Friday, December 26, 2014

Sleepless in SC!

While the seven dwarfs in Snow White are cute, the one that gets a lot of grief is Sleepy! The poor little guy goes through life tired all the time and misses out on a lot of fun. Sound familiar?  I dare say you are not getting enough sleep and you are not alone.  Many people operate on too little sleep and are so used to it they feel being tired is normal.

Functioning on too little sleep is the subject in a new documentary from National Geographic, called "Sleepless in America".  It found 40 percent of Americans are sleep deprived, and it's affecting our waking lives, from memory lapses to irritability and depression.

According to Dawn Dugle, the digital age has increased the pace at which we live and the volume of information we are bombarded with and processing every waking moment.  Many of us forgo sleep in order to “get it all done!” Pushing aside sleep does more harm than good. You might think you're getting more done or fitting in a workout, but when our bodies don't get the required seven to eight hours of sleep at night, we're putting more stress on our bodies.

My coach is adamant that I get 7.5 to 8 hours of good sleep every night and when I don’t, not only does he give me a stern scolding; I see my workouts and other daily functions suffer.

"Your body is designed to release 'good hormones' (repair and build muscle) at night, while you sleep," said Dr. Andrea Lewis, assistant professor of otolaryngology and communicative sciences at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. "When you don't get enough sleep, your body actually releases 'bad hormones. Those "bad" hormones can lead to cardiovascular issues, hormonal changes in your body, obesity and diabetes.”

Unfortunately when we are tired, our bodies crave sugar and carbs as these are simple fuels that provide an immediate burst of energy.  They are fine when working out, but only add to health issues when use to stay awake.

Some indicators that you are sleep deprived include:

1. Memory lapses, such as forgetting part of your drive to work or zoning out during a meeting or lecture

2. Having to work harder to control your emotions

3. Lack of energy

4. Not feeling like doing things you normally love to do

5. Difficulty losing weight

6. Not enjoying your life

If that is not bad enough, a chronic lack of sleep can lead to reduced memory and concentration, depression, cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes.

All is not lost.  In many cases, it's an easy fix that is entirely in our control. Dr. Lewis said the majority of sleep deprivation cases are related to people's lifestyles such as trying to do too much in a day, electronics, and watching TV right before bedtime.

"Once you start watching television, it stimulates your brain and keeps you awake longer," Dr. Lewis said. And she urges you to get the television out of the bedroom altogether, making it strictly a place for sleeping. That means no electronics or computers in the bedroom either.

While poor little Sleepy goes through life missing a lot, I now understand how Sleeping Beauty got her name. Not only is beauty sleep real, it’s a necessity for your health!

HERE’S TO BEING FIT FOR LIFE! Chris is a Certified Personal Trainer, USA Triathlon Level 1 Coach, Group Exercise Instructor, exercise and endurance enthusiast.  He competes yearly in numerous running races, marathons, ultra marathons, triathlons and other endurance events. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Family Fitness

Exercising with others increases the likelihood that your new fitness routine will become a habit. 
Those who run together have fun together. This may sound cliché, but it holds a lot of truth. Families who share their fitness goals have a healthy future, not to mention a house full of accountability partners.
“Keeping fit together by making healthy choices is smart for families for some very important reasons. For starters, healthier parents are more involved, feel better and have more energy. They’ll add years to their lives and life to their years,” according to fitness columnist, Annie Oeth.

Healthier families mean we’ll have healthier children. “One of the best strategies to reduce childhood obesity is to improve the diet and exercise habits of your entire family,” according to the Mayo Clinic website,

Creating healthy habits, though, as a family project can be more than just getting fit. It can be a fun bonding experience.

While time or lack of it is often an excuse, conducting a family time management study and blocking out time for family exercise is important.  You may be surprised at how much “wasted” time you actually have.

Here are some tips to make family fitness fun:

Spend time outside. The sweltering heat and humidity of the summer has left and fall brings beautiful leaves and crisp temperatures. There’s no better time for a nature hike or trip to the walking trails. Adding Geo Caching can be a really fun way to get exercise, explore new areas and find some neat stuff.

Make family fitness fun and interesting. According to nutrition columnist Rebecca Turner,  create a fast fitness jar and allow each family member to write down their favorite exercise move that can be done in the living room — jumping jacks, pushups, high knees, air squats or even crunches. During each commercial draw an exercise and complete it for 2-3 minutes. By the end of the program you would have reached your 10 minutes for heart health.

What we consume is as important as how much we exercise.  Try different themed meals such as “Meatless Mondays where only vegetables are served.  Other nights of the week can be theme oriented such as Fish Fridays or choose a healthy international cuisine one night a week.

Make family meals healthy meals by always encouraging water or low-fat milk over a sugar-sweetened beverage, Turner said. “Boost your family’s nutrition by always having a fruit, vegetable or both at every meal and snack. Moms are always in need of healthy recipes. Put the power in your kids’ hands by challenging them to find healthy recipes that they would enjoy to try for dinner.”

While house and yard work don’t sound fun, they can actually help burn additional calories. Divide the chores up among the family and make it a contest with healthy prizes for the individual that burned the most calories.  Having Fit Bit devices is a great way to track activity.

HERE’S TO BEING FIT FOR LIFE! Chris is a Certified Personal Trainer, USA Triathlon Level 1 Coach, Group Exercise Instructor, exercise and endurance enthusiast.  He competes yearly in numerous running races, marathons, ultra marathons, triathlons and other endurance events.  

Monday, December 1, 2014

A Weighty Issue

As a nation, we lead the world in many categories, however one area we lead in that is not positive is increasing obesity and weight gain.  People are fatter and sicker than ever before!

Obesity rates have tripled since 1980 and have increased particularly fast in children and the poorer populations. While the reasons this has happens is still debated among scientists, many indicators point to changes in the environment as genes take thousands of years to change.

According to Kris Gunnars, author of Authority Nutrition, here are 12 reasons why America’s are gaining weight at an astronomical rate.

