Be Well Personal Training

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Shirley Sahrmann's movement vision

I recently listened to a teleconference with Dr. Shirley Sahrmann, a leading expert on movement syndromes.  She is an amazing woman, with a career spanning over 5 decades, and is forward thinking in terms of rehabilitation and treatment of various movement impairments.  During her talk, she said she thinks physical therapists should be like the dentist.  You should see them once a year, for a movement "check-up."  The therapist will analyze movement patterns, assess areas that should be watched, and prescribe a corrective exercise program to address "problem areas."  While she didn't specify, I imagine the corrective exercise program would be up to the patient (kind of like flossing), and if an area needed more attention, a follow-up appointment would be recommended.  She suggested this start as a child (again, like the dentist), and be done annually.

I thought this was a brilliant idea for a number of reasons.  First, it would make focused exercise part of a person's routine, under the pretense that it would improve posture, movement habits, and possibly prevent serious injury later in life.  For some, it might lead to greater amounts of movement, something we desperately need.  Second, if people actually did the exercises they were supposed to (this is kind of like flossing- some would, most wouldn't), people might be able to prevent anterior head tilt, upper crossed syndrome, and lower crossed syndrome, particularly if good habits were developed as a child.  While little research has been done on posture and its relation to injury, there is no denying certain soft tissue problems that arise as a result of something as innocuous as anterior head tilt (tension headaches, anyone?).  If people had less pain, they might be more likely to move.  Again, this would be fantastic!  Generally speaking, the more movement, the better.  Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, but that is not the topic of this blog.  Finally, athletes at all levels would have dysfunctional movement patterns identified by a professional, preventing some of the frequent overuse injuries common in junior, elite, and master athletes.  This might (and this is a big might), change the way strength and conditioning coaches design "one size fits all" strength programs that over-emphasize certain muscle groups and under-emphasize others.  And even if these types of programs were still being implemented, at least the athlete could supplement with an individualized corrective exercise program.

While this approach is a long way off and might never happen, the idea is worth further examination. I think that having someone assess and provide a home corrective exercise program done on a regular basis would allow people to continue doing the exercises they enjoy into advanced age with fewer injuries.  For the people who currently do no exercise, a regular home corrective exercise program would increase body awareness and perhaps allow exercise to seep into other areas of their life.  Remember: you are unique.  Your exercise program should be too.

Yours in health and wellness,

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

TRX Rip Trainer Review

I finally had the opportunity to play with my new TRX Rip Trainer today.  I did my usual workout and then put in the basic training DVD that came with it.  Below is a brief list of the Rip Trainer pros and cons followed by the DVD pros and cons.

Rip Trainer Pros:
  • The bar is heavy, allowing for pretty decent shoulder stabilization work if done properly.
  • The medium tension is perfect for me, a fairly fit female.
  • Set-up is easy.
  • It does an excellent job working the core in anti-rotation (which is where I am weakest).
  • It easily allows for multi-planar movement.
  • It can be adapted for many people/levels.
  • The bar is heavy.  If a person lacks good shoulder stabilization, it would be difficult to accomplish many repetitions.
  • The medium tension would be too easy for most athletic men.  This would require the purchase of more challenging tension, shooting the price over $200.
  • It does require a little bit of room.  My little condo barely had the space for me to easily work both sides (the personal training studio I work out of, on the other hand, has plenty of floor space for it).
  • Unlike the TRX suspension trainer, which I have even used with my 86 year-old client, it is not suitable for all levels.  The heavy bar coupled with the challenging nature of multi-planar movements, makes it more accessible for people who have a decent level of fitness.
Rip Trainer Basic Training DVD Pros:
  • The physical therapist who explains the basic anatomy of the core does an excellent job.  He gives a nice overview without going into too much detail.  The average viewer with little anatomical knowledge would get a basic sense of spinal anatomy without getting overwhelmed.
  • Efficient workout.
  • I felt like the cueing was seriously lacking.  In contrast with the TRX Essentials of Strength DVD which has excellent cueing, very few auditory cues were given.  The moves are a bit complicated if you have never done them before, and I had to pause a couple of times to get the hand and foot set-up correct.  I have a much stronger background in movement than most people, and I think an inexperienced exerciser would struggle with this.
  • Grooving proper movement patterns is discussed in the anatomy portion, and then disappears during the workout portion.  The workout is squat heavy.  In my experience, few people can perform a proper squat.  I thought a deeper explanation was necessary, as well as some modifications for people lacking in adequate hip mobility.
Overall, a good product.  It will enhance some of my clients' existing programs, and I will certainly use it. However, if you are only going to buy one thing, this isn't it.  This is a great product for athletes who move in multi-directional patterns, such as tennis players, golfers, and lacrosse players.

Yours in health and wellness,

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Yoga and Injury

Yoga and Injury
Floating around the yoga blogosphere lately have been multiple references to an article in the New York Times  Magazine entitled, "How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body." Excellent responses can be found on Eddie Stern’s site ( as well as from our friends at the Confluence Countdown).

As many of you know, I use yoga as an adjunct to my other fitness endeavors.  Yoga has made me a better personal trainer, better athlete, and, hopefully, a better person.  The emphasis on mindfulness during each movement gives the practitioner an opportunity to search for how the body is responding to the imposed demand.  Like with any form of physical exercise, ignoring the subtle signs of your physical being will result in eventual injury.  There is a mindset many people get into regarding what they “should” be able to do, rather than what they are capable of that day.  I dislike teaching group anything (including yoga) for that reason.  I find people are much more willing to stop something that could be potentially injurious in a one-on-one setting than in a group dynamic.  Something about the energy in a room, which can be a double-edged sword, results in a person trying something or pushing more than he or she should.  When I do teach Led, I get frustrated when I see a person is doing something biomechanically incorrect or out of the person’s physical ability.  I drop many hints (“if you find yourself collapsing in the right side, use the block,” “if you are rounding in your low-back, use a blanket or bend your knees,”) often to no avail.  Nobody wants to be singled out, and I frequently find myself next to the person who clearly doesn’t think any of my cueing is for him offering the correct modification, only to have him (or her) go back to performing the posture incorrectly as soon as I walk away. 

