Gyms Have Become Dangerous Playgrounds for Grownups


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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.

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

https://www.facebook.com/CongruentExercise

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I COULD’VE BEEN A CONTENDER


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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.

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The Skinny on Fats


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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: https://informfitness.com/blog/the-skinny-on-fats/#sthash.JyFwnuTA.dpuf

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Get A Life


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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.

But:

• 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.

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Going Caveman With The Paleo Diet – Regressive or Progressive Evolution?


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The Caveman Diet Movement, also called the Paleolithic (or Paleo) Diet, is not really a movement, but a comeback. In fact, it’s a comeback from more than 10 thousand years ago, and is gaining momentum.

But unlike bell-bottoms, we should all take this burgeoning regression to our ancestral ways seriously and progress backwards towards better health.

The Paleo Diet is based on a simple and plausible premise that our bodies evolved over millions of years to eat a certain way, the ‘caveman’ way. Genetically, our metabolic and digestive systems are geared to optimally function when eating plants and wild animals, similar to what cavemen are presumed to have eaten.

Today, however, our modern diet is radically altered as a result of agricultural advances and industrialization. Although these innovations represent only a brief period in human history, they have dramatically changed how we eat. While the caveman certainly had his unique challenges – like – ‘gee, that Mastodon is looking a little agitated’ – he didn’t have to contend with the ravages of sugar, empty carbohydrates, chemical additives, and over-processed convenience foods.

Proponents of the movement claim that in order for us to achieve total health, we need to go back to our old ways. Viewed as biologically appropriate with the proper balance of nutrients, the Paleo Diet promotes health and reduces the incidence of chronic diseases.

In my opinion, any program aimed to achieve optimal health should be multifaceted. Safe and efficient exercise, adequate sleep and stress management, and eating healthy foods that nourish your body are all essential components, as discussed in last week’s post.

Dr. Loren Cordain, a nutrition and exercise physiology professor from the Colorado State University wrote The Paleo Diet and states “Today more than 70% of our dietary calories come from foods that our Paleolithic ancestors rarely, if ever, ate. The result is epidemic levels of cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, arthritis, gastrointestinal disease, and more…Clinical trials have shown that the Paleo Diet is the optimum diet that can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, blood pressure, markers of inflammation, help with weight loss, reduce acne, promote optimum health and athletic performance.”

A true Caveman Diet is impossible to mimic because wild game is not readily available, most plant food is cultivated rather than wild, and meats are domesticated. Nonetheless, the goal of the Paleo Diet is to get as close as possible to the real deal:

  • Eat plenty of meats, seafood, vegetables, eggs, healthy fats, and some fruit and nuts
  • Purchase the highest-quality ingredients you can afford, as organic and grass-fed are of superior nutritional value, not to mention void of pesticides and antibiotics
  • Avoid grains and legumes, especially wheat and other gluten-containing grains, but also soy, corn, beans, and peanuts (which are legumes, not a nut)
  • Avoid added sugars, even artificial sweeteners
  • Avoid vegetable oils and processed oils
  • Welcome healthy fats, such as animal fat, avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil, ghee, grass-fed butter, lard and tallow, and more.

Consider the above basics as a suggested template as no single diet is universally optimal. A strict Paleo Diet does not permit the consumption of dairy but, should you happen to digest dairy well, endeavor to use the highest-quality dairy from grass-fed sources like raw milk, heavy cream, and real butter.

Also, YAMS! Eat yams. If your goal is predominately weight-loss, you may chose to take the lower-carb approach and refrain from yams, but otherwise, enjoy!

Not surprisingly, not all nutritionists concur. Assistant Professor Keith Ayoob, Ed.D. at New York’s Albert Einstein School of Medicine claims “People who eat diets high in whole grains, beans, and low-fat dairy (Caveman Diet no-no’s) tend to be healthier because these foods are nutrient-rich and there are mountains of research about the health benefits of diets that include, not exclude, these foods.”

While I’m confident that Assistant Professor Ayoob is not a fool, there is also a mountain of research that not only refutes his belief but there are also medical studies linking a host of ailments and diseases to a diet consisting of grains.

The cornerstone of the Paleo Diet is to eliminate grains from your diet as they contain toxic anti-nutrients – lectins, gluten and phytates.

Lectins bind to insulin receptors and the intestinal lining. They are believed to cause leptin resistance, which predicts a worsening of the features of the metabolic syndrome independently of obesity.

Gluten is found in wheat, rye, and barley. While gluten is linked to celiac disease, those effected represent only roughly 1% of the population. The other 99% of the population that don’t have celiac disease are still at risk. Gluten is not only addictive (try giving up bread and cereal) but is also known to act like ‘glue’ in your stomach and binds itself to other nutrients preventing you from benefiting from their value (like a robber of good health).

Phytates are also a problem as they make minerals bio-unavailable. Phytates can bind to certain dietary minerals including iron, zinc, manganese and, to a lesser extent, calcium, and slow their absorption thus nullifying the pro-grain consumption claim for a balanced diet.

The moral of this story is that most of us would do well to adopt some of the aspects of the Caveman’s Diet, but you need not go ‘back to the cave’. Certainly, a diet rich in lean protein and plant foods contains the fiber, protein, and fluids you need and can help prevent (or reverse) weight gain and a ton (literally?) of ills. If for no other reason than the avoidance of sugar and processed foods, this diet deserves some props.

On a personal note, I’m happy to tell you that the Zickerman household has certainly benefited from the Caveman Diet principles. Instead of “sugar in a box” – aka breakfast cereal – for breakfast, we enjoy steak and eggs. Not too shabby and it packs some serious nutritional punch!  Now, if I could only get the kids to forage in Central Park . . .

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Rest, Nutrition, and Exercise – The Three Pillars of The Power of 10


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I have focused my attention and efforts on blogging for three months now, because I am passionate about helping others discover the benefits of healthy living.  By healthy living I mean getting adequate rest, eating well, and regularly performing safe and efficient exercise.

Until now, my soapbox audience has been limited to either those who purchased my book The Power of 10: The Once-a-Week Slow Motion Fitness Revolution  or have trained with me. My blog is not only an opportunity to share what I’ve learned and highlight pertinent scientific research, but also a forum meant to encourage meaningful conversation on these topics with a much broader audience.  Your comments are more than welcomed.  What you have to say is critical to the relevance of the blog.

Young or old, healthy or battling disease, in good shape or injured, even pregnant – what we stand for at InForm Fitness is applicable to your life.

Since December 10, 2012, when I started my new blog series with Breaking Down Barriers and Crossing Borders, I’ve covered a lot of ground and have plans to cover even more. We’ve entered into a new era here at InForm Fitness.  I want you to see how far we’ve come and where we are going.

Staying true to my Three Pillars, the blog posts have addressed my beliefs, insights, and supporting studies on the values of Rest, Nutrition, and Exercise.

REST:

In 7 Tips To Sleep Your Way To Weight Loss, I not only cover the reasons that rest plays a vital role in your overall health, but I offer some tips on getting a good night’s sleep.

NUTRITION:

While I don’t play the role of a nutritionist, on TV or otherwise, I am well versed and share my experience and insights on food and nutrition to anyone who will listen.

Ranging from my curiosity about The Unrefrigerated Egg and whether ‘organic’ really matters when buying eggs, to my personal petition that we all get over the those little holes in the lettuce leaf when Sharing in Mother Nature’s Bounty, I have tried to impart my thoughts and stimulate yours.

