urbanathlete




Work:Rest – What’s your ratio?

At Urban Athlete, we frequently program our workouts with either sets and reps, or with timing intervals. With interval training, we work for a certain amount of time and rest for a certain amount of time – whether we get in 5 reps or 30! What is great about intervals is that depending on your fitness goal, whether it is to get stronger, become more powerful, or increase your endurance (three of UA’s favorites) – you can alter the work to rest ratio to help get your desired result. 

Rest in a workout is extremely intentional. It is programmed with great care to either give our muscles plenty of time or just barely enough time to reset. For strength and power training, we typically rest for longer periods of time than we would when focusing on endurance. 

What happens in our muscles when we rest? (Tune in next week for our blog post on Muscle Contraction!)

With interval training, we specifically program rest for 10, 15, or 20 seconds after each period of work. Unless our workout is every minute on the minute (EMOM), we don’t say, “If there’s enough time leftover, we’ll rest.” 

But how often do we say that in other areas of our life, when we’re not at the gym? 

What if we were as intentional with our rest throughout the day, as we are throughout a workout? 

Just like our work to rest ratio changes depending on our goal at the gym, our work to rest ratio can change depending on our goal at home or at work. The key is that we’re still always resting, whether it’s for 5 minutes or 30, so that we come back to the workout or activity more alert and energized. 

Sometimes rest needs to be programmed, and that’s okay! At Urban Athlete, we write in on the whiteboard. Maybe you need to write it on a Post-it or set an alarm on your phone. Or, use one of the apps you use for intervals at the gym, for intervals at work! 

You can imagine how tired you would be at the end of a 45-minute workout, if you hadn’t rested! No wonder we’re tired at the end of a project or day, when we haven’t taken a step back to reset – our brain is a muscle too! 

Rest comes in many shapes and sizes. During a workout, some people might grab a drink or talk with a friend. During the day, you might read a book or go for a walk. 

We’re all different! What makes you feel the most rested

 


Youth Programs – Health & Wellness for a Lifetime

Here at Urban Athlete, we are passionate about health and wellness and the positive impact that a gym setting can have on our lives. In 2020, we are spreading our love for health and wellness to the youth in our area, and we couldn’t be more excited!

How are we going about this?

One of the main determinants of exercise adherence is whether the type of exercise is enjoyable! With the mindset of starting lifetime habits early, we have created a pre-programmed workout for kids that is fun, interactive, and effective. The adults at Urban Athlete are provided with a different workout each day to create varied stimuli for our muscles and prevent boredom, so that is what we have done for our youth!

Whether your child comes every Monday in the semester or twice a week, they will always be engaged in different exercises! One day, they might be doing partner tennis ball planks, medicine ball carries, or a bear crawl relay. The next time they come in, they could be doing a farmer’s walk, push-ups, or rope jumping pull-ups!

Each exercise is chosen purposefully. Our mission is to be a small part of your child’s health and wellness foundation, both physically and mentally.

As we were designing our youth curriculum, we specifically wanted to create a time and space that would serve homeschool and cyber students, as well as their families.

In line with this, we are offering an hour and a half program every Monday and Wednesday from 1-2:30 PM for children ages 8-13. Our hope is that parents would be able to use this time for themselves, while their children participate in game based activities, body weight movements, and agility exercises.

Here’s what that time will look like:

At 1 o’clock, we will begin with a meet & greet, before we get going with our 15-minute warm-up. This is an important part of our programming – getting our blood flowing! We will spend the next 35 minutes running, jumping, and balancing our way through the workout, before having our 10 minute snack break. Then, we’ll finish the day with more relays, partner games, and body weight exercises. Most importantly, we’ll be having fun while getting a little stronger and a little healthier each day!

Our older youth, ages 14-18, have the option to meet every Monday and Wednesday from 4-5PM. Here, we will focus on strength and conditioning, mobility, and injury prevention. This is a great opportunity for students who already play a sport or are looking for a way to get active!

Have questions or want to get to know Team UA? We are holding an Open House from 12-2 PM on Saturday, February 1stor check out the “Meet the Team” page of our website!

~Jennifer B.


Back Pain? Let’s fix it!

When I was 10 years old, my doctor told me that I had a curve in my back called scoliosis. My curve is roughly thirty-three degrees and looks like a question mark. As you can imagine, an already awkward period of adolescent growth was made even more difficult. My back muscles were trying incredibly hard to compensate for the curve in my back, and it was physically noticeable. Here are some anatomical changes (all noticeable to my friends) that happened in my body, due to the curve in my back:

  • My left hip was higher than my right hip – which caused my right leg to be longer. 
  • My right shoulder was higher than my left shoulder.
  • My left ear fell towards my left shoulder – which caused my head to tilt. 
  • My upper body muscles were incredibly stiff – which caused a pitch change in my voice.

All of this because of that curve in my back. Oy. 

At the time, I didn’t have the schooling that I do now to understand the changes that were occurring and why. However, when the specialist we were seeing could have prescribed a brace or back surgery, he prescribed physical therapy. After 6 months of core exercises (mostly planking, if I’m being honest), I was on my way to standing straight. To this day, you can hardly notice any alteration in my posture, unless I bend over to touch my toes to show off my curve. Usually, I am the first to notice my own “crookedness,” and the very first thing I do is workout.

