Friday, December 19, 2008

Essential Holiday Eating Tips

I'm sure a lot of you are as sick of me ranting on Holiday Eating as much as I am of writing it!

But we still have a bit of December do deal with. We just need to get through the next few weeks! And remember, we're not trying to loose any weight right now; just not gain any. Net Zero from November 1st to January 1st.

Right now, we just need to think clean.

Henry Ford wanted a V8 engine. Actually, he demanded a V8 engine. For years, his engineering team told him that it couldn't be done. It wasn't possible. The rest, of course is history as the V8 engine has been the most popular engine in automotive history.

Think Positive. Think Clean

Regarding the Holiday blues, Holiday stress, Holiday food fest, and the rest,

replace negative thoughts like ...
  • There’s nothing I can do to stay healthy during the holidays.
  • That’s just the way I am during the holidays.
  • The holidays make me feel so stressed.
  • I can’t take the time to work out until after the holidays.
  • I Can’t…………………I Must……………….If Only
... With proactive thoughts such as:
  • I’ll find alternatives to overindulging this happy season.
  • I can choose a different approach this year.
  • I control my own feelings at all times and I choose to feel great!
  • I want to take the time necessary to make sure I stay healthy during the holidays.
  • I Choose……………….I Prefer……………I Will
The point is: "Whether you think you can, or think you can't, you're right either way."

A few concrete tips:

  • Substitute non fat yogurt or non fat cottage cheese for sour cream in cooking and recipes
  • Wear your tightest, most form fitting pants to dinner parties and/or tie a string around your waist under your shirt that will not budge with the bulge. They'll help keep you conscious of overeating.
  • Have a healthy, protein rich snack before going to cocktail or dinner parties. Or a meal replacement shake. The high fat content appetizers won't look so good of your not hungry.
  • Don't keep trigger foods in the house; just don't buy them!
  • Do not stop your regular exercise program. If you don’t have a regular exercise program, get one immediately!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Metabolism Boosting Exercise Plan: Frequent Quickies

December is one of the toughest months of the year for Fitness Professionals . As if busy lives, work schedules, and family affairs weren't enough, extra travel, holiday parties, out of town guests, and office gatherings all add to the normal daily stresses. Making time to exercise is always a challenge, but this added pressure can be a nightmare for trainers trying to keep their clients on track!

Of course, in the blindered world of a Fitness Professional (because no matter what the question is, exercise is almost always one of the best answers), we'd argue that if you're life gets so stressful that you don't have time to exercise, you really can't afford to NOT exercise.

But, enough's been said on that. So what I will pitch as a solution to December exercise deprivation is the notion of Frequent Exercise Quickies. That is, rather than spending 75 to 90 minutes working out 2 or 3 days per week this month, plan instead for training 3 or 4 days per week (one extra) for just (much shorter) 45 to 55 minutes.

Normally, we coach clients (and you should plan) for a minimum of 10 to 15 minutes warming up before your workout and 30 to 45 minutes of cardiovascular work following your session. Along with your 45 minute session, this give you have a standard 75 to 90 minute workout. While that doesn't seem like a huge time committment to us, it can certainly seem intimidating when there's cooking to be done, the in-laws are inbound, and you have an unfinished gift shopping list.

A 50 minute workout, on the other hand, is short, sweet, and mentally conquerable. Heck, it's not even a workout ... more of a workoutling ... a workout too small, cute, and incomplete to be a real workout. Get in, get it done, and be on your way. The key, of course, is that if you reduce you cardio and resistance effort volumes, you'll really, really need that additional exercise quickie per week!

Training for 50 minutes 4 times per week (200 total minutes) instead of 75 minutes 3 times per week (225 total minutes) also has other advantages.

For one, you raise your metabolism one extra day per week. Not only do you burn calories while exercising, but you'll burn additional calories recovering from the exercise after your workout. And this extra day of recovery effort more than covers for the reduced total volume (25 minutes).

Additionally, the 4th workoutling per week gives you one more boost of energy to make it through stressful days, and another shot of endorphins to make the holiday stress more tolerable.

If you're training with FT, your session pace is always quick and with aerobic elements, but if you're getting your (regular or extra) workoutlings on your own, keep these things in mind for effective exercise quickies:
  1. It's just 50 minutes, so plan for being seriously committed for the entire workout; it goes fast!
  2. Rest no more than 1 minute between sets
  3. Drink plenty of water
  4. Wear your headphones, and don't make eye contact with anyone else in the gym (no time to get pulled away into a conversations)
  5. Look ahead, and plan your next exercise before you're finished with your current one
  6. Have an alternate exercise in mind with alternate equipment to keep you moving should your equipment get taken before you get there
  7. Go relatively light with high repetitions (20+) on the 1st set of any exercise (missing out on a proper warmup will increase the risk of injury, so you'll need to warmup in-line)
  8. Plan for no fewer than 10-12 repetitions on any exercise (again, making the workout more aerobic in nature to compensate for reduced cardio)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Save your Joints! Practical Advice for Cardiophiles

I played some open hockey yesterday, and spent the better part of my bench time explaining the significance of resistance training to another old fart complaining about his knees and knee pain. Hockey, you see, like running, swimming, and racquet sports is just plain tough on the joints.

So I thought I would share with you some specifics on how, and why resistance training is critical for good joint stability ... PARTICULARLY if you do a lot of 'pounding' cardio work.

Within the context of joints, exercises can, basically, be separated into two types: closed chain exercises and open chain exercises. Not surprisingly, the analogy is derived from the links on a chain (bike, necklace, bondage, whatever ;-). The links of a chain are closed when there is tension on the chain; open when the tension is relieved.

At the joint, there is a lot going on:

  • Ligaments connect bones to other bones;
  • Tendons (attached to muscles) attach to bones and
  • There is a soft tissue that functions as padding, or bushing between the bones
As you exercise, muscles contract, or shorten to pull your bones in the desired direction. And if you didn't know this already, muscles ONLY contract. All body movement is ONLY through the contraction of muscles: muscles never push anything, event though your trainer is constantly (and quite ironically) shouting push, push, push all the time!

And during an exercise like running, an individual knee joint undergoes the repetitive process of opening and closing. First, it is supporting the load of your bodyweight as you land and push off of it, and then it dangles somewhat freely as you extend your foot forward to take your next stride.

Thus, this is what we call an open chained exercise: just as the links in a chain 'open' when tension on the chain is relieved, the link between the tibia (lower leg) and femur (thigh bone) is 'opened' when you run (or walk). Then, the tibia and femur are quite literally 'smashed' together (closed) upon your foot's impact with the ground. Only the soft tissues (meniscus), ligaments, and tendons keep the bones from contacting each other under this load.

So, while something like running is terrific and necessary for your heart health, it is actually quite abusive on your joints. Repeat this movement over years and years (or a marathon or two) and you are virtually guaranteed knee, hip and back problems later in life.

Conversely, an exercise like leg curls is considered a closed chain exercise: during the complete range of motion of the exercise, there is never any 'open relief' between the chain of bones at the knee joint. The tendons, ligaments, and muscle groups are constantly 'pulling' and 'tightening' the joint. The Chain link is Closed without opportunity for impact.

The moral, of course, is that balance and variety is the key: strength training and cardio cannot be safely separated. Anyone who runs a lot, plays hockey, or otherwise performs a lot of open chained exercises simply needs to incorporate additional closed chain resistance training to help maintain good strength and stability around the joint. Depending on your age and fitness levels, this type of strength training should be performed at least two days per week.

Additionally, proper form on closed chain resistance exercise also helps assure good skeletal alignment ... particularly for you cardio beasts. Because even the slightest skeletal MISalignment is magnified with thousands of open chained repetitions.

