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Kings of Cardio Blog

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  • THE SECRET TO BEING IN GOOD SHAPE: Make Your Workouts Fun and Enjoyable!

    Playing different sports is a great way to stay in shape through fun, action packed exercise. Time flies by much quicker when you are running up and down a basketball court, playing hoops with your friends, than it would if you were doing sit-ups at home with your feet fastened under a book case.

    Being a multi-dimensional athlete helps eliminate those mundane and routine workouts, the workouts that make each second feel like a minute, and each minute feel like an hour. The workouts that don’t provide the kind of excitement we are looking for after a long day of work at the office. The workouts when we look at the clock the entire time to see if it is time to leave yet. We need to eliminate those kinds of monotonous exercise routines through incorporating various aerobically challenging sports like racquetball, tennis and ultimate Frisbee, just to name a few off of the top of my head.

    It is important to incorporate sports such as Basketball, Volleyball, Swimming, Yoga, Softball, Tennis, Baseball, Ice Skating, Golf, and Flag Football into our everyday lives if possible. Sports are fun because we get to compete with our friends and before we know it, we've completed an amazing cardiovascular and strength workout. Overwhelmingly more enjoyable and just as physically beneficial as a tough workout at the gym, athletic competition among friends is good for the mind, body and soul. Sometimes at the gym, I feel like I have been there for 2 hours when it has been 20 minutes. When I play football with friends, 3 hours feels like 20 minutes. Time flies when you're having fun.

    Another benefit of actually “getting out on the field”, other than the fact that it works out our body in ways that we are not used to , therefore keeping our exercises fresh, is that playing sports drastically increases our coordination, agility and balance.

    When you lift weights, run on treadmills, train on an elliptical, climb stair steppers, or ride on an upright bike/recumbent bike/spin bike/stationary bike, your muscle memory becomes accustomed to the same, repeated motions. Doing the same exercises over and over again doesn't allow you to tone virtually every spot of your entire body like playing the different sports mentioned above allow you to.

    While playing sports you are unconsciously tearing down and rebuilding all muscles in your body, but through adrenaline and excitement, you push through the aches and pains without notice. If you have ever played sports, you know what it is like to wake up the next day after a rough game and your entire body is extremely sore, and you think to yourself, "Why am I so sore, I was not this sore during or after the game?" This is because the physical fitness aspect of your exercising was out-matched by your mind and its ability to concentrate and adapt to competition.

    That total body soreness you feel from playing volleyball at the beach, a tough match of tennis or football, is not attained by sitting on an exercise bike for 10 minutes. If you want to work your body towards exhaustion and really push yourself to look and feel your best, there are workout routines, when followed, that can maximize your cardio results as effectively as playing sports themselves.

    You will be able to stay in shape just like a superstar athlete through the use of home gym equipment and personal fitness equipment if you mix up your routine and keep your workouts fresh and creative. Don’t just let your body get used to the same old boring 30 minute jog followed by 20 minutes of weight lifting. Do different exercises, work out with different muscle groups, work out with different equipment, exercise with different people, run in different locations, lift different amount of weight.

    Change up your sets. On Monday when you lift weights on the bench press at the gym, do 5 sets of 5. On Wednesday, instead of doing the same exercise with 5 sets of 5, do 8 sets of 3. The last thing you want to happen is for your exercise routine to become dull and redundant. It is hard to enough to carve out enough time in your busy day to do something that you like to do, let alone something that doesn't invigorate you. Never let that happen. Always change up you fitness routine thorough playing sports with friends and through the use of all different kinds of physical fitness gear. Not just treadmills, elliptical and bikes. Use everything from the abdominal crunch machine, to the Stair Climber, to the Cross-Trainer and then jump in the pool when you are done. The point is to keep your workout routines fun and exhilarating through various exercises that train a multitude of the muscles in your body.

    When is the last time you incorporated all of the machines mentioned above into your exercise routine? When is the last time you worked out with friends and actually had a good time doing it? Never let your exercise routine lose its flavor and zest. Once that happens, it becomes more like a job than a hobby, and we start counting down the minutes.

    Throughout your cardio or strength training, or your sports game/match, you want to put forth your best effort so that you achieve maximum results. Maximum results will not be achieved unless you enjoy what you do, period. Cardiovascular and strength training is like anything else, you get out what you put in, so put money in the bank now, and when you need that extra burst of energy at 3 o'clock in the morning, you will have enough power to make it happen!

  • KINGS OF CARDIO'S SECRET 7 WEIGHT LOSS TIPS

    1) Mind over Matter

    We here at Kings of Cardio believe that over half of the battle we fight versus obesity and lethargy is won upstairs with our brain. Your mind does so many great things but it can also play tricks on you and deter you from exercising at times. For example, you may think that you feel tired or sore, but in realty you are just fine. Or, you may try and rationalize not working out by convincing yourself that you don’t have the time, or that you will go the next day, this that, that this, so on and so forth. Do not let these sorts of thoughts invade your head; they will get in your way of becoming and staying healthy. Instead, convince yourself that you are excited to exercise and then go make it happen.

