There’s an ugly little rumor going around gyms that foam rollers are just for massage or just for us girls.  I think the rumor got started because most people don’t know the science behind foam rolling.  Honestly, I used a foam roller for years and never knew why it worked until I started studying for my CPT.  To clear things up, I thought I would try to explain something scientific.  Note the word “try.”  I’m just learning the scientific principles behind the things I’ve done for years and it’s a whole new language.  So, I hope I can make this make sense for you folks. Here we go.

The process of using a foam roller is actually a form of self-myofascial release (SMR).  To understand the point of foam rolling you first have to understand what SMR is.  However, before we can discuss SMR, you have to know what fascia is.  Fascia is a sheath that interconnects throughout all cells of the body and surrounds muscles, bones, and joints which as a results gives our body structural integrity and strength.  Over time, the fascia builds up knots, trigger points and loses its flexibility for a variety of reasons.  This can lead to pain, reduced flexibility and decreased athletic performance.

Two basic neural receptors – muscle spindles and golgi tendo organs (GTOs) – are found in muscle tissue.  Stimulation of the GTOs past a certain threshold inhibits the muscle spindle activity, and decreases muscular tension.  This is known as autogenic inhibition.  This process occurs when SMR is used to apply tension to the muscle to help it relax and improve function.  This is what you are actually doing when foam rolling.

It is also important to learn the proper technique for foam rolling.  You don’t want to simply roll quickly back and forth as I see so many people do.  Instead, roll at a slow pace and stop and bear down on any tender spots (“trigger points”). Hold on the spot for about 20-30 seconds or until the pain starts to diminish. SMR does not work over night.  It takes time and patience to restore your body back to normal.  You will notice that over time these trigger points will diminish are you will begin to feel better.  You may want to try using the foam roller before and after physical activity to reduce muscle soreness and enhance recovery.  Most gyms have foam rollers now but if not, you can actually purchase your own for around $20.

Here is some more great information and demonstrations of the foam roller in use.  So, that’s it for me for now. I hope that this has help you to see (if you didn’t already know) that foam rollers aren’t just for massage and that they are great for both men and women.

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As a floor trainer, I see amazing things happen everyday.  When I say “amazing” I mean this in two ways.  First, I’ve seen people nail exercises they could not even think of only a few weeks earlier.  I’ve had people come up to me and tell me that I’ve helped them become stronger, faster and pain free.  I’ve heard about a grandmother reducing her high blood pressure to a normal range.

With that, let’s talk about the other side of amazing.  I often see people shadow a training session. This is an amazingly bad idea. First, let me just say I can understand WHY people are doing this.  They can’t afford or don’t want to pay for personal training. And, I’m not saying here that you should pay for personal training.  That’s completely up to you. If personal training is not for you right now, but you would still like some ideas or guidance, you can still ask us for help.  The good trainers will be happy that you are interested in learning and will help. I am THRILLED when people approach me.  While it’s our business and unfortunately we can’t afford to do free sessions, most are always happy to at least give you some direction.  Are there some trainers that will flat out refuse to help at all?  Yes. But, hey, there are not nice people in every profession 🙂 That said – you should still never shadow sessions. Let me try to convince you why.  What if you have a bad shoulder and the trainer’s workout is designed to really push their client with some hardcore shoulder intensive exercises?  What if you are trying reduce the size of your glutes and the session was designed to INCREASE the size of your glutes?  That would suck, wouldn’t it?  Here I’m reminded of the Will & Grace episode where Grace shadows a trainer with his client for several sessions.  Eventually, the trainer confronts Grace and calls her out and tells her to stop.  Grace wittingly says something like, “Fine.  You’re not a good trainer  anyway.  I’ve been following you for weeks and the only thing that’s happened is my ass got bigger and my boobs got smaller.”  The trainer responds well that’s because this workout is designed to help my client’s butt grow and bra size shrink.  Grace looked silly.  Believe it or not, this HAPPENS all the time.  Remember, we call it personal training for a reason.  Personal trainers design workouts specifically for each client.  So, what’s a great workout for their client might not be appropriate for you. I don’t want you to wind up like Grace.

