Feed Your Gut


We’ve heard a lot about gut health lately, and with good reason. Good gut health translates to a strong immune system, a balanced metabolism, the effective breakdown and assimilation of our food, and, according to recent studies, good brain health as well. But good gut health is wholly dependent on the maintenance of a strong and healthy microbiome, that colony of “good” or friendly bacteria that lives in our gastrointestinal tract, comprising some 300-500 different bacterial species. Keeping that population healthy and viable is the key to making it all work. And in this world of highly processed food, refined carbohydrates, heavy antibiotic use, and environmental toxins, keeping our microbiomes healthy is no easy feat. Now, I know what you’re thinking — you’ve heard all this before and you know what to do. Just make sure to stock up on yogurt, pop a daily probiotic supplement, and you’re good to go, right? Well, not so fast…

It’s true that we need to consume a regular supply of probiotic and fermented foods to keep our gut microbiome well populated with friendly bacteria, especially since our lifestyle and eating habits often work to their detriment. Eating a variety of probiotic-rich foods daily should therefore be part of a healthy diet. Good examples of such foods include: yogurt, kefir, miso, tempeh, kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, raw pickles, and raw vinegars. And just for good measure, taking a high quality probiotic supplement is often recommended as well. But we need to continually nourish that good gut bacteria if they are to survive and thrive. Just as with any living organism, our good bacteria will die off if they are not properly fed. That is where prebiotics come in.


Prebiotics are a category of foods that actually feed our good gut bacteria. They are non-digestible, high fiber compounds that are found in certain fruits and vegetables, as well as other plant-based sources. These prebiotic starches, while non-digestible to humans, are highly digestible to our beneficial bacteria, and are essential to maintaining their health. An added plus is that they are resistant to our gastric acid, which allows them to pass through to the intestinal tract intact, where they are then fermented and readily consumed by our hungry microbial population.

The regular consumption of prebiotic foods is important for us all, but particularly so for individuals who suffer from conditions of the digestive tract, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, colitis, and Crohn’s disease. But studies have shown that prebiotics offer other health benefits as well. They help to reduce our risk for cardiovascular disease and Type II diabetes by lowering cholesterol levels and regulating our blood sugar; they promote satiety, thereby keeping our weight at a healthy level; and they help to prevent certain types of cancers, most notably colon cancer. They are a fundamental component of a healthy diet.


Prebiotic-rich foods include:

  • Leeks
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Chicory Root
  • Asparagus
  • Jerusalem Artichokes (Sunchokes)
  • Soybeans
  • Legumes
  • Eggplant
  • Dandelion Greens
  • Burdock Root
  • Jicama
  • Chinese Chives
  • Wheat Bran
  • Oats
  • Rye
  • Bananas
  • Honey


It is recommended that we consume at least 5 grams of prebiotic fiber a day to maintain optimal gut health.  Much of that should be in raw form, to the extent possible, since cooking any fruit or vegetable acts to break down its fibers.  But a combination of raw salads and lightly sautéed or steamed prebiotic vegetables should be more than adequate to meet our daily needs.

In terms of “bang for the buck”, chicory root delivers the highest percentage of prebiotic fiber by weight, at nearly 65 percent, while bananas deliver the lowest, with only 1 percent of fiber by weight.  The rest of the foods listed above fall somewhere in between those ranges.  It doesn’t take much to reach the desired 5-gram goal, but as with any dietary regime, variety is the spice of life.  Experiment with including a wide assortment of prebiotic foods in your daily recipes, and you should be well covered.

So, the next time you’re at the Farmer’s Market, be sure to pick up some leeks, asparagus, garlic, and onions, thinking of the prebiotic benefits that will ensue!  And while you’re at it, you just might want to throw in some dandelion greens as well.  Your gut will thank you for it.

Back to Basics


We are what we eat, right?  We’ve all heard the saying, but the statement is true.  Just think about it.  Everything that we ingest gets absorbed into our bloodstream and serves as the basis for nourishing our cells, building our tissues, boosting our immune system, and maintaining a healthy metabolism.  So, it just stands to reason that our food choices can make all the difference when it comes to defining our health.  But, unfortunately, making healthy choices has become an increasingly difficult task in today’s world.  It seems we are assaulted on all sides by the temptation and convenience of highly processed foods that are largely devoid of nutritional value and saturated with unhealthy fats, refined carbohydrates, and a chemical cocktail of artificial dyes, flavors, and preservatives.  In truth, the Standard American Diet (aptly known by its acronym “SAD”) is slowly, but surely, killing us.  In the last 30 years, obesity rates in the United States have skyrocketed.  Heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and autoimmune diseases are also on the rise, as are neurodegenerative diseases and mood disorders.  And much of this can be blamed on our diet.

The multi-million-dollar diet industry certainly capitalizes on this national dysfunction.  As more Americans have become obese and disease-ridden, quick-fix diets and self-help books have become all the rage.  So many of us are looking for that “silver bullet” panacea that we hope will resolve all our problems.  But there are so many conflicting options to choose from.  Do we eat low-carb, low-fat, paleo, ketogenic, do a juice cleanse, or follow some other program of pharmaceutical or herbal intervention?  It’s enough to make your head spin.  It’s true that some of these programs do work for certain individuals, but most often, people try something out for a short period of time, but then resort back to their old eating habits.  And in the process, they often regain whatever weight they might have lost, returning to an unhealthy physical state.


It’s quite simple — we get back to the basics.  Author and food expert Michael Pollan probably stated it best when he advised us to, “Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.”  What this means is that we need to get back to eating whole foods that look and taste the way nature intended.  Or as Pollan puts it, only eat foods your great-grandmother would recognize.  That’s it.  Our fruits and vegetables should come fresh from the farm, orchard, or garden.  Our food animals should be raised without stress and unreasonable confinement, and they should be fed natural diets without added antibiotics, chemicals, or hormones.  Similarly, our grains and legumes should be unrefined, and not subjected to genetic alteration and toxic applications of pesticides and herbicides.  If we follow these simple guidelines, chances are that our bodies will soon heal themselves, our weight will naturally regulate, and our systems will return to a healthy condition of homeostasis.


Here are some general suggestions for optimizing our diet and health:

  • Eat a variety of produce in its natural form, direct from the farm or garden.
  • Choose foods that are organic and locally grown, whenever possible.
  • Avoid Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s).
  • Eliminate refined sugar and flours, as well as excess sodium.
  • Eat grass-fed, pasture-raised meats, but keep meat consumption to a minimum.
  • Eat fish that are wild caught, opting for smaller varieties that are less susceptible to mercury contamination.
  • Include modest amounts of healthy, plant-based fats in your diet, such as those derived from nuts, olives, and avocados.
  • Avoid processed foods.
  • Cook your own food and experiment in the kitchen. It’s a wonderfully creative activity, and you’ll have the added benefit of knowing what’s in your food.
  • Drink plenty of water to keep your body well hydrated.

This is not to say that you can’t partake in a favorite food indulgence from time to time.  In fact, I would encourage that.  Occasional treats are part of what makes life enjoyable and keeps you from feeling deprived.  But I prefer to follow the “90/10 Rule”, striving to eat clean and healthy 90 percent of the time, with 10 percent left to delicious discretion.  No guilt, and no obsession.  It’s all about moderation.

The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates famously said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”.  He believed that correcting imbalances or dis-ease in the body could primarily be accomplished through diet.  In truth, I believe that Hippocrates had it right.  Achieving good health is not rocket science.  In fact, it’s quite the opposite.  It’s about getting back to the basics and tuning in to what our bodies have been telling us all along.  Let’s return to some ancient wisdom.  Let’s get back to our roots — quite literally.  We will all be healthier for it.

Revise Resolutions Into Goals

Crowding Out in 2018

We’ve all made those grandiose New Year’s promises, even knowing their fateful doom from the outset. Notwithstanding, most of us start the year off with genuine sincerity and an intent for better bodies, minds, and careers in the year ahead. How then do we so quickly lose motivation to maintain our “resolutions” and then settle back into old routines?

We know the pattern well: gym crowds surge in January, only to start waning thin again mid-February. Whatever the resolution be, either the sense of urgency goes away or its magnitude overwhelms, and the behavioral change we once sought gets shelved either indefinitely, or until next January. The Winter Season is especially tough, when many of us struggle most to maintain any resolve, no less get out of bed.

Our strides for personal progress succeed when we make ourselves the priority, period. Even still, no real success is gained on sheer optimism alone. A common pitfall is that we have too restrictive a focus on what we can’t have, can no longer do, or want to exclude, rather than what we can have more of, want to do and want to attract more of into our lives.

Let’s examine one of the most-common New Year’s resolutions – to lose weight. In this effort, most everyone has a long list of foods in their heads of what they are not allowed to eat. What if instead, we focused on just a list of beneficial foods to incorporate into our diets? ‘Crowding out,’ a term coined by the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, refers to the natural process that happens when you add more of the good stuff in first: the more healthy foods you add to your existing diet, the less room you’ll have for junk. Literally, we can crowd out the bad by just focusing on what we want more of, until we reach a balanced diet that is sustainable. This strategy need not only apply to what we eat.

Take this one step further and examine the life-giving foods that are not on our plates, such as healthy relationships, regular physical activity, a fulfilling career and a spiritual practice. Ask whether these ‘foods’ are in enough abundance to fill your soul and satisfy your hunger for life. Again, when we feel satiated and in balance, we supplement less, and what no longer serves us will lose ground.

It’s not too late to revise our 2018 ‘resolutions’ into personal goals to ‘crowd out’ the unwanted with more of the wanted. Rather than lofty resolutions, set goals that are specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and timely. Most importantly, as you progress towards your goals, continuallyR re-evaluate them for relevance, make adjustments when necessary, and recognize and reward the smaller successes along the way.

Ultimately, the question we need ask ourselves is whether our personal goals truly inspire us, or whether they are items best kept for a ‘to-do’ list. Long-term success of any goal depends on the formation of positive and sustainable habits that bring enjoyment and enrichment into our lives. Another key determinant of our success is how do we react when we slip up? Whatever the misstep, what matters most is how we handle it. Don’t let your own humanity derail you – accept the hiccup and get right back on track.

Chronic Inflammation And How To Tame It

Chronic Inflammation and How To Tame It

A stressful life, poor diet, and toxic people, we would all happily trade with a more balanced existence filled with nourishment, inner growth and conscious living. Sure, why not? But it’s not always so easy, when our go-go lifestyles encompass a daily barrage of toxins, infectious agents and stress, seen and unseen. The connection between diet and lifestyle, chronic inflammation and disease, is very real and our daily choices all have either a pro- or anti-inflammatory effect.