It is important to note that this doesn’t just happen in yoga.  I used to teach group strength training classes where the same behaviors would occur.  I think it is the teacher’s job to teach proper biomechanics, offer modifications for injury, and have a strong anatomical background so proper adjustments can be made to give the student the most beneficial, safest, physical experience possible in a class.  Ultimately, however, it is the responsibility of the student to know his body, understand his limitations, and listen to what the teacher is saying, even if “she couldn’t possibly be referring to me.”  It is also the responsibility of the student to know the teacher’s background and make sure the teacher is qualified to teach whatever class it is.  Eddie points out in his blog that the increase in yoga practitioners has led to an increase in (unqualified) yoga teachers.  The same thing is happening in the personal training and group fitness industry, resulting in instructors injuring people with unsafe sequencing/adjustments/workouts rather than helping people achieve an improved state of physical (and mental) well-being, but that is a topic for another post…

Yours in health and wellness,

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!  2011 has flown by, and I am looking forward to what 2012 will bring.  This time of year often results in New Year’s resolutions.  While I have discussed SMART goal setting before, I thought it might be a good time to re-visit what that means.  SMART goals are:
  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Timely
The problem with SMART goals is the key to success means starting small.  For instance, setting a goal of running a ½ marathon in 6 weeks sounds far more grand than dedicating yourself to running 4 miles, 3 days a week.  To prevent injury, reduce risk of burnout, and improve chance of success, it is necessary to set goals that can be attained so they eventually become a habit.  That’s not to say that you can’t accomplish the ½ marathon; you just might need to set some smaller goals first.
While I am not out setting marathon records or participating in centuries, I am a consistent athlete.  I run 3-4 days a week and ride my bike 3-4 days a week.  None of my mileage is terribly substantial, and this is the first year in recent memory that I didn’t participate in a triathlon or ½ marathon.  However, I still managed to ride 2,470 miles, run 795 miles, and burn over 23,000 calories (at least according to  Not bad for someone who wasn’t doing any serious training.  That doesn’t include countless walks, weekly swims, yoga, and strength training.  The point, of course, is that little bits of activity add up and make a huge impact in a person’s health and wellbeing.
I hope to see everyone on the trails in 2012!
Yours in health and wellness,

Running While Pregnant

About a month ago, a woman ran the Chicago marathon 9 ½ months pregnant.  She ran half of the race and walked the other half, all with her husband keeping a close eye on her (for more about the story, here is the link to the Chicago Sun article:  She finished in 6 hours and 25 minutes and gave birth to a healthy baby 7 hours later.
    A handful of clients asked me about this, curious as to whether or not I thought it was okay.  I explained that because this was a veteran runner (her personal best in the marathon is under 3 ½ hours) and since she had her doctor’s okay, I thought it was completely fine, healthy even.  My answer would have been different if this was her first marathon or she were an inexperienced runner, but since this was an activity her body was clearly used to doing, it wasn’t overly-taxing her system.  According to Scott, 2006, exercise for elite athletes should be between 70-80% heart rate maximum.  As a regular marathon runner, with an efficient running gait, I am sure she stayed within the guidelines.  Exercising during pregnancy is related to improved pregnancy and labor.  Obviously, if a woman’s doctor places her on bed rest or she has a difficult pregnancy, exercise should be avoided, but if the woman is healthy, exercise will do far more good than harm.
Scott, S., (2006).  Medical report: exercise during pregnancy.  American College of Sports Medicine Health & Fitness Journal, 10(2), pp.  37-39. 
Yours in health and wellness,

The Knee Bone’s Connected to the Hip Bone . . .

    “How come we are working on my hips so much?”
    “Because your knees were giving you some trouble.  Remember how you were complaining about feeling them during a squat?”
    “That’s right.  I had forgotten about that.  I don’t notice them anymore.”
    “That’s because we strengthened your hips.”
    “Huh.  I didn’t realize the two were connected.”
    The knee is a stable joint stuck between two mobile joints, the hip and the ankle.  The knee bends and extends.  It isn’t supposed to move side-to-side.  Movement at the hip and ankle affect movement at the knee.  When the muscles that stabilize the hip or ankle are weak, this can cause excessive movement at the knee joint, eventually leading to pain or even structural damage.  Injury at the knee is rarely a result of dysfunction at the knee; rather, it is a result of dysfunction at either the hip or ankle.
    The foot is the body’s first point of contact with the ground.  The muscles of the ankle and foot control how the foot comes into contact with the ground.  When the foot everts more than normal, or excessively pronates, this places the tibia into internal rotation.  This internal rotation forces the knee to move inward.  Not only does this cause stress on the knee joint, it also forces some of the muscles which control the foot and ankle to become excessively tight and others to become overly lengthened or weak.  The lateral gastrocnemius, or outer calf muscle, becomes tight and shortened.  The short head of the biceps femoris, which decelerates knee extension and tibial internal rotation, also becomes tight.  Conversely, the muscles opposing the gastrocnemius, the posterior and anterior tibialis, are weak and overstretched.  These are the muscles that control ankle dorsiflexion, slow down ankle plantar flexion, and stabilize the arch of the foot.  The medial hamstring, which decelerates tibial external rotation, is also overstretched and weak.  
    Some of the muscles at the hip control femoral internal rotation.  When the femur rotates inward, the knee will also move inward.  Many muscles in the hip control the motion of the thighbone, or femur.  The gluteus medius (GM) has two functions: it acts to slow hip adduction and external rotation and also decelerates internal rotation of the femur.  The TFL, or tensor fascia latae, isn’t located as deeply as the GM and acts to slow hip extension, adduction, and external rotation.  When the GM is weak, the TFL acts as a prime mover.  This means it no longer just assists the GM; rather, it does the GM’s job while the GM is out to lunch.  The problem with this is when the GM isn’t working to counterbalance it, the TFL will internally rotate the femur, moving the knee inward at initial contact.  The knee functions best when it points straight ahead, bending forwards and backwards, not moving side to side.  Repeatedly asking the knee to move inward at foot strike will eventually lead to knee pain.  
    As you can see, understanding what is going on at the ankle and hip allows a professional to identify potential sources of knee pain.  If you would like to get an idea of whether your knees are functioning properly, stand in front of a mirror, feet hip distance apart, hands on your hips, feet pointing straight ahead.  Perform a squat by sitting back like you are sitting in a chair, keeping your chest lifted.  Watch your knees.  Do they stay pointing straight ahead over your second and third toes or do they wonder in or out?  If you would like to further assess your knee function and you have good balance, stand on one leg, hands on your hips, foot pointing straight ahead.  Perform a partial single leg squat by sitting back as described above.  Again, watch your knee.  What does it do?  After performing three or four reps, switch sides.  Often, one side is fine while the other has some trouble.  The “good” side can sometimes mask problems during the double leg squat, but when asked to stand alone during a single leg squat, the “weak” side can no longer hide.    
Yours in health and wellness,

