Tag Archives: exercise

The Stability (Exercise) Ball

This time of year, I find it amusing with all of the fitness and exercise tricks that are released and pushed on to consumers. Particularly, the fitness equipment that “you can’t be fit without”! When it comes to exercise equipment, the error is never in the product itself, but rather how it is sold and used. No product in and of itself is never a solution, just perhaps a creative, ingenious way to accomplish the task. Case in point, let me tell you about a simple exercise tool that on the surface looks like something kids would play with (they do and they love ‘em; so do the dogs) and is part of 90% of my fitness programming: the stability or exercise ball, aka the fitness orb.

A Little History

The stability ball was developed in 1963 by Aquilino Cosani, an Italian plastics manufacturer. It had first been called a Swiss ball after American physical therapists saw techniques used in Switzerland with great successes. Since its introduction here in the States, the stability ball became a stalwart piece of equipment used in physical and athletic therapy settings before it became popular in the fitness realm. Now, every gym, studio, or anywhere where fitness is conducted at least one of these balls can be found. But are the worth it?

The Science

Despite its popularity and wide spread use across the fitness continuum, very little research has ever been conducted. What’s more, most of the purported benefits such as greater core strength, balance training and increased strength have never been proved. Furthermore, the benefits of just sitting on the ball have never been proven either unless used in conjunction with other exercises which I will further explain. So what gives? Remember what I said previously? The error is never in the piece of equipment but rather how it is used. I will stand by and fully endorse the use of the stability ball so allow me to explain.

The Benefits

Due to its round nature, the stability ball is unstable; it moves and rolls. Instability will always recruit more muscles than just the primary muscles. EMG (electromyographic) studies have proven that. Stabilizing or secondary muscles are more highly recruited aiding in more total muscle activation. This “stabilizing” is what separates the stability ball from a lot of other unstable training devices. They can safely be used from the very young to the very old. The balls come in a variety of sizes from 45 – 85 cm and are generally prescribed based on the height of the individual but can easily be adapted to any size regardless of the individual’s height. So while just sitting on the ball will do very little, adding a movement or exercise to that seated position will yield results. Taking it a step further by adding more advance type movements like push ups off of the top of the ball or abdominal movements done with the both feet on the ball and even the most basic looking exercise can be that much tougher.

The stability ball is just a tool, an option or way to add more variety to your current workout routine. The possibilities are endless and with some creativity, safe and effective exercises can be accomplished with the stability ball. Just ask anyone of my hundreds of clients who have used them through the years. Never under estimate its use and when utilized properly, it can be just what you’re missing.

Til next time. Train smart, eat well, and be better

12 Days of Fitness 2020: Day 11 – How Exercise May Fight Aging

(This is part 11 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

According to an interesting new study, regular exercise throughout adulthood may protect our muscles against age-related loss and damage later. The study finds that active older men’s muscles resemble, at a cellular level, those of 25-year-olds and weather inflammatory damage much better than the muscles of sedentary older people. The study also raises some cautionary questions about whether waiting until middle age or later to start exercising might prove to be challenging for the lifelong health of our muscles.

Why Wait?

Physical aging is a complicated process, as any of us who are living and experiencing it know. Precipitated by little-understood changes in the workings of our cells and physiological systems, it proceeds in stuttering fits and starts, affecting some people and body parts earlier or more noticeably than others. Muscles are among the body parts most vulnerable to time. Almost all of us begin losing some muscle mass and strength by early middle age, with the process accelerating as the decades pass. While the full causes for this decline remain unknown, most aging researchers agree that a subtle, age-related rise in inflammation throughout our bodies plays a role. “A lot of studies show that higher circulating inflammatory factors in people are associated with greater loss of muscle mass,” says Todd Trappe, a professor of exercise science at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., who oversaw the new study. Since it was already widely accepted that physically fit people tend to have lower levels of inflammation in their bodies than inactive people. So, the researchers wondered, would active, older people also have more and healthier muscle mass than other older people? And if so, what might that tell us about how human muscles can optimally age?

