Short on Time? Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Workouts

Tuesday, August 20, 2013 5:01 PM comments (0)

exerciseSchedules fill up quickly, days are busy and sometimes it feels like there are just not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything on our to-do lists. And, unfortunately, it’s often our exercise regimens that are the first to fall by the wayside. But don’t give up! Regular exercise is one of the most important things you can do for your health and well-being. 

Thomas Hudgins, MD, Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation at NorthShore, shares some effective ways to maximize the time you have for exercise: 

  • Incorporate interval training into your cardio workout. Shift between periods of high intensity to low intensity to rev up your workout. The frequent change in resting heart rate will boost your metabolism and the toggling between intensities will increase your endurance.
  • Include exercise throughout the day. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 20-30 minutes of aerobic exercise a day. You can work this into your daily routine by taking the stairs or parking at the farthest point from your destination in a parking lot.
  • Divide your workout equally between cardio and strength training. You’ll burn lots of calories but also improve your strength. Building muscle helps boost stamina for endurance sports and revs up your metabolism. Strength training also improves bone density, range of motion, and stability and balance. It’s a great exercise to explore now and as you age. 
  • Do full body exercises. If you are short on time focus on exercises that target your largest muscle groups, like squats, plank rows and lunges. Lunges can be conducted in all planes, meaning forward, backward, sideways and diagonal. Include weights with these exercises to get even more bang for your minutes. These exercises also work multiple muscle groups and are a safe, efficient way to build more muscle. 
  • Stretch thoroughly. Stretching after a workout, and sometimes even the next morning, will help reduce soreness and risk of injury. Don’t put your exercise at risk; injury could derail the healthy routine you’ve worked so hard to develop.
  • Work your core. Core stability and strength is important for any activity or sport. Planks will contract your abdominal, back and buttock muscles at the same time. It's easy to pull double duty too because core exercises can be conducted while you're watching TV or reading a book.

What is your go-to workout plan when you’re short on time?

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Staying in Shape: Exercise and Sports Safety for Kids and Young Athletes

Friday, July 12, 2013 1:59 PM comments (0)

Frequent exercise is an important part of keeping your kids happy, healthy and fit. Starting a fitness routine early can be a great way to teach your children how to live healthier lives for years to come. Whether your child is an athlete or just starting out, preventing injury is the key to keeping fitness safe and fun. 

Adam Bennett, Family and Sports Medicine at NorthShore, shares some of his suggestions for getting your kids interested in fitness and keeping exercise novices and young athletes safe and injury free.

kidsfitnessWhat are some good ways to motivate children to exercise if they are not naturally athletic or have not expressed an interest in participating in team sports?
Getting kids to exercise is often a tough challenge. Having your child choose a sport, no matter how obscure, may help encourage them to stay active—anything from fencing to yoga to bowling is worth a try. Other parents have had success by allowing their inactive kids to earn TV or video game time by spending time exercising. That said, most kids like doing what their friends are doing, so consider finding out if their friends play sports and encourage them to participate. Lastly, children learn by example. If you exercise, your child just might want to join you.

If a child has been fairly inactive, how should exercise be introduced to avoid injury?
It’s best to error on the side of a gradual transition. Kids of all shapes and sizes who have not exercised regularly are at risk for overuse injuries if they rush into activity too quickly. Exercising every other day is a great way to give your muscles, tendons and bones enough time to recover and prevent injury. Altering the type of activity might also be helpful, with perhaps one day of swimming followed by a game of basketball or a bike ride the next. 

How much water should children drink during exercise in the summer? Is water better than electrolyte replacement fluid?
Avoiding dehydration in the summer is very important. If your child is an athlete who will be at outdoor practice regularly during the summer, one easy way to avoid it is to weigh your child before and after exercise, especially during two-a-days. Athletes need to make sure they are drinking enough water to recover their pre-activity weight. If they haven’t, they might be dehydrated. Athletes should also be told to watch the color of their urine. A light yellow or clearer means they aren’t dehydrated. 

Water is fine for exercise lasting 20 minutes or less, but supplementation with water, electrolytes and sugar is essential for optimal performance and recovery when exercising for longer than 20 minutes, especially if the exercise involves intense exertion.

