Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Postscript: Keeping the Holiday Pounds at Bay

After reading Chris' insightful blog entry, I would like to add a final note: don't be afraid to "overtrain" for a couple of days before a holiday or holiday party.

Strenuous workouts burn a few extra calories for a day or two after the workout. This will help save your butt in the long run.

Now, this does not give you license to eat everything in site for days afterwards — however, it does assist in burning extra calories when you need them during your holiday binge.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Keeping the Holiday Pounds at Bay

These are the times that try men's souls: the Christmas holidays.

It starts with the gorgefest of Thanksgiving and doesn't end until all of the Christmas cookies are eaten at work some time in January. Most people waddle off with a few extra pounds during this relatively short period.

It's not difficult. Between the fudge and cookies at work, the different holiday candy and fruitcakes (hey, my mom makes a good one!) and the "just one!" egg nog, the challenge is fitting into those cute Christmas clothes after the holidays.

So here are a few tips that should be easy to follow:
  • Take the stairs when you can — every step you walk is calories burned.
  • Drink water and other low- or no-calorie beverages with or between meals, so you can save your calories for the food.
  • Keep at treat a "treat" — limit the snacks in which you indulge (and stick to it: only one cookie before lunch, etc.).
  • Indulge at only one meal, rather than three (or four) meals a day.
  • When attending a party, eat healthy at home beforehand, so you're less apt to go straight for the dessert table.
  • When you plan to attend a party, eat lighter during the rest of the day to keep your total calorie intake at a reasonable level.
  • Try to get your exercise in early in the day — it's out of the way before the partying begins and you have no real excuses.
  • If you're throwing the party, give away the leftovers — your guests will love you because they came to eat your world-class fudge — er, enjoy your company
What tips have you used to help keep the holiday pounds at bay? Leave your tips in the "Comment" section to help the rest of us!

- Chris

Friday, December 21, 2007

Working Out in Cold Weather

Some of you may be into extreme exercising, trekking for miles in cold weather no matter the conditions. Others might take winter as a sign to hibernate. Exercising during the winter can be fun. Just be sure to be safe and smart.

First of all, choose your weather carefully. We could toss around some numbers for optimal temperature limits, but if you're like Chris, you won't listen. Chris will run when it's snowing, when it's raining, no matter how hot or cold. The only things that will keep her off the road are ice and lightning.

I don't know if I would recommend this approach for everyone, but I do recommend that athletes be smart. Refrain from playing tennis in a blizzard, even with neon yellow tennis balls. But don't stay indoors all winter — remember, 20 minutes of sunlight can provide the daily recommended amount of vitamin E. Even in the winter, go for a run if you're comfortable. Take a brisk walk at lunchtime to break up the workday and revive yourself. Just be sure to dress in layers for the weather: wear a hat, consider gloves (or tuck your hands in your sleeves or pockets) and wear a layer or two on top and bottom. If you can, warm up with a nice warm shower upon your return.

Extend your warm-up. Make sure you're warmed up before you start. Spend a little more time loosening your muscles before exposing them to the cold because it will take longer to get from zero to 60 in cold weather.

Finally, keep an eye on your surroundings. Watch where you're going when there's ice on the road. When you go off-trail in the snow, be careful to avoid even the smallest of snowpiles, which could be covering roots and other road hazards. Remember that low-hanging branches could be frozen solid or harbor ice that can scratch and cut. Trust me, it will take quite a while to recuperate from a bad fall or an ice cut.

If the great outdoors is too much of a challenge, don't take it as a sign to slack off your fitness. Take a brisk walk around the mall or walk the stairs at work or school. Go to the gym or work out at home. Find opportunities — they exist.

One final note: numbness in your extremities is bad. It may take a few minutes to get warmed up during a hike or run — however, if you can't feel your feet or hands even during rigorous exercise, come in from the cold. Frostbite is very dangerous and can do permanent damage.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


Chris and I were talking tonight, and she mentioned how she just calculated her BMI — and I was appalled. Not because she calculated her BMI, but because I am a personal trainer and have yet to discuss BMI on this blog.

So, for all you people out there wanting your BMI (body mass index) calculated, here is what you need to know. First, you need to know what body mass index is. Then you need to know the formula.

Body mass index, commonly referred to as BMI, is a relationship between height and weight that helps determine overall body fat as a health risk factor.