    Turn on some loud music if you have to, drink a sports beverage and get your game face on! As long as you frequently remind your body and mind how important exercise is to your daily life, typical thoughts of fatigue and helplessness tend to fade away. Adrenaline and mental toughness will take over when you let them and they can take you a long way as long as you remain focused, active and optimistic. Adrenaline and momentum are significant intangibles that lead to prolonged workouts on your elliptical, exercise bike or whatever type of fitness equipment you use.

    2) Stay Positive

    Don't let a bad workout keep you down. In terms of cardio training, sometimes while exercising on a treadmill or stairclimber, we just don't run as fast or for as long as we normally do. From a strength perspective, we may not be able to lift as many reps as we are used to, or as much weight, and ultimately we get too furious with ourselves over not performing our best.

    Not seeing immediate results is a catalyst for frustration too, although it shouldn't be, and we will tell you how to deal with not seeing instantaneous muscle growth. Always keep in mind that success is a journey and not a destination. You will not become an overnight celebrity and wake up looking like J-Lo no matter what you do, so stay the course and do not deviate from your game plan. There will be bumps in the road, kick them to the side and keep trekking.

    When you do get angry, due to having "One of those Days," you should take it out at home with your fitness equipment. Nothing takes stress away like running on a treadmill until you legs are weary, or maxing out on strength exercises, and breaking down your muscles. The point is that staying positive and not letting innocuous things get you down, is essential to staying fit and maintaining a solid exercise routine.

    3) Set Realistic Goals

    One of the main ingredients in the recipe for success is creating GOALS for yourself. Setting realistic goals allows you to stay focused on what you are trying to accomplish and tracking your progress becomes second nature.

    For example, take Steve, who doesn't set goals. Steve goes to the Gym, bounces around from station to station, talks to everyone he can and actually spends more time changing the songs and volume on his Mp3 that he does exercising. This represents an aimless game plan with no structure. At the end of the day, Steve is not getting better, and that is the key objective. Every day you either get better or you get worse, there is no in-between. When you do not set goals, there is no direction to your workout, making it very un-likely for you to stay fit and trim.

    Then we have Zack. Zack has set realistic goals for himself and knows exactly what he is going to do throughout his exercise routine. He does not stop working out until he finishes every exercise on his fitness outline, and takes great pride in every set and rep along the way. His training program based upon reaching his goals. For example, Zach bench presses a certain weight either 5 sets of 5, or 8 sets of 3. When he can complete both, clean, without needing his spotter to assist, the he increases the weight during his next workout. This is the way a WINNER carries himself or herself. Winners set goals, stay focused on them, reach them, and set new ones. Winners don’t quit and quitters don't win. Stay true to yourself and BELIEVE in yourself.

    4) Eat Healthy

    "You are what you eat!" Growing up, all of our parents told us this, but we probably didn't realize they were right until the first time the Dr. told us our blood pressure was 152/95, or that our cholesterol levels were too high. Eating bad food, laced with tons of sugar, fat, sodium, and cholesterol not only messes up our insides as well as our appearance, but they also can make our brain function slower and have direct correlations to sluggishness and indolence.

    We need to eat healthy, nutritious foods that will give us the get-up-and-go attitude essential towards becoming fit. Our diet determines so much of whom we are. What we eat determines how we feel, look and act. Maintaining a healthy diet is a fundamental necessity for mental alertness, and having enough energy to perform at your best, no matter what you are doing.

    Improve your heart and health by eating right. For quick and healthy recipes, diet and nutrition tips, and new regarding food and health, please call us toll-free at 800-900-1108 for a free one-on-one conversation with one of our fitness experts.

    5) Get a Workout Partner

    According to our research, people who regularly exercise with a friend or trainer are 27% more likely to work out on a consistent basis (at least 30 minutes a day / 5 times per week) than people who train without a partner. The main benefit of having a partner is that people tend to do better when trying to compete. If you workout with a close friend of yours, and you have always been around the same level of athleticism and strength as he or she, chances are you will do your absolute best to stay on par with, or if you’re on your game, one up your friend! Having a workout partner that you know is going to be on time and ready to exercise will keep you motivated at times when you are making excuses and wanting to take a day off.

    Your routine will also feel like it goes by much faster when you have a partner to talk to and discuss different exercises and bounce ways to stay slim off of each other. A fun, upbeat atmosphere is created when you have someone to train with and that makes time go by much faster. When picking a partner, try and chose one that encourages you and is motivated by you. He or she should also have an open mind to try new exercises to keep your routines fresh and positive. Last but not least, your training partner should be GOAL ORIENTED, and determined to get better every day. Always remember, everyday you either get better or you get worse and there is no in-between.