Finally, muscle mass, bone density, and flexibility all decrease significantly once adults turn 30 ... and then accelerates with age. So not only will you help ensure the soundness of your joints through resistance training, but you'll hold on to your lean mass and strength!

Resistance training is the ONLY way to reverse this degradation.

And it's not just the knees. Racquet sports (tennis, racquetball), softball, and swimming does the same thing for the shoulders. These open chained exercises are terrific for you heart and lungs, but not so gentle on the joints. Even something as potentially harmless as bowling or curling can cause knee, shoulder, and lower back problems without strong joints.

I'll also make a small confession: I'm firmly convinced that I would NOT have ruptured my biceps tendon playing hockey back in August had I been more consistent with my strength training over the summer. Back then I was rolling off of a long summer of cycling, skipped strength training for a few weeks, and ended up injured.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Where is the Fitness Savings Account?

October tends to be benefits open enrollment month for a lot of larger organizations. Bureaucracy intact, this is your one and only chance to modify deductions and elections for the entire year!

As is common knowledge, the federal government supports a couple of tax savings programs in the form of Health Care Savings (HSA) accounts and Childcare Savings Accounts. Employers implement the programs by allowing pre-tax income to be placed into accounts that will be used either for Health or Child care. That way, the subscribing employee doesn't pay income, fica, or fuda tax on the account funds.

All that's all good, but my Big problem, is that there aren't currently any provisions for Fitness Related Expenses. I had lasik surgery to correct my vision a few years ago. That was covered under the HSA. My teenagers are currently in braces. That's covered too. Need teeth whitened? No problem.

So, with these, apparently cosmetic items covered under Health Care Savings Account rules, why aren't Fitness Related Expenses!? I haven't looked, but wouldn't be surprised if you could get a boob job with HSA account funds! What the heck!? Spending money on your heart health, reducing your risk of disease and cancer sure seems to make a lot better sense in an HSA than braces! Don't get me wrong, I am delighted that the braces are covered (it helped soften the bill a bit), but as a 'family-related' allowance it doesn't do much for childless couples, singles, or empty nesters.

Why aren't gym memberships, bicycles, and personal training services included as well!? What could possibly make more sense when looking for ways to improve fitness levels, reduce health care costs, and put a bit more cash into ailing American pockets during an economic meltdown!?

Many employers have recognized the benefits of exercise and offer reimbursement for regular exercise attendance. At Fitness Together, we actually don't participate in these programs. Quite frankly, the twice weekly exercise employers and health care providers recognize might be acceptable for a fit individual simply looking to maintain their fitness levels, but is grossly inadequate for anyone looking to make significant changes in their health and fitness. We simply give our clients a free session when they train 12 or more days per month. We avoid the paperwork, and our session value is a lot more valuable than the 50 bucks employers and providers offer.

BUT, if my clients, big box gym goers, and anyone spending money at the bike shop could simply draw against an HSA accepting of fitness expenses, everyone wins! Employers and providers could eliminate the overhead of their one-off attendance reimbursement programs, and their employees could exercise tax free.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Healthy Eating Requires Exercise

Get your flavanoids! They're good for your heart. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables for that. Make sure you get enough Omega 3 fats in your diet; they're good fats and can reduce cholesterol and ease the metabolism of bad fats. Salmon, flax seeds, walnuts, and soybeans are good sources. Make sure you get enough dairy in your diet; it's needed for strong bones and will help avoid degenerative disease like osteoporosis. Cottage cheese, yogurt, and milk will cover you there. And don't forget about fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals, and ...

The list goes on an on and on. So it occurred to me while making my way home after a long commute ride the other day (and thinking of what I was going to devour once I got home) that if we actually followed all of the nutritional guidance pumped into the media by food companies, supplement companies, and well-intentioned fitness professionals, we'd all look like sumo wrestlers!

The missing variable, of course is exercise.
So, while there are lots of great reasons for exercising, THE MOST SIGNIFICANT BENEFIT OF EXERCISE could very well be that it simply allows us to eat more! Most of us love to eat, and a lot of us exercise just so that we can eat more!

Indeed, while it's well documented that exercise alone improves your heart health, reduces stress, and enriches your lifestyle, regular and occasionally intense exercise burns extra calories. And without exercise, most of us would be obese within 6 months if we consumed all of needed food to obtain all of the needed nutrients. Or you could pay thousands of dollars per year on organic supplements, though even the best manufactured nutrients fall far short on nutrient quality when compared to natural food sources. So, we need to eat better and eat more!

Hydration also factors in. Water is the body's primary means of cleansing itself by flushing toxins out the back (bottom) door. Further, proper hydration improves digestive efficiency, reduces blood pressure, and improves the appearance of skin, nails, and hair.

We've all heard the advise to drink 8 glasses of water each day. You know, that's a lot of water! It actually takes conscious effort to consume that much water positioned butt down at your desk. But crank out a few hot cardio intervals, or knock down one of our HEAT programs, or do a few FT Coley lunges, and you'll have 20 ounces through your body before you event think about food! The primary vessel we drive, our bodies, simply requires exercise induced thirst to get in enough fluids on a regular basis.

So, there you have it! Never mind that exercise improves your heart health and reduces the risk of acquiring all types of disease and illness, THE MOST SIGNIFICANT CONTRIBUTION OF EXERCISE IS THAT YOU CAN EAT MORE!

And getting nutrients, from trace minerals to water to protein is critical to your health. We are what we eat.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Fitness Fanatic Approved Fair Foods

The great Minnesota Get Together starts in just a couple of weeks. Feared and Dreaded by trainers across the state since the beginning of time, this single event can cause more damage to a client's otherwise predicable progress than Thanksgiving and Valentine's day COMBINED. 12 days of high fat content food. 12 days of grazing and lazing.

But it doesn't have to be so! We've done some research on the deep fried lard on a stick alternatives, and have found that a trip to the fair can be fun, friendly, and fitness approved.

But before I get into the food tips, let me give you two other pieces of advice for making the fair regret-free to your fitness goals.

First and Foremost, Get your workout in BEFORE you go to the fair. Most venues don't open until 8 or 9AM, so get up early, get that workout in, boost the metabolism going into the battle, and you'll have a few more caloric liberties while your're there.

Secondly, PLAN for riding your bike to the fair. Search for and plan to park by Como and you'll have less than a mile to ride to any of the FREE bike parking lots. You'll still want to bring a lock, but the fully attended corrals will check-in your bike to ensure that everyone leaves with what they brought in. Three Gates host bike corrals:
  • Como-Snelling Gate (#6)
  • Hoyt-Snelling Gate (#2)
  • Commonwealth-West Dan Patch (#15)

Bike Corral Hours: 6 a.m. to midnight daily.

Bicycle corrals are sponsored by Twin City Bike Club.

Visit them online at

As far as food is concerned, my recommendation would be to have a healthy, hearty meal before you go.

BUT, I know a lot of folks flock to the fair simply to enjoy the delicacies, so here are a list of the least damaging choices.

Category 1: Your Trainer will love you

Andres Watermelon

Caribbean Fruit Smoothies

Midwest Dairy Association of Minnesota "All The Milk You Can Drink For $1"

Minnesota Apples

Minnesota State Fair Bottled Water

Orange Treet

St. Martins

Category 2: A few good choices, but not all good

Bayou Bob's Gator Shack (watch the sodium)

Beef Kabobs (kabobs OK, side dishes marginal)

Buffalo Burgers (kabobs OK, side dishes marginal)

Cafe Caribe

Corn Roast (skip the butter)

Demetri's Greek Foods (Salad OK)

Dino's Gyros (Salads OK)

Falafel King (stay away from the fried vegies)

Hawaiian Shaved Ice (go light on the cream & nut toppings)

Jerky Shoppe, The (watch the sodium)

Mini-Kabob (watch the sodium)

Minnesota Buffalo Association, E-18 Judson Ave.