Commodity Futures for Coconuts – A Shrewd Investment?, a guest post from Nicole Gustavson of InForm Fitness, Leesburg, VA, discusses the health benefits of coconut oil (almost too many to list covering Weight loss, Digestion, Immunity, and Infections) and voices my thinking that not all saturated fats are evil.

Then we took a hard look at sugars in Sugars – The Glucose, The Fructose, and The Sucrose of it all, uncovering the truth about fructose, how it actually makes you hungrier and triggers your body to store more fat than glucose.

EXERCISE:

I took a pot shot at The Insanity Workout in You Must Be Insane, because this is my area of proven expertise. [Insert villainous laugh]

I believe that workout, which claims to burn an astonishing 1000 calories per hour, to be yet another empty promise to deliver miraculous results. This 60-day workout uses jargon like “max-interval training” to describe the dangerous practice of “long bursts of maximum-intensity exercises with short periods of rest.”  As I see it, no matter how the workout is packaged and marketed, it’s just another gimmick.

I even affectionately challenged A.J. Jacobs in My Drop Dead Healthy Cameo and How A.J. Jacobs Got it Wrong! My opinion is that, while Jacobs’s observation that HIIT has more supporting empirical evidence may be true, his conclusion that HIIT has more merit than resistance exercise, such as in the Power of 10, is misguided. And this is not aimed at Jacobs alone – millions of people misinterpret this.

Okay, and even though I own and operate InForm Fitness studios promoting solely the Power-of-10 workout, I explore The Exercise to Lose Weight Conundrum. Put simply, insulin can increase the fat our bodies store and decrease the fat we burn, regardless of our activity levels. Eliminating grains and sugar from our diets is more critical than increasing activity to lose fat, because those foods raise our blood sugar and consequently our insulin levels.

But my centerpiece piece is Effects of Aging Suck – But You Can Change That. A must, must read in my humble opinion. Sharing my beliefs and scientific studies, the blog supports the theory that high-intensity exercise affects our mitochondria at its core and can slow down, and potentially reverse, the effects of aging.

So what’s in the works?

I’m so glad that you asked. I happen to be working on several blog postings designed to challenge, inform, and inspire you to a healthier way of living.

I plan to share with you more topics on the Three Pillars of Rest, Nutrition, and Exercise, and share some of our clients’ personal stories, as we did with David in The ‘Lose Fat and Get Strong’ Challenge.

And, like David, you too can lose substantial fat without steady-state exercise, also known as cardio. Dramatic fat loss can occur by simply adhering to the InForm Fitness Power-of-10 workout and avoiding grains and processed carbohydrates. Would you like to take our Lose Fat and Get Strong Challenge?

Above all, I want to hear from you, my audience, so that we can share in this passion for healthy living together. What topics would you like to hear more about? What experiences would you like to share? Do you have any questions?

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Effects of Aging Suck – But You Can Change That


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While none of us can escape the inevitability of passing time, we are not entirely powerless over our own aging process, and do not have to surrender to its effects.

I can now, with complete confidence, assert that InForm Fitness is home to the real Fountain of Youth! That’s right folks. The Power of 10 workout can reverse aging, making changes right down to the functioning of your DNA.

While you might be thinking, “Boy, Adam’s sense of self-worth has officially spun out of control,” I offer you scientific confirmation that my contentions of triumph are not unfounded.

It Comes Down To The Mitochondria.

You may be surprised to learn that in studies on aging, that science is increasingly focusing on the role of Mitochondria – the cell powerhouse that generates the majority of the body’s energy from nutrients and oxygen.

Why? Put simply, cellular damage manifests through physical and physiological signs of aging – loss of muscle mass, brain volume, skin elasticity, hair loss and pigmentation, etc., – and may be largely due to ‘malfunctioning’ mitochondria.

The inconvenient truth here is that even through their normal activity, mitochondria generate unstable chemicals that harm the cell as a whole, resulting in genetic mutations. These mutations are found to accumulate with age and over time the number of mutations overwhelms our cells’ ability to make the necessary repairs.

So, ‘malfunctioning’ can be a term used interchangeably in this sense with progressive aging, as the cells these mitochondria fuel wither, increasingly incapable of repairing themselves, and eventually die. As Martha Stewart might say, “It’s not a good thing.” (I can’t believe I just quoted Martha Stewart)

It’s an astonishing thing though, our mitochondria. Our cells can house several thousand mitochondria. The number depends on what that particular cell needs to do. If the purpose of the cell is to transmit nerve impulses, fewer mitochondria will exist than say in a muscle cell that requires substantially more energy. If the cell is lacking sufficient energy, more mitochondria can be created. Sometimes they can even grow, move, and combine with other mitochondria.

Mitochondria also have their own DNA – different from our cells’ genetic material – and are capable of mutating when they multiply. Under normal circumstances, anomalies are corrected by specialized repair systems within the cell.

And how exactly does this relate to high-intensity exercise? Specifically, human aging is associated with skeletal muscle atrophy and functional impairment, also known as sarcopenia, and multiple lines of evidence suggest that mitochondrial malfunction is a major contributor.

So what can we do to slow, halt, or even reverse the inevitable aging process?

STRENGTH TRAINING – and I’m pleased to share three scientific studies supporting my claim that InForm Fitness is the home of the Fountain of Youth.

Study # 1

Pediatrics Professor, Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky, at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, discovered that exercise reduced or eliminated almost every detrimental effect of aging in mice that had been genetically programmed to grow old at an accelerated pace.

The mice that Dr. Tarnopolsky and his colleagues used were bred to lack the primary mitochondrial repair mechanism, so they did indeed age more rapidly. The study included two groupings of these mice – mice that exercised and mice that did not.

By the time the mice that did not exercise reached 8 months (equivalent to early 60s in human years), they were extremely frail, lethargic, and decrepit, with flabby muscles, shrunken brains, enlarged hearts, shriveled gonads and patchy, graying fur. On an even more extreme note, they were all dead before reaching a year of age.

The group of mice that exercised were still alive at a year of age, and remained amazingly youthful!

Study # 2

In a 2007 study, Resistance Exercise Reverses Aging in Human Skeletal Muscle, researchers Simon Melov, et al. successfully reversed human aging among healthy adult men and women, with a return toward normal youthful muscular function at the genetic level.

Wow! Essentially, the study showed that healthy older adults exhibiting evidence of mitochondrial impairment and muscle weakness could, through high-intensity exercise training, markedly reverse cellular conditions back to that of younger levels for most genes. The researchers had subjects perform exercises ranging from leg press, chest press, leg extension, leg flexion, shoulder press, pull-down, calf raise, abdominal crunch to back extensions. Sound familiar? Over the study period, the subjects increased their strength by a whopping 50%.

Practicing doctor, personal trainer and co-author of Body by Science, Dr. Doug McGuff, discusses this exact phenomenon in his blog and pleads that we need not hurt ourselves in the process.

McGuff asserts that the ability to perform high-intensity exercise is a marker of youth, and consequently what gets lost with aging. In a discussion around fast-twitch muscles (the category of muscle targeted through high-intensity exercise), McGuff explains how fast-twitch muscle fibers can be recruited through other forms of exercise training, which are fraught with the potential for injury, both immediate and over time. McGuff goes on to endorse the very type of safe and efficient, high-intensity exercise, found here at InForm Fitness, that stimulates the development of physiologic headroom, in a controlled manner not producing injurious force.

