Lasting Results

Every year when January comes, people think about changing something about their lives and it is usually related to weight loss.  As a personal trainer, it’s great for business, but I would also like to see changes to everyone’s lifestyles that make lasting results, year round so that the next year, you just keep doing what you’ve already been doing!

Here are a few habits I have noticed about people that have success losing weight and keeping it off:

  1. Make exercise or physical activity a part of your daily ritual, like brushing your teeth.  You don’t have to work out every day, just make more active decisions, like parking at the far end of the parking lot, get up from your desk a few times a day at work, take the stairs, walk the dog, etc.
  2. Make healthy foods convenient. Make meals ahead of time and keep it either in the freezer or refrigerator so that you always have something ready. Keep healthy snacks with you in the car or at work so that you avoid moments of weakness. When you’re in a hurry, make a meal replacement shake.
  3.  “Out of sight, out of mind” and “in sight, in mind”.  Keep unhealthy foods in your house put away, or better yet, don’t buy them!  Keep healthy foods where you can see them, like a basket of fruit on the kitchen counter.
  4. When you are browsing the fridge or the pantry, think first. Are you actually hungry? Don’t eat out of boredom, better yet go workout!
  5. Don’t justify eating ice cream because you worked out.  Just because you worked out doesn’t mean that you can eat whatever you want, you won’t gain any ground on losing weight.
  6. Don’t obsess about messing up your diet for one meal. Don’t beat yourself up; nobody is going to eat absolutely perfect all the time.  Don’t discourage yourself!

Why Foam Roll?

In my first session working with a new client, I always start with the use of a foam foam rollingroller. The first response is typically, “This really hurts!” or “Why are you making me do this?!?” My goal by writing this is to clarify the reasons why.

The technical term for what you are doing when you use a foam roller is Self-Myofascial Release, or SMR.   Here are a few reasons why it is a GOOD thing, even though it’s not always comfortable:  

–          Inhibit overactive muscles that cause movement compensations

–          Help reduce the side effects of trigger points

–          Improve flexibility and overall better movement

–          Reduce muscle soreness

Types of foam rollers:

–          Vary from firm to soft. Firm rollers provide more pressure.

–          Sport balls can be used as well. Soft being a tennis ball, firm being a baseball.

–          There are also textured rollers that give more pressure with points on the surface.

Guidelines for foam rolling:

–          Can be done everyday

–          Can be done on almost any muscle group

–          If lying on the floor is difficult, you can use a roller or a small ball against a wall.

–          Put as much pressure as you can tolerate on each body part you roll

–          Roll with good pressure for 30 seconds if you tolerate pain well. Roll for 90 seconds with light pressure if you don’t tolerate pain well.

A foam roller is something that you should have at home so you can use every day if needed. Here is a link to where I get mine: Foam Rollers

Source: National Academy of Sports Medicine Corrective Exercise Specialist Textbook

Spinach Feta Turkey Burgers

Why eat boring? This is healthy and has lots of flavor!Spinach Feta Turkey Burgers

–          2 LBS of Ground Turkey Breast

–          1 ½ Cup of Crumbled Feta Cheese

–          15 OZ Package of Frozen Spinach

–          1 ½ Cup of Oats

–          4 Eggs

–          1 ½ tsp Oregano

–          1 tsp Thyme

–          ½ tsp Basil

–          ½ tsp Marjoram

–          ½ tsp Onion Powder

–          ½ tsp Garlic Powder

Each burger patty is about 305 calories, 11 grams of carbs, 8 grams of fat, and 47 grams of protein.

Mix all ingredients thoroughly in a bowl. Grab a handful of the mix and form into a patty. Keep making patties until you have no more mix. You can either cook on a George Foreman grill, on your charcoal or gas grill on top of foil (may fall through the grate otherwise), or in a pan and cook on each side.

Serve up without the bun and then throw some veggies on the side!

