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Friday, March 21, 2014

As we rocket around the world wide web checking out fitness sites and information we run into TMI (too much information) almost instantly. As a trainer I am perhaps more guilty than many since I feel a need to be current so that I can answer questions my clients may have. One of the things which I have found is that most of the fitness” information” is not based on any research but rather on anecdotal information or opinion.This is going to turn into a bit of a rant as I share my thoughts and opinions on a variety of topics.
First off let’s talk about diets and nutrition. The current fads are gluten free and the paleo diet neither of which has any research basis. The research on gluten free diets indicates that they are beneficial for those who have IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) or some form of Crohn’s disease or other inflammatory bowel problem. All of the other information on the rationale for going gluten free is anecdotal and may be a placebo effect. If anyone has a quality research citation to refute this please send it to me. The paleo diet is touted as return to the way our Paleolithic ancestors ate when they were hunter gatherers. This period is also known as the Stone Age, food production did not begin until the Neolithic. There is a degree of uncertainty as to what constituted the so called paleo diet in that there was a wide diversity as to the geography, climate and available resources for the hunters and gatherers resulting in different diets. As an aside most of the domesticated vegetable, grain and fruit crops now available have been derived from wild predecessors albeit much different from them.
My next rant topic is cardio and its importance in weight loss. The current myth is that long duration cardio is required for significant weight loss. Part of the problem with this approach to weight loss is that up to 25% of the weight lost is muscle tissue which decreases the basal metabolic rate. In addition this type of programme has been demonstrated to cause stress and increase the production of the hormone cortisol.
“Higher and more prolonged levels of cortisol in the bloodstream (like those associated with chronic stress) have been shown to have negative effects, such as:
• Impaired cognitive performance
• Suppressed thyroid function
• Blood sugar imbalances such as hyperglycemia
• Decreased bone density
• Decrease in muscle tissue
• Higher blood pressure
• Lowered immunity and inflammatory responses in the body, slowed wound healing, and other health consequences
• Increased abdominal fat, which is associated with a greater amount of health problems than fat deposited in other areas of the body. Some of the health problems associated with increased stomach fat are heart attacks, strokes, the development of metabolic syndrome, higher levels of “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and lower levels of “good” cholesterol (HDL), which can lead to other health problems .
A properly constructed resistance training programme, even one using only bodyweight, will have a built in cardio effect negating or reducing the need for dedicated cardio workouts for general fitness and fat loss.
Lastly I want to talk about workout duration versus intensity. Multiple hour workouts are not necessary except for elite athletes, for general fitness and fat loss twenty to thirty minutes is adequate if intensity is substituted for duration. This does not mean that every workout has to be a Tabata protocol or other HIIT type workout; a circuit type workout will provide the necessary intensity. A proper circuit workout is a series of resistance exercises done without pause then a recovery before the circuit is repeated. The training effect occurs during the recovery not the load phase of the circuit. These are the findings of the most current research.
The down side of this type of workout is that you can not zone out, reading, watching TV or writing your next term paper or blog in your head, you have to concentrate on what you are doing.
Questions or comments

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

PHOENIXNYX 7/31/2014 10:44AM

    How dare you go around making sense.

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JAZZEJR 3/21/2014 10:09PM

    We do so appreciate your sharing the latest research findings with us. Your insights always have the ring of common sense

For those interested, SergeantMajor is the leader of the team F.I.T. Females In Training and has posted there many other insightful articles.

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JUNEAU2010 3/21/2014 3:28PM

    I wish you could be my trainer! Common sense prevails! Glad you opined!

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Looking Ahead N.O.W.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Another year has passed and we now have another to use to our advantage. While time is divided into the past present and future the only time over which we have any control is the present, yesterday is gone and tomorrow has not yet occurred. Now is where we are and now is the time for us to do those things which benefit us the most.
Since fitness and fat loss are the topics which have brought us to Spark how can we use the now we have in hand to prioritize them? Since it is one of my fetishes let us create a word game using the letters in now. My first offering is N.O.W. = No Omitted Workouts. Then we have N.O.W. = New Outlook Workouts and N.O.W. = Never Overlook Winning. On the other hand we also have N.O.W. = No Obsessive Whining and N.O.W. = No on Waiting.
Carpe Diem will be our resolution for the One Four. To take the time we have by the nape of its neck and make it work for us. While in our lives it seems that tempus fugits we need to clip its wings and recapture our control, to make the time needed to complete the tasks which are required for our well being.
No one will give us the time to work out and eat well we have to snatch it away from the time devouring predators in our lives. William Henley said “I am the master of my fate, I am captain of my soul” which are words for us to use as guidelines as we are confronted with the demands made on us by others. As John Donne said “No man is an Island, entire of itself”; we require the acceptance and support of others to reach our goals but we need to ensure that those whom we choose will support and encourage us.
Enough of my bad metaphors and obtuse quotations make the One Four your N.O.W YEAR.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

