Chronicles of Rehab – “Fun Police -the Sequel”

Unknown“For my entire life, I have been a “pusher.” Someone who puts my head down, shoulder into things and doubles my efforts when obstacles arise.  But I reached the point where I physically broke from this way of life.  And now I am discovering as Deepak Chopra says, “The Law of Least Effort.”  If I am more still, gentle and calm with myself I can discover better my true strengths and my own inner voice.  That does not mean that I am not strong.  As an athlete, I look forward to my body being able to be agile and powerful again.  But I don’t have to make up for anything I feel insecure about in this present moment.”

That was a paragraph I wrote while beginning my physical therapy to learn to walk again following a complete tear of my hamstring muscle off the bone.  I’m closing in on the first anniversary of my surgery and with the exception of some minor, stubborn, remnant bruising in my lower calf I am 100% recovered.  And like many, now that I am healthy again, I am tempted to fall right back in to my old habits of driving my body beyond reasonable limits.

View from the sofa

View from the sofa

After having the best New Year’s Eve of my life, I came down January 3rd with the flu, that turned into bronchitis.  So two weeks later, as the penned up squirrels in my brain are starting to gnaw and bite at the confines of bed rest I hear myself say to someone, “Sure I can teach four combo Spin/TRX classes Monday.”  I hang up the phone and then proceed to cough for a full 5 minutes.  The wise grey squirrel who is the voice of my inner buddha gets the others voices to settle down.  And I think, “Did I go through that whole process last winter, only to ignore the lessons I learned?  Do I want to repeat this grade?”  As much as I want to go outside and play, my denial disappears and my over-eager confidence has a reality check.  Wheezing as I walk up the stairs, I envision trying to motivate twenty people over blaring music, the hum of exercise equipment without a microphone.  Honestly, how inspiring is it to be on a bike while your coach is hacking up a lung?  So in the best interest of the paying customers and in acknowledgement of what is truly best for myself, I pass on teaching the classes.

In the past I would have felt disappointed in myself that I didn’t just suck it up and muscle 8648876146_3df3e20120_nthrough.  I would have put pressure on myself and felt guilty about not being able to lead the exercising troops, like I had missed out on my duty and on having fun.  But the lessons of last year stuck; I feel no reluctance to care properly for myself.  Instead, I feel joy that I passed this test with flying colors.

So what this has re-taught me is to find my “victory” today.  If you’ve just worked a 60 hour work week and stayed up late with a sick child, and every minute of your day has been scheduled, why are you taking a kickboxing class?!  Take 1 minute out of each day and really check in with yourself and see HOW AM I?  And make better choices for yourself off of that answer.  Be your own Fun Police and feel blessed in every minute of your day, even in the face of challenge!cropped-vflogo-wing.jpg

“Perfect Practice Makes Perfect”

“Perfect Practice Makes Perfect.” That’s what my coach used to say to me.  And it’s true when working out in the gym.  Yes, we all feel tired; it’s been a long day, the daylight is short, we’re burned out after the holidays.  And easily we can think, getting to the gym and sleepwalking through the workout is better than not working at all, right?

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Well, I would like to suggest an alternative. Be deliberate in your movements.  Yes, it’s easy to imagine not moving from your couch and it is vitally important to get the foot in the door to workout.  But a conscious twenty minute workout is far more effective than being a Scooby-Doo-like zombie sliding from machine to machine.

Even if you’re not tired you’re mind might be racing to the grocery list, the preparation of a post-workout meal and that work call you have to return before the day is out.  Or maybe, you’re having a completely out of body experience and are mentally sitting in the audience of The X Factor, while glazing at the tv screen in front of your treadmill.  All of these scenarios involve “mindless” working out and that is not only far less effective, it’s actually dangerous.  If you’re doing a lunge and you’re mind is on autopilot your knee is likely to drunkenly swagger and you’re foot will go it’s own route from the rest of you and the next thing you know you’re sitting in your orthopedist’s office hearing the words “scope, repair, miniscus tear.”