Physiologic headroom is described as “the difference between the most you can do and the least you can do.” When the difference is zero, you’re dead.

Study # 3

According to a study published in Cell Metabolism, people who exercised intensely for as little as 20 minutes, actually changed their molecular make-up.

High-intensity exercise can almost instantly determine which of your genes get turned on or off, triggering epigenetic changes within the body. These ‘epigenetic modifications’ seem to be the early precursor to the genetic reprogramming of muscle for strength, structure, and the metabolic benefits of exercise.

“Our muscles are really plastic,” says Juleen Zierath, a molecular physiologist at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute and co-author of the study. “We often say ‘You are what you eat.’ Well, muscle adapts to what you do. If you don’t use it, you lose it, and this is one of the mechanisms that allows that to happen.”

Researchers found that short but intense spurts of exercise produced significant, albeit temporary, changes in several types of epigenetic signals. “What this means is that it allowed other proteins’ transcription factors to access the DNA, and this could instruct the cell to make specialized proteins that could support growth and metabolism,” Dr. Zierath explained.

Epigenetics is the study of how environmental changes effect how the genes of our DNA behave – and specifically how high-intensity exercise is stimulating the production of the mitochondria.

The high-intensity exercise used in the Power of 10 program, here at InForm Fitness is exactly the kind of exercise that triggers epigenetic modifications in a safe and efficient manner.

What is profound – earth shattering, man on the moon kind of profound – is that scientists have universally come to the same finding: that it is the mitochondria that effects our aging process. They also universally have discovered that high-intensity exercise stimulates the production and reactivation of our mitchondria of our youth.

So, my some-times inflated sense of self-worth, together with the help of a few scientists, have made my case – InForm Fitness is where it’s at! If you are not already tapping into the true Fountain of Youth, don’t delay and come in for a consultation with our specially trained instructors.

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Sugars – The Glucose, The Fructose, and The Sucrose of it all.


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It is now the Year 2013 and we all know sugar is the enemy. So, table sugar (aka poison, also known as sucrose) is appropriately in the garbage, and label reading for ‘sugar’ content is now a grocery shopping ritual. Yet, the full sugar story is only partially revealed. Sugars, like fats, are not created equal, and we must also consider the source and relative physiological effects.

There are two basic forms of sugar – glucose and fructose. While there are several forms of sugar, such as everyday table sugar, also known as sucrose, they all contain proportional amounts of glucose and fructose.

Healthy eaters and dieters alike often live under the misguided belief that fruits couldn’t possibly lead to negative health or weight gain. After all, fruit is natural, therefore the sugar found in most fruit – fructose – is natural, and what is natural is good, right?

Hmmm. True, fruit has its nutritional qualities and eating fruit is not the same as scooping granulated sugar into your tea or sprinkling it over your favorite cereal. Logical, yes, but excess fructose consumption has negative consequences, even if the source of that fructose is fruit.

Scientists using newer functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) discovered that fructose can in fact trigger changes in the brain that stimulate overeating and weight gain. In a recent Journal of the American Medical Association publication, an extensive study of 20 healthy adults utilizing fMRI revealed that the brain registered suppressed hunger and fullness within 15 minutes of drinking glucose. As Dr. Robert Sherwin notes, “With fructose, we don’t see those changes. As a result, the desire to eat continues — it isn’t turned off.” In other words, glucose satiates faster than fructose.

So, when consuming a beverage containing fructose, like fruit juice, fructose not only failed to suppress appetite, it actually causes a small spike. Where glucose was shown to augment the body’s general ability to sense true satiety, fructose was not, but could rather trigger hunger pangs. The more fructose you ingest, the more prone to obesity you could be, as you program your body to consume more calories.

How Your Body Metabolizes Fructose Versus Glucose

The body also metabolizes glucose and fructose differently: of 120 calories of glucose, less than one calorie is stored as fat; whereas of 120 calories of fructose, 40 calories are stored as fat. The math is clear.

When ingesting fructose, the metabolic burden falls entirely on the liver and is converted into visceral fat far more rapidly than any other sugar. The body can’t metabolize a fructose overload and becomes a sea of toxic byproducts, including uric acid, which drives up blood pressure and causes gout. Ouch.

On the other hand, the liver is required to metabolize only 20 percent of the body’s glucose consumption. As every cell in the body, including the brain, utilizes glucose, the majority is immediately burned, making it an ideal source of energy.

Fructose is turned into free fatty acids (FFAs), VLDL (the damaging form of cholesterol), and triglycerides, which get stored as fat. These FFAs accumulate as fat droplets in the liver and skeletal muscle tissues, often causing insulin resistance and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Insulin resistance all too often progresses to metabolic syndrome and Type II Diabetes.

Fructose is also known as the ‘fatty’ carbohydrate, as it converts to glycerol 3 phosphate (g-3-p), which is directly used to turn FFAs into triglycerides. The more g-3-p you have, the more fat you store.

Excess fructose consumption is also a major contributor to insulin resistance and obesity, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, liver disease, cancer, arthritis and other diseases. The byproduct of visceral fat created in the abdominal region collects around organs and is associated with a greater risk of heart disease.

Beyond fruits, fructose is found today in nearly all soft drinks, juices and processed foods, typically in the form of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Adding insult to injury, the fructose that comes in the form of HFCS is most often made from genetically engineered corn, which is fraught with its own well-documented health concerns ranging from the development of food allergies to the risk of increased infertility, and possibly cancer.

I am NOT anti-fruit the same way I abhor processed foods and those laden with HFCS. What I am trying to make you aware of is that excess fructose, notwithstanding the source being fruit, can yield a host of very undesirable weight and health consequences.

That said, your fructose intake should be limited to fruit whenever possible. If you drink any beverage other than water or eat any packaged food, you are almost guaranteed to absorb some hidden sources of fructose. So while fruit can be a wonderfully beneficial source of vitamins, antioxidants and fiber, informed and conscious consumption is critical. Like anything, moderation matters.

As a standard recommendation, TOTAL fructose consumption should stay below 25 grams per day. To insure that, I would suggest mentally earmarking 15 of those grams for fruit at the most. That’s not much! Fifteen grams represents two bananas, one-third cup of raisins, or two Medjool dates. But, on the other hand, the average 12-ounce can of soda would fast exceed your daily allotment, with a whopping 40 grams of sugar, half of which is fructose. So beware!

Likewise, think again about fresh-squeezed fruit juice. Not only would the juice of 3 or 4 oranges exceed 15 grams fructose, all the pulp fiber from the fruit is lost. Fiber slows the absorption of sugar, helping to improve blood sugar levels, and provides countless other health benefits, such as reduced blood pressure and inflammation.

Eat, don’t drink your fruit. Moreover, try and stick to a moderately sized bowl of berries, or other high-fiber fruit, eat green leafy vegetables liberally and stay away from alcohol, sodas, juices and processed foods.

If you would like to learn more about how fructose affects your “fat switch,” I recommend The Fat Switch, by Dr. Richard Johnson.

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Commodity Futures For Coconuts – A Shrewd Investment?


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This is a guest post from Nicole Gustavson – InForm Fitness, Leesburg, VA.

I recommend starting each day with a 20-gram shot of saturated fat. Then I suggest that you repeat that decadence at least one more time each day, preferably about 20 minutes before your lunchtime meal. Sound crazy?

