I’m Back! And yes, It’s a big deal

Wow!  It’s been way too long since I wrote a blog so I figured getting back into it I’d take it easy on myself and just update everybody on what the heck has happened in the last… forever since I posted.  In short, let’s talk about me, me, me!

November of 2011 I opened my own facility!  It was something that had been on my mind for years but not because having my own business was always something I aspired to do but rather I felt it was a need that was not being fulfilled in the Salem area.  I have kicked around in the area’s gyms for the last 10 years and always felt like the focus was never in the right place; the members!  They give you money, so shouldn’t you focus on giving them the best you can?  Getting better and letting them reap the benefits of that?

I wanted to work in a place that was member focused and a trainer could make a good living doing what it is they love to do.  That didn’t exist, so I made it exist.  The first year has been tremendous and we are just starting year two and looking forward to blowing year one out of the water.  Our members have gotten leaner, stronger and happier every day and I’m very happy to be a part of that.

Despite trying very hard to make this post as much about myself as possible, I do have to say that I am very grateful for all my wonderful clients, new and old alike.  Some have been with me for years, following me from gym to gym and others have been with me for a just a few months.  Some have moved far away and are no longer members of the gym but still stay in touch.  Your support of the gym and excitement for your own progress has made a world of difference in keeping me excited and motivated too!  You make my bad days good and my good days great, and I couldn’t ask for better clients.

Well I think that’s enough for day one of re-instilling life into the blog.  I’d love some feedback on what you’d like to hear about in the future.  Motivation, strength, fat loss, more stories about me, how strong I am, my devilish charm, whatever!  Sound off!

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another email

This one is one I sent to a friend nearly a year ago after she told me she had to go hit the treadmill to burn some kcals after hitting the abz, then I flipped out on her and made her do basic stuff till she cried…  Except for she didn’t cry.  A small amount of editing has been done to make me seem slightly less offensive than I am to her, although just for kicks I did some crossed-out editing in the parentheses.  Forgive any grammar errors or redundancies…. or don’t.  But do enjoy!

So here’s a rant based on what you talked about Friday night about losing 5 lbs and prioritizing simple cardio over weights.  Buckle up (derogotary name), this’ll be good.

Regardless of whether the goals are to lose weight, increase strength, increase muscle mass, lose body fat, etc, the quickest path is still resistance training.  Coaches have known it for years and science is finally showing study after study to back that up.  Prioritizing simple, low intensity cardio over resistance training typically leads to two outcomes:

1) decreased muscle mass because running/cycling at low intensity requires very little muscle to complete the desired amount of time or distance.  In fact, extra muscle is often a hindrance to endurance based activity since it is simply “extra weight” that you must move around

2)  loss of muscle mass or at the very least, decreased energy for resistance training resulting in less than desired results.

The problem with steady state cardio

You get more efficient at it.  Boom!  Knowledge bomb bitches.  Efficiency is not a good thing when it comes to burning more calories.  Just like a very efficient car (Prius) takes a long time to use up 10 gallons of gas, a very inneficient car (Abrams Tank) uses up that gas very quickly.  In the Battle of the Bulge, we want a very inneficient engine.  Really we just want a big, high temperature engine that tears through our energy reserves (fat).  So in a real world example, if it takes you 200 kcals to run one mile on day 1, then, knowing our body will quickly adapt to the stimulus we place upon it, your body will quickly “learn” how to expend fewer calories to run that exact same distance.  There are two ways to increase caloric expenditure though. 1) run longer distance or 2) run faster.   Here’s the issues with those two solutions.

Running Longer – We only have so many hours in the day.  Do you really want to spend 5 of them on a treadmill to try to burn those extra 200 kcals from last nights dinner?  Running longer means a greater time commitment which not many of us want to commit to.  There’s a big strike against steady state cardio.

Run Faster – We can only run so fast.  At a certain point, running is no longer an aerobic activity but breaks the threshold and becomes an anaerobic activity.  There is nothing wrong with anaerobic activity, hell I make a living off of it, but if anaerobic activity was the goal then why bother running at all?

