alcohol is a depressant, meaning that it has a sedative effect on the body. In small doses, this calming effect can be desirable, but it may backfire on you. The spike in sugar can cause an insulin response, leading to a blood sugar crash. This severe dip in blood sugar levels can cause depression, anxiety and sleep disruptions.


A distinction should be made between a bad mood and a clinical mood disorder. These disorders often require medication and professional treatment, and you should never try to self-medicate.

The foods listed above are just a few of the uplifting dietary options available. What do you eat to help improve your mood?

Target Heart Rate

Target Heart RateOne of the most challenging aspects of designing any workout routine is selecting and maintaining the proper intensity.

While strength training allows you to judge intensity based on the amount of weight you’re lifting and how many reps you’re able to execute, cardiovascular exercise lacks those clear measurements. However, learning how to monitor your heart rate and select the appropriate zone will give you a target and help you to reach your fitness goals.

Used properly, target heart rate training can help you safely maximize your cardiovascular workouts.


Monitoring Your Heart Rate

Most cardiovascular equipment is able to accurately monitor your heart rate for you during exercise, without a pause in your workout. This is usually done through the use of sensors embedded in the handles of the machine. The best treadmills and ellipticals include a telemetric heart rate receiver and chest strap to assist you in monitoring your heart rate wirelessly. If you’re exercising outside, portable heart rate sensors you wear on your wrist or around your chest can provide constant heart rate readings.

Without these tools, you will have to pause briefly to get an idea of your heart rate. You will also require a watch. To manually take your pulse, place the tips of your index and middle fingers on the outside of your other wrist in line with your thumb. Press lightly until you feel the steady rhythm of your radial artery. You can either count for a full minute, or count the beats for 30 seconds and multiply by two.

Calculating Maximum Heart Rate

In order to figure out your target heart rate, the first number you need to know is your maximum heart rate. This number will represent the amount of beats per minute your heart is capable of performing. The most commonly used and easiest way to estimate this number is by subtracting your age from 220. It’s important to understand, though, that this number is only an estimate and may vary if you are on certain medications or have a heart condition.

Moderate Intensity

According to the Center for Disease Control, the moderate intensity heart rate zone exists between 50 and 70 percent of your maximum heart rate (MHR). So, to calculate the floor and ceiling of your moderate intensity heart rate zone, use the following formulas:

MHR x 0.50

MHR x 0.70

The resulting numbers represent the range in which you should keep your heart rate during moderate intensity exercise, such as a brisk walk, water aerobics, doubles tennis, ballroom dancing or gardening.

Vigorous Intensity

More advanced exercisers and athletes may want to use higher-intensity workouts to improve their endurance. This is commonly called the vigorous intensity heart rate zone and is 70 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. The basic formulas are the same as with the moderate intensity zone.

MHR x 0.70

MHR x 0.85

As you add more intense periods of exercise to your routine, keeping your heart rate within this zone will help you get better results from your workouts. Exceeding 85 percent of your maximum heart rate does not provide any additional benefits, and places an unhealthy amount of strain on your body.

Knowing your target heart rate can help you ensure that your workout is challenging enough to achieve your workout goals, without risking over-exertion. This will help you exercise efficiently and wisely.

You can calculate your target heart rate easily by using our target heart rate calculator.

Elliptical vs Treadmill

Walk into almost any gym and you will be confronted with one common feature: row after row of treadmills and ellipticals. Although these machines are both classified as “cardiovascular equipment,” both have individual qualities that will suit some exercisers better than others.

Before purchasing a piece of equipment this fundamental to a balanced exercise program, it’s important to consider which would be best for your fitness level, workout style and budget.

Elliptical Machine Benefits

The elliptical machine features two pedals that move in a smooth, uninterrupted circular motion that allows for an impact-free workout. This can be invaluable for individuals with injuries or weaknesses in their knees, ankles, hips and lower back.

Additionally, two long handles extend upward from the base of the machine and place resistance on your upper body. This full-body workout means that you have the potential to burn significantly more calories per hour with an elliptical than if you were to use a treadmill or exercise bike.

There are some potential drawbacks to ellipticals. Because the structure of the elliptical machine controls and limits your range of motion, the movement may take some getting used to. The stride length is also built into the machine, although some allow for slight adjustments, and exercisers with shorter strides may find themselves hyper-extending their knees, which can be problematic over time.

Another factor to consider is that you set the pace on an elliptical (unlike a treadmill, which provides a motorized speed). This can sometimes make it challenging to maintain a constant speed, and if you aren’t highly self-motivated, it can be tempting to go easy.