Deadlift vs. Squat

Many people don’t know the difference and some use these terms interchangeably. There is a big difference between these two powerful lifts. The squat is a more knee dominant movement, placing great demand on the quadriceps. The deadlift is a hip dominant movement, requiring strength and mobility of the posterior chain of your body and less demand on the quads. They are both great lifts for strengthening your whole body, however which one you do depends on the training goal, and the particular goal for each training session.

In the deadlift, the hips shift backward first, with some knee bend. This loads up the glutes Deadlift-300x195and hamstrings as well as the quads. Since you are holding onto a weight, it also engages your upper back and your muscles for your grip, not to mention your core is engaged because it connects your upper back to your hips. It’s a practical lift for everyday life. What kills me is when someone has awesome form on a deadlift, and then they set the weight down by rounding their back. Rounding your back under a load = bad. The deadlift is all about keeping your low back arched and your shoulders back, aligning the spine in a position that won’t hurt it under load. The deadlift is also a foundation to learn other exercises such as the kettlebell swing or the Romanian deadlift also called a straight leg deadlift.

In the squat, your hips move down first, creating an end position where your lower leg and singlearmfrontsquattorso are parallel to each other if you took a picture and extended lines out from those segments of your body. It uses the same muscles as the deadlift, but in a different way. The knee bends to a greater angle and the load is more on the quads.  The upper back is either supporting something or holding something up near your shoulders, different than pulling up on something like in a deadlift.

I often hear from clients that before they worked with me that their back or knees hurt when doing a squat or a deadlift. Doing a deadlift or a squat doesn’t hurt you, your form hurts you. Unless there is an underlying orthopedic problem, it is always due to poor form. I cannot emphasize enough on learning the right technique.

Training John vs. Jane

The most common response when meeting a new female client is “I want to tone up, but I don’t want to get bulky.” For the most part, training has the same effect of both genders. Training can help you improve strength, build muscle, lose fat, gain speed, build bone and other connective tissues, improve brain function and change your metabolism. However, there are a few differences between men and women.

  1. Men and women have the same strength potential. Muscle is muscle, it doesn’t matter what gender you are. Women just tend to be smaller in size, so they don’t usually produce the same force as men. Because of the difference in hormones, men tend to have less body fat and more muscle mass than women of the same height and weight.
  2. Women tend to have larger fat cells and have more subcutaneous fat under the skin. Men have more fat stored as visceral fat, or fat around the internal organs (which is also the unhealthiest). This difference is why women store fat around their upper arms, hips and thighs and men store fat in their belly.
  3. Women have a different resting metabolism than men. Women tend to use more carbs as fuel at rest, and burn more fat during exercise than men. Men are just the opposite. This explains why women are better ultra-endurance athletes.
  4. Women have different strength ratios between agonist and antagonist muscle pairs. An example is that women have more strength in their quadriceps than they do in their hamstrings. This difference is a possible explanation why women are at a higher risk to tear their ACLs.

Here’s the practical application of all of this:

The best model of training for fat loss consists of weights and intervals. Women should stay away from just doing cardio! It’s important to have a baseline of cardiovascular fitness, but it will not help women lose fat. Women start with less muscle mass, so the fear of using heavy weights and getting “bulky” is not a real issue. You have to train really hard to gain size for either gender, period.

Due to the difference in strength ratios between muscle pairs, many women are “quad dominant” and need more attention to training the posterior chain (hamstrings and calf muscles). People with quad dominancy tend to have trouble engaging their core without engaging their legs first. This can be helped by working with me.

When it comes to diet, women need to be more carb conscious than men do. Diets that consist of lean protein, good fats, and veggies and fruits lead to gaining lean muscle and losing fat. Men can tolerate more complex carbohydrates like brown rice, quinoa, or sweet potatoes better than women and still lose weight. Carbohydrate sources should be coming from your vegetables and fruits. I say “veggies and fruits” instead of “fruits and veggies” for a reason. That reason is sugar, and vegetables have a lot less than fruit so there should be more emphasis on eating veggies. Also, because women burn more fat than men during exercise, they don’t need to replenish as much carbohydrates in their post workout shake or meal as men do.