Bonus problem: It is boring as (something really boring)!!! – I don’t know that I really need to expand on this but it is something we all know.  Several studies have been designed to study the difference between aerobic vs. anaerobic training in regards to body fat loss and while they each show some positive results, there is a much higher dropout rate among the aerobic people because it is boring as ballz!

Bonus problem #2:  You only burn calories while doing the aerobic activty itself – because of the reatively low intensity of the demand your body utilizes very little energy to complete the task and also very little to repair itself afterwards so no bonus points for providing an increase in metabolic activity… quite the opposite really.

Resistance training for aesthetic purposes

Let’s expand on the importance of building muscle/strength for the purpose of aesthetic reasons.  Muscle = good.  Muscle is metabolically expensive, meaning it requires a great deal more calories to maintain than does fat.  That being said, your body will keep only what you require of it.  We have all seen the “cardio bunnies” and know that although they may spend two hours a day on the treadmill/elliptical/bike and lose weight, they actually do little to improve body composition,  They keep their same body, but now just have a smaller version of their old body.  We call them “skinny fat” people.  The scale is a liar, particularly to people like you who very naturally have a smaller frame.  Increasing muscle cross-section in the presence of a healthy diet, i.e. lean proteins and vegetables, will result in an increased metabolic expenditure (you burn more calories while doing (nothing, Double parentheses bonus!)) and an improved body fat% (remember when you had your sweet-ass 6-pack?).  Those are good things.

But let’s discuss the above problems I outlined and apply them to resistance training.

Adaptation – Yes, we will adapt to resistance training as well.  It’s called “getting stronger/awesome”.  The solution is elegantly simple: add more weight. Yep, all there is to it.  Yes, at a certain point adding more weight to a certain lift becomes an arduous/nearly impossible task, but most of us are a long ways away from that, yes I include myself and I sure as hell include you in that category.  Other solutions include an exercise progression, like going from a regular pushup to an explosive pushup, or an RDL to a regular Deadlift, etc.  But sticking with the original solution of adding more weight, it is virtually impossible to fully metabolically adapt since getting stronger requires you to increase the stimulus from the previous session.

Boring factor:  Not much.  If you have some familiarity with the Weight Room then your exercise options are nearly limitless.  Your routine is only as boring as you want it to be.  The real challenge is choosing what not to do!

Metabolic Increase: – Yep, it kinda does that in a big way.  Alwyn Cosgrove dubbed it the “Afterburn Effect”.  Resistance training with appropriate amounts of intensity (read: heavier than pink DB’s) results in an elevated metabolism for as long as 48 hours.  So you see, you not only burn kcals whil lifting heavy things, but burn extra calories afterwards as well, something aerobic conditioning fails to deliver on.

Common objections

But what about cardio? –  Exactly how the (I’m sure I said “Heck” here and not something my mom would frown at me for…. Happy Birthday Mom!) is resistance training in a circuit fashion not cardio?  The definition of cardiovascular activity is any activity that simultaneously increases both respiration and heart rate.  My clients breathe like hell and their hearts pound too so they must be fulfilling that obligation.

Aerobic training is where the fat-loss zone is –  Ready for another knowledge bomb?  There is no such thing as the fat-loss zone.  Again, BOOM!  Total bullshit purported by cardio machine designers to get you to buy their treadmills with the little scale on it that says where your heartrate is.  If the purported fat loss zone is between 60-80% of maximal HR then what happens when we go above or below that heart rate?  We burn more or less calories accordingly.  At lower heart rates we burn a greater % of fat from a smaller number of calories.  If the Fat-Burning zone really existed it would in fact be when you slept, since that is when the heart rate is lowest and the greatest percentage of fat is being burned.  When fat loss is the goal, simply consuming fewer kcals than you are expending is the real goal. Not rocket science there.

Take home Points:

Prioritze the weight room.

Place far less emphasis on aerobic conditioning.

The Ram makes people more awesome and leaner too so HOW DARE you not come out last week.

Bottom line, the treadmill is for skinny-fat chicks, weight room is for hardbodies… and swimsuit season is 12 weeks away, I know I just wrote a blog about it.

OK, I’ve got to go eat again and then go lift heavy objects just because I can before my computer guy comes over to fix this thing up.  And then do taxes…  Then write programs, then prep for my bootcamp, then do more stuff.

