Monday, October 22, 2012

you can read my latest blog on my website as it covers several products from Team Beachbody (c): http://www.stepsfitness.com/insanity-exercise-videos

or you can read it here:


The Insanity of Exercise videos
by request, i was asked to comment on the products of Team Beachbody(c) since they, having read some of my posts, believe i may have some noteworthy comments to make on their behalf. however, they neither asked that i speak highly of their products, esp the new ones that are coming out this fall, nor that i would get anything in return for having said anything good, bad or otherwise. so long as we - me and TB - are ok with honesty, i was ok doing this evaluation.
now, let me state for the record, i have never actually DONE any of their workout videos. this is not because i would not love the challenge - and believe me, they do look quite challenging for young, healthy people with no major cardiovascular or orthopedic risk factors. in my youth, when i would have relished the level of work, fatigue, muscle soreness/pain, and athletic challenges, it would have appealed to my competitive and self-destructive selves, both of which have led to my bad hip, knee, and shoulder:)
that is not to say the exercises within the few snippets i've seen are evil. on the contrary, for the most part, other than the pure vicious intensity of it, they are similar to what i and other trainers have been doing. it's that vicious intensity thing that would excite me, as a younger man, and could surely be as enticing to others, men and women alike, at nearly any age so long as one  is not hampered by chronic injuries. that one could/would lose weight, esp body fat, and develop muscles, relatively balanced in light of not having a full spectrum of equipment with which to hit body parts that often get overlooked by most programs (upper back in particular), is unquestionable. the mix of hi intensity cardio moves and body wt with or without added db exercises is counterbalanced by the stretching/yoga/pilates elements; and the periodized manner by which progressions are made is unique compared to videos of yesteryear which depended mostly on doing the same thing til the star came out with another video. so, i do think these have merit and validity...until you get to their trademarked 'muscle confusion' thing. i do a lot of reading and only recall ONE article in over 25 yrs of reading the professional literature that discussed anything close to confusion. it was by jose antonio, in NSCA's Strength & Conditioning Journal many moons ago, about variety in training for body building. it did not mention confusion so much as it was discussing whether or not you could influence hypertrophy via varying exercises and angles of contraction. theoretically, maybe, but no hard proof. 
so, when it comes to TB's Insanity program ( http://www.beachbody.com/product/fitness_programs/insanity-the-asylum-volume-2-elite-training-workout.do), all i can say, again not having done it or seen the whole video, is that it could work but be real careful. know your limiits and limitations. for you ex jocks, know what the calendar says about your body, not your schedule. for you novices, follow ALL their advice and guidelines, and don't think you can skip a few levels. and for you hard core fanatics, know when to say stop. if you look at the trailers, you'll see fit people being driven to failure. sweat, hard breathing, muscle failure - cool; palpitations, arrhythmias, torn up joints - not cool. listen to your body; no one is in the room beating you up physically or emotionally making you do it. and that may be the best thing - it's up to you to self-monitor.

the former, about which i would have a strong opinion coming from a martial arts background, is hard to comment on simply because i have  not seen anything, not even a trailer of it. from my experience with the kickboxing phase of the early part of this century, it has some quality elements to it so far as a workout is concerned. BUT martial arts techniques are high intensity and very ballistic. without proper education AND supervision, the risks are higher than otherwise as in a class with a qualified instructor. so even the best video is in my mind suspect. so be careful.
the butt lift series is something, again without seeing it, that is easy to comment on. want a nice butt, not a solid or sore one - pick the right parents and lose body fat. if the video can help with the latter, then you can surely maximize the butt you were endowed with. is it possible to overwork it? sure, and maybe you're wasting your time compared to some quality squats, lunges, etc. will they tone you up, lift it, maybe even round it out? probably. the upside is, most westerners, esp women, because they sit and move less than men in general, the glutes need a lot of work. studies show their value in preventing and manageing and treating knee problems and maybe even back problems. so go for it. i don't see any reason to avoid this kind of work although you might, if you are able and willing, just go to the gym and do heavier wt lifting moves. that way, you get a nice butt, core, AND legs.
all in all, caveat emptor...and have fun.           