No, or at least not by that measure. Many people swear by coconut oil’s health benefits – and I’m one of them! The regimen prescribed above would ensure a daily 2-3 tablespoons minimum intake of coconut oil. I would also use coconut oil to fry eggs, sauté vegetables, and lather your skin after a hot shower.

Why? The health benefits of coconut oil are almost too many to list, but here are just a few:

  • maintain cholesterol levels
  • increased immunity from disease and infection
  • improved digestion and metabolism
  • relief from kidney problems, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, HIV and cancer
  • augment dental and bone strength
  • lend to better weight loss, hair care, skin care, and stress relief

So what about heart disease?

Coconut oil consists of roughly 90% saturated fat. This fact often condemns the oil as being bad for the heart, but that is a misconception. Coconut oil is actually beneficial for the heart because it contains about 50% lauric acid. Lauric acid is a unique fat, which helps prevent various heart problems, including high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. The saturated fats present in coconut oil are not harmful like other man-made vegetables oils and do not increase bad cholesterol (LDL) levels. Moreover, the saturated fat in coconut oil reduces the incidence of injury in arteries and therefore helps in preventing the thickening of artery walls.

Mankind has been consuming mainly saturated fats – in the form of butter, lard, coconut oil, etc. – for thousands of years, yet heart disease was rare before the 1920s. If anything, the recent rise of heart disease is most likely owing to the increased use of poly-unsaturated vegetable oils such as corn, safflower and canola, as well as margarine. Uh, margarine – I just cringed.

The bottom line on heart disease and coconut oil is that all saturated fats are not created equal. The operative word here is ‘created’ because some saturated fats occur naturally, while other fats are artificially manipulated into a saturated state through the man-made process called hydrogenation. Hydrogenation manipulates vegetable and seed oils producing a rancid, thickened substance that only benefits foods’ shelf lives and corporate profits.

Weight loss, Digestion, Immunity and Infections 

I suggested earlier to dosing on 1 1/2 tablespoons coconut oil about 20 minutes before mealtimes. The reason is simple – your appetite will be cut in half and you will be able to refrain from eating beyond satiety at the proceeding meal. But I’ve only just begun to share with you the benefits of this miracle oil.

The fat content of coconut oil  is more easily converted into energy than other oils. Coconut oil is nature’s richest source of medium-chain fatty acids, also called medium-chain triglycerides (MCT). MCTs are easily digested and immediately burned by your liver for energy (like carbohydrates, but without the insulin spike) and actually boost your metabolism and help your body use fat for energy. MCT also help in healthy functioning of the thyroid and enzymes systems, and increases the body metabolism by removing stress on the pancreas, thereby burning more energy.

Coconut oil also helps control blood sugar, the secretion of insulin, and the body’s effective utilization of blood glucose. How does this contribute to weight loss? See our recent blog  the “Exercise to Lose Weight Conundrum”.

Reducing the workload on the liver, preventing the accumulation of fat, and treating diabetes are still just the tip of the palm tree. MCTs not only bolster metabolism, endurance, and performance, but they also improve overall digestion, immune function, and healing.

Your body converts coconut oil’s lauric acid content into monolaurin, a compound claimed to be toxic to viruses, bacteria, funguses and other microorganisms that cause other diseases. Coconut oil thereby enhances immunity strength and fights against a variety of infections due to its antimicrobial, antioxidant, antifungal, antibacterial and soothing properties.

These properties prevent the various bacteria, fungi, parasites, etc., that cause indigestion, thus improving the digestive system, while aiding in the absorption of other nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and amino acids. Such important minerals include calcium and magnesium – essential for bone development. Everyone prone to osteoporosis after middle age should be paying close attention.

Use and Dosage

Just as with any dose-response relationship, appropriate individual prescriptions for introducing dietary coconut oil will differ. Some people report experiencing mild nausea, but quickly build up a tolerance.

If you are not quite ready to ingest coconut oil by the tablespoon, try substituting it for your butter or oil the next time you sauté your shrimp or roast your Jicama home fries. Coconut oil is ideal as a culinary oil because it can withstand high temperatures without losing its healthy properties and more importantly, it does not contain trans-fatty acids.

If you are worried about your food tasting like coconuts, I recommend Omega Nutrition’s Aroma-Free Certified Organic Coconut Oil for a mild, light, and subtle flavor.

And don’t forget to keep a jar in the bathroom, as the skin and hair care benefits continue to astound me.

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7 Tips To Sleep Your Way To Weight Loss


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As a college student I enjoyed youthful excess and ‘endless’ nights. But now matured, I have learned that ample and quality sleep is absolutely crucial to a healthy, long life. Then I had kids.

Mainstream weight-loss advice typically revolves around exercise and nutrition.

However, the fact that sleep is one of the most important factors to attaining a healthy weight is often left out of the mix.  Which is why I dedicated an entire chapter in my book, Power of 10 called “Rest and Recovery”.  Being well rested can help control appetite, prevent weight gain, and will give you more energy for exercise and meal planning.

Symptoms you might be experiencing and telling you that you may not be getting enough rest include fatigue, low energy levels, nodding off easily, and irritability. When you’re tired, stress can lead you right to the refrigerator for your favorite ‘comfort foods’.  Even worse, it might set into motion engaging in the ill-fated late night snacking.

“When you don’t get enough sleep, your body experiences physiological stress and, biochemically, you store fat more efficiently,” says Michelle May, MD, author of Am I Hungry? What to Do When Diets Don’t Work.

Research shows that inadequate sleep can torpedo your weight loss efforts, impair your concentration, and even mimic the symptoms of impaired glucose tolerance, which can lead to diabetes and hypertension.

Other hazards of fatigue include a blah mood, or worse, a cranky disposition. Cranky negatively affects your work, your relationships, and your life. Sometimes I think that’s why so many New Yorkers I come across are grumpy. They live fast-paced, highly stressed and achievement-driven lives, and they’re probably not getting enough quality sleep as a result.

Fortunately, this problem can be remedied. Beginning with an increased appreciation for how sleep impacts your weight-loss efforts, the quality of your life, and your overall health. Here are seven tips that can help you more easily enter the Land of Nod:

1.  Create the right environment. Get your body and mind in the habit of using your bedroom for sleeping. If you frequently sit in bed to pay bills, do your homework, eat, talk on the phone, etc., your mind will expect that the bedroom is for daytime activities. I thank my wife for curing me of the watching-television-until-I-fall-asleep habit. Now our bedroom is furnished with soft lighting, comfortable bedding, relaxing music and the random Matchbox™ car. Other tricks include turning the temperature down a few notches and turning the clock away from your view.

2.  Get into a routine. This may be hard for people with wavering, active schedules, like students and parents. On busy days it is difficult—but crucial—to be firm with a routine. If you normally don’t fall asleep until the wee hours of the morning, or if you don’t have a sleep schedule at all, try going to bed a half an hour earlier each week, or set a time to get in bed and stick with it to train your body.

3.  Limit food and beverage intake before going to bed. As you lie down to sleep, acids in the stomach level out, making heartburn and indigestion more likely to occur. Also, your metabolism increases slightly to digest food, which can also raise your energy level. Stop eating at least three hours before your scheduled bedtime. If you must snack on something, keep it small and avoid high-fat foods, which take longer to digest. Alcohol, as you may have discovered, also damages sleep quality. After its sedative effects wear off, your sleep patterns will suffer. I recently read this interesting piece in Scientific American regarding alcohol and sleep.