Are two-a-day practices safe for kids?
It’s not an ideal schedule to avoid overuse injuries and dehydration. If there is no pain or sign of injury, it’s a safe schedule, especially if children and coaches are vigilant about preventing dehydration. Most coaches are knowledgeable about proper conditioning and training programs and choose a program that gets their players fit without causing harm.

What can you do to prevent injury in young athletes?
Soreness that resolves itself after a day or two is common; however, pain that seems to be getting worse with each practice may be a sign of an overuse injury. Any swelling of joints, catching or locking of joints might also indicate a more serious injury. To prevent injury, a day of rest between workouts is wise. If the young athlete is a runner, mixing things up and trying some biking or swimming to cross train will give joints a break. 

If a young athlete is already suffering from some overuse injuries, like tendonitis, how can he or she prevent more serious injury? Can training continue? 
Overuse injuries can be a real problem in children who play multiple sports during the same season. During a sports season, dedicated days off from activity will help avoid further injury. In the summer or during off-season, regular exercise that is similar to the sport played may help avoid overuse injuries once their season starts up again. If injuries persist, physical therapy may be required.

Is a marathon safe for a younger runner?
If he or she is comfortable running long distances and distances are gradually increased during a supervised running program; there is no pain during training and there are days off to recover, it’s likely safe for a younger runner to participate in a marathon. Keep in mind, however, that a marathon is an intense endeavor which puts the body through unnatural stress. As such, a 10k or even a half marathon may a good alternative for younger runners before undertaking a marathon. 

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Delicious and Nutritious: Maximize Your Garden

Friday, June 21, 2013 2:28 PM comments (0)

Summer has arrived. Ice cold glasses of lemonade and cookouts are among the many perks of the warmer weather. But don’t forget to add the delicious fruits, vegetables and herbs in season during the summer to that list. Sure, it’s easy to find produce at your local grocery store, but when you grow it yourself, you reap both the nutritional and physical benefits of your harvest.

Geeta Maker-Clark, MD, Integrative and Family Medicine at NorthShore, shares some of the benefits gardening can have on your overall health:

  • Pesticide and preservative free. Homegrown produce and herbs mean you know exactly what went into the growth and harvesting of your food. You can rest assured that there are no unnecessary preservatives and/or pesticides.
  • Encourages healthy eating habits. Knowing that the food on your table is a direct result of your hard work can help you make smarter food choices. It might also encourage you to include more fruits and vegetables in your daily meals. You may end up growing some varieties of veggies and fruits that you have never tried before.
  • Saves some green. Keeping an edible garden reduces the amount of produce you have to buy at the grocery store.
  • Brightens your mood. Spending time outside can help improve your mental outlook and reduce stress. Getting your hands dirty, smelling the soil and connecting with the cycles of life can be meditative activities.
  • Slims your waistline. Not only does gardening provide you with deliciously healthy food, it’s also a great way to get some exercise. Weeding, trimming and harvesting can be hard work if you keep at it for 30 minutes or more.
  • Connects you to your family. Getting your family out in the garden is a great way to spend some quality time together, creating something that will benefit all of you. 
  • Provides vitamins and minerals. Fruits, vegetables and herbs are filled with nutrients your body needs to stay healthy. Here’s a sneak peek at just a few of the vitamins and minerals found in common produce items:
  1. Tomatoes are full of fiber, iron, magnesium, niacin, potassium and vitamins A, B6, and C, as well as the antioxidant lycopene.
  2. Red bell peppers are rich in potassium, riboflavin, vitamins A, B6 and C. 
  3. Broccoli is high in calcium, iron, magnesium and vitamins A, B6 and C.
  4. Zucchini is a good source of niacin, pantothenic acid, dietary fiber, protein, vitamins A, B6 and C, folate, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, zinc, copper and manganese.
  5. Cilantro is an excellent source of thiamin and zinc, and a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamins A, B6, C,  E (Alpha Tocopherol) and K, riboflavin, niacin, folate, pantothenic acid, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper and manganese.
  6. Basil is a good source of vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), riboflavin and niacin. It is also a great source of dietary fiber, vitamins A, B6, C  and K, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper and manganese.
  7. Blueberries are a good source of dietary fiber, vitamins C and K, manganese and rich in antioxidants.
  8. Kale packs a high iron punch and it’s also high in vitamins A, C and K.
  9. Dill adds flavor and texture to a dinner salad but it also brings vitamins A and C, and lots of iron to the table.

