Thursday, October 11, 2012

Water Water Everywhere but not a drop to drink...

Not in the pool anyway...

As we launch our first Swim The AL Rivers Challenge here at the UAB Campus rec center, I want to turn to our very own Susie Bagwell, M.A.Ed. and a certified professional through the Aquatic Exercise Association to answer a few questions relating to fitness and training in the water...

Susie Bagwell, M.A.Ed., AFA AFPC
Aqua Xtreme Instructor
Aquatics Personal Trainer at UAB CRCT

When I think of personal training in the water, I think of rehabilitation patients, is this a misconception? Why?
Personal training in the water can include rehabilitation, meeting a personal fitness goal, learning to swim, or learning how to use the properties of water to get the most out of your water workout. The key word is “personal.” The training is geared toward the goals of individuals and includes an analysis of current abilities and physical fitness in order to set attainable goals. Personal training sessions result in progress because the trainer can provide successful strategies and practices to help the client take responsibility for their fitness while providing support and encouragement. 

Who would be the best candidate for receiving personal training in the water?

The best candidate is anyone who needs assistance in understanding how exercise in the water environment can improve their cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance, muscular strength, and flexibility. Those who are fearful of the water can overcome their fears by learning how to work with the water instead of viewing it as a dangerous medium. 

Describe a typical water exercise session.

Normally I work with one or two individuals. We set a schedule that is based on the availability of both parties. The personal training sessions usually last an hour. Exercises are geared to make improvements on the targeted areas of fitness.  I give clients a set of practice skills to work on between sessions in order to maintain our momentum in reaching the set goals. The progress of the individual is linked to one’s degree of desire, diligence, and delight in seeing results.

What if I can't swim? 

You do not have to know how to swim to participate in water exercise. Many of my clients are not swimmers but are learning how to enjoy and use the properties of water. By working with a water safety instructor, individuals can learn to overcome their fears and lack of knowledge little by little until they feel comfortable and successful in their swimming and water acclimation abilities. Learning to exhale, balance, align, extend, relax, and move creates a sense of accomplishment. Learning to swim increases one’s enjoyment of water environments, enables the effective use of the water to maintain a healthy level of fitness, and decreases the possibilities of drowning and water related emergencies. 

Never give up on yourself!

Don’t miss out on the wonderful benefits of water exercise. Splash into fitness!

Susie Bagwell, M.A.Ed., AEA AFPC

Friday, September 28, 2012

Try a Workout that ROCKS

If you are tired of running on a treadmill or lifting weights until you are blue in the face (which, if this is the case, you may need to rethink your weight training regimen...) the UAB rec center may have a much needed alternative for your workout needs. Rock climbing will give you a new appreciation for the vertical dimension, as well as gravity.

Rock climbing instructors, such as those here at the UAB rec center are qualified to help inspire you to move and strengthen your bodies in new and non-traditional ways. You will learn to push your comfort zone, while still maintaining your safety. With the help of belayers, climbers are safe to miss a foot hold, as they will remain suspended in midair like a spider. 

Maybe you are afraid of heights... the way to deal with fear is to maintain steady, strong and deep breaths. You have to stop and focus on the reality that you are not going to die. You can then begin to explore the exhilaration of taking that chance to try and reach that next hold. With treadmill and weight lifting, exercisers may be able to function and perform on auto pilot, leaning and depending highly on muscle memory accrued through years of repeating the same movements over and over. Unlike these activities, when climbing, your brain is constantly involved and having to ready itself for new challenges. 

From the one timers, to the once-a-weekers, to the advanced climbers; rock climbing has offered a new way of testing our fitness abilities and pushing the limits of our bodies to reach new heights (literally!). Rock climbing is a total body workout that incorporates balance, flexibility, and ratio of strength to weight; it is a wake up call to all muscles from top to bottom. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Caveman diet: Just another fad?

What is the Caveman/Paleo diet?

An eating plan that incorporates only the foods that would have been hunted/gathered by our early ancestors.  These foods would include things like meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, seeds, nuts and mushrooms. Grains and dairy are not allowed and it is recommended that only wild meat or grass fed meat be ingested.