Immune System Response

Chronic inflammation arises from an immune system response that’s out of control. When inflammation as an immune response is never “shut off,” so to speak, the constant production of immune cells can do permanent damage.

What we eat, drink, and think can create a cascade of inflammation in our bodies. When our body hits an inflammatory overload, our defense system gets so overwhelmed and confused that our well-meaning immune system turns on itself, destroying healthy cells, tissue, and, well, everything else too.

Over time, chronic inflammation wears out your immune system, leading to chronic diseases and other health issues, including cancer, heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes, stroke, asthma, autoimmune diseases (i.e., Crohn’s), allergies, irritable bowel syndrome, arthritis, osteoporosis, and premature aging.

Inflammatory Agents

 Causes of chronic inflammation are countless and numerous factors trigger them. But we are not helpless. Major risk to long-term health and wellbeing remains within our control.

First, we can crowd out inflammatory foods by adding a variety of plant- based whole foods to your diet. These foods will flood your body with the vitamins, minerals, cancer-fighting phytochemicals, antioxidants and fiber it needs to recover from chronic inflammation. Meanwhile, foods to avoid like the plague include: Common Vegetable Oils and Trans Fats; Refined Grains; and Refined Sugar (and other foods with high glycemic values).

Secondly, listen to your GUT! With your gut holding approximately 60- 70 percent of your immune system, it’s a great place to start reducing inflammation. The promotion of healthy gut flora with probiotics is an excellent start.

Third, as we get older, foods that never bothered us before, like dairy and wheat, may trigger chronic low-grade indigestion or other seemingly minor symptoms that put our immune system on guard — with additional inflammatory concerns to follow. Common allergens like casein and gluten (proteins found in dairy and wheat) are quick to spark the inflammatory cascade.

Rest and Recovery

Your body is hard at work repairing and restoring you on a cellular level while you sleep. If you’re exhausted, you’re cheating your immune system, which means it needs to kick into high gear — chronic inflammation.

Psychological Stress

Persistent stress takes a steady toll on your immune system, your adrenals, and your central nervous system. Stress also produces more of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol directly influences your insulin levels and metabolism, also playing a role in chronic inflammation. With inflammation, painful emotional baggage, negative thoughts and internalized feelings are as harmful as physical stress, but often overlooked. Focusing on stress reduction and safe care, whether it’s through more sleep, yoga, meditation, long walks, less technology or a much-needed vacation could save you!


Reduce toxins in your food, home and personal care products. Cut down your exposure by eating organic foods whenever possible and choosing non-toxic personal care and cleaning products.

Bottom Line

Chronic inflammation can lead to disease, yes. But the great news is that an anti-inflammatory lifestyle can bring optimal health and well-being. Nutrition, strength training, adequate rest, can yield many benefits, including reduced symptoms of arthritis, inflammatory bowel syndrome, lupus and other autoimmune disorders, and decreased risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, depression, cancer and other diseases. Not to mention, a tremendous improvement in energy and mood.

InForm Fitness Podcast Recap

InForm Fitness Has A Podcast?

In contemplating the relative success of the InForm Fitness Podcast – 20 Minutes with Adam Zickerman & Friends  – I was struck by both the daring of it and its underlying commitment to InForm’s Vision, Mission and Core Values. InForm Fitness took on the podcast project, considering how it aligned with our core values – to respect the value of time, honor the genius of simplicity, while using information to motivate and encourage. Those values represent who we are and, well, the Podcasts themselves tell the story of why we do what we do.

Build Muscle Safely and Efficiently

For over 20 years, InForm Fitness has been bucking convention. We believe in only one singular purpose of exercise – to build muscle safely and efficiently. But, why? And how is it that we promise optimal strength and physical potential throughout a Client’s lifetime, without compromising their health or risking injury? Hmmm. Well, much of the Podcasts’ content explain the precise how, and why.

Twenty Minutes of Fitness Science

Adam is an educator and sets the tone for the entire, extended InForm Fitness Team. Despite some initial and natural misgivings – I think his exact words were “like having a party that no one shows up to” – Adam has led the charge to deliver the perfect 20-minute weekly cocktail of science and sass to a rapidly growing audience – complete with real talk, related to your exercise and nutrition.

Having just completed Season 3, we are not only relieved, but thrilled that it’s been a resounding success! Season 3 concluded with Episode 32 and 9,030 episode downloads, so we’re smirking… just a little.

VIP’s of Fitness

Who are the usual suspects in each episode? The technical ring leader is Tim Edwards – Founder of InBound Films and InBound Podcasting Network. For Tim, capturing the stories of small businesses and their owners through video and podcasts is his true passion. Also noteworthy, Tim is a Client.

There’s always Adam Zickerman – the Adam Zickerman – behind it all. But he’s not the star. Nor are his sidekicks Sheila Melody, General Manager at the Toluca Lake, CA Studio, or General Manager at the NYC flagship Studio, Mike Rogers. The real VIPs are all the special guests and they’ve put out quite the line-up.

Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project

Among the most popular episodes are the very first, “Adam, you look like crap!”  Well, you’ve got to listen to that one. Also, there’s interviews with best-selling authors like Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project and biochemist Sylvia Tara of The Secret Life of Fat. And, some testimony from the likes of biomechanics expert Bill DeSimone. These are some seriously heavy hitters!

Our audience has also heard from Exercise Physiologist and Certified Master Trainer, Ryan A. Hall, Dr. Martin Gibala, author of The One-Minute Workout (ahem…that’s a whole 19 minutes shorter than ours). We’ve got Joanie Pimentel, from the Los Angeles based rock band No Small Children, sharing about her 2-year, 118-pound weight-loss journey with InForm Fitness.

And, of course, more on the importance of building muscle, our definition of “high-intensity,” the cardio myth, stretching, and burning fat.

Adam himself shares about both his 90-day physical transformation strictly following the Ketogenic Diet and confessions how he aggravated an old back injury doing his very own workout!

And in typical tribute fashion, Adam provides a very descriptive and detailed definition of a high-intensity workout from Ken Hutchins, one of the pioneers of this slow motion, high-intensity strength training system.

More InForm Fitness Podcasts to Come

Over the course of several forthcoming articles, I will delve into a few of the podcasts; both touching on the highlights and identifying the parallels which tie it all together. For now, just the broad strokes.

So, there’s nothing like a little success and validation to get the tracks greased. So … what’s up for Season 4, you ask? We are going to have ‘the Ladies of InForm Fitness,’

rock-star Client testimonials and real stories of dramatic life change, plus more experts on nutrition and exercise science. Be sure to catch up on all you’ve missed and tune in for Season 4.

Where to Find InForm Fitness Podcasts?

For reference, our podcast platforms include: iTunes, SoundCloud, Acast, TuneIn, OverCast. Stitcher & iHeart Radio soon.


Bone Broth: Miracle Food?

As you know, the InForm Fitness Team is certainly passionate about high-intensity strength training and helping our Clients reach their peak physical condition. Yet, we never lose sight of the critical role excellent nutrition plays – without it, achieving our goals is impossible.

But what is excellent nutrition? I can’t count the times people have asked me, “Which is better for me, broccoli or cauliflower?” Or, “Is this vegetable or that protein a cure-all?”

My answer is a resounding “NO” each time. It’s not just one thing that you eat; it’s the culmination of all the individual choices. Asparagus is great, don’t get me wrong, but eating only asparagus won’t get you to where you want to be.

Enter Bone Broth – the newest super-food on the scene, said to be the magical elixir for every and all ailments. While bone broth is a traditional food, long renowned across the globe for its curative properties, the list of its healing and restorative benefits seems to be growing lately. Indeed, reported to possess an exhaustive list of transformative properties, bone broth is said to cure everything from digestive disorders and psoriasis, as well as improve joint function and modulate the immune system.

Can it cure cancer? Will it give you six-pack abs and bring your sexy back? No, no, and sadly, no. But, as I always tell my friends and Clients alike, bone broth can be a key ingredient to a healthy life, as it’s both extremely nourishing and hydrating for the body. The vitamins, minerals and diversity of amino acids that you’ll get from bone broth make it equivalent to drinking a multivitamin. It’s not the miracle cure, but that “liquid gold” is still really good stuff!

While there seems to be some validity to the claim that bone broth supports immune function and digestion, very little science supports many of the other claims. For example, the claim that the collagen provides the amino acid building blocks to improve our connective tissue, while in truth, the body will use the amino acids wherever they are needed. Just because they come from connective tissue, doesn’t mean they’ll go to connective tissue.

Now, I should add here that I love bone broth and I love to cook! I come from a long lineage of eastern European relatives that have passed along their recipes for “Jewish Penicillin.” While homemade bone broth gives recipes that amazing umami, I also like to have a cup handy just to sip on, especially when intermittent fasting.

That said, I don’t always want a simmering stock pot on the stove. While relatively easy to make, and even with my Grandmother’s tried and tested recipe, I just don’t always want to deal with all the rigmarole. Yet, despite its recent popularity, it turns out buying good quality chicken or beef bone broth is not so simple.

So, I found a place to make it for me!

My local butcher, Center Cuts, in Roslyn, New York, where I’ve been going for years, didn’t make bone broth…but they do now! But being the loyal and charming patron that I am, they agreed to make it for me.

Now enter our very own LABEL, Bad to the Bone Broth, currently available at our New York metro area studios! Grandma would be so proud.

Bone broth has so many different iterations and potential ingredients that to list them here would include all the bones of the different animals we eat, vegetables we devour and spices that we adore. If you want to have a go at making your own brew, I’d suggest starting with a simple, nutrient-dense recipe, like the Broth for Long Life from the New York Times, as your base framework.

And, of course, if you don’t want to take the time to make it yourself, stop by one of our metro New York studios and grab some of our Bad to the Bone Broth. You’ll love it.

Free Weights Vs Machines

In this so called scientific age, the 40-year old debate still rages: is it free weights or exercise machines that deliver the best results?

Proponents in the free-weight camp often contend, ‘Machines are inefficient —targeting only one or two muscle groups at a time’ or ‘Only free weights can improve coordination by working stabilizer muscles.’

Machine advocates aren’t without their sweeping generalizations either. They contend ‘Machines allow you to focus your mind on the effort, as opposed to the mechanics of the movement.’ How about this doozy from the  internet marketer, Dr. Mercola who claims, “One advantage of machines is they allow you to lift heavier weights.” Huh? That’s like saying you like the Celsius scale better than Fahrenheit because it rarely goes over 30 degrees in the summer. What Dr. Mercola failed to point out is that the body perceives a 150-pound barbell bench press the same as a 300-pound MedX machine chest Press. Although the weights are clearly different, the resistance measured in foot-pounds is the same. But I digress. (more…)

Back Spasms from Exercise


Just recently I lost several days of my active life to back spasms.