When I teach my clients how to do a fencer’s lunge I like to use this example.  “Ok, you’re one of the three musketeers and you’re about to challenge someone to a duel. If you sloppily and lethargically lunge at your opponent, you’re gonna just knick them and that’s probably gonna just piss them off and then they’re gonna kick your ass.  If you start something you better mean it.  If you perform a lunge every line in your body should be clean and activated.”

My point: if you’re working out, make it count.  Move with deliberate control and the unison of your mind and body. It’s ok if you workout is short, but make it a perfect practice.

New Year’s Resolutions

Unknown-1 After the flurry of Christmas, Kwanza and “Festivus for the Restofus” related activities drifts down and as you sit in front of your fire and breathe properly for the first time in weeks, you will naturally turn introspective as 2013 draws to a close. I know, I know, it’s not even Christmas yet and I’m already talking about the New Year but I have an excellent reason for doing so.

Instead of putting all your faith on one big push on the first day of the year, you should realize that most life changes and behavior modifications require six weeks to change an old habit and another six weeks until the new habit becomes permanent.  To translate that means if you have a physical, body-related goal in mind for 2014 you should be thinking now about the steps that will help you get there.  Most people jumpstart the first week of January and have already given up before 30 days have finished.  When I worked for a large corporate facility, the dawn of January first would see all the trainers forced to wear cheesy t-shirts with a slogan of “You Can Do It!” We would joke that we should get another set made for the three week mark that said, “There’s Always Next Year, Bitches!”Unknown-2

Chuck the non-motivating, stereotypical slogans and clarify for yourself a couple of things:

1) What are your goals: short-term is where you would like to be in six months and long-term is where you want to be in a year.  Recognize that lasting changes don’t occur in two weeks, even if you’re consuming protein shakes and taking a Spin class everyday.

2) Identify where your true challenges or obstacles may be.  Let me give you an example: a friend of mine and fellow trainer had a baby and in addition to working was going back to school.  She gained a few pounds eating cookies and wanted to get back to a body place that she was more comfortable.  Time was the first challenge.  So she dedicated a specific 30 minute window every weekday that she could commit to at least doing some cardio.  Here’s where the challenges can get a bit more subtle.  She realized that when she went to the locker room to change her shirt, friendly women would start conversations with her and she would use up 10 or 15 minutes of her window.  Disappointed with herself, she would just bag the workout.  The victory was that she came up with a solution.  She now wears her workout shirt under her uniform.  The second she goes on break, she pulls off the top layer and heads for the treadmill.  In several weeks, she was back to her lean self.  Real change is possible! But it may require more than a thought to fulfill.cropped-vflogo-shdw-final.jpg

A personal trainer can help you set goals, identify obstacles and create ways to aid you over the hurdles.  Even using a trainer once a week for the first six weeks of the year can keep you on track until the habit sets in.  Victory Fitness offers you flexible ways to help you achieve your resolutions!  So ask yourself now before 2013 comes to its end, “What is your Victory Today?”

Party Pounds Got You Down?

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Party Season has arrived! No need to feel guilty! Try Victory Fitness Online Training TODAY! – Eat, Drink and Be Fit!

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Full Body Weight Exercise

images-2 The trend right now in fitness is for trainers to advocate “Total Body Weight Exercise” as being the magical cure for every person wanting to lean up and get buff.  But what’s not being openly talked about is the casualties that line this path.  I want more fitness professionals and their clients to be mindful about what “total body weight exercise” really means.

It is true that the more muscles you get working at any given time the more calories you burn. That makes intrinsic sense.  It is also true that your body moves on it’s own without you thinking about it, all day, every day in a multiplicity of complex multi-movement patterns.  All of that is good stuff.

Now, what most athletes, many turned fitness professionals fail to take in to consideration is the different types of learning and their effect on motor co-ordination and the ability to perform an exercise correctly.  There are varied learning types that people can be generally classified under, like visual or auditory.  Visual learning style, means you see someone do it and you can then do it.  Auditory learning style means you hear a list of directions and you can then sequence them back correctly.  Most athletes are kinesthetic learners, that means they learn by physically doing a task.  That is not to say that a visual learner cannot learn to perform the same task as a kinesthetic learner, but it means that there will be a higher learning curve for them on a task of physical nature.  So trainers, just because you can do 100 picture perfect burpees in a row at speed, does not mean that your client should or can even if they want to.