Health Benefits:

  • High consumption of vegetables and fruit is in line with recommendations of the American Heart Association for preventing cardiovascular disease. 
  • Paleo diets high in fatty fish will also heed benefits of Omega 3 fatty acids that may help decrease cholesterol. 
  • The body will be cleansed of preservatives and chemicals associated with modern processed foods
  • Emphasis on lean proteins will help build muscle, reduce food cravings and assist in weight loss
  • Prohibition of fruit and grains makes it naturally gluten and casein free 


  • A diet centered on meat is a diet high in saturated fats. Too much saturated fat can lead to increased cholesterol and increased risk on heart disease and obesity.
  • Without grains in the diet, you risk eating too few carbs. This can lead to feelings of tiredness, weakness and sluggishness as well as drops in blood sugar.
  • Banning all dairy products makes it harder to maintain healthy levels of calcium intake. If you do not eat green leafy vegetables (spinach, okra, broccoli) on a regular basis while following the diet, you risk calcium deficiency.
Do you think the Paleo/Caveman diet is just another fad? Let me know what you think!

Read More about this topic:

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Why am I so SORE???

Why am I so SORE?

To start off, you need to know that there are 2 main types of muscle soreness: Immediate and Delayed
Immediate muscle soreness is typically felt during or immediately after exercise. This type of soreness is caused by lactic acid, a metabolic waste. The acid causes a burning sensation that can get worse with more time under tension
 Delayed muscle soreness, also referred to as DOMS, signals an adaptive reaction of the body to intense exercise; typically felt 24-48 hours after the exercise session and dissipating after about 72 hours
 DOMS has been attributed to microscopic tears in the muscle & surrounding connective tissue following eccentric exercise (for example: the part of a biceps curl when you are straightening your arm back towards the floor, away from your chest).
 Exercisers who experience DOMS typically include individuals who have increased the intensity, frequency or duration of their workouts OR participate in an unfamiliar activity; as well as individuals who are just beginning and exercise routine or have undergone a significant lapse in training and are re-engaging in exercise.
DOMS has been shown to produce rapid adaptation responces, meaning that muscles will quickly adapt to a specific intensity level. Once you experience Delayed soreness, you should not experience it again until you increase the intensity or duration of the given exercise or activity!
Cryotherapy (the topical application of ice), massage, stretching and the use of nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may have a mild positive impact if initiated immediately after intense or unusual exercise but the only way that has been shown to help minimize the effects of DOMS is to practice slow increases in intensity over time.
For more information on these topics please visit:

Friday, August 17, 2012

Stretching and Yoga proven to ease back pain!

The largest randomized and controlled study to date on yoga was published by the Archives of internal medicine in October, 2011 (228 adults in 6 cities with moderate- not severe back pain). It showed that weekly yoga and stretching classes were effective in the treatment of low back pain and the improvement of back movement. The benefits of both types of classes were even shown to last months after the classes ended! Americans spend over 50 billion dollars per year on back pain and it is the most common cause of job related disability. Various treatments are available but few have actually proved effective in getting to the root of the problem (consider medicines- they can mask the pain but the problem is still there). After 12 weeks (75 minute classes) of yoga or stretching classes back related function was better and decreased use of pain medications lasted at least 6 months, shown in the follow up of more than 9 in 10 participants!

"our results suggest that both yoga and stretching can be good safe options for people who are willing to try physical activity to relieve their moderate low back pain" - Dr. Karen Sherman of the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle

See my blog on Starting a stretching regimen and on Yoga for back pain for more information on this subject!

Make sure to check out the FREE yoga and stretching classes at the UAB rec center!

Sherman, K.J., et al. "A randomized trial comparing yoga, stretching, and a self care book for chronic low back pain." Archives of internal medicine, 2011;  (accessed August 17th 2012)
"Largest U.S. Study Shows Yoga Eases Back Pain." American Fitness. March-April 2012: 8. Print. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Cardio Stair Routine

If you have 5 minutes and a set of stairs you can burn 50 calories with this stair routine!