Back spasms are sudden involuntary contractions of any muscle in your back. Spasms are caused by either a weakness or injury to the muscles, tendons or ligaments. Not everyone experiences back spasms, but almost everyone’s back gets more vulnerable with age. My sincere hope is that yours never does. Breathtakingly painful and often debilitating, muscle spasms can knock you out of the game.

We Baby Boomers now find ourselves in a Catch 22 situation. We know we need to exercise to gain muscle mass and improve our body composition as we age. Yet, as we get older we nurse those nagging injuries and physical problems that accumulate over time, such as bad knees, stiff shoulders, and tricky backs. We walk around with life wounds while we continue to lose muscle at an alarming rate. Baby Boomers face two equally undesirable alternatives:

  • Either workout out to prevent muscle loss and get hurt, or
  • Don’t work out and suffer the dismal effects of age-related muscle loss and atrophy.

Even though we know the key to optimal health as we age is to gain muscle mass and improve our body composition, the fear of exacerbating our war wounds keeps many of us sedentary.

My own experience is a good example. I have back problems and have spent my life strengthening my back while trying to avoid reinjuring it. I suffered a back injury when I was barely a teenager, which required back surgery. I had made my condition worse by improperly lifting weights, overtraining, horseplay, and competitive sports leaving me vulnerable ever since.

I use the InForm Fitness model of slow and intense. Exercise has to be intense in order to strengthen, and that can be challenging. Intense exercise can exacerbate old wounds. As the Founder of InForm Fitness’ Power-of-10 Workout, I make the claim every day that we offer the safest, most efficient strength training program. Yet, I suffered an injury while exercising that resulted in acute, knock-you-on-your-ass, back muscle spasms. You can imagine my dilemma as to whether or not I should fess up or cover up my recent injury.

The truth is, accidents happen, even to pros.

My mistake was simple – I lost focus as I was self-training. My mind was racing in several directions during my workout. So, there I was, half way through my leg press routine and my mind took a hike into the “what-if” future. As my hips lifted slightly, SNAP – I tweaked something in my lower back. I reassessed, put my hips back down, checked my posture and position, and carried on.

I knew that I would be sore for a few days, but if I don’t challenge myself, nothing changes.

A few days later, while at home, and after having spent hours at my desk and even longer behind the wheel of my car, I reached to open the refrigerator door when I felt a sudden and severe jolt of pain. I went down on the kitchen floor and felt as if I were being tortured with jolts of electric shocks as though some evil antagonist was attempting to extract a confession.

I promise…I am not exaggerating.

As I lay on the kitchen floor with the breath knocked out of me from painful contractions, I wondered about my life’s mission: to create the safest and most efficient workout possible. Were these muscle spasms a wake-up call that something is wrong with the workout?

No, nothing is wrong with the InForm Fitness workout. While I have never claimed that this is the Perfect Workout, I remain steadfast that we offer the best workout available. Our Strength Training Instructors undergo rigorous preparation, our equipment is customized to meet exacting standards, and the protocol has been developed over years of research and trials, and has been successful for countless clients.

I got hurt because I lost focus. That’s one of the reasons workouts at InForm Fitness are one-on-one. Our instructors make sure you are working out with good form and they keep you in the moment, concentrating on what you are doing. There is nothing wrong with in the InForm protocol or our equipment.

I hate to think of what condition I could have been in if my seconds-long lapse of concentration from perfect form and control occurred during a workout like CrossFit, which is already fraught with potential injury. That ‘tweak’ could have been my last!

So the moral of this story is to not to give up. Continue to exercise with intensity, stay focused and be safe! Here’s to your good health, safe and efficient workouts and all the benefits they reap!



The number of women clients who express their fear of “bulking up” from doing strength training with me grows every day. I rarely come across a woman who wants to build a lot of muscle, almost all the people who train with me want to ‘tone up’ and create “long and lean” muscles- you’ve undoubtedly heard the same claims. The fact is most women won’t “bulk up” from weight lifting. You can’t change the length of your muscles, and certain exercises will not “tone” more than others.

All you’ve heard to the contrary in countless fitness magazines, on social media pages, and on every daytime talk show on air is wrong. Marketers in the fitness world know how to use buzz words to their advantage. That’s right, ‘toned, long, and lean’ muscles are just the same as those scary, “big, bulky, and manly” muscles that most women shy away from.

Debunking the Myths

Let’s start with the word “toned.” The dictionary tells us that the term toned “implies leanness in the body, noticeable muscle definition and shape, but not significant muscle size.”

By popular definition, muscle tone equals defined musculature, but not significant muscle size. We want our muscles to show, but we don’t want them to be big. We achieve that by removing the substance that covers our muscles; body fat. The only way to allow your muscles to show without increasing their size is to reduce our body fat level.

Tone is the fitness buzz word that refuses to leave the vocabulary of millions of Lulu Lemon wearers everywhere. There is not one type of exercise that will “tone” your muscles. Lifting light weights at high repetitions is not a proven method of specifically lowering body fat, nor is lifting heavy weights. The amount of weight you use does not matter.

“But what about cardio?” you might ask. That is a whole other topic on its own. In short one pound of fat is made up of 3,500 calories. According to myriad fitness websites, here are a few ways to burn 500 calories per day, which will amount to a one pound loss after 7 days:

You can jog for one hour every day.
You can swim for one hour every day.
You can mow the lawn for 2 hours every day (side business?).
You can cycle for 75 minutes every day.
You can climb stairs for 50 minutes every day.

You get the point. Losing a pound of fat with any of those methods is a lot of work. And then you’re really hungry, which is even worse.

To circle back around, toning really means a loss in body fat. How do you achieve this? Take a careful look at your diet. What you do in the gym to promote fat loss does not even come close to what you can do in the kitchen to achieve the same results. Try cutting out sugar, processed carbohydrates, and pre-made/packaged foods for a few weeks. You’ll be amazed at the amount of ‘toning that occurs.


I often hear of Pilates and yoga enthusiasts aiming for a “longer” look. Women deserve to know how to weed through false claims that certain exercise methods lengthen muscles.

The bad news is that you cannot change the length of your muscles. Every muscle in your body has a point of origin and a point of insertion. They start and they stop at very fixed points. This is something that cannot change unless you surgically detach your tendons and reset them a little differently.

The good news is that you can sort of look longer if you stop slouching and stand up straighter. Trust me, being mindful of your posture does wonders to your overall appearance. Try it for a day. I bet people will notice the difference.

My advice is to stop slouching.


Ah, yes. My favorite. I have never met a female client who has not made it clear that she does not want to “bulk up.” Most actually spend the first few months of their strength training fearing the bulk before they realize that it’s just not going to happen. There are a few main reasons why.

First and foremost, women do not have nearly enough testosterone in their bodies to ‘bulk up’. In fact, the average female has about 15-20 times less testosterone than men do. Testosterone aids in muscle building. Since men have more of this hormone, they build muscle at a quicker and easier rate than women do. Just as women do not have the same amount of body hair or the same Adam’s apple as men, they do not have the same amount of musculature.

Many women also tell tales of other female friends who have lifted weights before and “gotten bigger.” My initial response is to ask if they looked like female body builders, or did they simply look bigger? If the latter is more accurate, I advised them to ask about their friend’s diet? Did she start lifting weights and use it as an excuse to eat more? That would put on additional body fat. This is probably more likely. To produce aesthetic results weight lifting and healthy eating go hand in hand. One without the other is not likely to give you the results you’re looking for.

Women with aesthetically large muscles do exist. Let me reassure you that this does not happen by accident. Female body builders or aesthetic competitors have the rare genetic profiles that predispose them for large bulky muscles regardless of the type of workout they use. It’s also typical for an athlete like this to weigh every bite of food that she eats and dehydrate herself to the point of visible muscle striation right before a competition or photo shoot. The fitness models you see on the cover of Shape did not stumble out of bed and onto set. They spent months preparing, measuring, and calculating every minute aspect of their lives for it.

Since you are not about to turn weight lifting into your job, I strongly suggest that you push those “I might become a female body-builder” fears out of your mind. It absolutely will not happen unless you are among the .001 percent of the world’s female population that possesses the body-builder genes.

Proper, high-intensity strength training, safely applied, is one of the most important things that a woman can do to ensure an overall better quality of life. You will absolutely reap the benefits of increased lean muscle mass, improved bone density and cardiovascular health, better insulin control, fat loss, and better athletic performance. Rest assured, the notorious bulk will not happen, and remember – anyone touting claims of being able to “tone and lengthen” are simply misleading you.

My Twist On Stretching

Studies Suggest Stretching Does Not Improve Performance, Prevent Injury or
Reduce Soreness 

While at a local park with my family, I looked over toward the soccer fields and watched the athletes preparing for their match. There they were, sporting team shirts and gracefully bending, turning and bowing as they stretched to get ready.

My wife had to hold tightly onto my arm to prevent me from running out onto the field and yelling STOP.

Their coach must not be keeping up with the latest sports medicine reports nor read the recent NY Times Article reporting that stretching isn’t a good way to start off any sports activity or exercise routine.

We’ve heard a lot about stretching. Stretch to warm up before a workout; stretch to improve your flexibility; stretch to loosen your joints and muscles… And we we’ve been led to believe that stretching is a pre– (fill-in your activity) best practice that will improve performance and reduce the risk of injury. Moreover, post-exercise stretching will prevent soreness.

Well, that’s a bit of a stretch.

There are some good stretches. Watching a cat or a dog rise from a nap, they might take a luxurious and gentle stretch. Mother Nature and animal instinct know something and we humans should take note. A gentle stretch can realign the spine and wake up tight muscles. These kinds of stretches are a good thing. If you want to practice a good stretch technique upon waking, or post desk sitting marathon, I encourage you to mimic your cat or dog’s routine. If you don’t have a dog or cat, borrow a neighbor’s.

If we stick with Mother Nature and animal instinct as a common sense guide, then we wouldn’t stretch either pre or post exercise. I’ve yet to see a dog doing any warm up stretches before engaging in ball fetching or squirrel chasing – both of which require speed, strength and endurance.

However, anecdotal observations rarely quell the intellectual curiosity or the skepticism of mankind (or our clients), therefore scientific studies are required.

What these studies observed is that stretching (Studies noted at the end of this post):

  • does not contribute to flexibility
  • does not “warm-up” your muscles
  • reduces your strength
  • leaves joints and ligaments vulnerable to injury and
  • can actually cause injury

Stretching Does Not Improve Flexibility: Your muscles have a primary function to protect joints and ligaments, and each muscle has a limited range of motion in order to hold its protective position. Stretching the muscles actually weakens the tendons and ligaments, and that puts you at risk for injury, it doesn’t make you more flexible.