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Emails to Clients 1

Below is an email to a client of mine.  I changed or removed all the specific details, i.e. family names, job, etc. not pertinent to the email.

So we have our new numbers;  over 30% body fat and the scale says only 138 ½ ……  There are issues here.

We have talked a lot about setting goals and reaching them.  I feel like it is really time to say enough is enough.  You have been regressing in your goals for awhile now and I know that is a hard thing to watch happen and know that it is in your power.  In your personal and professional life I know you have plenty of stressors and you feel like there a lot of things out of your control.  The fact is you have a lot of control and a lot of support around you, just remember that.  Let’s start a little list of all the positive things you have going for you: 

  1. A husband who loves you and wants the best for you
  2. Two daughters who love you and want the best for you
  3. Friends and family who love you and want the best for you
  4. Coworkers who want to be you

 I know that list can be a lot longer so I’ll let you add more things to it.  Let’s start a second list consisting of past successes:           

  1. Worked your way up in a major real estate company to become not only the number one in the business but in the entire Valley/State, doing more business than any of your peers and more than most of your peers combined.  (you’re a big deal)
  2. Led a very successful professional life and between you and your husband, provide a very good life for your family.
  3. An excellent marriage and a husband who dotes on you 
  4. Two daughters who aren’t insane and are apparently well adjusted. 

 Again, this list can be longer and I’m sure 39 other things can be added to it.  What this all shows is that you have a history of experiencing success in anything you choose to be successful at.  When it comes down to the whole fat loss thing, you have had mixed success so the big question is, “What’s holding you back from choosing to be successful here?”  That is a big question that only you can answer. 

 Daniel Pink describes 3 kinds of motivation in his book “Drive”

 Motivation 1.0  is the drive for food, shelter and reproduction (it worked great in the caveman days)

 Motivation 2.0 is the drive for compensation (it worked great with the advent of industry)

 Motivation 3.0 is the drive for a more internal based reward, i.e. giving time to Building Blocks, charity work, recognized for your work, etc. (when 1 & 2 are not pressing concerns, reward through a different means of motivation become needed)

 We can use those categories as reward based systems for positive or negative outcomes.  One of my favorite examples of a negative based goal was the story of the business man who set a goal of losing weight after years of failure.  He set up a meeting with his lawyer and had him draft legal papers saying he would publicly donate $10,000 to the KKK should he fail to lose “X” amount of weight in 1 year.  He had no beliefs in the KKK, in fact was strongly opposed to their ideals but it was his motivation to achieve his goals.  Public, and likely national, shame is a strong influencer.  He achieved his goal but that was not enough for him.  During the 2nd year he again had his lawyer draw up papers saying that he must stay below “X” weight for the entirety of the year otherwise he would still donate the money to the KKK publicly.  Again, he reached his goal. 

 So perhaps we can arrange a carrot on a stick in the spirit of our motivation 3.0.  As we all know at the gym and joke about, you are a fan of vacations!  I envy you.  Perhaps we can set up a big summer vacation for you to plan, involve the kids and husband, then declare this is a conditional vacation.  Meaning that if you do not reach your goals, the vacation is cancelled.  Would that motivate you?  It would certainly get the entire support of everybody you know behind you.  I imagine it would certainly get your family and kids on board.  In 6 months time it will be May, in 8 months it will be July which is prime vacation time right?  We can base a goal off that time frame, establish markers along the way to see if we are on track and in the end you can be the hero or the heel of your own story.

 In the end this is all a vehicle to reach your goals, so are you ready to let the rubber meet the road?

We all sometimes need a little extra push to help ourselves overcome certain obstacles and in this case intentionally putting yourself in the line of fire and making youself accountable to the people you care about most may be the answer.  Personally, I am a big believer in taking big chances.  Total failure vs. total reward.  That’s something that’ll keep you honest with yourself!

I wouldn’t have it any other way.




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I lift heavy things

After a bit of a hiatus and some forced irregularity with my lifting schedule, I got back on track a few months ago and got my deadlift back up to a moderately acceptable weight of 405 lbs.  My new goal is to lift 405 with good form before getting it back to 445, then onto 500.  My previous lift at 405 was a pretty ugly looking pull.  A bit rounded and loose in the upper back and too much strain put into the low back.  Those little mistakes are the ones you feel over the weekend.  Quality of movement is a big deal when you have a heavy load in your hands or on your spine and effectively training the ability to maintain that quality can’t be overestimated.

