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.