People are eating more “junk” than any time in history
People are eating more calories than before, and pretty much all of the increase has come from processed foods.
Sugar consumption has skyrocketed
Numerous studies show that eating excess amounts of added sugar can have harmful effects on metabolism; leading to insulin resistance, belly fat gain, high triglycerides and small and dense LDL cholesterol.
People gain a lot of weight during the holidays, which they never get rid of
A large percentage of people’s lifetime weight gain can be explained just by the 6 week holiday period.
The Obesity Epidemic Started When the Low-Fat Guidelines Were Published
It seems likely that putting the emphasis on saturated fat, while giving processed low-fat foods high in sugar a free pass, may have contributed to negative changes in the population’s diet.
There are also massive long-term studies showing that the low-fat diet does NOT cause weight loss, and does not prevent heart disease or cancer.
Food is Cheaper than Ever Before
It’s important to keep in mind that real food isn’t cheap, it’s processed food.  Real foods are expensive, with a lot of people unable to afford them. In many poor neighborhoods, the majority of the food is junk food, which is cheap and often subsidized by the government.
People Are Drinking More Sugary Soda and Fruit Juices
The brain doesn’t “register” liquid sugar calories in the same way as it does solid calories and as a result liquid calories are often added on top of calories from other food sources.
Increased Food Variety Contributes to Overeating and Weight Gain
When we have more types of foods available, we eat more, many times more than our bodies need.
People Don’t Burn as Many Calories When Working
For the most part we are an idle society. We even try and find the closest parking spot at work and at the gym!
People Are Eating More Vegetable Oils, Mostly From Processed Foods
Most oils are highly processed and use for frying which adds volumes of calories to our diet.
The Social Environment Can Strongly Affect Calorie Intake
Eating in a group can dramatically increase the number of calories consumed.
People Are Sleeping Less
It is known that poor sleep has negative effects on various hormones that are related to weight gain, and can contribute to increased hunger and cravings
Increased Calorie Intake
While food sources have deteriorated in quality, the influx of sugar, salt and highly processed fats do not trigger the brain to stop eating.  This has resulted in increased calorie consumption that leads to weight gain.  Hormone imbalances and reduced liver function can exaggerate the weight gain conundrum. 

HERE’S TO BEING FIT FOR LIFE! Chris is a Certified Personal Trainer, USA Triathlon Level 1 Coach, Group Exercise Instructor, exercise and endurance enthusiast.  He competes yearly in numerous running races, marathons, ultra marathons, triathlons and other endurance events.  

Friday, November 21, 2014

Run Forrest Run!

The Governor’s Cup Road Race is one of the oldest, prestigious, well run and fun races in South Carolina.  The half marathon is the featured event and takes runners on a challenging course through the hills and neighborhoods that boarder beautiful downtown Columbia.

I was particularly looking forward to this year’s Governor’s Cup as I had not raced since July, missing a couple key events due to illness.  I have recently started working with a new coach (yes coaches have coaches too) and I was excited to see how my fitness had improved since we started working together.

The morning brought perfect weather for racing and I was ready to go. I had my plan to run near the top of my heart rate for most of the race and watch the pacing per mile with the goal to really push the envelope the last three miles.

With an aggressive race strategy in hand; I knew the race was going to be fun, but also painful as running at near max effort for 13.1 miles was going to be as much a test of mental toughness as it was physical toughness.

One benefit of racing is you can always push yourself harder, faster and for longer duration in a race than you can when training.  As I set off for my 13.1 mile venture, it dawned on me the numerous and various incoherent, random and sometimes funny thoughts that race through a runners mind when pushing near maximal effort.  Here is a glimpse into my mind during the race:

Mile One – clop, clop, clop of the runners feet…wonder if this is what the Kentucky Derby sounds like?
Mile Two – I’m cold, I think I under dressed!
Mile Three – Did I lock the car?
Mile Four – Now I’m hot, so much for proper wardrobe execution!
Mile Five – Maybe I should try and some Gatorade in my mouth!
Mile Six – I wonder how many times I have looked at my watch already? Did I pay the mortgage?
Mile Seven – If I fall down this hill, I hope whoever helps me stops my watch! Tacos sound good!
Mile Eight – Oh great, a dog off his leash. I hope he doesn’t bite, oh who cares!
Mile Nine – Ouch this is really starting to hurt, oh look, a bird! I wish I could swim this well!
Mile Ten – I think I am going to puke, no cant puke that would take too much time.
Mile Eleven – I thought liked hills….I was mistaken!
Mile Twelve – Ok almost done and feeling good. Oh great there is a runner back at mile 12 that is already done and they are cheering us on. Show offs.
Mile Thirteen – Why do I do this?  I don’t want to do this ever again.
Race End – A new personal best by nearly 6 minutes!  I Can’t wait to do this again!

HERE’S TO BEING FIT FOR LIFE! Chris is a Certified Personal Trainer, USA Triathlon Level 1 Coach, Group Exercise Instructor, exercise and endurance enthusiast.  He competes yearly in numerous running races, marathons, ultra marathons, triathlons and other endurance events.  

Friday, November 14, 2014

Having a Ball

One of the best ways to maximize the training effect from your workout happens to be the best way to maximize recovery.  A proper warm up session of light intensity stretching or easy aerobic activity primes the muscles so you have a more effective workout and lessen the chances of injury.

Conversely, once muscles are worked from a long workout session, they are fatigued and have several small micro tears that need to be repaired in order to be ready for the next bout of activity.  Muscles also tend to tighten up after strenuous activity and releasing these muscle fibers to a relaxed state will make the recovery process much quicker.

Traditional recovery has been in the form of light stretching and deep tissue massage. While one can stretch on their own, deep tissue massage is time consuming, expensive and requires, well, a second set of hands.  While foam rollers are very good for self-massage, they don’t always allow you to really work those sore spots or “knots” that so frequently cause discomfort and reduce the intensity and effectiveness of the next workout.

I have found a softball and or baseball to be one of the most highly effective recovery tools available to anyone who exercises. The hard density and circular construction make it the perfect vehicle for working out those hard knots or sore spots and those hard to reach places such as the psoas and where the muscle heads connect between your calves and hamstrings, and hamstrings and butt.

