Wednesday, December 22, 2010

To Ice Or Not To Ice, That is The Question.

Back in July, I wrote a blog about ice vs. heat. Hopefully this will shed some light, on a long, on going debate.

Dr. Gabe Mirkin's Fitness and Health E-Zine

Ice Delays Recovery from Injuries

November 14, 2010

More than 30 years ago I coined the term RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) for the acute treatment of athletic injuries. Now a study from the Cleveland Clinic shows that one of these recommendations, applying ice to reduce swelling, actually delays healing by preventing the body from releasing IGF-1 (Insulin-like Growth Factor-1), a hormone that helps heal damaged tissue (Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, November 2010).

When germs get into your body, your immunity sends cells and proteins into the infected area to kill the germs. When muscles and other tissues are damaged, your immunity sends the same inflammatory cells to the damaged tissue to promote healing. The response to both infection and tissue damage is the same. Certain cells called macrophages rush to the damaged tissue to release IGF-1 which helps heal muscles.

Healing is delayed by cortisone-type drugs, nonsteroidal anti inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, applying cold packs or ice, and anything else that blocks the immune response to injury. Now the treatments for an acute injury include Rest (stop exercising), Compression and Elevation (to reduce swelling), but no ice.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

November’s Healthy Newsletter

November 2010 ,

The Reason for the Season is Not Excess

According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE,, the average Thanksgiving dinner is 3,000 calories, with 229 calories from fat.

As we approach the holidays, I don’t expect anyone to act like Charles Barkley – who, when asked how he managed to lose so much weight, responded, “I spit out everything that tasted good.” However, we need to be mindful of portion control, especially during the holidays.

New Studies of Metabolic Syndrome

Disagree with Workout Protocols

Metabolic syndrome is a disease that is indicated by a group of risk factors, including high body fat percentage, isulin resistance, high blood pressure and lipididemia, better known as high cholesterol.

Candidates for this disease generally live sedentary lifestyles. New studies indicate our previous expectations regarding exercise are not sufficient. Experts are beginning to suspect that the old axiom doesn’t quite measure up to fitness: 30 minutes a day, five days a week of exercise is not enough to combat metabolic syndrome for those sitting at a desk eight hours daily.

Here are some tips to help get you moving during the course of the workday:

· Replace your desk chair with a stability ball.

· If there are stairs in the building, take a stair break.

· Walk one or two laps around the office.

From The Independent (

A great answer to a great question

Why Hydrate During Winter?

by Phil Wagner, MD, SPARTA Performance Science director

for The Daily News

Drinking water to stay hydrated usually is associated with images of sweltering heat and long bouts of endurance. However, as the rain signals the beginning of fall and the upcoming winter storms, athletes need to stay hydrated to optimize their strength, not just their endurance.

A 2008 study out of the University of Connecticut's Human Performance Laboratory examined healthy, resistance-trained males in three states; hydrated, slightly dehydrated (signaled by a loss of 2.5 percent body weight in water), and dehydrated (loss of 5 percent). The study found that the dehydrated individuals had higher levels of cortisol, a hormone that is a marker for stress, and lower levels of testosterone, a hormone responsible for much of the growth in strength and muscle size after exercise. Such detriments were even greater among individuals in the more dehydrated state.

So these trained males' response to lifting weights was normal: an increase in stress hormones, particularly cortisol. This catabolic environment from the stress of exercise is normally balanced by an increase in testosterone, a marker of the anabolic process that allows the body to respond to the stimulus of resistance training. These normal responses were both negatively affected by even a slightly dehydrated condition.

For you power athletes, such as anyone not involved in cross country, you do not need to be drinking water for endurance or cramping. But water will help you reap more benefits from a set of sprints or lifting.

Go ahead: tip your glass of water more often, about half an ounce for every pound of body weight. It is one of the cheapest ways to improve hormone levels without testing positive. For more information, visit

November is Here: And So Is
the 2010 Winter Biggest Loser Contest

This year, the competition is going to be slightly different: I am joining the contest, and the winner has to lose more weight than I do to claim the prize money.