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

summer break?

it's always less busy in the gym during the summers so it's a good time to test the waters. that is, to see what else is out there. before i do, let me share my philosophy about fitness, exercise, and related issues.
it is my opinion that anyone who trains their body with physical activity is an athlete, despite the frequency, intensity or duration. that is,, if an athlete is someone who exercises to improve performance, prevent or rehab injuries, or just stay in shape for whatever playing she/he chooses, then what differentiates that athlete from the general fitness enthusiast or participant is simply data, not intent. in other words, just as the best hi school basketball player doesn't hold a candle to lebron james does not make him any less an athlete - he's just not as good an athlete. so, too, are most of my, and most trainers', clients. (in fact, for most of my clients, and myself, exercise - regular or inconsistent - is designed to extend a certain degree of continued function, mobility, pain management, overall health, etc. my athletic days are gone for now and maybe forever but i still think of myself as one.)
so how does this relate to the topic at hand? well, to get myself out of my gym, i decided two months ago to try yoga once a week. having been very flexible in my youth and still significantly more flexible than almost all males other than those in flexibility sports - martial arts, dance, gymnastics, diving - of any age but esp at this age, 59, i thought this might help me both maintain flexibility and get some stress reduction under the control of a yoga instructor away from my usual gym activities. and while i'm happy to report that it is challenging insofar as my bad knee and shoudler are concerned, it is nothing i couldn't do if i had good joints. it's good activity and if done a few times a week, i could see someone improving flexibility and maybe getting some core strengthening but i would not recommend it as a primary form of exercise for overall health, esp for bone or muscle strength.
this past weekend i went to a barre amp class, a fusion class of ballet, callanetics, yoga, and pilates. designed for women - i was the only male in the class of about 20, and was perhaps the second oldest - my friend/client is older and was a former dancer and found this to be a challenging class, so she challenged me to get my opinion of it. it was interesting and i did find some of the exercises potentially beneficial for those who want toning but at some point would no longer yield strength gains. again, flexibility is part of the routine and other than the instructor and my friend, i was substantially able to meet the flexibility demands. i can also tell you that i didn't break  a sweat but i know the others did. and for that alone, it was a great exercise modality. at some point one might be hard pressed to get stronger simply by doing barre amp tho if you did it several times a week, and watched how you ate, other than the fact that your cardio would not be improved, you could clearly get nnice toning from it.
but i want to go back to my philosophy and make it perfectly clear: every form of physical actiivty serves a purpose and for some folks may be all they really need in life. so for some, simple balance exercises may be primary; flexiblity for others; strength for someone else, etc. while a balance of exercise modalities is best for ovearll health and wellness, not everyone needs everything to the same degree. but we ALL need to be doing something, and something more than what most of us on a regular basis are doing. it's the basis for cross training principles, for triathloning, for circuit training, etc. embrace it, enjoy it, just try it. it all counts, esp, most especially if you enjoy it!!!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

the busyness trap


who hasn't made the claim - i'm just too busy to do xxxx? even my kids, out of school for the summer with no real job other than a few babysitting gigs, are just too busy to do xxxx. or too tired to do it, whatever it is - ilke look for a job, read a book, exercise even if it is at daddy's gym. in this poignant and somewhat funny essay, light is made of being too busy: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/30/the-busy-trap/?nl=todays...
but i want to address it in another way.
when i get a new client, who usually states they want to make some change in their lives in order to get healthier, leaner, fitter, stronger, more this or that, i ask how can i help. before they answer, i usually state, esp if wt loss is their goal, that they know how to do most of what i can help with. they know to eat less of this, that or all things. they know to exercise, walk or move or go to the gym. they know that they have to take responsibility for many of the changes necessary in order to see the results they want. and still they tell me they don't have time. somehow work, play, kids, parents, other obligations, all get in the way despite the same 24 hrs in the day that you and i have. what they often don't know is that it really doesn't take a lot of time to make these healthful changes; it takes consistency, regularity, and a long term commitment to stick with it. what they want from me is not the total amount of effort necessary but the way to start off so they don't burn out, get hurt, or learn to hate exercise. and i give it to them in small doses. after that, it's really up to them to make it work, whether they come see me regularly or proceed on their own.
for the most part many still claim to be too busy, even when i suggest they simply do 10, maybe 15 minutes of some type of continuous movement each day. mostly walking which can be done with no equipment, at home or work, or even the mall, but non stop, and not too hard. initially it's about creating the habit; then adding minutes/walk, then intensity IF their goal and abilities allow. ultimately, it's about regularity, making a habit and maybe even making it an integral part of their psychic and spiritual well being. not to get too wishy washy here but if doing so makes you look forward to the short period of your day where you move your body simply because it feels good, then you've achieved a certain stage of nirvana, where for its own sake and not for the poundage on the scale or tightness of the dress or holes in the belt movement is desired and appreciated.
likewise, when folks come to me starting from scratch, with aches, pains, and chronic injuries that need to be overcome before regular movement is feasible, i start them with some bed-based exercises, things they can do when they awake and before they go to sleep, right in bed. simple sets of 10, 3-4 exercises, done in 4-5 minutes. while i know most won't do it twice a day, my goal is to get at least once a day and at least 4 times a week. we all have 40 minutes a week to do these simple steps to get strong enough to take more steps. eventually, i add more exercises, more challenges, and constantly manipulate the volume to keep it within the 10-15 minutes/day nearly every day or minimally every other day. i try adding things they can do any time of day so you don't have to retire to your workout space - push ups on the kitchen  counter, wall sits while talking on the phone - cell phones expedite fitness because you're not attached to a cord, or heel raises while waiting for the morning coffee to cool off. all in all, my job is to minimize the reality of 'too little time'.
now, admittedly, this won't get you ready to run a marathon, or lose 30# by christmas, or many other potential motivating goals. but you have to start somewhere. to go from 0 minutes a day to the idealized 60 minutes a day is like having your stock fund double by tomorrow - you can bet you'll see a bust very shortly thereafter. yes it's possible, and stories abound of people doing so out of total frustration with who or what they've become. but there's a lot to be said for finding the balance that comes with gradual effort and results that, over time, prove to you and others close to you that you've been plenty busy, taking care of yourself.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