The formula is simple:
your weight in kilograms (2.2 kg per pound)
divided by your height in meters (.3 m per foot), squared

For a 100 pound person who is 5 feet tall, her BMI formula would be:
45.45 kg
divided by 1.52 m, squared

45.45 divided by 2.31
equals 19.6

Chris votes for letting the National Institutes of Health BMI calculator do the math. However, she concedes that the formula above works, no matter how hard she tries to mess it up.

By the way, this formula will not work on bodybuilders -- their muscle mass is so dense, the formula will show them as overweight every time. However, for the rest of the population, it should work.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Amusing Anecdote

A couple of months ago, Chris and I went for a chiropractor session. I had a brief discussion with my chiropractor Dr. Kowarski about how, when exercising the lower back, exaggerating a back extension posture can cause the back to go out of alignment. He and I were in total agreement that exercise of this kind needs to be approached cautiously.

While I was working out at the gym, I noticed a young guy working on this particular movement. He was using a very exaggerated range of motion — and a slight twist to try to work his obliques as well.

Being an employee of the gym and a personal trainer, I try to look out for everyone's well-being, so I approached this young man. I said, "It may be wise to not exaggerate that movement," as per the discussion I had with Dr. Kowarski.

I added, "If you want a second opinion and know a chiropractor, please ask for yourself."

His reply: "I already have a chiropractor."

I thought to myself, "Obviously."

See what I mean? Always pay attention to proper body mechanics.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

For Alicia: Check the Beat

After writing Doing the Math for Fat-Burning, Alicia asked me for the proper technique of taking one's own pulse.

It is really very easy: take your index and middle finger (of either hand) and place them directly beneath your thumb on your opposite hand, just above the bone. You will feel your arterial pulse. (Go ahead, try it. I'll wait.)

Now, keep an eye on a watch that has a second hand or a stopwatch and count the number of pulses for 15 seconds. Multiply that by four. That's your resting heart rate.

For example, if you count 15 pulses in 15 seconds, multiply that by four and you get 60 beats per minute.

If you have time on your hands, count the pulses for a full minute and see how the numbers compare. They should be within a pulse or two.

Go ahead, try it. I'll wait.


This is Your Brain on Exercise

With winds reaching 25 miles per hour this morning and the temperature peaking in the low 30s, I couldn't bring myself to run at dawn. Instead, I promised myself a trip to the gym with David this evening.

As I stood in the spray of the shower, I could see why people depended on coffee. Most mornings, I don't find my way to the shower until I've put in five miles on the road. By then, I'm alert — or I'd be under the wheels of a car driven by an inattentive driver on the cell phone. I wouldn't say I'm annoyingly perky, but I am aware of my surroundings and functioning at a higher level than I would without it.

Apparently I can thank my regular exercise regimen for this alertness, as well as for the possibility of long-term mental and brain health ("Rx for the Brain: Move," The Washington Post, December 4, 2007).

John J. Ratey, a Harvard Medical School professor, will attest to that very thing in Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, which will be published in January 2008.

Anyone who has taken a walk can attest to the magic and restorative nature of a little exercise. Do it as a regular activity and see how much you benefit.

Keep doing the word puzzles, Sodoku, word games and puzzles. Just throw a little exercise into the deal. Work out to your heart's content, but don't feel you have to overdo it — you don't have to run a marathon to be fit. Take a walk around the lake. Play basketball in the driveway. Kick a soccer ball around.

Remember: your brain is a part of your body, a living organism. Treat it like you love it. Chances are, you'll live to remember your happy days with loved ones in the park.
- Chris

Monday, November 26, 2007

And Snap! The Job's a Game!

The hardest part about sports and fitness is deciding what you like to do.

Think about it: you will not continue with an activity if you do not enjoy it, no matter how "useful" or "rewarding" it is supposed to be. If it's not fun, it's not worth your time.

But how do you decide what you like? Try it all. Sign up for tester or sample classes, no matter how weird the activity sounds. If it interests you, give it a fair shake. Only once you've tried it can you decide you don't like it.

While I now know my first love is running, I didn't always know that. In junior high, I was subject to oodles of sports I could cross off my list:
  • basketball (the hoop was way too high for this vertically challenged person)
  • volleyball (how do other people manage to volley in the direction of the net?)
  • tennis (tiny ball, small racket: need I say more?)
  • badminton (see reference to tennis above, but add a giggle when thinking about the word "shuttlecock")
When I finally got to sports I liked, it was hard to choose the final one. I was on the eighth grade soccer team but discovered long distance running in high school. I stayed with it for years, took time off in college (when the dogs would let me) then started up again soon after beginning my life in the workaday world.