    6) Stretch Regularly

    The importance of being flexible is overlooked by many. The great thing about stretching is that anybody can do it and you don’t need any equipment. You can stretch anytime, anywhere! We recommend that you try and stretch your body and its muscles for at least 5 minutes when you wake up in the morning and 10 minutes before you go to bed for the night. Stretching allows your body to heal quicker after running and weight lifting. If you do not stretch properly, you are leaving yourself more vulnerable to soreness, muscle cramping and will your body will not heal as fast as it would if you stretched properly.

    Stretching is of significant importance when it comes to preventing injuries too. An athlete who does what he or she is supposed to in regards to making sure they get their stretches and calisthenics in regularly, is less likely to pull muscles and have spasms than those who do not take the amount of time necessary to stretch out their bodies. Eliminate muscle tears, back spasms and cramping through proper stretching and calisthenics.

    7.) Make Protein and Water Your Friends

    Constantly refueling yourself with water and protein will drastically improve how fast your body recovers after working out. Try not to drink so many sugar filled sodas and juices that add weight; they will also make you tired later in the day. People commonly think since there is no fat in these great tasting beverages that they are not that bad for you. Nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is sugar filled drinks will interfere and get in the way of achieving your goals pertaining to health and fitness.

    Protein is crucial for repairing and rebuilding broken down muscles after they have been stressed through physical activity. Your body uses protein to build muscle. When you lift weights, you break down your muscles and protein is needed to rebuild. Similarly, running on a treadmill can have the same effect on the body. The immediate implementation of increased water and protein intakes will do wonders for your health and ability to remain fresh and energized during prolonged physical activity.

  • Home Fitness Equipment vs. Commercial Gym Equipment

    Gym rated exercise equipment is exponentially more comfortable and durable than home fitness equipment. While fitness equipment rated for home usage may look appealing cosmetically, as well as financially, the truth remains that the overwhelming majority of residential exercise equipment isn't well built when its compared to the commercial fitness equipment seen in gyms and health clubs such as Gold's Gym or 24 Hour Fitness. Understandably, far more people purchase home fitness equipment than commercial fitness equipment due to the fact that gym equipment is bulkier, heavier and far more expensive than smaller, lighter, residential fitness equipment.

    Although gym equipment is far more costly than home fitness equipment, one has to fully comprehend and understand the the tangible benefits that commercial rated gym gear holds over residential fitness products. Advantages held by gym equipment but not shared with home fitness include premium bio-mechanics, a greater structural integrity, higher mechanical capacities, the latest digital enhancements and a stylish focus on the design.

    Here are a few of the reasons that purchasing gym equipment for your home is better than impulse buying a cheap $500 treadmill off of the Home Shopping Network.

    1.) Premium Bio-Mechanics: If one feels comfortable on their workout equipment, they will look forward to using it and exercising for an hour actually becomes enjoyable. Feeling comfortable on the workout equipment that you use is essential, which is why there is so much time and effort that takes place during the innovative and developmental process during the creation of new fitness equipment. There is more analytic and comprehensive approach that goes into the manufacturing of premium exercise equipment than smaller, and lighter workout gear which is built for home usage. There is an abundant amount of over-hyped, mechanically flawed and electronically handicapped workout equipment, flooding the fitness industry via the internet, infomercials and other forms of advertising. Gimmicky pieces of workout equipment appear to be great deals on the surface due to low prices and high promises, however, lightweight and low budget fitness equipment have a high rate of breakdowns and returns.

    2.) More Structural Integrity: Elliptical trainers and other gym equipment that is rated for daily usage in health clubs, have certain features that home exercise equipment does not. For example, commercial grade workout equipment has the fantastic quality of being mechanically able to withstand the wear and tear from users of up to 400 pounds and more. If you go to your local sporting good store or workout equipment dealer, you will notice that the majority of the treadmills, exercise bikes and elliptical machines there, will not have user weight capacities that exceed 200 pounds, let alone 400 pounds. Thicker steel gauge framework, along with heavier parts and bigger footprints, allow for health club rated fitness machines to last much longer than home fitness equipment.

    3.) Latest Technology: Programming and user statistical feedback such as Heart Rate, Calories Burned and other informative stats are more complete and user friendly on gym equipment than home fitness equipment. Low grade fitness products do not come with enhanced technology such as custom workout programs. Therefore, the amount of creative programmability and user feedback on low budget, lightweight and smaller fitness equipment is far less than that of exercise equipment rated for gym usage.

  • The Art of Recovery is in Our Blood

    High pressure moments in our lives cause us to lose our cool. They just do. It could be at the poker table when you are involved in a big hand. Or the moment could be caused from a random guy hitting on your girl (or guy) at the bar, with too much aggression. There are virtually countless scenarios in our lives that have the potential to cause rapid increases in blood pressure, accompanied by feelings of rage.

    Our demeanor after we get in a traffic accident is hardly cool and calm. Therefore, our thought processes is not in top form.  Our vision is blurred when we are anxious and in moments laced with thick stress. Consequently, people who are able to remain cool during times of relative chaos, succeed at home and at work, better than those of us who go full tilt during an unstable, dangerous, or foreign situation.

