Weight Training Do’s and Don’ts


These tips were written by the staff of the Mayo Clinic and can be found on the Mayo Clinic website: 

When you’re weight training, do:

  • Lift an appropriate amount of weight. Start with a weight you can lift comfortably 12 to 15 times. For most people, a single set of 12 repetitions with the proper weight can build strength just as efficiently as can three sets of the same exercise. As you get stronger, gradually increase the amount of weight.
  • Use proper form. Learn to do each exercise correctly. The better your form, the better your results — and the less likely you are to hurt yourself. If you’re unable to maintain good form, decrease the weight or the number of repetitions. Remember that proper form matters even when you pick up and replace your weights on the weight racks. If you’re not sure whether you’re doing a particular exercise correctly, ask a personal trainer or other fitness specialist for help.
  • Breathe. You might be tempted to hold your breath while you’re lifting weights. Don’t. Holding your breath can lead to dangerous increases in blood pressure. Instead, breathe out as you lift the weight and breathe in as you lower the weight.
  • Seek balance. Work all of your major muscles — abdominals, legs, chest, back, shoulders and arms. Strengthen the opposing muscles in a balanced way, such as the front of the shoulder and the back of the shoulder.
  • Rest. Avoid exercising the same muscles two days in a row. You might work all of your major muscle groups at a single session two or three times a week, or plan daily sessions for specific muscle groups. For example, on Monday work your arms and shoulders, on Tuesday work your legs, and so on.

When you’re weight training, don’t:

  • Skip your warm-up. Cold muscles are more prone to injury than are warm muscles. Before you lift weights, warm up with five to 10 minutes of brisk walking or other aerobic activity.
  • Rush. Move the weight in an unhurried, controlled fashion. Taking it slow helps you isolate the muscles you want to work and keeps you from relying on momentum to lift the weight.
  • Overdo it. For most people, completing one set of exercises to the point of fatigue is typically enough. Additional sets may only eat up your time and contribute to overload injury.
  • Work through the pain. If an exercise causes pain, stop. Try it again in a few days or try it with less weight.
  • Forget your shoes. Shoes with good traction can keep you from slipping while you’re lifting weights.

What You Need to Know About Gluten


By Elena Stevens, MPA, RD

My favorite grocery store just finished putting in a new aisle with gluten-free products. There’s a street I drive on everyday that has a sign next to the sidewalk advertising a Gluten-Free Expo. Gluten is getting attention these days, and people are wondering if they should be gluten-free.

Gluten is part of the protein found in wheat, rye, barley, buckwheat, and oats.  Some people are sensitive to a compound in gluten and the lining of the small intestine in these people is damaged by eating gluten. When the small intestine lining is damaged, nutrients aren’t absorbed into the body. This gluten sensitivity is called celiac disease and is partly hereditary and partly due to the immune system not working normally. Symptoms of celiac disease are weight loss, weakness, feeling tired, feeling hungry, abdominal discomfort, vomiting, constipation, and sometimes diarrhea. Symptoms vary from person to person (1).

Celiac disease is difficult to diagnose because many of its symptoms are similar to symptoms of other diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, diverticulitis, and chronic fatigue syndrome. Doctors are becoming more aware of the varied symptoms of celiac disease and are able to use blood tests, intestinal biopsies, skin biopsies, and other tests to diagnose celiac disease.

The treatment for celiac disease is eating a gluten-free diet that includes fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, lean proteins, and substituting gluten-containing products in recipes with products made from corn, potato, rice, soybean, tapioca, and arrowroot. A big concern for those with celiac disease is finding foods that fit their lifestyles and finding foods that don’t have hidden ingredients (2). New gluten-free products add variety to a diet that may often seem restrictive to people with celiac disease.

There are also many gluten-free cookbooks that include healthy and delicious recipes. These products and resources are  welcome and deserve increased attention to improve and add variety to the diets of those with celiac disease. For people that don’t have celiac disease, however, there isn’t a need to increase the grocery bill by buying gluten-free products and there’s no need to try the adventure of cooking without gluten, unless they wish to experience the challenge of going gluten-free.


(1) Mahan KL, 1996, Food, Nutrition, & Diet Therapy, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, W.B. Saunders Company, p. 620-4.

(2) Schaeffer J, Help Celiac Clients Get Cooking, Today’s Dietitian 2011; 13:24-30.


