Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Exercise Really is a Cure-All!

Alright, it's a bit of an exaggeration. But not by much.

According to Marilyn Moffat, a professor of physical therapy at New York University, exercise goes a long way toward healing what ails you ("You Name It, Exercise Helps It," New York Times, 4/29/2008).

If you suffer from an ailment such as diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, dementia, depression, cancer or erectile disfunction, exercise can help.

Congestive heart failure? Multiple sclerosis? Diverticulitis? Yep, you, too.

It's not a panacea, and you do not leap off the operating table to land at the marathon starting line. Moffatt is much more restrained than I would be. Moderate exercise, as much as one feels comfortable doing, is the key.

A lot of times, would-be athletes are self-conscious about their body shapes — which might make them less inclined to go to the gym, the pool or wherever else exercise might include stretchy pants.

Others may not think themselves athletes, or have not felt strong enough to consider themselves capable of athletic activities. The thing is, they are. Everyone can be an athlete. Remember, you don't have to run a marathon to be a "runner."

There are lots of reasons to not exercise — such as when the physician recommends against it, or when you truly do not feel capable. After my shoulder surgery, Dr. Thal told me I could start running as soon as I felt like it. I took off two weeks, which I would have fought against had the good doctor said that very thing. And it was heck starting again, but I didn't give myself a choice. Not running, for me, was worse than re-starting.

Exercise is not easy, especially when athletes are starting a new regimen. However, even a beginning athlete knows the difference between sore muscles and their illness. They also know the difference between "not feeling like it" and being unwell.

Always consult with a physician before starting an exercise regimen — but start one. Do it for the endorphins, do it for the muscle tone, do it for the confidence it will give you. But do it. Your body will thank you.

- Chris

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Summer is Almost Here! Time to Show Off Those Abs!

My entire family from all over the country is meeting in Florida the last week in June. Consequently, my daughter Valerie wants to know how to add definition to her tummy.

So let's start with the basic crunch.
  • Lie flat on your back. Keep your hands folded across your chest, and flex your spine so your shoulders come off the floor. (Keep your neck in place and relaxed.) Once your head and shoulders come off the floor, engage your abs and crunch. Make this movement only about eight inches. Try three sets of 15 to see how you do.
Need a little more challenge?
  • Sit upright and place your feet under the couch or chair, knees bent. Now, lower your back as slowly as possible down to the floor. (A count of 12 should do it.) Then come back to your starting position. Repeat 12 times.
  • For the people who can't get enough punishment, attempt to raise yourself back up from the floor for a count of 12.

Okay -- still too easy?
  • Lie flat on your back with your feet in the air. Keep your arms straight in front of you and try to touch you toes. (Yes, Val, I am serious.)

This is for the more hardcore:
  • Lie flat on your back. Have someone stand with their feet at your shoulders. Raise both feet with some force and have your partner (not to worry, Jesse, you shall remain nameless) shove your feet back to the ground -- but don't let your feet hit the ground.
  • Your parnter also can shove your feet to both sides to work your obliques.

When you get good at these, let me know and we can increase the difficulty.

In the meantime, let's enjoy the summer and show off those abs.

Thank you for the suggestion, Val. This also gave me more ideas for the blog. I can give tips on a specific muscle for each month. What do you think?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Growning Older, Staying Fit With a Personal Trainer

As we grow older, we need to continue exercising on a regular basis for many reasons, including to:
  • keep metabolism consistent for weight control

  • sustain bone density

  • preserve movement functionality

  • build muscular strength and endurance
Many insurance companies now provide reduced rates for gym memberships to clients whose employees are members of a gym or fitness center.

This was very well received. Consequently, the American Association for Retired Persons (AARP), which provides insurance supplement for seniors, began offering discounted services for personal trainers through the American Council on Exercise (ACE).

I can tell you with authority (as the employee of two gyms) that AARP's rates are less expensive than those found in most fitness centers. ACE is a nationally accredited organization with thousands of accredited personal trainers nationwide, so it's easy to find a trainer nearby who can help you stay fit and reach the fitness goals you set.

Click here to let AARP help you find an ACE-certified personal trainer near you.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


If you want to get fit, consider Zumba.

And if you are going to consider Zumba, consider Lois Kirkpatrick's class, held from 6-7 pm Fridays near the Dunn Loring Metro station.

David and I recommend Lois' class for this fun fitness craze that mixes Latin dancing with aerobic dance. Lois is a high-energy teacher with great flair and fun. I've seen her at work, and I plan to sign up for her class, too.

Visit her blog at for more information.

And get Zumba-ing!

- Chris

Saturday, April 5, 2008

All Trainers Are Not Created Equal, Part Two

Currently, I work with a gentleman who is probably one of the most educated people I know when it comes to muscle anatomy and kinesiology. He really knows how to work and isolate all muscle groups.

I was really thrilled to have a chance to observe him train with a few clients. Here is what I observed. (The names have been changed to protect the innocent.)

The first client (whom I will call "Client Number One") was working on his bench press and holding his breath between reps. I couldn't believe this trainer did not make the obvious correction to teach proper breathing.

The "Second Client" I observed was performing a lat pulldown. A proper lat pulldown should have you with a slight backward lean in order better isolate the latissimus dorsi. This particular client, however, was sitting perfectly straight and using more arm and shoulder than anything else.

The "Last Client" also was working on the bench press. The trainer was spotting the client with one hand while carrying on a conversation on his cell phone.

This trainer absolutely knows better in all three cases.

So here is another tip on picking a trainer: before you agree to have someone train you, spend a little time observing.

Ask yourself a few questions:
  • Does the trainer demonstrate proper technique?
  • Does this trainer stay attentive through the training session?
  • Does the trainer give cues and guidance while the exercises are taking place?

When the training session is completed, you also may ask the client if s/he is still getting results with this trainer. Has s/he hit any plateaus and what did the trainer do to overcome them? Has s/he gotten bored with the routine? Remember, how trainers deal with current clients is the same way these trainers will deal with you.

Do not hesitate to ask questions of both the trainers and their clients and try to observe your trainer at work when possible. You are working hard and spending good money to become a healthier you. You deserve the best the fitness industry has to offer.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Breathing and Tai Chi/World Tai Chi & Qi Gong Day 4/26

In celebration of World Tai Chi & Qi Gong Day April 26, I thought it fitting to post a blog.

During a class I taught recently, someone asked why we were learning relaxation techniques and proper breathing.

Good Tai Chi involves energy flow which comes from breathing correctly, we learn to relax in movement so the energy we create can flow freely inside us.

When practicing Tai Chi, we need to be mindful of the all the benefits it gives us:
  • calmness through concentration,
  • better energy flow resulting in better physiology responses through out the body,
  • flexibility, and
  • muscle tonicity from practicing the movements over time.

This is the paradox of Tai Chi: on the outside, it looks very simple — but there are many subtle nuances.

Remember, too, that Tai Chi is a martial art. The movements you learn and practice in this form all have meaning and importance.