So, I found out what I liked to do. Then came the question: when?

I never thought I couldn't exercise while working for a living. Time might have been at a premium and my schedule prevented it for a while, but I figured the opportunity would arise. After all, my dad ran every day at lunch for decades — so what was my excuse? Being winded after walking up one of the steepest staircases in the Metrorail system was my anti-excuse.

Now, I try other things from time to time. When the weather is bad or when I want to give my spine or neck a rest from its daily five-mile pounding, I climb on the stairclimber or the elliptical. I have tried zumba (very cool!) and bellydancing (very fun!), kickboxing (which threw out my back, bless its heart) and step aerobics (snoozeville).

So find something that you find fun and use that as your excuse to get fit. Chances are, you'll succeed if you enjoy what you're doing.

- Chris

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Right Time

I was in the gym this morning to meet with a client and, as usual, I perused the room to make sure no one was doing anything dangerous.

Really, almost every day, someone is doing something dangerous. Today was no exception.

A guy on the cable lat pulldown machine was pulling the weights down way too fast, then letting them drop when he put them in the reset position. This wrenched his shoulders.

Too many people exercise too little control over the weights they try to lift.

The proper timing for each repetition is five to seven seconds: two to three seconds on the contraction (shortening of the muscles), and three to four seconds on the ecentric motion (lengthening of the muscles). Remember: always breathe out on the exertion.

If you remember only one axiom, let it be this: it's not about how much you can lift, but how much you can lift safely.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Change Up Your Routine

Has this ever happened to you?

You want to add some muscle or maybe lose a couple of unwanted pounds, so you go to the gym and put together a routine.
You work out two, three, four times a week. Within the first couple of weeks, you see results.

Because this routine is working for you, you keep at it exactly the same way. For the next three or four weeks, the routine does its magic, and you are pleased.

Right around week six, the magic ends. The results that came so quickly and easily at first suddenly come to a screeching halt.
(Remember: your mileage may vary.) You stay at it for another month, but you're having a Barry Manilow moment — trying to get the feeling again. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. You're at a standstill.

Less than three months in, you're out. Why put in the effort if there's nothing to be gained? You let your gym membership lapse in disgust.

Next thing you know, the weight slowly comes back. All that work for nothing.

Here's how to get back to the fast track: change your routine. Sure, it worked at the beginning, but that was then. This is now, and your body has smarted up and acclimated to the amount of stress placed on it.

One of the best ways is to constantly keep your body off-balance by cross-training. By doing different sports, different exercises, you constantly put different stresses on different muscle groups. That's the difference.

So, instead of lifting first before a cardio session, mix in the cardio by jumping rope between your weight lifting sets. This keeps your heart rate elevated for maximum fat burning — and may shorten your time at the gym.

Or completely reverse your routine. For example, if you lift large muscle groups to smaller (like you should have been doing to begin with), lift smaller muscle groups to larger from time to time. You'd be surprised how different it feels.

It doesn't take much, as you can see — just be sure to try anything you can think of to successfully and safely keep your body off-balance.

If you have questions or suggestions, leave them in the comment section below. Let me know how this works for you.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Importance of Cross-Training

With Chris' help, I manage to get to the gym nearly every day. Being a personal trainer, I need to be at least as fit as my clients.

For the past three months, the gym where I currently work was undergoing major renovation. During this time, the variety of equipment and facilities was very limited.

My workouts during this time consisted of (several types of) push-ups at home and jogging a couple of times a week. I also managed an occasional visit to the free weight room at the student athlete training facility.

However, that has all changed since the gym re-opened this week. Nearly every day this week, I have had access to — and made ample use of — the new cable equipment for my weight training.

Today, for a change of pace and to practice my cross-training, I swam. Swimming provides a good cardio workout and good overall body toning.

Three laps into my swim, I thought my arms were going to fall off. I switched to the breast stoke to take some of the stress off my shoulders. Then my back tightened up.

After 35 minutes of swimming laps, I was really uncomfortable because my back was so tight.

Knowing my back needed to be stretched, I went home and asked Chris to help me stretch. Being the kindhearted soul she is, she was more than happy to help me out. She gently leaned on my shoulders as I poised forward. I heard a "pop" — which never is a good thing — and now I have tremendous pain in my right hip.

