Month: September 2011

Avoid fitness fads.

If you are thinking of trying the latest fitness fad that you have seen on television or in a magazine, think again.

All of these ads attempt to reinforce the misconception that we are not in the shape we desire to be solely because we have been missing out on one simple, carefree technique. The reality is that in order to reach your goals you need to work hard. There is no method of improving your physical condition that circumvents hard work.

Even if your fitness fad of choice is somewhat effective, your results will be limited at best. One fantastic piece of equipment will not provide you with the long-term variety or motivation necessary to produce lasting results. Ultimately, your equipment will invariably become an awkward place to hang your laundry.

All in all, your money is better spent on a gym membership and/or time with a well-educated personal trainer, and remember that if it sounds too good to be true then it probably is!

Pilates Exercise of the Month: Swimming

Purpose: This advanced exercise lengthens the stomach muscles while strengthening the back muscles.

  1. Lie on your stomach, arms extend overhead, palms down. Squeeze the backs of legs together, slightly turn feet outward.
  2. Inhale, pulling navel up into your spine, lift your head; then your right arm and left leg off the mat. Switch arms and legs by lifting your left arm and right leg. Without shifting your body weight; flutter the arms and legs in a swimming motion.
  3. Inhale for 5 counts and exhale for 5 counts. Feel that you are stretching in opposition, fingers and toes reaching for opposite ends of the room; keep arms and legs as straight as possible without letting them touch the mat.
  4. Complete 3-5 sets of 5 inhalations/exhalations each. To end and stretch your lower back, sit back on your heels in child’s pose.
  5. As you improve, speed up swimming action of arms and legs; 2 movements per count. This challenges coordination or torso stability.

Hold your gaze high without crunching the back of the neck.
Work arms directly in front of you and in line with your shoulders.
The legs should flutter close to each other and in line with your torso.
Swim briskly; avoid rocking from side to side.

Note: A shoulder injury may be aggravated by this exercise. Reduce range of motion of the arms. Any lower back issues, approach exercise carefully.

Visualization: Move rapidly and keep your head up as though you were actually in water. Envision your legs working as if using a kickboard in a swimming pool.

Strengthen your GLUTES!

When you think about the best exercises to strengthen your glutes, squats, lunges, and step ups may come to mind. But all of these exercises can get a little boring, and some of them are not recommended for folks with knee injuries. Luckily, there is an exercise that you can do with minimal equipment that isolates your glutes and hip abductors that delivers greater returns on your gym time than squats, lunges, and step ups combined. This exercise is the X-Band Walk.

To complete the X-Band Walk:
For equipment, all you need is a resistance band. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart stepping on the resistance band. Cross the band (make an “X” with the band) at the knee joint and hold the band in each hand with your elbows bent to 90 degrees. Keep your knees slightly bent. Step out to the right for 10 reps, then step backwards for 10 reps, then to the left for 10, then forward for 10. Always face forward, so that you step in a box formation and return to your starting point.

How does the X-Band Walk benefit your back side?
Unlike other more popular glute exercises, the X-Band Walk isolates the gluteus maximus, gluteus minimus, and gluteus medius. Although most of us are familiar with the gluteus maximus muscles (they form what we call our “butt”) the gluteus minimus and gluteus medius play a key role in the stability and power that we generate from our back sides.

How Eating so Much Protein Could be Making Me Fat!

How much protein does one need is a very debatable subject and probably one of the biggest misconceptions within the exercise community. Many people that I have asked how much protein they are consuming tell me about 2 grams per pound of body weight…which is completely wrong. Let me tell you a little bit about protein.

First off where do you think these people are getting the wrong information from? They probably received their misinformed info from the label on the supplement bottle or from a website or friend’s recommendation. Well if we take the first one, why would the unregulated supplement company suggest too much protein? Well if you consume 3 times as much as needed you go through their product 3 times as fast, and have to constantly replace it…helping out their 5 billion dollar yearly supplement revenue. The second thought would be the internet (blogs and/or personal websites) or friends; of which most are going off what they remember hearing from other people who workout and over consume protein. The recommendation is (depending on your activity level) 0.8-1.9 grams of protein per Kilogram (Kg) of body weight. My thought is that people hear this and immediately think it is per lb of body weight. Now if you want to convert it to lbs for all the US people to understand easier it would be this: 1 Kg = 2.2 lbs, so 0.36-0.86 grams of protein per lb of bodyweight…sounds very much different than what you have heard around the gym huh!