Entry fee is $10, and winner takes all.

The winner will be chosen by greatest percentage of body weight lost. However, if I win, the money, the kitty will be held over to our next contest (which will be next summer).

Beginning weigh-ins will be held Monday, November 8 and Tuesday, November 9. Ending weigh-ins will be Monday, December 20 and Tuesday, December 21.

Contact me for more information.

David Cohen , ACE Certified Personal Trainer & ACE Advanced Health and Fitness Specialist ,

Friday, December 17, 2010

Tai Chi Demo

Here are two videos for my class that had to absorb the entire Tai Chi form in six weeks. The first video is narrated and shows the movements at a faster speed. The second video shows the movements at regular speed.
I hope these dedicated students continue to practice — and if there are any questions, feel free to contact me.
Here are a few tips as you watch the video:
  • Shoulders down, elbows down, knees slightly bent.
  • Do not tuck, or lift the chin.
  • Breath through your dan tien.
  • If you get hung up: relax, focus on your breathing, then continue.
Faster speed, with narration:

Friday, October 29, 2010

Don't Drink the Water

We all know how important it is to stay hydrated while we work out. We rely on water to carry A.T.P. and other nutrients to the working muscles during physical activity.

However, when I go the the water fountain, more times than not, the water is really cold. Although this feels refreshing, it's not necessarily the healthiest way to hydrate.

Cold water takes longer to get absorbed by the body than warm water. So, if you drink from the fountain then feel unwell during your workout, bring water from home that's room temperature. Your workouts will be more comfortable.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Spotting Dumbbell Bench Press Correctly — At the Weight

I constantly see athletes spot dumbbell bench presses incorrectly.

Most people want to spot a dumbbell bench press at the elbows. This is flawed for a few reasons:
  • If the weights get dropped from the up position, they can hit your arm, chest or head. This is not good.
  • If a lifter is using heavy weights, and a spotter is pushing up at the elbows, the lifter who collapses at the arm risks breaking his/her elbow or the spotter's toe if the weight falls.
When we spot a barbell bench press, we spot at the weight. Why would it be different for dumbbells?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Tune In or Turn Off When Working Out

Last winter, I spent a lot more time in the gym because of the copious amounts of snow and ice on the road.

Normally, I cherish a run in the snow: the powdery quiet, my feet making tracks, the solitude as most people peered out of their windows, wrapped in warmth as I pushed through the icy wind.  Mine would be the only footprints I'd see, especially if I started early.  It was my time to be alone with the entire world.  It was beautiful.

However, I turned to the gym when that bucolic scene turned into two feet of snow piled on roadsides, sidewalks unshoveled and ice covered every conceivable surface. I took my earphones with me and watched way too much "Say Yes to the Dress" and "What Not to Wear."  I even met the Kardashians and, by the time spring rolled around, could tell Kourtney from Khloe.  (Hey, sometimes "Law & Order" just can't be found.)

As the weather warmed, we shot from freezing to blisteringly hot.  Many days I found the heat and humidity simply too much even in the early morning hours.  Other days I convinced myself that it was simply too hot and humid in those early morning hours because I secretly wanted to sleep in.  Additionally, the area I usually run was under heavy construction: sidewalks were closed so pedestrians were diverted to areas with potholes, backhoes and inattentive drivers in unfamiliar terrain.  In short: it was dangerous.

And yet — some days I just have to hit the road.

On those days, I remember why I love to run: it's a chance to be totally free for an hour.  Everyone knows my route, from Police and Fire to Public Works and Utilities, so I can be found in case of a true emergency (as opposed to simple urgency).  (No, I am not that important, but sometimes my work is.)

This hour of solitude allows me to focus further than an arm's length away and watch the squirrels and butterflies — even catch the bright yellow birds that dart among the flowers in the summer.  I hear the sounds of the community: construction, cicadas, fellow athletes. 

As I run, I tell myself stories of my own brilliance, courage and wit (because everything is possible when it happens in my brain).  I sometimes think of nothing, letting my brain process my footfall into the rhythm of a poem or search for a lead for that story that has stumped me for days.