In fact, during these studies it was observed that the increased range of motion resulting from stretching might be a result of an increase in stretch tolerance. That is, stretching does not improve tissue compliance (flexibility); rather, the stretching exercises increase stretch tolerance (the ability to withstand the pain) during the stretching procedure.

Stretching Does Not “warm-up” Your Muscles: The idea of stretching to warm up is misleading. Stretching actually puts your muscles into a cold state. Stretching pulls muscles and does not contract them. Since blood is drawn in during the contraction, stretching actually denies your muscles the metabolic activity that stimulates a warm-up. Should you practice stretching to warm up you are actually engaging a ‘cold’ muscle in its weakest, most vulnerable position.

Stretching Makes You Weak: As you stretch your muscles, you are actually putting them into a weaker state and depleting the blood surge needed to both muster the power and sustain the endurance.

There have been several experiments and studies measuring strength variations in pre stretch versus no pre stretching before a physical activity. Earlier this year, one such study produced findings that stretching before weight lifting actually left test subjects weaker during their workout. A recent compilation and analysis of data from previous stretching studies revealed:

  • an average reduction of strength in stretched muscles by 5.5%
  • muscle power falls by about 2% after stretching
  • explosive muscle performance drops by as much as 2.8% after stretching

Regardless of your status – professional athlete, weekend sports warrior, avid tennis player or golfer – the facts indicate that stretching will negatively affect your performance by reducing your strength and muscle power.

Stretching Leaves Joints and Ligaments Vulnerable to Injury: Another concept presented in recent studies is the observation that sarcomere (the most basic contractile units of muscle) length in an active muscle is heterogeneous (meaning that they aren’t all the same length). This is significant because when some of the shorter sarcomeres are stretched to the point that the actin and myosin filaments do not overlap, the force being absorbed is transmitted to the muscle fiber cytoskeleton, resulting in fiber damage. The loss of energy-absorbing capacity of overstretched sarcomeres is of importance indicating a higher risk of joint injury.

Over Stretching Can Cause Injury: Stretching isn’t for novices. Stretching should be guided by a trained physical therapist. The basic science literature has shown that stretching a muscle as little as 20% of its resting length, which can occur during correct stretching techniques, can produce damage in isolated preparations. These findings indicate that it may be difficult to define the correct stretching techniques to reduce injury risk.

Another study presented at the American College of Sports Medicine meeting in 2006 revealed the results of measuring strength before and after stretching, to conclude that post stretch muscles were actually weaker, not stronger.

So why would you stretch your muscles out to its weakest point before swinging your tennis racket, golf club or lifting weights? You would be better served warming up with some light shadow boxing, or jogging in place.

And for our golfers: A study on stretching before professional golf tournaments revealed, “The results of this inquiry strongly suggest that a total-body passive static stretching routine should be avoided before practice or competition. Results of paired t-tests revealed significant decreases in club head speed and distance.”



Journal of Athletic Training, National Athletic Trainers Association. Stretching Before and After Exercise: Effect on Muscle Soreness and Injury Risk – J. C Andersen

Bischoff C, Perrin DH. Injury prevention. In: Schenck RC, ed. Athletic Training and Sports Medicine. 3rd ed. Rosemont, IL: American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons; 1999:50–53.

Irvin R, Iversen D, Roy S. Sports Medicine: Prevention, Assessment, Management, and Rehabilitation of Athletic Injuries. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon; 1998: 26–29.

Cheung K, Hume PA, Maxwell L. Delayed onset muscle soreness: treatment strategies and performance factors. Sports Med.  2003;33:145–164.

Fahey TD, Insel PM, Roth WT. Fit and Well. 5th ed. Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill; 2003.

Pope RP, Herbert RD, Kirwan JD, Graham BJ. A randomized trial of pre-exercise stretching for prevention of lower limb injury. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2000;32:271–277.

Sackett DL, Straus SE, Richardson WS, Rosenberg W, Haynes RB. Evidence-Based Medicine. New York, NY: Churchill Livingstone; 2000:133–138.

Shrier I. Stretching before exercise does not reduce the risk of local muscle injury: a critical review of the clinical and basic science literature. Clin J Sport Med. 1999;9:221–227.

The Unrefrigerated Egg

While working to set up our new studio in Santiago, Chile recently – I took time out to visit the city and to go grocery shopping. Visiting a large and well-stocked super market, I became fascinated as I walked down the ‘egg aisle’ that resembled any bread aisle in a U.S. super market. There they were – neatly stacked cartons of varying size and color eggs, sitting on shelves and completely unrefrigerated. This is a sight that you see most places around the world but never in the U.S. or Canada where eggs must be refrigerated to be labeled as “Grade A.”

I love eggs! We go through several cartons of fresh farm raised eggs every month at our house. Eggs are a super food full of Omega 3 and protein. I admit that I pay dearly for our eggs because they are direct from an organic farm where the chickens are raised on healthy diets, which makes these eggs richer in nutrients and less likely to contain dangerous bacteria. These eggs are only a few days old, unlike the ones at the grocery store and yes, you will sometimes find them sitting beautifully in a bowl on our kitchen counter – unrefrigerated.

So what’s the deal with refrigerated eggs versus non-refrigerated eggs? And does ‘organic’ really matter when you buy from a super market versus fresh from your local farmer?

It all starts with our government regulations requiring all USDA-graded eggs to be washed and sanitized to remove bacteria from the shell. The eggshell is naturally covered with a waxy cuticle (called the bloom) that seals the egg and helps to prevent bacteria from entering the egg. However, the eggshell contains approximately 7,500 pores making it a breathable membrane much like our own skin. This ‘washing’ process or chemical bath (often lye or chlorine), strips the bloom and exposes the egg’s pores. To re-protect the eggs for their long journey to your grocery store refrigerator, farmers then recoat the eggs, often using mineral oil. Mineral oil is a petroleum-based product, hardly organic and certainly never meant to be ingested by humans. But your store bought eggs are more than likely coated in mineral oil – and likely the egg’s open pores have allowed the oil to seep into the inner egg.

Truth be told, what your eggs are washed and then coated with is not government regulated and so you are getting with your eggs a mix of chlorine and mineral oil – yummy. Kind of takes the ‘organic’ out of the organic labeling on store eggs don’t you think? Not to mention that these chemicals can be carcinogenic and mutagenic.

Europe, Asia, South America – and almost anywhere around the world, you find the eggs unrefrigerated because they use water or dry brushing to clean the eggs before sending them to market. These techniques leave the bloom intact and so don’t require refrigeration. Small local organic farmers here in the U.S. do the same.

Eggs are only dangerous if the chicken that laid the egg was sick with an illness that would be passed on inside the egg itself. Healthy chickens do not produce unhealthy eggs – but since we seldom have access to the medical records of our eggs’ chicken-mama, I prefer buying my eggs from a local farmer who keeps a clean farm and raises healthy chickens.

The cleaning and coating process of commercial eggs is the main reason that I prefer the local organic farmer’s eggs rather than store bought eggs. But to answer the ‘refrigerate versus non-refrigerate’ question, let’s look at the time span from hen to table.

I get my eggs locally so they are less than a week out of the hen when they show up at my local farmer’s market. Where the eggs on the shelf at the grocery store went through an elaborate collection, cleaning and coating process – about a week, then traveled some distance shuttling between warehouses and transfer stations – another week – to finally reach your grocery store and get placed on a refrigerated shelf – potentially a third week. The eggs you buy at the grocery store are potentially 3 weeks old before you purchase them.

Supporting refrigeration for the commercial egg – salmonella will grow far less quickly in refrigerated eggs than it will in eggs that are left at room temperature. Eggs will also last much longer when refrigerated than they will when stored at room temperature. Given the distribution time involved, refrigeration is necessary to protect the general public from outbreaks of salmonella.

If you purchased eggs from the super market – it is not recommended that you decorate your kitchen with that French-country style bowl filled with eggs. A cold egg left out at room temperature can sweat, facilitating the growth of bacteria that could contaminate the egg. This is why it is recommended that refrigerated eggs should not be left out more than two hours.

So . . . if your kitchen décor calls for a bowl of eggs, buy from your local organic farmer. If your dietary preference is organic foods then leave the organic store eggs on the shelf and visit your local green market to find your eggs.

I Drink Coffee

I’m a regular coffee drinker, and now that reports claim that coffee is actually a good thing, I no longer feel the need to be discreet about my caffeine addiction…um…attraction.

Join me in coming out of the java closet; let’s talk about coffee.

Always on the lookout for interesting and new facts about health, food, and exercise, to share on our “Fact of the Week” I regularly come across information about coffee while researching and writing our posts. If you follow us on Facebook, you’ve probably seen some of my caffeine related posts, along with a lot of other quirky, scientific facts.

Reading the latest research findings that stream across my screen helped me to realize that coffee is actually as complex a topic as wine. Being a fairly laid back guy, the last thing I need is to ingest a depressant that’s going to slow down the functions of my central nervous system – I decided to choose coffee over wine for my research.

The biochemist in me is driven to explore caffeine.  Coffee is a $70 billion industry worldwide and the second most tradable commodity after oil. I simply can’t ignore this fascinating molecule. Caffeine is the most widely used (or abused) psychoactive addictive drug in the world – and it’s not regulated like alcohol or drugs – a fact supporting my claim that it’s a worldwide addiction.

I want to explore:

  • The origins of coffee. Did you know that the word coffee comes from the Arabic word kaweh meaning strength or vigor?
  • Growing methods and environmental impact.
  • Are you really helping the farmers in third world countries by buying fair trade coffee?
  • Various types of coffee beans.
  • How brewing methods affect taste and strength.
  • Studies and findings on the health benefits and risks of caffeine.
  • The café culture.

I’m fascinated by my original research findings. I never thought of drinking coffee as an ancient ritual, or about the fact that it’s one of the most consumed foods in the world. Many of you are as curious as I am about coffee, so let me do the research and share my discoveries with you in periodic blog posts and in some “Facts of the Week.”

Until recently, I was not much of a coffee drinker. I grew up in a home enjoying the delicious aroma of my parents’ daily morning brew, but I didn’t have the desire to drink it. Coffee simply smelled much better than it tasted. I will admit that there were times during college when coffee was an absolute necessity to get me to my morning classes. Later, I became a social coffee drinker, occasionally having a cup of coffee after dinner while out with friends, or as a needed energy boost when balancing entrepreneurship with husbanding and fatherhood. Even so, I hadn’t become a regular coffee drinker. Invested in good health, I believed what I had always read and heard about the evil that brews from coffee.

A decade or two later, studies started revealing that drinking coffee in moderation is actually beneficial. While this was an interesting discovery, I still wasn’t hooked on the deliciously aromatic beverage.

