Plogging – An Environmentally Friendly Way to Stay in Shape

I recently stumbled upon a workout called plogging, or simply picking up trash while jogging. While this idea may sound ridiculous, it is an excellent environmentally friendly way to reach your health goals. If you ever notice one of your favorite run routes has litter around it, take a trash bag with you next time you go for a run. Every time you notice a piece of trash, squat down to pick it up. The more trash you pick up, the more squats you complete. Not only will your legs and glutes be more toned than if you completed a normal jog, but the Earth will be a cleaner more beautiful place because of your plog.

Here are some tips to having a better plog:

  1. Instead of carrying around a trash bag, line a small backpack with a trash bag and throw all of your trash in the backpack.
  2. Meet with a group and run in different directions around a park. Give a time frame to meet back at the starting point. Whoever has the most trash collected at the end wins. The more miles run usually will mean the more trash you will aquire.
  3. Switch up your plogging location. While a nature trail may need some trash picked up every few weeks, running there every day will be unlikely to provide the trash you would need to get your daily dose of squats.
  4. Conduct a different type of exercise for each type of trash you pick up. Cigarette butts are worth 5 squats, water bottles are worth 5 push ups, and fast food containers are worth 10 sit-ups. Feel free to make your own roster of what trash equals what type of exercise. Be careful of traffic when stopping to conduct an exercise during your plog.

What other ways can you think of that can make plogging or other types of exercise fun and environmentally friendly? Comment below!


The 3 ‘Rules of 3’ for Exercise

There are three rules of 3 that you should follow when it comes to exercise. They sound very similar, but there are differences between them. They are:

1) Never go three days without exercising

Your body will begin to lose muscular and cardiovascular endurance faster than you may think. To keep up a healthy life make sure you aren’t skipping too many days in between workouts. If you notice the last time you exercised was three days ago, then try to ensure you do not take another day off.

2) Workout at least three days per week

If rule number one is followed, then most likely you will follow number two. However, if you spread out your exercises too much you may realize you are only exercising 2 days per week. To avoid this, always strive for three workouts per week. Don’t jam them all into a three day weekend. Spread them out in order to accomplish both the first and the second rule.

3) Exercise for at least 30 minutes

The last of the three rules is to ensure you are exercising for at least 30 minutes at a time. While it may be enticing to go for a 10-minute jog to fulfill your daily workout, this only hurts your long-term health. The ideal length of a workout is about an hour, but do not let your workouts last less than 30 minutes.

If you currently have a sedentary life and you begin to follow these three rules, you will discover that just a few workouts per week will make you feel significantly stronger and mentally more aware.

The 6 by 6 Workout: A Full Body Workout for when the Weather’s Keeping You in

Sometimes it is nearly impossible to get outside for a run or to drive to the gym. With the recent Hurricanes pushing through the lower and eastern states, hurricane parties are all the rage. But for my fitness enthusiasts out there, here is a simple and easy workout you can do anywhere you have an open space that is 6 feet by 6 feet.

The 6 by 6 workouts is a series of 6 exercises that you do 6 times each in an area that takes only 6 feet by 6 feet. No equipment is required so you can complete this workout almost anywhere! Here is the workout:

Complete 1 minute of bicycle kicks.

After completing bicycle kicks, immediately begin alternating lunges and time for 1 minute.

Complete 1 minute of traveling push-ups.

1 minute of body-weight squats.

1 minute of mountain climbers.

Then conclude the circuit with 1 minute of side kicks.

After completing 1 minute’s worth of all three exercises, rest for 1 minute and then repeat this circuit 5 more times. This workout is designed to activate your full body with an emphasis on your hips and core.

Sprint Interval Workout

Sprints are a great way to improve your cardiovascular health, strengthen your lower body, and to aid with weight loss. A sprint is simply running at your full speed, giving it your all. This could range from a fast walk if you are just getting started, all the way to the speed of a car giving it a little gas, it all depends on how fast you can run. An interval is a stop and go style of training and is typically measured in periods of time or distance. This means a sprint interval is running as fast as you can for a specified distance or time, taking a short break, and then sprinting again. This type of high-intensity interval training can benefit you more than normal jogging due to the resultant increases in power, speed, and strength that normal running will not give you.

There are two primary ways to setup your sprint interval workout: time and distance. If you chose to time your workouts, you will choose how long you will be sprinting for, and how long you will conduct a slow jog for. When you’re first beginning, a good goal is to sprint for 10 seconds and jog for 50 seconds. Every minute on the minute you will start a new sprint. Continue doing the intervals until you reach your total workout time, which if you are a beginner may be about 10 minutes. Distance based intervals work best on a running track. Choose how many laps you want to sprint and jog, and use the track to determine your flow. On a quarter mile track it is fun to jog the turns and sprint the straight away.