Another benefit to a softball or baseball is that you can work out tight muscles without actually doing anything. I will often lie on my back and slide the ball under my glutes and lower back and roll around until I come across a sore spot. When I do, I let my body weight melt into the ball and allow the pressure to ease the muscle tension. I repeat this action two to three times for about 20 seconds each time. To get better leverage on my hamstrings, I like to sit in a dining room chair, place the ball under my legs and go through the same process.

In order to get full benefit from your softball or baseball, take some time to do some easy self-massage or go to a massage therapist for a Swedish or deep tissue full body massage.  Ask them to make note (you will probably be able to feel this) of especially tight or sore spots. These are areas you can then focus on when using your softball for self-massage.

Proper recovery is critical to maximizing your exercise program and the use of a simple softball and can make sure you are ready for the long haul!  Batter Up!


Chris is a Certified Personal Trainer, USA Triathlon Level 1 Coach, Group Exercise Instructor, exercise and endurance enthusiast.  He competes yearly in numerous running races, marathons, ultra marathons, triathlons and other endurance events.  

Friday, November 7, 2014

Fueling Your Spin

One fitness trend that is rapidly growing in popularity is spin cycling classes.  Most large fitness centers have a spin studio and the rise in popularity has led to spin only studios that offer many different classes and levels of complexity that appeal to the casual exerciser to those endurance junkies that compete in long distance endurance events.

There are many advantages and attractions to spin classes.  These include social elements, high intensity in a short period of time, a fun and motivating environment and accountability. While spin classes are fun with music, lights and entertaining and engaging instructors, they can also be very intense and produce a high calorie burn which is what many time crunched people are looking for.

While most spin classes are 45-60 minutes in length, you want to maximize your time on the bike to have a quality workout.  In order to perform at your best for the short burst of effort, proper fueling for your ride is extremely critical.  Many people ignore this aspect of exercise and hit the wall or “bonk” during their spin class. Here are some guidelines to make sure your tank is full with the proper fuel and timing in order to bring out your inner Tour de France!

Before Exercise
Consume a minimum of eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day. You should drink enough so your urine is a clear color throughout the day. Shortly before your workout, drink about 8-ounces of water so that you’ll have
a sweat-loss replacement readily available.

Eat a diet rich in complex carbohydrates, moderate in protein, and low in fat.  Start with breakfast and
if you’re skipping it, you’re making a big mistake. You should eat approximately 60 percent of your calories from carbohydrate-rich foods, or about 6–10 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of your body weight per day. If you’re eating a low carbohydrate diet, your muscles will feel chronically fatigued and you will feel the dreaded BONK.

The complex carbohydrates found in potatoes, pasta, grains and dried beans are essential for maintaining high energy for training. You only want to eat these carbs before or immediately following a workout when you body needs them. During the remainder of the day opt for lean proteins, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and legumes to keep your blood sugar stable.

I prefer a PowerBar Performance bar or a 24 ounce bottle of Gatorade Endurance 60 minutes before an intense workout.  The sugars will be used as fuel for the high intensity effort.

During Exercise
While some state water is important, I opt for drinking one bottle (24 ounces) of Gatorade Endurance or PowerBar Perform during my work out instead of water.  Both have an excellent mix of slow to fast releasing sugars, potassium and sodium.  Exercise reduces the sodium and potassium levels in the body though the sweat response and drinking water only can further reduce your sodium and sugar levels.

Post Workout
What you do immediately post workout is as important as what you do before and during. Your muscles are in a state of fatigue and you have greatly depleted your glycogen stores.  I recommend a recovery drink that contains both carbohydrates and protein. I prefer Endurox R4 as it is the best recovery drink I have found. You will also want to make sure you rehydrate properly with 16-32 ounce of water.


Chris is a Certified Personal Trainer, USA Triathlon Level 1 Coach, Group Exercise Instructor, exercise and endurance enthusiast.  He competes yearly in numerous running races, marathons, ultra marathons, triathlons and other endurance events.  

Friday, October 31, 2014

Questioning Your Workout

It may surprise you the number of people that begin a fitness regimen or training program for a specific goal such as a marathon or triathlon and have no idea what they are doing why they are doing it.  While exercise is good, understanding why you are doing something will greatly improve the results.

In order to maximize the effectiveness of any exercise program, understanding a simple concept in learning is important. While the traditional model of learning in the education system has predominately utilized a “push” method of learning – a one way dissemination of information, to really facilitate learning and maximize the time and effort you are putting in to training, I recommend adopting a “pull” focused learning strategy.

What do I mean by a “pull” learning strategy? That is a good question, literally. A pull strategy is where a facilitator or independent learning uses good open ended questions to facilitate learning. Instead of trying to simply remember everything, and then apply it, you use a series of questions to dig deeper into the information to gain a better grasp of learning. 

For example, if I am learning about how the body utilizes food for fuel during exercise, instead of simply reading the information, I will ask myself and others “open-ended” questions (questions without a yes or no answer) to help me research the material to have a better understanding of the concept and how to apply that knowledge to my particular situation.

Using open ended questions in your exercise program can help you gain more from your efforts and have more rewarding experience. Here are some examples to get you started.

Ask WHAT are you going to do?  If your goal is to run a marathon, question why you want to do it and write in detail what it means to you to accomplish this goal. What training plan will you use? What equipment do you need?

Ask HOW…How are you  going to train.  How much time do I have to train?  How are you going to tackle your training plan? How are you going to measure the results of your training to make sure you meet your goal? How are you going to deal with the mental aspects of rigorous training and racing?  How will you continue to learn and grow towards your goals?

Ask WHERE…..Where is the race going to be that you want to do?  Where will you conduct your training so you train on a course similar to the race course? Where will you do your strength training? Where will you work out when the weather is bad and you can’t be outside?

Ask Who….who will be your support team for moral encouragement? Who will be your trainer? Who will be your medical support?

While these are a few examples, effective questioning, especially when using who, what, when and how together for most topics, will stimulate the thought process that will ultimately lead to research, growth and personal development.


Chris is a Certified Personal Trainer, USA Triathlon Level 1 Coach, Group Exercise Instructor, exercise and endurance enthusiast.  He competes yearly in numerous running races, marathons, ultra marathons, triathlons and other endurance events.  

