7 Common Fitness Questions

Cardio-exercise

What are the health benefits of fitness?

  • More energy
  • Better mood and better sleep
  • Increased vascular health and decreased likelihood of stroke
  • Increased cardiorespiratory capacity (bigger lung size)
  • Brain repair
  • Overall and abdominal obesity associated with increased risk of negative health results
  • More lean mass = lower mortality risk
We already know that it’s a good idea to perform 2-4 sets of 8-12 repetitions (heavier weight to increase muscle strength) or 10-25 repetitions (lighter weight to increase endurance). Here are some of the common questions people have about resistance training, and evidence for best practice. 🙂
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What is better – free weights or machines?
Resistance training can be done in many ways. You can use free weights, machines, or even body weight. All of these will help you increase strength and muscle mass, and there is no true difference between them. Resistance machines, however, pose a lower risk of injury. People are suggested to choose a favourite resistance type based on their preferences, because there is no difference in strength gains between free weights and machines. The only difference is that injury is more likely when using free weights, so older adults (or injured people who are more frail or at a higher risk of injury) should turn to resistance machines. Otherwise, it’s all a personal preference.
CONCLUSION: From a safety perspective, resistance machines are preferable. However, in terms of gaining strength and muscle, it is a personal preference. Free weights and machines are equally efficient when it comes to increasing strength and endurance.
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Should I lift weights in stable positions or unstable positions?
Some people believe that using unstable surfaces while weight training will simultaneously train core muscles. This is NOT essential, and experts say that the best way to train core while doing resistance training is to practice unilateral presses (see the next section for more). There is a lack of evidence that balancing on an unstable surface will improve abilities or carry over to other sports. In other words, balancing on an unstable surface while doing bicep curls will improve your ability to balance on the same surface while doing bicep curls. However, training this way will NOT enhance performance in other skills, such as balancing on a snowboard. In fact, the instability will actually decrease the amount of force you can produce at one time.
CONCLUSION: Training on a stable or unstable surface will lead to the same results. There is no evidence that training on unstable surfaces will improve performance in other skills.
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Bilateral or unilateral?
Unilateral exercises (exercises that involve one side of the body) do not have the counterbalance effect, which means core muscles must be activated to stabilize the torso. For instance, if you are doing a bicep curl with your right arm, your body will have the tendency to lean to the right because of the added weight. This means the oblique muscles (and other core muscles) on your left side must contract to maintain the torso’s upright position and keep your centre of mass overtop of the base of support.
CONCLUSION: Unilateral exercises will simultaneously train the core muscles, since your core muscles must be “on” to maintain an upright torso.

Group of ice skaters on ice rink.


More resistance is better – true or false?
This is not always true. People should choose a weight that is greater than 80% of their one-repetition maximum, and then perform repetitions until momentary muscle failure (see the last section). Now, what exactly is a one-repetition maximum? The 1RM is the maximum amount of force that you can produce in one contraction. It’s the absolute upper limit – the heaviest thing you can lift in one shot. Imagine picking up the heaviest dumbbell and contracting all your muscles to lift it just once, putting it back down, and never having to do that again. That’s your 1RM, which is FAR too heavy to lift consistently when exercising. Instead, we want to go for 80% of that. For instance, if your 1RM is 200 pounds, your best resistance will be 160 pounds or more. Why 80% of that? Evidence shows that this is the ideal percentage for you to maximize strength and muscular endurance gains, while preventing injury and improving bone mineral density. We wouldn’t want you to lift something too heavy, help your muscles grow, but simultaneously harm your bones!
CONCLUSION: More resistance is not always better. People should use 80% of the maximum weight they can lift.
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How quickly should I do my exercises?
No matter what, exercises should be done at a speed that allows you to maintain tension throughout the entire motion. In other words, not too quickly and not overly slow. Fast movements that are ballistic or explosive will put too much force into joints and connective tissue, which means injuries are likely. Explosive movements are NOT recommended, because they pose a high risk of injury. Explosive movements are no better than slow and controlled weight training.
CONCLUSION: Controlled movements that allow your muscles to stay tense all the way through are ideal. Explosive and rapid movements are likely to cause injury.
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Should we do a certain number of repetitions or go until momentary muscle failure?
It is best to train until momentary muscle failure. This allows you to recruit all of the available motor units (motoneuron and all of the muscle cells that it innervates, or synapses onto) and muscle fibres. Training until your muscles can no longer contract is preferable. At this point, you will not be able to do any more repetitions. This method is more beneficial than performing a pre-determined number of repetitions.
CONCLUSION: Momentary muscle failure is the best method because it allows you to use all available motoneurons, muscle cells, and muscle fibres. This is better than doing a specified number of reps.

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What are your favourite exercises?

50 Things I Learned from my Roommate

What comes with a full heart and a full stomach?

An empty wallet.