Some Profound Results

In the study, it was noted immediately that the men’s thigh circumference reflected their ages and lifestyles, with the young athletes sporting the burliest legs, the elderly athletes slightly smaller ones, and the inactive elderly men the spindliest. The researchers found that inflammatory responses differed in the men. The young athletes displayed the least amount of inflammation in their blood and muscles at the start of the study and continued to do so after the workout. While their muscles flared briefly after exercise with inflammatory cells and related gene activity, the microscopic examination found that countervailing anti-inflammatory signals were also increasing and should soon cool the inflammation. A similar response occurred inside the muscles of the elderly athletes, although their inflammatory markers were slightly higher and their anti-inflammatory reactions a bit lower. But in the untrained elderly men, inflammation was much more of a bushfire, spiking higher than among the other men and showing fewer cellular signs of resolving any time soon. Taken as a whole, these results suggest that long-term exercise may help aging muscles remain healthy in part by readying them to dissipate inflammation. But on the flip side, sedentary living seems to set up muscles to overreact to strain and remain inflamed, potentially leading to fewer muscular gains when someone does exercise. More important, the findings should not discourage middle-aged or older people who have been inactive from starting to visit the gym. Even if inflammation gets in the way a bit at first, your muscles will respond and grow and eventually should start to resemble those of people who have been exercising lifelong.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

See you tomorrow for the conclusion of the 12 Days of Fitness

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day #1 – 7 Ways to Stop Overeating Forever
Day #2Sleep Facts That May Surprise You
Day #3 – Why Losing Weight Through Exercise is Hard
Day #4 – You Are Never Too Old to Exercise
Day #5 – 6 Ways to Adopting a New Habit
Day #6 – The Real Science Behind Fascia
Day #7 – 5 Ways to Improve Eating Habits Without Counting Calories

Day #8 – How Age Affects Workout Recovery
Day #9 – Fitness and Nutrition Tips From the Healthiest Countries
Day #10 – 5 Bodyweight Exercises That You Can Do Right Now

12 Days of Fitness 2020: Day 10 – 5 Bodyweight Exercises That You Can Do Right Now

(This is part 10 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

If there’s been a positive spin on this pandemic, it’s that people have discovered that you don’t need to belong to a gym to workout. Home gyms, online programs, and virtual training have become increasingly popular. But the one thing that has always been there and never needed any real specific instructions is using your own body as an exercise apparatus, better known as bodyweight training. Whether you find yourself on vacation without any exercise equipment or you’re working out at home, bodyweight exercises can help you stay on track. Here are five bodyweight exercises you can add to your routine right now and get your whole body moving.

  • Moving Squat to Balance

Begin with your feet directly under your hips and your core engaged to support your low back. Bend your knees as you move your hips back, keeping your torso as upright as possible; keep your weight on your heels to perform a narrow squat. Stay in this narrow squat position and step out into a wide squat. Return to the narrow squat. Rise up to standing and focus on contracting your abdominal muscles as you bring your knee up to hip height; aim to keep the hips level. Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.

  • Lunge With Rotation

Begin with your feet directly under your hips and your core engaged to support your low back. Step forward with your right leg and bend both knees to sink into a lunge. As you lower down, simultaneously hinge at the hips and reach the left hand to the instep of your front foot and the right arm up toward the sky for the rotation. Be sure to keep your weight in the heel of the front foot and your spine long during the lunge with rotation. Return to the starting position and repeat on the opposite side. Once you feel confident with the exercise, aim to fluidly connect the lunge with the rotation.

  • Deadlift With Hip Flexion and Extension

Stand tall with your best posture and slowly sweep one leg forward while keeping the hips level. Pass through center and extend the same leg backward with the hips remaining level. With the back foot lifted or lightly touching the ground (like a kickstand), hinge forward at your hips to slowly lower your chest toward the floor. With the hips level and the spine long, the goal is to lower yourself as far as you can to feel the hamstrings of the standing leg contract. Return to an upright position, place the foot on the floor and repeat on the other side.

  • Double Push-up to Downward-facing Dog

Start in a plank position with either your knees or your toes on the floor. Scoop your belly away from the floor to set your core. Walk your hands out wide and bend your elbows to perform a wide push-up. At the top of the push-up, walk your hands back under your shoulders and perform a narrow push-up. At the top of the push-up, lift your tailbone to the sky and gently press your chest toward your thighs and move into downward-facing dog, gently pressing your heels toward the floor. Return to the starting position and repeat.