Full body weight exercise requires a base level of strength.  The building block structure should be first: 1) establish stability – the means by which the body can maintain the integrity of its joint structure under most forms of stress.  Stress itself can be constituted in training terms by speed (how fast or slow is the pace), load (how much weight you’re lifting) and duration (how long are you lifting each load.)images-1

Everyone has helped a friend move; imagine you lift a heavy box and you have to stand still and hold it until your friend gets his car. It would make a difference to your back and shoulders if that car were right out front or parked two blocks away.  Now imagine you and your friend have to lift a really heavy box – but you only have to move it ten steps in a straight line.  Chances are – you will both move as quickly as possible.  Lastly, imagine you are carrying a heavy box that requires you to move down several flights of stairs – you are under load and the duration will be long and the pace will be slow.  All of these scenarios are slightly different from one another in the demands they make on the body.  And everyone can relate to feeling stiff and sore after a move.  Proper training can get you to where none of those scenarios would be painful.  You would be stable in maintaining your joint integrity.

UnknownThe next phase of training should be symmetry. Is each individual joint and side equal to the tasks demanded on the body?  Anyone ever tried to carry a toddler in one arm and lifted a bag of groceries from the back of a car simultaneously?Unknown-1

The last phase is dynamic performance.  The ability to do intense, full-body, full-ROM exercises under various forms of stress.  Yes, FBW exercises develop dense muscle mass more efficiently and effectively than any other form of exercise.  But is it appropriate for everyone to go straight to the hardest, most bad-ass place first?  An athlete has been doing crazy compound loaded movements for a lifetime – the brain actually functions differently (this is another topic for a future blog in and of itself!) To expect a client to perform like that before proper foundations are put down is a recipe for disaster.  Anyone remember Tae Bo?  Yes, great results are achieved but at what cost? My goals are not for people to feel good for the one year they did Cross-Fit.  I want people to be equal to the physical challenges in their daily lives and to feel good and look great for the duration of their years!images

What Kind of Car is Your Body?

car3In teaching, I like to use metaphors. And for myself, if I understand something it makes it easier to do.  So think of your body like a car…

Cardio works like putting a more fuel efficient engine in your car.  It gets great high energy output for a long period of time.  In other words, you get great mileage with minimal fuel expenditure.

Strength Training is like putting a bigger engine in your car.  The muscle consumes more car1fuel all the time and is much more powerful.  This is why an athlete can eat more; the more muscle you have the more fuel you consume.  This is also key to anyone trying to lose weight or lean up.  Cardio is important, but gaining muscle and thereby putting a powerful engine in your system will help consume those extra fuel cans.

Fuel – Would you put molasses in the gas tank of your Ferrari? Or water, or oil?  Of course not! So if you want your body to perform like a sleek, race car, treat it like such! Fill it with the best fuel sources you can!

Having just moved to Ireland – I have stood next to the gas pump with confusion on my face, not certain what is the appropriate fuel and procedure.  But I definitely did not guess or shrug my shoulders and go, “whatever!” I asked, because if I put the wrong thing in, the system is going to crash and it will do major, costly and sometimes irrevocable damage.

car2I want you to think of and visualize your body as your favorite, high performing, beautiful, sleek race car (even if at the moment it looks like a well-loved station wagon) and make choices that will help you win every race. If you need help with those choices, try training with us here online at Victory Fitness!

Hunger:

imagesAs the sapphire blues of twilight grow deeper day by day, the orange flames of leaves flare against the onset of the long night and I find myself, lingering over the half-shadows in my own mind. Nostalgic for the crisp autumn air of New England I begin musing over my favorite Gothic ghost stories birthed from our romantic ancestors, when our country was young but old enough to have some wicked history.