What is your favorite fruit, vegetable or herb to grow in the summertime?

To see more on the health benefits of gardening, check out this video from Lake County's recent community gardening event, Dig Day

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Eating for Exercise – Fueling and Replenishing Your Body

Thursday, December 13, 2012 8:50 AM comments (0)

Author: April Williams, MS, RCEP Exercise Physiologist

Workout-SnackEating before you exercise is like fueling up your gas tank to get you from Point A to Point B. It allows you to get through your workout from start to finish with enough energy. A pre-exercise meal serves a variety of purposes, including:

  1. Helps prevent hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and its symptoms of lightheadedness , needless fatigue, blurred vision and indecisiveness.
  2. Helps settle your stomach, absorb gastric juices and ward off hunger. 
  3. Fuels your muscles and feeds your brain. Any carbohydrates you eat far enough in advance of working out will help to release stored glycogen and carbohydrate into your blood stream to keep you going.
  4. Gives you peace of mind in knowing that your body is well fueled.

What to Eat Before Working Out
What you should eat prior to working out will vary from person to person. It will be trial and error to determine what works for you and your routine. As a rule of thumb, you should look for foods that are easily digestible, and often high in carbohydrates and low in fat, such as: toast, bananas, dried cereal, crackers, granola bars, dried fruit, nuts, fig bars, and/or small servings of peanut butter, jam or honey.

What to Avoid Eating Before Working Out
There are many foods that should be avoided before you exercise. You will want to limit high-fat sources of protein, such as greasy foods like fries and cheeseburgers. Instead, choose smaller portions of turkey, hard-boiled eggs or low-fat milk. Be careful with sugary foods and beverages as they can give you a sugar high prior to exercise and may leave you without the necessary energy to finish your routine. Stay away from anything that is high in fiber, as this type of food could cause gastric upset during your activity.

What to Eat After Working Out
Eating after you exercise can help you recover faster from your workouts. Chocolate milk or yogurt is a perfect post-workout option because each contains carbohydrates and protein. The protein will help build and repair muscle, and the carbohydrates will help replenish glycogen stores that were used in your workouts.  Some other options to help refuel your tank could include: fruit smoothies made with yogurt or milk and a handful of pretzels, juice with string cheese and some crackers, or bowl of your favorite cereal and a banana.

What are some of your favorite snacks for before and after workouts?

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Motivated to Work Out? Planning Your Exercise Routine

Sunday, July 29, 2012 9:16 AM comments (0)

Workout-MotivationHas watching the London games made you eager to start a new exercise routine? While your training schedule probably won’t be as grueling, diving right into a new routine can be difficult. Beginning slow and identifying your workout goals is a great starting point.

Carrie Jaworski, MD, Sports Medicine physician at NorthShore, gives the following tips for starting a new exercise routine:

  • Choose an activity that you enjoy doing. You’ll be more likely to stick to it. This could include walking, cycling, running, swimming, jumping rope, or even playing basketball or soccer with your kids.
  • Find 30 minutes a day or 150 minutes a week to exercise. Keep in mind that you can break these 30-minute workouts into shorter intervals. Maybe given your schedule it’s easiest for you to work out for 10 minutes in the morning and 20 in the evening. Do what’s best (and most convenient!) for you.
  • Mix it up. Aim to do aerobic exercise three to five times per week and strengthening workouts twice a week.
  • Work to perceived exertion. You should be able to carry on a conversation without feeling winded or out of breath.
  • Prevent injuries. Be sure to properly stretch before and after your workout. If you do get injured, remember P-R-I-C-E: Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.

What weekly workout activities do you enjoy most? How do you stick with your routine?

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Gearing Up for Endurance Training – Beat the Heat

Friday, June 08, 2012 7:55 AM comments (0)

Endurance TrainingReady, set, go! You registered for the big race and now you’re all set to begin your training routine. Ramping up your endurance can be easy when the temperatures are cool during daytime and nighttime hours. But what do you do about training when the temperature and heat index continue to rise?

While staying on schedule and continuing training is vital to your conditioning and mental preparation, when it’s hot outside it’s important to make some adjustments in your routine to avoid injury, dehydration and fatigue.