  • Table Top with Lift and Reach

Begin seated with the knees bent, feet hip-distance apart and positioned close to the hips. Place your hands behind your hips; your fingertips should face your heels or be slightly turned out. As you press through the heels and begin to lift your hips toward the ceiling for the tabletop (with knees directly over the heels and shoulders directly over the hands), lift your right leg and simultaneously reach toward your foot with the opposite hand. Return to the starting position and repeat on the opposite side.

Give one or give them all a try. Always best to keep moving.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

See you tomorrow for Day 11 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day #1 – 7 Ways to Stop Overeating Forever
Day #2Sleep Facts That May Surprise You
Day #3 – Why Losing Weight Through Exercise is Hard
Day #4 – You Are Never Too Old to Exercise
Day #5 – 6 Ways to Adopting a New Habit
Day #6 – The Real Science Behind Fascia
Day #7 – 5 Ways to Improve Eating Habits Without Counting Calories

Day #8 – How Age Affects Workout Recovery
Day #9 – Fitness and Nutrition Tips From the Healthiest Countries

12 Days of Fitness 2020: Day 8 – How Age Affects Workout Recovery

(This is part 8 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

I will continue to say that age is just an excuse when it comes to fitness. For many men and women that continue to work out regardless of their age, a daily or weekly workout routine is one of the few escapes from everyday life, not to mention an opportunity for some alone time or socialization at the gym. Yet many workout enthusiast, pros and amateurs alike, are ignorant when it comes to how age affects recovery. So how exactly does one’s age impact their recovery period? Are older workout enthusiasts hopelessly doomed by the sands of time? As luck would have it, people of any age can still enjoy a healthy, structured workout routine—they just shouldn’t expect to bounce back instantly if they’ve reached a certain age.

Taking Some Time for Recovery

Everyone, regardless of age, needs to take some time off for recovery every now and then. For older individuals, particularly those who are well past their 40s, this recovery period may be longer than they remember from when they were young. Yet those who maintain a healthy diet and a safe workout routine can expect to bounce back with little troubles, provided they’re exercising on a consistent basis. For the more experienced, age has often been found to have little impact on recovery times. This isn’t true for every fitness endeavor, however. Runners who have been honing their cardio craft for decades will find that age doesn’t necessarily slow the recovery process too much, but heavy weightlifters who have seen the years go by may be in a different boat. Pain from muscle fatigue, for instance, is often felt for a longer period when the individual in question has reached their 40s. No one can push back the sands of time, and older people will inevitably struggle at a higher level during their recoveries than they did when they were younger. Nonetheless, studies have confirmed that older individuals feel muscle fatigue for longer periods also determined that consistent exercise helps maintain performance levels and overall health, so keep at it. Our bodies, the muscles that move them, and the hormones and chemicals that power them inevitably change with time, but a determined human heart has many decades of exercising in it before it will give out.

Don’t Be Fooled by Appearances

People who hope to stay in shape well into retirement shouldn’t let themselves be fooled by appearances; fully grown adults and seniors regularly show the resilience and strength of the human body and mind. Similarly, older women shouldn’t fear that their beloved days of exercise are behind them, either. You don’t have to be a young, muscle-clad man to be healthy or successful in your fitness endeavors. Plenty of others haven’t let themselves be deterred by age. Wise people know they can’t always rely on spirit alone, however; so what are some practical, scientific ways to ensure you keep kicking for the foreseeable future?

How To Keep It UP

To start with, an incredibly protein-rich diet has been shown to be much more beneficial to older athletes and exercisers than traditional diets. Older people can’t quite expect the same levels of energy or spryness that they enjoyed in their youth, but smart habits like eating nutrient-packed foods and avoiding age-old hazards like smoking can go a surprisingly long way. It’s also important that older individuals don’t scare themselves into never taking a recovery day, for fear of “never getting back up” once they sit down. Alternating workouts, such as doing lower body workouts one day and upper body workouts the next, can also go a long way in maintaining your body’s physical prowess for years to come.