In a moment of reverie, I was warming myself by a stone fireplace, sipping hot cider and mulling over what do all the classic creatures of horror have in common? It occurred to me that the answer is hunger. But hunger for what is the real question? And thus naturally, I, a personal trainer based in Los Angeles realized I could diversify and capitalize on a market that no one else has yet thought of, nutrition for monsters. So for the purposes of this article I will focus on the main four, vampires, Frankenstein, were-wolves and zombies.

    images-1 The Vampire – studies show that a wide percentage of vampires try to solely sustain themselves on a liquid diet. Some even going to the lengths of adding chili pepper, lemon juice and a stalk of celery for flavor and purportedly to boost their metabolisms. Well no wonder they are so pale, lethargic and prone to wild and violent mood swings! Lack of carbs and sufficient protein will do that to a person. Often, one’s dietary habits are not due to physical reasons but mental. So what is it that the vampire is truly craving? I guess the answer would be life. And to further that line of thought, the underlying drive to suck out someone else’s life is really a fear of your own death. For a vampire to begin experiencing better health I would advocate supplementation of protein shakes and energy bars to balance out the mood-swings, a dosage of iron to get rid of that anemic look and a qualified therapist to address this severe mortality phobia.

     Frankenstein –this creature is rarely seen eating at all, save for soup and several pints of ale. Skipping meals is proven to cause drops in serotonin levels and endorphins. Low levels of such can lead to lethargy (as exhibited by all the creature’s moaning) and depression (please see, the sad face of the reanimated for proof.) But again, I have to ask, “for what is Frankenstein truly hungering?” Like the vampire, perhaps the eating or lack thereof is triggered by emotional reasons. After further research, I have concluded that Frankenstein is hungering for love. He has a tremendous hole in his psyche due to the rejection of him by his society, his family, specifically, his father. Thus, he has turned to alcohol. And who hasn’t tried to drown their sorrows in a pint or to drown them enough to enable “beer goggles” and a one-night stand? For this client I would recommend, attempting to eat more consistently, maybe 3-4 times a day, to cut back on alcohol consumption and to register on Match.com. My advice, parents are complicated and issues may never be resolved, so focus on the things you can control like better eating habits and developing a family of your own choosing.

    Unknown Were-wolves – the body-builders of the underworld. Like so many, misguided weight-lifting champions, the were-wolves ingestion of massive amounts of protein is ill conceived. While it does aid in the quick creation of muscle, any excess is simply secreted out of the body. But this dietary habit quickly becomes destructive to the kidneys and other organs. Indeed it makes me wonder, is this creature, like so many devotees of “Muscle and Fiction” on steroids? It would account for the sensitivity to light, the sudden changes in hair growth due to hormonal fluctuations as well as the sudden outbursts of rage. Furthermore, the were-wolf can never successfully have relations with the female kind, also a side effect of drug use. Unlike Frankenstein, the were-wolf has given up a desire for love from the father and hungers simply for revenge. Like so many Olympic lifters, the chemical onset of muscle mass is merely an overcompensation for the smallness one feels inside. Alas, the were-wolf is likely to not be able to overcome his addictions and will probably die a pre-mature death due to heart complications, emotional or otherwise.

     Lastly, I address the zombie – the athlete of the horror world. The zombie is at the top of the food chain and like other large hunters is a very successful omnivore. They get enough protein, heme-iron (from red blood cells) and calcium (from bones;) and they eat frequent meals. I would argue however, that they don’t appear to be optimally hydrated, due to the slaver that most exhibit. Additionally, I would recommend an increase in fruits and vegetables to give the benefit of a fully rounded diet. What is intriguing and needs more study is the sudden evolutionary adaptation of the “fast” zombie. Perhaps, it is a secondary gain coming from a leaner, less fatty meat selection. I must comment though that the zombie has a relentless, hunger for “more.” Like so many athletic superstars, after achieving their peak, they just don’t know how to retire gracefully. Their negative attitude and willful antics simply leave everyone with a bad taste in their mouths. The hunger for “more,” this greediness just leads to massive destruction and chaos on relationships.

     As I slip back into my reverie, and the blue twilight fades to the black of a Pookah’s coat, I leave you to wonder, “Life, love, approval, revenge, anarchy…or maybe just a taffy apple or some candy? For what do you truly hunger?”

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* I wrote this article for the Halloween edition of an online publication called, “Magic Cat Press Spookfest 2011.” And have reposted it here in honor of Halloween 2013!