Porkchops and Turkey Legs (Turkey OK; Porkchops not)

Ragin Cajun (peel/eat shrimp or boiled crawfish only)

Smokin' Joe's Smokehouse

Turkey To Go (drumsticks OK)

And that's a LOT of Food. Much of it wouldn't fit into the optimal, heathly diet, but, again, is going to blow your diet LESS than almost anything else you'll find at the fair.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Top 10 Tips for Staying Fit While on Vacation

Summer's here and it's easy to miss or avoid exercise while on 'vacation.'

Just remember though, that your metabolism NEVER quits, and all of those extra calories looking back at you will either be converted into heat through exercise, or land plump on your backside.

It's up to you to decide, and here then are my top 10 tips for maintaining good health while vacationing.
  1. Plan Active Vacations that include hiking, cycling or backpacking. Instead of yet another year inside an air conditioned museum, hike the canyons, paddle the boundary waters, or backpack a national park.
  2. Discuss Exercise with your traveling partner(s) before you hit the road. Which cities and parks will offer exercise opportunities. Plan for exercising at least half of the days you travel.
  3. See sights in new cities by cycling. You'll avoid a lot of auto traffic and get healthier in the process. Bike shops everywhere will rent bikes, and have tips and maps for safe riding in urban areas. Better yet, get a bike rack and take your own bike with you! Stow it in your room at night if you don't have a great rack locking system. We Believe in Bikes.
  4. If you can't bike, then walk. And don't skip the stairs!
  5. Pack active and exercise attire accordingly.
  6. Get a Healthy Breakfast. Plan for a clean, high protein breakfast to start your day night.
  7. Avoid deep fat fried foods. This tip goes for always, but especially if you're traveling, you may be spending half of the calories you would otherwise spend on a normal day, and can NOT afford the extra, heart clogging calories while sedentary.
  8. Eat Clean while in the car. If you're on a road trip impose and enforce a Healthy Foods Only Rule: bottled water, fruit, nuts, and jerky are plenty fine road foods. My favorite convenience store on earth is Kwik Trip. They have cheap bananas, fresh fruit, baby carrots, and great tasting skim milk.
  9. Exercise 1st. If your day includes a planned exercise event, do it first thing in the morning so that all of the uncertainty of travel won't get in the way of your workout later in the day.
  10. Carry your bag or pull a cart if you golf. You'll spend almost 3 times as many calories as you would if you dump your but into a rider.
  11. Stretch. And stretch some more. I am always shocked at how out of place I look when stretching at waysides. EVERYONE should be stretching there. Warm up a bit first with a brisk 5 minute walk, then stretch every muscle group you can find ... twice!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Happy Friday the 13th!

And what a Great Day for Exercise!

I recently read Escape from the Box by Retired USAF Colonel Edward L. Hubbard, who spent six and a half years as a captured prisoner of war in North Vietnam. While a few grisly POW stories are told, Hubbard tells mostly of how, throughout his life, he has personally accomplished and witnessed amazing human accomplishment through pure mental muscle.

Accomplishments like POWs living on a diet of 300 calories per day of rice and boiled weeds completing 300 push ups. And then 660! Six Hundred and Sixty! Unheard of eh? Yea, pretty hard to believe, even for those of us who believe we are fit and healthy. Even for those of us downing 3000 calories per day working with world class physiology knowledge, and state of the art exercise equipment. Wow!

Tapping and utilizing this grossly underestimated human potential is the underlying theme of the book. "The Box" began as the physical 6'x6' concrete Vietnamese cell Hubbard survived, but lives in all of us as the mental schema boundaries keeping us from reaching our true potential.

How apropos, I thought, to be writing this on Friday, the 13th. Most of what Hubbard says deals with eliminating what I call head trash. If you're superstitious, and believe that today is an unlucky day, don't worry, you will successfully find some bad luck! Or maybe bad luck will find you!

Or maybe you're really, really lucky like me, and woke up in the greatest country in the history of the world this morning, and have a free choice to Exercise Today! Plus, my kids just got back from a 3 month trimester in China on Thursday, and they have a free choice to exercise today! And YOU have a free choice to exercise today!

So, no matter what else happens today, it's going to be an outstanding day because we all have a free choice to look better, feel terrific, and reduce the risk of all sorts of diseases (mental and physical) by exercising regularly.

The most important message from Hubbard, in my opinion, is about continuous improvement. Hubbard includes a handy 1"x1" post it note with his book. On it you're supposed to write everything you've ever done that cannot have been improved upon. Once complete (normally blank), you post it onto your bathroom mirror as constant reminder that everything you do - EVERYTHING - can be improved upon in at least some small way.

Task by task, phone call by phone call, workout by workout, and milestone by milestone you make each and every effort of your day just a little bit better than yesterday's. How simple could that be?

So, starting today, I'm going to get a little bit better every day at my exercise frequency, my newsletter quality, my staff development, our program development, our cardiovascular programming, and our marketing.

Happy Friday the 13th! And God Bless America.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Fitness Friday June 6th

What a Great DayFor Exercise!

In fact, until the big drug companies find a way to reduce stress, reduce blood pressure, increase energy, and help you look and feel like a million bucks, they're all great days for exercise!

I'm frequently asked what time of day is best for exercising: morning or afternoon. And the answer is: "Yes." Oh, if you're a completitive athlete looking for improved performance in your sport of choice, you might want to look at your biorythms and glycemic cycles to tap into that marginal advantage, but the bottom line is that for most of us, the best time to exercise is simply when you can.

It's been a great week of exercise for me personally. I race mountain bikes in the summer, so I'm much heavier on cardio this time of they year, and there's nothing like a specific goal with a deadline (race day!) to keep you on track with training. I schedule quarterly one on one meetings with everyone on staff, and was able to ride Afton with Peter last Friday. Afton is easily my favorite metro mountain bike trail with a terrific mix of technical features and challenging climbs. Plus, I plan to race there Sunday, so it was great to refamiliarize myself with the course.

I rode the road bike to the Downtown Club and back on Saturday. I live in Eagan, so it's a nice 40 mile round trip without any excursions. Fortunately, I made it home just minutes before that hail storm started pounding my house - I felt like I was racing the stormclouds all the way home! I rested Sunday, lifted Monday, and played Hockey in Richfield Tuesday and Thursday (terrific for short, spikey zone 5 hot intervals). I planned on resting Wednesday, but the predicted rain never came, and was able to squeeze in a quick lap @ Lebanon Hills on Wednesday. Derrick and I also hit a few range balls yesterday as part of our quarterly 1:1, but I don't actually count that as exercise.

People sometimes look at us like we're crazy when we tell them that to make progress with their fitness levels, and in particular, to make progress loosing bodyfat requirs 90 minutes of moderate to intense exercise 3 or 4 days per week. I'm personally looking to loose 5# by August (I race faster), and I trained 5 days this week. Volume matters.

Think about what your goals are this week, this month, and this year. Are you getting the volume needed to make progress? In checking the schedule this morning, we are at roughly 48% capacity in all three studios, so we should have room for ya!

In Good Health,


P.S. You may have heard that we have a Spring Referral Contest underway. Detains are on our website, but you get 10 Free Sessions for every referral who signs up for FT training! And, a chance to win a new Trek bike with each referral! Contest ends June 22nd, so the deadline is near!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

6 Secrets to Successful Cyclist Commuting

May is National Bike Month and Bike to Work Week is May 12 - May 16.

Biking to work will save you some gas money, reduce greenhouse gases, and help get you a bit more fit all at once!