Interval Training and Time

People frequently complain about time, or, more specifically, lack of time. People don’t have time to exercise, or eat right, or take care of themselves. They don’t have time to do something every day for an hour. Cher said, “Fitness- if it came in a bottle, everyone would be thin.” We are constantly looking for a way to do things quickly, to reduce the amount of time it takes to be fit. Fortunately, research has good news for all of the people who don’t have time. Interval training in short bursts has a positive impact on cardiovascular health and metabolism. Research by Walter, Smith, Kendall, Stout, and Cramer (2010) found high intensity interval training led to a decrease in body mass and an increase in VO2 max in untrained women. Subjects performed 15 minutes of exercise on a cycle ergometer broken up into 5 sets of 2 minutes high intensity followed by one minute of passive recovery for two months. Another study, performed by Gibala, Little, van Essen, Wilkin, Burgomaster, Safdar, Raha, and Tamopolsky (2006), compared the effects of traditional endurance training to sprint interval training in college-aged men. The endurance training group cycled continuously for 90-120 minutes at 65% of their heart rate maximum while the sprint-interval training group performed 4-6 30 second sprints followed by a 4 minute recovery. After two weeks, the endurance training group had spent 10.5 hours exercising while the sprint-interval group had spent 2.5 hours exercising. The skeletal muscle and physiological changes between the groups were almost exactly the same.  
So, why is any of this important? If you are short on time and don’t feel like you have an hour to devote to exercise, you can get the same cardiovascular effects from short bouts of high intensity work. The caveat, of course, is you have to be willing to work really hard during the work interval to gain maximum health benefits. Fifteen minutes devoted to exercise can make a huge difference in your overall health and well-being. Time and motivation are a challenge for all of us. I would argue everyone has fifteen minutes a day to devote to fitness. Remember: you only have one body. You might as well use it.
Yours in health and wellness,
Walter, A.A., Smith, A.E., Kendall, K.L., Stout, J.R., & Cramer, J.T., (2010).  Six weeks of high-intensity interval training with and without beta-alanine supplementation for improving cardiovascular fitness in women.  Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24(5), pp. 1199-1207.
Gibala, M.J., Little, J.P., van Essen, M., Wilkin, G.P., Burgomaster, K.A., Safdar, A., Raha, S., & Tarnopolsky, M.A., (2006).  Short-term sprint interval versus traditional endurance training: similar initial adaptations in human skeletal muscle and exercise performance.  Journal of Physiology, 575(3), pp. 901-911.

Yoga Resources

    I was recently fortunate enough to spend a week with other Ashtangis studying yoga with the amazing Tim Miller.  While we were there, the topic of Ashtanga resources came up (books, DVDs, etc.).  As we were discussing it, a couple of things occurred to me.  1) Many of us do some form of self-practice and 2) People who are serious about their practice are likely to develop an interest in teaching others.  Below is a list of resources that were discussed at the retreat as useful, Ashtanga specific educational tools.  Please feel free to add others- part of the cooperative experience is learning from each other.
    Gregor Maehle, “Ashtanga Yoga Practice and Philosophy.”  Everyone agreed this was an excellent overview of Ashtanga yoga.  It discusses the asanas of the primary series, as well as the philosophy behind the 8 limbs.  While I have not read his second book, “Ashtanga Yoga the Intermediate Series,” I  understand it is an excellent resource for the student exploring second series.
    Brian Cooper, “The Art of Adjusting.”  This slim little gem covers adjustments for all of the asanas in the primary series.  The explanation of proper alignment, coupled with variations on appropriate adjustments, makes it a great tool for both teachers and students wanting to understand the physical aspects of the postures.
    Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, “Yoga Mala.”  The classic commentary by the Guru.  
    David Swenson, “Ashtanga Yoga: The Practice Manual.”  More on the physical nature of the asanas, there are also several short forms included for those who don’t always have 90 minutes to devote to the entire practice.
    “Kino MacGregor: Ashtanga Yoga Intermediate Series.”  This DVD is great for people learning the intermediate series without the strict guidance of a teacher.  She breaks down the more challenging poses and offers preparatory work as well as modifications.  Plus, it is always fun to see what the full expression of the series is supposed to look like.
    There are many other Ashtanga books and DVDs out there.  These are simply the ones we all agreed were worthwhile.  All of the items discussed above are available on  I look forward to reading others suggestions.  You can either post them on our Facebook page or e-mail me at  See you on the mat!
“Yoga is possible for anyone who really wants it.  Yoga is universal.”  Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois.
Yours in health and wellness, 

Yoga Teaching

“He who can, does.  He who cannot, teaches.”  George Bernard Shaw.
    I have never been particularly driven to be the best in any of my athletic endeavors.  Instead, I am perfectly content knowing I am better than average, but not good enough to be exceptional.  I have participated in triathlons, 10Ks, and ½ marathons, always performing in the top 20%, but never breaking the top 10%.  I am a strong and capable Ashtanga yoga practitioner, but there are plenty who practice more advanced postures with ease and continue to advance, while I am okay never putting my legs behind my head.  I am capable of challenging, impressive looking exercises in the weight room, but there will always be a more advanced version that I don’t aspire to perform.  For whatever reason, I am content working hard enough to be pretty good, but not hard enough to be the best.
    This is in stark contrast to my professional goals.  When I began personal training, I was so impressed by how the body worked, how strong and flexible it could become with just a little work, that I began learning all I could to make people fitter.  As I became a little more knowledgeable, I became curious about the injury process, and began to explore how it affected other areas of the body.  At this point, I began to realize I could stop learning and skate by, going through the motions and be a slightly better than average trainer.  Instead, something pushed me to continue to learn, eventually landing me in graduate school with aspirations of teaching trainers how to train.  While there is always someone out there who is more skilled, I continue to push and learn to be as good as I possibly can.  
    Teaching yoga is similar to personal training.  When I began teaching yoga, I felt fraudulent.  I had been a student of the class I was now leading for a year.  I wasn’t an extremely advanced practitioner, but I understood body mechanics, and was in the process of deepening my anatomical knowledge.  Slowly, with practice, my teaching became less forced, less rehearsed sounding.  I continued to go to workshops and learn.  I ended up collecting a handful of private yoga clients along the way.  I taught two other yoga classes for beginners.  I found myself improving, feeling more confident.  While I understood that without devoting myself to teaching yoga, I would never be the best yoga teacher (the greats are an amazing force), I didn’t suck, either.  
    In the midst of all of this, the class I had taken over continued to get smaller and smaller, dwindling in participants until there were two regulars.  For an entire year, I diligently showed up, hoping for four or (gasp!) five people.  As the months passed, I realized I had to let go of the class that had allowed me to practice, both as a student and as a teacher, and find my teaching style.  A sense of sadness appeared as I locked the door for the last time last Thursday, after no one came.  Along with the sadness was a sense of gratitude for those who had stuck with me all of those lean months.  While that class has passed, I continue to teach others.  Maybe not in the same way or the same sequence, but I will continue to learn and improve.  And if all else fails, I can do as the great Woody Allen once said, “Those who can’t do, teach.  Those who can’t teach, teach gym.”
Yours in health and wellness,