So to get myself back there I plan on addressing the weaknesses, specifically, the hips and upper back using exercises like face pulls, inverted rows (loaded) and obviously plenty of deadlifts and deadlift variations.  I’ll be performing 5 sets of singles at 90% or greater of 405, so 365 and up, with a big focus on quality and speed.  This idea is not original to me at all.  I stole it from Boston-based Strength & Conditioning Coach Tony Gentilcore who has the funniest fitness related blog around.  I have used it in the past with great success for all sorts of big lifts and plus I love lifting with just one rep at a time.  It makes me look strong and super cool and hides the fact that anything over 5 reps makes me gasp for air like a landed fish. 

So that is all I have for today, nothing mind blowing for the masses, just me selfishly posting about myself and my goals.  Make sure you have your own goals and a path to achieve them…. maybe there was a message behind this after all. 

In other news, I watched Thor over the weekend as well.  I was pretty nervous about watching it since I thought it could have been really butchered (not that I would have known, of all the “big” super-heroes, he’s the one I knew the least about), but it was done fantastically!  Great special effects and lots of fighting and lightning, not exclusive from each other.  Plus with Padme (Natalie Portman) in the mix I obviously had to be a fan.  She knows no boundaries in her acting prowess!  Alien princess, child assassin, ballerina psycho, lady scientist attracted to alien God and Darcy on the Simpsons!  Suck it Meryl Streep.

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Swimsuit Summer

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Overweight vs. Overfat

“WHAT?!?! That can’t be true, that’s not right. I know I need to lose a few more pounds but I am NOT obese!  I’m a  nurse, I know the difference!” That’s what I left the gym with last Friday ringing in my ears. It stuck with me the whole day and over the weekend. Monday morning I walked in and there was Betty, the little obese lady. She had used the handheld impedence device that all gyms have around and it had told her she was about 36% body fat. Upon seeing me she asked if I would pinch her myself.  Apparently it had stuck with her the whole weekend too.

I got out my calipers and performed the assesment before my first client showed up and out came the numbers: 37.7% BF… She was not happy.  At 150 lbs she was over 50lbs of fat and under 100lbs of Lean Mass (basically everything that isn’t fat, i.e. muscle organs, bones, etc.) I began to explain the difference to her of Overweight vs. Overfat.  “The guidelines of being Obese are primarily based on the Body Mass Index (BMI) which is not always a very good indicator of body composition.  Many of my clients come to me falling right into the ‘ideal’ category they should be in according to BMI but they aren’t happy with their body.  They know they carry a bit extra weight but the scale says they only need to lose 5 lbs.”

This is where the division occurs between BMI and Body Fat Percentage.  Simply weighing a certain amount is hardly a guarantee of a specific “look” that most people want to achieve.  BF% on the other hand is based on how much fat the person carries.  Obviously most people want to carry a lot less than they do now, or at least if you are a client coming to me you certianly do.  Unfortunately clients don’t often just hand me a bunch of money and say “I just wanna bathe in the aura of awesomeness that is your birthright!” which totally sucks because I am pretty awesome.  So getting back to bf%…. this is the first part of the educational process that I take my clients through.

With so much external pressure to weigh less, less consideration is put on bf% and health.  Getting a female client to understand that dropping that last 40 lbs to reach that coveted weight of 83 lbs may not result in the body weight they want can be a bit challenging.  Images usually help.  If they have questions or don’t pick up what I am putting down Leigh Peele has a fantastic visual aid you can get by just signing up for her newsletter.  It helps them see what bf%’s look like across the spectrum and where they may want to end up.

Bottom line is to get that lower body fat% that you are looking for the key is lifting heavy objects.  The treadmill and elliptical rarely offer enough of a stimulus to get the results you desire.  Get out of the “cardio” area of your gym and hit the weights.  Lifting heavy objects will get you leaner and give you a butt you can bounce quarters off of rather than one that feels like a beanbag chair.

Blast!  Getting kicked out of the little cafe I am in!  Or at least they are closing with me in it I should say.  Either way I have overstayed my welcome.  Have a great week and lift something heavy that isn’t pink!