While everyone’s sprint interval workout will differ due to one’s own abilities, it is always good to begin with a few interval periods where you keep it at a slow jog. Once you are warmed up, then you can begin the sprints. Jumping straight into a full speed workout can lead to an injury, so make sure you properly warm-up.

You can mix and match distances and times however you want! For example, a common sprint interval workout is to sprint for 200 meters, rest for 30 seconds, then repeat 5-15 times. Do what works for you, but ensure during your intervals you are running at full speed during your sprints.

You can also do sprint intervals with other exercises besides running. Try doing sprint intervals while swimming, cycling, ellipicalling (I think I made that word up), or rowing.

Nickels and Dimes Workout

Nickels and Dimes is a fun workout you can do almost anywhere. At the top of every minute for 10 minutes you will complete 5 pull-ups (nickels) and 10 push-ups (dimes). By the end of the workout, you will have completed 50 pull-ups and 100 push-ups.

Your first set you may be able to complete the nickels and dimes within the first 20 seconds. As your workout continues, it will take longer to complete each set, thus giving you less and less of a rest period. By the 10th minute, you may not get to rest at all, and you will need to power through to complete the workout! It may sound easy, but it just 10 minutes you can get one heck of a workout.

You can modify this workout as needed. For example, you can do the workout for 15 minutes instead of 10, shorten or lengthen the rest period, or you can do pennies and nickels and complete 1 pull-up and 5 push-ups.

You can also change the exercises from pull-ups and push-ups to exercises that strengthen other muscle groups. You can do 5 tuck-jumps and 10 lunges, 5 leg raises and 10 sit-ups, or even sprint for 5 seconds and jog for 10 seconds. Each one of these will be repeated at the top of the minute.

I enjoy this exercise because at the surface it is very simple, every minute you do 5 pull-ups and 10 push-ups. But to meet your fitness goals, you can modify it to be a simple timed circuit that can be completed almost anywhere.

Woman Bench Pressing

The 7 Laws of Training – Getting the Most Out of Your Workouts

With hundreds of workout routines available for us to choose from, it is important to choose a program that follows the seven laws of training and is suitable for our desired training outcomes. The seven laws of training were developed by Dr. Fred Hatfield. These laws outline the principles upon which optimal fitness is achieved. The seven laws are:

  1. The Principle of Individual Differences – We all have different genetics, thus we will all have different outcomes to exercise and training.
  2. The Overcompensation Principle – Our bodies respond to stress with overcompensated growth. For example, if we stress our muscles, our muscle fibers will grow in size.
  3. The Overload Principle – In order to increase physical performance, we must experience resistance great than what our bodies normally encounter.
  4. The SAID Principle – An acronym for Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands. Your body will specifically adapt to imposed stresses, so your training plan should specifically match your training objectives.
  5. The Use/Disuse Principle – “Use it or lose it.” If you stop stressing specific systems, your body will adapt to only be able to meet that lower stress level.
  6. The Specificity Principle – When you are training, start with general fitness training and as your competition or event gets closer, transition to highly specific training.
  7. The GAS Principle – An acronym for General Adaptation Syndrome. Our bodies go through 3 stages when a stress is introduced. First, the body is alarmed, then our bodies resist, and finally our bodies exhaust. Because our bodies experience trauma from the stress and exhaust energy reserves, the body must have a rest period after being trained.

Some workout programs may not follow every law. Let’s look at a popular training program and see how it compares. CrossFit is a high-intensity system that focuses on universal fitness and non-specific training. Famous for its workouts of the day, CrossFit daily workouts will typically result in a good full-body burn. Let’s use the  7 laws framework to analyze this non-rigid system.

The principle of Individual Differences – CrossFit does not tailor workouts to the individual.Overcompensation Principle – Most CrossFit workouts are group oriented and specify a weight to

The Overcompensation Principle – Most CrossFit workouts are group oriented and specify a weight to use, so already strong individuals may have an easier time completing a workout. As long as weights are adapted based on strength level, CrossFit can meet the criteria of this principle.

The Overload Principle – With its high-intensity workouts and emphasis on pushing yourself, the culture of CrossFit motivates people to overload themselves.

The SAID Principle – CrossFit is designed not to follow the SAID principle. The training objective of CrossFit is to not specify the training.

The Use/Disuse Principle – Workouts of the day are typically conducted 5 times per week and are designed to use every muscle at least every other day, this it follows this principle.

Specificity Principle – CrossFit does not specify training.