Here’s an even more dangerous scenario then mimicking a session.  Asking a member for help or listening to a more in-shape member who approaches you to help.  What’s wrong with this you might think?  Sometimes – nothing.  There are some really GREAT members at my gym who know what they are doing.  On the other hand, sometimes other members will only help you to get injured.  Here’s an example.  There was this one member who didn’t know how to do a push up.  While I was busy, I noticed her trying but couldn’t get over there quite yet.  Before I could get there, another member came over and told her that she could learn how to do push ups by doing plyo push ups. Folks, plyo push ups are NOT easy.  I struggle with them.  Here’s an example of one kind of plyo push up which I want you to see (NOT FOR INSTRUCTION – don’t do it like this guy) just so you get an idea of what one look like:

So, my point is if you CAN’T do a push up, you REALLY should not be doing these at all. In that above situation, I interrupted and helped the member who was struggling. But, this happens all the time.  I see members teaching others how to do exercises and they are just really wrong.  I don’t mean slightly off.  I mean REALLY off.  For that matter, there are also trainers who just aren’t any good. It truly is dangerous.

What’s the take away here?  Does everyone need a trainer?  How do you know if your trainer is any good?  What resources should you use?  To answer these questions let’s go back to the title of this post:  The gym is no place for “Simon Says”.  I named this post that because when I think of “Simon Says” I think of game where people, somewhat blindly, follow “Simon”.  Look, you only get ONE body.  The answer in every case is: Take the time to educate yourself.  Don’t simply shadow sessions.  Don’t listen to people who, though may be well intentioned, can get you injured.  Just don’t do ANYTHING fitness related blindly.  Even if you do work with a trainer, ask questions.  If something doesn’t feel right, let your trainer know.   I say it all the time – educate yourself.  Protect your health – it’s your greatest asset.  Remember, if you don’t take care of your body, where will you live?

 

Be true to yourself

Posted: January 21, 2011 in GENERAL

With all the gadgets, DVDs, machines and next big things out there, many people dive right into fitness routines without even considering whether it is appropriate for them.  I think those anxious to buy everything in the market are awesome people.  It shows  a commitment to fitness and that they take themselves and their health seriously.  However, that dedication, while well intentioned and amazing, may be misplaced.  When watching those infomercials and you see one of those amazingly in shape fitness professionals jumping around, it’s natural to think hey I want to look like that or I want to see if I can move like him/her.  That’s great!  On this blog, I put up workouts to give you guys ideas of things you may want to do or workouts you may want to try. However, I do that because on a blog it’s really obviously not possible for me to design a personal workout.

Hey, I’m a trainer now so I’m all about enthusiasm.  Actually, that was true even before I was a trainer, but I digress…So here’s the thing, when viewing these awesome infomercials, ads for next greatest gadget and even my blog I always want you to have this question in mind – IS THIS RIGHT FOR ME?  Though the best person to help answer that question is a professional, you do have a sense of your own body and know your own limitations.  Here’s an example – let’s say you have knee problems because of an injury you are aware of.  So, Friday night you are a woman sitting on your couch and sure enough here comes this super hot guy advertising this amazing workout that is designed to help you shape up.  He looks amazing.  The people in the video look amazing and you reach to pick up that phone and place your order.  Now, let’s say that this amazing workout  consists of ALL jumping routines.  Hmmm…. let’s think about this for a second.  You have a bad knee.  You know that it hurts when you jump on it.  Even though this video looks amazing, what do you think?  Does it make SENSE for you to be doing workouts where you will be aggravating your injury?  Probably not, right?  So then, why did you order it?  Here’s another example.  Let’s say you HATE to dance.  Cool, no problem.  Do you think then that you should buy the latest Zumba workout?  No, probably not.

I’m writing this not to insult or to discourage you.  I’m writing this because I want the message to get out there that not all workouts are for everyone.  That’s what personal trainers are for – at least the good ones.  Don’t forget it’s called PERSONAL training and not just training for a reason.  The workouts I would design for an 80-year-old retired school teacher are not going to be the same as that which I would design for a 20-year-old basketball player.  Am I saying that the only way to get fit is to a hire a personal trainer?  No, of course not.  What I am saying is to BE SELECTIVE.  Don’t do just a workout because it looks hot.  Please I beg you to listen to this.  There are LOTS of great workouts out there.  And, I promise you that you can get in shape even in you don’t buy the next big thing. Let someone else do the booty shaking to the fast pace beats if that’s not your thing. The truth is that some of the most effective techniques are actually relatively simple. So, I promise you there is the perfect workout for YOU.  You just have to find it 🙂

So bottom line – Keep it real.  You know who you are, what you can do, what you can’t do, and what you plain don’t want to do. That said – make sure the workouts you do reflect YOUR personal needs.  You do have to work but you also have to be true to you. Exercise should be challenging but also somewhat fun.  At the very least, it should feel worth it.  THOSE are the workouts that will prevent injuries, keep you excited and help you stay motivated.