  1. Walk up and down the staircase at a comfortable pace twice
  2. Walk up and down at a faster pace twice
  3. Walk up 2 steps at a time lading with right foot. Walk down normally, walk up again with the left foot leading
  4. Stand at bottom of staircase; hold banister and lift right knee toward left elbow 15 times. Switch sides and repeat
  5. Run up 2 steps at a time, right foot leading. Walk down normally, run up again with left foot leading
  6. Stand with left foot on first step, lift right knee toward chest 15 times. Switch sides and repeat 
  7. Run up 2 steps at a time, right foot leading. Walk down normally, run up again with left foot leading
  8. Walk up 2 steps at a time, right foot leading and squeezing right glute. Walk down normally. Walk up again, left foot leading, squeezing left glute
  9. Walk up and down twice at a moderate to slow pace, allowing your heart rate to slow and return to normal

Monday, August 6, 2012

To my fellow Coffee Junkies...

coffee beans
“There is certainly much more good news than bad news, in terms of coffee and health,” says Frank Hu, MD, MPH, PhD, nutrition and epidemiology professor at the Harvard School of Public Health. 
A growing body of research shows that coffee drinkers, compared to nondrinkers, are:
  • less likely to have type 2 diabetes, Parkinson's disease, and dementia
  • have fewer cases of certain cancers, heart rhythm problems, and strokes
But (you knew there would be a “but,” didn’t you?) coffee isn't proven to prevent those conditions.

Researchers don't ask people to drink or skip coffee for the sake of science. Instead, they ask them about their coffee habits. Those studies can't show cause and effect. It's possible that coffee drinkers have other advantages, Including:
better diets
more exercise ( check out Fitness coffee... )
protective genes
reduced cavities
boost athletic performance
improved moods
stop headaches 
Coffee is a rich source of disease-fighting antioxidants which are the link between coffee and the lowering of risk for Type II diabetes; Coffee is the leading source of antioxidants in American diets!!!
So there isn't solid proof. But there are signs of potential health perks -- and a few cautions.

Caffeine Cautions:

Know your Dose: We each have our own thresholds for caffeine. Most people can tolerate two cups of coffee each day with no problem. But more than that may cause nervousness, rapid heartbeat, palpitations, sleeplessness, and irritability. It can even lead to health problems such as osteoporosis or high blood pressure.

Coffee withdrawels??? Of course, if you skip your usual morning cup, you can develop a caffeine withdrawal headache.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Adaptive Motion Trainers

So, I heard that UAB had a few new machines in the recreation center and today I tried out the Adaptive Motion Trainer or AMT. It is now my favorite cardiovascular training machine in the gym!

What I love about this machine:

  1. I burn more calories and do not have stress on my knees in doing so (110 cal in 10 min)
  2. I do not feel like I am stressing my body yet I was covered in sweat!!!
  3. I get to have a longer stride making the movement feel more natural
  4. I am more likely to keep a longer stride (burning more calories) than I am to shorten my stride into  the "step" and "walking" motion range
  5. NO PAIN IN MY KNEES!!! Even the elliptical trainers will sometimes make my knee start to hurt and this never once did!!!!
Come try out this new machine at the UAB Rec center, you will love it or hate it as with most cardio machines, but I LOVE it and will be using it a lot more often!!!

Visit the AMT Website for more info!!!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Challenge your Balance!!!


This is a challenging balance workout, so start so slow and do not get frustrated if you cannot do everything perfectly, attaining balance takes time and practice!

The following exercises are from Fitness Magazine

Targets: shoulders, chest, back, triceps, abs & butt
Start on all fours, extend your right leg behind you parallel to the ground
bend your elbows (keeping them close to your sides)
lowering chin and chest toward the ground as your leg lifts higher
return to start
Do 5 reps, switch legs and repeat

Targets: Butt & Hips
Start on all fours
extend right leg behind you parallel to the ground
keeping hips still, bring it directly out to the side
Hold for 1 count and return to start
Do 8 reps, switch sides and repeat 

Half Turkish Get-UpTargets: triceps, abs, obliques, butt & hamstrings
Start lying face up on the floor with right knee bent & left leg extended
Raise right arm toward the ceiling & extend left arm directly out to the side on the floor (palm down)
engage abs and press onto the left arm, lifting torso off the floor, propping up on your left elbow
squeeze glutes to lift hips and left leg so body is parallel to the floor
Do 5 reps, switch sides and repeat