Bike Accidents and the Art of Healing

I collided with a car while bike riding 5 weeks ago.  It was technically my fault; I was riding downhill around a blind turn when I realized a garbage truck was in the middle of the road.  Rather than slam on my brakes and risk running into the back of the truck, I decided to go around.  I was greeted with a blue Honda civic slowly going uphill.   The next thing I knew, I was on the ground, with the driver’s side view mirror next to me.  
Injuries are frustrating for everyone; I would argue that for active people, injuries are akin to imprisonment.  There is nothing worse than realizing you can’t do the activities you were performing yesterday.  It often feels like your body has let you down.  It can often be difficult to assess the severity of the problem, and you often don’t know until the next day the extent of your limitations.  After two trips to the chiropractor for some soft tissue work and minor adjustments, I finally accepted I was injured and was going to have to cut back on my normal activity level.  Fortunately, self-discipline isn’t something I struggle with.  I iced my back every day and performed strengthening exercises for the core and glutes.  I stretched and foam rolled my psoas and rectus femoris to reduce their hyperactivity.  Once every four or five days I would attempt an updog.  Every time I felt that slight twinge of discomfort in the right side of my low back, I would think to myself, “not today,” and let the yoga go, reminding myself this, too, was temporary.
Being injured requires patience.  Your body needs to heal; otherwise, you risk re-injuring the area and potentially injuring something else.  When one area isn’t working right, it is not uncommon for a surrounding muscle or joint to begin compensating, risking further injury.  For instance, a person who has neck pain frequently ends up with shoulder pain.  While I definitely believe moving the affected joint is necessary to maintain range of motion, limiting the activities that cause pain allows the tissue to heal.  Soft tissue injuries can linger for months if you don’t take the time to reduce inflammation.  Icing, inhibiting the overactive muscles surrounding the area by foam rolling, massage, or ART, stretching, and strengthening the areas that are underactive are effective rehabilitation tools.  If the injured person doesn’t put in the rest and work required to heal the area, it will take much longer for the body to heal, prolonging discomfort.
Four and a half weeks after the initial bike accident I did my first updog without pain; 5 days later, I was able to do my entire yoga practice without any discomfort.  It’s important to listen to your body; you are stuck with it for a long time.
Yours in health and wellness,

Running Stride and Single Leg Squats

One of the topics I have delved into while in graduate school is running injuries.  One researcher estimated as many as 80% of all runners will experience a running related injury at some point during their running career.  The most common running related injuries in long distance runners are IT band syndrome, Achilles tendinopathy, and anterior knee pain When looking at running stride, researchers have repeatedly found that people who land on their heel with their foot in front of the body experience more ground reactive forces than those who land with their foot under their center of mass.  The higher ground reactive forces lead to an increase in impact up the skeleton, resulting in a more jolting motion.  These individuals are also more likely to land with a straight knee, which results in less muscular stiffness.  Muscular stiffness helps dissipate the forces in the skeleton.  
The other contributing factor to injuries in runners is weak hips.  While no direct link has been found between excessive foot motion and injuries (the shoe companies must be bummed about that), weak hips cause dysfunction down the kinetic chain, starting at the knee joint.  The hips control both excessive inward movement of the knee and inward movement of the tibia, one of the lower leg bones.  Excessive movement in either of these bones causes increased stress at the knee.  Since the muscles in the hips aren’t doing what they are supposed to in order to control the inward motion of these bones, other muscles take over, namely the IT band and the Achilles tendon.  This leads to overuse injuries in these areas.  
Many people feel like it is their right to be able to go out and start a running program.  I think we need to change the way we think about this.  There are hundreds, if not thousands of couch to 5K programs on the internet.  Few address the fact that most Americans sit in a chair all day.  We don’t use our hips the way nature intended us to.  For a sedentary person to go, literally, from the couch to running, even if the mileage is increased slowly, there is a high chance of injury because we are asking deconditioned muscles to stabilize joints and accelerate and decelerate movement in a way they aren’t accustomed to.  
I think sedentary individuals who want to participate in a running program should start with a hip-strengthening program.  Not much research has been done in this area, but I believe the amount of injuries experienced by runners, particularly new runners, would be dramatically reduced if individuals took the time to get strong where they should be strong in order to withstand the forces generated by running.  Most people can’t perform a perfect squat, let along a single leg squat, and we expect them to be able to go outside and perform thousands of little single leg half squats while propelling their bodies forward?  It doesn’t make very much sense.
After you have perfected the double leg squat, the progression is the single leg squat.  To perform a single leg squat, stand up tall.  I like to have something in front of me, like a bench or a chair that I can reach towards.  Pick the left foot up, so the left leg is slightly behind you.  Sit your right hip back by bending the right knee, reaching your hands out to touch the object in front of you.  It’s as though you are sitting in a chair with the right hip.  Keep the pelvis level, the shoulders level, and keep the abdomen engaged so you don’t arch your lower back.  Press through the heel to return to standing.  There should not be pain in your knee.  Don’t worry about how far down you go at first.  Eventually, you want the thigh close to parallel with the floor.  Start with 6-8 repetitions per side and work up to 12.
Yours in health and wellness,

Carmel Personal Training and Yoga

*This blog isn’t really about Carmel personal training.  However, if you found yourself here because you are looking for a personal trainer in Carmel, CA, follow these steps:
  1. Do some research.  This person is going to be designing an individualized exercise program that is suitable for your body.  What qualifications does this person have?  Who is he or she certified through?  What educational background and experience does he or she have?  Do you know anyone who has used this person before? has a good database of personal trainers based on region. 
  2. Set up a meeting by calling or e-mailing.  After you have narrowed your search down based on qualifications, arrange to meet the person or persons who fit your criteria.  This is someone you are going to be spending a bit of time with.  It is important you get along.  Remember, you are hiring this person.  An informal interview is okay.
  3. Schedule an appointment.  After you have decided on your trainer, set up an appointment.  A good trainer will use this opportunity to assess your posture, movement patterns, and potential strengths/weaknesses.  
  4. Schedule a recurring appointment.  You will get the most out of your personal training if you schedule a recurring appointment.  This way, you are less likely to have trouble fitting it in.  It could be once a week, twice a week, once a month…  Whatever works best for you and will help you reach your goals.  I have found people who are not good about exercising on their own benefit the most from twice a week, and I have some clients who exercise multiple times a week and just see me once a month for variety.
One of the hardest things I do every week is get on my yoga mat.  Three times a week, almost without fail, I practice some variation on the Ashtanga primary series, with a bit of second series thrown in.  I am not good at yoga; as a result, there are times when I dread getting on the mat.  I am not flexible, meditation is difficult for me, and I prefer to be outside whenever possible.  
My lack of flexibility brought me to yoga.  When I started, I was a 24 year old who couldn’t touch her toes.  While I am far more flexible now, I don’t hold a candle to many of the students who practice yoga regularly.  However, nothing gives me a greater sense of accomplishment than when I finish my practice.  I see regular improvements, and while they are small, the gratification I get from these improvements makes the practice worthwhile.  
Finishing the practice gives me a sensation that is similar to finishing a triathlon.  I have done something challenging, focused my mind long enough to move through a difficult sequence of postures, and challenged my strength and flexibility. 
My yoga practice requires patience and persistence for me to see improvement.  Many people feel the same way about exercise.  They dread it.  It is challenging for them, they don’t feel successful at it and so they give up.  This giving up, and not breaking the exercise down into more manageable pieces is why many people “fail” at exercise.  It is important to keep coming back to the mat, persevering even when you don’t feel like it.  
Slowly, if you are consistent week after week, your body will become stronger, more flexible, and not tire so quickly.  Once you begin to see these small improvements, the sense of accomplishment you feel will match what I feel every week.  Your body will thank you for it, and crave exercise.  
Live fit.
Yours in health and wellness,