LADYSTARWIND 2/3/2014 10:56PM

    I'm a bit late reading your blog...but really enjoyed it!! And since there is still 11 months to the One Four, plan to use it---especially:

N.O.W. = No Obsessive Whining and N.O.W. = No on Waiting.

Thank you for sharing---I always enjoy your posts--, and All the Best This Year!

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MISSG180 12/31/2013 9:53AM

    Thank you for the inspiration!

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No New Thing

Friday, February 08, 2013

Ecclesiastes 1:9, “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.”
Without getting into a long discourse about electronic innovations and so forth I will restrict my application of the quote to exercise programmes. It seems that almost daily someone produces a forum question on some “new” fitness routine which they have seen on an infomercial or some other form of advertisement. When the substance of the “new” programme is revealed and reviewed it is déjà vu all over again to quote Yogi Berra. It is something remixed, repurposed or resurrected from the annals of the ghosts of fitness programmes past. Let’s make a quick review of the current trends and “flavours of the month” in the fitness world.
No need to even consider the age of this form of fitness and strength training since even a superficial review of Greco-Roman frescos and other art will give it a date from at least that long past.
Any attempt to date when swinging weighted objects came into the fitness options is futile. There are sources which cite the warriors of Genghis Khan using metal buckets filled with rocks as a form of fitness training. Both the Scots and the Russians lay claim to being first uses of cannon balls with handles so choose your own favourite form of nationalism here. The book “The Development of Physical Strength with Kettlebells and without Kettlebells” was published in 1900 and reprinted three times (1902, 1909, and 1916) was written by Vladislav Krayevsky who also founded the St Petersburg Amateur Weightlifting Society (1885).
Rubber resistance bands were a first use of India rubber. They were developed to be use for physical rehabilitation in the mid 19th Century. Not unlike many other forms of physical rehabilitation, Pilates is an example, they worked their way into the general fitness realm. They went through a transition into the resistance being steel springs and became a sport in England referred to as Band Pulling complete with judged competitions based on weight classes. In the 1920’s several books were written on using band resistance for physical training. Many of that era’s strongmen used them to train. The 20th Century saw the return of rubber bands for the resistance probably because getting your chest hair caught in the springs on their retraction was not habit forming.
This training implement was “discovered” by the English when they colonized India. They had been used there and in neighboring countries for who knows how many years prior. They became a standard physical training modality in the British Army during that period and then spread worldwide. I have a digital book in my collection copyright in the United States in 1866 which has a thank you note from U. S. Grant acknowledging the book. Now there is a programme which gets you certified as an Indian club trainer. Whatever

“Early records of strength training date back to 3600 BC when Chinese emperors made their subjects exercise daily (Webster 1976). During the Chou Dynasty subjects were required to pass weight- lifting tests before entering the military.”
“During the 16th century in Europe books on weight training began to surface. Sir Thomas Elyot’s book on the topic was published in England in 1531. Joachim Camerius, a lecturer at Leipzig University, wrote several books in 1544 recommending that weight training should be a key activity offered in the model school. John Paugh published a book in 1728 titled A Physiological, Theoretic and Practical Treatise on the Utility of Muscular Exercise for Restoring the Power to the limbs, which pointed out the benefits offered by weight training for rehab purposes. In the 1860’s, Archibald Maclaren, devised the first formal system of physical training with dumbbells and barbells for the British Army.”
“The early strength pioneers developed numerous devices in regards to strength training including cable machines, kettlebells, barbells, dumbbells, odd-shaped bars, thick grip bars, weighted boots, isolation machines and various throwing devices. Yet 50 years later there are numerous people who claim to have invented this machinery. In today’s industry there are many systems and people promoting their new systems, which are not really new at all.”
Example: Both the Total Gym and Total Trainer are based on the Pilates Reformer which was created by Joseph Pilates in the early years of his programme.
The material in quotes was extracted from “History of Strength and Conditioning Science” by: Jamie Hale.
This is not an attempt to make an all inclusive comprehensive overview of all the current trends and their well seasoned predecessors it is just an attempt on my part to validate the manta, “what goes around comes

