Are You Experienced???

May 17, 2011

Are you experienced?

Not long after I moved to Phoenix and joined those who would climb the local mountains, did I find myself remarking about other “novice” hikers. You know what I mean. When you see the helicopters circling Camelback or Piestewa Peak Mountains don’t you knee jerk in thought and say to yourself, “dumb tourist” or “first time hiker” almost in disgust?

Last October I was running the “Camelback Loop”. (run from one parking area to the other and then up one side of the mountain and down the other to the original spot where we began). It was a great day for me. Everything felt really good. I was on FIRE! Once on the mountain especially as I was coming down, dodging hikers, wondering why they were in my way. A stumble here and a stumble there but recovering every time. I was the King!…..Until about 10 yards from the end. I dodged around the last hiker, and my right foot caught a rock. When I pushed off of another with my left I heard my hamstring pop and I landed hard off trail. It took about 20 minutes for me to get up and limp away. Aggressive Physical Therapy for the next week allowed me to walk upright again. It would be another month before I could hike and a second month before I could run again.

Are you experienced?

In the past couple of months the news has been sprinkled with athletic tragedy. Sally Meyerhoff an experienced and accomplished athlete lost her life while biking. Clint McHale lost his while rock climbing at Camelback Mountain.

There are simple rules of the road to follow when biking and running on the streets. Wheels go with wheels (in other words, bikes should be riding in the same direction as cars) and runners should be running, facing traffic. Stop at traffic signs. These should be easy to follow yet we still find situations where we choose to play with the “edge” and push ourselves into danger zones.

What is it in our mind set that allows us to push the edge no matter the consequence but then fault others as if we should be immune to the same scrutiny? Is it that magical line that takes us from safety to danger that is alluring?  Is it in the name of that higher level of competition that we play with this?

I’m certainly not sure of the answers. But I am very aware of the fact that it could be me or any one of us that could be getting a free helicopter ride off the mountain. I have often been heard to say during training sessions “you have to train so that you can train another day”.

I certainly do not want to hear your name in the news tomorrow. And I have no intent in you hearing mine. Please be careful. Enjoy this environment that we live and play in. And respect it as well.

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One on One vs Group Training

May 3, 2011

In most cases there are two types of training that you can receive from a trainer. The first one is one on one and the second is group training. First off the type of training I do is one on one. There are times that I will see two people at a time, but rarely if ever do I train more than two. So I’m a little biased as to my approach. But let it be known that there are positives to both and yes negatives as well. Let’s explore both.

Advantages of Group Training include

  • Affordability
  • Energy from the group to keep you motivated
  • Social

Advantages of One on One Training include

  • Focused attention
  • Increased availability by the Trainer
  • Sessions are directed to your goals not the group

Disadvantages of Group Training include

  • Lack of attention by the group trainer (especially when the group has over 6 participants)
  • Time – The participants have to train at the same time (not flexible)
  • Difficult to individualize goals

Disadvantages of One on One Training include

  • Expense
  • Have to have a good rapport with the trainer in order for the program to be effective
  • Sorry I told you I was biased

Since I have been in the fitness industry for many years now I have seen both the good sides and the bad to both styles of training. If you are a self-motivated person and don’t need a lot of attention, then group training may be for you. If you seek guidance and need direction then one on one training may be what works best for you.

So what say you? Have you worked with trainers in the past? Did they provide one on one or were you in a group setting? What worked best for your needs? Trainers, although I realize that groups can be very lucrative, what kind of training do you do? Did you start training in one type and then evolve into another, and how did that evolution take place and why?

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April 20, 2011

Napping. Yes what we’re talking about is that brief time period we have when we lie down during the course of our day to recharge our body’s batteries. What?!?!?! You mean you don’t NAP? Maybe you should.

We are told that it is best to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night. But the reality is that most of us live very busy lives. It is more likely that we are getting 6 to 7 hours of sleep and maybe even less. The average sleep duration is now almost 2 hours shorter per night than it was 50 years ago. Although this may not seem like a significant difference when we continually sleep this way we’re actually causing a “sleep debt”. Which can then show up as poor physical health, increased stress and emotional instability. Sleeping less has been linked to increased risk of hypertension and cardiovascular problems.

Benefits of napping include:

  • Relaxation
  • Reduced fatigue
  • Increased alertness
  • Improved mood
  • Improved performance, including quicker reaction time, better memory, less confusion, and fewer accidents and mistakes

So how long should you nap? And is there an ideal time of day to do this?

Naps should be kept short. 15 to 30 minutes is optimal. Napping longer does have its benefits but you can also risk disrupting your sleep later in the evening. As far as what time of day, many studies have been completed and there are many variables to be considered. But typically after lunch our bodies go through what is known as a “post-lunch dip” in wakefulness. This is a time when sleep propensity is at its highest. So if you can the ideal time would be an hour and a half to two hours after lunch. This is the time that you can recharge your batteries in order to end your day with a flourish of energy.

Truth be told due to the hours I sometimes work. I’ve been known to sneak out to my truck even at a late morning hour and grab 15 minutes in order to refresh. So when the need hits don’t fear the nap. Embrace it! It’ll do your body good!