Selecting an Elliptical

As with any piece of exercise equipment, it’s important to compare elliptical machines until you find one that perfectly fits your needs. Look for a durable machine that will be able to fully support the weight of all its users and has a heavy enough flywheel to offer a smooth, quiet workout. Higher quality ellipticals are designed to mimic your natural body posture and movement.

There are many other elliptical features that allow you to tailor the machine to your needs. Consider an elliptical buying guide to help you fully understand these aspects.

Benefits of Treadmills

Apart from the benefits associated with all forms of cardiovascular exercise, the key benefit of treadmills is their accessibility. The running or walking motion required to use a treadmill is natural, comfortable and familiar.

Many home treadmills also fold up for easy storage. While running outside can be made difficult by terrain or weather, treadmills offer an even surface and the climate control of your home or gym.

Another advantage is that treadmills have a sort of built in motivation. The belt speed and the incline will adjust automatically when you follow a program, reducing any tendencies to relax during a workout. Although you can stop or slow the machine at any time, the automated pace prevents you from easing up unintentionally.

The treadmill running surface is cushioned to reduce the stress on your joints from repeated impact, but this is still a concern for exercisers with a history of joint problems. Also, some people find treadmills repetitive, making them less likely to exercise as often as they should.

LIVESTRONG LS13.0T Treadmill

Finding the Perfect Treadmill

When shopping for a treadmill, look for a machine with a solid frame and a wide running belt. These features will allow you to use the machine comfortably without modifying your natural stride. The highest rated treadmills have larger motors that allow the belt to rotate smoothly and quietly.

Integrated support for media players is an additional feature that may help to alleviate some of the boredom experienced when running indoors. Features that allow you to track your progress through multiple workouts will also make your routine more enjoyable.

Which is Best for You?

If you already enjoy running outdoors but find that your cardio routine suffers because of the weather, a treadmill might be your best choice. People who suffer from joint pain, however, would likely benefit from using an elliptical. Also, if you have difficulty incorporating an upper body workout into your schedule, you may find that the elliptical helps you save time by including these muscles in your cardio.

Regardless of which machine you chose, you’ll want to select a quality model that will last you a long time and help you reach your fitness goals.

Which works best for you: ellipticals or treadmills?

DOs and DON’Ts of Cardio

The many benefits of cardiovascular training are well recognized and understood. But despite the simple appearance of this mode of exercise, there are several common mistakes that people make in their cardio routines that can cause injury or prevent proper recovery. There are also many techniques that could help you enjoy your workout more and provide faster results that you may not have yet put into practice.

DO Eat Before

A myth has crept into the exercise realm that you can lose more weight by exercising without eating beforehand. There is no science to back up this claim. In fact, a 2011 study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism directly contradicted this assertion. The findings suggest that a light meal with little-to-no fat will cause you to actually burn more calories for up to 24 hours following your workout.

DON’T Perform the Same Workout Everyday

It’s a fairly well known fact that your workout should vary from day to day. Too often, though, this does not translate to cardio and people commonly practice the same form of cardiovascular exercise every day. This can lead to muscular imbalances and overuse injuries, ultimately being counterproductive. If you’re a runner, for example, consider mixing biking, swimming and other cardio activities into your schedule.

DO Be Choosey About Your Equipment

Not all cardiovascular equipment is created equal. Equipment that is poorly made could not only limit the effectiveness of your workouts, it could also increase your risk of injury. If your favorite form of cardio is running, it’s worth investing in the best treadmills for running. The best equipment also allows you to vary your workout with a variety of adjustable speed and incline levels.

DON’T Skip Your Warm-up

Exercisers are often pressed for time and habitually cut their workouts short. One of the first things to go is usually the warm-up, but skipping your warm-up could both decrease your performance and lead to injury. A brief warm-up, between five and 10 minutes, increases the temperature and blood flow to muscles and connective tissue, preparing them for the demands of your workout.

DO Set Appropriate Goals

Unrealistic goals can leave you discouraged and feeling as though you’re wasting your time. Although cardiovascular exercise targets the heart and lungs, several other biological systems contribute to your overall performance. Hormone levels, illness, medications, joint injuries and even mood can all affect your workout either positively or negatively. For this reason, it’s important to set goals based on your individual capabilities. Consult with a fitness or medical professional for help in setting goals that are achievable but still challenging for you.

By avoiding some of these DON’Ts and incorporating these DOs, you’re bound to enjoy exercise more and see faster results.