Friday, October 24, 2014

Turning Back Time

While our brains track birth dates, our muscle cells rely heavily on heart and muscle activity level to track time. If older adults spend a lot of time being in active, their muscle cells might conclude chronological age is 90. Muscles not activated with regular aerobic and strength activity respond by losing mass and wither.

On the other hand, someone 75 who regularly runs and swims may trick his muscles into thinking they're much younger than their biological age. Muscles constantly stimulated with vigorous activity respond by regenerating, adapting and preparing for the next episode of exercise.  This further highlights the importance of exercise at any age to help improve longevity and quality of life.

Below are some strategies identified by Susan Dawson-Cook, MS on how to turn back time.

The VO2max Factor
Aging occurs because of a variety of factors, some of which we have little control over. Maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max), one of the measures of a person's aerobic fitness, peaks at age 35 in women and 20 for men.  Declines in VO2max occur most rapidly in sedentary individuals. This explains why the deconditioned often get breathless walking short distances or up a stair or two.

Although some decline in VO2max is inevitable, aerobic activity dramatically slows this process by improving function and efficiency of muscle cells and keeps illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis and high blood pressure in check.

Antioxidant Boost
Regular exercise and eating healthy are keys to preventing damage to the body's cells. Moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise (brisk walking, easy jogging, bike riding, and swimming) and a diet rich in antioxidants, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts and spices, helps build the body's antioxidant defenses.

Mitochondria Power
Regular exercise improves the function and efficiency of muscle cell mitochondria. The powerhouses of the muscle cells, the mitochondria can increase energy output 400 times during activity (compared with rest) and stimulate cell growth and replication. Containing their own DNA, mitochondria increase in size and number under the proper circumstances.  The more exercise you get, the more mitochondria you get, the stronger you become.

Interval Training
Interval training slows aging by increasing oxygen demand and causing adaptation responses in muscles.  Intensity can be raised by increasing speed, incline or resistance. Increasing speed is most likely to cause injury and is only recommended for well-conditioned individuals free from musculoskeletal injuries. Intervals can be less traumatically done while swimming, cycling, walking, stair climbing or elliptical training. During the "on" intervals, participants do "high-intensity" exertion to raise the heart rate followed by periods of active recovery to let the heart rate subside. Do 2-3 sets of intervals per session.

Strength training
Strength training has been shown to reduce markers of oxidative stress and increase antioxidant enzyme activity which leads to muscle deterioration.  Adding a strength or resistance training protocol 2-3 times per week to a regular exercise program can prolong muscle degeneration and even improve muscle mass at any age. 
Getting in shape today can be the first step toward a longer and more fulfilling life.  According to Dawson-Cook, an inactive older adult can potentially decrease biological age by 10 or more years and gain back 12 years of independent living by embarking on an aerobic exercise program now.  Need proof? There were two individuals in their 80’s that competed in the IRONMAN World Championships this year in Hawaii!

Chris is a Certified Personal Trainer, USA Triathlon Level 1 Coach, Group Exercise Instructor, exercise and endurance enthusiast.  He competes yearly in numerous running races, marathons, ultra marathons, triathlons and other endurance events. 

Friday, October 17, 2014


Sometimes the mere thought of getting into shape or beginning and exercise program can be so daunting; it leads to failure before one even gets started.  There is the time commitment, the various clothing, shoes, electronics, and costly health club memberships not to mention which one to choose and then there is all the equipment. For many, this can be overwhelming enough that the easiest choice so to grab another bag of chips and opt for the couch and a marathon rerun of Seinfeld. Well at least it’s a marathon of some sorts, right?

It is true; exercising can be a complicated task if you allow it to be.  The cost of gym memberships, equipment, personal fitness electronics and clothing can add up, but the savvy consumer can get a great workout with minimal investment.  While functional strength training appears to be one of the most costly and involved, a TRX suspension training unit can provide an affordable, portable and highly effective strength training workout for the entire body.

So what is functional training?  According to Michael Risner with Life Time Training, functional training means moving your body the way it was meant to move—using all your joints and your full range of motion–so you can enjoy all the activities of daily life. We humans are designed to move ourselves through space, but our lifestyles don’t reflect this.  We sleep lying down, we sit down to eat, we sit down to drive, we sit down at work, we sit down to eat, we sit down to work some more, we sit down to drive home, we sit down and watch TV, and then we lie down to sleep.

A TRX suspension training system is ideal for increasing functional strength. While TRX (Total Resistance eXercise) might seem complex at first, the concept behind it is simple. Suspension training leverages gravity and the user's body weight to enable hundreds of exercises for every fitness goal. This straightforward concept of body weight vs. gravity is the definition of functional training.

So how does it work? Holding the body rigid in space against gravity forces the muscles of the core and back to work as they should to hold the spine in proper alignment. In addition to building strength, stability, endurance and balance, the TRX is also a great tool for increasing mobility and range of motion.  There isn't a muscle group you can't target using the TRX.

I'll often use the TRX to increase core stability and strength along with leg and upper body strength. The fantastic thing about the TRX is that the exercises are so easy to progress and regress to fit your needs. A simple shifting of the feet forward or backward can take a challenging exercise that can only be done with partial range of motion to an attainable exercise performed with full range of motion and proper form. You simply cannot achieve something like that so easily on a bench press.

While setting up the equipment is simple and easy to learn, it’s important to make sure the TRX is securely attached to its anchor point (a tree branch, pole, or door attachment). You’ll also need to adjust the TRX straps to varying lengths for different exercises.  A TRX unit costs about $175 dollars and comes with a DVD showcasing different uses of the equipment. There are also numerous video tutorials on TRXTV available on

Chris is a Certified Personal Trainer, USA Triathlon Level 1 Coach, Group Exercise Instructor, exercise and endurance enthusiast.  He competes yearly in numerous running races, marathons, ultra marathons, triathlons and other endurance events. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Exercise 101

I read an article on fitness that aptly stated “you can’t out run your silverware.”  Unless you are a world class athlete that partakes in several high intensity workouts for eight plus hours a day, there is no amount of exercise that can cancel out a diet that consists mainly of processed foods, junk food and calories from low quality liquid sources such as soda, processed juice and alcohol.