To kick off my first “Coffee Chat” post, I’ll share with you the story of how coffee became a part of my daily routine.

It’s my oldest son’s fault – he got me started on coffee when he was three.

While my wife was pregnant with our second child, she was restricted to bed rest. We decided it would be best if she stayed with my parents in Long Island while I worked in the city. I would take Fridays off to spend the weekend visiting and to spend time with my son.

Early one morning, on our way to a nearby park, my son and I stopped at a local cafe to get a cup of coffee for me, and a soda water for him. When we arrived at the park, we sat on a bench like two regular guys, drinking our morning brews. It was a bonding moment. I didn’t realize just how much that moment meant to him until the following Friday.

The very next Friday, we headed to the park once again. This time I didn’t need a java jolt, so I planned to forego the café that morning. I got another kind of jolt instead. When my son realized that we were skipping the coffee and soda water, he threw a fit. I explained to him that I didn’t want coffee that morning, yet he was determined to recreate the previous Friday morning experience exactly as it had happened before. Anyone who has spent time with a three year old won’t blame me for having immediately rerouted back to the coffee house.

By the time my second child was born, I was trained into a habitual morning java drinker.

Here I am today, a serial coffee drinker, and a health and fitness expert whose entire business is based on making safe choices. So yes, I want to make sure that my new habit is not harmful, motivating me to explore the scientific, cultural, and environmental aspects of caffeine. I hope you’ll join me on this journey of discovery. If you haven’t subscribed to this blog yet, just click on the link to the right at the top of the page, and let’s get started.

The Perfect Workout

The perfect workout does not exist.

There, I said it and I feel better to have that off my chest.

Inconclusive medical and scientific studies along with supporting media hype, drive what doctors prescribe, how coaches and personal trainers instruct, athletes train, and the average motivated man or woman engages in working out.

Though most medical professionals are educated and well intentioned, many are ill informed regarding exercise. An abundance of dramatically different workout protocols claim to be “the perfect workout” and each has its cheerleaders. Everyone has a different plan for the perfect workout, many in diametric opposition to one another. You may wonder, how is this possible?

The core of the problem rests in the definition of exercise. Let me offer an analogy. If the given definition of a pencil was “a writing instrument,” a pencil could be a charcoal stick, quill, ballpoint pen, even a computer. The definition of ‘exercise’ is equally broad. Given the wide-ranging definitions for exercise, the prevailing confusion and anarchy in the workout world is no real wonder.

To anoint any one protocol “the perfect workout,” we have to agree on the definition of exercise.

Definition of Exercise

Is exercise simply “bodily exertion for the sake of developing and maintaining physical fitness” (Webster’s Dictionary); or “[an] activity that requires physical or mental exertion, especially when performed to develop or maintain fitness?” (Free Dictionary)

These definitions are too broad, much like my earlier analogy of the pencil. My friend and professional comrade, Dr. Doug McGuff, best defines exercise in accord with my beliefs in his seminal book Body by Science. His definition, which I paraphrase, is: Exercise is a specific activity that stimulates a positive physiological adaptation that serves to enhance fitness without undermining health.

The positive physiological adaptation to which he refers is strengthening muscle. The definition covers the key point that exercise should build strength safely. With that requirement in mind, you can examine the various types of workouts more intelligently. Ask yourself whether the protocol does what it purports, while doing no harm in the process.

The actual goal of exercise has to be clear. Goals are as misguided as they are cluttered with non-related exercise outcomes. For example, enhancing my social life is not one of my reasons for exercising: see Get A Life. And certainly, I know intellectually beyond any doubt that I cannot exercise my way out of a bad diet: see The Exercise to Lose Weight Conundrum.

Let’s examine three types of workouts and their goals:

  • Flexibility workouts, such as stretching and yoga, aim to improve muscle and joint range of motion, but measurable results are absent and, joint and muscle injuries are often caused in the process: see My Twist on Stretching
  • Aerobic workouts, such as running, cycling and swimming, aim to push cardiovascular endurance. And, as you should now have come to expect, I take issue with their high risk for injury: see You Must be Insane
  • And finally, even anaerobic workouts, such as weight training and high-intensity interval training, aimed to concentrate on muscle strength building, can often prove dangerous: see Should California Mom be Criticized  (and this pertains to non-pregnant people as well).

The Studies

Most studies recommending ”the perfect workout” are faulty. For example, our need for heart-healthy cardio is a widely accepted belief, but countered by a multitude of reported injuries. Contradicting the pronouncement that running and high impact workouts cause hip and joint problems in older people, one recent study evidences fewer hip replacements and fewer incidence of osteoarthritis in a group of seniors that ran with the results from the study.

One of the things inherently wrong with this study, and with the majority of studies, is the lack of consideration of the individual genetics of the test pool. Non-responders and ultra-responders are going to experience radically different outcomes from the same stimulus. The findings offered by this study are flawed, hardly evidence to support, let alone encourage, running as a safe workout.

My verdict is still out on the safety of running, or any steady state workout. I’ve seen too many clients with long-term damage from running to accept a conclusion that running is safe, no matter what the study shows. The level of injuries from steady state exercise range from acute, like a sprain, to more insidious injuries that appear later and are chronic, including damaged joints and heart arrhythmias. I don’t believe that steady state workout improves your overall health – in fact, it seems to do the opposite, as discussed in these articles from Science Daily and the Boston Globe.

In his book, The Meaning Of It All, Richard Feynman wrote “in science if there is an exception to the rule, then the rule is wrong.” His words certainly apply in this instance.

My Hypothesis Regarding The Perfect Workout

Committed to exercising for decades, I have witnessed a wide range of programs; some yielding great results, many producing serious injuries. Building strength, safely and efficiently, is the driving principle and basis for my program the Power-of-10. I believe the key to health and fitness is strengthened muscle through intense muscular work that does not undermine your health in the process.

Early in my career, my life changed when I discovered the work of Ken Hutchins, the father of Super Slow, whose dissertation I devoured. I soon became a zealous advocate of his technique. I have to admit that my unbridled enthusiasm is now a little embarrassing. What I have since realized is that we don’t know everything and the degree of intensity is not a ‘one size fits all’ program. To be safe and effective, we have to leave room for individual differences.

Intensity improves certain health markers. The volume of workout is not the driver for muscle strength. The intensity of the workout ultimately provides measurable results. I passionately believe that any attempt to strengthen muscle should not be a risky proposition.

To sum up:

  • Intensity over duration wins. Muscle strength is built with intensity and improves the body’s ability to absorb and tolerate glucose, reducing diabetes, stave off osteoporosis and other ailments caused by sarcopenia, which is age-related muscle loss.
  • Intensity over duration wins again. Studies (here we go again) have shown that endurance athletes are at a high risk for heart arrhythmias. Not everyone is genetically programed to withstand steady state workouts without suffering injury.
  • Slow is safer. I subscribe to Isaac Newton’s Law of Force. Force = Mass x Acceleration. If we reduce acceleration, we reduce force, thereby reducing the risk of injury. See ya later Cross Fit and P90X.
  • The Perfect Workout has two key components: safety and measurable results. Strength is easily measured and results support the Power-of-10’s efficacy.

How We Measure Results

When working with a client, every InForm Fitness instructor wears a stopwatch and carries a clipboard that charts the clients’ workouts. The stopwatch ensures a consistent 10-second speed during both the lifting and lowering phases of the repetition, and the trainer records the time to muscular failure. If we raise the weight and you stay under load for the same time, speed and form, then you are stronger.

We offer accuracy not available when you lift weights at variable speeds, away from the careful eye and instruction of a professional. InForm Fitness instructors control the variables, such as seat positions, settings, and the sequence of exercises, all of which affect performance. In a controlled environment, we track and measure results, so that we are comparing your progress with controlled variables. This data, accumulated over months, allows us to give our clients an accurate picture of their progress in building strength. Even if this method of measuring strength seems primitive, it’s the best we have so far. The important results are what our clients experience and their stories of how their lives have improved. Watch the two new videos  from our clients of their personal success that we have on our home page.

Good science may refute my core beliefs and force me to change my path, just as good science has led me here. Until then, I’ll continue…cautiously, of course.

For now, and as for the past fifteen years, my conviction is that the Power-of-10 protocol of exercise is, in fact, the perfect workout. No better way to exercise exists. I’m sincerely grateful to all those who have been willing to trust us and work hard! They have, as a result, realized the benefits first hand of using a technique that is as effective as the Power-of-10.

Exercise During Pregnancy – Should California Mom Be Criticized?

You may have seen the recent story about a mother of two, 8 months pregnant with her third, and continuing to workout lifting weights. As the story goes, the mother posted photos of herself lifting a heavy barbell on Facebook along with the boast “8 months pregnant with baby number 3 and CrossFit has been my sanity.” The woman’s Facebook profile also states her goal to be a HOT mom. The images and ideas quickly went viral and elicited a slew of responses ranging from support and encouragement to shaming and warning. The controversy caught the media’s attention, and so here we are, in the midst of a debate about women exercising while pregnant.

As the hysteria came to my attention, I couldn’t resist taking a stand and speaking out on the matter. Just last month I wrote a post on this very topic exercising while pregnant and so it seems we now have more to discuss on this matter. My short answer is yes, I support exercising while pregnant. But, I must re-emphasize being smart about it. So let’s explore the issues to make sure you are informed and can decide for yourself about the health benefits of exercising while pregnant. And if you want to pass judgment on this woman, that’s up to you.

First, let’s define pregnancy.

What is Pregnancy?

According to the article above, an undisclosed ‘medical professional’ was among those leaving supportive comments on the woman’s Facebook page stating, “I find it appalling the number of people who treat pregnancy as an illness.” This is an irresponsible and misleading comment.

While pregnancy might not be classified as an illness (pregnancy is a condition a woman’s biology is meant to support), it is, in fact, a physically compromised condition. Biologically speaking, pregnancy is a biotrophic parasitic condition. What this means is that the host (mother) is supporting a parasite (the fetus) that relies on the survival of the host to ensure its own survival. If you have ever been pregnant, you know that this is an accurate description, so please don’t shoot the messenger. The point is, that a pregnant woman’s resources are depleted as they are being used to support the fetus. This is in large part why pregnant women often feel tired, hungry and stressed.

Another biological fact about pregnancy is a condition known as joint laxity. During pregnancy, the body releases a hormone called Relaxin. Like its name implies, this hormone relaxes the connective tissue and ligaments to allow the rib cage to expand to make room for the baby and expands the pelvis to make room for the delivery. So, a pregnant woman is in fact in a physically compromised state given that her resources are being depleted and her joints are now vulnerable because of Relaxin flowing throughout her body. With these two biological changes, exercise recommendations during pregnancy should take these changes in consideration.