Disconnection should not be among people, but regarding machines.  Tuning into "Cake Boss" can clog my brain from the really important process of thinking and creating.  Don't get me wrong, I have been known to zone with "Bridezilla" (much to the shock and dismay of my husband, who just glances at me from time to time, wondering what happened to his reasonable wife).

More importantly, we need to disconnect from the tidal wave of intel relentlessly pouring into our brains via phone, computer, BlackBerry, iPod.

We all need the humbling realization that a missed phone call is not a tragedy, an e-mail will remain in the inbox until we address it (and, if we're lucky, will have been addressed by someone else in the meantime).  

This helps me realize how I am important to the important people in my life does not depend on the computer that helped me compose this essay — but is a tool that helps us connect when we can.  Only when we disconnect can we truly connect in a way that's meaningful.
— Chris

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Drug Society

We have definitely become a drug society.

My daughter mentioned on Facebook how she was having a tough time sleeping at night. A friend suggested she try melatonin, an over-the-counter supplement that resets our internal clocks. It is used to reduce jet lag and insomnia.

This is exactly what I would have done for a friend with a problem: I would have recommended a solution.

Now that I have said that, here are a few possible side effects of melatonin:

  • headaches
  • nausea
  • depression
  • nightmares
  • irritability
  • abdominal cramps
  • dizziness.

There are better ways to fall asleep than just putting drugs in our bodies, such as light meditation for relaxation, warm milk or a walk an hour before bedtime.

It's always better to try natural remedies first before putting drugs in your body.

And word to the wise: don't approach these powerful supplements without first consulting a medical professional. Just because they're "natural," "herbal" or "homeopathic" doesn't mean they're not powerful or that interactions with something as simple as aspirin can't be dangerous.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

New Running Shoes: Hype or Magic Bullet?

Someone stopped me in the gym a few days ago to ask me about the new toning shoes on the market.

Can a pair of shoes actually help shape your legs and butt?

A panel of experts put the shoes through their paces for A.C.E., and the bottom line will make you think twice before investing a lot of money in shoes with amazing claims.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Connection Between Avatar and Fitness

This article by Michael W. Smith comes to us from New Jersey Newsroom.  I really liked the message, and the author was succinct.

Your fitness 'Avatar' 

Last night I saw Avatar, the box-office smash hit, in IMAX 3-D.
Wow, what a great story and the special effects (3-D/IMAX) were amazing to say the least. I literally felt like I was running through the forest and flying on raptors from Pandora. But, anyway ...
I couldn't help but think about what is means to stand for something, what it means to believe in something.
I know what I stand for and what I believe in – family, fitness, and peak performance in all areas of life. I know my passion and why I exercise, which is to provide the means to pursue that passion ... or Avatar if you will.
So my question to you is, "Why do you exercise and want to tone your body and feel unlimited energy?"
If that question is hard to answer then it's time to find YOUR Avatar – find your passion, act on it, and use exercise to look and feel awesome. Period.
Remember that knowledge is not power. Knowledge is only potential power.
It's action that takes it to the next level.
My message is simple: Get up, get out, get moving, get fit (or get fat), and change your life by believing (in yourself and your body). 
 - Michael W. Smith 

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Does Keeping Kids Physically Fit Improve Their Grades?

In general, I think kids who are more fit will have better attention spans and better self esteem.

However, too many kids love to show off their gray-matter muscle more than doing push-ups.

I personally would like to see a few more studies on the subject.  Here is an eye-opening news story, courtesy Ivanhoe

Kids + Fitness = Better Grades
(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- New evidence underlines the idea that physical fitness is associated with academic achievement in young people.
"As children's health continues to be a concern -- especially when it comes to obesity -- some have suggested that children's physical fitness is associated with their academic performance," study presenting author Lesley A. Cottrell, Ph.D., associate professor of pediatrics at West Virginia University in Morgantown, W.Va., was quoted as saying. "The research, however, had not developed enough to define the nature of that relationship."
Dr. Cottrell and colleagues analyzed the body mass index percentiles, fitness levels and standardized academic test scores of 725 fifth grade students in Wood County, W.Va. The researchers focused more on the children's fitness level than on their weight. They compared that data to fitness and academic performance two years later when the students were in the seventh grade.
They separated the participants into four groups of students who were:
• in high physical fitness levels in fifth grade and remained so in seventh grade;
• fit in fifth grade but had lost their fitness by seventh grade;
• not fit in fifth grade but were physically fit by seventh grade;