This is what happens when you don't cross-train.

So, to be truly fit, remember to work at all five categories of fitness on a regular basis:
  • muscular endurance
  • muscular strength
  • flexibility
  • cardio fitness
  • and a healthy body mass index (BMI) (which I will discuss in my next post).

This will keep you in better shape and out of the chiropractor's office (except for the all-important regular fine-tuning Chris advocates).

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Working Out at Home is a Snap

For those of us who really do not have the money — or desire — to join the gym, stay home.

It is very simple and inexpensive to set up a gym at home, and I've already made the shopping list for you:
  • 40-pound dumbbell set: $39
  • stability ball: $25
  • jump rope (for those with good knees): $10
  • a stair stepper (for those with shaky knees): $25

For less than $100, you have everything you need to work out and become fit at home.

If you are a tech-head who wants a little more accurate a workout, pick up an inexpensive heart rate monitor for about $30. (For use on the heart rate monitor, please refer to my previous blog entry, "Doing the Math for Fat Burning.")

This equipment stores very easily. The dumbbell set comes in its own case and the stability ball can be deflated between uses.

But remember: out of sight, out of mind. Store the equipment so it's not underfoot — but keep it in plain sight so it can serve as a reminder to stay in shape.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Doing the Math for Fat Burning

Let's talk about weight loss.

For weight loss, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends maintaining a heart rate of 70-75 percent of the maximum heart rate for 45 minutes a day.

That's great, but how do we determine that heart rate range? How do we know what 100 percent of our max heart rate is?

The good news is you don't have to know these things. Just use the Karvonen Formula.

The Karvonen Formula for 70 percent of your max heart rate:
Start with 220
Subtract your age
Subtract your resting heart rate
Then multiply this by .70 (which is 70 percent)
Then add back in your resting heart rate.

Let's do mine for practice. I am 47 years old and my resting heart rate is 68.

For me, the formula looks like this (for 70 percent):
173-68= 105
105 x .70=73.5
73.5+68= 141.5

for 75 percent:
173-68= 105
105 x .75=78.7

My target heart rate is 141.5-146.7 for 45 minutes for weight loss.

For Chris, who is 43 with a resting heart rate of 60:
220-43= 177
103 x .75=87.7

220-43= 177
103 x .70=81.9

Chris' is 141.9-147.7 for 45 minutes for weight loss.

Go ahead -- do yours!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Rehydration: Take It Easy

Nearly everyone I see in public is clutching a water bottle: in the mall, in the office, walking down the street.

I see people walking half a mile holding their water like a lifeline, stopping often to drink from that omnipresent water bottle.

And I say: take it easy.

It's not that people exercising do not need to watch their hydration level. One should be properly hydrated, and we need to drink a certain amount of fluids to keep our bodies healthy. However, people are taking the recommendation to ridiculous lengths.

Physician Heinz Valtin, a kidney specialist and professor emeritus of physiology at Dartmouth Medical School, states that the "8x8" recommendation is a myth.

Now, that doesn't mean that people who exert themselves do not need to remain properly hydrated. What it means is that people need to drink enough. Diuretics (including my personal favorite, iced tea with a little Herman honey) count toward the daily total.

Drink enough to feel sated, and drink regularly enough to avoid feeling dry. But don't go overboard.

How much is enough? According to
Greg McMillan, an Arizona exercise physiologist and running coach, a person's urine should be straw-colored ("When the Heat Can’t Be Outrun," (New York Times, October 11, 2007). Drink too little and your urine is much darker; clear urine means you may be drinking too much water. (If your daily vitamins are orange, that will color your perception, so gauge accordingly.)

Too much water can be dangerous: ask the British runner who died in April, or the other 14 people who were hospitalized for the same affliction. Drinking too much water dilutes your body's vital minerals, including sodium, a very important chemical.

Athletes absolutely need to pay attention to their hydration levels. However, don't go crazy. Sports drinks such as Gatorade and Powerade are designed for the professional elite athlete. That means the calories and other essential body chemicals are vastly elevated for the average Joe or Josephine.

Brett Favre needs to down some sport drink after a day's workout because he has worked out his body for an extended period of time. I, on the other hand, don't need to consume that much because the calorie intake will outweigh the rehydration benefits.