Next, let’s define exercise.

What is Exercise?

Physical exercise has been defined as any activity that enhances or maintains physical fitness and overall health and wellness. Exercise can range from acts of gardening and housecleaning to running, Pilates, weight training, bicycling and the list goes on and on. Not much of a definition is it? So let’s try this.

“Exercise is a process whereby the body performs work of a demanding nature, in accordance with muscle and joint function . . . within the constraints of safety, meaningfully loading the muscular system to stimulate a growth mechanism. . .”  -The First Definition of Exercise, By Ken Hutchins

First and foremost exercise should be safe. This rule applies whether you are pregnant or not. As mentioned, the exercise that this California mother has chosen for her fitness program is CrossFit™. CrossFit™ is about as safe as playing Russian roulette. Doctors are familiar with a condition where the muscle cells actually explode and die from overuse, known as Rhabdomyolysis. Yes, this is as awful and potentially lethal as it sounds. Exertional Rhabdomyolysis is a rare condition usually only seen in extreme physical conditioning programs such as those used by elite military regimes. Yet, it has now become a somewhat common occurrence, in varying degrees of severity, in association with CrossFit™ training. Believe it or not, serious injuries are an accepted outcome to Crossfitters. The founder of Crossfit™, Greg Glassman, has said, “It can kill you. I’ve always been completely honest about that.”

So while this California Hot mom might be an exception to the cautionary rules regarding safe exercise and the risks associated with CrossFit™, her participation while pregnant is selfish and reckless. Her ego has clouded her judgment and her actions send a dangerous message to other expectant moms. So yes, this woman deserves to take a lot of criticism; not for exercising while pregnant, but for exercising unsafely and in the extreme to fulfill her ego driven goal to be a ‘HOT mom’ rather than choosing to be a healthy mom who doesn’t risk her own life or the life of her unborn child.

Now let’s take an even closer look at what this woman is doing wrong in her exercise program (photos included) and explore smarter, safer choices.

Too Much Exertion, Not Enough Rest

First, the woman states that she works out 5 days a week. This regimen does not provide enough rest in between workouts. Once again, pregnant or not, there is the need to give the body a chance to recover and repair itself, and allow new muscle to grow. I’ve discussed the need for rest in a post that covers adequate sleep and allowing enough time between exercises to let the muscles repair and grow stronger. Rest is one of the three pillars of the Power-of-10 system.

Athletics vs. Exercise and Safe vs. Unsafe

Next, let’s take a look at one of her now famous photos, side-by-side with one of our own, of a HOT mom, 8 months pregnant, working out at InForm Fitness.


The California woman squatting and lifting weights over her head while her body is compromised with joint laxity is reckless. This position is reckless for anyone, but especially for a woman who is 8 months into her pregnancy. She is performing an Olympic lift known as The Snatch which actually requires more skill than it does strength. The focus of this move is competitive, not personal health and fitness. As with all physical sports, there is a demand placed on the muscles which can result in increased strength, but that doesn’t make it an exercise. One of the most important reasons it shouldn’t be practiced as an exercise is that it is not safe.The lower back muscles in particular were never meant to carry the type of load demanded by this lift and only a slight move in the wrong direction can spell disaster at any point. If you would like to see what I mean, and have the stomach for it, check out this video from the 2012 Olympics to see just how dangerous this move can be.

In contrast, let’s look at our photo. Our client is working the same muscle groups while pregnant. She, however, is getting lumbar support angled properly to make room for her belly, breathing properly and getting the same muscular benefits, but with practically no risk to mother or fetus while working out under the guidance of a qualified and experienced fitness instructor every step of the way. So, you tell me. Which method would you choose when expectant with a precious new human life (or otherwise)?

Giving birth is an event of epic proportions and being physically fit is a key factor in the health and wellbeing of both mother and child. Optimal fitness will also play a major role in the mother’s recovery after giving birth. Exercising while pregnant is the right thing to do once cleared to do so by your OB GYN professional. Then give us a call and we will start you on the Power-of-10 program providing personal training that is safe and efficient.

Can I Exercise While I’m Pregnant?

Congratulations, you’re expecting! One of life’s most brilliant miracles is about to unfold and you have the best seat in the house.

Some of the physical changes to expect during pregnancy are:

  • You start to grow (and glow).
  • Now eating for two, you are increasingly ravenous and crave unusual foods (some not on your skinny plan).
  • Also now breathing and pumping blood for two, you are increasingly exhausted, and
  • The growing baby, combined with the extra pregnancy weight, increasingly challenges and strains your legs and lower back.

Expectant mothers are often advised to eat this, not that, and to supplement their diets with this, and avoid that. With countless myths and old wives tales running through every family and community circle, expectant mothers are bombarded with advice.

A ton of prenatal care literature is readily available and I’m certain that my wife read it all. Anyway, one consistency I found through all the literature, myths and wives tales is that adequate rest and good nutrition are the cornerstones to protecting both mother and child during the pregnancy, as well as during the big event! Yet, regarding appropriate prenatal exercise, no such consistency exists.

First and foremost, check with your OB GYN professional before you embark on any exercise program. Some circumstances warrant a range of caution, from limiting activities to total bed rest. High-risk conditions, such as placenta previa (complications involving the placenta) and pre-eclampsia (generally defined as pregnancy-induced high blood pressure) are conditions where exercise could prove detrimental to mother and fetus.

That said, during normal pregnancies, the conventional prescriptions for exercise are what you might expect, such as walking, or a pre-natal yoga class, and stretching. But, my opinion is this: exercise recommendations from trusted sources such as The Mayo Clinic and WebMD are as safe as they are useless with respect to preparing you for labor. 

While I agree that SCUBA diving and ice hockey should be avoided, recommending walks and stretching hardly suffice as preparation for the birthing experience. Stretching isn’t even a warm up, as explained in my last post, My Twist On Stretching

From my experience, (my wife and I are the happy parents of two, and for fifteen years I have successfully trained scores of pregnant clients), I believe that women should exercise throughout a normal pregnancy, and that by doing so, ensure a more comfortable and easier birthing experience. Those women will also enjoy the added bonus of significantly swifter recoveries.

Being pregnant and giving birth can be one of the most demanding physical challenges a woman will endure. So if you don’t exercise now, you might want to consider starting. If you already exercise, congratulations.

But now that you are pregnant, the time to think seriously about exercises that will concentrate on supporting your pregnancy and the birthing experience is now! You will need strength and endurance, and that means muscle and metabolic conditioning.

Think of the pregnancy months like training for an Olympic event.

Labor is called labor for a reason – it’s hard work, accompanied by tremendous strain for both mother and fetus. It’s the real deal.

Building muscle strength is key. Without strong muscles, a labor can be more painful and stressful to both mother and baby and could result in the need for a C-section to prevent fetal distress.

Conversely, training to build muscle strength will not only help you throughout the pregnancy, labor and birthing experience, it will also be a key factor in regaining your pre-pregnancy shape.

Proper breathing is critical. Breathing technique requires special training in preparation for labor. Proper breathing is critical as powerful contractions and the intensity in the pushing cycle can raise your blood pressure, which is dangerous to both mother and child.

Slow motion high intensity training coaches you on how to safely breathe through extreme muscular exertion. Breaking the Val Salva/Sync (the tendency to hold ones breath during exertion) is what we teach. Training to breathe properly through labor contractions, and the pushing cycles during birthing, can hardly be accomplished with the recommended Yoga and Lamaze classes, as neither simulates the contraction/breathing experience. This gives the mother a false sense of preparedness and leaves the mother and child at risk should the Val Salva/Sync effect take hold.

Think about the last time you lifted or pushed something really heavy. You might recall that you probably held your breath as you pushed or lifted – that is a natural instinct, but not the safest. Instead of putting added pressure on a filled balloon, the best method is to breathe (inhale and exhale) throughout the exertion.

Rest is a cornerstone in prenatal care. We recognize that serious workouts require serious rest and our program is structured to avoid over training and encourages adequate rest. Rest is a key component of the Power of 10 program.

When training at InForm Fitness while pregnant, we are providing you with a weekly rehearsal that will make your big day a sporting day and quickly get you back to your pre-baby weight and shape.

Here is how the Power of 10 Exercise Program can help you through your pregnancy and birthing experience:

  • Overall improvement in strength and conditioning making the added weight and stresses to the body more comfortable during your pregnancy.
  • Building up a tolerance for the exertion and discomfort you are going to experience.
  • Teaches the breathing techniques necessary to break the Val Salva/Sync association and avoid the risks to you and your fetus
  • Instills focus and concentration during intense muscular challenges.
  • Training that concentrates on strengthening specific muscle groups you will rely on during birthing, including those addressed in Kegel exercises, and
  • Underscores the importance of rest as a cornerstone of protecting mother and fetus while still getting all the exercise needed with a once a week, 20-minute workout.

So, once again, and from all of us here at InForm Fitness – CONGRATULATIONS! Now get your OB GYN’s approval and come in to begin your training.

Delivering Freedom Through Exercise

When I started InForm Fitness I wanted to share my beliefs about the value and efficacy of the Power-of-10 workout. I also wanted to create and maintain an atmosphere where our clients would feel as safe as the workout itself.

A lot of thought and planning has gone into how our clients experience InForm Fitness. We’ve carefully considered the room lay out, the workout studio’s temperature, the lounge area, the accented waters in our cooler, and countless other details.

Having just read Danny Meyer’s book Setting the Table, I realized the parallels between any customer-facing business, such as InForm Fitness and a restaurant. Mr. Meyer talks about service versus hospitality as a differentiating characteristic leading to success. “Service is delivering on your promise. Hospitality is making people feel good while you’re delivering on that promise,” writes Meyer.

According to Meyer, delivering service that resembles a routine of going through the motions “diminishes the beauty” of true hospitality, which requires the above-and-beyond level of attention that doesn’t always come naturally. Delivery with a passionate belief in what you are doing, while connecting to the client on a very personal level is hospitality! To provide merely the service is a missed opportunity proclaims Meyer.

This, now abundantly clear, is a distinction that reinforces the notion that any businesses’ hiring practices are of paramount importance. Beyond the skills, which you can train, is the attitude, which you cannot train. InForm Fitness’ select team of professionals has and continues to be a primary focus of mine to ensure the right personality and attitude are a fit for our clients.

We hire our instructors based on the highest caliber and levels of training, certification and continuing education. We equally weigh in our consideration a candidate’s character, demeanor, and interpersonal skills.

For example, dedication and attention to detail characterize one core and prerequisite skill set for being an instructor at InForm Fitness. A candidate’s capacity and interest to discover, appreciate, and honor the individuality of our clients is an attitude and practice that helps my team be true caregivers.

