Friday, January 30, 2009

The Calorie Catch-Up Game

I’ve always been a breakfast person. A few years ago, I decided to do a self-study and skip breakfast. I basically abused myself for 2 months with this hare-brained idea. I had such a hard time getting through the morning I started drinking red-neck cappuccino (coffee + chocolate milk) during the mid-morning. Lunch time consisted of a sandwich either from home, Subway or a diner. I didn’t eat much for a 5’ 8” 230 pounder (think 6” sub). I definitely couldn’t go without lunch though.

By the time I would get home at night, it was 10pm already (oh the life of an individual running a gym by himself). Here’s the kicker. I would start raiding the cupboards eating anything and everything. I knew what I was doing. I tell my clients not to this. BUT I COULDN’T STOP! I was ravenous.

Luckily, food on my stomach helps me sleep. And I got fatter as time went on. So what did I learn from this “study”? My body was playing calorie catch up. Because I was depriving myself of calories during the day, which is also the highest calorie burning part of a 24 hour day, my body acted as an accountant. At the end of the day it calculated that I needed thousands of more calories that night to make up for the day and then a little extra for good measure.

Interesting? Yes. Dumb? Of course, but it was an experiment.

Know anybody else that does this? If so, here’s the simple common sense answer to prevent or reverse this vicious habit. Shift calories to earlier in the day. So your biggest meal should be breakfast, then the next biggest would be lunch, and the smallest meal would be supper. Granted this is for people whose schedule only allows for three meals a day. By shifting your calories earlier in the day, you'll have fewer cravings during the day and the uncontrollable kitchen raids at night disappear.

This isn't ground breaking news, but it's quite effective and it easy to do.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Announcement: Cormax Equipment is now at the Sports Center

Great news!
Doug Duran, Manager of the Sports Center, has recently purchased all three pieces of the Cormax line of ballistic training exercise machines.

Contact me for more information!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Bad Cardio vs. Good Cardio

Many fitness professionals and medical doctors prescribe low to moderate intensity aerobic training (cardio) to people who are trying to prevent heart disease or lose weight. And usually, the recommendations parallel the common statement, “perform 30-60 minutes of steady pace cardio 3-5 times per week maintaining your heart rate at a moderate level”. What is the reasoning? Simply because it’s deemed as a safe start for extremely de-conditioned or extremely overweight individuals. This workout is not difficult; it’s attainable- meaning the odds of “staying with it” are good and a step above the completely sedentary lifestyle. Plus, prescribing this fitness regime covers the professionals’ butts. Who wants to be responsible for someone collapsing because the fitness program they recommended was too intense?

Fast-forward to you being able to achieve steady state cardio workouts (i.e. walk or jog for 20 minutes). I think 30-60 minutes is a little excessive without feeling like the “hamster on the wheel” doing endless hours of boring cardio. So what’s the next step? Consider some recent scientific research that indicates that steady pace endurance cardio work may not be all it’s cracked up to be.

First, realize that our bodies are designed to perform physical activity in bursts of exertion followed by recovery, or stop-and-go movement instead of steady state movement. Recent research is suggesting that physical variability is one of the most important aspects to consider in your training. This tendency can be seen throughout nature as animals almost always demonstrate stop-and-go motion instead of steady state motion. In fact, humans are the only creatures in nature that attempt to do “endurance” type physical activities. Most competitive sports (with the exception of endurance running or cycling) are also based on stop-and-go movement or short bursts of exertion followed by recovery. To examine an example of the different effects of endurance or steady state training versus stop-and-go training, consider the physiques of marathoners versus sprinters. Most sprinters carry a physique that is very lean, muscular, and powerful looking, while the typical dedicated marathoner is more often emaciated and sickly looking. Now which would you rather resemble?

It’s not about aesthetics entirely either, the internal effect of various forms of exercise on our body can make all the difference when we realize what’s really happening. Scientists have known that excessive steady state endurance exercise (different for everyone, but sometimes defined as greater than 60 minutes per session most days of the week) increases free radical production in the body, can degenerate joints, reduces immune function, causes muscle wasting, and can cause a pro-inflammatory response in the body that can potentially lead to chronic diseases. On the other hand, highly variable intermittent training has been linked to increased anti-oxidant production in the body and an anti-inflammatory response, a more efficient nitric oxide response (which can encourage a healthy cardiovascular system), and an increased metabolic rate response (which can assist with weight loss). Furthermore, steady state endurance training only trains the heart at one specific heart rate range and doesn’t train it to respond to various every day stressors. On the other hand, highly variable intermittent training teaches the heart to respond to and recover from a variety of demands making it less likely to fail when you need it. Think about it this way -- Exercise that trains your heart to rapidly increase and rapidly decrease will make your heart more capable of handling everyday stress. Stress can cause your blood pressure and heart rate to increase rapidly. Steady state jogging and other endurance training does not train your heart to be able to handle rapid changes in heart rate or blood pressure. Steady state exercise only trains the heart at one specific heart rate, so you don’t get the benefit of training your entire heart rate range.