Long story short: leave the water bottle at home if you're making a trip to the grocery store. Drink a few glasses of water during the day at work. Drink enough if you're going to work out. However, don't develop a drinking problem.
- Chris

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Lat Pull-down Proper

People are going to read this article and deny that they are the culprits, but I know better

More times than not, when I am in the gym, I see people using the lat pull-down machine incorrectly.

Some people crank out their reps way too fast. First of all, under most circumstances, a proper repetition takes between five and seven seconds (but that's a whole different article). Going too fast on this exercise is very dangerous: the faster the weights travel, the less control you have. Your shoulders are jerked upward, putting too much strain on the supraspinatus (one of the four muscles that make up the rotator cuff -- and the most often injured).

The other common mistake I see is people bringing the bar behind their heads instead of in front and to their chests. This exercise is designed to focus on the latissimus dorsi (upper back). By not bringing the bar toward your chest, you are restricting the range of motion for the latissimus dorsi, thus not getting the full benefit of this exercise.

Another reason you should not go behind your back is that it makes this exercise too dangerous. It stresses the subsapularis (another muscle that makes up part of the rotator cuff, which stabilizes the shoulder and rotates the arm inward.)

So the next time I am in the gym, don't let me see anymore behind-the-head lat pull-downs.

Posture, Posture, Posture

When I was working out at the gym last week, I saw two guys practicing what looked like a Japanese form of karate. The teacher threw a punch at the student, the student blocked to the outside thus turning the teacher slightly sideways, in order to get a clean elbow strike into the kidney or ribs.

I didn't believe what came next. As the student struck out, he dropped his shoulder and leaned forward to make contact. Now, I understand he was a beginner, but I watched the teacher do the same thing as the student. (However, the teacher did wind up better for the strike.)

The proper way to do this technique is to keep your back straight and step in as you go for the strike. By stepping in, you have better balance. Balance is always a major factor because it allows you to react better when necessary and adjust accordingly. Also -- and equally as important -- real power in technique comes from flexibility and proper body positioning: your core, hips, shoulders and arms moving in unison.

This applies for all movements. So, the next time you practice forms, techniques or sparring, remember: Posture, Posture, Posture.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Real Strength

For you guys out there who think you're strong, I have a great Web site for you. Check out

Some of the videos will humble you.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Choosing a Personal Trainer

If you ever decide to take the plunge with a trainer, here are a few points you may find helpful. (These are based on my client feedback.)

• Ask your trainer to describe a sample workout. Remember, there are five key points to being fit: muscular strength, muscular endurance, cardiovascular fitness, flexibility and a healthy body mass index. (Personally, I also think balance should play a part.) A good trainer should have all the bases covered. Also, be sure your trainer talks about a warm-up and cool-down period as part of the routine.

• Ask for references. I have had three different clients tell me they had trainers in the past who did not help them achieve their fitness and weight loss goals. Not all trainers are equal, and knowledge is not everything. Your trainer should listen to your needs and design a program based on desired goals.

• Ask for dietary guidelines. Trainers should have them handy; if not, they should be able to suggest resources where you can find plenty of information. If your trainer starts suggesting supplements, be cautious. Most results can be obtained naturally with proper guidance.

• When looking for a trainer, be sure to ask friends and relatives if they can refer one. Chances are good that someone you know has had an experience with a trainer.

If this (or any other article on this blog) brings up some thoughts or questions, we would really enjoy hearing from you. Just click on the comment section under each article.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Listen and Look

The next time you are running, shed your iPod/MP3 player/cell phone. Unplug your ears and listen.

Listen to the sound your feet make.

If you hear a squeak, shuffle, skid or other such sound, stop what you're doing.

A distance runner should hear only the sound of her heel strike. From the heel, her footstep should unfurl as she rolls on the side or bottom of her foot, finally pushing off from the ball of her foot.

Listen the next time you're on the road as you pass other runners (or as they pass you, as the case may be). You will hear the difference as people shuffle or skid past as they run on their toes or the balls of their feet — or whatever unnatural, ungainly stride they use.

If you run in sand, snow, dirt, dust or gravel — something that allows for a clear footprint — look at your footprint. Your footprint should be clear and perfect (material permitting, of course — sloshy mud won't give you a clear print no matter how good your step).

If the footprint is smeared in any way, or if it is otherwise unclear, watch the way you place your feet when you run.