So, Here are my 6 Secrets to Successful Cyclist Commuting on your bike here in the Twin Cities:

1. The right Gear. You don't need to spend thousands on a bike or clothing, but you do need to have a well maintained bike and layered clothing. Go to your local bike shop to get set up (NOT Walmart or Sams). If you end up riding a lot (3+ days per week), you would do well to get fit for your bike - bike shop specialists match the geometry of the bike to the dimensions of your torso, arms, and legs. The basics will do to get started, but if you do spend extra, spend it on rain gear: you will get caught in the rain at some point in your commuter lifetime, and being prepared to ride in the rain will help keep you in the saddle.

Additionally, despite the highly enviable fashion appeal of bright, multi-colored jerseys, most cyclists really are not pretending to be from the Tour de France: they're simply trying to BE SEEN and stay healthy on the roadways. And you should too. As it turns out, the best materials and workmanship normally do get tattooed with logos and sponsor graffiti (which helps pay for the garments), so they are indeed popular with experienced cyclists. What's important is that you own something very brightly colored to be seen on the road.

2. The right route. Planning a route is essential. You will discover and appreciate roads and neighborhoods cycling to work that you would otherwise never see, but some planning is required. Your local bike shop will have local maps for commuters. First look for routes that overpass freeways where auto traffic does not interchange with the freeway, and plan the rest of your commute around those: the most dangerous part of any commute is crossing a freeway where cars and trucks are accelerating into merge lanes to jump onto the freeway. Mornings tend to be better than evenings, but you will want to avoid freeway interchanges. Bike pathways, bike lanes, and other wide avenues are normally well marked on local bike maps, but you will sometimes find residential street routes just as bike friendly.

Plan on trying a few different options: you'll need to experiment a bit to discover the best places to cross arterial roads, avoid traffic, avoid traffic lights, and feel separated from or safe with auto and truck traffic.

3. The Right Backup Plan. Perhaps most important of all - have a Plan B. Identify service organizations (coffee shops, convenience stores) along or near the route that might come in handy if you have a breakdown, get caught in a storm, or need to rehydrate. If you carry a cell phone you can always call a cab for a ride, but beware that you will need a physical street address for a pickup ... "The Park by the river bend" will not work.

4. The right light. Lengthy Minnesota days are a true delight for cyclists. Mid summer you can start as early as 5:45AM and finish as late as 9:00 PM without the need serious lighting. For these hours, all you'll need is a $25 flashing headlight and a $25 flashing tail light. Buy and use these if you're riding before 8:00AM or after 7:00PM. While you may not notice any light from them, twilight hours, shadows, and sun glare make seeing cyclists difficult for motorists when the sun is low on the horizon. You'll need a more expensive halogen system if you ride earlier or later, and as daylight diminishes towards fall.

5. A change of clothes. Plan to sweat a bit, especially in humid summer conditions. You have two choices: you can either carry a pack, or bring a change of clothes to your office the day (or days) before your ride. Supply your office with soap and sundries if you are privileged enough to work for an employer who has a shower and locker room. Stock it with a supply of pre-moistened handy wipes if not. HOT TIP! If you don't mind smelling a bit like baby powder, baby butt wipes do a fabulous job of cleaning the crevices and deodorizing after a ride.

6. The right place for your Bike. Many offices and office building have bike racks for daytime storage. It's plenty safe to leave your bike there if it is a well lit area with plenty of foot traffic. If it's secluded, however, or in a bad neighborhood, or if you have a really, really nice bike, or if you simply want everyone in your office to know that you are riding your bike to work (it is contiguous!), you may prefer to stow it in your office or someplace nearby. In 25 years of riding to work, I've never been denied access to my office with my bike. You may get some curious looks and a few raised eyebrows, but no one will tell you that you can't bring your bike in the building. It is sometimes more convenient and less conspicuous to take the freight elevator or service entrance to avoid other workers arriving before you clean up and change. Mingling with coworkers in biker shorts can be awkward.

So there you have it! Enough to get started! Drop me a line if you have questions, or subscribe to our quarterly newsletter if you would like to get even more Minnesota health and fitness tips.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Establishing a Corporate Fitness Culture

Time magazine ran a story a couple of weeks ago on "Mandatory Fitness" programs being implemented at various organizations around the world. According to the article, “… eighty four percent of Americans said that they’d get healthier … if (only) the boss insisted.” So, at a few leading companies, the boss is now insisting: Verizon, Microsoft, and Dow Chemical, among others are now actually offering cash bonuses for loosing weight.

The Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) lab at Mayo Clinic developed a computer station atop a treadmill few years ago to get office workers more active within otherwise sedentary office roles. Office furniture maker Steelcasetm is manufacturing and marketing it commercially. As Upsize reported in March, Salo, LLC has a few of them onsite here in Minneapolis.

These seemingly far reaching efforts are in response to an increasingly troubling obesity epidemic that isn’t going to be easy to fix. I personally very strongly favor a Fat Tax on high fat content foods, and passionately contend that Fitness Related Discrimination has long been practiced in hiring and promoting.

The Center for Disease Control reports that nearly 60% of all adult Americans are either overweight (BMI > 25) or obese (BMI > 30). With health care costs increasing 15% annually, something has to give.

While cash based incentives for loosing weight, and office worker gerbil wheels could be great options for some organizations, I’m here to offer a few more options on how small businesses can get their organizations more fit.

Not unexpectedly, corporate fitness is actually more culture than programming. As with all corporate cultures, it all starts from the top. If your leadership buys in and behaves accordingly, culture is created and nourished.

Indeed, the data is overwhelming in favor of exercise programs. Employees are more productive, more energetic, use less sick time, look better, feel better, have improved self esteem, have reduced stress, reduce the risk of many diseases, reduce anxiety, have reduced blood pressure, avoid depression, and, by being healthier, will help directly improve your bottom line by utilizing ‘health care’ services less frequently, thereby reducing your usage rating and health care premium costs. In short, everyone is more productive and more valuable to an organization when they exercise regularly.

Fit people walk more quickly to meetings, can take a flight of stairs to avoid elevator congestion, and spend less time in the restroom. They’re also more likable, and make better sales people (Cialdini, Robert B., Influence, The Psychology of Persuasion).

One of the more frequent excuses we get from clients is that they "don't have time" to regularly exercise 3 or 4 days per week. Ladies and gentlemen, if you're serious about your career, your business, your family, or your spouse, you simply CANNOT AFFORD NOT TO exercise regularly.

So, since the 1st step is getting the boss moving in the right direction, here are my Top 5 tips for Corporate Executives:

1. Schedule exercise into your calendar, and don’t move it unless there’s a death in the family. Make your exercise appointment the most immutable appointment of the day.
2. Be accountable to someone. It helps if you have a personal trainer waiting on (and charging) you for the appointment whether you show up or not, but it is also helpful to have a training buddy/partner. You’re much more likely to show up when you know someone is waiting for you.
3. Establish, write down, and publish a very specific health lifestyle goal for the next 3 months. These are things like: exercise for 90 minutes 3 times per week; or walk for 60 minutes 6 days per week; or make every scheduled exercise appointment. Lifestyle Changes.
4. Establish, write down, and public a very specific, Non-Appearance related fitness goals for the next 6 weeks. While the body will certainly undergo composition changes with regular exercise, the initial 6 weeks should focus entirely on strength or endurance measurements: doubling your pushups; or completing 40 sit-ups within one minute; or completing a mile run in under 8 minutes. Don’t worry about the bodyweight or body fat at all just yet.
5. Update your Corporate Values, Behaviors, and Ethics document to include the statement: Regular Exercise is a fundamental and necessary element of heath and happiness, and improves professional productivity.

