Exercise is one of the best ways to naturally improve your mental health. While it may be hard to motivate yourself to exercise when you’re feeling the effects of depression, anxiety, and other stressors, there really is no better way than working out to relieve the immediate symptoms of such negatives to your mental health. Read on to learn just how effective exercise is at improving your mental health.

Exercise’s Effect on Anxiety

Whether it’s a chronic condition or due to an upcoming stressor such as a test, anxiety can have many negative effects on you. You may find it hard to focus, suffer from anxiety attacks, get tension headaches, or experience other negatives of anxiety. When experiencing anxiety, people tend to tense up – whether consciously or unconsciously – and exercise relieves this tension. It also relieves stress and helps shift your focus off whatever is causing you anxiety.

Another benefit is that exercise releases endorphins. This chemical is the biggest promoter of happiness and positive feelings in the brain, so you’re likely to feel a lot better after a good workout.

And if your anxiety is keeping you up at night, exercise can help with this as well. By tiring out your body during the day, your body’s need for rest and recovery may outweigh the distracting effect of your worrisome thoughts at night.

Exercise’s Effect on Depression

As good as exercise is at relieving anxiety, it’s even better at relieving depression. The release of endorphins caused by exercise is important for getting through a time of depression because it can bring your emotions to a neutral or even happy level. And if there’s something on your mind that’s causing you to feel depressed, exercise provides you with a good distraction.

There’s also another incredibly important way that exercise relieves the effects of depression. Ever feel pressure or pain around your heart when you’re very depressed? Exercise is the most effective way to relieve this feeling.

The reason for that pain/pressure is that when you feel that high level of depression, your body gets the impression that something is very wrong. Your base instincts interpret this as danger, and so begin to prep you for fight-or-flight mode.

During this prepping phase, your body begins to get your heart ready for fight-or-flight. Whether you choose to fight or to flee, you’re going to need an increase of blood flow to effectively escape the danger. To make sure that you can get away or win the fight, your body increases its production of norepinephrine and cortisol, which increases your blood pressure and affects your heart in other ways. But if you don’t actually fight or flee, you won’t use or process the norepinephrine or cortisol; it will essentially just build up around your heart, thus causing that uncomfortable pain/pressure.

The best way to get rid of this excess cortisol and norepinephrine is to get your heart pumping. By exercising, you’ll reduce your norepinephrine levels, increase your endorphin levels, and process the excess cortisol in your system, thus relieving the pressure/pain and improving your mood.

Exercise’s Effect on PTSD

Studies have shown that exercise can also reduce the negative effects of PTSD and trauma. In addition to providing a distraction, exercise also benefits your nervous system. PTSD may make people freeze up or otherwise experience their trauma taking over their body. By exercising, people suffering from PTSD can gradually reduce this immobilizing effect and reduce their stress overall.

Exercise can also benefit your mental health in other ways. It can help with ADHD, improve self-esteem, improve your concentration, and help you combat addictions. Whatever negative you’re experiencing to your mental health, you can help balance it out with the positives of exercise.

If you’re ready to start improving your mental health through exercise, visit Texas FITT today. They have all the gym equipment you need for working out, and they also have personal trainers who can help you develop the most effective workout routine for improving your mental health.

When people hear the term “core muscles,” they generally think about their abs. However, your core consists of much more than that. Core muscles are essentially all of the muscles that make up your torso – from just below your pecs to the bottom of your abs to the muscles in your back. When you’re attempting to strengthen your core (whether for health or fitness reasons), you want to focus on each of these muscles. Read on to learn more about your core muscles and the importance of strengthening all of them.

How to Identify your Major Core Muscles

The best way to locate your core muscles is to activate them. The major core muscles are:

Rectus Abdominis (Abs)

These are the muscles associated with a 6-pack. To locate them, bend forward to a 90-degree angle and feel how they help you hold yourself at that position. As long as you hold your spine stable, you should also feel the multifidi in your back activate.

Obliques (Side Muscles)

Twist your abdomen to the left and right.

Transverse Abdominis

Suck in your stomach. You’ll feel the muscles between your abs and obliques activate.

Erector Spinae (Major Back Muscles)

Keeping your back straight, bend backwards (but don’t bend too far!)

Using these methods to activate your major core muscles will activate your minor core muscles as well.

What do the Core Muscles Do?

The core’s main function is to act as a stabilizer. It keeps you stable during simple tasks such as standing or bending over, but it can also keep you stable during more complex tasks such as intricate yoga poses.

If you’re looking to strengthen your core, it’s best to focus on its function as a stabilizer, rather than its function as a mover. So planks are better than crunches and push-ups are better than sit-ups for strengthening your core.

Strengthening your core muscles has many benefits. If you find yourself no longer progressing with your squats, curls, bench press, or other exercises, it may be due to a weak core. Once you improve these stabilizers, you’ll be able to make greater progress in strengthening every other part of your body.