    So what's the trick? How do we train ourselves to cope with intense situations? The key is to be prepared. How do we prepare for unforeseen events? Interval training. Our resting pulse will go from 70 BPM (beats per minute) during calm moments, to over 100 BPM rather quickly, following mentally emotional or physically difficult times of stress. When the intensity in our life ratchets up, so do our stress levels. Your mood and vibe can be altered at the blink of an eye. But once again, the key is to recover quickly. If our transition back to a calm mental state is fast, then we can be comfortable and logically dissect the basis for our heightened heart rate. If your mind and heart are racing, your decision making process will be sub-optimal and your personal and business relationships and successes will suffer as a result.

    So how do we recover quickly? Incremental physical fitness, specifically interval training, will help us keep our cool, during moments under pressure. "Cardiovascular interval training can have a profound effect on your ability to quickly release tension and recover from mental exhaustion. In every discipline, the ability to be clearheaded, present and cool under fire is much of what separates the best from the mediocre."¹

    Working out on an exercise bike, running on a treadmill, weight lifting and other workouts, help us create a rhythm of intervals where our pulse rises and then comes back to normal. After we become accustomed to regular fluctuations of our breathing patterns, we can control our emotions better during intense situations.

    For example, develop an exercise routine on a stationary bike and create a rhythm of intervals through going very fast for a minute, followed by a cool-down period, so that your pulse increases and decreases, as it would in your everyday life when an obstacle comes in your way in business or at home and you have to hurdle it without letting the instability of the situation conquer your mental fortitude to make optimal decisions. With progression, increase the fierceness of your fast paced riding, or if you're on the treadmill, the intensity of your sprints and gradually condense your rest (cool-down with minimal speed) periods. Interval work is the cornerstone to becoming a consistent long-term performer in all aspects of your life. Transitioning back and forth between being stress and concentration will be like second nature.

    Once we master the art of recovery and it is embedded in our blood, we can access it during extreme, strained circumstances, leading to virtually instantaneous recovery time.

    ¹Waitzkin, Josh. "The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance" 2007.

  • Fitness Outside the Box: Elliptical + Bodyweight = Results

    In the next installment of Outside the Box - we use 5 basic exercises with an elliptical trainer.  The 5 exercises are push ups, squats, crunches, burpees and parachute jumpers.

    The workout will consist of 3 minutes of elliptical trainer in the following sequence 1 min slow 1 min fast 1 min slow coupled with 4 simple body weight exercises to be performed in a circuit fashion.

    Warm up:  Get on the elliptical trainer for 3-4 minutes, then get off and do some light stretching.  Warm up with 15 jumping jacks 20 body weight squats and 10 push ups.  Then get ready, the workout is about to begin.

    First Circuit:

    Push Up 20 reps, Parachute Jumpers 20 reps, and 25 squats, followed by the 3 min sequence on the elliptical trainer and 1 min rest

    Second Circuit

    20 squats, 10 burpees, 15 push ups, 25 crunches,  3 min Elliptical sequence and one minute of rest

    Third Circuit

    10 push up 10 burpees 15 parachute jumpers 30 squats then the 3 min circuit on the elliptical and one minute of rest

    Last Circuit

    25 crunch 10 push up 25 crunch 10 burpees 25 crunch 25 squat followed by 3 min elliptical sequence

    Bonus Circuit (if you want to get crazy!)

    10 Burpees 15 Parachute Jumpers 15 Push Ups 30 squats followed by the elliptical sequence

    Try this workout on days you need to do resistance training workouts and want to fit in some time for cardio - you will do a total of 12-16 minutes on the elliptical in 1 minute intervals of low/high/low intensity and the resistance part should take 12-20 minutes also.

    This workout can be fit very easily in a morning or evening 30 minute workout session!  Make sure to cool down after you finish with some stretching after a short easy ride on the elliptical.

    Equipment Recommendation: Any elliptical trainer will be good for this workout!

    email me if you need more details on any of the exercises!

  • You Can Control Your Weight More Than You Think

    Feeling light is great. Walking around and feeling like you have a tire around your waist is unhealthy, annoying, time consuming, depressing, all while serving as one big monkey on your back. People who are obese and overweight think about how heavy they are at least 10 times a day and become psychologically overwhelmed by their weight being such a significant burden in their lives. However, there is some silver lining even for those who are very overweight and think that it would be irrational to even think they had a chance to lose weight.

    Well, here it is, here is the million dollar silver lining for you. BEING FAT IS SOMETHING THAT YOU CAN CONTROL. You create your own reality. Being fat is something that can change. Want to try a neat trick that will fix your weight issues? Eat a bowl of Raisin Bran in the morning when you wake up, an apple and salad for lunch (eat peanuts for protein or mix chicken/fish/red meat in salad) and when you eat dinner…have something as simple as chicken breast or tuna fish. Additionally, make sure you exercise for AT LEAST 30 MINUTES A DAY EVERY DAY OF THE WEEK. That is it. That's the neat trick. That’s all you have to do. Following that fitness and diet regimen for a year will get rid of your fat problems.