Staying strong and spirited well into your old-age is often a matter of maintenance. Putting in the right work, eating the right foods, and knowing when to take a break can go a long way toward keeping you in tip-top shape for the rest of your life.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

See you tomorrow for Day 9 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day #1 – 7 Ways to Stop Overeating Forever
Day #2Sleep Facts That May Surprise You
Day #3 – Why Losing Weight Through Exercise is Hard
Day #4 – You Are Never Too Old to Exercise
Day #5 – 6 Ways to Adopting a New Habit
Day #6 – The Real Science Behind Fascia
Day #7 – 5 Ways to Improve Eating Habits Without Counting Calories

12 Days of Fitness 2020: Day 4 – You Are Never Too Old to Exercise

(This is part 4 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

I hear it all the time. “I’m too old to start exercising now.” “When you get to me my age, you’ll see.” As often as I hear it, I understand these statements to be more like myths than truths. It was once thought that once you reach a certain age all physical work is to stop. Contrary to those myths, you can actually improve your physical well-being in your older adult years even if you’ve never exercised before.

Age vs. Movement

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests adults do at least two-and-a-half to five hours a week of moderate-intensity activity. Not too bad. In addition, focusing on the postural alignment of the body may also help to start feeling better and moving with confidence. Proper postural alignment helps with everything from cardiovascular health to relieving joint pain and arthritis. When we’re young and continuing that habit throughout life it improves our health and decreases the chances of death. But a recent study found the same is true for adults who start exercising later in life. According to the study’s authors, “Although long-term participation in physical activity may be important to lower mortality risk, the present study provides evidence that becoming physically active later in adulthood (40-61 years of age) may provide comparable health benefits.” Other scientific studies have uncovered similar conclusions, including the fact that exercise programs for sedentary middle-aged adults can help to decrease the risk of heart disease  Now that you understand that exercise can help you turn around your health at any age, the next step is figuring out what activities you enjoy and will stick with over the long term.

A Change of Heart..and Mind

Starting exercise later in life requires that you find more meaning in why you’re moving. For example, can you transition from standing, down to the floor, and back up again easily? How do you feel when you get out of your car? Do you feel sluggish when you’ve been sitting for a long period of time? Ask yourself these questions and start to reshape your fitness goals to enhance your day-to-day functions in life and the confidence you have in your body. Choose activities that you enjoy, which will make it much easier for you to stick with your exercise routine. Get your family involved by going on a hike or a walk around the neighborhood. Dance with your grandkids in the kitchen, play a game of pickleball with friends or go for a swim at your nearby gym. Willpower will only get you so far, so find a way to make exercise a new routine for your daily life. Reward yourself for exercising so you’re motivated to do it again.

The bottom line: The earlier you start the better, so start today.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

See you Monday for Day 5 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day #1 – 7 Ways to Stop Overeating Forever
Day #2Sleep Facts That May Surprise You
Day #3 – Why Losing Weight Through Exercise is Hard

12 Days of Fitness 2020: Day 3 – Why Losing Weight Through Exercise is Hard

(This is part 3 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

Most of us eat more when we exercise, and though it may be just a few extra bites a day, the result is weight gain. People hoping to lose weight with exercise often wind up being their own worst enemies, according to the latest, large-scale study of workouts, weight loss and their frustrating interaction. The study, which carefully tracked how much people ate and moved after starting to exercise, found that many of them failed to lose or even gained weight while exercising, because they also reflexively changed their lives in other, subtle ways. But a few people in the study did drop pounds, and their success could have lessons for the rest of us.

Is Exercise Effective Enough?

In a perfect universe, exercise would make us thin. Physical activity consumes calories, and if we burn calories without replacing them or reducing our overall energy expenditure, we enter negative energy balance. In that condition, we utilize our internal energy stores, which most of us would call our flab, and shed weight. But human metabolisms are not always just and cogent, and multiple past studies have shown that most men and women who begin new exercise routines drop only about 30 percent or 40 percent as much weight as would be expected, given how many additional calories they are expending with exercise. Why exercise underwhelms for weight reduction remains an open question, though. Scientists studying the issue agree that most of us compensate for the calories lost to exercise by eating more, moving less, or both. Our resting metabolic rates may also decline if we start to lose pounds. All of this shifts us back toward positive energy balance, otherwise known as weight gain. It has not been clear, however, whether we tend primarily to overeat or under-move as compensation, and the issue matters. To avoid compensating, we need to know how we are doing it.

How Are We Doing It?