Targets: shoulders, abs, obliques, butt & legs
Start standing with heels together, toes turned out and arms by side
bring right bent knee out to the side touching toe to left knee
extend arm out to side at shoulder level, palms down
keeping upper body tall, hinge from hips toward the left so torso is diagonal
look toward the left hand & hold for 4 counts then straighten torso
Do 8 reps
Balancing RowTargets: Back, biceps, triceps & quads
Start with feet hip-width apart,
bring right elbow in toward ribcage & extend left arm forward
hinge forward from waist, bring bent knee toward chest
extend right leg behind you,
as you reach forward with your right hand swing left arm behind you
return to tuck position (picture 1)
Do 10 reps

Swinging Squat:Targets:Back, arms, abs, butt, hips & legs
Start with feet a little wider than shoulder width
keep core engaged as you squat, holding weight down between legs
Quickly, with fluid motion, stand up, swinging dumbell forward & then overhead as you lift one leg out to the side
(toes forward)
Return to starting position

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Couponing and Fitness???

I am here to tell you that I burned around 150 calories just GROCERY shopping today. I started couponing to save money about a year ago now and, although I am not extreme about it, I am willing to go to multiple stores to get the best deals. I luckily live in an area with 4 major grocery chains within about a mile of each other, so I don't waste gas in doing so!

Well, I spend about 25 minutes in each store:

  • 25 minutes of grocery shopping - mild pace walking, reaching, lifting, and in my case, carrying my groceries through the store either in a basket or in my reusable bags equals roughly 38 calories burned per store
  • totaling out to about 150 calories total!!!
  • I try to park a little ways out from the store which also helps

If you shop at multiple stores and it does not put undue strain on you, try opting for a basket or bring your own bags and use them to shop with and just unload and reload at the check out counter!

Walk at a brisk pace throughout the store; you will keep your heart rate up and have a quicker trip!

You don't have to coupon to burn calories without a gym... 
  1. walk your dog 210 cal/hour
  2. Sweep the house/porch 280 cal/hour
  3. Vaccum the house 245 cal/hour
  4. Do dishes standing at the sink 161 cal/hour
  5. Put away groceries 175 cal/hour

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Calories, Calories, Calories...

What is BMR?

Basal Metabolic Rate: The minimum caloric requirement needed to sustain life in a resting individual during a 24 hour period; More active lifestyles and regular exercise increase this value.

Estimating your BMR: weight in pounds * 10 kcal/lb

Once you have this number you can determine your daily caloric needs using the Harris Benedict Formula:

  • Sedentary lifestyle (little or no exercise): BMR x 1.2
  • Lightly active (light exercise 1-3 days/week): BMR x 1.375
  • Moderately active (moderate exercise 3-5 days/week): BMR x 1.55
  • Very Active (vigorous exercise/sports 6-7 days/week): BMR x 1.725

Free online tools that can be used to help determine your caloric needs:

Great FREE Fitness and Nutrition tracking websites:

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Master the Push up.

The Dreaded Push Up...

(This photo is from my 8 and 9 year old Gymnasts doing their conditioning... Motivating right?)

If you are just starting out you may not even be able to do a push up with your knees on the ground; start with push ups against a wall, stand a few feet away from the wall, lean towards the wall, placing hands about shoulder width apart on the wall, and then bend in toward the wall to execute the movement

Once you can do 15 to 20 of those without fatigue, move to the floor for box push ups: these should be done with knees right behind the hips and hands just below shoulders on the floor/mat. bend at the elbows and keep weight centered to complete the movement.

Once you can do 15-20 of these without fatigue you can move on the the basic knee push ups, knees can be bent or extended depending on what is comfortable to you, keep hands a little wider than shoulder width apart on the floor/mat. Bent at the elbows and lower the chest toward the floor.

Knees Extended

knees flexed

Once you can complete 15-20 of these without fatigue you can alternate lifting one leg at a time  to the standard push up position 
(this will add your body weight gradually instead of moving directly to full body weight standard push ups)
You can do push ups in the standard position with your hands resting on a weight bench, chair, counter, etc 
(the higher the surface you use, the easier the movement)

Finally, move into standard push up position! If you can only do one that is fine, but 
move directly to your knees to finish your set!!!!! 
(This will help you build up to more standard push up!!!)
aim for 12-15 push ups per set with 2-3 sets total
Already have your push ups down? Test your strength by elevating your toes on a weight bench, couch, chair etc. The less of your leg that is supported, the harder the push up movement will be!

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