exercise and food stimuli - how the brain responds

over a year ago, i gave a talk at the first Lifestyles Management meeting in Las Vegas. my presentation was on the science of weight loss via exercise. the results of my research were dim, esp for those who were wanting to believe the calories out part of the formula. of course, not that people don't lose weight via exercise, it's just that it takes a near monumental effort of intensity and consistency to do so; and long term success, tho dependent on some exercise, really comes from dietary changes mostly in the form of caloric restriction.

at the time, most of the research was pointing toward the hormonal effects of exercise and of eating on neurochemical signals to eat or stop eating. obesity alters many of our body's responses - insulin resistance is a common feature most of us have heard about - and may indeed alter the brain's response to hormones such as leptin and others that affect appetite. this NY Times piece discusses the latest in functional MRI research on the brain's response to exercise when enticed with pictures of foods. turns out some folks respond by getting ravenous, others with a blunted hunger and appetite. in fact, one study showed that lean, fit, young people were more apt to have the reduced appetite after exercise while less fit overweight people were hungrier after exercise. all, however, seemed to desire food more after a period (one hr) of quiet sitting. hmmm, there's a message there somewhere. could it be sitting is appetite stimulating? or that being fit and lean lends itself to being....fit and lean?

another study found that some exercisers who had weight to lose lost it as expected while others did not respond accordingly. the non-responders also had more brain temptation for food after exercise than did the responders. what's this tell you? that some are better designed to lose weight, by any means, than others. duh.

so, what do I think?

well i still hold that exercise should be done for health and function. eating proper foods in terms of amounts and types and even times is for health and function; taste and enjoyment really have nothing to do with amount. in fact, as a friend of mine noted when she got serious about weight loss, the first cookie tastes as good as the third; stop at the first. it's why fancy cuisine, esp continental style cooking, does not overload you with any one food, but spacing the dishes properly, and sizing them sanely, satisfies in ways that a giant serving of pasta and garlic bread do not: deliciously, without stomach upset that night or the next morning.

on that note, what i took from the article is that exercise is good for you and that some people will have to be more attentive to what they eat to lose weight. the other thing i took from it is that science is still trying to find out why so they can come up with a pill to substitute for the hard work that has to be done to live healthfully. i agree with the first sentence and abhor the second. even if we find a magic bullet, wouldn't it be a shame if people all over could control weight while being sedentary? they'd never get to appreciate who and what they are as human machines.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

on barefeet vs shoes

the pseudo claims of running efficiency and injury prevention as regards barefoot running are based on some faulty anthropological observations, as i've said before. the essence of these claims is that mankind has been walking/running barefoot for millenia if not longer until hard-sole shoes came about this last millenia. prior to that, most foot wear was light, thin soled, and more supple/flexible than modern shoes/boots. furthermore, cultures highly dependent on bipedal locomotion, such as nomads and hunters, tended to be very efficient and effective running in super-light sandals or totally-bare feet. and somehow these folks did it for miles on end, day after day, and all without injury.

but remember, we only test and measure those who can and still do run. we haven't evaluated all those who live in more urban environs/circumstances who cannot or will not run, some of whom made this choice not because they didn't want to be able to functoin in their respective tribes/cultures but because maybe it hurt to run when they were young, so they pursued other ventures. those who still walked and ran a lot were better built for doing so.

