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.