• not physically fit at the beginning of the study, in fifth grade, nor at the end of the study, in seventh grade.
Children who had the highest standardized test scores in reading, math, science and social studies were fit at the start and end of the study. The next best group, academically, in all four subjects, was made up of children who were not fit in fifth grade but had become fit by seventh grade. The children who had lost their fitness levels between fifth and seventh grades were third in academic performance. Children who were not physically fit in either the fifth or seventh grades had the lowest academic performance.
"The take-home message from this study is that we want our kids to be fit as long as possible and it will show in their academic performance," said Dr. Cottrell. "But if we can intervene on those children who are not necessarily fit and get them to physically fit levels, we may also see their academic performance increase."
The study suggests that focusing more on physical fitness and physical education in school would result in healthier, happier and smarter children, Dr. Cottrell said.
SOURCE: Presented at the American Heart Association's Conference on Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism, March 4, 2010

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Ice or Heat for Injuries?

Here is a question I get often: When I have an injury, should I use ice or heat?

For some people, this is a subjective topic. There are people who have preferences based on what feels good to them.

Here is my take: When there is an injury, use ice immediately to helps reduce swelling. Remember the old adage: RICERest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.

Once the bruising leaves and there is still some stiffness or pain, go ahead and apply heat. Topical ointments like Ben Gay or Tiger Balm work well. I also like hot, moist washcloths.

Self-medication is recommended for minor injuries that occur on a regular basis, i.e., joint aches, sore muscles and other mild pain that rest doesn't heal, and aches and pains that are more a bother than a medical issue.

When an injury occurs, always check with your physician as soon as possible. Be smart and be healthy.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Is a Day of Cheating Healthy?

This is a great question that was asked of me by a friend who participates in my kickboxing class. 

The answer is: yes, as long as the cheating day is in moderation.
(This answer, by the way, refers to dieting only.)

What if pizza is one of your favorite foods and you have deprived yourself of it until all you can think of is the gooey cheese and spicy sauce? By all means, indulge a little and give yourself the taste you crave.  A slice or two for dinner will go a long way. It's eating the entire large pie that's not healthy. 

People have a tendency to want things they can't have. Sticking to a diet is hard enough. Depriving yourself of some favorite foods for long periods of time you will make your miserable. 
 Be happy. Life is short. Eat healthy, eat smart and you can enjoy most of your favorite foods in moderation.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Why is Cardio Essential For Your Fitness Program?

Diets, for the most part, do not work.

There. I said it. I feel better now.

Here is why: your V02 max (the amount of oxygen the body can take in during exercise) is directly proportional to the amount of calories you can burn.

What that means is this: along with good daily food choices, we need to increase our oxygen intake.

Amazingly enough, this is one of the body's adaptations of cardiovascular exercise. So, if you are couch-poatoeing and dieting like crazy and you don't see results, there is hope: exercise to increase your oxygen intake.  Simply add 45-60 minutes of cardio exercise four to five times a week and you should see progress.

For those who have time restraints during the day, remember that three 15-minute sessions still add up to 45 accumulated minutes of exercise.

Stop reading this and get moving. Walk, run, bowl, whatever you love to do that accelerates your heart rate — just do it.

You'll feel better and you'll thank me later.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

What's A Personal Trainer All About?

Most of the personal training I do takes place at a local college.

Today I was lucky enough to spend some time at the school's annual health and fitness expo. I had a chance to schmooze with students, faculty and staff.

During my 4.5 hours at this expo, I was asked the same question 3 or 4 times:
As a trainer, do you put together a routine first, then spend the rest of the sessions implementing that program?
I was really surprised by the frequency of this question.