modern studies, some of which i have reported on, have concluded a variety of reasons to convert to light-wt, barefoot shoe designs: efficiency due to less weight and injury reduction due to re-education and strengthening of the intrinsic, smaller muscles of the lower leg and feet are two of the main reasons people promote and/or wear barefoot shoes. some of these studies are quite good; some are less so, and many have been abused by the media hype, probably as a result of press releases sent out by manufacturers of these shoes. this study, on the other hand, narrowed its scope and kept its focus on efficiency: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/03/21/making-the-case-for-running-shoes/?ref=health

using runners who actually ran barefoot, so there was no adjustment period necessary, they had them run on treadmills with a variety of manipulations: barefoot with lead strips on the tops of their feet that were equal to the weight of a light-wt brand of running shoes, and other conditions, too. they found no significant difference bw going barefoot vs shod, with some small benefit to the shod conditions. the conclusions are tame - basically, if you are an elite racer wearing a lightwt shoe may benefit you. for the rest of us slow pokes, it probalby does not make much difference. (i've made similar claims about cycling equipment - other than possibly making for an easier ride, it probably won't make most of us that much faster; racers might benefit from hi priced equipment but the rest of would get equal health benefits riding a cheaper bike.)

but i must confess that i have been wearing merrel's brand of barefoot shoes for over a year and while i do not run, because of knee arthritis, i CAN run, even if only across the street, without pain in the knee or feet, something i could not do in hi priced new balance cross trainers. why? i think it's because barefoot shoes make you run on the ballls of the feet and avoid the heel impact, which shocks my knee real painfully. furthermore, as a trainer on my feet for several hours/day, my feet and legs don't hurt in barefoot shoes but within a couple hours, regular shoes cause my lower leg to ache. even my feet feel better despite having no arch support for my flat feet!

so what's my opinion on barefoot shoes, in light of this study? well, if you are interested in trying them even if only for walkng around your home or for other ADLs, see if going barefoot hurts....but enter this path gently. do an hour/day for a couple days, then two hrs/day, adding 30-60 minutes every couple days. after you've acclimated to them, try jogging, on flat, less dense - i.e. not on concrete or steps at first - surfaces, but start in 5 minute increments throughout the early accommodation runs, and keep them to short distance runs. gradually add distance, then start adding speed - this could take MONTHS but jumping into these kinds of shoes without accommodating them and the hard surfaces on which most people run, is asking for trouble. and nothing hurts a runner's overall psyche than foot and lower leg pain.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

just to blog

sometimes you just have to write something that comes to mind. i could easily share personal life issues that would bore you almost as readily is it bores me, but this blog is about fitness and the news is always coming thru a mile a minute. so let's talk statistics - yes, that boring stuff most of us really don't understand but use when the numbers support our beliefs. btw, i don''t understand stats much either but i've had to make sense of some of the research in order to discuss issues with clients or lecture other fitness professionals for Exercise ETC programs.

let's start with this article in today's NY Times: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/03/08/shark-cartilage-may-contain-toxin/?ref=health

now, the gist of it is that a particular toxin - BMAA- that's often present in the brains of deceased humans with neurodegenerative diseases such as Lou Gehrig's or Alzheimer's is also present in shark cartilage. shark cartilage is sold and promoted as beneficial for joint degeneration and for cancer prevention, the latter of which has never been proven and has, when touted, received notice from federal authorities. the suggestion of the article, then, is that taking shark cartilage may cause neurodenerative diseases.

now, nothing in the referenced articles support this scare tactic. it is merely a hypothetical. but let me remind you that alzheimers has been around long before shark cartilage has been on the market or that shark has been in the american/western diet; and lou gehrig died many years ago, well before any american ever thought of consuming dessicated shark cartilage for bad knees. furthermore, tho one study referenced the hi rates of certain types of brain diseases in south pacific cultures that eat large amounts of sea food, there are so many other heavy metals in fish that to isolate this one amino acid is to pick at a defenseless protein when other causes can't be found.

let me suggest the following: correlation is not causation. we all learn this in stats and in classes where statistics are prominent features of the science of whatever. you may not have learned it in english 101 or philosophy 203 but even psych 100 or sociology 200 taught this principle. basically correlation means what it says - things are co-related; often one or more elements are found to some degree when one finds other elements of whatever it is one is studying. thus, as in my dissertation topic - leg length discrepancy, athletic injury, and strength imbalances - one might find that a leg length discrepancy is correlated at some statistical level worth considering when someone has an athletic injury but that it is not sufficiently correlated to any strength imbalances (that were studied); and that strength imbalances may be correlated to injury but that length discrepancies are not - making the overall correlation of the three elements so low as to say that it's hardly an issue. and my data indeed found insufficient support for my hypothesis that the three were related. BUT if the study did find them highly correlated, there would still be NO PROOF that discrepancies caused imbalances which then caused injuries. in other words, you may find them all in the same pot but not contributing to the end piece, the injuries themselves.

