Recently, Michele Olson, PhD, The Exercise Doctor, was kind enough to agree to doing an “interview” for Two Belles. Dr. Olson is a professor of physical education and exercise science in the School of Education at Auburn University. She has a clinical background in exercise physiology. With more than seventy-five publications, she is renowned for her research concerning women and physical activity. We are excited to share her answers to some of our questions.
Can you tell us a little about yourself? When did you decide to pursue a career and doctorate in the field of health and fitness? What was your motivation?
Great question! I did not know what I wanted to do for the longest time! I was a collegiate tennis player and working on a business degree but, I just wasn’t inspired by business. In my heart, I loved physical education and my tennis coach, who was an excellent P.E. teacher. I started working out with the football team – it wasn’t that cool to work out as a tennis player when I was in college I soon started beating and outlasting other players who I had not beaten in the past. I wanted to learn more about sports conditioning – and…the rest as they say is “history.” I stayed in school and got a doctorate and learned how to be a researcher – to get at the “truth” about exercise and conditioning.
Many times when exercisers begin a fitness program they take on too much, too soon and risk injury or over-training. What exactly is over-training? What are some of the signs or symptoms of over-training?
Over-training and getting over-use injuries…taking on too much, or, progressing too quickly can result, unfortunately, with both. Signs include difficulty sleeping, feeling like your heart rate is thumping away even at rest, twitching of the legs and trouble overcoming soreness – of course, feeling a bit drained as well. Rest days are as important as exercise days. Recovery/rest is one of the three major principles of exercise! All of us need a workout plan to stay on track and that plan should always include off/rest days – just like athletes.
Recently there has been a lot of buzz around “functional fitness”. What is the benefit of functional strength training compared to traditional strength training?
You train your body doing movements that somewhat mimic your daily life activities – squatting down and lifting, etc. the idea is that functional training like squatting while doing a biceps curl is that you get so many major muscles working – for one – and, in real life, you do squat down and lift up your gym bag, your child, briefcase, etc. The other great thing about functional moves is that they use so many body parts and, thus, burn more calories than isolated lifting – such as standing doing lateral raises for your shoulders. When you do that, you do isolate your shoulders to define them but, you burn fewer calories and do a movement pattern that rarely occurs in daily life – or sports.
Kettlebells are predicted to become a popular fitness trend in 2011. What fitness trends have you seen come and go and which ones are here to stay?
Here’s my take on that – some fitness trends have a short first life…if they are actually a trend and not a gimmick, they come back. Boot camp classes, kickboxing and Pilates all emerged in the early 90’s to tepid audiences…but, they came back with a roar and stuck around 2006 or so. Why? They all get your heart rate up, are fun and fill-in gaps in our workout routines…especially Pilates. More and more people see the benefit even if they aren’t sweating buckets. The core is more important than ever and Pilates (yoga), b/c they condition the core, give us more strength and stability doing our boot camp and kick box classes! We do better when we work up a sweat if we get a great core for Pilates. Many realize this now.
Recently, The Firm released its latest system, Firm Express, can you touch upon your involvement in the project?
As when I was a Reebok Master Trainer and on many program development teams, my role with the Firm Express was to ensure that the workout moves and that the newer, shorter intervals exceeded the ACSM guidelines for appropriate 20 minute workouts. I tested the energy cost — and the Firm Express workouts do, indeed, burn twice the calories of moderate intensity steady state exercise. As such, we have seen good success in test clients who have done the program and dietary protocol.
Thank you for asking. Consumers have queried me about doing a companion upper body workout. I do intend to do more…where are all of the extra hours?? I think an upper body DVD with a couple of workouts such as a mat one, perhaps a Pilates-inspired one, etc. is something on my list. I know that I have been much more dedicated to my upper body, upper back, spine and abs the more I learn. We want to be fit from head-to-toe. I mean…if we can do 20 lunges on each leg, we should have a balanced body that can do 20 quality push-ups, right? Yes… right!