Here are some fun facts that science has shown about protein:

  • There has never been any scientific evidence for the body needing or being able to utilize over 2 grams of protein per Kg of body weight.
  • Your body can only absorb about 28 grams of protein at one time
  • Excessive amounts of protein can cause dehydration
  • Excessive protein is either utilized by the muscle or taken to the kidney where it is broken down and converted to fat

Let’s take these last points and follow them as if you took a supplement shake after working out, but decided to double the scoops and consume 56 grams of protein. Since your body can only absorb ~28 grams those excess 28 grams will be absorbed by the small intestines and transported to the liver. In the liver the amine (Nitrogen) will be broken off and excreted in your urine, causing you to become slightly dehydrated. The carbon skeleton will then be converted to pyruvate which in turn is reutilized for aerobic activity’s energy and/or converted to carbs and/or fatty acids and stored as subcutaneous deposits. When all is said and done not only do you end up wasting your money on supplements but you are increasing your fatty acids within your blood…isn’t the point of working out and eating correctly to build muscle and burn fat??

Try ActivTrax

If you are new to resistance training and are not interested in spending time with a Personal Trainer then read on, as ActivTrax may be a great way for you to get started.

ActivTrax combines your goals and your current level of fitness to produce a safe and realistic program for you to follow as often as you wish. ActivTrax is not perfect, but if utilized appropriately it can provide you with accountability, variety, and the motivation to try something new.

ActivTrax is quite customizable and will continue to change your workout as you progress. It can easily be adjusted as your goals and abilities change to help you avoid the impending plateau.

Additionally, ActivTrax does a very good job at exposing users to new exercises, so if you have been lifting for a while, ActivTrax may have something to offer you as well.

If you are interested in getting started, stop by the fitness department to schedule a complimentary appointment or stop by to check it out.

5 Ways to Fight Stress and Burn Fat

Your body is meant to protect you, but when it’s constantly on alert, your health can pay the price. Controlling your stress on a daily basis is important for your well-being and can help you burn fat.
When you are stressed your body produces the hormone “cortisol.” Excess cortisol can produce weight gain, specifically in the abdominal area. If not managed, your long term health can be at great risk.
Try these 5 things to help manage your stress and fight off that unwanted belly fat.

  1. TAKE A LUNCH BREAK. Don’t just keep working while you scarf down a healthy salad at your desk. Read a book; take a walk, or a try a new restaurant. Giving your brain a break will allow you to be more productive.
  2. TURN OFF YOUR CELL PHONE. I know this can be tough, but turning your phone off at night will allow you get a restful night of sleep. I know you want to check your blackberry at 2am, but don’t. It will stress you out. Turn the thing off. It’s good for you.
  3. TREAT YOURSELF TO A MASSAGE. Massage can be a great way to unwind. Not only is it great for your muscles, but also it can clear your mind and give you time to yourself.
  4. EXERCISE. Move your body! 20 minutes of moderate exercise will help the brain better cope with stress plus improve your overall health.
  5. LAUGH. Laughter is the purest form of human expression that transcends all ages, castes, creeds, religions, and differences. It truly is the best medicine and can cure stress and anxiety.

Balance Training Proven to Decrease the Risk of Ankle Injuries

Ankle sprains are one of the most common injuries that occur in athletes today (McGuine and Keene 2006). They are especially common among soccer and basketball players. Once an athlete has sprained their ankle and stretched the ligaments beyond a safe range of motion they are at a greater risk for another sprain. By introducing a well-rounded balance routine, athletes can strengthen their core, hips, and ankle stabilizers which will help to avoid these injuries. This is not only beneficial for athletes but for any person who worries about tripping, falling, or balance in general.

A study conducted by Timothy McGuine, PhD, ATC in 2006 at the University of Wisconsin showed a positive correlation between implementing a structured balance routine and a decrease in the number of ankle sprains. The study included over seven hundred high school soccer and basketball players. One group was given a specific balance routine to perform throughout the entire season, progressively getting more difficult. The second group was given a traditional conditioning exercise schedule without any balance training added. At the end of the season the group that performed the balance exercises had a total of 16 fewer ankle sprains than the control group.