Now to be fair, I have no idea how an architect works, so I might ask, "So, do you draw the buildings first, then spend the rest of the time coloring in the walls?"

For anyone who ever wondered, "Is a trainer for me? Should I spend the money on a trainer?"—
here is a rough description of what I actually do. ( I can't speak for all trainers, because our methodologies might be different.)

1. Assessment
I always start with an assessment to determine the client's physical strengths and weaknesses. The assessment includes muscular strength, muscular endurance, blood pressure, resting heart rate, working heart rate, body fat percentage and flexibility.

2. Goals
Once all of the data is in, I review the client's goals, which can include any one or more of the following : weight loss, muscle building, correction of a muscular imbalance, helping to lower blood pressure or cholesterol, toning, improving flexibility or balance.

3. Plan of Attack
Now all this data is in, I can put together a plan of attack based on the client's needs and desires. I then give my clients homework, which consists of general health guidelines and dietary guidelines I want them to follow to assist us on this project. By doing this, that means my time with my client is spent shaping, toning and sculpting as we start to change her/his body.

Clients don't need me to look over their shoulder as they do cardio on the treadmill. Nor do they need me just counting reps for them. Instead of counting reps, I watch every rep to check for proper form and proper breathing. I need to know the exact moment a client loses focus or when the form of the exercise suffers. It's all about safety and isolating the correct muscles.

While doing all of this, I also need to be aware that not every client can perform the same exercise. That means I need to have up my sleeve at all times multiple exercises that can target the muscular response I am looking for, in order to guarantee my client the results that she/he are paying for (and deserve to receive).

Now that you have a better understanding into what a personal trainer actually does for a client, I hope this will help you decide if you want to hire a trainer to assist you in achieving your fitness goals.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Looking For a Great Supplement?

Look no further: the best supplement available you probably are not taking is a multivitamin.

Let's consider why we take supplements:
  • Help us break down the nutrients we get from food
  • Add to our diets the vitamins and minerals we may be lacking
Now let's look at some of the benefits we can yield by taking the right vitamins.  (Keep in mind I don't have room here for everything that is worth mentioning, but at least we can get a jump-start.)

  • Vitamin B1 helps release energy from carbohydrates during metabolism: growth and muscle tone
  • Vitamin B2 helps the body release energy from protein, fat and carbohydrates during metabolism
  • Vitamin B6 helps build body tissue and aids in metabolism of protein
  • Vitamin B12 aids cell development, functioning of the nervous system, and the metabolism of fat and protein
  • Biotin helps metabolize protein, fats and carbohydrates
  • Niacin is involved in carbohydrate protein and fat metabolism
  • Pantothenic acid helps release energy from from fats and carbohydrates
These are just a few examples taken from the ACE personal trainer manual.

So — the next time you are shopping, do your body a favor and take a serious look at some multivitamins.

Next: vitamins that aid in blood flow, blood vessel health and bone health.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Exercise: An Important Lifelong Practice

Being a 50-year-old father of three, I can tell you the world now is a much more competitive place than it was when I was in school.  

There are high school students with 4.3 and 4.5 grade point averages not being accepted to their first choices of college. Back when I was in school, there was no such thing as an above 4.0 grade point average.

We need our children to remain focused and stress-free throughout their day in order to keep them on the road to success. As parents, we can help by ensuring our children receive proper nutrition, sufficient rest and daily exercise.

If we can do these things for our children, here are some benefits they receive as a result:
  • Nutrition: vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals are essential for proper physiological body function. This aids in cleansing the liver and kidneys and holding proper hydration levels in our cells -- plus, they provide cancer-fighting abilities and build healthy immune systems.
  • Rest: repairs the body from the daily grind we call life. This allows the body to manufacture amino acids for muscle repair. Proper rest also aids in keeping us alert and dexterous.
  • Exercise: burns more calories to help maintain a healthy body mass index (BMI). Create better lung capacity for better blood and oxygen flow. Exercise also makes the heart strong and healthy.

Aside from these immediate benefits, our children also get healthy life style habits that will carry on to adult hood.