Here is something that you can do at home to understand exactly what I mean:

Sit or stand with both of your hands on your hip bones. Keeping your hands on your hips, gently roll your hips forward – being mindful of the arch that you feel in your lower back. Now, tighten your abdomen, pulling your belly button to your spine and notice how that arch in your lower back disappears. You might have noticed that your glutes also contracted – screaming “Finally! Man, I was getting bored!”. 

Have a desk job? No problem. Here at Urban Athlete, this is the very reason that we incorporate the movements that we do into our workouts. To counteract tight hip flexors (the muscles at the front of our hips used when sitting), we work our gluteal muscles and our hamstrings (all the muscles in the back). In addition to our bodyweight exercises, we accomplish this through a variety of extremely effective kettlebell exercises, such as the RDL, swing, high pull, and clean – just to name a few.

Here’s the scoop: Back pain occurs when our back muscles are working too hard, often as a result of sitting. If we engage/strengthen our core muscles, gluteal muscles, and hamstrings, that workload is taken from our backs – often with a nearly audible “Thank you.”

 

~Jennifer B.

 


What’s the deal with all these nutrition options?

It is my belief that one of the biggest detriments to the health and wellness industry is the abundance of information that is available on line, specifically nutrition (likely fitness too but I’m going to tackle nutrition today)… And here I am adding to that information. It’s also a detriment to consumers because it’s hard to tell who is telling the truth and what really works. 

First: my disclaimer is that I am not a registered dietician or nutritionist and this is simply my opinion. 

If you seek out information online about how you can be a healthier person and make better decisions when it comes to nutrition and exercise, then I’m sure like the rest of us – you’ve encountered more ways than you can count on what works. Not only that, I’m sure you’ve read success stories on each of those ways and now the big question you ask yourself is which one will I try?

It’s confusing to say the least. If you’re struggling with wanting to achieve any type of goal it’s also frustrating. 

Here’s my take on all of it. 

Most of us, even if we eat healthfully, don’t do so consistently enough for a long enough period of time to know if what we are doing is working or not working for our bodies. 

Second to that, we are all different humans and some of us need different protocols to follow than others to see and more importantly feel success.

If you believe you eat relatively well then I encourage you to track your food and beverage consumption for just 3-4 days from the minute you wake to the minute you sleep. Here’s why…our mind tends to push aside the less important things to make room for those items that are more important. It’s easy for the best intentioned of us to assume we are following a smart nutrition plan 90-95% of the time. When in reality it’s closer to 65-70% of the time, simply because we forgot about the piece of chocolate after lunch on Tuesday or the glass of wine with dinner on Wednesday night. 

Tracking will also show you if you are eating enough variety of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats and non processed carbohydrates. Like I mentioned above, this post is adding to the info that you can find online but in my opinion it’s important to evaluate. The objective here is to uncover if you are eating healthfully or if you just think you are. 

By that, I mean no disrespect but it’s too often that we aren’t doing as well as we think we are so an honestly documented food journal will confirm that. It will also tell us; that before you decide to jump into the next, most talked about nutrition option that has the best success rate, if you’re eating enough whole foods on a consistent basis to start playing around with a different plan. 

Trust me, if there was a way to push a button or have a magic nutrition plan and all my health and fitness goals would be an instant reality, I’d jump all over it. The true reality is that most of us do not eat enough healthy, whole foods, balanced throughout the day to even consider fancy supplements let along invest in the “next best nutrition miracle on the market.” 

Let’s not worry about which meal plan you should be following until you’ve confirmed that you’re eating well balanced, whole foods at least 90% of the time for a specific period of time first. We’d be happy to help you review your results once you’ve tracked them!

 

-Pamela


The good, bad and less desirable habits…

We all have habits – good, bad, and less than desirable. Habit formation is overwhelmingly a psychological concept, because of its roots in learned behavior. In our case, going to the gym or maintaining a healthy lifestyle would be considered a learned behavior. Here are four terms that psychologists use to describe how people learn or acquire a behavior: 

  1. Positive Reinforcement
  2. Negative Reinforcement
  3. Positive Punishment
  4. Negative Punishment

 

*Try not to think of positive & negative in terms of good & bad.*

Positive = adding something

Negative = taking something away

Reinforcement = to increase a behavior

Punishment = to decrease a behavior

 

Here are some health & fitness related examples of each:

  • Positive Reinforcement: your coach praises you for your efforts during class & you are seeing physical results in the mirror, so you keep coming to the gym
  • Negative Reinforcement: you are no longer tired or out of breath during typical daily activities (walking the dog, playing with your kids, etc.) so that increases your gym attendance
  • Positive Punishment: sore muscles from a new exercise routine or comparison at the gym keeps you from coming to the gym
  • Negative Punishment: the absence of weight loss keeps you from coming to the gym

 

It is arguably “easier” to form a habit, when we are being positively reinforced – but what happens when we receive negative punishment? Do we just stop coming to the gym – something that we know will help our bodies, as well as our minds?