Now, while we're at it, try leaving off the earbuds when you run for a while. Without music or voices blaring in your ears, you can better hear vehicle and foot traffic around you. You will be able to hear when that tractor-trailer is not stopping in time to let you pass safely in front of it. You will be able to hear someone running behind you. You will be much more aware of your surroundings, always a plus for safety.

If you aren't attuned to your tunes, you will see things around you: the Cooper Mini that wasn't going to stop, the woman with the books who wouldn't have seen you, the geese feeding with their goslings at the pond, a Springsteen poster (not that all of us got tickets, *sigh*), the new shop on Main Street — the list goes on and on.

Rumor also has it that time will pass more quickly if you're not marking it, and a run will be easier if you're not constantly reminded about time (and the number of songs you hear while running marks time very efficiently).

Be aware of yourself and your step. Listen and look. It will make you a better runner — not to mention a more aware and interested (and interesting) individual.

— Chris

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Let's Go Climb a Tree

A friend asked me the other day, "Is it too early to train my 5-year-old son?"

This is a very good question. As good parents, we don't want our own children to be in the top percentile for obesity.

However, we have heard of the damage that can occur to growth plates when lifting heavy weights at a young age. We do not want to do anything that will harm our children.

There are many ways to start training our children at a young age without the added dangers of extreme weightlifting, including cardiovascular exercises and strength training.

For cardiovascular exercise, anything will do: soccer, hiking, biking, running (Chris didn't make me include that!) and basketball are just a few choices. (Basketball has the added benefit of helping develop hand-eye coordination.)

For strength training — and mothers, don't be upset with this! — tree climbing is a great activity.

Parents who are less adventurous can choose weight-bearing exercises, such as push-ups and pull-ups. There are many different kinds of push-ups: between two chairs, with arms at a wider angle, with feet on a chair so you are in a declined position. These slight variances help develop muscular strength and endurance and good core stabilization.

Earlier, I mentioned tree climbing. The reason for this is that pull-ups are great for strengthening back muscles.

Final tip: remember to be active every day with your children so they develop good, healthy fitness habits.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Hidden Calories: Blame it on the Drinks

If you are looking for "easy" calories to cut from your diet, look no further than what's in your drink.

That cup or glass or mug could cost you a few hundred calories a day.

At Starbucks, a medium Frappucino is 310 calories, even with nonfat milk. (I know they're called "grande," but I'm easily confused, so I stick with generic size calculations.) A medium Dulce de Leche Latte is 470 calories before you top it with whipped cream.

If you go cold in the morning, this will chill you: a 20 ounce bottle of Coca-Cola is 250 calories. Whatever size of your container, it's 100 calories per 8 ounces of beverage. For Fanta and Mello Yello, make that 120 calories per 8 ounces. Cans usually are 12 ounces and bottles are at least 20 ounces. (I'll leave the Big Gulp and Super Big Gulp calculations to you braver souls.) Read the nutrition labels one of these days and do the math.

In contrast:
  • Brewed tea is about 2 calories per cup (8 ounces).
  • Drip coffee is about 9 calories per cup (8 ounces).
  • Sugar is 16 calories per teaspoon.
  • Low-fat milk (2 percent, not the blue water!) is about 15 calories per ounce.

Choose how many calories you want to save in any given meal by choosing your poison, so to speak. Or treat your beverage like a meal (though I bet you'd be inclined to grab a snack later and defeat your calorie-saving efforts).

While lightening your waistline, you could fatten your wallet: at $5 every weekday, your coffee could cost as much as $1,300 per year. And that's for just one large latte (venti to you Starbucks geeks). A single bottle of soda every weekday could cost you nearly $400 a year.

Sure, purchasing from the grocery in bulk could save you money, but not as much as you think it might. A 4-pack of Frappucino or Latte is $6, and a 6-pack of 20-ounce bottles of Coke cost $4.29. (Go ahead, check — I'll wait.)

Do you really want to spend the calories and cash?

— Chris

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A Morning Constitutional

As an avid runner, I need my daily exercise. Okay, let's be serious: I need my run.

David gets worried when I don't take off time very often, but I have been doing it for quite a while and I haven't hurt myself yet. (Tripping and taking off huge swaths of skin doesn't count.)

I ran in high school when it was a class. I worked out in college when it was a class. What happens when the day starts early and ends late enough to make a run a challenge, and my boss expects me in at the beginning of the workday?

I run in the morning. Rather than see what the day will bring me, I make the commitment to get up early and start the day with a little exercise.