 

There is so much to think about in trying to stay fit.  Diets, workouts, resolutions, mantras, competitions, nutrition, personal goals, and the list can go on and on.  When done properly, fitness is not just something you do a few times a week, it’s a process and a lifestyle.  Said differently, it’s a commitment that you make to eat right and stay in shape.  But sometimes it can get boring or worse – you can feel beat up by the process and just need a break.  So what do you do?  Well, I know what I do.  You may be surprised to hear this because I love fitness but I too have moments when I just can’t bring myself to do yet another HIIT workout. Hey, I’m human!

So, what do I do?  I remind myself of the moment when I first fell in love with it and it helps so much.  I have a playlist that I used when I started working out four years ago.  I throw that on and I put myself through the workouts I used to do when I started training.  Because I’ve come far since then, I fly through them.  The process helps me to remember how hard it was when I started and I see the gains I’ve made.  I also have one of the first “diet” meals I’ve ever made.  I repeat the process for about a week and it helps me reset.

The next time you feel yourself getting frustrated – take your own journey backwards.  I promise it will help.

 

 

 

Hi all.  Happy New Year!!!  I hope everyone had a great night and are ready to work.  Bit of advice – Leave 2010 in 2010.  Start fresh.  It’s a New Year and a perfect time to work on the new you!  Some of you have asked for new bodyweight workouts and I thought today would be a perfect time.  Here is an explosive workout that you can do right at home.  It’s a bit on the intermediate to advanced side so remember to modify as needed.  Most of all – have fun with it.  As always, if you have any questions, hit me up here or on Twitter @Brooklyn_1012.  Let’s get it!

Let’s start with a dynamic warm up.  The words in red are links to demonstrations.  Click on them if you need help.  We are going to go through this once without stopping:

Jog in place (45 seconds)

20 jumping jacks

20 walking lunges

5 inchworms

20 Reverse Lunges with Twist

15 squats

40 mountain climbers

20 hip swings on each side

20 Glute Bridges

I hope you are warm by now.  If not, go through that one more time.

When you are ready, let’s go with set 1:

45 second high knee run in place (knee over hip) – LAND SOFTLY!!

15 push ups (go to your knees or do wall push up if these are too hard for you)

20 squat kicks

30 bicycles

Repeat Set 1 three times with no rest in between exercises and 60 seconds of rest between sets.  When you have done all three sets, rest 90 seconds and then move on to Set 2:

Jump rope 45 seconds (If you don’t have a jump rope, that’s fine.  You can mimic the movement)

12 Walking push ups

60 Mountain Climbers

24 side lunges (12 on each side)

1 minute plank (If you can’t hold 1 min, just hold it as long as you can)

Repeat Set 2 three times with no rest in between exercises and 60 seconds of rest between sets.  When you have done all three sets, rest 90 seconds and then move on to Set 3:

1 minute Wall Squat

15 squat holds (Perform squat and hold at bottom for 15 seconds)

12 bird dog holds

Repeat Set 3 three times with no rest in between exercises and 60 seconds of rest between sets.  Then, take a two minute rest because the last thing you are going to do is what I call a burn out set.  Burn out sets are really challenging but they are designed to keep your body burning fat for hours after your work is done.  If you are already wiped, stop here.  But if you want more, here we go:

15 burpees

20 jump squats

60 mountain climbers

20 jump lunges

Repeat the burnout set up to three times.  NO rest until you are done with all three sets!  I told you it was hard.

And that’s it!!  You’re done.  Good work folks.


Diet

Posted: December 28, 2010 in DIET

I have a confession.  I do NOT like the word diet.  I never have.  Why?  First, it CAN have negative implications.  People hear diet and their thought process immediately goes to – I’m fat.  I need to lose weight.  I’m not good enough.  And about a hundred other negative thoughts that are not healthy.  Second, “diet” is all too often used as a temporary, obligatory thing.  For example, I am going to diet until my vacation.  I am going to diet until my wedding.  My high school reunion is coming up, I’m going to start a diet.  Ok, these are all good reasons but they are temporary. And, what happens after the vacation, wedding, high school reunion? People often revert back to bad eating habits.

I imagine that some of you reading this may be confused.  You may be thinking ok cool, finally someone that says I don’t have to diet.  To those people, I say nice try. My problem with the word “diet” is the way that it is used.  All the above uses are negative. So, let me try to change you way of thinking.  For now on, when you refer to diet, USE THE WORD TO DESCRIBE THE WAY YOU EAT EVERY SINGLE DAY.  For example, I don’t eat any junk food as part of my diet. My diet consists of clean, healthy foods. Do you see the difference?  Used this way, diet reflects a lifestyle choice.