4.  Consider a natural approach. Certain herbal teas can help you relax and fall asleep. Chamomile, for example, is a popular herb that slows the nervous system and promotes relaxation. Other liquids, such as a small glass of warm milk, may also help. Unfortunately, I loathe tea and warm milk so this is not an option for me.

5.  Know when and how to nap. Most sleep counselors recommend napping for no longer than 20 minutes. Exceeding 20 minutes could leave you feeling groggier and make it harder for you to fall asleep at bedtime. If you know you have to stay up late, or if you have an erratic sleep schedule (especially new moms), take a 20-minute nap during the day. You’ll be more productive and in a better mood. I know, easier said then done.

6.  Take control of your worries. Stress, surprises, and changes can take a toll on your sleep habits. Schedule some downtime each day for meditative activities like stretching or a hot bath – or actual meditation. If thinking keeps you up at night, get out of bed and try to be productive. Deal with those thoughts (pay the bill that you are worried about, make a to-do list, etc.) in a positive way, and come back to bed when you’re ready to sleep.

7.  Get a check-up. If you toss and turn most nights, it may be time to see a physician. You could be suffering from one or more sleep disorders, including insomnia or sleep apnea. The sooner you find out what’s wrong, the sooner you can fix it. Sleep disorders are dangerous to your health, so if you suspect something is wrong, please tend to it immediately.

Have a get to sleep tip? Share with us how you get to the Land of Nod.

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Excuses Don’t Count


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Here at InForm Fitness we are committed to the long-term well being of our clients. It’s an expression of love – tough love – often stern, but with the intent of helping you to achieve what’s best for you.

So when Karen called to let us know she had a broken hand and therefore an entirely valid excuse to cancel her weekly Power-of-10 workout appointment, we thought otherwise. While naturally sympathetic of her plight, we knew a broken hand was a surmountable obstacle, if she still wanted a full-body workout in minimal time.

Really, we’re not sadists (although I’m sure some of our clients would beg to differ), but we do take our tagline – Safe Efficient Exercise” – to heart. And that means that in most cases our amazing instructors can modify your routine and work around that broken bone, sprained ankle, sore knee or aching tennis elbow. That’s our expertise, our job.

Now back to poor, unsuspecting Karen. Her reasoning for cancelling her appointment was logical. Typically, to work out your upper-body, your hands must be used to either pull or push. To workout the muscles of the back, most people utilize the Pull Down or Seated Row machines; for the chest, the Chest Press; and the shoulders, the Overhead Press. All of these machines involve the hands. But as our photos evidence, Karen was able to work out her back, chest and shoulders, without ever putting her hand at risk.

Here is how we adjusted the workout for Karen:

  • Back: We used a pullover machine where Karen pushed through using her elbows.
  • Chest: Mission accomplished with a chest fly where the effort comes through the upper arms.
  • Shoulders: A lateral raise where, again, the upper arms do the work.

Look Ma, no hands!

Always keep in mind, despite a nagging ailment or injury, that you have options. Talk to our instructors and discover adjustments to your routine that will enable you to work around those pesky pains and keep your strength building on track.

Oh, and if you are wondering why it is important to keep up your routine – allow me to share words of wisdom from Arthur Jones, the father of high intensity exercise, the inventor of Nautilus equipment, and author of the Nautilus Bulletins.

back-278x300 chest-258x300 lateral-262x300

“Throw a stone into a pool of water, and it will make a splash – and a wave will run to the far end of the pool; the larger the stone, the larger the splash – and the larger the wave. A very similar effect results from any form of exercise – I have named this “indirect effect”. When one muscle grows in response to exercise, the entire muscular structure of the body grows to a lesser degree – even muscles that are not being exercised at all; and the larger the muscle that is growing – or the greater the degree of growth – the greater this indirect effect will be.”

Even if we take the scenario to an extreme and assume you are in a complete upper-body cast – you should still exercise your lower body, because due to “indirect effect,” your upper body will atrophy less than if you did nothing at all.

We would like to give Karen a big high five (on her uninjured hand) for sticking with her program. May her dedication and perseverance be an inspiration to us all! Remember, no excuses.

P.S. For those of you interested in the history of exercise, the Arthur Jones’ Nautilus Bulletins are to exercise what the Beatles’ White Album is to music. His bulletins rocked the exercise world over 40 years ago and today are still well worth the read.

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My Drop Dead Healthy Cameo and How A.J. Jacobs Got it Wrong!


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Hilarious, New York Times best-selling author of The Year of Living Biblically and The Know-it-All, A. J. Jacobs documents his hands-on attempts at utterly quixotic tasks and then lives to write about them. Jacobs records in Drop Dead Healthy, “one man’s humble quest for bodily perfection,” as he indiscriminately subjects himself to countless workouts, diets, devices, and health advice, some bordering on the absurd.

An extremely engaging writer (and editor for Esquire magazine), Jacobs weaves his “maximum health” experiences – reporting what practices he learns, implements and adopts – around stories about his extended family, including his long-suffering wife, Julie.

Although most health advice can be summed up with ‘eat less, move more, and relax’ just a few of the more-entertaining highlights of Jacobs’ quest to being as healthy as possible are:

  • using a treadmill desk, because prolonged sitting is bad for our health;
  • carrying his own small plate and mini utensils, because eating slowly encourages us to consume less;
  • making liberal use of cayenne pepper, because spicy foods decrease hunger;
  • wearing noise-cancelling headphones several hours a day, because noise affects our stress levels; and
  • squatting in the bathroom, because sitting puts too much pressure on the bowels.

Included in this literary, real-life adventure is Jacobs’ visit to InForm Fitness NYC and his brush with the Power-of-10 ultimate workout. Jacobs’ recount of the initial consultation and his proceeding workout include quoting me as saying:

“When we look back, I believe we will know Jane Fonda and her ilk as the people who destroyed America’s knees….Why would you spend six to twelve hours on cardio, when you can get the same exact thing in twenty minutes a week?”

“Your goal is to reach muscle failure. You’ll be out of this freakin’ torturous machine in a minute and a half.”

After a few workouts, Jacobs decides, in defeat, that he’d “have to continue cardio” and moves on to explore dozens of other workouts. Above all others, however, Jacobs implements and adopts HIIT – what he coined the “aerobic cousin of the slow-cadence weights workout [he] did with Adam Zickerman” – and claims there are more studies with empirical evidence to back it up.

Jacobs was referring to High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), where instead of jogging at 60% of your ability for 45 minutes, for example, you sprint at 100% of your ability for a mere 30 seconds. The workout cycles through sprint, stop, rest and repeat, for a reduced total period of say 12 minutes.

It is my opinion that while Jacobs’ observation that HIIT has more supporting empirical evidence may be true, why I suggested in the title that he Got It Wrong is because I believe his conclusion that HIIT has more merit than resistance exercise, such as in the Power of 10, is misguided. And this is not aimed at Jacobs alone – millions of people misinterpret this.

Jacobs did not make the connection that the studies he refers to support that the results were from the level of intensity of the exercise and not the means, which in turn supports the Power of 10 program. While both the Power-of-10 and HIIT require efforts being dialed up to “10” to achieve the maximum gains in the minimal times recorded – the common denominator between the two workouts’ correlated success is the shared intensity level. Intensity is the key to stimulating our bodies to produce the adaptive responses we desire.