Last Saturday, I woke up in a state of mild panic.  The yoga class I had been teaching for the last 8 months was no longer, and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with a free Saturday morning (changes in schedule is not a strength of mine, but that’s a different topic).  The funny thing is, when I began teaching that class, I wasn’t sure how I was going to adjust to having only one weekend morning to myself, but I did what human beings excel at- I adapted.
The human body is an incredible piece of machinery geared towards efficiency.  When it is presented with a stressor (exercise), it immediately goes to work figuring out how to make it easier to deal with that stressor the next time it happens.  In cardiovascular, or endurance activity, this means increasing VO2 max, decreasing lactic acid production, increasing the number of capillaries, and increasing mitochondria density (Hansen, Fischer, Plomgaard, Andersen, Saltin, & Pedersen, 2004).  During strength training, adaptation occurs by increasing motor neuron recruitment, increasing protein synthesis, and hypertrophy, or increase in muscle size (Fahey, 1998).  If you begin consistently stressing the body, the body you have this week will be different than the body you have next week.  Next week’s body will be slightly stronger, more efficient at metabolism and oxygen uptake, and a bit more prepared to handle the stress of exercise, whatever that exercise might be.  While not everyone is physically capable of high impact activities such as running and jumping, if you have the patience to maintain a consistent physical training program, you will be amazed at what your body can do.  As I mentioned earlier, we were designed to move efficiently.  If you want to realize your body’s true potential, get out there and use it.
I glanced at my watch after finishing a 7.5 mile run and realized the week before I would have been in the middle of teaching yoga.  “Hmmm,” I thought to myself, “I could get used to this.”
Yours in health and wellness,
Hansen, A.K., Fischer, C.P., Plomgaard, P., Andersen, J.L., Saltin, B., & Pedersen, B.K., (2004).  Skeletal muscle adaptation: training twice every second day vs. training once daily.  Journal of Applied Physiology, 98(1), pp. 93-99.  DOI: 10. 1152/ japplphysiol. 00163.
Fahey, T.D. (1998).  Adaptation to exercise: progressive resistance exercise.  Encyclopedia of Sports Medicine and Science, Internet Society for Sport Science:

What I Learned At A Lululemon Design Meeting

Recently, I attended a Lululemon design meeting.  I am fortunate enough to be one of their research and design ambassadors, and am asked to give feedback once or twice a year on their products.  The person running the meeting is usually from out of the area, and there are always questions about what types of activities we participate in and how active wear fits into our lives.  Andrea, the meeting leader this time around, posed a question I have never given much thought.  She asked us,  “what drives you to run?”  (This was a meeting specifically for runners).
People had a variety of answers, ranging from, “it’s my escape,” to “because I can,” and I made some quip about how I am an energetic person and running saves my marriage, but the reality of the situation is it’s what I do.  I don’t think much about the role that exercise plays in my life.  It’s simply a constant.  I think about my schedule at the beginning of the week, figure out what I have time for, and plan my workouts accordingly.  It’s on par with eating and sleeping.  My brain is not wired to ponder, “how am I going to fit anything in this week;” rather, it is a matter of when.  My schedule is a bit rough right now, and I often have days where I have 7 or 8 clients, graduate school obligations, and all of the other responsibilities that go along with running my own business, such as workshop marketing, returning phone calls and e-mails, and billing, but I always have time to do something.  Sometimes it’s not as long as I would like, and sometimes I have to be creative with when I do it, but I always fit it in.  I become impatient when people tell me they don’t have time for exercise.  I don’t understand how people can neglect their bodies, the vessel for movement they are stuck with until they expire.  It should be the single most important aspect of a person’s day; instead, it gets shoved aside for things like work, television, and socializing.  Exercise makes me more productive, less stressed, and improves my sleep.  I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t want to experience the positive benefits of exercise, but being tired usurps exercise for the average person.
I exercise because it gives me an opportunity to be outside, alone with my thoughts.  Running and biking are moving meditation, and I enjoy the solitude.  While I participate in those activities, I don’t identify myself as a runner or cyclist.  I don’t exercise for the social aspect, although for many people the social aspect is what motivates them to get out there, and being part of a larger group is often a great way for people to stick with something they might not otherwise.  I have often wondered if all of the world leaders took 8 weeks to train for a ½ marathon together, if more compromises would be reached.  Endurance exercise reduces negative thoughts and quiets the mind in a way that other activities don’t.  Your problems just don’t seem that dire after an hour and a half on the bike.  I move daily because it makes me strong, enables me to experience the world in a way a person can’t if he isn’t in shape, and keeps me relatively pain free.  I practice yoga and strength train to keep my body healthy and prepared for the challenges of the trails, and I don’t consider it work, although it can be uncomfortable.  There is something deeply satisfying about accomplishing something that scares me, and it’s what keeps me returning to the yoga mat, the bike trails, and the weight room.  I plan on exercising until I can’t anymore, and I am hoping that day doesn’t come anytime soon.
Thank you Andrea for making me examine a part of myself I hadn’t considered in many years.  And thank you to all of my clients who, regardless of age and ability, make time to exercise despite busy lives.  You inspire me every day.
Yours in health and wellness,
Jennifer Pilotti