Guest Post: Ascending the Spiritual Summit

Mountain Summit

By Calvin Buhler

Calvin Buhler is a health and human performance expert and author of Missionary Fitness: Prepare Your Body and Spirit for Service.  For more information visit www.missionaryfitness.com.

Francesco Petrarca, commonly known today as Petrarch, was born in Arezzo, France in the early fourteenth-century, but spent his early childhood growing up in a village near Florence.  The son of Italian parents, he was an intensely religious man with a relatively immense and profoundly inspired collection of writings that has been passed on to all of humanity.

An Italian scholar, poet, humanist and philosopher, Petrarch, along with Dante, was a major force in the ushering in of the Renaissance particularly for his poems and his deep interest in classical culture and Christianity.  Regarded as the greatest scholar of his time, he was ironically very disgusted with the era in which he lived.  Disdained with the ignorance, the lack of knowledge and education at the time he created the concept of the “Dark Ages.”

A highly introspective person, he initiated the departure from the Dark Ages through his internal conflicts expressed in his writings, which were studied and debated continually by philosophers for the next two hundred years.  Many of these thoughtful texts were scribed during his mid-twenties to mid-thirties where he spent most of his time for almost a decade restlessly wandering through regions of France, Germany and Italy.

At the height of this reflective time, Petrarch, together with his brother and two servants, embarked on an arduous ascent to the top of Mount Ventoux (6,263 ft).  At the time, it was extremely unusual to climb a mountain for no other reason than the experience itself.  Therefore, April 26th, 1336 is regarded as the birth date for alpinism, and Petrarch is also known as the “father of alpinism.”

He described this deeply spiritual journey in a detailed letter to a close friend.  Here are some highlights from this letter:

Today I ascended the highest mountain in this region, which, not without cause, they call the Windy Peak.  Nothing but the desire to see its conspicuous height was the reason to make this expedition…

The day was long, the air was mild; this and vigorous minds, strong and supple bodies, and all the other conditions assisted us on our way… We began to climb with merry alacrity.  However, as almost always happens, the daring attempt was soon followed by quick fatigue.

Not far from our start we stopped at a rock.  From there we went on again, proceeding at a slower pace, to be sure.  I in particular made my way up with considerably more modest steps.  My brother endeavored to reach the summit by the very ridge of the mountain on a short cut; I, being so much more of a weakling, was bending down toward the valley.  When he called me back and showed me the better way, I answered that I hoped to find an easier access on the other side… With such an excuse I tried to palliate my laziness, and, when the others had already reached the higher zones, I was still wandering through the valleys, where no more comfortable access was revealed, while the way became longer and longer and the vain fatigue grew heavier and heavier.

A few more times, Petrarch attempted to find an easier path to the summit, and a few more times he failed – to his brother’s great despair.  The stark similitude of Petrarch’s brother to our Savior in leading the way and in showing us the correct path back to our Father is a near flawless demonstration.  Despite our hopeless attempts to find the “easier” way the path has been clearly marked and is quite simple.  We just need to make the choice.

It was at this time, the philosophical young man made the connection between the physical efforts of climbing a mountain and his spiritual life:

I leaped in my winged thoughts from things corporeal to what is incorporeal and addressed myself in words like these:

“What you have so often experienced today while climbing this mountain happens to you, you must know, and to many others who are making their way toward the blessed life.  This is not easily understood by us men, because the motions of the body lie open, while those of the mind are invisible and hidden.  The life we call blessed is located on a high peak.  ‘A narrow way,’ they say, leads up to it.  Many hilltops intervene, and we must proceed ‘from virtue to virtue’ with exalted steps.  On the highest summit is set the end of all, the goal toward which our pilgrimage is directed… What is it then that keeps you back?  Evidently nothing but the smoother way that leads through the meanest earthly pleasures and looks easier at first sight.  However, having strayed far in error, you must either ascend to the summit of the blessed life under the heavy burden of hard striving… or lie prostrate in you slothfulness in the valleys…”

You cannot imagine how much comfort this thought brought my mind and body for what lay still ahead of me.  Would that I might achieve with my mind the journey for which I am longing day and night, as I achieved with the feet… my journey today, after overcoming all obstacles.

There is a summit, higher than all others.  On its top is a small level stretch.  There at last we rested from our fatigue.

– The Renaissance Philosophy of Many
Edited by Ernst Cassirer

What can we learn from Petrarch’s experience?

Any physical endeavor – including good health and fitness – requires hard work, discipline and a plan that has been proven to be successful.

Any spiritual endeavor – including ascending the spiritual summit (whatever this may be for you) – requires the same degree, if not more, of hard work, discipline and a proven plan.