Your muscles don’t know if you are on a bicycle or on a weight machine, it knows only the energy requirements being demanded – and then responds accordingly. High-intensity exertion, whether performed on an aerobic machine such as the treadmill, or a weight machine such as a leg press, ignites the same metabolic response to our body’s energy systems. The harder and more intensely your muscles are made to work, the harder and more intensely the energy systems that support them are made to work. This is the stimulus that brings about the results!

Intense resistance exercise, is in fact scientifically supported. On May 23, 2007 researchers Simon Melov et al, concluded that healthy older adults showed evidence of mitochondrial impairment and muscle weakness being partially reversed at the phenotypic level, and substantially reversed at the transcriptome level, following six months of resistance exercise training. Virtually discovering a ‘fountain of youth’ they stated, “The important and novel finding is that resistance exercise training reverses many aspects of the aging transcriptome signature. This implies that a functional improvement in aging muscle due to resistance exercise is associated with a global improvement in the molecular signature of aging particularly for transcripts related to mitochondrial function.”

So to my point, and the point of the Power of 10 program, I call upon McMaster University professor (and a leading HIIT proponent) Martin Gibala’s analogy to the Band-Aid Removal Preference Dilemma: Would you rather rip the band aid off quickly and endure a relatively brief flash of intense pain, or pull it off slowly, dragging on the slighter pain for much longer?

The time commitment to even attempt to achieve the same results of a Power-of-10 or HIIT workout with steady-state activity is staggering and that’s not even saying it’s possible! So, I repeat my challenge — why would anyone waste six to twelve hours a week on cardio when they can achieve results more safely and efficiently with 20 minutes once a week?

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The Exercise to Lose Weight Conundrum


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Relationships generally interest me, but none more so than those where correlation is misunderstood as causation. This logical fallacy, known as false cause, can be especially misleading when navigating the ‘exercise-to-lose-weight’ conundrum.

It was not all that long ago when it was considered naïve by health practitioners to believe that increased activity contributed to fat loss. Louis Newburgh of the University of Michigan determined in 1942 that a 250-pound man would only burn three calories by walking up a flight of stairs. Newburgh calculated that “He will have to climb twenty flights of stairs to rid himself of the energy contained in one slice of bread!” The only thing Newburgh could say of exercise was that it would make that same man hungrier.

Then, during the sixties, nutritionist Jean Mayer, the future president of Tufts University, contradicted that mainstream thinking arguing that a ‘sedentary lifestyle’ was the primary cause of our Nation’s obesity problem. Mayer and other physicians of the time were shocked to learn that obese patients often ate less food than their leaner counterparts. They also observed that obese people were much less active. Mayer therefore concluded (and heavily promoted) that low levels of activity were the cause of obesity.

It surprises me that today’s medical community still believes that inactivity causes obesity. We frequently hear that as an industrialized and modern nation, we are drastically less active, expend significantly fewer calories, and therefore are overweight.

Our advancements as a society have afforded us convenience and accessibility. True, but this is a perfect example of when a correlation does not realize causation!

Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Hunter College, Dr. Herman Pontzer recently put the ‘sedentary lifestyle’ theory to the test. Dr. Pontzer and his colleagues measured the high daily energy expenditure among the Hadza people of Tanzania, one of the few remaining traditional hunter-gatherer populations. Would the Hadza, whose lifestyle is exceptionally non-sedentary, expend more energy than we do?

Unexpectedly, Pontzer and his team found that they don’t expend more energy than us – suggesting that inactivity is not the source of today’s obesity problems. Their findings were published in a study last July.

In a New York Times article (August 24, 2012), Pontzer wrote:

“How can the Hadza be more active than we are without burning more calories? It’s not that their bodies are more efficient, allowing them to do more with less: separate measurements showed that the Hadza burn just as many calories while walking or resting as Westerners do…

We think that the Hadzas’ bodies have adjusted to the higher activity levels required for hunting and gathering by spending less energy elsewhere. Even for very active people, physical activity accounts for only a small portion of daily energy expenditure; most energy is spent behind the scenes on the myriad unseen tasks that keep our cells humming and our support systems working. If the Hadza’s bodies somehow manage to spend less energy in those areas, they could easily accommodate the elevated energy demands of hunting and gathering. And indeed, studies reporting differences in metabolic-hormone profiles between traditional and Western populations support this idea (though more work is needed).”

Asserting that inactivity is not the source of today’s obesity problems, Dr. Pontzer surmises that “the Hadza’s bodies somehow manage to spend less energy” at other times of their daily life in order to compensate for the high “energy demands of hunting and gathering.”

Pontzer is referring to ‘homeostasis’ – the physiological mechanisms that regulate and stabilize all of our biological functions, including energy expenditure. As Harvard physiologist Walter Cannon put it back in the thirties, “Somehow the unstable stuff of which we are composed had learned the trick of maintaining stability”. It is possible that the Hadza slept more in order to maintain an energy balance.

Here’s the kicker folks – most homeostatic regulation is controlled by the release of hormones into the bloodstream. Insulin, a hormone and the primary regulator of how we store fat, is secreted into our bloodstream in response to the carbohydrates in our diets – when our insulin levels are elevated, fat accumulates in our fat cells.

Put simply, insulin can increase the fat our bodies store and decrease the fat we burn, irrespective of our activity levels. Eliminating grains and sugar from our diets is more critical than increasing activity to lose fat because they raise our blood sugar and therefore raise our insulin levels.

While not offering scientific proof, we did however demonstrate in last week’s blog post, The ‘Lose Fat and Get Strong’ Challenge’, the case of Inform Fitness client David Restrepo, who dropped 40 pounds in only eight months and has since maintained his weight. David’s success was attributable to two things: (1) performing the Power-of-10 workout a mere 40 minutes a week at our prescribed level of intensity; and (2) eliminating grains and sugars from 80 percent of his diet. With absolutely no additional cardio, David’s results belie the cardinal rule of conventional weight-loss ‘wisdom,’ that a high level of activity is necessary for sustained fat loss.

It is more likely that by keeping his insulin levels low, David not only decreased the amount of fat he stored, he also increased the amount of fat he mobilized and utilized for fuel (fat burned during his workouts).

We are all different and have different sensitivities to insulin based on aspects of our diet and lifestyle, as well as our genetic predispositions and age. Given the same food and the same amount of carbohydrates, some people will secrete more insulin than others, and that insulin’s exponential effect on our overall level of insulin resistance will vary. In addition, we all have different sensitivities to foods that may or may not stimulate insulin secretion, such as dairy, nuts, diet sodas and coffee.

So we can be fat and sedentary, or fat and active. The hormone insulin and not our activity level is what governs our body-fat percentage. The positive correlations that can be drawn between physical activity and our health, and even our weight, are many! But, it is more than likely that our physical activity levels are not the primary cause of body fat either being stored or burned. The food that we put into our mouths and its effect on the secretion of insulin will determine our state of fatness.

Once again, it’s those darned hormones that are the blame for everything.

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The ‘Lose Fat and Get Strong’ Challenge


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The Challenge: Exercise once or no more than twice a week using the Power-of-10 workout program, and follow the InForm Fitness recommended nutritional plan.

The Goal: Lose 40 pounds.

The Purse: A stronger, healthier, and slimmer physique, enhanced energy and stamina, and 12 free Power-of-10 workout sessions at the Inform Fitness NYC Headquarters.