I don’t know if it’s the influence of pop culture or relaxing social values, but people in today’s society have an amazing and creative ability to justify and rationalize almost anything, yours truly included.  For example, I have never been a fan of swimming so when I first started practicing, each morning on the way to the pool I would find a host of reasons to justify and or rationalize cutting the workout short and most days I almost believed myself.

According to author Steve Kamb, we use rationalizations to justify horrible behavior and then compound those decisions by saying things like “well, I already made one bad decision, so today is ruined.  I’ll start tomorrow.” Another example is, “well I don’t feel like swimming 2,600 yards this morning, so I will just do 1,000 and I will come back and make the rest up later today.”  If I only had a dollar for every time I said that and never went back to the pool.

Starting or maintaining an exercise program can easily fall victim to the demons of justification and rationalization.  To live a healthy lifestyle you need to take time and think about all the reasons you “want” to get and stay healthy. You then need to “want” these reasons and the change in lifestyle more than you want the current state you find yourself in.  As my blog title says, “How Bad Do You Want It?”

When choosing to change to a healthy lifestyle, there are some axioms you need to consider and accept that will make your transition to health smooth and will help you establish new habits.

Exercising for an hour or more that burns 300-400 calories and saying “you earned this” to justify eating 1,000 calories worth of (insert junk food here) is a negative proposition. If you can rationalize or justify this, STOP it immediately.

Exercise does not mean running on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike for four hours and hating every minute of it. The end goal of getting healthy should not be devoid of fun.  Find something you do and remember the goal is to elevate the heart rate and the more intensity, the more calories burned.  If you find something you enjoy, you will likely do more of it.

Your diet is responsible for 80%+ of your success or failure when it comes to losing weight or getting healthier! Yes, it is that important!

Every decision is important and every choice you make is like putting a deposit in the bank. One bad decision does not ruin a day or one day off doesn't ruin a week. One week off can ruin a month if not timed correctly and can take you further away from your ultimate goal. Don’t let being tired or not feeling like doing a workout turn into a habit or justification for not doing it. Some of the best workouts I have had were on days when I didn't feel like doing them.


Chris is a Certified Personal Trainer, USA Triathlon Level 1 Coach, Group Exercise Instructor, exercise and endurance enthusiast.  He competes yearly in numerous running races, marathons, ultra marathons, triathlons and other endurance events.  

Friday, October 3, 2014


One main reason many folks don’t undertake an exercise program is the misconception that it requires a lot of expensive equipment to get a good workout.  Fortunately that is not the case. While a good cardio program costs nothing more than a good pair of running shoes, a shirt and some shorts, you can get a good strength training and toning workout for even less money with a set of exercise or resistance bands.

Strength training with resistance bands is a type of physical exercise specializing in the use of resistance to induce muscular contraction which builds the strength, anaerobic endurance, and size of skeletal muscles. Resistance bands come in different colors signifying different tension levels and have handles on each end. These are best for upper body work. Others come in a loop that is ideal for lower body workouts.

When properly performed, strength training can provide significant functional benefits and improvement in overall health and well-being, including increased bone, muscle, tendon and ligament strength and toughness, improved joint function, reduced potential for injury, increased bone density, increased metabolism, improved cardiac function, and elevated HDL ("good") cholesterol.

The first benefit to using band exercises while working out is the fact that the equipment required is very inexpensive and portable. You may pack your exercise bands with you when travelling and work out wherever you happen to find yourself, including any hotel room. They can also be used in the office on breaks or over lunch.

The second major benefit relates to how effective band exercises are when starting to work out, working out following an injury, or as part of a rehabilitation program. Band exercises have been used in such settings for a long time and are particularly effective at toning your muscles and allowing you to gradually increase the stress on your muscles as you regain more strength.

The third benefit is the efficiency of having various bands of different colors that equates to different tensions.  As your body adapts from the workload and gets stronger, simply combine two or more bands of different colors to increase tension. Most bands come with detachable handles or grips so you can connect numerous bands to one handle for ease of us.

There a few drawbacks to using band exercises that you should keep in mind. Firstly, the resistance becomes greater as you move forward into your motions, or in other words the resistance level is not stable throughout an exercise. As you near the end of a motion you'll reach the point where the resistance is greatest. This is not all bad but is not ideal as your muscles are not necessarily strongest at that point.

Secondly, it is difficult to estimate the resistance levels produced by the various tubes or bands. This means it'll be harder for you to chart down your strengthening progress. As with any exercise program, do some research to make sure you understand how to do each exercise properly and keep good form to prevent injury.

Finally, you should remember that exercise bands are particularly vulnerable to wear and tear and as a result you should make sure before using them that there aren't any visible tears in them, however small they may be.


Chris is a Certified Personal Trainer, USA Triathlon Level 1 Coach, Group Exercise Instructor, exercise and endurance enthusiast.  He competes yearly in numerous running races, marathons, ultra marathons, triathlons and other endurance events.  

Monday, September 29, 2014

Virtual Fitness

Many studies will show that the health of Americans is rapidly declining. According to the Centers for Disease Control more than one-third (34.9% of 78.6 million) of U.S. Adults are obese.  With that obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, which are some of the leading causes of preventable death.  Being out of shape is also expensive.  The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the U.S. was $147 billion in 2008 U.S. dollars; the medical costs for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight. 

While these are sobering statistics to say the least, fitness has experience a bit if a renaissance as of late.  More corporations and social groups are initiating fitness challenges and establishing wellness programs and personal fitness electrons such as the FitBit are become as popular as wrist watches and bracelets.

There is no shortage of fitness devices or programs on the market that are excellent means to help you get in shape or improve your fitness. Most programs are on DVD’s and require minimal equipment so they can be used for those that travel. 

It has become trendy to utilize these home workout programs and some of the personalities have become rock stars as I learned on a recent trip to NYC when my cab mates saw Shaun T from “Insanity” crossing the street and just about jumped out of a moving taxi to get an autograph!

Here are some of the top fitness programs on the market today that provide a great workout and are affordable.