10 More things that corporate leadership can do to encourage a better health and fitness culture within their organizations:

1. Encourage and allow a 10-minute walking break every two hours. Not only will this burn a few calories, but it will energize and refresh the body and mind.
2. Stock Fresh Fruit in your break room and lobby (Kwik Trip bananas just 29 cents/lb.).
3. Strongly discourage staff from bringing in cookies and candies. They’ll just clog your heart and/or stick to your rear anyway.
4. Grant allowances for exercise. Corporations won’t hesitate much when a parent dashes off to rescue their child from daycare at the end of the day. Neither should they question employees who dash off to keep their exercise appointments.
5. Install a shower and changing room at your office bike commuters, and midday runners & walkers .
6. Make sure bike commuters have a safe, indoor place to store their equipment (bikes, helmets, gear); (See my June 21, 2007 Blog entry for more ways to get employees started with bicycle commuting)
7. Offer cash compensation to employees who commute by bike and save you parking expenses
8. Stage regular, monthly Health and Fitness Seminars with key expertise on getting more fit and healthy
9. Sponsor a Get Fit Month twice annually, complete with awards and recognition for people who most effectively change their lives in positive ways
10. Do it now! Having helped thousands of individuals improve their health and fitness over the decades, I can honestly tell you that the hardest part is just getting started!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Fitness Feng Shui

Fitness Feng Shui

By Randy Zarecki, BS, ACPT, NASM, ASCM

I remember reading about the winner of a mountain bike race being of a higher level of fitness than his competitors a few years back. I’ve also often wondered why Health and Fitness are sometimes combined, as in Health Fitness, yet are, at other times, separated, as in Health and Fitness. Then there’s Functional Fitness, Personal Fitness Training, Fitness Programs, Fitness Tips, and so on.

Quite clearly fitness is a highly overloaded term meaning many different things to different people. So, it seemed appropriate to coin the phrase Fitness Feng Shui to define just what fitness should mean within the context of a holistic approach to life and well-being.

Fitness Feng Shui is as much an art as it is a science. While intimately rooted in physical elements like how you look, and how you feel, or how strong you are, it is as much a state of mind as anything else. While you can measure muscular strength, muscular endurance, body composition, cardiovascular condition, and flexibility, Fitness Feng Shui is an attitude … a lifestyle … and a way of living an enriched and enhanced life through regular exercise.

Fitness Feng Shui is a very powerful tool to keep in your life enhancing bag of tricks! Improving how you look can improve your self-esteem, increase your confidence, and, in many cases, open doors that might not otherwise exist. Maintaining a healthy bodyweight with reduced levels of body fat dramatically reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, and many forms of cancer. You can reduce your blood pressure, reduce stress, sleep better, and have better sex with Fitness Feng Shui.

Indeed Fitness Feng Shui is a fundamental element of health and happiness.

Lifestyle Elements:

Fitness Feng Shui is also more of a journey than it is a destination. It’s definitely a state of body, but perhaps even more so, it is a state of mind. It’s about how you think about exercise and fitness: how you plan your week; activity choices you make at home; and how you spend your vacations.

Exercise needs to be scheduled into all of our busy lives, and that exercise appointment with yourself needs to be the most permanent, immovable appointment of your day!

Exercise Elements

The exercise element of Fitness Feng Shui, while elusive to adopt, is straightforward enough. It includes a healthy balance of strength training, cardiovascular exercise, stretching, proper nutrition, and sufficient recovery.

Observation of the exercise community reveals that most of us tend to lean more heavily on one element or another. Runners run run run, and have enhanced cardiovascular systems, but very little muscular strength. Cyclists, notwithstanding the mountain bike race winner mentioned above, do a bit better with enhanced lower body muscular strength development, but tend to have disproportionately smaller and weaker upper bodies.

On the flip side, bodybuilders and other ‘gym rats’ often neglect cardiovascular training, and frequently have very low cardiovascular fitness levels. Yoga students can develop terrific flexibility, but can lack muscular strength and cardiovascular fitness levels.

Fitness Feng Shui then, is the proper combination of cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and stretching. But just how much of each is appropriate?

Stretching is something that should be a daily activity. It assists in keeping good skeletal alignment, improved posture, and reduces exercise induced muscular recovery time. It could include a yoga or tai chi session, but doesn’t need to. A highly focused 15 minutes of stretching each morning or evening can be sufficient for most individuals.

Strength training is something that should be performed 2 to 4 times per week. Strength training increases bone density, stabilizes the joints with stronger tendons & ligaments, and enables a more active lifestyle. Focus on large muscle group, and compound exercises that incorporate multiple muscle groups for a highly efficient strength training workout. Always spend a minimum of 10 minutes warming up with some low to moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise, as well as a minimum of 10 minutes warming down after your workout to help flush lactic acid (a byproduct of exercise) from the muscle tissues. A proper warm down also helps begin the recovery phase so that you’re refreshed for your next exercise day.

If you are new to strength training, do seek the advice of a professional. Proper body position, breathing, resistances, and appropriate repetitions can vary significantly from individual to individual. Don’t get injured or struggle with making progress.

You should complete some form of cardiovascular exercise 3 to 5 days per week. Total cardiovascular exercise volume and intensity will be varied on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis to safely, effectively, and permanently reach Fitness Feng Shui.

Heart Rate is used almost exclusively for cardiovascular training programs. Heart Rate, the term, is rather self explanatory ... it is quite simply the frequency with which your heart beats, usually expressed in beats per minute (BPM). The fastest it will ever beat is your maximal heart rate. Maximum Heart Rate (MaxHR) is completely dependent on age and hereditary factors - you simply cannot change it with training.

Heart rate zones are ranges of heart beat rates where the heart, lungs, and circulatory systems convert energy sources to energy uniquely within each range. Between your Maximum Heart Rate (MaxHR) and Ambient Heart Rate (see Heart Rate Zone Training to Look and Feel Fantastic for Definitions) are four (or five or seven, depending on who you ask) heart rate zones. For our purposes ... to reduce your risk of developing heart disease, reduce stress, reduce body fat, and preserve lean body mass, we use 5 zones in our Prescribed Cardiovascular ProgrammingTM Model.
The challenge with Prescribed Cardiovascular Programming is threefold:
1. Volume (time) needs to be defined and managed to make progress, and burn calories without overtraining;
2. Intensity needs to be sufficiently high to train elevated Heart Rate Zones, yet brief and/or low enough to prevent catabolism (the unfortunate use of lean body mass as an energy source); and
3. Volumes and Intensities need to be adjusted for fitness level, gender, and age

The next best thing to following FT’s Prescribed Cardiovascular Programming is to read, understand, and follow the recommendations in my Heart Rate Zone Training to Look and Feel Fantastic report. But if you merely want some simple guidelines for what a reasonable cardiovascular program should look like, here you are!
Use a Relative Perceived Exertion (RPE) to define Intensity as follows:
10 = The Hardest Thing you’ve ever done and you must stop exercising immediately;
9 = A very, very difficult level, but something you can continue to do for a few seconds;
8= A very difficult exercise level, but something you can continue to do for a few minutes; and
7 = A Somewhat Difficult exercise level, but something you could continue to do for an hour

Each Week, your total Cardiovascular Program should Include:
One or Two Easy, but Longer Duration cardiovascular events: spend 45 to 60 minutes at Level 7
Two Moderately Difficult and Moderately Lengthy Cardio Events: Maintain, alternatively Level 7 and Level 8 intensities between 35 and 45 minutes. Total effort in the Level 8 range should be no more than 10% of the total exercise time. These are rolling hills kinds of things – gradual, slow increases in intensity with longer periods of time in Level 7 in between for ‘rest & recovery’
One day per week you should complete a Shorter Duration, High Intensity effort of about 30 minutes. 60% of the exercise should be Level 7, 15% of the time should be spent at Level 8 Intensity; and 1-3% of the effort at Level 9. These are ‘spikey’, very high intensity exercise bouts like 30 or 60 second all-out sprints or steep hill short hill climbs followed by a rest interval. They should be briefly painful, but not agonizing. Pain Good. Suffering Bad.