One of the main complaints about exercise is that it can make you hungry and cause you to eat more. It’s also been suggested that exercise may make you overestimate the number of calories you’ve burned and “reward” yourself with food. This can prevent weight loss and even lead to weight gain. Although it doesn’t apply to everyone, studies show that some people do eat more after working out, which can prevent them from losing weight. Exercise may influence the hormone ghrelin. Ghrelin is also known as “the hunger hormone” because of the way it drives your appetite. Interestingly, studies show that appetite is suppressed after intense exercise. This is known as “exercise anorexia” and seems tied to a decrease in ghrelin. However, ghrelin levels go back to normal after around half an hour. So although there is a link between appetite and ghrelin, it doesn’t seem to influence how much you actually eat. Studies on calorie intake after exercise are mixed. It’s now recognized that both appetite and food intake after exercise can vary between people. For example, women have been shown to be hungrier after working out than men, and leaner people may become less hungry than obese people So, if you are hoping to lose weight with exercise, pay close attention to what you eat and not quit or blame the exercise.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

See you tomorrow for Day 4 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day #1 – 7 Ways to Stop Overeating Forever
Day #2Sleep Facts That May Surprise You

 

Getting Back to Normalcy

During these trying times we often talk about when things will return to normal. Thing is, nobody really knows if and when that is. What we can agree on however is that life goes on. We must continue on with our lives the best we can. While this temporary wrinkle to our “normal” lives exist, more and more opportunities present themselves as a return to “normal.” For one, fitness is and needs to be a part of our lives. Besides the many proven benefits of fitness, making fitness a regular part of your life has been shown to be one of the top combatants to this ruthless pandemic. But finding a way to get and stay fit comes with its own issues and question marks.

Getting Back to the Gym

Here in Pennsylvania and other parts of the country., most gyms and fitness centers were given the green light to reopen in June. Each situation has its own limits and restrictions but nonetheless customers were permitted to pick up their fitness routines back inside the gyms where they had been committed. So, whether you are back in the gym or are thinking about going back, here are a few things to consider:

  • Learn more about what your club has done during the closure and what policies have been put in place for your safety, as well as the safety of its employees. You can generally find this information on the club’s website or social media channels; if it’s not there, make a phone call or arrange a face-to-face visit and ask about.
  • What deep cleaning took place during closures and the new cleaning and disinfecting policies that will be in place (e.g., what products are they using, how often areas are cleaned, who is responsible for the cleaning)
  • Capacity limits and if reservations are needed for the gym as a whole or the specific area where you plan to spend your time (e.g., group fitness studio, weight room floor, functional area, cardio equipment). Try to schedule your workouts during slow times if possible.
  • What entry policies are in place for employees and exercisers to help decrease the spread of the virus (e.g., temperature scans, daily health questionnaires, signs and symptoms, tracking of those using the building at the same time in case a member reports being diagnosed after exercising on site)
  • How policies for staff and patrons will be enforced.
  • What are their mask policies? Most places still require a mask be worn at all times, particularly if you are someone with pre-existing respiratory or cardiovascular conditions.

Being able to clearly answer these questions is a positive sign that your gym or health club has done its due diligence, but you’ll still want to proceed with caution. On your first day back, carefully observe staff and patron behavior to see if what is proposed aligns with the club’s day-to-day reality. The less time you spend in the gym, the less exposure you will have, so get in and get out.

Alternatives to Working Out in the Gym

If you are uncertain about returning, have underlying health conditions, worry about being in frequent contact with others who are at high(er) risk whom you could possibly affect, take your time in returning. Keep in mind, there are other ways to get moving! It has never been easier to find at-home exercise options, whether it’s walking in your neighborhood, riding a bike, using an exercise app, training virtually with a fitness professional, or taking video-on-demand or live-streaming classes.

Everything comes down to a choice so always exercise good judgment and do what’s right for you.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

Virtual Fitness: Is This the New Way of Fitness for the 21st Century?

2020 has been quite the year and we’re not even done yet. The days simply seem to run together as we keep looking for hope and answers. If you’ve been counting, it’s been about 5 months. That’s quite a bit of time to do something, anything with the time you’ve been given. Hopefully, you’ve taken the time to do something positive for yourself and for those important to you. For me, both personally and professionally, I’ve made the best of the time given to me, some planned, some not so much.