    Let’s look at what we can do to lose weight a little bit more in depth. Being overwhelmed by the variance in life can lead to unhealthy eating habits that can ultimately bog you down and bring your life to a standstill. Let's face it, a lot of us feel stuck in the mud when it comes to our exercise routines. But health and fitness matter, more than any of your other hobbies. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary to make health and fitness a big part of your life. Think about that for a second; are health and fitness a part of your life? When is the last time you exercised three times in a week? When is the last time you exercised at all?

    People normally do not care about the long term. For example, if you were to ask someone if they would like 50 dollars today, or 75$ in a month, they would most likely respond by saying they would like the 50$ right now. Do they even realize that they would be receiving 50% more money in a month? No. Most people are so fascinated with the here and now that they have no consideration for future events. How does this tie into our health you ask? Because this is how we treat our body. We do not think about, want to think about, and some are not even capable of thinking about,  how our actions at that moment will affect our well being further down the line.

    Eating poorly does not result in immediate problems, therefore we do not think what we are doing is that bad. Eating bacon cheddar cheese fries laced with grease, salt and oil really is not going to hurt you immediately. You may feel lethargic as a result of eating the fries, but it’s not like the next time you look at yourself in the mirror you appear fatter with pimples. If this were the case, the majority of people would not maintain their poor eating habits. Results tend to show up later in life from eating poorly and that is the main reason we think it is natural to eat like we are hungry hippopotamuses.

    The human liver can be used as another example. Most people fully understand how important having a healthy liver is for their health, but since most people see their liver as something in the distant future, they don’t care too much about it. Previously I gave you an example and used $50 and $75 as the variables in the hypothetical situation of someone offering you either $50 now, or $75 in a month. In real life, the variables are your kidneys, your ears and eyes and lungs.

    Would people smoke cigarettes if they were likely to get cancer the next day? Probably not. But people are still expected to get lung cancer as a result of smoking cigarettes, but since that problem is expected to come further down the line, people neglect it and only worry about the immediate damage smoking does to their body. Once again, if you if one were to look in the mirror before smoking a cigarette and look in the mirror right after, they would not notice much of a difference. On the other hand, if that same person were to look at themselves in the mirror before having ever smoked a cigarette after 5 years and there would be a considerable and noticeable difference in their appearance.

    Explanations range from A to Z as to why people do not show a connection with the future and let impulsive sensations overwhelm them in the moment. Peoples inability to recognize the future results of their actions lead to things as sci-fi as 500 pound human beings who are less than 6 feet tall. Entire bodies bogged down from head to toe as a direct result of human beings being unable to have an awareness of the consequences waiting around the corner from their actions.

    A gross statistic highlighting and underlining the thesis of this blog, is that 33%, or 1 out of every 3 adults in the US are obese! Unfortunately, there is not too much silver lining in that statistic. One positive is that there are numerous ways to change your life for the better and take your body from hell to heaven. Regular exercise and a healthy diet are very helpful for staying lean and trim. If you can create an exercise plan and make sure you spend at least 30 minutes a day on strength and cardio exercises, you will do wonders for your body and mind. People think that working out is all physical but nothing could be further from the truth. When we wake up at 8am on a Sunday, lifting weights, squats, running miles, using the Elliptical for an hour of Cross-Training, crunches, stretching, and busting our butts, is not what most of us want to do.

    Psychologically, many of us are not ready for heavy lifting and intense cardiovascular exercise when we hop out of bed in the morning. People love to wake up and drink a nice sweet drink, scarf down strips of delicious bacon and read the newspaper. If those representing the 1/3 of the population that is obese decided to exercise for at least 30 minutes every morning, do you think they would still be overweight? Probably not….it is pretty safe to say that those who stick to a daily exercise routine will benefit physically, psychologically, socially and professionally. According to the numbers, we just do not have the determination and heart that is needed to maintain an effective exercise plan and if we did; one third of all US citizens would not be overweight.

  • Realize Your Equity in Life

    Survey a society of 10,000 people about their lives and then quantify their happiness per capita.  What you'll see is that the happier people are in better physical condition than those who are in poor shape and consequently the obese are living more difficult lives. Having a goal is a form of visualizing what the specific node of the universe that you would like to be existing in and the contrast between that place and where you currently are. If the contrast between where you are and where you want to be is too great, you aren't going to be actualizing your true value in life.

    You see where I'm going with this...Buy some fitness equipment from us! No, just kidding. But seriously, the vast majority of us who are obese and out of shape, have a difficult time  being content and confident in life because we live in a world where people that are in good physical condition (they look like they work out and are not fat), on average, are treated better by the masses than people who look unhealthy and in return they live happier lives than those of us who are not happy with the shape of our body.