The InForm Fitness ‘Lose Weight and Get Strong’ Challenge has another victor! And another victor means another undeniable demonstration of our core beliefs: You can lose substantial fat without steady-state exercise, also known as ‘cardio’. Dramatic fat loss can occur by simply adhering to the InForm Fitness Power-of-10 workout and avoiding grains and processed carbohydrates.

Meet the challenger, David Restrepo, a successful, 36-year-young integrated pharmacist who owns two successful NYC pharmacies, VitaHealth.

A strong silent type, with an impressive work ethic, David accepted my challenge and succeeded over a year ago. Today, the real report is that David has kept the weight off, still works out, and eats as recommended.

Here’s David’s amazing “before and after” story, with his permission of course.

David lost 40 pounds, dropping to a sleek 193 lbs from 233 lbs. He also built substantial muscle mass while performing the Power-of-10 workout at Inform Fitness only twice a week and following a few, incredibly simple, dietary suggestions.

Well… if David was to be entirely honest, and we will out him here, he really only followed our recommended diet during the work-week, and ate whatever he pleased on weekends (apparently there are too many restaurants and too little time).

Notwithstanding, David reached his weight loss goal in 8 months!

The key, you’ll be happy to hear, is to never be hungry because once we deprive ourselves of food, failure is triggered! We encouraged David to eat as much protein and fat from humanely raised animals, fruit, and non-starchy vegetables as he wanted, so that he never reached a state of feeling hungry. Imagine – dieting without measuring cups or portion control.

David confesses that he missed his grains and processed carbohydrates, but made up for it on weekends – so he never ‘went without’ satisfying his cravings for too long. David’s success – aside from listening to me – was that he had the discipline to indulge on weekends and get back to a diet during the week of no grains or complex carbohydrates. These weekend indulgences and several family vacations away from his regular exercise workouts no doubt slowed down his weight loss efforts, but as you can see from the results, they didn’t deter him from reaching his goal.

Also, while David worked out only two times a week – mostly for the added benefit of stress release – once a week would have proved sufficient. To accommodate David’s desire for an added weekly workout session, we modified his program to avoid over-training.

David’s story is not scientific proof, but neither is it magic. David worked hard, efficiently, safely and effectively, and his experience should open you to the possibilities of our rather unconventional approach to exercise and nutrition.

Results will vary, yes, but they will be terrific nonetheless.

How curious are you? Consider the very same ‘Lose Weight and Get Strong’ Challenge officially extended to you. If you’re up for it, and willing to let us show the before and after pictures, let’s talk today!

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You Must Be Insane


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The overly commercialized fitness industry is forever trying to accommodate society’s never-ending quest to get fit, be healthy and to live forever. Without fail, the body of our dreams is always just one next ‘big thing,’ celebrity diet secret, or magic pill away.

The Insanity Workout is yet another promise for the delivery of miraculous results. Claiming to burn an astonishing (and convenient) 1,000 calories per hour, this 60-day, “max-interval training” uses a technique of “long bursts of maximum-intensity exercises with short periods of rest.” In my opinion, no matter how the workout is packaged and marketed, it’s just another gimmick.

First of all, rarely is anything genuinely new, just discovered, or for the first time being revealed to the general public. At best, it is a spin-off from something that has been around for a while, been tried and tested, and if you read their fine print, “yield results that are not typical.”

P90X, a workout similar to the Insanity Workout (and coincidentally owned by the same company, Beachbody LLC), in 2003 bombarded the market. P90X is a 90-day program that combines a variety of exercise techniques, including various calisthenics, cardio, yoga, plyometrics and stretching. Both the Insanity Workout and P90X emphasize the unproven training method known as ‘muscle confusion.’ The theory behind ‘muscle confusion’ is that by continually varying exercises, the muscles in your body are prevented from adapting to a predictable routine over time and thus hitting the ill-fated plateau.

Nonsense! Muscles can’t be ‘confused,’ duped or even bewildered. Muscles don’t predict, anticipate or get bored.

Every muscle in the body can do two things, and two things only; contract and relax. That’s what muscles do. When you flex your elbow, your bicep contracts, and when you straighten your elbow, your bicep relaxes. So it makes more sense that if you want to avoid that dreaded plateau, simply lift the heaviest weight you can to reach muscle failure for each muscle group and then rest long enough to allow the muscles to rebuild.

Now which theory seems more plausible – muscle confusion or muscle building?

Additionally, P90X and the Insanity Workout claim to burn a thousand calories an hour. Think about that – it just doesn’t make sense. We were never meant to burn calories at that rate – if we were then we would have never survived as a species! Even if we could expend calories at such a magnificent rate, our hunger would be insatiable and our ravenous appetites would replace those lost calories. And, if the calories weren’t replaced, our bodies would compensate for the calorie deficiency with drastically lower metabolisms. The low carbohydrate diets endorsed by these programs and recommended in conjunction with the training regimes are more likely the responsible component for the fat loss reported rather than the insane workout.

That said, what is truly insane about these workout programs are their recommendations to work out six consecutive days a week. That’s six hours a week – or nearly a full working day every week.  And with only one day of rest!

Although I agree that an exercise program should be intense, I maintain that rest and recovery are essential for results. The five to seven days of rest recommended by the Power-of-10 protocol is the minimum time required for the body to grow stronger. The building of muscle is the desired adaptive response to the exercise stimulus. Following the correct application of intensity level, the real ‘magic’ takes place during the recovery time.

The frequency, duration and high-force nature of the Insanity Workout and P90X, as well as countless other training methods, often result in injury. These injuries will not only prevent you from being consistent with your workouts, but also from living your life with ease, without injury-related pain, on a day-to-day basis.

The Power of 10 is a safe, efficient, once-a-week exercise program. You’ll achieve the same results safely, while gaining an extra five plus hours each week to do things you actually enjoy!

And there’s nothing insane about that!

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Sharing in Mother Nature’s Bounty


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As often as possible, I peruse my local Farmers Market in search of fresh organic fruits and vegetables. And, yes, as often as possible, I capitalize on those excursions as opportunities to observe my fellow health-conscious shoppers. My wife calls it staring. Regardless, I think people are fascinating.

So, in a collective pursuit of superior health and nutrition, we, for all appearances, are engaged in a discerning search for chemical- and pesticide-free produce, while at the same time supporting the local farming community. Wonderful! But, why then do some people seem so disapproving of the head of leafy greens riddled with holes?

The irony is that we simply can’t afford to be so picky.

Supermarket conglomerates dazzle the consumer with rows of completely intact, waxy, perfectly symmetrical and vibrantly colored produce, at an enormous cost to our health. Sadly, though, we have grown aesthetically conditioned to desire that still life, picture-perfect bowl of fruits and vegetables, and are thus prone to dismiss the less “attractive” cornucopia of offerings we find at the open market.

Produce will grow strong and beautiful in the absence of heavy pesticide sprays and chemical-rich soils, but the sometimes ugly truth is that insects will also thrive and most likely be the first to partake.

Those little holes in the lettuce leaf – that is the evidence that insects have lavishly fed there before – and is exactly the proof I am looking for to authenticate the organic labeling! Logically, hole-free skin and or leaves tell me that my fruits and vegetables were most likely treated with poisons designed to kill life – a notion I find far less appetizing than a few remnant signs of insect feedings, or even the darned insects themselves.