Many people feel that all balance exercises are too difficult and frustrating to perform but that is not necessarily the case. Several times people are attempting exercises that their bodies are not prepared for and when they do not succeed right away they get frustrated. Balance is all about controlling the chaos and stimulus around the body to find your center alignment. Here are a few basic balance exercises to start with. Once you feel comfortable performing these exercises you can try some more challenging ones.

Basic Balance Exercises

  • Single Leg Stand – To be able to balance you need to be able to control your body weight on one leg for an extended time frame. This works the hip stabilizers and the erector spinae in the back to maintain proper spinal alignment. The lateral stabilizers of the ankle and knee will also be trained. Start by attempting to stand on each leg for 30 seconds without holding on to anything.
  • Single Leg Stand with Swings – Once you have mastered standing on one leg for 30 seconds with out holding on to anything you are ready to try to add minimal movement. While standing on one leg, slowly swing the hovering leg back and forth while maintaining your balance. This forces the stabilizing muscles to control the movement in a more active state which can translate to everyday movement (i.e. running, walking).
  • Single Leg Squat – With the body able to control the opposing leg swinging back and forth the next progression is to add a single leg squat. This makes the stabilizing leg move through range of motion while controlling the hip and ankle at the same time. On the first few, simply work on trying a small squat then stand back up. Try to get a little lower with each attempt. Ideally, you will reach a 30 to 45 degree angle with your squats.
  • Single Leg Stand with Eyes Closed – Once you can successfully complete 3 sets of 30second leg swings, trying closing your eyes. The body uses our eyes to find specific points to focus on when balancing. When we close our eyes while balancing we force our bodies to see for us, utilizing the inner ear to find stability. With your eyes closed you will immediately feel different muscles contracting and relaxing in an attempting to find your center. The more you can relax and extend your spine up (think the crown of your head trying to reach the ceiling) the better this exercise will be.

You can continue to progress along the same line. As you feel more relaxed with your eyes closed, try to perform both the single leg swings and single leg squats with your eyes closed. You can also try different types of surfaces such as balance boards or BOSU balls to train the ankle and hip in under different stimulus. The more you can subject the body to a variety of stimuli the better prepared the body will be for day to day activities.

Remember that a correct progression from basic to advanced is the safest and best way to advance the quickest in balance training as well as every day tasks. If you are diligent with your training you will notice a significant increase in your balance ability!

Single Leg Dead Lift for Greater Performance, Strength and Balance!

When designing strength training programs for a variety of clients there are a few key exercises and movement patterns that should be addressed in most training sessions. Some of the things that I attempt to use daily include the following…

  • Thoracic Mobility Exercises/Stretches
  • Single Leg Dead Lift Progressions
  • Glute Activation Exercises
  • Squatting/Lunging Patterns
  • Core Stabilization

As specific movements go, one that I like to use as either part of the warm-up or as a strength exercise is the Single Leg Dead Lift. While all of these concepts should be touched on, I believe the SLDL is crucial to incorporate for the following reasons…

Full Body Muscle Recruitment
When performed correctly the single leg dead lift requires the recruitment of all of the muscles up the posterior chain. The calf works to stabilize at the foot and ankle. The hamstring group is stretched at the same time it is working to stabilize the knee joint, while the glutes concentrically extend the hip. During all of this our lumbar extensors work to keep the spine neutral while the upper and mid back work to stabilize the scapula and keep the thoracic spine in extension.

Functional Posterior Chain Strengthening
We have the ability to both stretch and strengthen the hamstring and recruit the glute for hip extension. Hamstring pulls are often a result of poor glute function and over-activation of the hamstrings as a hip extensor. If we are able to train single leg hip extension with the glutes while strengthening and stretching the hamstring than we are killing two birds with one stone!

Balance and Body Awareness
When using the single leg dead lift in the warm-up it can serve as an especially great balance and proprioception exercise. Have you ever seen someone perform their first ever SLDL? More often than not they almost always fall over. With some repetition and coaching however a client often improves quickly. The ankle stabilizers such as, the lower leg and calf, all must fire to help maintain balance in response to the movement of the upper body. The SLDL can serve as a great drill overall for body awareness and balance for clients/athletes of all ages.