COVID-19 Effects on the Fitness Industry

Back in March, we were told to close down for two weeks. Two weeks became two more weeks, then a month, and then two months. For my brethren in the fitness industry, it was hard to take. Gyms were asked to close. Studios were asked to close. If you made a living teaching fitness classes or training those in the gym, you were quickly unemployed. Nobody knew for how long and as a result a lot of fitness businesses closed their doors permanently. On a personal level, I was devastated. Not because it personally affected me, but fitness has always been touted as one of the best things to have when combatting this virus. And I am a huge proponent of fitness. To simply deny people the ability to exercise seemed counterintuitive. Then came the onslaught of sales for home exercise equipment that depleted quickly with no signs of a return. No gyms, no equipment, and no hope if you didn’t have an alternative. But then, an opportunity for me professionally became apparent through all of this that has been going extremely well today, and hopefully for the foreseeable future.

The World of Virtual Training

I’ve been extremely fortunate. My business saw very little drop off and has actually grown in the worst possible environment I could be dealt. And why? Because of the trust and loyalty of my clients, I was able to venture into the world of virtual training. Virtual training is working with someone live, but digitally through an existing platform. I’m there, just not physically. Now I’ll be honest. Training “on-line” was something I had been looking into for several months prior to our shutdown. I prefer and would much rather be in the physical presence of working with a client. But it has opened a gateway for me professionally that had COVID-19 not happened, I still might not have explored. By training clients virtually, I’ve been able to run “business as usual” – which is good for me and excellent for my clients. For my clients, it’s an opportunity for them to continue to stay up with their fitness and alleviate any fears of potentially spreading of the virus. 

The Pros and Cons

Virtual training has opened the door for me to work with clients perhaps I may have never had the opportunity to work with in person. I now have the capacity to train anyone, anywhere in the world. But what are the benefits to the client? For one, especially during this pandemic, they’ve been able to stay with their fitness goals. I’m still involved in their journey, albeit just not physically. Two, they also have more flexibility with their scheduling with me. There’s never an excuse to miss a workout now – I’ll be there in a sec. Some of the downside? You have to be able to have some exercise equipment. If you were caught empty handed when the pandemic hit, your best chance of securing fitness equipment came from others potentially selling their own. I’m a huge proponent of body weight training, but unfortunately most can not rely on simple body weight training as their only mode of exercise. The biggest one however is having a strong and secure internet connection. Now I’m not going to lie. In my house, due to a teacher and student also needing an internet connection, there were three of us at any given time and our signal never timed out. But it is a possibility and one that can put a real damper on a session. 

Virtual training is different, yes, but the only true difference is me not physically being present. I’m still extremely capable of guiding clients through their workouts and making any of the adaptations required. In the end, virtual training isn’t for everyone and that’s ok. It’s an option to consider and one that is just as effective as me being in the physical presence. If you’d like more information or would like to give virtual training a try, just shoot me an email. Together, we can turn a pandemic into a positive.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

A Client Success Story

For those of you who have known me and followed me over the years know that not only am I fitness professional but a very passionate one. You see, fitness to me is a way of life. I’ve just been fortunate enough to make a career out of it. Most view fitness as a side activity, one that either fits into their lives or it doesn’t. I take a great deal of pride and education for myself in helping people to understand the positives that fitness can have on their lives. I don’t always have followers but that’s why I continue on. I want to share with you today a story of a client who has done all those things – made fitness a priority in her life; continued to follow my guidance; took all the positives along with the negatives and turned out to become the best version of herself.

How We Started

Tricia and I first met about 12 years ago when I worked at Pottstown Health Club. She had been working with one of my trainers and it was brought to my attention that I might be better suited to help her. Tricia had a “nagging” forearm issue of sorts that we later determined was the result of carrying heavy bags (computer, handbags). With a successful evaluation and treatment plan, Tricia’s arm got better and shall we say, the rest is history. Tricia has been a personal client since then and stuck with me through the gym closing and venturing out on my own. Stories like you’re about to hear are one of the many reasons why I do what I do, why I love what I do, and where my passion for all things fitness comes from. What better way than for you to hear this story other than from Tricia herself.