The following are the rules I believe in and try to follow. I encourage everyone to do what works from them.  However, if you want to follow along here it is:

1. I eat small meals every 3-4 hours with good clean foods like:

  • Complex carbohydrates like legumes as well as whole grains such as brown rice and oats.
  • Lean proteins such as chicken breast and lean turkey.
  • Healthy fats like olive oil, avocado and raw almonds (check labels) – just keep it in moderation
  • Green leafy vegetables

2.  I avoiding eating any of this garbage: Sugar, artificial sweeteners, fruit juice (unless squeezed from the fruit itself), regular AND diet soda, processed foods, saturated and trans fats, alcohol, and basically any form of junk food.  At the end of the day, come on, you guys know what’s bad for you.

3.  I try to avoid carbs after 3:00 PM. There is some debate about it’s effectiveness but it has worked for me.

4.  I eat 3 cups of green leafy vegetables a day. Spinach is a personal favorite.

5.  I drink a minimum of 3 liters of water a day.  I will probably actually drink way more than that.  The workouts will make sure of that.

6.  And now for the last rule so good news – I have one cheat meal every week – usually on Fridays for dinner.What is a cheat meal?  A cheat meal is your choice, your treat.  It is your chance to well, cheat.  It is great for both your metabolism and mental state.  I find that if you know you are going to cheat you won’t break your diet.  Want that slice of pizza?  That’s fine – on cheat night 😉

#JanGTD Guide

Posted: December 26, 2010 in GENERAL, WORKOUTS & CHALLENGES

Hi folks.  I’m so honored to be a part of #JanGTD and I love what @FatGirlvsWorld has been doing with you in past #GTD challenges.  For #JanGTD, we are going to be picking it up a notch and adding in some strength training routines.   Although cardio is great, strength training is necessary to a well rounded fitness routine.  With that said, I’ve set up some great workouts for that have been separated into three categories – beginner, intermediate and expert.  Because I can not be there with you, please use your own judgment as to what category you belong in and you are going to have to be my rock stars and teach yourself the routines.  It is always recommended that you consult a fitness professional or physician before beginning any new fitness program and you are engaging in this program at your own risk. The best thing is always to have an individual program designed for you to meet your individual needs and goals. However, since I can’t be there to do that, these are great general fitness routines to get you started.

That said, I’m super excited for all you.  This is going to be a great learning experience as well as an opportunity to take your fitness to the next level.  In preparing these workouts for you, my goal was not only to help you to get into better shape but to help you start to train.  I’ve always said there is a big difference between exercising and training.  Exercising you are just going through the motions.  In training, you are working towards a specific goal and gaining knowledge along the way.  So, the exercises I chose are designed to not only get you in shape but to teach you how to move, balance and work with your body.  I hope that comes across as you are going through #JanGTD.  I realize that some may not be familiar with some of the moves I chosen.  That’s ok because this a GREAT time for you to learn.  You have a few options on how to do that.  First, I’m ALWAYS available to my readers and I will extend that offer to any of #JanGTD participants.  You can post comments with questions, email me at fitnessgauntlet@gmail.com or tweet me @brooklyn_1012.  If you happen to be a New York Sports Club member, we can actually set up a time to meet at the location where I work as a Floor Trainer.   I’d be happy to walk you through anything you need.  Other than me, there are other options available to you.  Google and YouTube are amazing resources.  You would be surprised at what you can find with a simple search.  To you beginners, I definitely recommend YouTube versus Google because I think you need to see the moves rather than just read about them.  I also suggest that you be careful about what videos you rely on.  Try to choose videos prepared by trainers rather than some show off looking to brag about how fabulous they are.  Trust me – you will know the difference when you see it.  Another amazing resource is the American Council on Exercise’s website.  Their address is www.acefitness.org. Many of my moves are from there. I strongly encourage you to view their exercise library which can be found under the Ace GetFit tab (fifth from the left on the menu at the top of their page).  Yet another useful website is www.livestrong.com.  For you advanced warriors out there, check out bodybuilding.com and t-nation.com.  I think you will like them.

To get you guys started, I want to throw a few things your way.  I selected what I thought were the move complicated moves and am including here either a video or a website where you can view the exercises.  When needed, just cut and paste the address into your browser.

To make it easy to find them, you will see that everything is divided into categories.  So, the beginner moves are listed under beginner, intermediate under intermediate and expert under you guessed it – expert.  Let’s roll:

BEGINNER

1.  Three-way lunge – Note:  This person is using a weight here. You don’t have to.  In fact, I prefer you don’t ESPECIALLY is you have never done lunges before.  All three lunges (front, side and back) have to finished to complete one rep.  This is a toughie but a great learning tool for you newbies.