with that understood, shark cartilage may have an amino acid often found in the brains of people who have certain brain disorders but the amino acid itself may NOT have come from any outside source let alone shark cartilage. it may have come about as a result of some metabolic or physiologic function that went awry in the brain itself or elsewhere in the body and that it accumulated in the brain thereby contributing to the disease itself. BUT since they have yet to pinpoint the actual causes of most neurodegenerative diseases, esp the two mentioned in the article, there's also the chance that it just so happens that the amino acid itself is in the brains of some people as a result of some other more closely-linked biochemical disturbance that actually causes the degeneration.

in other words, don't be scared to use shark cartilage products; just know that they also may not work to reduce joint pain and most likely don't work to prevent or treat cancer.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

so much to say, so little time

ypically, i read a great article, or two, or more, and feel compelled to write, either to share and expand or share and minimize. sometimes the article(s) in question are questionable - usually press-related summaries leave something to refute. occasionally there's just so much merit in these articles that i have to chime in and let the readers know that i'm a fan - somehow giving credibility to what is already written. most of the time, when i do this, it's to reassure the readers that the article is not a cherry-picked example of self-supported articles/data in order to sell to a publisher. this is the former: you gotta read about it.

first, some basics. there are two basic ways to do cardio training: continuous and discontinuous. the latter is often referred to as interval trainng, where you do a work bout and a recovery bout, either passively or actively. thus, you could sit and rest - as a cardiac patient may need to; or you would continue moving - walking/jogging - to dissipate lactic acid and allow sufficient recovery to resume the hard work ahead. both are healthful and helpful tho only the interval training will enhance anaerobic power and muscle mass to any great degree.

well, the ACSM newsletter has this piece to support it:

Active Voice: Is High-Intensity Interval Training a Time-Efficient Exercise Strategy to Promote Health?
By Martin Gibala, Ph.D.

Viewpoints presented in SMB commentaries reflect opinions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect positions or policies of ACSM.

Martin Gibala, Ph.D., is Professor and Chair of the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster University. He studies the regulation of energy metabolism from the molecular to whole-body level and also conducts applied research that examines the impact of nutrition and training on exercise performance. He and his colleagues published a research article related to this commentary that appeared in the Oct. 2011 issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise� (MSSE). For more on the topic, see Dr. Gibala�s review in the April 2008 issue of ACSM�s Exercise and Sports Sciences Reviews (ESSR), titled �Metabolic adaptations to short-term high-intensity interval training: a little pain for a lot of gain?�

High-intensity interval training (HIT) describes exercise that is characterized by brief, intermittent bursts of vigorous activity, interspersed by periods of rest or low-intensity exercise. HIT is infinitely variable, with the specific physiological adaptations induced by this form of training determined by various factors including the precise nature of the exercise stimulus (i.e., the intensity, duration and number of intervals performed, as well as the duration and activity patterns during recovery). When compared on a matched-work basis, or when estimated energy expenditure is equivalent, HIT can serve as an effective alternative to traditional endurance training, inducing similar or even superior changes in a range of physiological, performance and health-related markers in both healthy individuals and diseased populations.

Less is known about the effects of low-volume HIT, but growing evidence suggests this type of training stimulates physiological remodeling comparable to moderate-intensity continuous training despite a substantially lower time commitment and reduced total exercise volume. The most common model employed in low-volume HIT studies has been the Wingate Test, which consists of a 30-second �all out� cycling effort against a supra-maximal workload. Subjects typically perform 4-6 work bouts, separated by approximately four minutes of recovery, for a total of 2-3 minutes of intense exercise during a training session that lasts approximately 20 minutes. As little as three sessions per week of this type of training induces skeletal muscle and cardiovascular adaptations comparable to several hours per week of continuous moderate training, as generally recommended by public health agencies.

Wingate-based HIT is, however, extremely demanding and may not be safe, tolerable or appealing for some individuals. We therefore sought to design a more practical model of low-volume HIT that is time-efficient while also having wider application to different populations. The new HIT model consists of 10 x 60 second work bouts at a constant-load intensity that elicits approximately 90 percent of maximal heart rate, interspersed with 60 seconds of recovery. The protocol is still time-efficient in that only 10 minutes of exercise is performed over a 20-minute training session. Importantly, this practical, time-efficient HIT model is still effective at inducing rapid skeletal muscle remodeling towards a more oxidative phenotype, similar to our previous Wingate-based HIT studies and high-volume endurance training. These findings are noteworthy from a public health perspective, given that �lack of time� remains one of the most commonly cited barriers to regular exercise participation.