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And then I felt my shoulder “zing” but not in the fun way

So this last weekend was a ton of fun for me, except for this one part but I’ll get to that later.  I had 5 nephews over between the ages of 11-5 and we played video games and ate pizza and cookies and whatever else happenned to show up.  They stayed the night so we could continue on in the morning too.  Turning back the hordes of undead and killing terrorists for 18 hours straight on two different consoles is no small feat.  What I’m trying to say is, “You’re welcome WORLD”.

The not as fun part happenned just before that when I was at my sisters house removing some sheetrock from her property.  She is in the process of building a new house so she can use a little extra help with the small things and lifting heavy objects is something I’m pretty good at. 

Side note:  Please don’t ask me to help you move.  Couches and pianos are not fun.

So as I was tossing the sheetrock into the trailor I could feel my right shoulder just a little achy and sensitive.  It has been bugging me the last few weeks and I was able to pinpoint exactly why just last week.  Anyways, I got a little overzealous with a throw of one load of sheetrock and “ZING!”, hello bad shoulder waiting to happen.  I stopped moving sheetrock but the damage was done.  For the rest of the weekend reaching away from my body was painful to the right shoulder and I had to keep it tucked to my side.  Fortunately video games are not very stressful to the shoulder complex so I was safe, unlike the zombies.

My shoulder has been feeling a bit better since.  I can reach forward without a great deal of compensation and pushups are pain free even if my shoulder does feel a bit “sloppy” during them.  I tried to post a video but haven’t quite mastered that yet but let’s pretend I did. 

Pretend video here.

Notice my scapulae jutting out?  That’s not supposed to happen.  In fact, it’s likely a big reason for my shoulder injury in the first place.  I could get all technical about why the injury happenned by ranting about “poor serratus strength leading to scapular winging leading to poor GH stability leading to poor pressing patterns leading to reinforced compensatory movements leading to BLAMMO, injury”, but instead I will just say, “my shoulder got hurt cuz’ I did bad things.”  So to all my clients who complain to me about doing the little “pre-hab” exercises before their workout, remind yourself of how great it is to be able to reach overhead without feeling like someone is stabbing and twisting a knife into your clavicle. 

So to go about correcting it I purchased Mike Robertson’s Assess and Correct to help me “fix” my bad shoulders.   A pro-active approach, even if a bit late coming, is better than just hoping it will fix itself.

I hope everybody else had a great and injury free weekend!  Oh, here is a jumping picture for Jessica.

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Best article I have ever read… at least today

I had a whole other idea I was going to write about but instead I am going to leave a simple link to a short article I read about 2 minutes ago.  For the procrastinators out there, me included, it is a great read to help “push” you along your way.  Now go read it before you get distracted by the bright shiny objects in life.

It is written by Leigh Peele, a lady far smarter than me who specializes in nutrition and fat loss.  Check out her site, read her blog and then report back to me about how much cooler/successful/better looking/more well-read she is than me.  Whatever.  I am way stronger than that chick and have chest hair.  Like, lots of chest hair.

For those wondering why I didn’t get a post up yesterday, it was due to a combination of procrastinating and my blog turning into an incomprehensible rant about things that are not interesting. 

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Celebrity Training advice and the inane crap they spew forth upon the world

Because I still have no idea what I’m really doing as far as managing this blog (it is pure luck I found the right button to publish anything so far) I pressed a magic button and it took me to a blog post that has a huge picture of Denise Richards.  My first thought was, “I like looking at Denise Richards” followed by “Maybe she has something semi-intelligent to say.”  OK, that was not my second thought but it occured to me at some point.  Probably.  Well, I was wrong.  As with so many celebrities who insist on speaking publicly, with the exception of Jack Bauer, it was time misspent on my part listening to her.  I realize she is not an exercise professional, nor ever claimed to be, but I would hope she would at least hire somebody who knew what they were talking about.

Jack Bauer being awesome.

In the post Denise Richards mentions how great Pilates was at “lengthening” her muscle.  BZZZZ.  Wrong.  It is impossible to lengthen the muscle.  The muscle does not attach to the bone but to tendons which in turn attach to the bone.   The “length” of one’s muscle is genetically pre-determined and short of tearing a tendon and having it re-attached at a different site, there is nothing you can do about it.  You do not make muscles longer.  Period.