Mini Turkey Meat Loafs


Here’s a new take on some of Mom’s home cooking! These meat loafs are portioned out and leaner than using ground beef. They have a little kick too with all the spices! If you don’t like a little heat, you can change the recipe a little.

–          2 lbs of ground turkey breast

–          2 celery stalks (chopped)

–          1 small onion (chopped)

–          1 cup 1 minute oats

–          3 egg whites

–          ½ tsp ground cumin

–          ½ tsp dried thyme

–          2 tsp dry yellow mustard

–          2 tsp ground black pepper

–          2 tsp chipotle spice

–          1 tsp salt

–          2 minced garlic cloves

Preheat your oven to 375. Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl. Use coconut oil to grease a muffin pan.  Then fill each hole in the muffin pan with the mixture and cook for 40 minutes. This makes 12 muffins.

Each mini meatloaf is 128 calories.  8 g of fat, 4.6 g of carbs, 22 g of protein.

Eat 1 to 2 of these along with something leafy or green and you’ve got yourself a pretty good meal!

Why Runners Should Strength Train

When I ask people about their workouts, I often hear “Oh I run to strengthen my legs”, and it makes me cringe. Nothing is wrong with running; you just are not maximizing your results if that is all you do. Here are the top 5 reasons why runners should do resistance training:

  1. Strength training will help with any muscle imbalances that may make you more prone to injury due to dysfunctional movement patterns. A common weak muscle in the quad is the vastus medialus obliquus, this can lead to knee pain when running. Also, weak calf muscles may lead to shin pain. Resistance training should be done in multiple planes of motion so that muscle imbalances decrease or disappear. Strength training also stimulates protein synthesis in not only your muscles, but the surrounding connective tissues as well, helping make a joint stronger and more stable. In addition, strength training helps build bone strength. With all of these training adaptations, chronic aches and pains will be less or go away.
  2. Resistance training makes your muscles more sensitive to insulin than running or aerobic exercise does. Runners often consume more carbohydrates than most people, so it is important to strength train to keep up your insulin health.  Nobody wants diabetes.
  3. Because of #2, your metabolism goes up and you will process carbohydrates better, burning more fats than carbohydrates. This will help you have a better body composition, having more muscle and less fat.
  4. Running increases oxidative stress in your body, promoting inflammation. Inflammation makes losing weight harder.  Strength training has been shown to counteract oxidative stress as well as supplementation with products like Juice Plus.
  5. Perhaps one of the more obvious benefits of strength training is that you will get faster because you are stronger! If you are stronger, you will use less effort to move your body. You will then use less energy and should be able to run longer.

Control of Your Blood Sugar = Success

Watching your blood sugar and carbohydrate intake is not just for those who are diabetic or have metabolic syndrome. If you are trying to lose weight or body fat, you are not going to have success until you monitor what is in your diet. After you eat a meal, your body has a hormone called insulin that is secreted by the pancreas to take digested sugar from the bloodstream into your body’s cells. It’s not a simple process and there are many other hormones involved with your metabolism, but controlling your carbohydrate intake is the best way to control your insulin. When you eat too many carbs, overeat, or don’t eat a balanced meal, you tend to make your pancreas work harder and have too much insulin produced. If you do this repeatedly over time, this leads to fat storage and gaining excess body fat as well increasing your chances to develop metabolic syndrome or diabetes.

Another hormone that controls blood sugar is cortisol. One function of cortisol is to pull stored sugar from your cells into the blood stream in response to stress. Cortisol will elevate due to skipping meals, going too long between meals, and any prolonged physical, emotional, or situational stress. Research has shown that cortisol levels will elevate after long bouts of steady state running over 45 minutes to an hour. From a weight loss standpoint, running as your only form of exercise will not produce the results you desire. Strength training produces a better response of other hormones than running does, specifically HGH and testosterone that are better at burning fat.