GAS Principle – Rest days are typically given 2 times per week. Depending on the CrossFit gym, muscle groups are broken up so that there is ample time for full recovery.

CrossFit meets 4 of the 7 training laws. Whatever your workout plan is, use the 7 laws to evaluate the training effectiveness of your program. If your workout program doesn’t meet all 7 laws, then adapt your plan until it does. For example, if you enjoy CrossFit but are also training for a 5k, then mix endurance training, sprints, and CrossFit into a 5 day a week program, rotating between the workouts and focusing more on running as the race gets closer.

The Six Fundamental Movements of Major Body Segments

The six fundamental movements of major body segments are flexion, extension, abduction, adduction, rotation, and circumduction. Flexion is decreasing the angle between body segments, an example being a bicep curl whenever the wrist is moving closer to the shoulder. When the wrist is let back down away from the shoulder it is called extension, or an increase in the angle between two body segments.

Abduction is the movement of a body segment away from the midline. Hip abduction is pressing your hips outward and away from the midline of your body. When your legs come back toward centerline it is called adduction, or movement of a body segment toward the midline. Rotation is a circular movement of a body segment about a long axis. Rotation is commonly seen in sports such as tennis, where backhanding a tennis ball requires rotation of the upper arm. Circumduction is a combination of movements outlining a geometric cone such as arm circles.

Some exercise use multiple fundamental movements, kicking a soccer ball is one example of this. When you kick a soccer ball, first your leg hyperextends to “wind up” the kick. Then as it moves forward to generate power, flexion occurs until your leg moves past your centerline and forward into further extension. As your leg extends forward, leg adduction is common considering contact is made using the inside of the foot. The foot during the kick is rotated outward with slight eversion.

Understanding the fundamental movements will help you a better understanding of the body’s kinesthetic movements and how they pertain to exercise. Having a solid understanding of this plus biomechanics will allow you to be more conscious about form and injury preventing and performance enhancing movements.

The Difference Between Aerobic and Anaerobic Exercise and Why it Matters

I’m sure you hear the terms aerobic and anaerobic all the time. The term aerobic has often been used synonymously with the term cardio and is sometimes confused with a type of fitness class from the 1970s. What exactly are aerobic and anaerobic exercises, and why does it matter?

It turns out that these are directly related to your metabolism and the way your body uses energy. The amount of energy your muscles keep stored at any given time only allows for about a second of maximum exertion and after that, your body needs to begin making more energy for itself. For the first couple minutes of a hard workout, your body will use carbohydrates in the form of blood sugar or glycogen (sugar stored in your muscles) to generate additional energy. These first couple minutes do not require additional oxygen to create the new energy, so it is called an anaerobic (no oxygen) process.

If you exercise extends longer than a couple minutes without a long enough break to allow your muscles to restore their energy, then your body begins to run out of glycogen and blood sugar to safely use and must find a new way to produce energy. Your body decides to start breaking down fats, carbohydrates, and even proteins to use as energy. If your workout lasts long enough, your body will even go as far as breaking down your muscles for energy! These metabolic processes require oxygen, which is why they are referred to as aerobic processes.

How you train determines what type of energy pathway you are using. If you are lifting weights, throwing a ball, or running a sprint, then you are using anaerobic processes to provide your body with energy. This type of exercise forces your body adapt to become better suited for short, explosive movements. Your muscles will start to store more energy and they will begin to grow larger. If you decide to go jogging, swimming, or dancing, you are using aerobic processes to fuel your body. The more you do these kinds of workouts, the more your body will adapt to utilizing and mobilizing fat, which could lead to a lower body fat percentage. Also, your ability to store and transport oxygen in your muscles will increase and your aerobic capacity will rise.

A good mix of aerobic and anaerobic activities are required to stay healthy and fit, but depending on your fitness goals you may want to choose to train one more often than the other. To lose weight, aerobic activities should be favored, while to gain muscle size and mass, anaerobic exercises should be your go to exercise type.

The Impacts of Running

A few years ago I was training for a marathon, and I was feeling great throughout my training. I had just run my best half marathon time while training a couple weeks prior, and I was excited to get outside to do a 12 mile training run. The run felt great, the weather was beautiful, and I was in the zone. Then at mile 10, without changing anything in my stride, a sharp pain went straight through my ankle and I could barely walk. As a runner, I still tried to power through and managed to jog about another half mile, until finally I gave up and limped the rest of the way home.

So what happened? The short answer is I stress fractured my ankle from overuse. The longer answer dives into the anatomy of the human body, the stresses that are exerted on it, and the limitations of what we can endure without injury. After my injury (and a second stress fracture a couple months later), I began to wonder what kind of forces act of the human body while running, and whether or not it’s good for us to run for longer distances.