Some practical advice for when that happens:

  1. Create your own positive reinforcement: Whatever your reason was for attending the gym in the first place, praise yourself not for the final outcome (weight loss, inc. muscle mass, health, etc.) but for taking a step in the direction of your goal. This is something that we must do consciously & intentionally. Thank yourself for being on the journey.
  2. Write down or make a mental note of what you are going to tell yourself when you have to combat the forms of punishment that we talked about earlier. What are you going to say to yourself when you notice someone is lifting heavier than you & you are still tired from a long day at work? Have this ready to go ahead of time, as some variation of slow results, physical comparison, and body aches will inevitably happen to all of us – myself included. I personally say, “I am here because I love being around active people, and I know I will feel better physically and mentally afterwards.”
  3. Some important advice that was given to me long ago was to focus on what you like, not on what you don’t like. If your favorite part about the gym is getting to catch-up with a friend, then focus on that, rather than not being able to do more push-ups. This could also be the opposite for you – you LOVE trying out new exercises, but you don’t love how another person in your session is acting. Focus on getting to do those new exercises and catching-up with that friend, and your whole perspective at the gym will change. 

 

Did I mention you’ll be getting healthier too, because all of these things kept you at the gym? 

Thinking of you as wrestle with the uncanny nature of behavioral change – you are most certainly equipped to do it. 

 

~ Jennifer B.

 


Making A Change…Lifestyle Challenge!

We’ve run various challenges and programs at Urban Athlete over the last 13+ years. Our most successful program outside of our membership commitments is our Lifestyle Challenge.

The foundation of the program is to make healthful and mindful habit changes that support lifestyle commitments that are sustainable for the long term, rather than short term with yo-yo effects. This 6 week challenge begins on Monday, October 14th and runs through Friday, November 22nd.

The 6 week challenge is open to non members (and members) of Urban Athlete and includes:

  • starting and final measurements using InBody technology
  • nutritional guidelines
  • supportive recipes
  • four scheduled group workouts a week
  • participation in the member’s only November active challenge, along with other member benefits for the duration of the challenge

All guidelines and recipes will be available in advance of the challenge start date to be able to do shopping and food prep. Starting measurements should be scheduled (will only take about 5 minutes) and will need to be completed during the following days and hours:

  • Saturday, October 12th 11am – 12pm
  • Sunday, October 13th 9am – 11am

In addition to the guidelines, there will be a recorded webinar of what to expect, how to plan, scheduling your workouts and more to be assist in making the Lifestyle Challenge as successful for you as it can be.

Non-Members: the Lifestyle Challenge is a $159 investment for the 6 weeks of training and accountability, with the option to upgrade to semi-private training sessions for $399 (3 sessions a week).

To register for the Lifestyle Challenge simply call us at 215-248-2130 to set up your measurement appointment time and to confirm enrollment in the challenge. 


Hey Quads…Let’s Squat!

Mental health is tricky. Just like our physical health, we all find ourselves at a different place along the mental health continuum, depending on the day, hour, or even minute (like myself). Unlike physical health, the topic of mental health is frequently only discussed with a close friend or professional.

But what would happen if we started talking about mental health, in conjunction with physical health, while at the gym?

We frequently hear clients say that they didn’t want to leave the house to go to the gym, but they were so glad that they did. Why is that?

We like to think that we are pretty cool here at Urban Athlete so that’s why you want to come hang out with us, but there is more at play here than simply coming to the gym in order to feel stronger. If you want your muscles to “feel” stronger, that is both a physical and mental health goal, and here’s why:

There is a feedback loop between our muscles and our brain, where our muscles are constantly telling our brains how they are holding-up, and our brain is constantly telling our muscles to get a move-on or quit altogether. Seriously. We would not be able to bench, squat, swing, high pull, jump, tire flip, and you name it if our brains weren’t telling us to do so. In fact, when we begin a new exercise, the very first improvement we see is in that neurological pathway between the motor neuron in our brain and the specific muscle that it innervates (i.e. the quads for a squat)! That is the first to happen! Before you could ever dream of getting stronger, that specific pathway from our neuron to our individual muscle fiber needs to fire over and over again!

I say all this, because when we go to the gym, our brains are working hard – arguably harder than our muscles. Not to boo-hoo on any Netflix bingers out there, because I am certainly one of them, BUT it is a very practical and relatable example. When we are lying on the couch watching TV or sleeping, what are our bodies doing? Our hearts are beating and our lungs are breathing and that’s about it. Arguably a very important job for our brain to have, but it does this job involuntarily and with incredible ease. These pathways also require very little energy, because they are incredibly well established and don’t need our help in order to happen. 

As a result, we (myself included) have all this extra energy (our brain needs glucose in order for its neurons to fire) to spend thinking about whatever we want.

~ Here’s what I’m suggesting ~

Spend your brain’s available glucose stores on telling your quads to squat, hamstrings to deadlift, or shoulders to do a push-up. 

At least until you eat your next carbohydrate-based snack, your brain won’t have the energy to think about anything else. 

 

~Jennifer B.