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Overtraining – Is This You?

April 5, 2011

How many times a week do you workout? Notice that I said times not days. If you’re doing a class in one part of your day and then running for a period of time or lifting weights during another part of your day then you’re working out more than once in that day. Count these, not the days. How many days a week do you take off?

How do you feel when you wake up the morning after a workout? Are you still tired? Have you become a little more irritable? Are your legs feeling heavy when you’re going for your next run or workout? If any of this sounds familiar you may be suffering from overtraining.

In a very detailed paper published by the School of Physiotherapy at Curtin University, they define over training as – “an imbalance between training/competition versus recovery. Alternatively stated, it is too much training or competition combined with too little time for regeneration.” They list symptoms among others as “waking unrefreshed, loss of competitive drive, injury, muscle soreness and joint pain.”

Butler Universities Adrian Shepard goes a little further and lists other symptoms as

  • Decrease in performance
  • Increase in resting heart rate and blood pressure
  • Increased muscle fatigue, disturbed sleep patterns
  • Depression, irritability, apathy and low self-esteem

Dr William Kraus a cardiologist at Duke University who studies exercise adds that “you just feel bad. The spark is gone.”

Dr Steven Keteyian, director of preventative cardiology at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit says ‘there’s another trap, athletes are obsessed and gullible. They will do anything they can to improve their performance and they don’t know when to stop.”

As many of my clients have heard from me, the real work happens after the training ends. It begins with the recovery process. When the body has a chance to rejuvenate itself and prepare for the next load that is about to be delivered. If your body does not get this time to rest then you will continue to tear it down and it will NOT have a chance to increase its condition, and you can risk injury.

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What Have They Done To Oatmeal?!?!?

February 28, 2011

Oatmeal – Known to be one the best choices for breakfast. Has recently been trumpeted by the fast-food industry as evidence of their attempts to present the public with “wholesome” food. Once gain, BUYER BEWARE!!

We all know oatmeal’s health benefits. It is known to

  • Reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol without lowering HDL (good) cholesterol
  • Fight heart disease
  • Have cancer-fighting properties
  • Slows down the digestion of starch which then prevents a sharp rise in blood sugar
  • Is a good source of protein

So when McDonalds recently started serving oatmeal it perked a few ears up. In a recent article in the New York Times, Mark Bitman attacks Mickey D’s pointing out how they took a natural meal item and added their own ingredients. This more than doubled the calorie, fat, carbs, cholesterol, sodium and sugar content in comparison to natural instant oatmeal.

Several months ago Starbucks rolled out their oatmeal. After reviewing their nutritional information what we found was that as long as you don’t add any of the items they also give you (in separate pouches) then they are very comparable to the natural oatmeal you should be eating. The troubling part about McDonalds is that they don’t give you that option.

So as always. We all have decisions to make. What are you going to decide to put in your mouth for breakfast? What healthy alternatives have you found? How do you spice up your eating plan?

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Holy Guacamole!!!

February 5, 2011

The BIG game is upon us. What are you going to serve? There seems to be a misunderstanding about some of the foods involved. Yes there are plenty of BAD foods. But there is also the inevitable silver lining. Yes, I’m talking about Guacamole!

Guacamole in some circles gets a bad rap. Isn’t it high in fat? High in calories??

Let’s talk first about the nutritional benefits of Avocados. Avocados are the basic ingredient of guacamole.

  • About 75% of an avocado’s calories do come from fat. But most of that is monounsaturated fat.
  • Avocados also have 60% more potassium than bananas. They are rich in B vitamins, vitamin E and K.
  • Avocados are high in fiber.

High avocado intake has been shown to benefit cholesterol levels. Lowering LDLs and raising HDLs. And by the way this is due to its high level of monounsaturated fats.

Now the bad news. Yes the calorie count is something to take notice of. 1 tablespoon of guacamole dip has 94 calories while a whole cup (how can you eat just one tablespoon) has a whopping 1500 calories.

So if you’re going to indulge in dips while cheering on your favorite team. Pass the guac and the leave the other dips for everyone else.

A special thanks goes out to Al for inspiring this blog.

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Stability/Core Training At Any Age

January 31, 2011

Stability (balance) training is productive at any age. From the athlete who is trying to get across the court to the senior who just wants to go from their living room to their kitchen. A lot of the same principles apply.

Core training (strength and stability) is essential for everyone. The Mayo Clinic states that “Core stability training, part of strength training, focuses on the areas around the trunk. A strong core increases balance and combats poor posture and back pain. Almost any activity that requires movement can help balance. Poor balance is a major cause of falls that result in fractures and disability.” So core and stability training do go hand in hand.

In younger years agility training teaches young athletes how to stay light on their feet while maintaining balance throughout their movements. As we age, and especially if we don’t maintain condition, our bodies don’t react as quickly as they did when we were younger. Which then can put us in precarious situations while just performing simple daily tasks.

In the gym when I train my world class racquetball player I have her perform one-legged hops over hurdles and quick reactive stepping using an agility ladder. This forces her to react very quickly. Even when she is focused in one direction, I force her to react in an opposing direction in a split second.