Carrie Jaworski, MD, sports medicine physician, offers the following tips for those training for endurance races this summer:

  • Know your sweat rate and start out your workout fully hydrated. Dehydration is one of the biggest problems people face when training in the heat. Being dehydrated by as little as 2% of your weight can significantly hamper your performance and being 3% or more dehydrated puts you at risk for heat illness. An easy method to figuring out your fluid needs is to:
         o    Determine how much sweat you lose with your workouts. This can be
               accomplished by establishing a baseline weight (weigh yourself in
               the morning after going to the bathroom).
         o    Return from your workout and before going to the bathroom, weigh
               yourself again.
         o    Subtract out any fluid you consumed during your run.
         o    Plan to replace about one liter of fluid for every pound you lose.
  • Monitor your urine. Your urine is a quick and easy indicator of hydration status. It is best to always have your urine resemble lemonade, not apple juice. Certain foods and medications can alter your urine color so ask your physician if you are not sure. Don’t overdo your water intake as it can put you at risk for low sodium levels known as hyponatremia. If you are gaining weight post-exercise, or your rings feel tight, you are likely drinking too much.
  • Choose appropriate clothes. Many options exist for keeping cool while training. Look for clothes that are lightweight and light in color. Wicking fabrics will help to keep the skin cool.
  • Wear sunscreen. Apply sunscreen liberally and reapply often, especially if you sweat a lot. Don't neglect the backs of your legs and your neck.
  • Know the signs of heat illness. It is normal to feel tired after a good workout, but extreme fatigue, weakness, a racing heart and/or changes in mental status/alertness can be due to heat illness. The best advice is to prevent this from happening altogether by following the above tips. You can also reschedule workouts during times when the heat index isn’t soaring and slow your pace. If despite your best efforts, things go wrong you should:
         o    Cool off immediately.
         o    Use an ice bath or apply ice bags/cold towels to your armpits, neck
               and groin.
         o    Seek medical attention immediately if symptoms are severe.


Are you currently training for a race or run? What do you do to beat the heat?

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Does the heat put a cramp in your fitness routine? Join experts at NorthShore on Saturday, June 16 from 8a.m. – 12:45p.m. for an educational morning at the Chicago Botanic Garden—complete with a healthy eating demonstration, work-out demonstration and panel discussions on skin care, heart health, and sports injury care and prevention. Space is limited for this free event. Register today for Total Care for the Athlete at Heart.

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Earth Day – Live Well, Eat Well

Thursday, April 19, 2012 12:14 PM comments (0)

Earth DayThis Sunday is Earth Day! It is a great day to celebrate the earth and your health.

Geeta Maker-Clark, MD, integrative family physician at NorthShore, provides some tips on how you can stay healthy while being mindful of the environment:

  • Drink plenty of water a day, to your thirst, and up to 8 glasses. Among its many benefits, drinking sufficient water each day will keep your body hydrated and can regulate your weight by decreasing the amount that you eat. To help reduce waste, drink tap water or filtered water instead of bottled water. If you do drink bottled water, be sure to recycle.
  • Exercise for at least 150 minutes every week. This should combine moderate aerobic exercise (such as walking or jogging) and muscle-strengthening exercises. If you can, get outside for some fresh air and exercise. If you can walk or ride your bike to work you’ll help reduce greenhouse gases produced by cars.
  • Make half of your plate at every meal vegetables and fruits of different colors. Eat 2 ½ -3 cups of vegetables and 1½ -2 cups of fruit a day. Try to buy more local, seasonal and organic foods.
  • Compost. Not only does composting reduce the amount of garbage thrown out over the course of year, but it also makes a great fertilizer for your garden.
  • Grow a garden. If it isn’t warm enough to start seedlings outside, begin preparing your garden indoors. Once it is nice enough outside, transfer your planters and pots. The satisfaction that comes from eating what you grow yourself is priceless!

What tips do you have for Earth Day? What do you do to help protect our planet?

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Maximize Fresh Air Fitness and Reduce Your Odds for Injury

Thursday, April 05, 2012 8:42 AM comments (0)

Sports InjuriesDust off those running shoes and find that soccer, football and/or basketball equipment in the garage or basement because warmer weather is here. And, with spring officially in the air, many of us who had limited exposure to exercise and outdoor activities during the winter begin our regimen.