PiYO - Define Yourself
Lead by superstar trainer Chalene Johnson, PiYO will help you define every inch of your body—without bulking up or straining your joints. You'll perform low-impact, high-intensity moves to get your strength training, flexibility, and cardio in each workout with no weights and no jumps.

Featuring trainer Shaun T, INSANITY utilizes plyometrics for legs and glutes, upper body resistance for arms, shoulders and back, pure and intense cardio for accelerated fat burning, focused ab work and a recovery segment to help your body soak up all the hard work.

TurboFire will help you burn more fat and calories than you would with traditional cardio. This 90-day program includes 12 high-intensity classes that go from low impact to high impact, plus a starter class that breaks down all the moves. You also get the Fuel the Fire Nutrition Guide.

With LES MILLS PUMP you can work out just 3 times a week to get results. You'll ignite calories, burn fat and get stronger, without bulking up with this high intensity work out. This 90-day program includes 7 workouts, 1 barbell, 2 safety clips and 2 set of weighted plates, 5 lbs. and 10 lbs., the Get Lean Nutrition Guide with 7 day Jump Start plan, and the Lean, and the Strong & Unstoppable Fitness Guide.

TRX Suspension Trainer
The TRX Suspension Trainer is the original workout system that leverages gravity and your bodyweight to perform hundreds of exercises. You're in control of how much you want to challenge yourself on each exercise - because you can simply adjust your body position to add or decrease resistance.  TRX is also good for flexibility training.

Chris is a Certified Personal Trainer, USA Triathlon Level 1 Coach, Group Exercise Instructor, exercise and endurance enthusiast.  He competes yearly in numerous running races, marathons, ultra marathons, triathlons and other endurance events. 

Friday, September 19, 2014


Working with a coach for my triathlon training, being a coach coupled with being in the learning and training profession, I am constantly aware of the need to ask numerous open ended questions in order to help others learn through thinking and research. Asking questions also helps me better understand how much knowledge those being coached have regarding a subject.

Below are some answers to often asked fitness questions.

Q. Should you do cardio and weights on different days?

If you are working out at a high intensity, keep your workouts separate as your first workout will always be the better one.  If you can only work out a few days a week and want to max out your calorie burn, you can do two works together but make sure you do cardio first. If time allows, doing cardio in the morning and strength training in the evening is a better choice as the time difference allows for recovery.

Q. What is better, working out in the morning or the evening?

Studies differ on what is best. Some studies show those that workout in the am in a fasting state lose more pounds while others show that later day workouts are more effective when the muscles are warmed up. Common sense comes into play.  Workout when you KNOW you will do it. Personally I recommend a morning routine and it is a great way to start your day and there are fewer things, including fatigue, that often get in the way of working out near the end of the day.

Q.  I work out regularly so why am I having trouble getting rid of my belly?

Those that have trouble with belly fat results from a poor diet and if exercising, not doing the correct exercises. Toning alone (lack of cardio) will not burn that belly fat.   When trying to lose the belly fat, turn up the intensity with your workouts to include intervals with built in rest periods. This will help spike metabolism and burn more calories.

Completing Atomic Pushups with a TRX system is also a great way to increase intensity, provide some cardio, tone the mid-section and get an intense workout in a very short period of time.  Other core engaging activities like crunches, Bosu ball twists and front and side planks are great core strengthening exercises.

Reducing the amount of refined sugar and simple carbs such as bread, pasta and cereals reduces the body’s insulin response that leads to fat storage. Opt for more fresh vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds and lean dairy.

Q.  Do I need to stretch?

While there are many opinions on the need to stretch and the validity of stretching, my preference and personal opinion is that stretching and foam rolling are two of the best things you can do when participating in an exercise program. Not only will stretching improve your flexibility, it will help prevent injuries, increase range of motion (which can lead to performance improvements) and is a great recovery tool.  Stretching is best done when the muscles are warm but I find some easy, dynamic and static stretching before a workout improves performance.  This is true for both strength training and cardio workouts.

Chris is a Certified Personal Trainer, USA Triathlon Level 1 Coach, Group Exercise Instructor, exercise and endurance enthusiast.  He competes yearly in numerous running races, marathons, ultra marathons, triathlons and other endurance events. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

A Low Blow

The greatest volume of injuries for athletes and active people is from the waist down. Whether you're a weekend warrior or a trained athlete, avoiding injury is more time for enjoying competition, staying healthy and having fun. Below are the top injuries that happen below the belt described by Jodai Saremi, DPM in conjunction with the Aerobics & Fitness Association of America.

Toe Space
Long-distance runners and anyone who engages in a sport that applies a lot of pressure or repetitive pressure to the toes is familiar with the black-and-blue toenail. Bleeding under the nail, is caused by trauma to the nail bed.  The best way to avoid a black toenail is to prevent toes from hitting the end of the shoes. Some athletes prefer to buy their shoes a half size bigger or they wear thicker socks. The best guarantee to lose a nail is to wear shoes that are too tight and run downhill.

Foot Fracture
The most commonly fractured bone in the foot is the fifth metatarsal, on the lateral part of the foot. When the foot is plantar-flexed and the person is trying to pivot or forcefully invert the foot, the fifth metatarsal can experience an avulsion fracture - where a piece of bone is torn off by the tendon that attaches there) or the bone breaks. Preventive measures are difficult to take, since these fractures mainly occur with quick, high-energy movement during athletic activity. Some studies have shown that weak ankles and overuse/overtraining may predispose one to injuries. Ankle support and shoes with good lateral support, or shoes and orthotics designed for supinated feet are therefore recommended.

Achilles Heel
The typical Achilles rupture feels like someone hit the back of the leg or the calf with a baseball bat. There is often an accompanying "pop" sound, pain and gradual—but definite—inability to plantar-flex the foot at the ankle. In athletes, this is a debilitating injury that may take up to a year from which to recover.  Prevention of tendo Achilles rupture (and tendinitis) lies in avoiding overuse injuries that weaken the tendon and making sure the ankle joint does not overpronate. Also, in sports that require repetitive jumping or quick acceleration, strengthening the accessory plantar flexion muscles may help take some of the load off of the Achilles. Proper warm ups, stretching and icing routines are also good preventative measures.