The important aspect of variable intermittent training that makes it superior over steady state cardio is the recovery period in between bursts of exertion. That recovery period is crucially important for the body to elicit a healthy response to an exercise stimulus. Another benefit of variable intermittent training is that it is much more interesting and has lower drop-out rates than long boring steady state cardio programs.

To summarize, some of the potential benefits of variable intermittent training compared to steady state endurance training are as follows: improved cardiovascular health, increased anti-oxidant protection, improved immune function, reduced risk for joint wear and tear, reduced muscle wasting, increased residual metabolic rate following exercise, and an increased capacity for the heart to handle life’s every day stressors.

There are many ways you can reap the benefits of stop-and-go or variable intensity physical training. One of the absolute most effective forms of variable intensity training to really reduce body fat and bring out serious muscular definition is performing wind sprints or hill sprints. Also, most competitive sports such as football, basketball, racquetball, tennis, hockey, etc. are naturally comprised of highly variable stop-and-go motion. In addition, weight training naturally incorporates short bursts of exertion followed by recovery periods. High intensity interval training (varying between high and low intensity intervals on any piece of cardio equipment) is yet another training method that utilizes exertion and recovery periods.

For example, an interval training session on the treadmill could look something like this:

Warm-up for 3-4 minutes at a fast walk at least 1.5 incline

Interval 1 - run at 8.0 mi/hr with the incline at 10 for 20 seconds

Interval 2 - walk at 3.0 mi/hr with the incline at 3 for 1.5 minutes

Interval 3 - run at 10.0 mi/hr with the incline at 10 for 10 seconds

Interval 4 - walk at 3.0 mi/hr with the incline at 3 for 1.5 minutes

Repeat those 4 intervals 4 times for a very intense 15 to 20-minute workout.

Remember, the idea is to train your body at highly variable intensity rates for the majority of your workouts to get the most beneficial response in terms of heart health, fat loss, and muscle maintenance.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Parent / Child Workout Sessions

I am excited to introduce a new program I am offering - Parent / Child Workout Sessions. These sessions will help build a bond with your child while getting fit. The workouts will be scheduled every Saturday.

I am holding a Trial Session on Saturday, February 7, 2009 from 10:00 am - 11:00 am. Stop by when you can, workout, and get more information on this new program. Regular sessions will begin February 14, 2009. Check out the flyer below for more information on age levels and rates.

These workout sessions will be held at the Sports Center in Fargo and in a safe workout environment.

Stay fit this year and get your child in the groove of working out!


Friday, January 16, 2009

Body Part Isolation in Strength Training: Are You Kidding Me?

I just re-located to a much larger gym with a greater variety of fitness enthusiasts. My loyal followers began to notice the “big guys” and proceeded to ask me a variety of questions along with a few comments on their observations.

Here are two common questions: “Those guys are twice the size of us, but they struggle with weights that I can do. What is that?” And the other would be, “How come you don’t have me do that machine” or “How come you don’t have me do that exercise?” I’ll address the latter questions as they pertain to why we don’t do isolation exercises.

Unless you are into bodybuilding or undergoing physical rehabilitation, performing isolation exercises should have no role in your training regimen.

The first thing I try to teach my clients is that the body does not work well in muscle isolation. Instead, it works better in movements along a kinetic chain; meaning, completing complex movements using a greater number of muscle groups. (e.g., pull-ups, dead lifts and bench press). In fact, there really is no such thing as true muscle isolation. There is almost always a nearby muscle group that will assist in some way with whatever movement you are doing. Moreover, many muscles groups actually cover two joints not just one.

When you attempt to ‘isolate’ muscles, you are actually creating a body that is non-functional and more prone to injury. Essentially, you are creating a body that is a sum of body parts, instead of a powerful, functional body that works together. The term synergy comes to mind.

It’s a cruel trick; isolate body parts to achieve the aesthetic qualities seen in magazines, yet sacrifice quality of life by suffering with joint problems, tendonitis, and possibly bulking up. Conversely, if you would rather have a lean, muscular, injury-free, functional body that works in synergy to perform complex movements (in athletics or even everyday tasks), then by all means stay away from muscle isolation exercises. Believe me, focusing on how well your body functions will give you the body that looks even better than it would have if you focused on muscle isolation.

