Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Exercise is Beneficial at Every Age

Last week, my family received some disturbing news about my 80-year-old mother's health — but exercise provided better treatment options for her and her doctors.

She was complaining of poor balance and loss of dexterity, and her doctor referred her to a neurologist. They did find some issues – but, instead of pursuing an invasive procedure, the doctor prescribed rehab and a regular yoga class.

As a result, my mother's neuromuscular functions have improved and the doctor has taken the procedure option off the table. Good news all around.

The moral to this story is: do not neglect your fitness at any age.

Monday, September 21, 2009

It's Not the Certification, It's the Trainer

There has been much debate lately on which personal training certification is better to have: A.C.E. (American Council on Exercise) or NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine).

Both of these certifications are excellent, but I find neither of them to be all comprehensive.
In my opinion, A.C.E.'s biggest weakness is in the organization's conservative program design. Most of their program design comes from the American College of Sports Medicine, which is a very safe path — and is exactly what a novice trainer needs.

NASM follows the stability, strength and power stages of fitness, progressing a client from one ability level to the next. This gives the trainer a bit more leeway in the program design process.

NASM is famous for using a squat test assessment to find muscular imbalances in clients. This is a great tool, and I use this test on a very regular basis. That being said, there is a major weakness in the way trainers present this test. Depending on the clients body positions or flaws, NASM philosophy is that the imbalance could be in one of two places in the body, making it necessary to perform more evaluations on the client to pinpoint the imbalance. (This process needs to be more refined in order for it to be used more effectively.)

ACE's tests of separate body parts may take some extra time, but there is no guesswork — or need for additional tests — to identify the imbalance. (I know I used really broad terms here, but that is so I don't bore anyone to tears —or worse, suicide.)

All of this information is for the trainer. Now, what does this mean for you, the client?
Absolutely nothing. Are you going to care how your trainer comes to the conclusion on which of your muscle are tight, or which ones need more strengthening? Probably not. What's important is not what process you use, but the results you obtain.

On two separate occasions recently, I was able to see firsthand two new trainers with the same certifications (though not all four having the same certification) apply their knowledge.
I saw huge differences in the trainers' abilities — which brings up an even more important rule for the client: talent, not certification, makes the trainer. Don't choose a trainer solely on education and certification alone. Watch how the trainers at your gym work out with their clients, and ask gym employees whose opinions you value which trainers they would choose. Give your trainer a chance, but if you aren't getting the results, don't be afraid to try someone new.

Bottom line is this: certification is meaningless if your trainer is not getting you results. The true test of a trainer is how that knowledge is applied.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Yolk's on You!

I recently purchased The 150 Healthiest Foods on The Planet by Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., CNS, and there is so much good stuff in this book I can't begin to fit it all here.

One of the many things worth mentioning is that egg yolks are good for you.

That's right, you heard me: no more egg white omelets. You can have the benefits and the flavor. The essential nutrient in the egg yolk, choline, "actually prevents the accumulation of cholesterol and fat in the liver," according to Bowden.

Also, according to the book, choline forms a metabolite in the body called betain, which helps lower homocysteine, a risk factor for heart disease.

Homocysteine is an amino acid that is found in plasma. If these levels are too high in the plasma, this could cause an increased risk of coronary heart disease, stroke or peripheral vascular disease, according to the American Heart Association.

Eggs also are rated as "one of the best sources of protein on the planet," with the quality of the protein outranking milk, beef, whey and soy.

I was discussing this egg yolk story with a client friend of mine. His exact words were: "If the egg is where chickens come from and the chickens are good food for our bodies, then the egg has to good. The only thing healthier would be a stem cell smoothie."

So the next time you think, "Eggs," think, "Yolks, too."

If you think this is good, read the book and we'll discuss why dandelions should be in our salads.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Let's Try Golf

Okay, here is my story:

Last June, my family met in Florida for some R&R. My brother Martin and I wanted to play some golf — nothing fancy, just a pitch-and-putt golf course. I was embarrassed by how poorly I played.

So what I haven't held a golf club in 30 years. So what every time I swung, someone almost perished.

And the duck I hit: delicious.

Anyway, Chris and I were shopping at a local Salvation Army (which, by the way, is a great kept secret for books and movie buyers) (Chris says, "Not anymore....") and lo and behold, we came across a set of golf clubs for $60, including the bag. I thought, "Heck, for that money, even when I start to wrap them around a tree I won't feel too terrible."

After some practice, broken windows, horrified mothers and more dead poultry, I purchased the book Golf for Dummies. (I guess I should have done that first.) Magically, I acquired some mad golf skills. (When I say "mad golf skills," I mean "I actually made contact with the ball.") It helps to get some tips and tricks from a pro.

A few months later, I mentioned to a friend that I am trying to play golf. He mentioned that he had a set of clubs he hadn't used in 10 years, and generously offered them to me.

I took said clubs to the driving range.

My friend neglected to tell me the clubs had magical properties — or maybe he didn't know about that, otherwise he would probably still be playing. I teed up the first ball and really whacked the crap out of it.

I think I will keep his clubs — they fit me to a tee, so to speak. (I hope he doesn't read this or he may want them back.)

The moral to this story is: if you are going to take up golf, go the pro shop first and get clubs custom fit for you. This could save a lot of lives, poultry and frustration.