Relatively high-volume HIT protocols that are comparable to traditional endurance training have been shown to improve cardiorespiratory fitness and other health status markers in a fairly large number of studies, including those conducted on people with coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, middle age adults with metabolic syndrome and obese individuals. In contrast, low-volume HIT studies in persons who might be at risk for cardiometabolic disorders or patients with chronic disease are very limited. Our group�s recent study (Hood et al. 2011), reported in the Oct. issue of MSSE, showed that six sessions of the practical HIT model over two weeks improved estimated insulin sensitivity in previously sedentary, overweight individuals. Insulin sensitivity was calculated based on single fasting glucose and insulin measurements and therefore primarily reflects hepatic as opposed to peripheral insulin sensitivity. We also recently showed that low-volume HIT was effective and well-tolerated in people with type 2 diabetes (Little et al. 2011). Two weeks of HIT reduced average 24-hour blood glucose concentration and the magnitude of glucose spikes after meals, measured via continuous glucose monitoring under standardized diet but otherwise free-living conditions. While the preliminary data from these small, proof-of-principle studies are intriguing, large-scale studies are clearly needed to resolve whether low-volume HIT is a safe, realistic and time-efficient exercise alternative to reduce the risk of cardiometabolic disease or improve health and wellbeing in patients with chronic disease.

and the NY Times had this one: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/15/how-1-minute-intervals-can-improve-our-health/?src=me&ref=health

and so on and so on.........

if anything is to be gleaned from these articles it's this: intervals are good for you at any age and almost any stage of fitness. what they don't tell you is HOW to implement them. so that's my job.

first, even if you are totally out of shape, intervals work - simply. just do some activity for a brief period of time - a few minutes to 10 or more if so inclined. then, rest, do something else, or go about your day and repeat. in other words, nothng structured, just do brief periods of activity a couple to three times a day. that said, vacuuming the rug and later on cleaning the kitchen floor do not quite fit this model. i'm talking about taking a walk, climbing stairs, marching in place, etc -something specifically active by choice - if done a few times a day in small blocks, counts. for those accustomed to exericise, break up two of your weekly workouts into shorter segments of higher intensity, and allow for partial recovery - not full, so keep moving along the path of fitness even if not at your usual intensity. do x-number of repeats - the longer the work bout, the fewer the repeats, and the shorter the relative rest (so if you run faster for 3 minutes, you might just jog 3 minutes). the converse of this is if you run hard for 15 seconds you may need to jog light for 2 minutes. this is the difference between a 1:1 and a 1:8 ratio. and remember, hard is relative to you, not to an olympic athlete. if it gets you breathing harder than you normally would, it's an interval. how many to do? up to you, of course. but i'm conservative here: start with 3-5 cycles of this work:recovery, and shorten the overall workout. depending on how long you intend to work out, you may cut your overall time by half. i keep my workouts to 20 minutes and some are with very short bursts and longer recoveries, others are 1minute on, 1 easy. vary it. normally we recommend to do intervals 2-3/wk. but if you vary them so as to not overtrain in one setting - super fast, for ex - you are not likely to injure yourself.

and depending on what your trianing consists of , you may have to incur some alternative strength training to avert joint injuries. so i always suggest alternating modalities - run, cycle, elliptical, row, etc. save those joints - gotta hold you up many more years if you're gonna train consistently and vigorously.

and don't neglect nutrition and hydration, esp as the weather warms up beyond the unusually warmth of this winter.

finally, bring a sweat rag - you'll need it.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

HIT me with your best interval....

it's been real busy in my world, and that's great. doing lots of training, doing lots of exercise etc programs, lots of travelling, and lots of reading. it would be good to get a lot more sleep but what can i say...

l've been teaching several programs for ex etc on hi intensity training, something i've been promoting to the few clients i have - all older, over 65, 70 - who are willing to do it, for years. the research, which i try to stay current with, has suggested the various benefits, other than cutting time of exercise down, may make it more appropriate for the boomers and even older folks than even the younger ones. young folks may use intervals for athletic prep but may not be so inclined to use them for general fitness. older folks have different issues - incl middle age spread and shortage of time, and even lack of desire to exercise at all. thus, when a technique such as HIT - hi intensity training - comes along that will combat visceral and abdominal fat, will take less time than what most docs recommend, and because of these lmay justify the effort that has to be put forth; when all the aerobic benefits, incl cellular, vascular, and cardiac, can be gotten with 1/4th to 1/3rd the commitment of time; and when you can also get anaerobic benefits such as cardiovascular power, leg power, and maintenance of type 2 muscle fibers - the ones that we lose as we age, that are necessary for power efforts - well, you can understand why i promote it, esp for those who only come see me twice a week.