So, I encourage my fellow organic shoppers to relish the opportunity to share in Mother Nature’s Bounty, and reap the pleasures and benefits of contaminate-free produce. And, as the old joke would assure you, they won’t eat much.

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Breaking Down Barriers and Crossing Borders


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We’ve entered into a new era here at InForm Fitness.

Let me share some background first so that you can understand why NOW is such a pivotal time at InForm Fitness.

I was a science geek – not your typical profile for an exercise maniac. I followed strenuous exercise programs and was dedicated to being fit. Some would say that I was an arrogant evangelist about it as well, and I just couldn’t understand why my fellow lab technicians didn’t want to get with the program. Then, one day, my boss told me the truth: “Adam, you are always nursing injuries and you look like crap – so why would I want to exercise the way you do?”

That was the moment. You know – that ah ha moment. So I set a new course to discover a safer, more efficient way to exercise. That’s when I discovered the work of Ken Hutchins on slow resistance weight training. While I wasn’t in agreement with all of Hutchins’ work, I did see the premise as being sound. I dug deeper to learn more, found studios that were practicing slow resistance weight training, and became a convert. I believed that this would change the whole fitness industry.

Fast-forward a few years after more research, practice and testing, and with absolutely no business experience; I started InForm Fitness in a Massapequa basement. The business began to take off and so we expanded to a studio in midtown Manhattan- our headquarters today. I also co-authored the book The Power of Ten with my good friend Bill Schley, and it hit the New York Times Best Seller list. I was now getting closer to my dream of being interviewed by Oprah and changing the way the world looked at exercise.

Well, the whole industry didn’t change, and I didn’t get invited to speak to Oprah. But I haven’t wavered one inch from my mission. While Oprah didn’t call, Leslie Stahl and Barbara Walters did. There have been several news programs and articles about The Power of 10 and InForm Fitness so I know it is catching on – but it seems that when we say ‘this workout isn’t for everyone’ – it really isn’t. Not because it can’t or won’t work for them, but because people become very invested in their beliefs – right or wrong, scientifically sound or mystically based – they oppose change.

So back to the point I started with – Breaking Down Barriers and Crossing the Border.

The first barrier: getting found. With several lackluster attempts at a website, we finally found the team to work with that delivered a new website that is already improving our ‘findability’ on the web and delivering a better experience. We’ve also begun a new marketing and communications program – so stay tuned!

The next barrier: getting our vacationing clients back in the gym. While we recognized that many of our New York City clients spend their summers in the Hamptons, coming back to the city for their workout was inconvenient. This sparked my idea of taking the gym to them – in a custom-designed, full-workout gym-on-a-bus! We rolled out InForm Mobile in the Hamptons this past summer. And we’ll be making ‘fit stops’ throughout Long Island and New Jersey all year long.

The third barrier: Crossing the Border. As you probably have picked on up by now, I believe that the Power of 10 workout should be the norm. And to make that happen, we have to aim beyond New York. We are excited to announce that in addition to our New York City, Massapequa, Lehigh Valley locations, and our bus, we now have a new location in Los Angeles, California. We are close to adding another location in Santiago, Chile – and another in Virginia!

After much delay, we are at a point in our journey where we have a great team and the right platform to consistently share our ideas and information that I believe will help improve your quality of life.

If you haven’t signed up for our newsletter, I invite you to do so. You might also want to check out our new Tumblr site and to join us on Facebook, where we plan on having some lively discussions. See you online!

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Clean Water – Bottle or Tap?


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So many of us rely on bottled water while others who have become more eco friendly have given up buying bottled water and are using reusable water carriers. This encourages the use of tap water. So the question is which is cleaner water – bottled or tap?

Two independent studies have confirmed that tap water is cleaner than most bottled water.

As a matter of fact, Case Western Reserve University found that 18% of bottled water contained more bacteria than allowable by the EPA, in addition to other chemicals found.

Cardiac Damage From Endurance Exercise


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From MedPage Today, Dec 6, 2011:

Intense endurance exercise — such as running a marathon — may induce cardiac damage confined to the right ventricle, a small study showed.

Highly trained endurance athletes had reductions in right ventricular function immediately after a race, although it mostly returned to normal about a week later, according to André La Gerche, MBBS, PhD, of the University of Melbourne in Australia, and colleagues.

However, a handful of the athletes had signs of subclinical myocardial scarring on cardiac MRI, “suggesting that repetitive ultra-endurance exercise may lead to more extensive right ventricular change and possible myocardial fibrosis,” the researchers reported online in the European Heart Journal.

Action Points:
* This study of 40 endurance athletes found evidence of right ventricular effects after an endurance event that largely resolved by six to 11 days later.

* Also, no concomitant left ventricular effects were observed.

There were no changes in left ventricular function, which “provides further circumstantial evidence for the emerging concept that the right ventricle may be more susceptible to exercise-induced injury [than the left],” they wrote.

The study included 40 athletes (mean age 37) who were participating in a marathon, an endurance triathlon, an alpine cycling race, or an ultra triathlon. All trained for more than 10 hours a week and had finished in the top quarter of a recent endurance race. None had cardiac symptoms or risk factors.

The researchers evaluated the athletes two to three weeks before the race, immediately after the race, and six to 11 days after the race.

Compared with baseline, right ventricular volumes increased, and all measures of right ventricular function worsened immediately post race. Left ventricular function was unaffected.

Levels of two biomarkers of myocardial injury — cardiac troponin I and B-type natriuretic peptide — significantly increased following the race (P≤0.003 for both). The changes were associated with reductions in right ventricular ejection fraction (P≤0.002 for both), but were unrelated to left ventricular ejection fraction.

Lower right ventricular ejection fraction was significantly associated with longer race duration and increasing peak oxygen uptake (P≤0.011 for both).

By six to 11 days after the race, most measures of right ventricular function had returned to normal, with the exception of right ventricular strain rates, which remained lower.

In the 39 athletes who underwent cardiac MRI, five had delayed gadolinium enhancement confined to the interventricular septum, indicative of subclinical myocardial fibrosis. These athletes had been competing in endurance sports longer and had lower right ventricular ejection fractions compared with those with normal MRI findings.

Because the study was not powered to assess clinical outcomes, the significance of the MRI findings requires further study, according to the authors.

The study “begs the hypothetical question whether repetitive longstanding bouts of arduous exercise result in the development of an acquired form of arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy,” Sanjay Sharma, MD, and Abbas Zaidi, MBBS, of St. George’s University of London, wrote in an accompanying editorial.

“The results provide food for thought and the data should be embraced to galvanize more detailed and longitudinal assessment of large groups of endurance athletes,” they wrote. “The potential for such projects is enormous considering the colossal increase in participation rates in endurance events such as the marathon.”

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The Happiness Project


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We really enjoyed this book and wanted to share it with you. True, Gretchen Rubin, talks about us in her NY Times Bestselling Book, The Happiness Project, which we might add is now in paperback.

She makes a resolution to “Exercise Better” and reveals the importance of exercise as one of the stepping stones toward a happier life. Certainly that is no surprise to any of us here at Inform Fitness or to any of our clients, but she talks about how she has tried strength training and weight training in the past and was never able to stick with it. Then she discovered Inform Fitness and explains how the Power of 10 slow motion method changed her life.

We are thrilled to have another happy client and well, as you can imagine, ecstatic about her sharing it with the world in her book. If you would like more information about The Happiness Project or to buy Gretchen’s book, please visit their website.