Any time you take a step, your body experiences a force that is greater than what it experiences while standing. A typical jog/run will exert between 2 and 4 times your standing force on your body. This means if you weigh 100 pounds, a single impact during a run will cause enough force to make you feel like 400 pounds. Your body does its best to absorb this shock to your body. The muscles in your legs act as a shock absorber, and the stronger your muscles, the less impact you will have loaded straight to your skeletal structure. This is why it’s important to weight train your lower body. Having weak or tight ankles or calves could lead to stress fractures in the foot and lower legs, which is what happened to me.

Shock absorbing shoes and insoles can help reduce the impact on your body, and has been scientifically proven that it helps reduce injury, but there could be some downsides to this. When you put on supportive shoes, the support and shock absorption that your muscles are adapted to provide are no longer needed. This triggers your body to weaken those muscles, and if you’re not careful, if you lose support in your shoes your muscles may not be ready to support the impacts of jogging the next time you go.

Another common technique runners use is they will run on softer surfaces to reduce the impact on their bodies. Scientists from the University of Calgary wanted to test this and see if impacts on harder surfaces such as concrete caused more injuries than softer surfaces, such as running on grass. The results were fairly surprising. They discovered that there wasn’t a noticeable difference in injury frequency when running on a softer surface rather than a harder surface. This could be because the cause of injury is more centered around an individual’s muscular and skeletal structure, rather than the force of the impact.

If you’re a walker or a runner it’s impossible to avoid the impact forces of the exercise, but you can reduce them by wearing supportive shoes or insoles. Also, impact activities such as basketball, running, or dancing typically produce an increase in skeletal mass, and are good ways to increase bone density to decrease your chance of stress fractures. Perhaps the best way to keep yourself from a running injury is to keep your lower body muscles strong and loose. The smaller muscles such as the ones in your ankles and calves are perhaps the most forgotten and important when it comes to preventing impact injuries. So for my runners and walkers out there, make sure you are staying ahead of any potential injuries by training your lower body muscles. If not you may end up like me, doing every cardio session on a stationary bike for months while my ankles healed.

Thank you for reading! If you want to learn more about the science behind walking and running impacts, check out these two peer-reviewed articles that I referenced when writing this article:

A Beginner’s Guide to Exercise Volume 2: Weight Loss Basics

As important physical fitness can be in establishing overall health, I personally view it as a mere supplemental piece to the absolute essential concepts of nutrition. Understanding what role caloric intake plays in the overall scheme of energy expenditure is something that is relatively simple to understand and can truly reap tremendous weight loss benefits for beginners and experts alike. Other more complicated topics such as macronutrients, supplements, and performance related nutrients aren’t as important for beginners, and thus will be discussed in future articles.

For a beginner, it all begins with the concept of Total Energy Expenditure (TEE). Total Energy Expenditure describes the three major bodily processes that utilize the calories we ingest from the foods and beverages we consume. Take a look at the chart below:


As you can clearly see, the three main components of TEE are Basal Metabolic Rate, Physical Activity, and Dietary Thermogenesis (also known as the Thermal Effect of Feeding). By far the biggest component of energy use is the Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). It uses up a massive 60 to 75 percent of the total energy the human body uses, and I think of it as “Life Energy” because all of these calories are utilized in the maintenance of proper organ function,  the regulation of internal body temperatures, and much more. Basal Metabolic Rate does not require a single movement to burn calories. In fact, it is a measurement of how many calories an individual burns over a 24 hour span by just sleeping or sitting. This rate is different for everyone and is affected by age, lean body mass, body size, height, weight, and other physiological processes. There are several BMR calculators online, and a quick google search will allow you to discover a relatively accurate estimate of the number of calories your body burns by simply maintaining itself.

The next biggest component of TEE is physical activity, and this is the only component of total energy expenditure that you have complete control over. Participating in exercise, regardless of its intensity, increases energy demands placed on the body. In order for the body to satisfy the requirements of these demands it uses the energy from calories ingested from food. Think of Total Energy Expenditure as a test and physical activity is thirty percent of that test. If you don’t take it the best you can get is a 70. If you do well, you burn more calories, and thus lose more weight, or can eat more food.

The final component of TEE is dietary thermogenesis. This is a very scientific term to simply describe the energy required to digest food, and thus I think of it as “Digestion Energy”. This is for the most part completely out of your hands, and your body will burn ten percent of total calories ingested autonomously. It is possible to manipulate this number by eating frequent meals, but overall this will not make or break much.