now, don't get me wrong: regular exercise on a near-daily basis is preferred. but, if someone is unwilling to make that commitment but willing to train with intensity when they come see me twice a week, then by golly they should get the biggest bang for their bucks as i can give to them. my hope is that that, should they want to do a third or fourth session of the week that they would throw in a few of these intervals for good measure. but, if they don't, then i know at least they got something out of the time they had with me. ]

so i suggest you read the following non-technical articles: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/15/how-1-minute-intervals-can-improve-our-health/?src=me&ref=health

and http://www.shape.com/fitness/workouts/8-benefits-high-intensity-interval-training-hiit

and give it a shot. in fact, while there are no set time frames, just the suggested one-minute sets above, play with them. i use 30/30 second bouts of ex/recovery, 15/15 sec, or 20/10 sec bouts. mix and match. don't try to get burned out the first several sets. when you reach the last 2-3 you should be ready to quit; work throught it. of course, if you have a medical condition - heart disease, asthma, etc - that can be exacerbated by this kind of effort, talk with your doc first. and remember - a HIT set is simply an effort slightly harder than you ordinarily put out. so if you're a 20 min/mile walker, walking fast enough to cover a quarter mile in 4 iminutes instead of 5 is a sprint. it's all relative. and it's all good.

plus you finish your workout sooner.

and drink a nice tall one after - no, not beer - low fact chocolate milk!!!!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

are trans fats gone?

welcome to the unbelievable world of "the government did it right". yes, a world in which the local governments imposed their will on the food industry until, lo and behold, results favorable to health actually occurred: trans fats in our blood are actually declining!!! the report also says LDL and HDL, the two cholesterols, are improving, too, but i take that with a grain of salt. more americans are on statin drugs, so maybe those positive changes are not related at all to the drop in trans fats in our food supplies. now if only the federal government would get some cohones and confront the food industry. someday, maybe, someday. when our politicians don't depend on big bucks to run and stay in office.

oooops, then again, never will we see the feds acting on behalf of the public welfare. sorry.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

the end of exercise?

so i'm in the airport in colorado springs where i'd spent the weekend on a committee that's designing a new certification for the NSCA: CSPS - certified special populations specialist. this is a cert that will test trainers' knowledge of a vast array of special pops needs. if properly marketed, this should be good for one's biz. it was definitely good to hobnob with fellow exercise pros adn learn the process - very detailed and organized - of creating a credible certification test.

anyway, i don't write many blogs of late because i've been pretty busy at work, trying to make things happen. suffice it to say, between the economy and some turmoil in the local fitness business environment, it's been challenging but not anything we haven't managed before. so just do it, as Nike might say.

i just came across this article, hints of which i'd read in other venues on line: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/9008953/New-pill-that-helps...

this is the magic bullet - a pill to get fit. what a shame! is it really something we want to create, a pill that will allow folks to remain sedentary, eat what they want, smoke what they want, and still live as if they were healthier by not doing anything to be responsible for thmeselves? most of us would say no, but then the public health aspect of the concept of keeping people healthy with just a pill, reducing overall healthcare costs as a result, is tempting. i leave it to you to consider and determine. for me, tho, i can't help but think that many of our world's problems result from most of us, individually and collectively, behaving irresponsibly.

but what about fitness, and a pill? can it really happen?

the short answer is yes. someday, hormones that impact weight gain and loss will be harnessed; that turn bad body fat into good body fat will be created; that preserve muscle mass and ward off disease-based inflammatory processes that cause other diseases such as cancers will be discovered or created in a lab. there will be side effects that are negative, of course; all drugs have them. only exercise doesn't. but it's how mankind thinks of managing the world around him. until then, if you are exercising you should continue; if you aren't you should start up. there are reasons beyond longevity to exercise. and the basic prescription remains intact after 30 plus years of being in the field: daily cardio of 15-60 mins (more for wt loss, less if intense enough relative to your personal abilities), a touch of strength work for the legs first, mid section second (for low back pain prevention), and something for the upper body just so you can help yourself in daily living activities, and don't smoke. there are a million ways to eat 'right', supplements that may or may not help in the event you don't eat right. but ultimately our bodies are pretty adept at converting what we eat to what we need so long as it gets enough calories. but when it gets too many our bodies have mechanisms that are very efficient at storage. so eating right is really about eating just enough to keep wt up if it's normal, or lose some slowly if it's too much. not hard math. just use the scale. except for those with eating disorders or body image issues, this formula is pretty simple and safe.

so wait for the pill or start enjoying life as you know it now. who knows? this magic bullet may keep you lean and fit but make it impossible to enjoy sex or something we know not what til it comes on the market. isn't it easier to just get off the couch? no.