Reading Setting the Table and examining my own company reminded me of a story I read in The E-myth, by Michael Gerber. Gerber shares the story from Revlon’s founder Charles Revson, who asked a room full of sales people at a conference, “what do we sell?” As one might expect, the overwhelming majority responded with “makeup” and while that would seem logical, Revson didn’t think so. Revson believed that what Revlon sold was “hope” and in this context it all makes sense.

What Inform Fitness Offers is Freedom!

InForm Fitness delivers safe, efficient exercise, with smart, well-trained and hospitable instructors, and that translates for our clients into:

• Freedom from risk of injury while exercising with one of our specially trained instructors and guided through each session.

• Freedom from guilt – knowing that you are getting the best exercise for your body and your health, even if it isn’t several times a week at some trendy gym.

• Freedom to be yourself in an environment engineered for your privacy, as much as your comfort and safety.

• Freedom from aches and pains and limitations on your physical abilities and

• Freedom of time, with a 20-minute, once a week workout that gives you the time to live a happy, healthy and purposeful life!

I encourage our clients to share their experience at InForm Fitness. If you are not a client, please come experience our hospitality at any of our InForm Fitness Studios and experience a full-service consultation with any of our instructors. We look forward to your first and your return visits.

Gyms Have Become Dangerous Playgrounds for Grownups

A recent New York Times article about the Functional Fitness Movement, “Fitness Playgrounds Grow as Machines Go by Courtney Rubin, has me fuming. My core mission has long been to promote safe, efficient exercise, and this new fad is neither efficient nor safe.

The premise of their version of ‘Functional Fitness’ is that we need to train and strengthen our bodies in ways that mimic the activities of our hunting and gathering predecessors in order to prepare us for the physical challenges of daily life. As the article’s title suggests, functional training is offered at jungle-gym-type, adult playgrounds, which are noticeably absent of expensive exercise machines.

Though the concept may seem plausible, the article is riddled with infelicitous comments such as machines are inadequate for preparing people for everyday life.

Dating back to Ancient Roman times, true functional training had been, and continues to be, an important prescription in physical and occupational therapy. As an example, if someone sustains an injury, then functional training would help the patient to regain full range of motion and use of their injured body part. The original meaning of functional training has been hi-jacked by the fitness industry and crafted into a dangerous fad.

I credit the New York Times for having the good sense to have placed this article in the Fashion and Style section and not Science. Perhaps the most appropriate placement would have been in the Business section since the real story here is how gyms are changing to make a bigger profit, as evidenced by the following excerpt:

“The functional fitness zones also are a moneymaker for gyms, costing $5 to $6 a square foot, compared with some $50 a square foot when filled by machines, estimated Bruce Mack, the  founder and chief executive of the Boston-based MBSC Thrive.”

Though I recognize business decisions designed to improve profitability, ethics should dictate that these profit motivated decisions not raise the risk of injury.

In the article, Adam Campbell, fitness director for the Men’s Health brand, comments “Functional fitness is far more bang for your buck, because it works multiple muscles simultaneously, providing better overall strength and mobility, and a higher calorie burn.” The article goes on to suggest that exercise machines resemble some form of ancient torture and suggests that balancing on a medicine ball, while swinging heavy bags or climbing a wall more closely represents our daily lifestyles, and as such, is really the kind of exercise needed. Maybe more people are preparing for a life as circus performers than I thought. Who knew?

My greatest concern is the blatant compromise of safety! Their form of ‘Functional’ training has the potential to cause both short and long-term injuries. A pulled muscle or pinched nerve is an immediate risk, but the unnecessary wear and tear on joints can cause problems that will haunt you in later years. The article suggests that machines are not natural. I wonder how many of us include “hefting sandbags and shaking 25-pound ropes” as a natural part of our daily routine.

The stated goal of ‘Functional Training’ is to improve strength. Since strength comes from muscles, to improve strength you should build muscle. I do not mean bulking up into The Hulk. Done properly, weight-bearing workouts can achieve the “lean, athletic as opposed to highly muscular,” personal appearance that Mr. Campbell speaks about. You can bulk up if your gene pool permits, but bulk is otherwise not a natural outcome of machine based exercises. Perpetuating that fear is just a marketing gimmick.

People do need to learn how to lift weight safely. One day you might have the privilege of picking up a child on a regular basis, and learning to lift properly will help you avoid injuring your back. You also need strength to perform the task, but equally important is the proper lifting technique. Learning how to bend, twist, and lift safely is a different course from a program to build strength, and does not require on-going training. Once proper technique has been learned, building strength is a separate activity, and should be designed and performed to avoid putting your joints or spine at risk. If you want to get stronger, you must load the right muscles with the right amount of resistance to engage enough muscle fibers.

The risk of injury is more likely to occur in these new functional gym environments. Distractions are significant obstacles to ensuring safety. Checking out the guy on the rock-climbing wall, the noise, your exhausted state, or worrying about how you look, all while standing on an uneven surface lifting a heavy weight and turning your body can result in serious injury. You are almost guaranteed to be leaving the gym with a complimentary ice pack to ease the pain of a torn or strained muscle, or a pinched nerve.

The exercises promoted in these new ‘Functional Training’ gyms put your spine at substantial risk as you lift and shift weights simultaneously while the body is in exaggerated motion.

“The bones and muscles of the spine are not suited for top-heavy loads.”1 If you look at any picture of the spine, you will notice that the bones get smaller the higher up they go. Every manual laborer knows to lift with their legs not their back, and to keep the spine steady and protected.

“The system below the pelvis provides for speed and power: big superficial muscles pull on few, solid beams of bone, moving through large ranges of motion, in few directions. Above the pelvis, there’s no muscle match for the gluteus (buttocks) or quads (thighs); and even if there were, the spine isn’t a beam like the femur. With the spine, many muscles only have to hold or move slightly, the next vertebrae. This system provides mobility, with stability, for the overall spine.” 1

Since we rely on our spine for range of motion, these bones are not connected in the same way as our joints. Equally as noticeable is that we require more range of motion where the bones are smaller, such as the neck supporting your head. Your spine is structured to support more weight at the base then at the top, and exercising against the natural order is a recipe for injury.

Slow-motion weight training, such as the Power-of-10 protocol, performed on weight machines, is designed to keep the spine from experiencing misplaced weight loads and torque that could result in injury.

These new gyms and their ‘Functional Training’ are dangerously off base in their attempt to simultaneously engage both the primary mover muscles that move limbs with the deep muscles that stabilize joints. Even worse is engaging the primary muscles on surfaces that are unstable. This is how most common injuries occur. And the injuries usually affect the deeper, stabilizer muscles. Back spasms are more likely than a glute strain; or rotator cuff injury rather than deltoid; or groin pulls rather than the quadriceps; and therefore jeopardizing long-term joint health. Ouch!

Please, for your safety, keep your movement exercises separate from your strength training exercises. If you want to exercise for movement try Tai Chi. To build strength, employ safe, efficient exercise that stabilizes the spine and is designed to protect the deep muscles.


1. Bill Desimone, Congruent Exercise: How to Make Weight Training Easier on Your Joints



Once in a while my wife and I watch movies together at home. We love movies that entertain us and provide some respite from life. Occasionally, I relate to a main character or they might strike a chord. One recent evening as my wife and I were watching The Contender, a 2000 movie with Joan Allen and Jeff Bridges, I was so struck – I could’ve been a ‘contender’ myself.

The plot: Second-term Democratic U.S. President Jackson Evans, played by Jeff Bridges, must select a new VP upon the death of his current VP. He nominates Laine Hanson, played by Joan Allen. The investigation into her background turns up an incident where she was apparently photographed participating in a drunken orgy as part of a sorority initiation. Throughout the movie, Joan’s character, Lanie, refuses to confirm or deny the allegation, standing on the issue as irrelevant. Asserting that the question should not even be asked, she tries to turn the discussion towards political issues.

As you can imagine, things get ugly. While facts emerge that would undoubtedly clear Laine of all wrongdoing, she explicitly requests that the evidence be suppressed. She believes that by bringing the evidence to light that they would only be substantiating the acceptability of the investigation into her personal life in the first place. Instead, citing that President Evans is the one to address Congress, the predicament is used as a way to gather support for Hanson’s nomination.

No, I am not seeking a 2nd career as a movie critic. I share this with you because I related to Laine – she was misunderstood and, more importantly, steadfast in staying true to her belief even though the decision to was neither easy nor popular.

The movie, and Laine, got me to thinking about the Power of 10 and InForm Fitness Studios, and motivated me to share my beliefs, what we stand for, and what we practice throughout all of our studios. I am not wrong in thinking that some of my beliefs are misunderstood. So, I take this opportunity to set the record straight on some issues. I must also add that my opinions are my own, although I think all of InForm’s instructors would agree for the most part. I say ‘most’ because I have not hired robots, but rather intelligent thinkers, and as such, we don’t necessarily agree on all points.

So here they are:

  • Traditional cardio exercise is NOT the best method for building or strengthening muscle, or losing weight.
  • Daily exercise, or even exercise several days a week, is totally unnecessary. Just once a week is sufficient, as long as the exercise is intense enough to reach muscle fatigue.
  • Fat loss is different from weight loss.
  • Working out in hot environments does not “warm” the muscles and facilitate a better workout, you just sweat more.
  • Obesity is a result of eating sugary and processed foods, not from sedentary behavior.
  • Matt Damon is an over rated actor, while Chiwetal Ejiofor is an acting (albeit unknown) genius.
  • Simplicity is genius.
  • Neither sweating nor resulting muscular soreness are necessary earmarks of a good workout.
  • Not all saturated fats are bad for you; fats from well-raised and harvested sources are actually good for you.
  • I’m more approachable than you think – my eyebrows give the wrong impression.
  • Acceleration causes high-force exercise injuries, not mass. That’s why we go SLOWLY, to minimize force.
  • The difference between exercise and recreation should be made distinct.
  • Unless you want to be a Rockette, being super flexible is not a healthier state.
  • Stretching doesn’t prevent sporting injuries, but may actually contribute to them.
  • Exercise is about how much you need, not how much you can endure.
  • I believe in running, only because I know the practice to exist. But, I don’t believe that running is safe, efficient exercise.
  • All sugar is bad, but I still eat fruit in moderation.
  • The weights we lift at InForm Fitness are not “intensely” heavy. We lift extremely slowly, which makes the weightlifting sufficiently intense to achieve the desired level of muscular failure; and
  • Time is money!