She also states that Pilates was originally designed for dancers so it “doesn’t build your legs.”  Joseph Pilates originally designed this for bedridden German nationals locked up in Britain during WWI.  It was later adapted to dancers, but, like I said, originally designed for BEDRIDDEN inmates. Not quite the same thing as dancers.  What I know about dance couldn’t fill a thimble but I am pretty sure laying on your back has little carryover to dance.  Even if it were great for dancers (debateable) that hardly equates to great for fat loss. 

I’m not saying I hate Pilates.  I actually like the concept it promotes of breathing awareness and postural awareness and the low impact it requires making it far more user friendly.  However, beyond a total beginner to fitness and fat loss, I don’t see the correlation to fat loss.  Let’s see, checklist for fat loss;

Metabolic disturbance – Minimal.  A cool little calculator I found for Pilates says that for a mat based session of one hour for a 150 lb individual would cost roughly 238 kcals.  Color me unimpressed, but props for the calculator.

Emphasis on nutrition – a google search provides nearly 2 million results (I did not read them all).  Result – mixed (although I am sure there is some great advice and some not-so-great advice as with everything on the internet).

Creating a caloric defecit – depends on caloric intake of the individual obviously, but with a low caloric cost and low EPOC it definitely creates a huge need for nutritional education and a severely decreased intake.  Result – Booooo for hypocaloric diets.

Do I think Pilates has a place?  Sure.  I like it for some clients as a low impact regenerative supplement to their regular fat loss program, but I think they can also get that elsewhere.  Overall I think it really depends on where you are at in your fitness journey.  If you are already where you want to be, then Pilates may serve as a good maintenence type activity, but if you are just beginning then a more “progressive” approach may be required (read: lifting heavy stuff is good for you and makes people, animals and Jason Bourne want to hang with you).

Yep, they should have left him alone.

In other news, I managed to drop pics of my two biggest man-crushes in one blog post.  And learned inserting pics is a lot easier than I thought it might be.  Be warned, this is the beginning.

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What you should be doing in the gym and how to not be another asshat in the gym.

Continuing from my very first post ever, let’s start working on the question concerning what you should be doing once you get into the gym.  Here’s a little rundown on a generic version of what I’ll do with my clients.

Foam rolling – here’s a clip going over the basic stuff.  Bottom line; it is awesome, you should be doing it and baby Jesus cries when you skip it.

Corrective stretches – if your upper traps are tight, stretch them here.  Chances are your upper traps are tight, as are your hip flexors and pec muscles.  Rarely do we have anything resembling an idealic posture these days.  Quazimoto is not the sexy beast Disney would have you believe. 

Dynamic Warmup – Best product ever going over this is Magnificent Mobility.  Pair that with Inside/Out and you will feel like a million bucks before you even pick up anything heavy.

Core Training – Please don’t insert more situps here.  Seriously.  They are typically the last thing our population needs more of.  Think about it, you are slouched over your monitor right now reading this, your abs are in a shortened state and you are going to go the gym to reinforce that poor posture?  Try a plank variation or an Anti-rotational press instead, or better yet do both. 

Resistance Training – Lift heavy stuff.  Pink dumbbells and stretchy yoga bands are frowned upon heavily.  They do not make you strong and being strong is important regardless of your goals, be they fat loss, hypertrophy (getting yoked) or athletic performance.    I’m not saying you need to put a 400 lb barbell (best video ever) on your back on Day 1, but you shouldn’t be afraid to challenge yourself a bit either.  Guys, you must train legs and not on the leg extension or leg press.  There really are more things than the bench press in the weight room.  Ladies, learn how to do a pushup and a proper squat.  Your body will thank you and so will everybody who checks you out on a daily basis.

Energy Systems Development – This is just a sexy way of saying “cardio” for your desired goals. 

Cooldown – Here is normally just repeating the same corrective stretches from the beginning and more foam rolling.

So there you have it, a very brief overview of a very thorough training session.  Now go lift something heavy and brag about it afterwards to all your friends/family/strange dude on the bus.

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