Shin Splints
Pain in the lower leg, specifically on the tibia (shin) bone, is a problem commonly seen in runners that can sideline the athlete. Opinions differ on whether shin splints are caused by microstress fractures in the bone, inflammation of the periosteum (the skin-like covering that provides circulation and sensation to bone) or are a result of compartment syndrome from swollen muscles or tendinitis on the leg (both posteriorly and anteriorly).  Although treatment of shin splints varies depending on the cause, there is agreement that ice and rest are useful. Additionally, the forces traveling down the tibia that caused the fractures should be addressed with a thorough biomechanical exam,


Chris is a Certified Personal Trainer, USA Triathlon Level 1 Coach, Group Exercise Instructor, exercise and endurance enthusiast.  He competes yearly in numerous running races, marathons, ultra marathons, triathlons and other endurance events.  

Friday, September 5, 2014

Cushy Workouts

Anyone who has run has likely read or at least heard of the book “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall. Born to Run is an epic adventure that began with one simple question: Why does my foot hurt? Isolated by Mexico's deadly Copper Canyons, the blissful Tarahumara Indians have honed the ability to run hundreds of miles without rest or injury either barefoot or with minimal support.

During the course of Born to Run, McDougall highlights the Tarahumara’s ability to run barefoot or with not so much as a single piece of leather or rubber as pseudo shoes.  While trying to identify why is he was prone to injury while running, McDougall’s book is credited by many as igniting the “minimalist” running craze. 

Minimalist running is running with minimal cushion and support for the feet. Vibram went  so far as to create their five toed running shoes that were little more than a five toed sock with a piece of rubber for a sole.  While Born to Run was extremely popular, many people tried to make the move to minimalist running, often times with injury and frustration.

While I am not a believer in ultra-minimalist running like the Vibram Five Toed shoes, for me I like a shoe with some cushion that still allows me to feel the road. At 130 lbs., I am applying much more pressure and force on my feet, knees and hips than larger runners and thus the need for less cushioning.  It should also be noted while the Tarahumara and our distance ancestors did run barefoot, they were also running on softer surfaces and not the concrete jungle most runners use today.

It’s almost ridiculous how a hot trend goes cold and another pops up in its place virtually overnight.  While good minimalist shoes have their merits, the fact is most runners shouldn't wear them due to size, conditioning, form, injury or all of the above.  Today the pendulum has swung from ultra-minimalist to ultra-maximalist shoes – shoes that are ultra-cushioned, have a wider toe box and provide a very comfortable and spongy ride, something many runners prefer.

According to Brian Metzler of Competitor Magazine, thanks to new midsole foam materials that are lighter, more resilient or more responsive, plus new design configurations – the same details that spurred the minimalist movement – some of the leading maximalist shoes are lighter than traditional everyday trainers and also promote natural gait tendencies.  With the added benefits of less impact and quicker recovery from long runs, many runners are giving shoes with oversized cushioning a try.
Hoka One One Clifton

Altra Paradigm

Two popular brands to check out if you are interested in beginning running or want less damage from the repeated impact running provides are the Altra Paradigm and the Hoka One One Clifton or Hauka.  Both are very light weight, provide great support and cushion and still give you a good feel for the road.


Chris is a Certified Personal Trainer, USA Triathlon Level 1 Coach, Group Exercise Instructor, exercise and endurance enthusiast.  He competes yearly in numerous running races, marathons, ultra marathons, triathlons and other endurance events.  

Friday, August 29, 2014

Its All About The Heart

One thing many exercisers, endurance athletes specifically miss is the concept that in order to improve aerobic capacity and speed, you have to vary the intensity of workouts on both ends of the spectrum. Some days you will push hard and other days you will barely move, all by design. Heart rate training is an effective tool to help you achieve optimum fitness.

Heart rate-based exercise training has been around for years. It is an effective way for people with a wide range of goals—from weight loss to elite-level athletic performance,  to monitor and control the intensity of their workouts. One of the most common mistakes in cardio exercise programs is failure to vary the intensity of workouts in a practical way.

The concept of heart rate-based training is simple. Heart rate has a well-known positive correlation with exercise intensity. As the workload increases, so does the demand for oxygen. Heart rate will also increase in order to supply the increasing oxygen requirement in the attempt to sustain the activity. 

The heart rate response to exercise stimulus is highly individual. There are a number of factors that influence individual heart rate responses to exercise. The most important factors are as follows:

Size: Larger individuals typically have lower resting heart rates.
Age: Maximum heart rate tends to slowly decline with age.
Fitness: Aerobically fit individuals are able to sustain higher heart rates for longer periods of time.
Heredity: A number of genes influence resting heart rate, maximum heart rate and innate aerobic fitness level.

Because each person has a unique heart rate profile, effective heart rate-based training requires that target heart rate zones be individually customized. There is an excellent book titles Heart Rate Training by Benson and Connolly that provides methods for establishing HR Zones.

A common mistake made in cardio exercise programs is training at the same moderately high intensity in most, if not all, workouts. The majority of exercisers regulate their cardio workout intensity primarily by perception of effort. Research has shown that when men and women "go by feel" in cardio workouts, they consistently select an effort level that which is just below the lactate threshold or anaerobic state and may be described as a moderately high intensity.

According to endurance fitness expert, Matt Fitzgerald, the problem with training at the same moderately high intensity day after day is that it is simply not as effective as a program in which intensity is more varied. Research has suggested that a program in which 80% of total training time is spent below the lactate threshold, 10% is spent at the lactate threshold, and the remaining 10% is spent above the lactate threshold yields greater cardiovascular fitness improvement than a program of equal volume in which 70% or less of total training time is spent in the lower intensity range.

Other studies, according to Fitzgerald,  have demonstrated that most recreational athletes do as little as 45% and seldom more than 70% of their training in the lower intensity range. This tendency to push the pace a little in every session creates a burden of chronic fatigue that prevents the exerciser from fully adapting to the work being done, and also prevents him or her from performing optimally in the highest-intensity workouts. This some workouts need to be much slower and less intense in order for the training effect to produce results.