Gwyneth Paltrow’s Posture and Other Musings

I was watching the Academy Awards last while multi-tasking (a common occurrence), when my husband said, “she is a pretty woman.”  I looked up from internetting to see Gwyneth Paltrow’s image flash across the screen.  “Her posture is horrible,” I pointed out.  “I don’t know how her trainer lets her get away with that.”
A person’s posture is an important part of healthy movement patterns.  When a person is not properly aligned (ears over shoulders, shoulders over hips, hips over ankles), movements become inefficient and pain is often the result.  Gwyneth Paltrow’s head juts forward, indicating weak muscles in her neck and upper back. Her shoulders round, indicating weak upper back muscles, back of the shoulder muscles and tight pectoralis muscles.  As a trainer, my goal would be to stretch her chest and anterior deltoids (front of the shoulder muscles), and strengthen her upper back and posterior deltoids.  An easy exercise to begin to address this problem is wall slides.  To perform wall slides, stand with your back and head against a wall, with your feet about 12 inches in front of you.  Place your elbows against the wall, even with the shoulders and place the backs of the hands against the wall.  For many people, this is an extremely deep stretch and cannot be maintained without arching the back.  If that is the case for you, stop here and simply work on that motion.  If you can get the backs of the hands against the wall while maintaining neutral spine, attempt to straighten the arms straight up as much as you can without arching the back.  Slowly return to the starting position.  You will find a natural stopping point with your arms, where you feel the backs of the hands starting to come away from the wall.  Don’t’ push past that.  Perform 10 repetitions.  Many people report feeling taller when they step away from the wall.  If you take 2 minutes to perform this daily, you will notice a change in your posture and how you carry yourself.
Flu and cold seasons are upon us, and to stave off illness, it is important to stay mentally and physically strong.  Make sure you are getting enough sleep each night, drink plenty of water, eat whole foods, and make sure you are exercising regularly.  Research repeatedly shows a link between regular exercise and a strong immune system.  If you find yourself stressed out at work, time permitting, take a quick 5-10 minute walk.  If leaving the office isn’t an option, shut your door, turn off your computer screen, send your calls to voicemail, and place a timer directly in front of you.  Take 2 minutes to focus on deep breathing, relaxing your shoulders, breathing deeply into the back of the ribcage.  I often count my breaths, attempting to take as few as possible, in an effort to quiet my thoughts.  Once the two minutes is up, go back to work, and you should notice increased clarity and a calmer demeanor.
Yours in health and wellness,
Jennifer Pilotti

February is Heart Month!

There are a number of ways to protect yourself from heart disease, including:
Get 30 minutes of cardiovascular activity, most days of the week.  It doesn’t have to be vigorous; in fact, it can be a 10 minute walk, 3 times a day.  Studies indicate that as fitness levels increase, risk of a cardiovascular event goes down, so once in a while, be sure to challenge yourself by picking up the pace (walking faster, or even throwing in a light jog), or finding an incline.
Strength train.  Surprisingly, strength training reduces blood pressure and some studies show it might even decrease cholesterol (LDL, the bad one).  
Yoga.  Studies show individuals participating in a yoga program experience a decrease in blood pressure.
Limit your red meat consumption to twice a week.  And, while you are at it, limit saturated fat intake from things like cheese and lard.
Many people tell me they can’t strength train because they don’t belong to a gym.  There are a number of effective exercises that can be done using body weight exercises, including squats, planking, push-ups, lunges, crunches, and a number of others.  Resistance tubing can be purchased for less than $25 for movements such as standing rows, triceps extensions, biceps curls, and chest presses.  Taking the time to develop strength will keep not only your muscles strong, but your bones and ligaments as well.  Sarcopenia (muscle loss) increases risk of falling in the elderly and is one of the primary reasons seniors are unable to live on their own.  If time is an issue, carving out 30 minutes, twice a week is enough to challenge your muscles and keep you strong.  Circuit training (performing one exercise right after another, without rest) is an extremely effective way to get through many muscle groups in a short amount of time.  Because of the amount of time an average person sits in a day, I strongly recommend choosing exercises that require you to stand rather than sit.  Not only is this more functional (you will rarely be in a situation when you are pushing a heavy door from a seated position), it also requires more energy and challenges postural muscles, which hold you up.  Challenge yourself physically to keep yourself strong and healthy longer.
Yours in health and wellness,
Jennifer Pilotti

What I have learned in graduate school so far...

My second quarter of graduate school is coming to an end.  Surprisingly (or, given my line of work, perhaps not so surprisingly), I have managed to learn some pretty relevant things to my profession.  Below are some of the things I thought were worth sharing.
It takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert at something.  Some of you may have read Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers,” and perhaps you already knew this, but it was interesting to read the research.  For most people, 10,000 hours takes about 10 years.  One caveat to this is the 10,000 hours of practice must be practice with intent.  If you are simply going through the motions and the activity has become mindless, you will not see improvement and it will take a little bit longer to reach expert status.  
If you are looking to perform well, you should not eat right before exercise.  I thought this was kind of interesting.  It turns out that after eating, if you decide to exercise, 20% of your blood supply has to go to digestion.  This only leaves your muscles with 80% of your blood supply, which could potentially impact performance.  However, events lasting more than 2 hours require caloric consumption during competition.  Make sure you try out your calories before race day to make sure you know how your body will respond.
Children are 50% of their height when they reach the age of two.  Random trivia, which I thought was kind of cool.  
Runners with knee pain should try strengthening their hips.  I just finished a research review on this.  For decades, researchers have been trying to blame knee pain on the foot.  Some looked at static posture, some at dynamic, and over and over again there did not seem to be a clear link between pronation, supination, and knee pain.  Rather, runners with knee pain had a decrease in hip abduction strength when compared to runners without knee pain.  If you are new to a running program, strengthen your hips before you start doing high mileage.  (Runners should be participating in a regular strength training program for a myriad of reasons, but as usual, I digress…)
Coaches should not sleep with their athletes.  This is something I thought was a no-brainer, but since it was an entire module in our ethics class, I guess it wasn’t as obvious as I thought.
Enjoy the longer days, and, as Jack LaLanne said, “Remember this: your body is your slave; it works for you.”
Yours in health and wellness, 

New Year, New Goals ...

Happy New Year!  This time of year, all of the diet books go on sale, and many of the magazines feature amazing success stories about people who have lost "1/2 their size."  While this is a great time to recommit yourself to diet and exercise, it is important you keep a couple of things in mind, such as:
if you are setting goals, remember the SMART acronym: goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.
Rome wasn't built in a day; your new body won't be either.
Don't commit yourself to doing something drastic.  While this goes along with SMART goal setting, it is important to remember few people can go from not exercising at all to exercising 6 days a week for an hour.  It's all about baby steps.
There really is no magic weight loss formula.  Eat less, move more and weight will come off (albeit it slowly).
While having a weight loss goal can be a great way to stay motivated, once you reach your magic number, don't give up the new diet and exercise habits that got you there.
Experts believe it takes a month to form a new habit.  I like to give myself five weeks, just in case the month is too short, but if you can stick with something for 28 days, chances are you can make it a regular part of your life.
Wishing everyone a happy and healthy 2011,
Jennifer Pilotti