No discussion of Fitness Feng Shui would be complete without guidance on recovery. Indeed, what separates weekend warrior athletes from world class athletes is our body’s genetic ability to recover from exercise. World class athletes simply recover more quickly than the rest of us, enabling them to exercise more frequently and more intensely to achieve even greater levels of fitness.

For the rest of us, use performance and pain as your guide. If you’re having an off day on the bike, or a weak day with the weights it’s either because you’re training too hard or not training hard enough. And more often than not, it’s the latter.

Continue to stretch daily, but reduce your strength training from 4 to 3, or 3 to 2 days per week if you’re feeling week. Or, reduce your cardio efforts from 5 to 4 or 3 days per week if steady improvements aren’t made.

Again, if in doubt, check with a Fitness Professional for true Fitness Feng Shui, for "... when the body is fit, the mind will sing!"

Sunday, February 10, 2008

9 Ways to Breath January Enthusiasm into your Winter Workout!

If you're like the millions of Americans who have just begun fitness programs this month, you're probably: (a) beginning to become a bit annoyed with the crowds in the gym this time of year; (b) aren't seeing noticeable results after 6 weeks of hard work; and (c) are beginning to wonder if you're in the right place doing the right thing.

It happens every year. Bar none. But fear not! The good news is that things do settle down considerably in February (then pick up a bit before the Spring break mini-rush), and there are hundreds of ways to keep that early January Flame for Fitness burning hot. That's right, I'm about to share with you my 9 favorite tips, tricks, and time hardened techniques to reignite that New Year's Resolution spirit!

See, while my business card states B.S. and Advanced Certified Personal Trainer, and while I do improve lives and enrich livestyles with 1 on 1 personal training conducted in fully equipped private studios, I'm really just a gym rat. Bu not any old gym rat. Nope. This gym rat has been in and out of over 60 clubs in 10 states and 3 countries over the past 25 years. I've helped hundreds of people reach health and fitness goals beyond imagination, and I'm about to share with you my 9 favorite tips for adding some adrenaline to your quickly fading New Year's expectations. I'm about to reveal to you exactly how to pump new blood into your tired program ... to re-establish the passion to pack a few inches onto the pipes, unveil that hidden abdominal washboard, or to improve your self image beyond anything imaginable! But before I do, let me say that you can receive even more valuable health and fitness information by subscribing to my quarterly newsletter. You can simply click on the Newsletter Link on my web site. Or, if you're genuinely committed to changing your life forever, just call me at the club (612.378.8898 in NorEast Mpls or 651.699.9955 in Highland Park) to schedule an Initial Consultation and Personal Training Session.

But, without further ado, here are my 9 secrets to recharging your fitness routine in mid Winter ...

Secret #1: Get a Grip!

Changing how you grasp a bar can dramatically alter the kinetics of a resistance exercise, and create exciting new interest in upper body pushing and pulling exercises. I also frequently find that people with joint ailments (the rotator cuff in the shoulder in particular) can avoid impingement and discomfort by experimenting with grip adjustments.

Alter the width of where you grasp a bar, the rotation of your wrists (palms up or down), or change the bar entirely. A Traditional grip is palms-facing-down when your hands are extended on a plane in front of your eyes. Change your routine by continuing to use a traditional bar grip, but vary the distance of where your hands grasp the bar to recruit additional or different muscle fiber groups. Two or three inches narrower or wider are usually sufficient. Try varied grip widths for chest, triceps, and shoulder presses to effectively train muscle groups on range of motion boundaries not normally recruited with a 'monotonous' grip position.

A Reverse Grip is palms-facing-UP when your hands are extended on a plane in front of your eyes. While reverse grip triceps pushdowns or Arnold presses will spice up your Chest/Tris/Delt (pressing) routines, you actually have a lot more options with using a reverse grip for Back/Trap/Delt/Bis (pulling) exercises. Try using a reverse grip for lat pull downs, seated pulley rows, supported T bar rows, and single arm movements of the same.

Selecting a different bar or cable attachment can also introduce variety into an otherwise mundane program. Experiment with straight, cambered , EZ curl, V-shaped, and rope attachments for arm exercises. Choose between straight, cambered, wide grip lat, wide grip cambered, and bent lat bars for back & traps.

Use your modified grip (or bar choice) consistently for a minimum of 2 to 4 weeks, then try another one! But don't switch more frequently than that: the initial adaptations from a varied grip will be neurologic: the muscle strength & fiber growth you're looking for occurs only after primary neurologic adaptations are complete, so don't switch too often!

Once critical piece of advice here: if you are unsure of the proper movement, or the safety of the exercise, DO consult with a fitness expert before experimenting. Modifying grip and bar choice changes joint rotations that can be unsafe for the uneducated.

Secret #2: Be Promiscuous

Hey, it's OK ... it's just a workout! But you'd be surprised and amazed with how much fun, exciting, and refreshing training with a new partner or trainer can be! And effective! Here's a bonus a tip for you: training with a partner or trainer is one of the true key elements to reaching heath and fitness goals you never before thought possible. Knowing that someone is expecting you to show up for a workout - someone who will hold you personally accountable for making it to that fitness appointment dramatically improves the likelihood that you will actually show up! Having someone help you with a few forced reps, and assist with some negative repetitions not only increases the safety of your workout, but increases the intensity as well. Plus, you can motivate each other to improve your diets. Healthy fitness habits are contagious!

If you've been with a partner or trainer for more than 6 months, try making a change for a while. If you like your partner current partner/trainer, try forming a small club of 'workout buddies'' and rotate through the group periodically. Not only will you make new friends, but you'll grow if only through a handful of favorite tips, tricks, and techniques we've all collected over time. More likely, however, is that you'll also change the tempo, repetition rate, sequence of exercises, and content of your split routines. All of this puts your body at a high state of 'nervousness' which encourages neurologic adaptations required for increased muscle group recruitment. Especially with today's hectic schedules, you can never have too many workout buddies, and some of the best workouts I've ever had have been 'reunion' workouts with former partners from high school and college.

Oh, and one more thing ... I strongly recommend AGAINST training with your significant other/partner. Your workout needs to be free from the baggage and agenda from S.O. relationships if you truly want results. Get serious.

Secret #3: Know and Feel your Pain

Herb Brooks was right: " must grow through pain." Realize first, however, that not all pain is good!

Being able to understand, recognized, and differentiate good pain from bad pain is a key element in making consistent progress towards your fitness goals. The burning sensation felt from fully exhausted muscle groups is due to the accumulation of a waste product known as lactic acid. Excessive lactic acid buildup is also responsible for muscle soreness after your workout. Generally speaking, it is a good pain giving you reassurance that you've recruited otherwise inactive muscle groups and have trained them to momentary exhaustion. Evenso, training muscle groups to exhaustion with high intensity exercises should be moderated to avoid overtraining. Especially when you're in or beyond your 40's. Plan to train to train each bodypart to complete exhaustion (and feel the burn that comes with it) no more than once per week.

The burning feedback from lactic acid is much different from that which you feel when joints, tendons, and ligaments are strained. Especially as you hit the mid years of your life, not all pain is equal, so learn to differentiate the good from bad. Pursue active rest to reduce lactic acid buildup,but completely rest when you have an injury. If in doubt, check with a trusted fitness expert or your doctor.