Personal story:
In college, I used to do a lot of biceps curls (for the girls). I also suffered with intermittent tendonitis that would run from my biceps tendon in the front of the shoulder to my elbows, all along my forearms and even my wrists. The only remedy was to stop doing curls. When I started working in Cormax only gyms, I stopped doing isolation exercises all together. I started to train using more complex movements and noticed that my biceps were getting a better workout simply by doing cleans (well, version is more like a high pull), rows and pull-ups. And the tendonitis issues were non-existent, while my overall strength catapulted.

Another benefit to moving away from the ‘muscle isolation’ mindset to a more ‘complex movement’ mindset is that you will find it much easier to lose body fat. The reason is that by focusing more on multi-joint complex movements as opposed to single-joint muscle isolation, you not only burn a lot more calories during each workout, but you also increase your metabolic rate, and stimulate production of more fat burning and muscle building hormones.

Let’s do one more example. The leg extension machine is a single joint exercise that works mainly the quadriceps, and is commonly used by Physical Therapists to wake up the quads and stimulate them to fire (contract). Because of physics and bio mechanics involved, they never allow the resistance to go above 60 pounds. The shearing force on the knee joint becomes more harmful than helpful when heavier weights are used. So once the quads can contract smoothly, the PT moves onto closed-chain (foot on the ground) exercises. For this reason, we just walk past the leg extension machine hoping we’ll never need to use it.

Exercises like squats, jumps, lunges, and dead lifts are all multi-joint complex movements that work numerous muscles in the body (in addition to the quads). Training the body as a functional unit, creates more coordination, stability and greater strength in the long run (when done properly), and also burns far more calories, in less time, compared to the isolation exercises.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

This is Just the Beginning

Welcome to the initial launch of what is planned to be the blog for the fitness enthusiast looking for straight answers on a variety of topics. I’ve included common questions, personal stories, radical theories, great references and down to Earth reiterations of motivational words that we all need.

A brief background on my path leading up to this point should be addressed. As a grade school kid I was always the youngest of my class and the smallest as well for age reasons. One summer while visiting relatives in Colorado, my cousin decided to challenge me. I was in 4th Grade he was in junior high or early high school. The challenge was to do a clean & press. I did a little more than my own body weight. The hype of it all spurred my parents to buy me my first weights set for my 10th birthday. My 1st gym membership was during my freshman year in high school (14 yr). Admittedly, I was a gym rat in high school.

Having no clue what I was going to do after high school, my parents sent me to NDSU for Mechanical Engineering. After one year, I knew what I didn’t want to do. I then certified as a 1st class personal trainer with the National Federation of Professional Trainers (NFPT). I also went back to NDSU with a new major declared: Pre-medicine.

During my 3rd year or 2nd year in Pre-Med I was invited to an open house for Red River Valley Sports Medicine (RRVSM), PT-OT & Orthopedic Associates. I guess I asked a lot of questions because the Director of Exercise Physiology (Jon Hinrichs) suggested I do my internship there. I worked my way from intern to Assistant Director at RRVSM. I did a lot of baseball sport cord training and hockey treadmill after school hours while administering rehabilitation protocols during the day. I also "moonlighted" additional work experience as a Physical Therapy Aide in a nursing home setting in the morning as well as becoming Off-Ice Director for Burggraf Skating Skills (think hockey) in the evening. 14 hour days are the perfect schedule for a single mid-20’s guy, minimal trouble- maximal experience.

After prepping to go back to school to obtain a Master's of Science in Exercise Physiology, I asked some intelligent friends who completed the program from various colleges, if this is a venture I should travel down. With much thought, I decided not to become an Exercise Physiologist.

By the end of 1999 I was self-employed & continued my own self education. I continued to work as Off-Ice Director for Burggraf Skating Skills and consulted for various NHL teams. All the while I continued to build a loyal group of clientele as well. I passed up strength coach opportunities with 2 pro teams during my stint with Burggraf- it just wasn’t the right opportunities. My first experience with Cormax was when I was designing the lay out and equipment selection for Burggraf.

Basically since the beginning of Cormax as a company, I have been involved. Dave Karlstrom (the inventor) and I had an agreement. He builds it, I figure out how to use it. I remember spending many moments with Dave just standing and staring at the Cormax machines thinking “What-If?” And so the saga unfolds into countless “tweaks” to machines that already did the impossible. This was to allow athletes to train explosively, yet safely.

A new era has begun in my quest as a trainer. As of October 2008, I call the Sports Center in Fargo home. I have loosely put together a team to help me achieve some ambitious goals I have set for myself. I believe in setting goals so high, you can’t achieve them by yourself.


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