Haha. That’s my idea of a joke – and yes, my jokes are always lame and fail to make any sense. But in my defense, it’s partially true! The first week of my winter break, back home in BC, has been nothing less than indulgent, relaxing, and full of laughter and fun moments with family and friends. But a constantly-exploding belly and lots of extra sleep are making me into one happy girl! I’ve done quite a few things on my winter to-do list already, which is satisfying. Well, I’ve done the exciting things. Not the boring ones.

How is your winter holiday so far? Have you done anything memorable with friends and family?

Before I move on to the epic compilation of things my roommate and her boyfriend taught me in the past four months, I wanted to tell you a teeny, kind-of-pointless story about what I did today.

My morning started with a spinach-banana-peanut butter-cocoa-date smoothie, a chickpea blondie, and a relaxing hot yoga class. Then, I met up with my good friends Jia (who my mom calls “Chia”) and Hollie. We’ve known each other for years and were thrilled to reunite and spend the afternoon together. Jia studies English in UBC’s arts program, and Hollie is in Science with a scholarship to SFU. We met up before noon and zipped downtown for some lunch, after a 15-minute walk down Vancouver’s sketchiest street.

The menu at Railtown Café is quite elaborate, at least in my opinion. 🙂 I had a massive internal debate about whether I should order the sandwich or the salad, but ended up with a build-your-own salad which you’ll see in a couple scrolls. Check out their menu and all those delectable salad combinations and sandwich ideas!

By the way, I took photos on my normal camera but was too lazy to upload them for the post, hence the not-so-nice photos below. I snapped these with my phone in a rush to dig in, but anyways, behold the iPhone photos.

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Lesson of the day: it’s a bad idea to order a big drink, a squash-based soup, and a salad topped with about 79 different things.

I had the roasted winter vegetable soup with pumpkin seeds on top, as well as a dark hot chocolate that tasted just like regular hot chocolate. It was a little powdery and grainy in the end, so I wouldn’t recommend the drink. My salad was so deluxe and I’ll write down some of the toppings below:

  • Arugula base
  • Sliced grilled chicken breast – was debating about getting the poached salmon, but their chicken looked really juicy and yummy 🙂
  • Sliced avocado
  • Beets
  • Roasted yams
  • Pesto chickpeas
  • Pesto mozzarella slices
  • Feta cheese
  • Squash chips (the BEST part!)
  • Toasted pumpkin seed vinaigrette

Check out their menu for a ton of salad topping ideas: http://railtowncafe.ca/see-our-menu/

YUM. A lovely combination of freshness, saltiness, texture, acidity, richness, sweetness, and bitterness. I told my friends that I wanted to eat this salad every day for the rest of my life.

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For dessert, I ordered a peanut butter crunch bar and a chocolate-hazelnut muffin. Both were fantastic and we split them mostly 3 ways.

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The muffin was soft, very cinnamon-y, and had great flavor from the hazelnuts. The exterior was perfectly crisp and I would definitely order this tender, delicious muffin again. The peanut butter crunch bar had four distinct layers and was a truly amazing dessert. This peanut butter masterpiece was composed of:

  1. Chewy peanut butter cookie with real peanut chunks embedded throughout (bottom)
  2. Crispy chocolate layer, like a thinner, crispier Rice Crispy with no rice flavor
  3. Peanut butter custard that was not too sweet nor salty
  4. Chocolate ganache, most likely milk chocolate (top)

Peanut butter haters, this thing will convert you.

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We talked lots about our “new” lives in university, and Jia’s busy second year. I was also so happy to hear that my friends are secret readers of the blog 😉 We had some fun and memorable conversations, including this one:

Me: So I have a house-mate. We share a bathroom and kitchen but have our own rooms. She graduated and is now working in the area, so she’s a little older, a LOT more mature, and super nice.

Hollie: Oh yeah! I saw that on your blog.

Jia: She made a pumpkin pie! (she was referring to THIS pumpkin pie, that they made from scratch around Thanksgiving).

Hollie: You’re so lucky. That’s awesome.

And she is absolutely right. 🙂 Madhulika and her boyfriend Arsalan are wonderful and wise people with lots of tricks and tips and life hacks. Here we go!


One more thing before the ultimate list – check this out. My friend shared it on Facebook and I have to agree with quite a few of these points. What do you think?