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

JADOMB 2/18/2013 1:16PM

    I watched TROY again the other day and saw many of their warriors were very cut and buff, so right there is proof they had bowflex back then. LOL

I think we have done well in isolating and focusing better on particular muscles, etc. with various pieces of equipment and plans. But in the end, the healthy and fit body just needs to move, exercise as many body areas as possible and eat right. And yes, many of these "NEW" plans and machines are just "do overs" from times past.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

As I wander through the pages of Spark people and other publications I notice the pictures of people running since I am a running coach. I am continually amazed or appalled; choose one or both, at the faulty running mechanics displayed in those photographs. The runners are over striding, landing heel first with knees locked and with their centre of mass behind their foot strike. Why are these pictures which are used? Is a puzzlement
I would think that a fitness website would have an obligation to edit the photo content to ensure that pictures of faulty mechanics for any exercise activity not show poor form. People are visual by nature and will mimic what they see more frequently than try to replicate words which they read. Poor form leads to injury in addition to the discouragement of not finding an activity comfortable and rewarding. While people will pay to have a personal trainer correct their form on gym machines, or pay a pro to improve their gold stroke or tennis stroke seldom is a trainer consulted concerning running form.
In today’s Minneapolis Star tribune is a picture of a mother and son running in a race held yesterday around one of our numerous lakes. Taken from the front the picture demonstrates the running form of the two runners in the foreground of the picture revealing their running form. The mother is over striding and about to land with a locked heel strike while her 7 year old son is landing on the ball of his foot with a flexed knee and his centre of mass over his foot strike. Does this reflect that as adults we somehow lose the muscle memory as to how to run which we had at a young age?
The next time you see a runner notice how they are running. Are they all herky jerky or are they flowing smoothly appearing to barely touch the ground? How loud are their footfalls, is there a slapping sound or a thudding? Then take notice of youngsters running, preferably those under ten or so years. Running is or should be a series of controlled “falls” landing on the mid foot with a flexed knee under your centre of mass.
How are your running mechanics?

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

GENEVIE5 12/30/2012 6:39AM

    Great Blog. This really makes me question my form. I am always concerned with posture and never really worried about foot strike ( especially in winter as I keep my stride short on snowy/ icy roads ). I will definitely pay more attention from now on!

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JADOMB 12/29/2012 10:10PM

    Good vids and info. I'll have to focus more next time I run to see if I am feeling the strikes. I actually do think I am running pretty smoothly, but then again, some of those pros do too and yet there were some critiques of their form. LOL

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SERGEANTMAJOR 12/29/2012 9:23PM



Read the comments when they appear in these URLs.


If you highlight them you can open them from here.

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NWFL59 12/29/2012 8:33PM

    Thanks for the information.

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JADOMB 12/29/2012 7:02PM

    As usual, great info. But do you have a good short vid or pics that you can post to show us what you are talking about. As you say, these pics are more useful that verbal descriptions. I do think I run right, but would love to see more of what you are talking about to make sure.

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SERGEANTMAJOR 12/29/2012 1:42PM

Note I did not say flexing your knee I said with it flexed, meaning slight bend. Landing with the knee flexed serves two purposes, it allows the leg to absorb the impact, then when you straighten it it propels you forward into your next stride.

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BRERRABBIT1 12/29/2012 1:24PM

    A stupid question, if I may?: By 'flexing your knees' do you mean tightening/locking them, or do you mean holding them in bent position?? (Thank you!I really appreciate your blogs)
**Family kidnapped by ninjas, need $2 for karate lessons! ** --placard seen on street person

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BRITOMART 12/26/2012 7:15PM

    "Does this reflect that as adults we somehow lose the muscle memory as to how to run which we had at a young age?" I'd say, yes. I've studied Alexander Technique for two years now, and the basis of that practice is regaining our 'natural' balance, use of our body, and learning to unlearn all the stiffness and inefficient ways we have learned to be.

Good blog!

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GREENGENES 12/26/2012 5:37PM

    Great point. It can be hard convincing the photographer that the image has to not only be attractive or interesting but also accurate. When our campus photographer shoots pictures with students in my lab I always have to remind him that a certain shot might look dramatic or "scientific" but nobody would do things the way the students are posed.