Again, these are my beliefs, but hey…it’s my blog and that’s the beauty of it. No really, some of my beliefs are arbitrary, but some are backed by scientific evidence and years’ of experience in the fitness industry. My unwavering commitment to offer and deliver safe, efficient exercise demands that I remain steadfast in what I know to be true, and ensure the consistent practice of these principles throughout my studios, despite the challenges. That is why I too am a Contender.


The Skinny on Fats

Fat is simply the most misunderstood component of the modern diet, and ‘healthy’ and ‘low-fat’ are dangerously regarded as synonymous.

After years of experts recommending that we eliminate fat completely from our diets, they are now starting to concede that some fats, like Omega-3s, are good for us. Notwithstanding, we are told to proceed with caution and remain rather uninformed as to which fats are ‘good’ and why.

Obesity and heart disease are the associated dark sides of fat. But numerous types of fat, other than the fat that our body’s store, are found in our diet and can either be harmful or beneficial to our health.

Dietary fat from plant and animal food sources is one of the three macronutrients along with protein and carbohydrates that provide energy for your body. The truth is that both our bodies and minds need fat in our diets. Fat is essential to support a number of our body’s functions. In fact, some fats actually promote good health. For instance, some vitamins must have fat to dissolve and nourish the body.

Getting the fats straight and choosing healthier types of dietary fat (and enjoying them) is of vital importance. Here is the basic ‘need-to-know’ on fats to help them work for you, not against you.

Bare ‘Fats’

Although most foods contain several different kinds of fat, in the simplest terms, there are four main types of dietary fat. The ‘solid fats’ are saturated fats and trans fats, which are generally considered harmful. The ‘liquid fats’ are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are generally considered potentially helpful.

  • Saturated fats come mainly from animal food sources, such as butter, lard, eggs and steak.
  • Trans fats are industrial or synthetic.
  • Monounsaturated fats are found in a variety of foods and oils, such as nuts and high-fat fruits like avocados and olives.
  • Polyunsaturated fats are found mostly in seafood, plant-based foods and oils, such as fish, leafy greens and seeds.

However, what is ‘generally considered’ regarding saturated fats is not exactly so.

Saturated Fats – Not So ‘Bad’ After All

Deep in our consciousness, the following mantra has been embedded: too much fat (especially saturated fat) is bad because fat raises cholesterol, and high cholesterol is bad because it raises the risk of heart disease.

The implied correlation between saturated fat and cholesterol is a scary one, indeed. But, in truth, the correlation is not conclusive of causation – saturated fat does not directly raise cholesterol. The two may even be entirely unrelated.

Essentially, this ‘conventional wisdom’ is why many principles of low-carb diets are generally dismissed as unhealthy. Because people don’t simply cut carbohydrates out of their diets (eating the same amounts of everything else, less the carbs), they consume more protein and fat. My goodness! All that fat will surely kill them quickly with heart attacks. Well, while this logic is conventional, it is not wise, and is fundamentally flawed.

Numerous studies (too many to list) have proven that many saturated fats are good for you and facilitate the following health benefits:

•      Absorption of trace minerals

•      Formation of cell membrane walls

•      Delivery of fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, E, and K

•      Conversion of carotene into vitamin A

•      Initiation of the building blocks of hormones

Lauric acid, for example, is a saturated fatty acid found in coconut oil that has immune-system boosting properties, both anti-microbial and anti-viral. Take a look at our recent blog post Commodity Futures for Coconuts: A Shrewd Investment?.

The only fatty acid the body produces is palmitic acid, which is a saturated fat, and together with a system of enzymes creates a variety of fatty acids to serve different positive functions within our bodies. Why would a saturated fat be the only fat that our bodies make naturally from food if it were so inherently bad for us?

An incredibly important point to make is that the ‘fate’ in our bodies of saturated fat ingested depends greatly on what that fat is eaten in conjunction with. If carbohydrates are low, then insulin is low and the saturated fat is handled more efficiently by the body. If grains and sugars are high the effects of saturated fat could very well be poisonous.

Some interesting related trivia: the Eskimo diet consists largely of whale blubber, which is 75 percent saturated fat. The Maasai in Kenya eat beef, drink cattle blood and milk, making up a diet consisting primarily of saturated fat. Interestingly, heart disease and chronic health problems don’t exist in these cultures (and most likely won’t unless a McDonalds opens up nearby). While the entire context of their environments should be considered, what can be drawn is the lack of direct causation between a diet high in saturated fat and heart disease.

The Other ‘Good’ Fats

Unsaturated fats, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, provide us with essential fatty acids (EFAs), which are broken down into two groups:

  • Omega-6 fatty acids: Linoleic acid (LA), which is converted into gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and arachidonic acid (AA)
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is converted into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)

The body cannot make EFAs, so they must be obtained through diet or supplementation. Diets rich in the omega-3 fatty acids offer cardio protection by lowering blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, reducing blood clotting, and reducing the risk of heart attack and sudden death.

Unsaturated fats are also known to reduce inflammation and are helpful for arthritis and other inflammatory disorders. GLA also reduces inflammation, and prevents clotting, dilates blood vessels, improves skin health, and benefits those with diabetes and arthritis.

What constitutes the optimal dietary intake ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids is debatable. The general estimate is that we currently consume a ratio of 15:1, whereas many nutritional experts recommend a ratio closer to 4:1 or even 2:1.

But rather than trying to calculate the perfect ratio or intake, I suggest that you aim to consume more Omega-3s from fish and fish oils, flaxseed, hemp, and GLA (borage, blackcurrant, or primrose oil) or from supplements.

Last AND Worst – Trans Fats are Evil…Period!

Trans fats are created when oils are solidified through a chemical process called hydrogenation, such as when vegetable oil is processed to margarine. Trans fats are the enemy and are found in abundance in packaged and processed foods, namely cookies crackers, fried foods, baked goods, and many other snack foods.

When trans fats were first introduced they were thought to be a healthier alternative to saturated fats. This assumption has been found to be disastrously incorrect. Trans fats elevate cholesterol levels increasing the risk for heart disease and heart attack, and are also linked to cancer, particularly breast cancer. In fact, there is no safe limit for trans fats in our diets. You should avoid consuming these dangerous trans fats. Food companies have been making efforts in this area and many packaged foods are now labeled “trans fat free” but it is always preferable to eat fresh, whole food.

The Bottom Line:

Live a healthy life; avoid sugars, processed foods, and grains; eat organic foods, raised and processed in a natural clean way and you will not suffer obesity and heart disease. So to put it in relative terms – give up your sugared grain cereal in the morning in exchange for farm fresh eggs and grass fed beefsteak.

– See more at: http://informfitness.com/blog/the-skinny-on-fats/#sthash.JyFwnuTA.dpuf

Get A Life

Sometimes I wonder why people just don’t cancel their gym memberships and join InForm Fitness. I have long asked myself, with genuine curiosity and not out of a fanatical, I just-drank-my-own-Kool-Aid belief kind of way, why would any reasonable person spend 5 or more hours a week on their fitness regime when 20 minutes would suffice?

The choice is excruciatingly simple: spend 4 to 5 days a week, for an hour or more in the gym, or come to InForm Fitness once a week, and be in and out, including water-cooler gossip time, in under 30 minutes. That is potentially 5 plus hours a week that you could add back into your schedule to do something more meaningful, new, creative, productive, or just relax and remove some of the pressure from your life.

So let’s, for a moment, put aside any potential philosophical differences about exercise – I say anaerobic, you say aerobic; I say slow resistance training, you say the treadmill 5 times a week.

I see now, and am trying to come to grips with, the answer to my question. Going to the gym is a social phenomenon – a cultural mindset. Like a fashion statement or a more-virtuous alternative to the bar scene, people go to the gym. Going to the gym has become as much a social endeavor as it is about getting healthier or sustaining health.

People’s identities become defined by their ‘going-to-the-gym’ routines. See and be seen: social proof that you are working out; a chance meeting with that totally buff guy; a place to hang out or even stay motivated with group exercise classes.

What drives me to distraction and makes me think that I’m not getting my message across, is that the resistance I encounter is not always about the differing workout philosophies that the Power-of-10 workout is based on, but rather a reluctant acceptance that their pending exercise is not going to be the interactive experience they are accustomed to. In fact, no one is even going to see them working out here.

No doubt, the InForm Fitness studio and staff are friendly and inviting, yet I wouldn’t describe it as a social venue. In fact, if you haven’t yet, prepare to experience a new kind of workout in a serene, Zen-like atmosphere. Inside our temperature-controlled fitness studio, there are no distractions from fellow trainees, conversation, loud music or clanking weights. Silence is the soundtrack. With no mirrors in the training space, your specialized trainer is your personal “mirror” carefully observing, coaching, advising, and recording your progress. Make no mistake; the Power of 10 is a high-intensity workout that demands full concentration for peak performance. We make that possible.

While our clients quickly come to relish our private studio ambiance, others may still understandably feel like something is missing.

So, should you wish:

• Yes, you can check in here on Foursquare, but it would only be once a week;

• Yes, you can share and post your progress on Facebook, but it would only be once a week – and your friends probably won’t understand what you’re doing; and

• Yes, you can wear your cute workout suit, but heck, we happily encourage business casual.


• No, we don’t have a health food bar where you can hang out and chat with some of the regular gym rats; and

• No, while you are exercising, you can’t tap into our Wi-Fi, plug in your tunes and watch or listen to your favorite distraction.

With that all said, what truly grinds my gears is that people are unknowingly choosing to risk their health to get fit and be social. Yes, you may be getting fit, but are you doing damage to your health in the process? Short-term damage could be a pulled muscle, a sprain, or worse, but long-term erosion of joint muscles and cartilage could require surgery in years to come.

Fit does not equate to healthy. Exercise should be about how much you need and not about how much you can endure.

I recognize that we are all social beings and that we crave accolades for our efforts and achievements, and our identities might be closely aligned with “I’m at the gym 5 days a week.” or “Love the energy in my exercise classes.”

But I challenge you to rethink aligning your identity and your social life with your exercise. Exercise is critically important, as is brushing your teeth, and that is not something you congregate around or buy cute outfits to enhance your performance.

When your goal is to get fit and improve your health – take a safe and efficient approach. When your goal is to be social – go be social: join organizations, make some phone calls, volunteer your time, or make a healthy group dinner.

Take those 4-5 extra hours you would have spent at the gym every week and do something else – something more social and bring your good health with you. By relinquishing your residency at the gym, you’ll have a ton of free time to spend at cultural events, join a book club, learn a new craft… or do absolutely nothing with friends and family. Just don’t slave away on the treadmill, because everyone else seems to be doing it.

Also, by trying to combine the two – social and exercise – you travel down a slippery slope to potential long-term health problems. Don’t think about a new attitude towards exercise as giving up anything, but opening opportunities for so much more.