As you participate in physical exercise, remember that all things are spiritual in nature.  Look beyond your physical discomfort and experience the subtle, spiritual insights that will come as your spirit savors the physical experience you’ve been blessed to have.


Dining Out: How not to sabotage your diet

Kid Eating

Kid EatingLike anyone, I love going out to eat. Whether it’s with friends, family, a date or even by myself, I love the experience and of course the food. Just because I am on a diet, doesn’t mean that I have shield myself from food (some food yes, not all). Plus, as I have beginning to maintain my new weight, I’ve found a lot of sanity in following the 80/20 Rule.

Whether or not you are dieting or maintaining your new weight you should always remember that dining out is not a five times a week occurrence, neither is it a two times a week or necessarily a once a week occurrence. I’ve found that limiting myself to twice a month is a great medium.

Why put a cap on your dining out? Simple, it puts you more in control of your calories, diet and choices. When you cook at home you know exactly what’s being put into your food, you know the nutritional facts and you don’t have to worry about some cook back in the kitchen dowsing your lean fish in butter.

But, for those times that you do want to dine out there are some very simple tips that you can do so you won’t sabotage your diet. Here are some of my tips that works for me. Feel free to add your own tips in the comment form.

Before Dining: Make sure you do two things, especially if you are planning to dine out that day: eat breakfast, eat lunch and drink plenty of water throughout the day. You are going to be less likely to overeat if you are well hydrated and not hungry. It’s also a good idea to drink a glass of water about a half hour before eat.

In addition make sure you know where you are dining and what you are going to order. Most major chain restaurants have their menus and nutritional values online. If the nutritional values aren’t on the website an easy Google search can usually guide you to the information. By planning out your meal in advance you can also alter your other meals so you won’t go over daily calorie, fat, carbohydrate or sodium levels.

Appetizers: My general rule of thumb is skip them. Especially the free breadsticks, popcorn or bread the restaurant might put in front of you. They’re full just full of empty calories, not to mention they are usually full of butter. Just politely ask your waitress to not bring the appetizer to the table. If you have non-dieters eating with you just politely refrain and drink a lot of water.

When it comes to the appetizer dishes, forget about it. The majority of appetizers are full of cheese, grease and a week’s worth of fat, even if you are splitting the dish. Outback Steakhouse’s Aussie Cheese Fries are the worst offenders with over 2900 calories and 182 fat grams. Even with a group of six sharing the dish you’d be consuming over 483 calories and 30 fat grams.

Drinks: Order water. Avoid sugary sodas and even their diet counterparts. You really don’t need it, especially if you are training and working out regularly. Even lemonade and other juices should be avoided, because of their sugar and caloric intake.

But, you don’t have to take water as a death sentence. There are ways to spruce up that water. One of my favorite tricks is making “Poorman Lemonade.” I ask the waitress for a bowl of lemons and limes and then squeeze about four to five (or more) into my water and then a couple packets of NutriSweet or Stevia as well. It’s a great drink and virtually calorie free. Try it next time you are dining out.

Entrée: Like I had mentioned before, choose your meal before you set a foot in the restaurant. When picking an entrée I usually stick to one of three foods: chicken, fish and steak. I tend stay clear from sandwiches, pastas and complex dishes mainly because they are usually full of fats, carbohydrates and sugars I try to avoid. A good rule of thumb is eat food with the least amount of construction.

Mending an entrée to fit your diet can be tricky, but it can be done. One of my favorite dishes at Applebee’s is the Asiago Peppercorn Steak, but I still mend it to my diet. I forgo the cheese and ask for no butter on my vegetables or potatoes. It cuts the fat dramatically. Plus, I also forgo the steak sauce for two reasons. One, I don’t need the added sodium and two, I learned at a young age that a steak done right doesn’t need sauce.

Whatever you order for your entrée, also be aware of portion size. There isn’t a rule that says you have to eat everything on your plate before you leave. You can box your food and take it home with you. I had one friend who would almost regularly do this with his food, except he would box half of it before he even got the food. Just by asking the waitress to box half of the dish will save you calories and provide another (substantial) meal for tomorrow.

Dessert: Avoid it. It also means you should avoid eating at the Cheesecake Factory, unless you are just going for a piece of cheesecake.

Dining out while on a diet can be easy. Just remember to prepare yourself for the experience so you will not be surprised when you hop on the scale the morning after. So have fun and enjoy the food!