well, i'm sorry. for you.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

whole body vibration and your whole body

linda melone, a fitness reporter, often calls me for guidance and ideas for articles she's writing. this one, in the link above, on whole body vibration (wbv), featured some of my comments on the science and my experiences with wbv. let me add some thoughts, tho.

the science is not quite prescriptive enough to warrant jumping on the bandwagon for certain physiological outcomes. that is, many studies show value for bone building, muscle strengthening, flexibility improving, and power development. few, however, have nailed down the precise number of minutes or the kinds of intensities that physicians or even exercise professionals would like to know to implement a prescription. thus, you may get contradictory studies and counter arguments against the use of wbv for any one or more of the above benefits.

but note this: as far as bones are concerned, since the general prescription is for fairly heavy loads imposed on the spine or hips in closed chain exercises such as squats and lunges, wbv offers the following value: by its very actions, it increases the value of any exercises done on it in closed chain and does not require heavy loading. therefore, simple and light squats with curls or overhead presses, lunges with tubing rows or dumbbell curls, or mini-jumps are enhanced while standing on a wbv machine. to what degree or for how long or how many days/wk - we just do not know. but at STEPS, we have seen nominal benefits at even twice/wk. by nominal i mean reduced rates of bone loss, or for some, some gain, if taking meds, too. in other words, while studies suggest 3/wk x 10-15 mins of vibration, even twice/wk seems to confer some benefits. and you get stronger and more coordinated while doing the exercises - without having to lift heavy.

therefore, the primary benefit is - older, esp more feeble or injured, women can get some benefits from wbv that they can't get from doing the same exercises with the same light wts on the floor.

well worth docs considering that.

Monday, January 2, 2012

happy new year!!!!

happy new year!!!!

here's hoping 2012 is a better year for all - healthier, happier, and more prosperous.....though there are many outside influences that may alter the year's flow. hang onto your hats.....

at this time of year, in the fitness industry, the focus is on weight loss for many prospective clients and trainers and facilities that to neglect to discuss it in a blog would be sinful. on the other hand, to latch onto the basic theme that gets bandied about on how you need to get your butt into the gym to drop those extra pounds you gained these past 6 weeks - or past 52 - or past 20 years!!! - is not my cup of tea. perhaps i've been lax in this regard as so many personal training clients express the desire to lose weight when we meet or even after years of training that maybe i'm missing a market by being so lax. but it's a philosophical decision i made back when i started as a trainer in 1986. i sealed that position at the defense of my dissertation in 1988. after the bullshit discussion with the committee, upon 'approval', we deviated into a conversation on what was next in my life as a doctor of exercise science. i told them i was opening a personal training center - nashville's first. they asked how i was going to 'bring in' a new client, to which, since i was speaking to fellow professionals, i responded with the party line: assess, test, prescribe and implement. that is, i'd test cardiovascular capacity, body composition, muscle strength and joint flexibility, and then create a program for the individual. sounded good at the time...until someone asked "why?"

hmmmmm

why test? because i was taught that that's necessary before implementing an exercise program. but what if someone didn't want to know their body fat? hmmmm

and, other than a few individuals over the past 22 years, most DO NOT WANT TO KNOW. furthermore, many who need to lose wt cannot be measured accurately due to skinfold calipers' deficiency as the extremes. so, i never test any more. i offer but few accept. they know that if they lose weight, their clothes will fit differently and the scale will most likely show it. i say most likely because, yes, a few - esp males - may gain enough muscle mass to counter the few fat pounds lost, but this is rare in females, esp post menopausal ones. just basic science - i didn't make this up. inches may be lost but the layer of fat and the total weight may stay the same. why? because as muscle gets more toned, there is some loss of intramuscular fat that decreases its size; and around the middle, as the abdominals tone, they act like a girdle to pull the visceral contents into a tighter package. but the dimples and folds remain so long as the body fat stays high. and that's the rub.

two articles lately have addressed the many issues that confront those who need to lose serious weight. here's one on brain function and obesity that shows that there is more to wt loss than meets the eye: http://www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/itrsquos-all-in-the-brain-unlocki...

the other, from this sunday's NY Times magazine, is enlightening because of the simplified description of the role hormones play in keeping fat on the body, esp if you've accumulated lots of it: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/01/magazine/tara-parker-pope-fat-trap.htm...



bottom line - it's really hard to lose weight. yes, it requires eating less and moving more but it requires a seriouis act of willpower and commitment to get it done. so, if you're trying to lose, start out easy - and aim low for now. i'd call it baby steps. hence the business name: STEPS Fitness.

we're here to help.