I have several student advisees who are distance runners and I've talked to them about form once I started taking running a bit more seriously. I've been working on their advice and think I'm doing alright but I really need to have someone watch me. We never seem to be at the fitness center at the same time but I think I'm going to have to just do it once the next semester starts.

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MISSG180 12/26/2012 3:23PM

    Because I have just started running after being diagnosed with some spinal osteoarthritis, I'm focusing on keeping my stride short, my landing soft on the balls of my feet, and my knees flexed. I figure that protecting my back is vastly more important than speed, and though I'm only running a 13-14 minute mile at this time, I'm forcing myself to be patient in building my muscular and connective tissue strength before thinking much about my speed at all. Slow and steady is vastly superior to fast and then dead-stopped by injury.

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LINWASH23 12/26/2012 2:23PM

    Good information.

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Friday, August 03, 2012

There is a recurring question asked on the boards which makes no sense to me and that question is; what is the distraction you use to “get you through your workout?” What distraction do you use when brushing your teeth, taking a shower or any of the other things you do every day which relate to your health and well being? Note the first four letters of the word, w o r k. Our health and fitness is something we need to work at maintaining if we are going to maintain our health and ability just as we do work to earn a living. If we decide that maintaining our health and fitness is some onerous task we need a crutch to get us through it, to survive it and keep us doing it then we are programming ourselves to fail. Will James said” the energy we send out is the energy which returns” so if we are not devoting our attention and energy to what we are doing when working out what do we have the right to expect in return?
In the hippie era the mantra promoted by Timothy Leary was “tune in, turn on and drop out” however it is not the best way to work out but many do just that. They “tune in” their music, TV, their iPod or cell phone, “turn on” the treadmill and then “drop out” mentally into a mechanical mindless automaton mechanical running or walking motion for a present number of minutes. It is a “Sound of Music” approach to working out, “a little bit of sugar helps the medicine go down”. If they are running out of doors they insert ear buds, turn on the tunes and block themselves from the sounds around them and becoming unaware of things going on which can be dangerous if running other than on a dedicated park trail or running track.
Many avoid resistance training since it requires concentration to strength train effectively and they find it “boring”. Boring is doing something in a purely mechanical way, going through the motions rather than concentrating and devoting attention to the activity to ensure it is being done in the most positive and beneficial way. While it can be ineffective and boring to do the same set of exercises every workout the number of different ways of doing the same exercises can provide variety and additional challenges precluding the onset of boredom.

Working out to a DVD is a distraction since you will always be at least a half a beat behind the instructor, you have to see the move through to completion before you can execute it or you are trying to both see the move and execute it simultaneously which can degrade the quality of the movement you are attempting to do. Just going through the motions or doing some alternate movement defeats the specific design of the sequence.The distraction would be diminished if the sequence of telling you what to do, demonstrating what you are to do then having you execute it was followed. If you do it enough times then you can imprint it to your memory and execute it in time with the instructor and obtain the full benefit of the exercise sequence.
There is a current urban myth called “multitasking” however the research reality is that you can only serial task. Maxwell Maltz M.D. explained this in his book “Psycho-Cybernetics” published in 1960 based on research done earlier by Norbert Weiner which was published in his book “The Human Use of Human Beings”. Current research has revalidated the earlier works cited above. If the research is accepted then the concept of “multitasking” while exercising loses validity since you can only concentrate on one thing at a time. If we cannot read a good book while attempting to monitor the TV or cook a meal without some impending culinary disaster while chatting on the phone why should we assume that we can get a quality workout while diverting our attention to some extraneous activity.
Intensity triumphs over duration unless we are training for an endurance based activity and intensity requires concentration to ensure the proper execution of what we are doing. Concentration precludes boredom, therefore the key to effective workouts is to find something you are willing to concentrate on and ensure you do not put your workouts on autopilot and simply go through the motions

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

INSANELY_AMY 9/1/2012 4:33PM

    This brings to mind a quote I saw recently - on this site, in fact! The quote is:

"There's a difference between interest and commitment. When you're interested in doing something, you do it only when circumstances permit. When you're committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results."
~ Art Turock

Really, this speaks perfectly to what you are talking about. Commit to it, concentrate and focus. I hadn't really thought of it in this light before but it makes perfect sense and is something I will strive for - hell, I'll ACHIEVE it!

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BRITOMART 8/20/2012 7:30PM

    VERY good point. You have to be present to really accomplish anything.

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