General Fitness Recommendations

Exercise can be daunting, especially if you try and weed through all of the recommendations that exist.  Often people wonder what the bare minimum is they have to do to be healthy.  The American College of Sports Medicine recommends thirty minutes of moderate physical activity five days a week for health benefits.  This is the bare minimum for heart health and does not address bone health, strength and flexibility, or even increased physical fitness.  In an ideal world, you would get cardiovascular activity of varying degrees of length and intensity most days of the week.  I am absolutely not suggesting you take up a 6 day a week running program.  That will result in burnout and possibly injury.  Rather, I am suggesting you get 30-60 minutes of cardiovascular activity six days a week, with some of those exercise sessions a little longer in duration and a little less intense and others perhaps a little shorter in duration with bouts of increased intensity.  This will keep you physically fit and enable you to keep up with your children/younger sister/marathon running parents.  It will do wonders for your endurance and it will keep you young and physically fit.  Any form of cardiovascular activity will do, such as walking, jogging, biking, swimming, ellipticalling…  Just make sure you keep it interesting and don’t do the same thing every day.  You will get bored.
Twice a week, do some form of strength training.  It could be working out with a personal trainer, taking a strength training class at the gym, or participating in a strength training routine on your own.  Just make sure you are lifting weights correctly.  This serves two purposes: it will be the most effective use of your time and it will reduce risk of injury.  Nobody wants to waste time or be injured, so if you are going to do it on your own, read a lot about it or have just one session with a trainer to go over proper form.  Strength training should take anywhere from 30-60 minutes and can easily be done on your shorter exercise days.  I know right now you are thinking, “but I don’t have an hour or an hour and a half to devote each day to exercise.”  Make time.  This is your health and it will do more to keep you healthy than cocktail hour or that TV show that is waiting for you.  
Lastly, stretch, at least twice a week, for five to ten minutes.  If you don’t think you have time to stretch, make time.  Stretching can be done at home, any time of the day, and is easily done during commercials.  Pilates or yoga are excellent forms of exercise that take care of stretching and some of the strengthening.  They are also more meditative forms of exercise, which can be good after a long day.  Try a variety of things to see what you like.  Just make sure you move often and with a sense of purpose.  You only have one body- use it.

The Sitting Dilema

The day in the life of a typical American goes something like this: wake up, shower, sit while reading the paper and having coffee, get in the car to sit 30 minutes while driving to work, sit at a desk for eight hours while performing work, get in the car, sit in the car while driving 30 minutes to the gym, sit at the gym while performing exercises, get in the car, sit until home is reached, come inside, sit down to relax while watching TV and eating dinner, and then go to bed.  Something is clearly wrong with this picture, and the fact that most machines at the gym are done sitting certainly doesn’t help matters any.  Sitting doesn’t bode well for people’s health.  In fact, researchers conclude all this sitting leads to an increase in metabolic syndrome (  What can be done about this?  Obviously, some portions of our day require sitting, such as driving and eating, but others don’t.  More people are turning to things like standing desks to make sure they reduce the amount they sit.  Others make sure they get up and walk around the office regularly and some use their lunch break to exercise.  Speaking of exercise, something everyone should avoid at the gym is sitting down.  Clearly, we do enough of that in our regularly lives.  It is not something we need to practice while at the gym; rather, sitting while exercising perpetuates many of the faulty mechanics we have developed after all of those hours sitting.  The best way to not sit at the gym is to avoid machines.  If you can sit while performing a chest press, you can definitely stand while doing a cable chest press.   You could even make it more challenging for yourself and do a single arm split stance chest press with the cables to work on dynamic stabilization of the core.  Even if you aren’t very familiar with strength training and use machines because they are easy, look at the motion you are doing with the machine and move it over to the cable cross to perform while standing up.  Or, make an appointment to meet with a trainer to get some ideas of exercises you can do while standing.  The more you get away from sitting, the healthier you will be.

Healthy Thanksgiving Bites

Happy November!  The time has changed, the days are shorter, and Thanksgiving is right around the corner.  Below are some tips and facts for a healthy holiday meal.
Exercise in the morning, before you eat.  Did you know when you eat a large meal, the majority of your blood is redirected to the organs involved in digestion?  This is one of the reasons people feel sluggish after feasting.  Exercising after eating doesn’t “aid in digestion,” as is often believed- napping does.
Speaking of feasting...  Don’t eat too much food, and don’t go back for seconds.  A typical Thanksgiving meal, with alcohol and dessert, can have upwards of 2,000 calories in it, not to mention oodles of saturated fat.  It would take 20 miles of walking to burn off your meal.
According to, one cup of cranberries has 50 calories, while one cup of cranberry sauce has 400 calories.  Cranberries are an excellent source of antioxidants, and also prevent plaque formation on teeth.  
Pumpkins are high in fiber and vitamin A, and can be used for things other than pumpkin pie.  In fact, pumpkin soup is an excellent option as a soup and, depending on the recipe, has around 135 calories and 2 grams of fat.  A slice of pumpkin pie from Whole Foods has 240 calories, and 10 grams of fat.
The first Thanksgiving was held in 1621; according to the US Census Bureau, 117 million households celebrated Thanksgiving in 2009.  The average American consumes 13.8 pounds of turkey a year, and 5.2 pounds of sweet potatoes a year.
“What we’re really talking about is a wonderful day set aside on the fourth Thursday of November when no one diets.  I mean, why else would they call it Thanksgiving?”  
~ Erma Bombeck

Time Management and Fall Veggies

Fall is here!  It has been a while since my last post (5 weeks to be exact).  In that time, I have started grad school and been busy training people, as well as trying to market upcoming workshops.  Sometimes it feels like I don’t have enough of that dreaded four letter word: time.
The problem with time is there only a finite amount of hours in the day.  How you choose to spend those hours is entirely up to you; however, as we agree to more and more things, there are fewer free hours.  This results in that other t word: feeling tired.  When we feel tired, we don’t want to do things like exercise or take the time to prepare meals.  We want to be sitting, reading, watching the TV, or surfing the web.  The problem with this is it turns into a vicious cycle.  Exercise and eating well require thinking and energy.  When we exercise and eat well we feel better and have more energy, which makes us more likely to continue exercising and eating well.  When this cycle is disrupted, our energy plummets.  We then think we are better off resting instead of exercising because we are tired.  As the days, weeks, months go by eventually we forget that exercise, despite the fact that it is hard work, made us feel better and more energetic.  Instead, we continue to feel more lethargic and we begin to mutter the words, “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.”  And when it comes to eating well, if you are low on energy, your body craves a “quick fix.”  This often comes in the form of sugary foods and caffeinated beverages.  This cycle continues to perpetuate itself until we take charge of our.  When I see my calendar filling up, I make sure I always block out time for my personal workouts.  They make me a happier person, and it such an ingrained part of my day that I always find time for them, even if it means getting up really early on a Saturday or staying at work an extra hour because I took a long lunch so I could exercise.  It is also helpful to buy healthy snacks when you grocery shop.  I am not much of a snacker, but my husband needs a constant stream of calories or he won’t exercise after work because he is too hungry.  On Sundays, we purchase a variety of healthy snacks, such as nuts, apples, and Lara bars, to keep him sated during the week.  When things get busy, take stock of what’s important and really look at your schedule.   Your health should be your first priority.
Fall veggies are here!  It always saddens me to say goodbye to the wonderful berries of summer, but September on the Monterey peninsula brings heirloom tomatoes, bell peppers, and summer squash.  These are great for fajitas, in salads, or in a whole wheat pasta, not to mention the fact they are full of vitamins C and A, as well as loads of fiber.  Buying what’s in season is a great way to ensure you are eating whole, fresh foods.  Bon appetite!
Yours in health and wellness,