Her Story

I’ve always been athletic; a tomboy most of my life.  As a kid, I played baseball and football with the boys in the neighborhood.  I played field hockey and lacrosse in high school until knee issues sidelined me during my senior year.  Since then I’ve had a total of 5 surgeries on both of knees.  Ultimately, I will need a full knee replacement, so I have learned to manage the issues and pain since I was 17.  Having a chronic injury like that impacted my participation in sports, as well as working out.  This led to weight gain, which is not good for anyone, but for me with my knee issues, it was worse because I found it even harder to work out or even move.  That’s when I decided to take control and lose weight.  Another motivator was that I was engaged and wanted to look my best for the wedding. I joined Weight Watchers, as I knew I needed to be accountable to someone other than myself in the weight loss journey.  I lost 30 pounds and was very proud of myself.  I focused mostly on my nutrition but was working out a little as well. 

After the wedding, a few of my work friends started working out together at a gym close to the office.  Within a year, I was at my most fit and felt great.  I really enjoyed working out with my friends (never thought I would be a “gym rat” but I was there a lot). Then life happened.  I began traveling a lot with work and was not home a lot.  Because I was working out so much, I had a lot more “flexibility” in my diet.  When you stop working out consistently and continue to eat the same “flexible” way, a not-so-funny thing happens; you gain weight.  I did work out while I was traveling.  I found I had less excuses to NOT work out when I wasn’t home.  It helped that most of my work travel mates were working out in the hotel gyms, so if I brought my workout gear, and told my colleagues I was going to work out. I was accountable to them.  So, I tended to work out more when traveling then when I was home, but eating more than I should have, and maybe drinking more.  Because of my travel schedule, as well as losing most of my workout buddies (started families, changed jobs, moved) I canceled my gym membership. 

My husband and I decided to join Pottstown Health Club together.  I was using the cardio equipment and taking classes.  It had been a while since I spent time in a proper gym, so felt like I needed to work with a trainer; also felt like I needed someone to be accountable to again.  I had started working out with Cathy but then I met Jeff. He created a workout for me that allowed me to continue my momentum despite my injury.  I have continued to work with him since.

Fast forward a couple of years to the week I turned 40.  That seemed to be the year I hit the wall; it felt like I hit the wall, bounced off, then got run over by a truck, got up, and then fell face first into a vat of molasses.  I’ve felt stuck for the past 8 years. The week I turned 40 my back spasmed.  I never had any back issues until that week.  I spent most of that week in bed trying to recover from that until Jeff had recommended massage therapy.  In March of my 40th year, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Luckily it was caught very early, but a lumpectomy and 7 weeks of radiation were necessary.  Oh, and you can’t forget the 5 years of Tamoxifen.  Through my recovery, it was difficult to bounce back into a healthy, fit lifestyle.  It’s been nearly 9 years, but I found my way.  My health journey has one consistent factor…accountability.  And today is no different.  I got a sinus infection in January and visited the local urgent care.  They take your temp, blood pressure and weigh you before seeing the doctor.  As you leave, they provide a synopsis of your visit, including an evaluation of your weight.  I rarely read that information, but for some reason I did after that visit.  Based on their information, I was considered OBESE.  I knew I was heavy, but to see that word in my “chart” was eye-opening. 

Jeff and I talk about accountability a lot, and why it is so hard for people to be accountable to themselves.  I think it took the word OBESE and the quarantine to finally get me to be accountable to myself.  I also know that I do not want to start my 50’s feeling the way I have for most of my 40’s. I’ve taken advantage of the time that I’m home to take care of ME.  I’ve been using my normal “commute” time to work out.  At 6:00AM I ride my Peloton for 20 minutes (that’s my normal commute time).  Again at 5:00PM, I’m on my bike for another 30-45 minutes.  I’m also eating clean and healthy; tracking everything I eat (using Weight Watchers again).  I am feeling great!  I have a lot more energy and just overall feel better.  My approach to the quarantine has been one of taking care of me.  Since I am not traveling (which has been a major excuse for not always eating healthy or working out) I really have no excuses to NOT take care of me.  If I’m not going to do it now, I’m never going to take responsibility for myself. 