Secret #4: Have a Ball!

A medicine ball, that is. They're inexpensive (less than $20 each), and can introduce new fun into an otherwise tiring routine! Did you know that medicine balls have been used in in physical therapy since 1000 BC! Sizes and shapes vary from 1 Kg to 11KG, but all medicine balls will be soft enough to bounce on a firm surface (like a wall or floor). Indeed, it's ability to absorb impact is what makes a ball a medicine ball. Most balls with come with brief instruction guides for things to try. A few of my favorites are:
Walking diagonal lunges with a gentle hand to hand shot-put-like overhead toss (glutes deltoids, balance);

Explosive seated overhead throw and catch against a flat wall (lats, abs),
Sit-up and overhead throw to partner/trainer (abs, lats);
Explosive squat position basketball chest pass against a wall (gluts, delts, tris);
Russian Twist – on the floor, balance on your butt with feet and torso lifted off the floor and rotate ball in a twisting motion (abs, obliques); and
Overhead karate-type chops; while standing w/ feet shoulder width apart and an only slightly bent leg, accelerate the ball both upward and downward for core development.
And if you think training with a medicine ball is for wusses, try a few single arm supported dumbbell rows: support yourself in a plank-like position atop of the ball with one fully extended arm while grasping a very light dumbbell in the other. Balance on the ball with the extended arm while knocking out a few single arm dumbbell rows. You'll train Tris, Delts, Pecs, Core, Traps, and Lumbar with just this one exercise.

And if you're truly at an advanced fitness level without any lower back ailments, try some of what I call offset med ball pass pushups. Assume a normal pushup position, but with one hand atop of a smallish (3 K) med ball. The fact that you'll have one shoulder naturally higher in this position (being over the ball) makes it an 'offset.' In a single explosive move, execute a accelerated pushup by pushing simultaneously against both the floor and the ball. At the top of the movement (you'll need a bit of 'hang time' here) roll the ball from the hand with it towards the hand without it, and control it under the new hand as you recover from the pushup ... then recede to the floor. Repeat for 25 and you, my friend, can call yourself king/queen of the gym!

Secret #5: Get Roped!

One of the most effective cable attachments ever invented is the rope attachment. Part of what makes it so effective is that the flexibility of the rope allows the exercise range of motion to follow a more natural joint motion than any fixed bar ever could. Use the rope attachment for:
Split triceps pushdowns from a pull down pulley
Single Arm triceps pushdowns ... try grabbing both rope ends, or just one;
Split biceps curls from a seated row pulley
Single Arm biceps curls
Seated Crunches from a pull down machine
Unfortunately, rope attachment 'evolutions' have actually reduced it's effectiveness in some ways. Back in the 80s we simply threaded heavyweight marine mooring through the eyelet of the cable buckle. While crude, it required that you both: 1) establish a firm grip on each end; AND 2) manage balance between the ends of the rope to prevent slippage through the buckle. Today's rope attachments normally have huge knots on each end and a fixed buckle in the middle. While still effective in providing quality and gentle joint kinetics, the grip and balance benefits of a free, unknotted rope have been forgotten. Not to worry though ... you can simply thread a hand towel through the attachment buckle for a similar enough effect!

One thing to note about ropes attachments, however: unlike it's metallic cousins, it will absorb and hold moisture and bacteria from your gym brethren, so be sure to wash your hands immediately after your workout to leave the fungus at the gym!

Secret #6: Do Some Speed.

No, not the junk that trashes your nervous system, wrecks havoc on your digestive system, and will ultimately demolish your ultimate goal of fitness fung shui. Drugs are for losers who haven't yet realized that health and fitness is a journey, not a destination. Consistency, balance, and commitment are required for maintaining an active, healthy lifestyle. The speed I'm talking about is repetition speed. Most of us settle into a pattern with exercise motion ... typically completing the up (concentric) motion in a second and down (eccentric) motion in another second. For interesting variety, and a change of pace start varying both!

Many of these variations are regularly incorporated into training programs for specific sport performance, called training specificities. Try exploding with an accelerated motion when doing barbell squats ... something football teams traditionally use to develop power and strength. The energy systems utilized and the adaptations that result can be highly effective in stimulating balance, control, power, and strength. It also burns a lot of calories!

Try lengthening the down (eccentric) motion of pushing and pulling by a considerable amount ... like 3 seconds down on the bench press or 4 seconds up on a lat pull down. These 'negative' repetitions allow you to control a resistance greater than you would otherwise be able to control on the up (concentric) motion so you'll recruit additional muscle fiber groups for the exercise. Muscle fiber group recruitment, you'll remember from a recent newsletter article, is ultimately what's required to completely fatigue a body part.

Secret #7: Change Tempo

Pick one workout per week, and complete it in half the time you'd normally take. This will be a workout to train at the highest levels of intensity, but only for a brief workout. Complete a proper warm-up PLUS 5 minutes just above your anaerobic threshold. Use the same repetition pace, but reduce the resistance on each set by 25%, and reduce the between set rest by 50%. Exercise to near exhaustion on each set and to complete muscle failure on only the final set of each body part. Pick another workout the following week and continue for many weeks as it takes to complete this "Short Intense" workout for each of your workouts (e.g., if you currently have a 3 way body part split program you'll need 3 weeks to cycle through the rotation). Complete a 15 minute HR Zone 2 cool down. (see my "Heart Rate Zone Training to Look and Feel Fantastic" report for more info on HR Zone 2)

Once you've hit every body part with this routine, go back and do it again, but this time, plan to complete one each week in twice the time it would normally take. This will be a workout to train muscular endurance and improve tendon and ligament durability. You can skip the cardio equipment entirely this time ... with lighter resistances, higher repetitions, and (he he he) no rest between sets, you can warm-up within the workout. Once again, use the same repetition pace, but reduce your resistances by 30%-40% and increase repetitions by 50%. Completely eliminate between set rest, and double the total number of sets. Drink 10 to 20 ounces of water per hour, and feed yourself a few dozen grams of carbohydrates and 10 grams of protein at about an hour (this workout should be longer than 2 hours). Complete NO set to complete failure, and only to near exhaustion on the last set or two per body part. 10 minute cool down. Repeat for your other workouts the following weeks.

Once complete, you will have 60% more workouts to pick and choose from - not only body part specific workouts, but tempo specificworkouts as well! I like to follow the short-but-intense workouts when I'm really strapped for time. Choose the longer, but lower intensity workouts if you have a lot of muscle soreness, or are feeling the effects of a cold or flu.

Secret #8: Pick One Fitness Goal this Month

Physical Fitness includes many things, including: Cardiovascular Condition; Muscular Strength; Muscular Endurance; Flexibility; and Body Composition, which includes body fat. Most people are primarily interested in improving body composition. Indeed, this is an admirable goal - fully 65% of Americans are either overweight or obese! Wow! What most people don't realize, however, is that the most direct path to reducing body fat is usually found through initially improving the less interesting goals of improved Cardiovascular Condition, Muscular Strength, or Muscular Endurance.

Improving Muscular Strength and Muscular Endurance, combined with sufficient protein intake, increases lean body mass. And each ounce of additional lean body mass is living, 'breathing', calorie-consuming muscle fiber. Increased strength not only allows you to move more weight and burn more calories when you workout, but the additional lean body mass will also consume more calories when you're at rest. You can think of muscle tissue as your primary fat 'burning' facility. The more muscle you have, the more fat you can burn!

Improving Cardiovascular Condition helps both establish a consistent pattern of aerobic exercise, and lays the foundation for more intense cardio training to follow. Independent of the minimum 10 minute warmup and 10 minute cool down required prior to and following your strength training efforts, you should also be completing an additional 30-45 minutes of cardiovascular exercise 3 times per week.