How to Strengthen your Core Muscles

Here are some signs that you’re effectively focusing on improving your core’s stabilizing effect while working out:

  • Holding your core steady. If you have to keep your abdomen aligned and still, you’re strengthening your stabilizers. This includes exercises such as push-ups and planks.

  • Twisting your body. Any exercise that involves twisting from left to right is a good way to strengthen your core. A good example of this is the Russian twist.

  • Using one arm and/or leg. If you’re only using one arm or leg to perform the exercise, you’re more likely activating your core’s stabilization effect. This includes exercises such as deadbugs and bird dogs.

If you’re looking for the most effective routines to strengthen your core, visit Texas FITT. They have great facilities for working out in and experienced trainers to help you effectively increase your fitness level.

If you’re dedicated to getting in excellent shape, hiring a personal trainer is a great idea. However, before you start scheduling sessions, you may be wondering how often you should meet with your trainer. How often is too often? How often is too infrequent?

The answers to these questions really depend on what your goals for your workouts are. After all, a person training for a marathon and a person who is trying to get to a healthier weight are both trying for very different things. Here are some guidelines for how often you should see your personal trainer based on your specific situation:

You’re Working Out for the First Time

Have you had a good workout since you took your last high school gym class? If not, then you may not know where to start. There are many exercise guides out there, but they often include workouts that have the potential to injure you. Even if they only list safe and effective workouts, you can get hurt if you don’t do the exercises with the proper form.

If you’ve never worked out before or it’s been a long time since you last did, you’ll want to meet with your trainer 2-3 times a week. They’ll help you develop a workout routine designed that will get you closer to meeting your specific goals, and they’ll help you do the exercises with the proper form so that you don’t injure yourself.

After a couple of months, you may begin to feel more confident in your abilities. At that point, you can reduce your personal training sessions to once a week.

You’ve Stopped Seeing Results

If you know good form and good exercises but seem to have stopped progressing towards your goals, it’s a good idea to see a personal trainer. Some exercises can only get you so far towards your fitness goals; other times, you simply need to mix up your routine a bit. A personal trainer can help you revise your current workout routine or devise a new one so that you start seeing improvement again.

To get established in your new routine, it’s a good idea to see your fitness trainer 1-2 times a week for at least six weeks.

You’re an Athlete

If you play sports, you should be building your strength and endurance even while you’re not practicing. To do so, you should be working out regularly.

Whether you’re in your off-season or not, you’ll likely want to see your personal trainer once a week. They’ll help you keep moving continuously towards your fitness goals without getting injured and becoming incapable of playing your sport.

You’re Training for a Marathon

If you’re planning to participate in a marathon, triathlon, or another long event, a personal trainer can be invaluable. They’ll help you determine your limits and reach your goals. How often you should see your personal trainer leading up to the event really depends on what the event is. The more extreme the event, the more sessions you should have in a week. You can ask your trainer what they recommend based on your event and current fitness level.

If you’re looking for an experienced personal trainer to help you create or improve your workout routine, visit Texas FITT. They have several certified personal trainers who are experts at helping people meet their fitness goals. Contact them today to learn more about their trainers and state-of-the-art facilities.

Are you ready to take your workout results to the next level? Great! One important piece of advice that your personal trainer will give you is that what you eat before and after your workout can make a huge difference in how much benefit you gain from your workout. Here are some ideas of what foods will get you the most benefit from your workout:

What to Eat Before Your Workout

You need to have some fuel in your body to give you energy during your workout, so don’t start a workout on a totally empty stomach. By having something to eat beforehand, you will actually burn more calories while you work out. On the other hand, you don’t need to wolf down huge piles of pancakes the way that some Olympic athletes do. It’s recommended that you have a small snack right before your workout that has about 150 to 200 calories.

Healthy Carbs Will Give You Energy

You should eat healthy, easily digestible carbs to get the energy you need to work out. Ideally, you should consume carbs that are high in fiber, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Smoothies are a quick, easy, and delicious way to get the healthy carbs you need, and they are especially easy to digest.

For a cardio workout, healthy carbs may be all you need for your pre-workout snack. But if you are doing strength training, you should add in a small portion of protein too. Peanut butter or whole nuts, low-fat Greek yogurt, or a small piece of low-fat cheese are all good choices. Don’t overload on the protein, though. If you have a protein bar, don’t eat the whole thing before your workout; half a bar is usually enough.

Avoid Saturated Fats

Saturated fats take a long time to digest. When you eat saturated fats before a workout, your body uses resources like blood and oxygen for digestion instead of sending them to your muscles while you’re working out.

Remember to Hydrate

Along with your snack, keep on drinking water before you start your workout. But don’t drink so much that you feel bloated.

What to Eat After Your Workout

How Much Protein and Carbs Do You Need?