Thankfully, my commute isn't horrific and my hours aren't astronomical. If only I was a morning person....

Even with that, it's not easy — especially in the dark of winter when dawn comes along, oh, around noon and never really warms up. Muggy summer mornings are a challenge, too. But it's better than wondering if I will have time, or if the weather will hold, so I can get in a run after work.

I've been known to hit the stairclimber in the evening when the wind is too bitter, and when I have convinced myself that running when it's less than 30ºF (okay, 28ºF) probably isn't good for me. But on those days, I'm not myself and it takes a while to get up to speed.

In the morning, I don't do coffee. I don't do Jolt. I do a 5-mile run. Talk about bracing!

— Chris

Monday, September 10, 2007

Ace Fitness

For those of you who see the ACE logo but don't know, ACE stands for American Council on Exercise.

ACE holds to a very high moral and professional standard in its trainers. The ACE Web site can be a great resource for all things fitness. You can find an exercise library, discussion boards, a trainer and healthful tips.

Check out the ACE Web site at

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Aggressive: To Be or Not To Be

Q: What do all martial arts have in common?
A: They are designed to work while in motion and from a defensive posture.

I was watching the news one night, and they were showing a fight that took place between a batter and a catcher during a baseball game.

Before we go any further, I want to put something into perspective here: a National League catcher has 100 mph fastballs thrown near his head for nine innings most nights of the week during the season. He catches these balls and makes split-second decisions if or where to throw these balls. How good do you think this man's hand-eye coordination is?

Okay, back to the fight. This batter squared off against the catcher, the catcher really didn't move and yet the batter attempted what looked like a roundhouse kick. The catcher then took the batter's foot and stuck it in what looked to be in the batter's mouth.

When we practice martial arts the correct way, it is the patience, skill and timing that make the fighter — not the amount of aggression.

In my opinion, martial arts in this country are being taught too aggressively, and the depiction of violent martial arts in the cinema is making us believe that if we are competent fighters in practice, then in the street we are indomitable.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Finding Time to Work Out

For those of you who have too busy a lifestyle to workout, I have good news: exercise is cumulative.

Simply put: a little bit of exercise throughout the course of the day will count as a workout.

Maybe leave a couple of dumbbells at your desk so when you take a break you can do arm curls (3 sets with each arm). (A heavy book also will fit the bill.)

Later in the day, go to the stairwell and do alternating step-ups (3 sets, 3 minutes each).

If you stop at the store for lunch or on the way home, take the farthest parking space from the building, which will add some walk time.

By following the tips above, we just added 20-25 minutes of exercise into your day.

Be creative, have fun and start enjoying a healthier lifestyle.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Why Shadowboxing Can Make You a Better Fighter

Did you ever wonder why fighters shadowbox?

Sure, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking it's a great form of functional training and a good exercise for eyehand coordination. These are two very valid points of view, but there is more to this story.

When you shadowbox, you are watching your own technique. You want to be fast -- but, at the same time, you do not want to telegraph your punches and kicks to your opponent. So you watch. Do you drop your shoulder when you punch? Do you shift your weight or stance before kicking?

Becoming aware of these things can make you a better fighter both offensively and defensively:
  • offensively because you stop telegraphing your techniques, and
  • defensively (even more importantly) because you can anticipate your opponent's movements by knowing what techniques can be thrown effectively from specific body positions.

Speed is always important, but being able to read your opponent: priceless.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Why Diets Don't Work

When people find out I am a personal trainer, more times than not I get asked questions about diets and weight loss.

We all have stories about ourselves, friends and relatives who have tried many different diets to lose weight, or who have lost weight and can't seem to stay near their target weight.

(Before I tell you the secret of weight loss, turn your head and look to the right, then turn your head and look to the left. We may not want to share this with just anyone.)

Here it is: the key to weight loss is boosting your metabolism to burn more calories throughout the day.

Let's think about this a minute. We diet, we lose weight -- then the minute we stop dieting, the weight comes back on. This is because we haven't changed our metabolism.

Here are three easy tips to boost your metabolism:
  1. Be sure to eat breakfast because you want to get the furnace started for the day.
  2. Get plenty of rest because when the body is well rested it functions at a higher level.
  3. Eat five to six small meals daily -- our body can process the food more efficiently and this helps keep your metabolism at a higher level throughout the day.

For dietary guidelines on what you should be eating, check out