When I work with clients that struggle due to back strains I work on strengthening their core. Because traditional abdominal moves are not appropriate due to the tenderness of their backs I rely on using stability exercises to force them to use their core muscles to strengthen the muscles that support their back.

My seniors use stability exercises in order to perform simple tasks, from getting up from a chair without assistance, to walking on uneven surfaces. These movements teach their bodies how to react in precarious situations. And at the same time strengthen their core muscles.

Core training. It’s not just about 6 pack abs anymore. Since our core muscles are responsible for the rest of our body to maintain functionality. Shouldn’t we be placing them in as high a priority category as any other body part we use?

Stability training, without a strong core there is no base to build from. Stability training has purpose in your workout routine no matter where you are on the exercise continuum.

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I Deserve That!!!!

December 1, 2010

After a recent group hike several of us stopped on the way home to get something to eat. One of the hikers ordered what seemed like everything that was on the menu. By the way this person stands to lose about 20 pounds. After devouring everything in sight. He looked over at me and said quite proudly, “I worked really hard today, I deserved that!”


What has happened to us that we justify behavior like this? Certainly someone who is not over weight has a little more room to indulge than those who are struggling. But to feel that they “deserve” to eat in a way that is going to keep adding on to their waistline, is just mind boggling.

If your goals include weight loss, then you’re not going to lose weight while you’re in the gym. Don’t get me wrong cardio workouts will burn calories. But true weight loss is going to occur once you change how and what you put in your mouth.

Burning calories is calculated by activity and weight of the person. For instance if you are 150 lbs and run a 10 minute mile then you are going to burn 113 calories per mile. 113 calories per mile?!?! (See this chart to calculate for your weight.) So if you run 5 miles then you’ve burnt 565 calories. Eat a big meal afterwards? And you guessed it. You just evened out. So it really doesn’t create a deficit in your calorie count if you continue to eat large amounts of food.

If you are going to eat like a king after a hard workout, don’t fool yourself by thinking that you “deserve it”. Instead enjoy your meal and open your belt buckle another notch because you have done NOTHING to create the deficit you need.

What about you? Have you made silly excuses in order to justify “silly” behavior?

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Have We Become A Bunch Of Germophobs???

November 16, 2010

I was walking out of my local grocery store and noticed a man coming in. The first thing he did was to approach the anti-bacterial dispenser just inside of the store, take some in his hand and then wash them with it. I wondered if he repeated this on his way out as well. I’ll bet he did.

What has happened to us? I don’t recall this same behavior 15 or even 10 years ago. Have we become more germophobic due to marketing and the presence of these products placed in front of us? Is there a down side to using them? Or are they perfectly safe?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Nonprescription Drugs Advisory Committee voted unanimously on October 20, 2005 that there was a lack of evidence supporting the benefit of consumer products including handwashes, bodywashes, etc., containing antibacterial additives over similar products not containing antibacterial additives.

There have actually been inquiries lately into whether or not theses antibacterials could be creating resistant bacteria. Reports coming from the Tufts University School of Medicine state that non-residue producing antibacterial agents are not believed to create resistant bacteria. BUT….Resistance results from long term use when residue producing agents such as triclosan and triclocarban are used. A recent survey reported that 76% of liquid soaps contained triclosan and 30% of bar soaps contained triclocarban.

Stuart Levy of Tufts states that unlike traditional cleaners, antibacterial products that leave residue create conditions that may foster the development of resistant bacteria.

Now I don’t believe that using these products occasionally will cause problems but if your cleaning your hands every time you walk into a public place and then when you walk out of it. Then you are probably using these products several other times during the day as well. This is what I question. And it seems that the research supports the idea that we may be doing more harm than good when we are using these antibacterials “excessively”.

Universal precautions used to stop the spread of germs in hospitals are defined as washing your hands with soap and water.

Back to basics.

Next time your son comes home from playing outside and he has a lizard in his pocket, don’t douse him with Purell. Tell him to take a bath.

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How To Get The Most Out Of Your Upper Body Training

November 1, 2010

Just like everyone else I’m in a time crunch to get my workouts in. In the last year I have gone from circuit training to splitting up my body parts into separate days. Well as you can imagine even for someone who lives in a gym this can be time consuming.

But since I try to be more of a listener in order to be a learner, I have been taught that in a pinch I really only need to do two body parts per week for my upper body. Chest and back.

When working on my chest I am also indirectly using my tricep muscles. When working on my back I am also using my biceps. There are many weeks that go by that I only have time to do these groups and for sure my arms have not suffered.

This is how it works. The function of your tricep muscles is to extend your elbow. So every time I complete a pressing movement I am also contracting my triceps. Since the function of your bicep is to bend your elbow, every time you do a rowing motion you are also using your biceps.

So how about you? If you are doing resistance training how do you fit it into your schedule? Do you circuit, or like me do you hit different muscle groups? What is your efficiency level like in the gym? Are you a gabber or do you zone every distraction out, get your work done and then out the door so you can enjoy the rest of your life?

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