    People who are in good shape are in movies, celebrated through modeling, magazines, etc., while people who are obese are made fun of, have a tough time sitting on planes, are more susceptible to disease and their lives have more tough-to-go-through experiences, than a healthy, lean person.

    Don't confuse happiness with being the end goal. It's not about chewing bubblegum at the end of the day and screaming "I'm haaaaaaapy" at the mountain top. The goal is to actualize your true equity in life.  The idea is being fully yourself and experience the full emotional and physical experiences of life and you're an underdog to realize your true equity in life if you are not in good physical condition.

    To simplify it - work out more. Happiness runs in congruence with being in good condition. Being mad looking in the mirror, or being embarrassed in a swimsuit, or having to deal with the stresses of people asking you about your weight, will embed a perpetual loop effect of negativity in your life, underlined by the continuous cacophony surrounding you about your weight.

  • Sarah's Fitness Blog

    Sometime last summer my husband tore the lateral meniscus in his right knee. He first noticed a sharp pain when he went to stand up one evening, but it wasn’t that bad, not bad enough to see a doctor, or so he thought.  A month later, when he was having a great deal of difficulty walking up stairs, he finally went in, and the doctor took an x-ray and told him it was arthritis, the kind you get when you’re getting old and have done a lot of hiking in your past.

    A physical therapist taught him some knee strengthening exercises, and he did them, now and then, when his knee hurt, but then the pain got worse and worse, and finally the doctor sent him in for an MRI, where they discovered the torn lateral meniscus.  Once again, they sent him to a physical therapist, first, trying to strengthen those knee muscles.  He did the exercises now and then, probably not enough.  Finally he had to have arthroscopic surgery to cut the torn meniscus away.

    They say it was a simple surgery, no problem, you’ll be on your feet the next day. But they don’t tell you what’s really going to happen, which is not simple, and involves crutches and compression stockings and ice packs and, for certain, physical therapy to strengthen the muscles in your leg.  I’m not an expert on physical therapy, so I’m not going to go into how to do leg exercises. I’m just saying that if you keep those muscles strong in the first place, it’s a really good idea.  Do the exercises.  Do the therapy.  There are no shortcuts.  There is no magic bullet.  Take the ten to fifteen minutes a day, or every other day, and do it.  Or you’ll wish you did.

  • 12 INTERESTING NEW FITNESS PRODUCTS SEEN IN 2015

    This year’s trade show took up most of the Los Angeles convention center and it was a challenge to see all of the vendors. For this reason, this is not an exhaustive list of all the new products and programs that were presented, but these are the ones that caught my eye because they could change how we deliver fitness to the consumer.

    ActivMotion Bar

    This is one of those products that makes you think: “Why hasn’t someone developed this sooner?” The ActivMotion Bar is basically a hollow tube with ball bearings that shift as the bar moves. This creates two different types of challenges: 1) maintaining stability to keep the bearings from moving—moving a weight more slowly keeps the muscles under tension longer, which can help develop strength; and 2) controlling a shifting mass involves the elastic fascia and connective tissue, which can improve the strength of the entire myofascial system.

    Spartan Race Workout Programs on a Stairmaster Stepmill

    If you’ve ever done a Spartan Race or similar type of obstacle course event, you know how physically challenging it can be and how important it is to properly prepare for the event. The Stairmaster Stepmill, which is basically a staircase treadmill, is an effective way to train indoors for the challenges of an obstacle-course race. Stairmaster has worked with Spartan Race to add six course profiles to the pre-programmed workouts. If you train in a gym for an obstacle course race, you can hop on a Stepmill, select a course profile and perform a workout that mimics the hill profile of an actual Spartan Race.

    TriggerPoint Therapy Grid STK

    With the introduction of its unique grid foam roller and strategies for reducing adhesions in the myofascial system, TriggerPoint has changed the way we improve our soft-tissue extensibility. Now TriggerPoint has combined the benefits of the grid pattern with a hand-held roller that allows you to focus on specific areas experiencing tightness or adhesions. The pressure of the STK felt great after a long day of standing in a trade show.

    Jump Trainer by Total Gym

    A longtime leader in the body-weight training category, Total Gym used this year’s trade show to launch their new Jump Trainer. The Total Gym Jump Trainer builds explosive power and develops lower-body muscle mass with two primary movements, the squat and squat jump. Uniquely designed to facilitate plyometric exercises leveraging both linear body-weight resistance and variable resistance with elastic bands, the Jump Trainer produces both concentric and eccentric loading of the muscles. This allows users to accelerate and decelerate quickly during a squat jump in a safe, controlled manner. Able to accommodate all levels of fitness, the Jump Trainer supports the spine during traditional squat exercises, which makes it possible for users to comfortably control the descending and ascending phases of the squat. This also provides the opportunity for advanced variations including single-leg squats and staggered-stance squats.