Most individuals will regulate their workouts ineffectively. The proper use of a heart rate monitor, however, can help exercisers avoid wasting their time. With a little self-study and application a Hear Rate monitor with an individually constructed exercises plan can dramatically improve your fitness.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Rest and Recovery

How do you feel after your workout? It’s a simple question but one that many individuals don’t ask themselves and if they do, they don’t pay attention to the answer. Are you physically and psychologically ready for your next workout? Or are you exhausted, experiencing extended, fatigue with aching joints, mental fog and lack energy? If so, you may be experiencing overtraining syndrome.

According to exercise physiologists, it’s important for athletes and those who exercise to remember that although hard physical training and exercise can improve performance and health, to reach fitness goals there is a critical phase in one's routine that must not be overlooked. This phase is recovery. According to George L. Redmon, PhD, ND, during this phase, there must be a maximal reloading of cardiovascular output (the heart's efficiency) and muscular systems (increasing glycogen stores and mitochondria). Without adequate attention to this end stage of your physical output, you will never reach your long-term performance goals safely and effectively.

Overtraining syndrome is a state of burnout resulting from the combined negative emotional, behavioral and physical symptoms that occur as a result of persistent training without proper recovery. The usual first sign of overtraining is persistent fatigue that exists after several days following a hard strenuous workout. If your body is in a state of overtraining, you will cease to make progress and your performance will plateau and decline. This is a direct result of the volume and intensity of your exercise routine, which supersedes your ability to recover from it.

According to George L. Redmon, PhD, ND, while the most significant symptom of overtraining is fatigue, researchers insist that knowing the overall signs of overtraining is extremely important, as many symptoms are not immediately realized. For example, changes in mental attitude and personality, as well as changes in sleep patterns and gastrointestinal disturbances (soft stools and diarrhea) can gradually progress. Other subtle physiological changes of overtraining include reduced immune function (frequent colds, generalized flu-like symptoms), elevated morning blood pressure and waking pulse rate. Other aspects of overtraining  may include :

Blood sugar abnormalities
Headaches and anxiety
General malaise, moodiness
Longer time to recover
Increased susceptibility to injury
Muscle soreness; joint tenderness
Irritability and increased defiance
Loss of appetite
Depression and loss of motivation

It is important to know that proper recovery is the key to improving performance. Overtraining to continued exhaustion without pre and post recovery plans not only sets you up for failure, it can be detrimental to your health. Here are some strategies to help you with recovery and avoid or recover from overtraining syndrome.

Give yourself time to recover in between sets or workouts
Fuel up nutritionally before and immediately after an intense workout. For aerobic endurance workouts over an hour a combination of simple carbohydrates and protein is best.
Keep yourself well hydrated before, during and after your workout
Know your limits—start out slow
Be sure to get 7+ hours of sleep every night and if possible, on those days with aggressive and long workouts, try and sneak in a nap. Your body produces growth hormone only during sleep which is key to rebuilding damaged muscle fibers.

If you are not currently into to what your body is telling you, stop and learn to listen to it.  It is important to recognize when your workout routine has gone beyond normal without any strategy that includes rest and recovery. The most harmful factor of overtraining, according to Dr. Philip Maffetone the author of Training for Endurance, is that without recovery, even a low-intensity workout can result in overtraining symptoms as perceived by the body and also the brain.

By having a well-thought-out workout or exercise routine plan in place to provide your body with the right tools that foster proper recovery, you will be in a better position to ensure that your rest is recovering and promoting the growth and improvement in performance you are looking for.


Chris is a Certified Personal Trainer, USA Triathlon Level 1 Coach, Group Exercise Instructor, exercise and endurance enthusiast.  He competes yearly in numerous running races, marathons, ultra marathons, triathlons and other endurance events.  

Thursday, August 14, 2014


One of the nice things about competing in triathlons is the variety you experience from swimming, biking and running.  It’s a nice mix of aerobic activity that also provides the challenge of mastering all three disciplines.

Like most triathletes, the swim is not only the weakest sport of the three; it is the one that can cause the most angst and emotional stress. Swimming is a very technical sport and with the added drag of the water, even small flaws in technique can have a huge negative impact on efficiency in the water. Add to this swimming in open water with several hundred our thousand other triathletes and the mental part of the sport can make the difference between success and not completing a race.

Recently May and I visited a swim coach to help us improve our swimming since we are both active triathletes and one can never have too much coaching!  While there were many things that were interesting and impressive our about our new coach, what intrigued us the most was how she began our session. She didn’t ask about our technique, strengths or weaknesses, she began the session talking about the mental aspects to swimming, in particular in open water triathlons and provided us a set of mental tools we can use should the need arise.

Swimming is not the only sport that can cause mental stress and impede performance. While swimming in the unknown can frighten many people, I have known folks that have an equal fear of riding their bike or running in the dark or in cold weather.

The tools she provided are very simple to apply and can be used for any sport or life situation and I simply call them “the Rainbow.”  There are three mental states a person can be in defined as GREEN – Stress Free, YELLOW – Stressful and anxious feelings, and RED – Extremely stressful and all out panic. Your goal is to always be in a Green state and should you move to yellow or red, you need find your way back to green.

In the green state you are stress free and all is well. This is likened to “The Zone” where you can function at your best and without thought. This is the ideal state. Spend some time thinking about what this feels like and make mental notes of your performance while green.

In the yellow state, you begin to feel uncomfortable or stressful. This may right before the swim start at triathlon or if you get bumped in the water in an open water swim.  To help back to green have some “yellow card” thoughts such as recalling your best race ever, remembering your best swim, bike or run and the best comeback from an adverse situation.

In the red state, you are in an all-out panic. Timing here is critical as the body’s fight or flight mechanism will take over quickly.  To move back to green you need some “red card” thoughts such as thinking of your dearest family members, your most memorable personal achievement or a moment you changed someone’s life for the better.

By understanding what the green state feels like and creating yellow card and red card thoughts you can practice these emotion changers daily so you can easily call on them when the need arises.

Chris is a Certified Personal Trainer, USA Triathlon Level 1 Coach, Group Exercise Instructor and endurance enthusiast.  He competes yearly in numerous running races, marathons, ultra marathons, triathlons and other endurance events.