With all of this in mind, you're probably now better understanding the earlier statement about fitness being a journey and not an end! Just as you expect to improve upon your personal, financial, and professional goals throughout your life, so to should you expect to consistently and perpetually improve upon your fitness position. So, make it easy on yourself and pick one and only one fitness goal to work on this month! If you haven't been getting the cardio in, make that job #1.

Or take a strength or muscular endurance at the beginning of the month and then again at the end of the month. Record the percentage improvement. Check with your personal trainer if unsure of proper testing techniques.

Next month, pick and focus on a different individual fitness element! In a few months, you'll discover that not only has your body composition improved along the way, but you'll also have a more complete appreciation of another of how a balanced fitness program keeps you motivated month after month, and year after year. Getting and remaining fit is a means to a healthier, happier life, not an end.

Secret #9: Put it On the Line!

And speaking of motivation ... one of the best and most natural motivators in life is the spirit of competition! Having a concrete, time bound competitive event to work towards is one of the most effective ways to keep you on your program! Generally speaking, the more expensive and more highly publicized, the better! Do you really, really, really want rock hard six pack abs and buns of steel? Seek out and enter a physique competition.

Having a hard time getting your cardio work done? Search for and enter a 10K run, or a short mountain bike race, or adventure race. Find something with an entry fee of greater than $50 (just high enough to bother you if you don't show) and tell as many of your friends and family about the event as possible. Because nothing will keep you motivated, help you push through those last few burning reps, or pound out that final 200 foot climb like knowing that you're putting it all on the line in front of your own personal audience 3 weeks from Sunday. It works.

Afraid of crowds? Make it personal. Find a friend, family member, training partner, or trainer and place a bet. Pick a specific, or small collection of fitness elements ... resting heart rate, body fat measurement, total pushups in 1 minute, sub max predicted bench press ... (whatever you like!) ... and a testing date 4 weeks from now. Place $50 each into an escrow account somewhere. Winner takes all on test date. This works too. I've seen people work their butts off (literally!) for bragging rights and a t-shirt!
So there you have it - 9 ways to re-invigorate your Winter Workout!
I realize that maintaining a productive and effective health and fitness program is not easy. That’s why I encourage you to get help.

If you’re sick, you go to the doctor. If you’ve got a tax problem, you see an accountant (or an attorney!). Have a toothache? You’re off to the dentist. Leaky pipes result in a call to the plumber. So why is it that so many people attempt to solve their health and fitness problems without consulting an expert? I don’t know exactly, but I encourage you to make the investment in yourself – in your quality of life – by hiring a qualified professional to educate you and help you get the most out of your valuable fitness appointments.

If I can be of any assistance to you, please don’t hesitate to call me. I’m happy to speak with you and give you my recommendations without any sales pressure (I hate it when people try to “sell” me, so I wouldn't try that on you.

Please visit our web site at or call my office at 612.378.8898 in NE Mpls or 651.699.9955 in STP or 612.822.3448 in Uptown to initiate your subscription to my free health and fitness newsletter or to obtain any additional information you may need.

Yours in good health,

Randy Zarecki,
Speaker, Author, Frequent Kare-11 Today Show Fitness Guest, and Advanced Certified Personal Trainer Specializing in Mid Life Fitness Programming

314 East Hennepin Ave. Minneapolis; 612.378.8898
soon moving to: 1024 Washington Ave. S.
2112A Ford Parkway, St. Paul MN 55116 (Highland Park); 651.699.9955
1221 W. Lake St., Mpls, MN 612.822.3448

P.S. If you are interested in getting started immediately, I have taken the liberty of including a valuable certificate entitling you to my guaranteed results Fitness Jump-Start Training Program (you save $170). This special offer is only good until February 28th only, so please don’t delay. Call my office today to schedule your 1st Session!
Bring a training buddy (spouse, friend or family member) and he or she can take advantage of the same special offer!

P.P.P. S. Here are a few comments from a few of my many satisfied clients:

"Working with FT has been good medicine for my soul as well as a health benefit. What was once buried beneath two pregnancies worth of gain, loss and stretch is now muscle tone and strength that seems to have magically reappeared from my youth ... and them some!" - Stacey

“ I’ve dropped 2 pant sizes, increased energy levels, and saw measurable strength gains in the 1st three weeks of my Fitness Together program.”
- Joanne

"Since starting at Fitness Together, I have rediscovered what it feels like to be fit, energetic, and healthy." - Jim

"I have lost almost 40 pounds in 4 months and it all seems to have gone by so quickly since it is fun to come there and work out." - Pauline

"I highly recommend FT to anyone who is serious about making a change in her life; they are true professionals who will keep you focused on your goals and challenged each session in a personable and fun environment." - Liliana

This certificate entitles you to 3 one-on-one personal training sessions for only $209 using our Fitness Jump-Start Training Program. That’s a savings of $170!
To take advantage of this special offer, bring this certificate with you to your first session.

314 East Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis, 612.378.8898
Moving to: 1024 Washington Ave. S.!
2112A Ford Pkwy, St. Paul, 651.699.9955
1221 W. Lake St., Mpls 612.822.3448

Good Through 2/28/8 Only

Monday, January 21, 2008

Top 10 Tips for Making through January Gym Jams

It happens every year. One of the top New Year's Resolutions year in and year out is getting fit and living healthier. Tens of Thousands of Resolve Resolutes join gyms to make it happen. Most of them will be gone by March, but they're here now, and cannot be neglected. Here then, are my 10 top tips for making your workouts effective within the present river of resolutes.

  1. Go Early. Way early. Particularly on the weekends, traffic in the bigger, busier fitness centers doesn't really get annoying until after 9:00AM
  2. Plan for working bodyparts instead of specific exercises. You will regularly bump into unexpected contention for equipment as you navigate through your workout. Make lemonade out of lemons by training the same bodyparts on new/different equipment rather than wasting time waiting around for your 'regular' equipment to free up.
  3. Give your self a bit of extra time to deal with diversion & distractions. More people and less equipment availability will mean more 'hunting' time than normal. Add an extra 10 minutes of time to your workout to handle the unexpected.
  4. Exercise by proximity. As you are finishing up with an exercise, don't look further than you can throw your towel for the next piece. Chance are, if you need to walk more than 50 steps to get to your next exercise, it will be gone by the time you get there.
  5. Don't go too far from your equipment. Be sure to leave a towel & water bottle on your equipment to help mark territory.
  6. Turn around slowly, and always look before turning. Neophytes are unpredictable and carry bars, plates, and dumbbells in unimaginable ways. Save yourself a headache and look before moving.
  7. Perform large and multiple muscle group exercises. They burn more calories and can better optimize your workout time by hitting more muscle tissue. Additionally, they tend to be among the least used pieces of equipment in the gym. Examples here are good old fashioned flat bench bench presses; barbell squats; and Barbell Rows.
  8. Plan to do some cardio both at the start of and at the end of your workout. The warmup and warmdown are both important by themselves, but in planning for two cardio events you'll double your chances of getting the equipment you prefer.
  9. Don't expect that loaded bars are being used. Gym newbies are notorious for leaving bars loaded even after long abandoned. If you see equipment that appears to be abandoned, it probably is. Stand nearby your potential find, and look in 360 degrees for anyone willing to make eye contact with you. If you don't see anyone, just ask someone near you if they've seen anyone on the equipment. If they haven't, consider it yours!
  10. Don't go at all! You'll still need to exercise, but use January and February to broaden your fitness experience with outdoor activities. It's been an outstanding year for both snow (cross country skiing, and snowshoeing) and ice (most outdoor rinks were open 2 weeks early this year).
Or, Give me a call and we'll train you in private to avoid all of the above!