Got mommymuscle®?

By Mary Beth Knight, Chief Fitness Director for StrollerFit Exercise with Your Baby

Motherhood is a marathon, an extraordinary feat of stamina, strength and grace. Who among us wouldn’t give her eyeteeth for a little more “oomph”? There’s one proven way to get more energy -- and the beautiful part is, it’s the same way we boost a slowing metabolism and burn more calories. It’s called MUSCLE.

Muscle takes us through the day with confidence, giving us back our get-up-and-go even after it already got up and went. Muscle makes sure that no matter what life throws at us, we can catch it and throw it back. If ever there was a mom’s best friend, it’s muscle.

Did I mention that muscle is also the key to eating more without gaining weight? Each of us has a Resting Metabolic Rate (the total number of calories our body needs at rest to maintain our current weight and body composition while keeping everything running.) Our RMR is partially dependent on genetics, but we also have the ability to change it by BUILDING MUSCLE. Research shows that on average, muscle tissue utilizes up to five times the calories of fat tissue. Because muscle tissue is so active, the more you have, the higher your RMR and the hotter your internal calorie-burning furnace will blaze.

As you add muscle you burn more calories throughout the day – that means you lose more weight and see better results than ever from your fitness program. While cardiovascular training is very important, it cannot change your RMR. To have long-term fitness success, you must add muscle.

So how can you build muscle and rev up your metabolism and energy levels? In my StrollerFit classes, I build strength training right into our regular routine. Here’s how I do it, plus some tips for building muscle on your own.

To see results, you must strength train at least twice a week with at least a day of rest in between.

Don’t forget your cardio – walking, running, swimming and fitness classes are still an integral part of your fitness regimen. Invest in a set of resistance bands and take them to the park with you. This will enable you to strength train anytime and anywhere! To properly challenge the body and build strength, you must overload the muscle through repetition. For most women, three sets of 12-20 repetitions will stimulate muscle growth.

When you are able to perform 3 sets of 20 repetitions, it is time to move on to a more challenging exercise!

Make sure to hit each major muscle group every week: quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves, shoulders, chest, back, biceps and triceps.

Make the most of your workout time with “two-for-one” moves: lunges with a bicep curl, squats and a shoulder press, calf raises and upright row, rows while squatting, and so forth. This is a BIG help if you have the kids with you.

Don’t hurry! For resistance training to work, reps must be SLOW. The beauty of using the bands is that muscles work harder on the release of the contraction (assuming you keep it SLOW) than on the contraction itself.

If you belong to a gym or your YMCA, take advantage of their in-house trainers. If you don’t want to splurge on regular sessions, invest in a few and ask the trainer to create a program you can follow on your own. She will teach you to do each move correctly and show you proper sequence.

Follow these tips and you’re on your way to a stronger, leaner you. More energy, more to eat and less jiggle! What’s not to love about mommymuscle?

About the Author: Mary Beth Knight is Chief Fitness Director for StrollerFit Exercise with Your Baby and its mommymuscle line of mom-and-baby fitness products and DVDs. For more information on how you can get your family on the path to a fit and healthy lifestyle, or to find a StrollerFit class near you, visit www.strollerfit.com and www.mommymuscle.com. The content provided in this column is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, consultation, treatment or diagnosis. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition before beginning a new exercise and nutrition regimen.

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