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Anyways, here is the list:

  1. Drink water slowly. Take little sips as you work to increase absorption.
  2. Make a Linkedin account to network with people as soon as possible.
  3. Broil open-faced sandwiches for melty, bubbly cheese
  4. Spread peanut butter with a spoon and eat it on a napkin to save dishes.
  5. Eat baked salmon with a little pad of butter on top
  6. Paprika and cajun spices work with anything!
  7. Make a big lasagna and freeze individual-sized portions to reheat whenever you need a quick meal
  8. While you’re at it, don’t add too much tomato sauce, or it might overpower the pasta, cheese, and vegetables
  9. Adding some chicken broth to ground chicken makes it nice and saucy
  10. Ground chicken works as a perfect sub for ground beef, for a fraction of the fat and just as much flavour
  11. Goat cheese works with anything. Sandwiches, salads, lasagna – whatever it is, goat cheese can be crumbled on top for maximum deliciousness.
  12. Speaking of goat cheese, you can never have enough. Ever.
  13. Always check the weather before you go out – it can be a beautiful sunny day that’s freezing cold!
  14. Princess Cafe can, and absolutely should, be a weekly thing. Get the curried tuna. And the soup. And the bean salad.
  15. Turn off the lights to conserve energy if you aren’t using them
  16. If you realize you’re full in the middle of your meal, stop, wrap up the leftover food, and save it for another meal rather than stuffing yourself and feeling uncomfortable afterwards
  17. Don’t leave things lying around – watches, cameras, pencil boxes – keep them safe in your room: I’m SO bad with this and always leave little things on the counter
  18. Cutting and chopping veggies ahead of time will save time on busy weekdays
  19. Butternut squash soup is the most filling thing ever
  20. A pinch of cayenne adds zest to anything
  21. The bigger and sharper your knife, the more you’ll enjoy chopping veggies
  22. Marinate and bake chicken breast chunks in rose pasta sauce as a low-sugar substitute for barbecue sauce
  23. Morning showers are really refreshing!
  24. The vegetable water left over from cooking vegetables is actually delicious: carrots make it a little sweet!
  25. Potatoes take freaking forever. Plan ahead!
  26. Washing fluffy towels with your best pants is a bad idea. Lint overload!
  27. When adding spices to food, ALWAYS pour a little palmful of the spice into one palm and use fingers from the other hand to pinch and sprinkle. Then taste as you go!
  28. Check your freezer to make sure you aren’t forgetting about any food you stored in there previously 🙂
  29. Boil sweet potatoes before roasting them. You can check to see when they are ready by sticking a fork inside – if the potato chunk slides down by gravity, you’re ready to bake!
  30. Make a big batch of veggies, chicken, and rice for lots of meals. You’ll be thankful on busy afternoons!
  31. Roast all kinds of squash with the cut side down. That way, the flesh is enclosed and it will steam itself and cook faster
  32. Buy good-quality rainboots and use them for five years rather than picking up a cheaper but non-waterproof pair.
  33. Splurge on a good, high-quality blender.
  34. Don’t try to balance a mixing board on a cutting board – if it falls and knocks over a glass (not your own!) that’s gonna shatter on the ground… that’s bad. Trust me, I know this one from experience.
  35. Add something spicy to mac and cheese! Cayenne or jalapeños are cool… well, never mind, they’re actually hot. Put breadcrumbs on top and bake it.
  36. Speaking of mac and cheese, you don’t even need butter to make a roux. Just cook a mixture of flour and milk before adding cheddar!
  37. There are two types of pumpkins: carving pumpkins and pie pumpkins. The two types of pumpkins can both be used for pie. If you have a carving pumpkin, remember that it is more watery and will require extra cooking time (also, they’re massive).
  38. It’s so much more fun to work out with EARPHONES and music!
  39. If you deal with raw meat or fish, spray down the counter surface afterwards just to be safe.
  40. Make sandwiches on a paper towel so you don’t have to wash another plate
  41. Add coconut milk at the very end of cooking something because coconut flavour will disappear with too much heat. Basically, add some coconut milk when making curries, then add the majority of it at the very end.
  42. Cook spices with a little oil for more flavour
  43. Everything is good with butter, pecans, butternut, and garlic
  44. Wash your dishes while cooking, waiting for things to boil, etc. It makes time go by faster and saves dishwashing time and space afterwards!
  45. Winter boots are so important. Buy ones with good traction!
  46. Do not dump a bunch of pepper on your food.
  47. Wear oven mitts all the time. And don’t touch boiling hot casserole dishes that just emerged from the oven… ouch.
  48. Chicken Cordon Bleu can be made easy with a butter and flour roux mixed with ham, with cooked chicken, chopped pickles and Dijon mustard stirred in. With gruyere or harvarti cheese grated in, top this mixture on sliced baguette and sprinkle with more cheese before broiling. Voila – easy, mess-free, no-roll, easy to cook and eat cordon bleu. Fancy but simple!
  49. Dice your own tomatoes for pasta sauce, and mix them with garlic and caramelized onions, plus spices like thyme and oregano. You can also stir in some ricotta. This pasta sauce is so much better than canned.
  50. If you laugh while drinking tea, you’ll probably spill it on your lap and bedsheets, and make it look like you peed your pants!

Love these!

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I love cheesy things. Literal and figurative cheesy things.

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One more thing – I want to make this Asian noodle bowl and some vegan parmesan cheese. I know how random this is, but I stumbled upon them online and really want to give ’em both a try soon 🙂

That is it for today – I have an EARLY 6:00 AM hot yoga session tomorrow morning as well as a fun spin class, so I’m off to bed. Have a great evening!