Bodybuilders and other athletes usually fuel up with protein and carbs after they work out.  Protein is needed to build muscles, and carbs are needed to restore energy that was used up during the workout.

However, if you are not a bodybuilder or an exceptionally active athlete, you may not need to eat as much right after a workout, as long as your protein intake is adequate throughout the rest of the day.

Have a Post-Workout Snack

While you may not need a huge serving of protein and carbs, you should have a snack about 20 minutes to an hour after your workout. This will help you refuel and also keep you from getting too hungry and maybe overeating later.

The ideal post-workout snack combines a small amount of protein with high-fiber carbs, so what you eat after your workout can be very similar to what you ate before.

Healthy and delicious choices include apple slices with a small amount of peanut butter, hummus on whole-grain bread or crackers, a protein shake made with a banana, and unflavored Greek yogurt with fresh strawberries or blueberries.

Keep on Hydrating

Just as it’s important to stay hydrated before and during your workout, it’s also important to keep up the hydration afterwards. Plain water is always a great choice. You could also add juice to your water for added flavor, carbs, vitamins, and minerals. A good rule of thumb is to have at least 8 ounces of fluid 10 to 15 minutes after you finish your workout.

Everyone’s Body is Different

Following the guidelines listed above will help you burn more calories, build more muscle, and increase your endurance. However, every person’s body is different; your body’s precise nutritional needs are not exactly the same as anyone else’s.  You should tweak your pre- and post-workout nutrition plans to fit the needs of your unique body.

You don’t need to figure this all out by yourself – a personal trainer can help. The best trainers are experts in how diet and exercise interact. They can help you create an individual pre- and post-workout eating plan based on your individual needs, and then give you the support and motivation you need to stick with the plan.

For fantastic trainers, an exciting choice of workout options, and a smoothie bar with delicious low-calorie choices for your pre- and post-workout snacks – all in a friendly and inclusive environment – Texas FITT is the place to go. We invite you to take a tour of our world-class facilities and see why yourself how Texas FITT can get you in the best shape of your life!

Have you started neglecting your health and fitness routine? If so, then you’re not alone. For most people, starting an exercise plan is easy enough—but sticking to it is an entirely different story. Consider, for example, the fact that less than 10% of people actually stick with their New Year’s resolutions to lose weight and lead a healthier lifestyle.

Making exercise a true habit isn’t easy, and it requires a lot of planning and dedication. One study has found that it takes about 21 days of doing something consistently for it to become a habit—and exercise is no exception.

Ready to get serious about incorporating exercise into your everyday life? Here are some practical yet effective tips you can start following today to make it happen:

Start With Realistic Expectations

One of the main reasons people quit exercising is that they feel discouraged by a lack of immediate results, or they’re pushing themselves too hard to begin with. This is why it’s so important to set realistic expectations for yourself from the very beginning.

For example, if you’ve never run a mile in your life, it’s probably not wise to start training for a marathon right away. Instead, start with small and reasonable goals that you’ll actually be able to attain within a reasonable timeframe. This will help to keep you feeling motivated rather than discouraged.

Find Ways to Make it Fun

If you hate running, then forcing yourself to get up at 5 AM every day for a run is a recipe for failure. The key to incorporating fitness into your everyday life long term is to find activities that you enjoy partaking in. This way, you’ll actually look forward to your daily exercise rather than absolutely dreading it, which will make you more likely to stick with it.

Take some time to brainstorm ideas for physical activities that you’d actually enjoy. Whether it’s spending an hour on an exercise bike while getting lost in a new book or playing a sport, anything is fair game as long as it gets you moving!

Keep Yourself Accountable

A little bit of accountability can go a long way when it comes to sticking with your daily exercise goals. One of the best ways to increase your accountability is to find an exercise buddy who has similar health and fitness goals as you. From there, you can make an effort to go to the gym together each day, or at least report back to each other on your daily workouts. Signing up for group fitness classes can be another great way to increase accountability since your instructor and other classmates will likely take notice if you don’t show up.

Another way to increase accountability is to start a progress blog or post on social media about your workouts and progress. Knowing that others are following along on your health and fitness journey may be just the extra motivation you need to stick with it.

Set Out Your Gear

If you want to get your exercise out of the way first thing in the morning but are not a morning person, try setting out your workout gear near your bed so you have one less excuse not to work out. Some people will even sleep in their workout clothes so that they’re ready to go as soon as they wake up.

Don’t Let Yourself Get Bored

When you stick with the same workouts for too long, not only can you get bored, but you can stop seeing results as your body “adjusts” to the exercise. This can be discouraging. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to mix up your workouts and keep them interesting. Consider, for example, using one day a week to try something new; this could be something as simple as trying out a new weight machine at the gym to signing up for a new fitness class you’ve never tried.