Have you identified any mistakes you were making with your fitness routine? How did you remedy them? What gets you excited to work out?


Could You Benefit from Wellness Coaching?

Losing weight and becoming healthier is generally not just a matter of following a diet and exercise routine. In some cases, a complete change of lifestyle is needed. However, without proper direction and encouragement, making the decisions that will bring you closer to your goals can be a more daunting challenge than sticking to any diet or workout regimen. Wellness coaches, a growing profession, hope to fill this need.

What is a Wellness Coach?

According to wellness coach Melody Mayo writing for Life University, the role of a wellness coach can easily be compared to that of any other coach. But, while an athletic coach will work to teach you the skills needed to excel at your chosen sport, a wellness coach attempts to give you the decision-making skills that contribute to a healthy mind and body. Mayo emphasizes that unlike nutritionists or personal trainers who prescribe what course you should take, wellness coaches endeavor to show you how to incorporate those changes. Like many other wellness coaches, she believes that this individualized approach will help you to be not only healthier, but happier and more fulfilled.

Finding a Wellness Coach

Because there are no standardized certification programs for wellness coaches, anyone can simply claim the title – making it difficult to find a qualified coach you can trust. Speaking to WebMD, Margaret Moore, founder of the respected Well Coaches certification program, recommends taking your time to interview several coaches. Ask for references, testimonials and credentials before selecting your coach. Moore also suggests looking for a coach who has at least two years of one-on-one experience with clients, in addition to a year of coaching experience. A quality wellness coach will be professional and confident, while still being humble and easy to work with. You will be spending a lot of time talking with your wellness coach, so it should be someone you are comfortable being totally open and honest with. The average price for a wellness coach is between $50 and $150 per session, and most credible coaches will offer the first consultation for free.

Is Wellness Coaching for You?

Wellness coaching may not benefit everyone, however. In order to fully benefit from what a wellness coach can offer, you have to be both willing and able to change. Like so many other pursuits, your expectations at the beginning will greatly affect your satisfaction with the results. Your wellness coach will want to become familiar with many aspects of your life, while helping you to adjust your thinking in a way that lends itself to healthy decisions. Do not expect to see dramatic changes in your body immediately, or to be told some secret to rapid weight loss. Wellness coaching is ideal for people looking to make a complete and long-lasting lifestyle change.

Your own fitness equipment, including the best treadmill for home, will be a great asset before beginning work with a wellness coach or any other fitness professional.

Have you worked with a wellness coach? Share your thoughts and experiences with us!


Avoiding Training Plateaus

One of the most frustrating problems that afflicts amateur exercisers and professional athletes alike is the training plateau. This insidious snare can happen at any time and not only stall your progress, but discourage you from continuing to pursue your fitness goals.

What is a Training Plateau?

When applied to an exercise program, the term “plateau” refers to a sudden and dramatic decrease in the noticeable results of your regular workouts. This can manifest itself in both strength and cardiovascular training, as well is in weight loss. The human body is a master at adaptation, capable of quickly adjusting to meet the demands of any workout. If your workout is not continually evolving to keep up with the increases in strength and endurance that your body is making, plateaus will occur.

How to Avoid and Bust Plateaus

Consistently and strategically changing your workout will keep your body from adapting, therefore helping you to avoid hitting training plateaus. The exact methods that will be best for you will depend heavily on your individual goals and fitness level.

Periodization, a carefully planned training progression, is commonly used by athletes and bodybuilders to avoid hitting plateaus. Fitness expert Andre Farnell suggests breaking your year up into three cycles each with different objectives. Each cycle should focus on various aspects of your fitness goals such as strength, endurance, speed and muscle tone.

To encourage increases in muscle size and strength, the American Council on Exercise suggests that the solution may be increasing the intensity of your workout, without necessarily making the workout any longer. Changing the order and type of exercises you perform may also be effective, such as replacing the bench press with push-ups or dumbbell presses.

Plateaus in cardiovascular endurance training can also be busted by varying the type of your workout. If you commonly run, switch to biking or utilize a different track to emphasis hill-running or speed. Classes, such as spinning or aerobics will also give you a change of pace while helping to improve your cardiovascular endurance. The best home treadmills available on the market will include a variety of programs designed to help you work through plateaus. Making use of these preset programs, or even designing your own, will be a powerful tool for avoiding training plateaus.

Because the root cause of training plateaus is adaptation, be sure to continually challenge your body by making use of several different methods.
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