Ways to control your blood sugar:

  1. Eat every 3-4 hours. This helps you keep from having swings in your blood sugar and promotes fat metabolism. Ideally you should eat 3 meals and 2-3 snacks per day, however don’t eat if you aren’t even hungry. Everyone is a little different when it comes to meal timing.
  2. Avoid simple sugars in foods such as white rice, pasta, white breads, pastries etc. Especially if you don’t eat any protein with it.
  3. Eat balanced meals that contain protein, and lots of high fiber vegetables like bell peppers or asparagus or fruits that are high in fiber such as apples or berries. This helps slow down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream and lessens the response of insulin to your meals.
  4. Eat snacks that contain fats or protein. This will keep you from getting what I call “hangry”.
  5. Do not deprive yourself of all carbs, you need them for energy. Just make sure they are coming from the right sources such as sweet potatoes, brown rice and other whole grains or legumes.

Running Shoes or Training Shoes?

Having trained hundreds of people in my career as a trainer, I have seen a lot of different shoes on my clients’ feet. The goofiest shoes I saw were by a certain company claiming to “help tone your calves and glutes” by simply walking in them. That statement was then retracted and the company had to pay millions to consumers for their fraudulent statement. Throwing out gimmick shoes, there are two basic types of shoes when it comes to fitness; running shoes and training shoes. Which type is best depends on the activity.

Running shoes have a wedge-shaped sole, tilting you forward, designed to help aid in the heel strike of your running gait. They also are thicker, providing more cushioning to absorb the forces your body takes from the ground when running. When you take a client who already tends to supinate (bear weight on the outside of the foot) or pronate (bear weight on the inside of the foot) when doing a squat, adding running shoes in the equation can make things more unstable because of extra cushioning and cause changes up the kinetic chain at the knee and hip. This changes how you move and increase risk of injury.

foot suppination and pronation squat with knees bowed in

When you are doing resistance training, it is best to wear a training shoe, sometimes called a cross trainer. This type of shoe provides more support in lateral movements and has a more flat sole, better for movements such as squats. You can also run for shorter distances in this type of shoe.  To check if your shoes provide the right kind of support for resistance training, perform a squat while looking in a mirror. Pay attention to the knees and see if they stay over, outside or inside your feet. Then take off your shoes to do a squat and see if there is any change in your form. If your shoes change how you move when squatting, get a shoe that doesn’t.

The Effects of Sitting

Our bodies were not meant to be sitting for hours at a time. Having worked with many types of clients over the years, I have seen many people with postural changes due to sitting. When seated, the elbows are flexed, the hips are flexed and the knees are flexed. Having the muscles around a joint in a shorted or lengthened state repeatedly for prolonged periods of time eventually leads to changes in the length of the muscles around that joint. This leads to dysfunctional movement patterns and increased risk of injury.

xray seatedStarting with position of the head, the spine is in cervical flexion. This makes the muscles on the anterior side of the neck shortened. The muscles responsible for internal rotation of the shoulder are also shortened. This leads to impaired shoulder function, especially with overhead movements. Often the upper traps become dominant and take over in movements where the mid back and lat muscles should be engaged. Common movement impairments include shoulder elevation and head lurching forward during pushing and pulling movement such as a push-up or row.

rounded shouldersdysfunctional row

The abdominals are weakened and the hip flexors are shortened, causing poor activation of your lengthened gluteal muscles. The hamstrings are also shortened. These changes cause the “S” shape of the spine to disappear. The spine will then be more rounded at the shoulders and more flat at the low back.   All of these can contribute to low back pain or possible injury to the low back.

Corrective exercise can help reverse some of these changes and improve movement over time. Corrective exercise programs should be started under supervision and should not cause pain. Here are some examples of corrective stretches and exercises to help these posture problems:

cobra IYT kneeling hip flexor stretch lat stretch pectoral stretch scalene stretch sternocleidomastoid stretch supine hip extension theracane trap stretch foam rolling