Mixing things up is a great way to prevent burnout and stick with the program.

Set (And Celebrate) Small Milestones

Setting small goals and allowing yourself to celebrate achieving them is another great way to make daily exercise a habit. For example, rather than setting a goal of losing 20 pounds, why not aim for weight loss in five-pound increments? Each time you achieve a five-pound milestone, treat yourself to a new piece of workout gear or some other small indulgence.

Don’t Indulge in Total Cheat Days

Last but not least, don’t allow yourself to take complete cheat days. These are often a slippery slope that can lead to you faltering on your goals completely. Instead, consider a weekly “cheat meal,” but never day a day off from exercising. Even on rest days, you should be making an effort to get moving in a low-impact way.

By following these tips, you’ll make daily exercise a true habit in no time. Looking for more help with getting into an exercise routine? Texas FITT is here for you!

When you decide to start lifting weights, your first question is likely, “What workouts will get me the best results?” Or perhaps your concern revolves around how to use weight training to most effectively lose weight. However, these are not the most important questions.

Most people who lift weights do it wrong (yes, even some of the jacked ones). Everyone’s first question before starting to lift should be, “How do I do it properly?” Doing ineffective or incorrect workouts can easily lead to injury or simply a wasted hour at the gym. So before you hit the gym, read these 7 tips on how to lift weights properly.

1. Warm Up and Cool Down

A warm-up gets the oxygen flowing to your muscles. This oxygen flow is essential if you want to avoid straining your muscles and you want to get an effective workout. You can use stretching to warm up the muscles, or you can do a set of the workout you’re about to do with half the weight.

Use similar methods to cool down after the workout. Cooling down releases the tension in your muscles and helps you avoid injury. When you do a cool-down for the first time after weight training, you’ll find that the pain from the workout goes away sooner.

2. Find the Right Weight

If the weight you choose is too heavy, you’ll burn out too soon or hurt yourself. If the weight is too light, the workout will be ineffective. Shoot for a weight that will allow you to do 8-10 reps in a set and no more.

If it’s your first time doing a particular exercise, start with a weight that’s lighter than you think you can do. You can always increase the weight on subsequent reps, but if you burn yourself out or injure yourself with a weight that’s too heavy, you can’t keep going.

3. Keep your Back and Neck Straight

Your back is a strong series of muscles, but – just as when you’re lifting boxes – you should never use it to help you lift weights. People often try to brace themselves by arching or hunching their backs, but this will lead to injuries (which in extreme cases, never heal).

When you’re lifting or lowering weights, you should be conscious of your back. A small amount of bending or arching is sometimes necessary, but if you can’t complete the exercise without excessively curving your back, it’s a sign that you should be lifting a lower weight.

While focusing on the weights and your back, you may not even be conscious of what your neck is doing, but you should. Your neck should always be straight when you lift and lower weights. This is especially important when doing shoulder workouts and any other workouts that use muscles on or near the neck.

4. Use Correct Breathing

When pushing the weight away from your body, exhale; when pulling it in, inhale. For example, when doing bicep curls, exhale when you bring the weight up and inhale when you bring it down. When doing shoulder presses, exhale when you push the weight up and inhale when you bring it back down. When doing pull-downs for your triceps, exhale when you push the weight down and inhale when you bring it back up.

5. Make Sure you’re Doing a Complete Rep

Incomplete reps make for ineffective workouts. The most common example of this is with bicep curls. If you’re only bringing the weight halfway down, it’s not a complete rep. This only engages the muscle system halfway and means that you’re not really building strength. If this is the way you’ve been doing your reps, then once you starting bringing the weight all the way down and all the way up, you’ll likely find that you need to lower the weight you’re using.

Another example is on the bench press. If you’re not pushing your arms all the way out, then it’s not a complete rep, and the weight is probably too heavy.

And no matter what the exercise is, you should never rely on gravity. Slowly bringing the weight down is just as important in curls, presses, and other exercises as bringing it up.

6. Don’t “Kip”

You may have heard the word “kipping” and wondered what it meant. It simply means using momentum instead of entirely your own strength to complete an exercise. Swinging your arms instead of slowly lifting them is using momentum; if this is necessary for you to complete a workout, then the weights you’re using are too heavy.

To get an idea of how people use kipping to cheat a workout, watch someone doing chin-ups or hammer curls. If they use a large jerking motion at the beginning of the lift, that means that they’re using momentum to do half the work that their muscles should be doing.

7. Use a Spotter

One of the most common causes of injury at the gym is lifting without a spotter. A spotter is imperative when you’re doing bench presses because a dropped weight can lead to serious injuries or even death.

After reading these tips, head to Texas FITT to begin your weight training. They have a whole range of weights and machines in a clean and friendly environment. Still want advice on the best weight lifting methods? They also have professional trainers that will help you lift properly and meet your goals. Call them today to learn more.