2.  Dirty Dog

http://www.acefitness.org/exerciselibrary/109/dirty-dog

3.  Superman

http://www.acefitness.org/exerciselibrary/9/supermans

4.  Plank

Folks, if I had to pick a favorite exercise, this would be it. In my humble opinion, this is the most effective ab exercise out there.  It is super important to strength your core.  If you do not have stability there, well forget it.  Please please master this one.  It’s challenging at first but  you’ll thank me later.  ACE lists this as an intermediate exercise.  However, there are differences in opinion on that throughout the industry.  I can tell you, again in my humble opinion, that this is one of the first exercises I did and I believe a beginner can absolutely do this.

http://www.acefitness.org/exerciselibrary/32/front-plank

INTERMEDIATE

1.  Push up with T-Raise – The video below was the best explanation I could find but it only shows the T-Raise.  However, what I want you guys actually doing is a push up with the T-Raise.  So when you are in the push up position do a push up AND THEN go into the T-Raise on one side, come back to the center, do another push up, and then do a T-Raise on the alternate side.

2.  Mason Twist

3.  Reverse lunge with Knee Raise – Practice this one.  It’s not easy as first.  However, this is great learning tool.  It forces many different muscle groups to work together. If you master this, a whole new world of exercises with be available to you.

http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/videos/m/32072192/reverse-lunge-with-knee-lift.htm

4.  Woodchoppers

http://www.livestrong.com/video/5085-core-training-woodchopper/

5.  Sumo squat with side kick – Here is a video and text explanation of the move.  One thing I wanted to point out though.  You don’t need to squat to parallel at first if you can’t.  But, it’s great if you can because that will add to the effectiveness of this move. Second, you don’t need to kick as high as those demonstrating the exercise.  At first, you can shoot for kicking above the ankle, then the knee and then go for it.  So keep that progression in mind if you don’t have that flexibility quite yet.

http://www.health.com/health/article/0,,20410609,00.html

http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/videos/m/32070497/sumo-kick.htm

6.  Squat Rows – This is another GREAT exercise.  It works so many muscles all the same time so doing this is going to super charge your workout.  Practice, practice, practice.  Oh and ladies, just because it’s published in Men’s Health does NOT mean you can’t do it.  Matter of fact, this is an exercise I’ve included in my personal workouts for nearly three years.

http://www.menshealth.com/fitness/exercise

7.  Hand to Foot Stability Ball Pass – A couple of notes here.  This is a tough one. If you can’t do it, try mastering just the upper body crunch and lower body crunch separately.  On the other hand, if you find that you have mastered this, try doing it with straight legs.  That brings the move to a whole new level.

EXPERT – Many of the moves in this category are challenging.  They have earned their place in the Expert category.  I can do them but I was training for over a year before I even tried them.  Unless the intermediate exercises are super easy for you, I would not attempt these quite yet.  But don’t worry, we’ll get you there.  All in good time 🙂

1.  Iron Cross

http://www.bodybuilding.com/exercises/detail/view/name/iron-cross?mcid=WEXER00000

2.  Hanging Leg Raise

http://www.ab-core-and-stomach-exercises.com/hanging-leg-raises.html

3.  Bulgarian Split Squat – This is a hard one.  I recommend trying this one without weight at first.  Get used to and good at the form.  Add the weight when you feel ready.  In adding weight, please start out lightly.

http://www.menshealth.com/powertraining/cms/publish/knee-dominant-uni/Bulgarian_Split_Squat.php

4.  Clean and press and Deadlifts

http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/south30.htm

5.  One arm snatch

http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/sports_body_training_performance/the_perfect_snatch

6.  Good Mornings

http://www.livestrong.com/video/2527-do-good-morning-exercise/

7.  Speed skaters

http://training.strengthengine.com/fitness_info/exercise828.html

8.  Jump Lunges – The video demonstrates a weighted version of this move.  However, if you have never done these before, start out with no weights.

Read first http://www.livestrong.com/article/3720-need-jump-lunges/ and then watch video below

9.  Box Jumps

http://www.livestrong.com/video/5306-box-jumps/

10.  One-arm Dumbbell Swings – If you need to, you can swing with both hands until you are ready to do these with just one-arm

http://shahtraining.com/one-arm-dumbbell-swing-exercise/

Well folks with that I’ve done my part.  Now, it’s time for you to put the work in.  Remember, I’m here for you if you need help.  Let’s get moving! Go to @fatgirlvsworld’s blog to read about the challenge and add your name to her spreadsheet to get started.