Not only is spring a busy time for high school and college athletes, but it’s also a time for weekend warriors—those who do much of their physical activity during the weekend—to engage in recreational sports.

Adam Bennett, MD, team physician for U.S. Soccer and the Chicago Bears, offers practical advice to weekend warriors, and high school and college athletes, to reduce injury risk while enjoying outdoor activities:

  • Weekend warriors and recreational athletes should try to include some sort of training and exercise during the week to strengthen muscles. This is especially important for the muscle groups that you will be using in your dominant sport. Implementing this into your weekly routine one to two times can greatly decrease your chances for injury.
  • Teenagers actively involved in sports are encouraged to take a few days off. Not only will this positively impact performance, but it also can help prevent injuries.
  • Teenagers should also be sure to eat well and properly fuel their bodies both before and between practices. Vegetables and lean proteins are a great source of necessary nutrition. Staying well hydrated is also essential.
  • Regardless of how frequently you partake in sports, be sure that if you suffered an injury you have fully recovered and healed before you return to the sport or activity.

What sports do you play? What do you do to reduce your risk for injuries?

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Fitness First - Losing Weight and Staying on Track

Friday, January 20, 2012 8:02 AM comments (1)

Getting and staying fit, isn’t always about losing weight. It’s also about increasing your cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, joint flexibility and energy levels – all while fitting it into your normal routine and lifestyle.

April Williams, Exercise Physiologist at NorthShore’s Center for Weight Management has some tips to keep your exercise route on track:

  • Check in with your physician first if you’re new to exercising. This is especially important if you have other underlying health concerns.
  • Start slow. If you haven’t been exercising frequently, there’s no reason to rush into a rigorous routine.
  • Pick three days a week to go to the gym and exercise (starting out with 30 minutes) and work your way up from there. Gradually increase your workout sessions to last 45-60 minutes five times a week. Don’t feel you have to work out for five days in a row; be sure to give yourself rest days in between to relax and recover.
  • Partner with a friend or family member. Choose someone who is also committed to exercise, and either go to the gym or take a walk with them. Listening to books while exercising can also help make the experience more social and make the time go by faster.
  • Schedule time in your calendar in advance for exercise. We all get busy and it’s easy to overlook exercise when other life events occur (shopping, laundry, cleaning, etc.)
  • Keep an exercise log. This way you can measure your progress.
  • Skip the gym if it’s not for you, and look into doing exercise routines and workouts at home. There are plenty of free options and resources available.

What does your exercise schedule look like? What keeps you motivated to workout? Which types of exercise do you enjoy most?

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Have fitness questions? Join April Williams on Tuesday, February 7 from 11a.m.-noon for an online chat about how to stay fit in 2012. Submit your questions in advance and save the date.

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Trimming Down in 2012 – A Quick Guide to Weight Loss

Thursday, January 12, 2012 8:10 AM comments (2)

The New Year is upon on us, and with that comes the resolution of many: to lose weight and adopt more healthy living habits.

According to Goutham Rao, MD, Primary Care Physician at NorthShore, weight loss can be achieved through incremental behavior change. He provides some quick tips about healthy behaviors to help lose weight.

Healthy behaviors include:

  • Eat a balanced breakfast. Skipping breakfast encourages overeating later in the day.
  • Eliminate all sweet beverages from your diet and switch to water exclusively. (Sweet beverages include: fruit drinks, punches, regular soft drinks, fruit juices, sweetened iced tea, flavored milk, sports drinks and energy drinks).
  • Limit fast food consumption to no more than once per week. 
  • Incorporate about 15 – 30 minutes of physical activity into your daily routine (e.g. aerobics classes). Walking—even part of the way to work—is a good example.
  • Limit all non work-related screen time to no more than two hours a day. This includes computer, video games and TV. 
  • Eat meals as a family. Don’t eat in front of the TV; mindless eating promotes obesity.
  • Avoid snacks or meals just before bedtime (when energy is least needed).

What tips do you have to stay trim in 2012?

For more information about Childhood Obesity, please check out Dr. Rao’s book, Child Obesity: A Parent’s Guide to a Fit, Trim and Happy Child.

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