Women’s Health

Below are some facts about the average American woman’s health; I will cover men’s health next time.
• The average American woman was 5’3 in 1960 and weighed 140.2 pounds; in 2002, the average woman was 5’4 and weighed 164.3 pounds (
• Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women 65 and older and the second leading cause of death in women 45-64 (
• In 2000, the average woman consumed 1,877 calories per day. In 1971, the average was 1,542 (
• 16% of American women engage in daily exercise (; the average American watches 4 hours of television daily (
• The most common reason people (not just women) give for not exercising is lack of time (
• Women who lift weights not only reduce their risk of osteoporosis, they also experience less weight gain in middle age, particularly in the abdominal region ( (This is an interesting article, and worthwhile read if you are interested in some of the reasearch being done).
The take home message is American women are eating more and moving less than we did thirty years ago. This can be blamed on technological advances, the fact that we drive more, and the accessibility of fast food, among other things. As a result, we have to make a more concerted effort to move and pay attention to what we are eating. Try things like having a “no TV Tuesday” at your house, or joining thousands of Americans for “meatless Mondays.” Other ways to incorporate activity into your everyday life are take the parking spot farther away, always take the stairs, and commit to walking the dog everyday- even if you don’t have one.
Yours in health and wellness,

Cardio, Weight Management and Ahisma

How much cardiovascular activity should we be getting each day? This is a question that has vexed the average American for decades. Back in the nineties, the national recommendation for cardiovascular activity was one hour most, if not all, days of the week. This was for disease prevention and optimal health. In the early twenty first century, the recommendation changed. Currently, the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association recommend thirty minutes of moderate cardiovascular activity five days a week or vigorous cardiovascular activity for twenty minutes, three days a week ( I was disheartened when the guidelines changed; I felt ACSM and AHA were giving up on the American people’s ability to move. I wondered if because so few people engaged in regular cardiovascular activity, the powers that be decided an hour was too daunting. I know numerous studies have been done and these guidelines are specifically for disease prevention, but I still felt (and feel) like an hour of cardiovascular activity a day should be mandatory in a society that sits as much as we do. A recent study, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association and discussed in IDEA Fitness Journal, August 2010, addresses this. According to the study, which followed 37,079 women for thirteen years, women who performed one hour of cardiovascular activity daily gained the least amount of weight. Diet was not addressed, but the researchers concluded the current guidelines are not sufficient to prevent weight gain. This was only true for women whose BMI was 25 or below (average weight). The hour does not need to be done all at once; three twenty minute bouts or two thirty minute bouts are sufficient. Exercise needs to be a priority. We all have the time, we just need to do it.
I took a TRX certification class last Sunday. While the course was informative, and the instructor was knowledgeable and encouraging, I found myself pushing a little more than I normally do. This is not a bad thing, except the last exercise of the day (which had absolutely no functional purpose that I could think of; when, in life, are our legs suspended, swinging back and forth while our arms are on the ground in a push up position?) lead to a sore (muscularly fatigued) back. This was my fault; I should have stopped sooner than I did, and I am fully aware that injuries occur when we are tired. In fact, according to Michael Boyle’s book Advances in Functional Training, athletes are more likely to get injured in the preseason and late in the season; the preseason because they are going from moderate activity to a sudden increase in intensity and duration, and late in the season because their bodies are tired. I have seen this with my own clients; people are far more likely to make mistakes at the end of a training session than the beginning due to muscular fatigue. As a result, I always wind the session down with smaller muscle groups, where there is less risk of compensation from the stabilizing muscles. In yoga, there is something called ahisma, which literally means “do no harm.” This is important both from an instructor’s point of view and a student’s. Listen to your body. If it’s tired, stop. If you feel you aren’t performing an exercise correctly, stop. If you are an instructor and you see the quality of the movement is disintegrating, move on to something else. Your body is your temple; there is no point in causing it harm.
Yours in health and wellness,

The End of the Experiment and the TM Model...

The vegan experiment ended last week, and the results have been pleasantly surprising. As I mentioned, I lost a little bit of weight (around 5 pounds), people have been complimenting me on my skin (the only change was the diet), and I feel really good. Even though the experiment is officially over, I have decided to continue with my modified vegan diet. I will continue to forego eggs and dairy, and I will stick with green tea for my caffeine, unless it’s a weekend. Then I might go for something a that’s a bit more of a treat, like a soy mocha or chai. I feel rested, have good energy, and see no reason to give any of that up. All in all, the experiment was a success.
The Transtheoretical Model is a useful tool for understanding change and what makes humans change. According to the model, originally described by Dr. Prochaska and Dr. DiClemente, there are five stages a person goes through when he is making a change: precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance. In the precontemplation stage, a person isn’t consciously thinking about changing a part of his life. In the contemplation stage, a person is thinking he should make a change (e.g., eat less sugar), but isn’t actually doing anything about it. The preparation stage finds the person eating less sugar once a month, while in the action phase the person has made a commitment to eating less sugar on a daily basis. In the maintenance phase, the person doesn’t have to think about eating less sugar- he just does it. From the maintenance phase, it is possible to relapse; however, the key is to make sure the relapse period is short, and directly after eating an entire box of cookies, the person re-establishes the commitment to eating less sugar. I just experienced the TM model with my diet change, and I can honestly say, the first week of action was the hardest for me. To make a change successfully, it is important to pick a goal that is attainable. I was not a meat eating, processed food consuming junkie who decided to go vegan; rather, I was a vegetarian with a sweet tooth. Accept that sometimes setbacks happen, and be patient with yourself when you are making positive changes to your life. It also helps to have a support system, either your spouse or friends, while you are going through change. Studies repeatedly show having overweight friends makes you more likely to gain weight ( One theory is our reference of what a healthy weight is changes subconsciously if we are spending time with people who are not at a healthy weight. This can sabotage your wellness goals. Remember: diet and exercise is a choice.
Yours in health and wellness,