    Free Motion Magnetically Loaded Cable Machine

    When the Free Motion cable-cross was introduced more than 10 years ago, it changed the way fitness professionals use cable machine exercises with their clients. Now the designers at Free Motion have created a machine that uses magnetic resistance to create a challenge. The two benefits of magnetic resistance: it focuses on the concentric, shortening phase of muscle action and it can measure power output with each movement. The model on display at the trade show is a prototype and the final product is still in development, but it looks like Free Motion will once again revolutionize how trainers use cable exercises.

    LifeFitness Row GX Trainer

    Long an innovator in new cardiovascular products, LifeFitness has introduced a rowing machine that uses water to create the drag or resistance for an effective rowing workout. The GX Trainer is specifically designed with a shorter footprint, so it can be used in group-fitness and group-conditioning programs. The display measures distance and power and the resistance offers 16 different settings, creating a number of intensity options not offered by other rowing machines.

    SPRI Qube Jump Box

    Many high-intensity training programs feature box jumps as a key exercise for improving strength and power. The challenge is that having a number of jump boxes is expensive and can take up significant amounts of floor space. With this ingenious yet simple design, SPRI has introduced a jump box that provides three different heights (depending on which side is on the floor) with one piece of equipment.

    Core Stix

    What do you get when you combine a professional strength and conditioning coach and a rocket scientist? The Core Stix. Developed by a NHL conditioning coach and a mechanical engineer with experience designing rockets for the space shuttle, the Core Stix makes it possible to strengthen the body in a standing position. Many upper-body pushing and pulling exercises require an individual to lie down or sit on a bench, which may not translate to enhancing the performance of an athlete who needs to utilize upper-body strength in a standing position. The Core Stix provides a wide variety of training options for both athletes and the average consumer interested in ‘toning up and losing weight.’

    JBells

    It’s always fun to see innovative new products that disrupt how we do things in the fitness industry. The JBell is the dumbbell reinvented. The handle for the JBell is in the center of mass, which creates a novel way to perform strength-training exercises. While I like the concept and the feel of placing the handle directly in the center of mass, and the design is simply stunning, I didn’t have the opportunity to work out with the JBells, so it’s tough to determine whether or not they’ll having a lasting impact.

    Move Strong Dynabell

    Move Strong is a company that makes a fitness cage, as well as a variety of equipment for body-weight and strongman training. Their latest innovative products is the Dynabell, which combines the benefits of dumbbells, kettlebells and medicine balls into a single piece of equipment. The design creates a variety of options for holding the weight, each one providing a different way to challenge the body. When you have former weightlifting champion and Team USA bobsledder Ingrid Marcum developing programming for your product, you’re doing something right. Keep your eyes on these guys.

    Blood Testing by InsideTracker

    If you are a personal trainer looking to make your services stand out from the competition, you can now offer blood testing for your clients. Long used by elite athletes, blood testing can help determine the most effective training and nutrition strategies for your clients. You are NOT responsible for drawing your client’s blood—they go to a lab, which takes the sample and then analyzes it to identify how your exercise and nutrition plans are influencing your physiology. This information can be used to help your client make healthier nutrition, lifestyle and exercise choices.

    The Sport Mixer by Blender Bottle

    While not exactly a fitness product, proper hydration and recovery strategies are essential for seeing results from a workout program. Pre- and post-workout drinks can play an important role in getting the most benefit from an exercise program. Personally, I’m a big fan of the Blender Bottle (I’m drinking from one as I write this) and the Sport Mixer features a new compact, ergonomic design that makes it easier to hold and carry in a gym bag.

    As always, I’m like a kid in a candy shop when it comes to playing with new fitness products at IHRSA and it’s fun to share my favorites. Keep your eyes open for how these products can help you enhance or change the way that you deliver your fitness services.

  • Study on the StairMaster

    I knew years in advance that I had to take the internal medicine boards in 2015. Since my husband works in football, I knew I better not schedule the test for the fall. So, April 2015 was it.

    My study plan? I had a vague idea that I’d buy the standard board review books and maybe take an internal medicine board review course. I’ve been in practice all this time, right? The material would be really familiar to me by now, right?

    Six Months from the Internal Medicine Boards (Not Enough Study Time)

    November 2014 rolled around. In my little bits and pieces of free time, I researched board review books. It took me a month to be able to make a decision. When I did, I got on the computer and ordered the MKSAP books with the online interactive modules. I spent a TON of money, and a cement-block sized box arrived on my doorstep a few days later. One night in December when the kids were asleep, I opened the box and eagerly flipped through the pretty books, glancing through the chapters and the questions. My stomach sank.

    Oooomph. Despite being in the office four days a week, immersed in clinical duties, and constantly logged on to UpToDate, I realized there was a lot of unfamiliar material. We would be tested on clinical issues that I did not regularly encounter in outpatient primary care practice, such as practical oncology, acute cardiac care, rheumatology treatments, and so on and so on. For the first time, I felt nervous. Could I fail this test?