How Weight Loss Works

Now that we know how the energy ingested from food is utilized, we can understand exactly how weight loss works.

Total Calories Ingested (TCI) – Total Energy Expenditure(TEE) = Net Caloric Deficit/Surplus

If (TCI-TEE) is > 0 Weight will be gained (Caloric Surplus)

If (TCI-TEE) is = 0 Weight will be maintained

If (TCI-TEE) is < 0 Weight will be lost (Caloric Deficit)

If you subtract total calories burned in a day (TEE) from the total calories you ingested from food (TCI), you will arrive at a number that represents your net caloric value. If this number is positive you have a caloric surplus, meaning you ingested more calories than you burned and thus will gain weight. If the opposite occurs and you have a negative number, you have a caloric deficit. This means you burned more calories than you ingested, resulting in weight loss. If the number is zero, you will neither gain nor lose weight as you have burned the same amount of calories that you have ingested. To calculate exactly how much weight is gained or lost, you take the surplus/deficit amount of calories and divide it by 3500. For example, if you had a surplus of 700 calories, you would gain 700/3500 (.2) pounds.

Putting it All Together

Now that we understand exactly how weight loss is achieved, I think providing an example of calculating energy balance would be helpful. So let’s observe a sample of my own personal daily caloric receipt to understand this better.

Alex’s Caloric Receipt

Breakfast                    +400

                                                                 Lunch                           +650

                                                                 Dinner                          +500

                                                                 Snacks                          +250

                                                                 BMR                              -2078

                                                                 Exercise                       -400

                                                                 Digestion                      -180


                                                               Caloric Deficit of 858 calories

As you can see, I ate three total meals throughout the day, and two snacks in between these meals for a total of five meals. The way you figure out the caloric values for each of these meals is to ensure you are tracking the calories that are portioned for the serving size you consume. For example, if I was eating a serving size of chicken (one piece) I would see on the back that this relates to 425 calories. You must do this for every meal you eat or drink, and at the end of the day tally up the total amount of calories you consumed. However, if you are busy, or just lazy like me, you can use one of several phone applications that will not only do all the math for you.  All you have to do for these apps is search what you ate, tell them how much you ate, and then it will tell you exactly how many calories you consumed. It will also keep track of your calories for the day. If we add all the calories from my meals together, we get a total of 1800 calories, and this number represents by total calories ingested for the day.

Now that we figured how many calories I ingested, it is time to figure out how exactly I calculated my total energy expenditure. If you do a quick search on Google for “Basal Metabolic Rate Calculator” you will find an abundance of websites that will ask for your height, weight, age, and gender. If you are willing to provide this information, the websites will give you a rough estimate of your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). This rate stays relatively constant and only changes with increases in the things mentioned above (age, height, weight, etc.). After plugging this information in, my estimated BMR was 2078 calories. In addition to our BMR, we still have to calculate my Dietary Thermogenesis (Digestion Energy) and my physical activity to see exactly how many calories I burned. Digestion energy is simply about ten percent of the total calories you consumed. So for this, I added the calories consumed from breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks (1800) and then multiplied it by (.1) resulting in 180 burned calories. As far as calculating exercise goes, you can either purchase a heart rate monitor and it will measure your burned calories, or you could also use apps made for phones that will provide an estimate of how many calories you burned during your workout based off what you did and how long you did it. Add all three of these things together, and you will get your total energy expenditure.

Although these numbers were artificially created (except for BMR), you can see that I subtracted my ingested calories from my total energy expenditure to find out that I was at a calorie deficit of 858 calories, which would be amazing. If everything were to stay exactly the same (highly unlikely), I would burn a total of 6006 calories in one week, and thus lose approximately 1.71 pounds in that week. I calculated this number by multiplying my daily caloric deficit by seven and then dividing that number by 3500. Generally, most people try to be at a deficit of 500 calories per day, because this means that they will burn exactly one pound a week.

Weight loss, as you can probably see, is a very inexact science for someone who isn’t necessarily an expert in nutrition like most of the population is. It relies heavily on technology measuring ingested calories, tracking how many calories we burn in workouts, and our Basal Metabolic Rate. However, understanding how weight loss work is incredibly important, and learning how to track calories really can make a tremendous difference for people who struggle with their weight. With a little precision and discipline, a new and better life is completely attainable!

Author: Alex Perelló –  click here to view his bio and other articles

*As a certified personal trainer, I am to make explicitly clear that I am not a qualified to create individualized dietary plans, and I am not necessarily a nutrition specialist. However, I have taken several college courses on nutrition, received several basic nutritional guidelines while studying for the certification, and have years of experience of personal research. This article reflects some useful information I have discovered through these endeavors.