We are responsible for bestowing upon them these practices for a healthy lifestyle, so let's do it right.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Coming Soon: Sports Tips

Coming soon!
Sports Tips

If you have questions on how to improve the mechanics of a sport, or a particular muscle group for a specific sport related movement, feel free to submit your questions or concerns on the blog site — either via e-mail or as comments to existing blogs.

All inquiries are welcome.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Importance of Cardiovascular Training

Not to long ago, a client of mine had a great epiphany: two hours of cardio per day makes for a healthy person.

When I asked him how he came to that conclusion, he told me how much healthier he was when he was running 10-plus miles a day in the snow wearing shorts.

Now, I am not telling you to go run in the snow, but this client is definitely on to something. Let's take a look at what two hours of cardiovascular exercise can do for you.

  • Increased lung capacity for better oxygenation of the blood.
  • Healthier heart pumps more blood with better efficiency.
  • More oxygen rich blood delivered to the cells and organs.
  • Healthier cells and organs means better detoxification of the body.
  • Metabolism increases when the body is properly rid of toxins.
  • Increased metabolism makes weight loss becomes easier, prevents us from getting sick easily and keeps us from becoming easily fatigued during the day.
  • Feeling less fatigued during the day means we have a positive mood enhancement.
  • Mood enhancement gives us better relationships (work and social).
  • Better relationships makes us a happier people.
So, the next time you wonder why you are —or are not —working out, remember the importance of cardiovascular training.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Gain More: Slow Down Your Reps

Looking for better gains? Try going slow.

Slowing your reps down is a great training technique for those exercises that are otherwise difficult to isolate the proper muscles.

Slowing down allows you to squeeze the muscle better at the top of the contraction, which works the desired muscle a bit harder.

Slowing down also recruits more muscle fibers. In the long run, this will make you stronger, so you will be able to lift a bit more.

Slowing down aids in avoiding injuries. If you are not throwing the weights, you won't have to worry about pulling or tearing muscles.

Next time in the gym try slowing down your reps to a 7-second count(3 seconds on the concentric contraction and four seconds on the eccentric).  I think you'll agree you will get a more thorough work out.  If you are already using this count and you still need more gains, try 10 second reps: 10 seconds up and 10 seconds down.

This makes for a very challenging workout, but here is a hint: use a a slightly lighter weight when lifting this slow. Chances are, you will not be able to lift the same weight at slower speeds.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Training Shoulders Properly

I am seeing more shoulder injuries every day, and I firmly believe this is the result of improper lifting.  Let's consider the rotator cuff and look at what exercises can help strengthen and protect it while lifting.

gave a brief description of the rotator cuff and its function last spring, so let's recap: rotator cuff muscles are responsible for keeping the glenohumeral joint in place during shoulder depression.

Here's how that works.  During a shoulder press, the rotator cuff group takes over as we lower our arms and as our elbows drop below 90 degrees. We hold the weight there for a second then we start our lift upward.  The bottom end of this lift is also more rotator (supraspinatus) than middle deltoid. The supraspinatus is a much smaller muscle than the middle deltoid and, therefore, can't take the same amount of stress.

Remember, also, that rotator cuff muscles are part of the shoulder girdle, and three of the four rotator cuff muscles originate behind the scapula.

For as much shoulder lifting as we do, we have to remember to treat our rotator cuff muscles as a separate muscle group. I have found very few people perform specific exercises for their rotator cuff muscles.

Here are a few tips on how to safely strengthen your rotator cuff muscles:
  • With light weight, practice a shoulder press from the very bottom position: elbows at your side and hands by your shoulders.
  • Using a band or light dumbbell, keep your elbow tight to your body and move your arm from your stomach to the outside of your body.
  • Lift light dumbbells and, with elbows bent, lift the weights parallell to the floor. Then slowly rotate the weights upward from the shoulder.
  • Include rows and rear delt exercises in your workout. This way, the rhomboids and rear deltoids assist in keeping the scapula in place — which in turn aids in keeping the rotators in place.
Protect your rotator cuffs by exercising properly.  Repairing is time-consuming, costly and never guaranteed, so avoid injuries in the first place.