    But, there was only one thing to do: take a deep breath and outline a plan of attack. I estimated how long I had to go through each book, reading all the chapters and complete all the questions, in order to be done before the exam date. I would need to get through a book every 2 weeks.

    And so I felt better, for about 2 weeks. As the first book sat on my bedside table night after night, I realized that my plan was flawed. My plan had depended upon me actually having any free time in the day to study. I did not have any free time in the day to study. I only had a few minutes at nighttime before I passed out.

    Three Months from the Internal Medicine Boards (Starting to Panic)

    It was January at that point. I panicked. I started blocking off clinic time. On the days that I blocked off completely, I tried studying at home. But, one or both of my kids were sick for a few of those days, and/or Hubby was traveling for work, and/or there were huge massive snowstorms and the kids were home from school.  I got next to nothing done.

    For the days that I saw fewer patients, I tried studying at work. But, urgent patient care messages and pages happened, notes and billing always needed to be completed, and I got sucked back into clinical duties. I got next to nothing done.

    Only 2 Months Until the Internal Medicine Boards. (Real Panic, Real Plan!)

    February. Real panic. I reached out for advice from colleagues. Buy an audio-lecture board review! Someone suggested. I bought it less expensively on a used MP3 CD, which I didn’t even know how to use. My husband burned several chapters onto CDs for me to play in my car as I commuted to and from the city for work. I was so hopeful that this would be the answer. But the lectures were long, long, long, and dry, dry, dry. I found myself spacing out and then needing to replay parts. It took me 2 weeks to get through just the cardiology lectures.

    I gave up on actually reading or even listening to entire chapters and focused on just doing the questions. I let go of the idea that I needed to read the books or listen to the material before quizzing myself.  I did questions online: a few questions every early morning, in little bits of time during clinic, and every night. If I got one wrong, I read the explanation and/or that section in the online copy of the book, and put it back into my pot of “unanswered” questions, so I could review it again later.

    For the nerdy Type-A personality (which is like, everyone in medicine, right?), testing yourself with questions is really fun. Seriously! You get immediate feedback from the program. You answer a question, and as soon as you click on your choice, up pops a graph showing you the correct answer and what percentage of other studying physicians picked each choice. Sometimes, this made me feel better, like “What dummy would have answered ‘D’ when it’s so obviously ‘A’?“, or worse, “Geez, EVERYONE knew that one was ‘B’. What’s wrong with me?”

    This immediate feedback was completely addictive. Total dopamine surge each time. I took test questions anywhere, at work or at home, and even if I only did one, ONE LOUSY QUESTION, it was helpful to review or learn some small concept. Like the miniest of mini-modules.

    The best? I loaded the board review questions onto my kids’ iPad and took it to the gym. I could get on the StairMaster (you know, the real one that looks like an escalator) and for 60 minutes, I could be completely engrossed in those test questions. Seriously, that is where I did the bulk of my best studying: on the StairMaster at the gym. I wasn’t at work, and I wasn’t at home. This was completely me-time. Being upright and active kept me awake and attentive.

    I kept listening to the CDs in the car, hoping that I was absorbing knowledge subconsciously. I never got through all the CDs, only most of cardiology, rheumatology, and hematology-oncology.

    I kept the books around and used them to review concepts I was missing on the test questions. I had a pile of them on my bedside table, and read only one specific subtopic at a time. Or I studied photos, especially in the dermatology book, a few at a time. That’s all I had the time or mental energy to handle.

    I did take a weeklong internal medicine refresher course right before the boards, but the lectures and material were geared towards office-based primary care. It was very practical; not oriented towards internal medicine boards review. I found it more helpful as a week of blocked-off time in which to fit in more questions, and I stuck to the same topics that were being covered on the course, as there was some overlap. I think that helped: to hear about a topic, and then answer questions related to that same topic.

    In summary, my board review consisted of a hodgepodge of approaches, but mostly, it was a month and a half of hammering through test questions. I did a GAZILLION questions.

    When I took the internal medicine boards, I found the questions difficult; many questions seemed convoluted, complex, not straightforward. I did struggle, and I worried.

    But, last week I got the news that I passed, and by a comfortable margin to boot!

    In Sum, My Tips for Passing the Internal Medicine Boards

    Do…

    1. Test yourself with lots of board-style questions (while at the gym, if possible)
    2. Read and reread information on topics that challenge you
    3. Block off time to study

    Don’t…

    1. Expect that you will absorb medical knowledge passively through (boring) books or lectures
    2. Assume you’ll have time to fit in studying
    3. Stick to a plan that isn’t working — find what works for you and go with that

    What strategies have you used that worked to help you pass the internal medicine boards?

    Monique Tello, MD, is a practicing internist at Massachusetts General Hospital,and a regular contributor at Mothers in Medicine and also on her personal blog, Generallymedicine.com, as Genmedmom.

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