How to perform an SLDL:
The first progression for the single leg dead lift is simple and needs no equipment. Start by squaring your hips, with a slight bend in the knees. Begin by balancing on one foot, keep the shoulders back, abs in, head up and back straight, from here tip from the waist and reach hands towards the floor. The key here is to reach the rear foot as far back as possible while also reaching down and maintaining a FLAT back. Be sure to keep a slight bend at their knee so that you are not overstressing the hamstring and neglecting the glutes. The difference in glute function from a straight leg to a slightly bent leg will be significant!

Start with 2-3 sets of 10 on each side, once that becomes easy try adding weight by holding a dumbbell.

Pilates Exercise of the Month: The Saw

Purpose: To improve flexibility in your hamstrings, develop strength in the low back and work your waistline.

  1. Sit tall, with your legs extended. Open them slightly wider than your hips; feet flexed. Reach your arms out to the side (T position). Imagine you are reaching to touch both sides of the room.
  2. Inhale, pull your navel up and into your spine. Twist from your waist to the left carrying your arms with you. Keep your pelvis anchored to the mat.
  3. Exhale and round forward toward your left leg. Aim your baby finger (right hand) to the outside of your baby toe. Your back arm (left arm) reaches back; turning the palm in. Feel the oppositional pull of the arms.
  4. Inhale; continue to reach forward to accentuate the hamstring stretch. Keep the opposite hip pressed down into the mat. Then, exhale, and continue to reach forward, bringing the top of your head toward the baby toe.
  5. Inhale, bring your body up, sit tall as you return to the starting position. Begin the exercise on the other side.
  6. Alternate sides, completing 3-5 sets.


  • Keep your hips very still as you stretch past your baby toe. Buttocks must not lift off mat.
  • Keep your legs straight, don’t let them roll in. Knees and toes should point to the ceiling.
  • Back arm stays lifted.
  • Roll up through the spine to sit tall before going to the other side.
  • Don’t come up with a flat back.

Note: If hamstrings are too tight, sit on a cushion or phonebook. You can bend your knees slightly if the stretch is difficult at first. Flexibility will improve.

Visualization: Imagine you are sitting in a block of cement. Your lower body can’t move as you reach toward the baby toe.

I’m just so tired… I think I’ll skip my workout.

How many times has your alarm gone off at 5:30 AM for your morning workout and the first thing you thought (after “there’s no way it’s time”) is “I’m so tired.” Or maybe even you’ve waited until after 8 hours of work and you grab your stuff, it’s raining and cold out, it’s almost dark and only 7:00 PM, and you think, “Ugh, I wish I could go to bed right now!” Well I’m sure if you are an avid gym goer you’ve said this a time or two. Now the question is do you power through it or do you give in and let yourself off the hook?

First, are you really tired or have you not gotten up and moved around to really know for sure? Did you get a full 8 hours of sleep last night? If you did chances are you are just a little sleepy at the start but if you pushed yourself up out of bed you could really get yourself rolling. Is it the weather or the idea of going home and enjoying a bowl of soup that has more pull than a workout? First ask yourself, “am I really that tired?”

Next if you decide no I’m not that tired I just don’t know if I can push myself to do anything today…then maybe today is the day for you to try something new. Go to that spin class you’ve been hearing rave reviews about; jump in the pool and swim some laps, do what you like best and just put in the time. Not every workout is going to be note worthy but as long as you can continue a routine, put in the effort, and feel good when you are done, it’s all worth it.

You’ve almost gotten yourself on board but you still think sleeping in sounds just a little bit better than sweating it out in the weight room. Now is the time for you to think ahead. Think about what it feels like to finish a good workout. Think about how happy you are that you did it and it’s over. Think about your goals and how by pushing yourself to put in the effort you have made another positive step towards accomplishing something. Think about how much better that bowl of soup will be after you worked for it! Just keep in mind how working out makes you feel and that should help push you over the edge and get you in the gym!

If all else fails, training with a Personal Trainer is a great way to keep on track. Not only will it keep you accountable but it will help you to keep things new and fun! If you think that’s too much right now we have a number of Programs run by Personal Trainers that you can try once for free. You never know what might strike your fancy. Plus in a group setting you will have the camaraderie of the other participants to keep you in line!