My husband is benefitting from it as well.  His pants are a little looser too.  And I just hit 40 pounds lost!!  I am at the same weight I was when I got married 18 years ago.  The journey has not been easy.  As much as it is about eating healthy and implementing a fitness routine, it is also about psychology.  I’ve found that without feeling accountable to myself I would self-sabotage.  It was a viscous cycle.  It is a little crazy that it took the word obese and a quarantine to set me straight.

Tricia – a living example of what it means to train smart, eat well, and be better!

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better

Why Sleep Should Be Taken Seriously

As we continue in these days of uncertainty, we must strive to stay positive and find a silver lining. For me, I had the unusual opportunity to attend not one, but two online seminars just over a week ago. And the best part? They were free! Unfortunately, both had been set up to be live events but due to the current situation made good on their promise to deliver and went online instead. Now to most people, that doesn’t seem like a big deal. But when you consider most multi day conferences run anywhere from $300-$500, I call that a win. I wanted to share with you though the one conference that I know you would find the most valuable and interesting and that was the one on sleep and recovery.

Sleep Needs a Bigger Priority

One thing I’m sure most would agree on is that we need more sleep. Our lives have become this constant state of go and while most would complain about being tired or drained, the cycle seems to repeat endlessly. Have you ever noticed the amount of “energy” products that exist in the marketplace? While it appears to be highly unlikely to return to a time when we awoke at sunrise and were asleep by dark, we have to adapt or it can certainly kill us. Insufficient sleep is a public health concern.

Sleep Loss and Deprivation

There are many factors that contribute to insufficient or poor sleep, such as hormones and psychological factors, but the reality is with some focus and concentration on making sleep a priority, we have the ability to improve it. Lifestyle changes such as choosing to go to bed at the same time everyday, turning off all electronics 1 hour before going to bed, and either adopting a meditation or breathing regime can go a long way. You simply can’t afford to not improve your sleep and following are 10 reasons why.

What Poor Sleep is Costing You

  1. Poor sleep is linked to higher body weight. People with short sleep duration tend to weigh significantly more than those who get adequate sleep. In fact, short sleep duration is one of the strongest risk factors for obesity. In one extensive review study, children and adults with short sleep duration were 89% and 55% more likely to develop obesity, respectively.
  2. Poor sleepers tend to eat more calories. Studies show that sleep-deprived individuals have a bigger appetite and tend to eat more calories. Sleep deprivation disrupts the daily fluctuations in appetite hormones and is believed to cause poor appetite regulation. Those who get adequate sleep tend to eat fewer calories than those who don’t.
  3. Poor sleep causes poor concentration and productivity. Sleep is important for various aspects of brain function. This includes cognition, concentration, productivity, and performance. All of these are negatively affected by sleep deprivation.
  4. Poor sleep can negatively affect athletic performance. Less sleep duration has been associated with poor exercise performance and functional limitation.
  5. Poor sleepers have a greater risk of heart disease and stroke.Sleep quality and duration can have a major effect on many health risk factors.These are the factors believed to drive chronic diseases, including heart disease.
  6. Poor sleep affects glucose metabolism and type 2 diabetes risk. In a study in healthy young men, restricting sleep to 4 hours per night for 6 nights in a row caused symptoms of prediabetes. Poor sleep habits are also strongly linked to adverse effects on blood sugar in the general population.
  7. Poor sleep is linked to depression. Mental health issues, such as depression, are strongly linked to poor sleep quality and sleeping disorders. It’s been estimated that 90% of people with depression complain about sleep quality. Those with sleeping disorders like insomnia or obstructive sleep apnea also report significantly higher rates of depression than those without.
  8. Poor sleep decreases your immune function. Not the best thing to hear during these times. Even a small loss of sleep has been shown to impair immune function.
  9. Poor sleep is linked to increased inflammation. Sleep can have a major effect on inflammation in your body. In fact, sleep loss is known to activate undesirable markers of inflammation and cell damage. Poor sleep has been strongly linked to long-term inflammation of the digestive tract, in disorders known as inflammatory bowel disease.
  10. Poor sleep affects emotions and social interactions. Believe it or not, sleep loss reduces your ability to interact socially. Kind of like the reason for being a moody monkey. Researchers believe that poor sleep affects your ability to recognize important social cues and process emotional information.

The bottom line: along with nutrition and exercise, good sleep is one of the pillars of health. You simply cannot achieve optimal health without taking care of your sleep.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.